You may not remember The Lovers from 1970 – but you’ll know the people involved. Written by one of Britain’s finest TV writers – Jack Rosenthal – it gave first TV breaks to two of the biggest sitcom stars of the 70s, Paula Wilcox and Richard Beckinsale. And it’s available to buy for the first time with both series on one DVD.
And it’s well worth picking up if you want some well-written comedy that screams the era. In fact, it probably screams an earlier era – around five years after London swung, the permissive society hadn’t quite made it as far north as Manchester. And that’s the basis for the show.
Beryl Battersby (Wilcox) and Geoffrey Scrimgeor (Beckinsale) have been girlfriend/boyfriend for two years. Beryl dreams of the big wedding, kids and the domestic life – and as soon as possible. Geoffrey (known by Beryl by the pet name of "Geoffrey Bobbles Bon Bon") isn’t so sure – he’s more interested in football and the free love he’s read about – or what Beryl refers to as "Percy Filth". And over the course of the 13 episodes, we get a verbal cat-and-mouse of Beryl trying her best to get Geoffrey down the aisle, Geoffrey trying to get into Beryl’s pants and Geoffrey’s best mate Roland doing his best to keep the two apart, for the sake of their football-based friendship.
It’s success – and the fact that it’s still so watchable over 30 years later – is purely down to the clever writing. This, despite Rosenthal moving over for the second series, giving writing duties to Geoffrey Lancashire. The scripts don’t suffer from the changeover – in fact, they probably benefit from a change of emphasis, with the couple getting engaged and…well you’ll have to watch to find out if the couple become a couple.
A sitcom with the feel of a 60s kitchensink drama, The Lovers never falls foul of political correctness and captures your imagination despite the deliberately slow pace and the lack of action. A feature film appeared a couple of years later, written again by Jack Rosenthal and benefitting from a few 70s Manchester location shots (Old Trafford, George Best’s boutique etc). A reissue of that would top the story off nicely. But this will do for now.
Extras on the DVD: