Never the Twain

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This article is about the TV sitcom. For the original poem containing this phrase, see The Ballad of East and West. For the 1925 film, see Never the Twain Shall Meet.
Never the Twain
Never the Twain title card.jpg
Genre Sitcom
Created by Johnnie Mortimer
Directed by Peter Frazer-Jones
(series 1-3)

Robert Reed (series 4-7)
Douglas Argent (series 8)
Nick Hurran (series 9-10)
Anthony Parker (series 11)
Starring Maria Charles
Windsor Davies
Derek Deadman
Donald Sinden
Teddy Turner
Theme music composer Jack Trombey
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 11
No. of episodes 67
Producer(s) Peter Frazer-Jones
(1981 - 1988)

Anthony Parker (1988 - 1991)
Location(s) Hersham, Surrey
Running time 30 minutes
(including commercials)
Production company(s) Thames Television
Distributor Fremantle Media
Original network ITV
Picture format 4:3
Original release 7 September 1981 (1981-09-07) – 9 October 1991 (1991-10-09)

Never the Twain is a British sitcom that ran for eleven series from 7 September 1981 to 9 October 1991.

It was created by Johnnie Mortimer, and was the only sitcom he ever created without his usual writing partner, Brian Cooke. Mortimer wrote the entirety of the first two series, one episode of the seventh, and five out of six episodes of the eighth, with the rest being mainly written by John Kane and Vince Powell (who wrote the whole of the last three series).

The series starred Windsor Davies (of, "It Ain't Half Hot Mum" fame) and the late Donald Sinden as rival antique dealers, and also co-starred Robin Kermode (later replaced by Christopher Morris), Julia Watson (later replaced by Tacy Kneale), Honor Blackman, Teddy Turner, Derek Deadman, Maria Charles and Zara Nutley.

It was made by Thames Television for the ITV network. Since it finished, it has been repeated a few times on satellite television: first on UK Gold and later on ITV3.

The title is taken from the Rudyard Kipling poem; The Ballad of East and West. The show's theme tune was composed by Jack Trombey and the track was entitled Domino.


Oliver Smallbridge, played by Windsor Davies, and Simon Peel, played by Donald Sinden, are antiques dealers who are also bitter enemies (after a falling-out having been business partners) and next-door neighbours, both in their homes and shops. They are engaged in a continuous game of one-upmanship, so both of them are shocked when they find out that their respective children (Smallbridge's daughter Lyn - played by Watson and later Kneale - and Peel's son David - played by Kermode and later Morris) are in love and want to marry as soon as possible. The fathers are forced to reluctantly accept the relationship and marriage, which takes place at the end of the first series.

It is the impending marriage of Lyn and David and the early days of their marriage, alongside Oliver and Simon battling over the affection of middle-class widow Veronica Barton (played by Blackman), that provides the basis for the first two series (both written entirely by Mortimer). The third series features a failed attempt by Simon and Oliver to try to renew their business partnership.

After the third series, Lyn and David move to Vancouver in Canada, leaving the daily goings on at Simon and Oliver's shops and in their private lives as the main themes of the show. Other notable characters in the series are be Simon's butler Banks (played by Turner), a replacement for a foreign au pair that Simon had requested; Ringo (played by Deadman), Oliver's idiotic assistant in his shop; and Mrs. Sadler (played by Charles), Oliver's clumsy cleaner, who has an annoying tendency to accidentally break things. Banks and Mrs. Sadler's amorous relationship provides humorous material in these series, with both of them marrying and leaving the show at the end of the seventh series. The fourth to seventh series were written by a group of writers, Powell and Me and My Girl co-creator Kane being the most prominent.

In the eighth series (mostly written again by Mortimer), Lyn and David return from Canada with their son (and Oliver's and Simon's grandson) Martin, who provides a new platform on which Simon and Oliver can develop their long-standing rivalry, fighting over who is the better grandfather. However, at the end of that series, Lyn, David and Martin move to a new flat in Friern Barnet.

Simon and Oliver's daily personal and business lives are the primary focus of the final three series (all written in their entirety by Powell). In these series, another character (who had already made two appearances in series 4 and 7) begins to appear regularly: Simon's Aunt Eleanor (played by Nutley, who had also appeared in Vince Powell's earlier sitcom Mind Your Language), moves near Oliver and Simon.

Also, appearing in some episodes of the series were Donald Sinden's sons Marc and Jeremy, while his wife Diana appeared in the last ever episode.[1]

DVD releases[edit]

The complete first series was released on DVD in June 2001, by Clear Vision and no other series were released. It was announced that a different company will release a DVD featuring the first two series, it was released in September 2010.

DVD title Discs Year Episodes DVD release
Region 2
Complete Series 1 and 2 2 19811982 12 6 September 2010


The outside locations for the two antique shops were filmed in Hersham, Surrey on the site of a restaurant.


Beginning in late 2014 the channel ITV3 began showing repeats beginning with series one in a late afternoon timeslot with other classic series such as Rising Damp and On The Buses.

External links[edit]


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