Girls on Top (British TV series)

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Girls on Top
Girls On Top.jpg
From bottom left to bottom right: Amanda Ripley (Dawn French), Lady Chloe Carlton (Joan Greenwood), Shelley DuPont (Ruby Wax); From top centre to top right: Candice Valentine (Tracey Ullman) and Jennifer Marsh (Jennifer Saunders).
Created byDawn French
Jennifer Saunders
Ruby Wax
Written byDawn French
Jennifer Saunders
Ruby Wax
Directed byPaul Jackson (Series 1)
Ed Bye (Series 2)
StarringDawn French
Joan Greenwood
Jennifer Saunders
Ruby Wax
Tracey Ullman
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series2
No. of episodes13
Production
Executive producer(s)Allan McKeown
Producer(s)Paul Jackson
Running time30 minutes
(including adverts)
Release
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3
Original release23 October 1985 (1985-10-23) –
11 December 1986 (1986-12-11)

Girls on Top is a British ITV sitcom, broadcast in 1985 and 1986, and made by Witzend for the ITV contractor Central Independent Television. It stars Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ruby Wax and Tracey Ullman, and was written by French, Saunders, and Wax with additional material from Ullman. Despite a poor critical reception, the series was a ratings success.

The show focused on four female flatmates and their landlady. It was a female version of The Young Ones, two series of which were made in 1982 and 1984. French and Saunders had both appeared in it and, like most of its stars, were members of The Comic Strip group.

The theme tune was written and performed by Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from the British band Squeeze (with the cast singing the theme for the first series, and Tilbrook singing for the second).

Synopsis[edit]

The first episode had Amanda struggling to find a flat and managing to procure one (that she cannot afford) from Lady Carlton. The former resident, Candice, convinces Amanda to let her stay until Wednesday because she has nowhere to go. Then, Jennifer, Amanda's childhood friend, arrives unexpectedly with nowhere to go. Eventually, Shelley is recruited to move in because of her hefty trust fund from her rich parents back in the States and because none of the others can afford to cover the rent and deposit.

Each episode centred on the fact that Shelley could order the others around because they relied on her to get the rent paid; usually the show incorporated Candice's latest invented fatal illness, or any other reason to not pay the rent. One episode had Candice convincing everyone she was dating Prince Andrew, while another found her tricking Shelley into starring in a porno movie.

Tracey Ullman left after the initial series owing to her first pregnancy.

Characters[edit]

  • Amanda Ripley (Dawn French), a radical feminist who is strait-laced, anti-male and very liberal journalist, and the central character around whom the series was based. Like Shelley, she takes her efforts too far when she has something to prove. Amanda tries to hide her fascination for men and the Royal family to comedic effect, and is always conscious of people's thoughts of her, in particular her colleague Yvonne. All in all, though, she was generally the most level-headed of the group. She has a previous history with Jennifer, which led to Jennifer moving into the flat.
  • Jennifer Marsh (Jennifer Saunders), a mousy and childlike woman (whom Saunders portrays as having mild learning difficulties) who was Amanda's childhood friend who serves as the whipping post for everyone else. In the first series, she is studying at Madame Laines' Secretarial and Cookery School. By the second series she is more assertive though no less naive, even briefly working as a stock broker.
  • Shelley DuPont (Ruby Wax), a struggling actress and the British stereotype of a gaudily dressed, rude, loud-mouthed American. The other women only tolerate her and let her live with them due to her hefty trust fund and her agreement to pay the majority of the rent in return.
  • Candice Valentine (Tracey Ullman), a promiscuous, lazy, manipulative gold-digger. The character is written off in the second series, with Candice leaving a voice mail declaring that she has moved to Oman and was engaged to a prince. She is not heard or spoken about after this episode.
  • Lady Chloe Carlton (Joan Greenwood), an eccentric elderly romance novelist and the landlady of the women's flat.

Others in small roles included Helen Lederer, Pauline Melville, Helen Atkinson Wood, Mark Arden, Stephen Frost, Robbie Coltrane, Harry Enfield, Hugh Laurie, Pauline Quirke, Alan Rickman, John Sessions and Arthur Smith plus the Beverley Sisters and American Soap series actor Katherine Helmond, who appeared in one episode as Shelley's mother.

Episodes[edit]

NOTE: these episode descriptions are taken from the sleeve of the DVD release, released by Network

Note: The transmission dates reflect those in the London ITV region. Alternative transmissions in other ITV regions are not listed. The first series aired on Wednesdays at 8:30pm while the second series aired on Thursdays at 9pm.

Series 1 (1985)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
series
TitleOriginal air date
11"Four-Play"October 23, 1985 (1985-10-23)

Amanda manages to snag herself a flat in Chelsea but is unable to pay for it herself. She has no other choice but to look for flatmates.

Guest star: Alan Rickman
22"Staying Alive"October 30, 1985 (1985-10-30)
Candice is cultivating her latest illness; Amanda is quoting liberally from her latest publication "Spare Cheeks"; Shelley has failed yet another audition; and Jennifer, well, she's just Jennifer.
33"C.O.D."November 6, 1985 (1985-11-06)

Candice arrives home with her latest Latin lover, Julio, but just as they're about to get down to the nitty-gritty, they are aware that there is another in their company – the inevitable Jennifer.

Guest star: Robbie Coltrane
44"Cancel Toast"November 13, 1985 (1985-11-13)
It's Shelley's big day. Can her ambition to become the next Glenda Jackson finally be realised at her audition for RADA? However, instead of asking her to do Shakesperean Juliet speech, they want her to improvise... as a fried egg.
55"Ident: Candy Time"November 20, 1985 (1985-11-20)
Amanda is miffed that Candice is not paying her way with the rent even though she keeps buying expensive clothes. Shelley suggests that Candice could be a prostitute so they all decide to follow her one day.
66"Skankin'"November 27, 1985 (1985-11-27)
Annoyed at not being asked to help with the street festival, Amanda goes out into the streets of Chelsea to look for needy people. She pounces on two black boys and then phones the festival organiser to say she has found her a reggae band.
77"Hark"December 4, 1985 (1985-12-04)

Oh horror! Oh Calamity! Oh Jennifer! She who is lacking in almost everything, plumbs new depths when she takes Josephine, Lady Carlton's stuffed black dog, for a walk and promptly loses her in a shop. The girls plan various schemes, including a stuffed coypu, and giving Lady Carlton a message "from heaven" by a teddy bear, which is supposed to be Josephine, transformed into an angel.

Note: This was the final appearance of Tracey Ullman as Candice Valentine.

Series 2 (1986)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
series
TitleOriginal air date
81"Mr Fluffy Knows Too Much"October 30, 1986 (1986-10-30)

Shelley and Amanda stir Jennifer into comforting Candice about her pornographic habits which have corrupted even Lady Carlton. But Candice has left a note saying she's in hospital.

Guest star: Harry Enfield
92"Big Snogs"November 6, 1986 (1986-11-06)

The women at Spare Cheeks are taking classes in electrical repair work which is now being taught by Tom, whose sister can't make it. Amanda, always on the lookout for a man, falls head over heels in love.

Guest star: Hugh Laurie
103"Who's Ya Uncle Shelley?"November 20, 1986 (1986-11-20)

Once the subject of an exploratory brain operation (nothing was found), Jennifer suddenly reaches hitherto unknown areas of intelligence when she becomes a financial whizz-kid.

Guest stars: John Sessions, Pauline Quirke
114"Bring Me More Flamingoes"November 27, 1986 (1986-11-27)

Shelley is determined to be a megastar but, at her glam/glit party, the only invitees who bother to turn up are The Beverley Sisters and the loopy Lady Carlton.

Guest stars: The Beverley Sisters
125"Mr Yummie Brownie"December 4, 1986 (1986-12-04)

Shelley's mother pays a surprise visit and is expecting her offspring to be a fully-fledged member of the Royal Shakespeare Company by now. She is a touch disappointed to discover that Shelley is with a theatre in education group... playing a tadpole.

Guest star: Katherine Helmond
136"Lower the Donkey"December 11, 1986 (1986-12-11)
Lady Carlton has won a new kitchen in a competition but when her microwave explodes, all the lights go out and Shelley thinks that the world is about to end. She grovels her way into Amanda's makeshift shelter but finds there's no food there so they send Jennifer out to forage.

Crew[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

DVD Name Release Date Additional Information Region
Girls on Top

Set One

2003 Single disc DVD, containing all episodes from the first series UK

Special features:

  • None
Region 1 (UK
Girls on Top – The Complete Series 2007 Two Disc DVD set, containing all 13 episodes from Series' One and Two.

Special features:

  • Television interviews with Ruby Wax and Tracey Ullman
Girls on Top – The Complete Series 2007 Two Disc DVD set, containing all 13 episodes from both Series' One and Two.

External links[edit]