| 7/10 |
1 December 1989
| David Jason
British Comedy Award for Best ITV/Channel 4 Sitcom
David Jason, Nicola Pagett, Gwen Taylor, Stephanie Cole, Michael Jayston
A Bit of a Do is a British comedy drama series based on the books by David Nobbs. The show starred David Jason and Gwen Taylor. It was produced by Yorkshire Television for two series and aired on the ITV network from 13 January to 1 December 1989.
The show was set in a fictional Yorkshire town. Each episode took place at a different social function and followed the changing lives of two families, the working-class Simcocks (David Jason, Gwen Taylor, David Thewlis and Wayne Foskett) and the middle-class Rodenhursts (Nicola Pagett, Paul Chapman, Sarah-Jane Holm and Nigel Hastings), together with their respective friends, Rodney and Betty Sillitoe (Tim Wylton and Stephanie Cole), and Neville Badger (Michael Jayston). The series begins with the wedding of Ted and Rita Simcock's son Paul to Laurence and Liz Rodenhurst's daughter Jenny; an event at which Ted and Liz begin an affair. The subsequent fallout from this affair forms the basis for most of the first series.
Ted Simcock (David Jason) – A working class Yorkshireman in his early fifties, Ted claims to be proud of his roots and paints himself as very down-to-earth. However, he clearly aspires to climb the social ladder, constantly boasting about the success of his business, the Jupiter Foundry, at functions (with a running joke being that no one has ever heard of it). Ted's downfall is women, having already had three affairs prior to leaving Rita for Liz.
Rita Simcock (Gwen Taylor) – Ted's wife, who begins the series as a homely woman lacking in confidence, obsessed by what others will think of her and her family. However, after Ted's desertion she discovers an inner strength, becoming independent and developing an interest in political and social issues, changing her appearance and even becoming a local councillor.
Liz Rodenhurst/Badger (Nicola Pagett) – An attractive, confident and sexually promiscuous woman, Liz is in many ways the polar opposite of Rita; although like Rita, her social standing is her chief concern in life. Her husband Laurence tolerates her affairs as long as she's discreet; a weakness for 'bits of rough' leads her to Ted. A seemingly cold woman, Liz finally shows genuine emotion when she loses her second husband, Neville, in a car crash.
Laurence Rodenhurst (Paul Chapman) – An emotionally repressed, 'stiff upper lip' middle class dentist, Laurence is obsessed with behaving properly and his public image. He seems uninterested in Liz's affairs as long as they don't embarrass him socially, and has high expectations of his children. Most people consider him cold and emotionless, making his suicide after Liz leaves him all the more shocking.
Neville Badger (Michael Jayston) – Laurence's recently widowed oldest friend. A respected lawyer, he finds it impossible to hide his grief over wife Jane's death, and is deeply shamed to have publicly revealed it. He later marries Liz, after which he becomes almost unbearably upbeat about life. He is killed in a car crash (off-screen), his funeral being the focus of the penultimate episode.
Betty Sillitoe (Stephanie Cole) – Rita's oldest friend; a kind and loving woman with two key vices – gossip and alcohol. She tries hard to help her friends but normally makes things worse. She and husband Rodney have a famously happy marriage, and equally famously get drunk alternately at functions.
Rodney Sillitoe (Tim Wylton) – Betty's husband and Ted's oldest friend. Like his beloved wife, Rodney is kind and loving, but let down by his penchant for drink. He owns a battery chicken farm, Cock-a-doodle Chickens, and claims to feel no guilt about this; however, this changes when he is drunk, leading him to feel very depressed.
Jenny Simcock (Sarah-Jane Holm) – Liz and Laurence's idealistic daughter, whose marriage to Paul Simcock introduces the families. She is deeply concerned by social and political issues such as feminism, poverty and starvation in Africa and is strongly moral; however, she is actually somewhat naive about the real world. She has a complicated love life, entering a relationship with her brother-in-law Elvis after splitting from Paul, later leaving Elvis to reunite with his brother.
Paul Simcock (David Thewlis) – Ted and Rita's younger son; a self-confessed 'great wet slob' until he meets Jenny, and begins to share her political and social concerns. Like Jenny, he is a very intense character whose morals are offended by Ted and Liz's affair; however, he breaks his own code by having a drunken one-night stand with Carol Fordingbridge. Paul is not seen on-screen in series two, but is mentioned in each episode.
Elvis Simcock (Wayne Foskett) – Ted and Rita's elder son. Elvis is a Philosophy graduate and sees himself as very intelligent; however, he finds thinking is not a quality that counts for much when job-hunting. After a short relationship he and Carol (his brother's former lover) become engaged; however, this ends because Elvis constantly makes Carol feel inferior. He later starts a relationship with his sister-in-law Jenny, but eventually loses out to Paul. He has a tempestuous relationship with Jenny's brother Simon, the two frequently arguing due to their opposing world views, but at times there are signs a friendship will develop.
Simon Rodenhurst (Nigel Hastings) – Liz and Laurence's son, he's adored by Liz, but has a more difficult relationship with his father. A successful estate agent but a flop with women, he frequently clashes with cynical philosopher Elvis, who sees Simon as morally bankrupt. After his first sexual encounter results in an unplanned pregnancy (with Neville's nephew's wife being the mother) Simon turns to celibacy, but changes his mind after he meets Lucinda Snellmarsh, an equally ill-at-ease estate agent.
Carol Fordingbridge (Karen Drury) – Laurence's former receptionist who has a one-night stand with Paul. After starting a job at Cock-a-doodle Chickens, Carol becomes engaged to Elvis. Although attractive and outgoing, Carol lacks confidence in her intellect, particularly as Elvis seems embarrassed by her (later causing them to split up). Initially disliked by Rita because of her role in Paul and Jenny's break-up, Carol becomes something of her protege, and begins retaking her A Levels as a result of her encouragement.
Sandra Pickersgill (Tracy Brabin) – A good-hearted but notoriously clumsy waitress who begins a relationship with Ted, despite an age gap of over twenty years. She's down-to-earth and doesn't share Ted's desire to impress socially. She's devastated when Ted ends things with her to marry Corinna; however, she eventually forgives him and becomes his second wife in the final episode.
Lucinda Snellmarsh (Amanda Wenban) – Simon's girlfriend (and later fiancee) from series two onwards. Like him, she's a socially awkward estate agent; however, when Simon loses his job she proves surprisingly assertive in rescuing his career.
Geoffrey Ellsworth-Smythe (Malcolm Tierney) – Liz's brother; an anthropologist who returns to the UK after over twenty years in Africa and, to Liz's horror, begins a relationship with Rita. He and Liz are not close and he doesn't share her snobbery.
Corinna Price-Rodgerson (Diana Weston) – An upper-class, sophisticated businesswoman who sets her sights on Ted, breaking up his relationship with Sandra. She persuades Ted they should open a restaurant in Africa; however, on the night of their farewell party she is arrested at the airport and revealed to be a con artist, real name Mavis Stant.
Gerry Lansdowne (David Yelland) – An ambitious young politician who begins a relationship with older woman Rita after her marriage break-up. Rita jilts him on their wedding day after realising she will come second to his political aspirations.
Eric the Barman (Malcolm Hebden) – A camp, over-talkative barman at The Angel Hotel, who frequently attempts to engage the regulars in long-winded stories, usually involving his 'ex-brother-in-law from Falkirk'.
Percy and Clarrie Spragg (Keith Marsh and Maggie Jones) – Rita's parents. Rita is frequently embarrassed by her father's coarse behaviour, which he in turn plays up to. However, he genuinely loves his daughter, and she is touched by his anger at Ted's behaviour. Rita is devastated when Percy dies in her arms on the dancefloor; Clarrie later dies off-screen in hospital.
Andrew Denton (Philip Bird) – Neville's nephew, well known for making unfunny or inappropriate quips and following them with 'joke!', usually the annoyance or bemusement of his audience. He proudly celebrates his wife Judy's pregnancy, having previously believed he was sterile, unaware that the real father is Simon.
A Bit of a Do Wikipedia
Pat Sandys who had produced one of David Nobbs' plays Cupid's Darts was looking for plays for a series called Love and Marriage. The three ideas put forward by David Nobbs were a dentists' dinner dance, a Miss Ball Bearing competition and a diamond wedding. Though the ideas were not used, David Nobbs came up with the idea of having the same characters in different do's. Casting Gwen Taylor as Rita came first. David Nobbs wanted John Thaw and several others to play Ted Simcock, before David Jason was chosen.