A Fine Romance: The Complete Second Series

A Fine Romance: The Complete Second Series


Reviewed by: Tim Bryant

A Fine Romance represents a pinnacle in British TV sitcom history, well worth looking back at despite surface differences, which make the early Eighties seem quite distant from 2006.

Following in the footsteps of Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal and Penelope Keith, A Fine Romance features cracking writing and acting. Its leads are the two incredibly strong and renowned British theatrical thespians, Judi Dench and Michael Williams, whose distinction speaks for itself. The show represents the solo writing of Bob Larbey, co-writer of the aforementioned, hugely popular The Good Life.

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It depicts the on-again-off-again romance between Laura (Dench), an upper-middle-class prickly translator, and Mike (Williams), a comfortable, yet grouchy, landscape gardener. Although the odds are against them, their perpetual conflict against the backdrop of a drab, semi idyllic suburban existence makes for compelling viewing.

The first series featured Helen (excellent Susan Penhaligon), Laura's sister, and her husband Phil's (Richard Warwick) matchmaking attempts and their repercussions. The younger couple turn up again here and the comedy is unashamedly middle class and middle aged. It seems that Laura and Mike have been driven together by a quiet desperation and nagging loneliness.

Series Two has them tentatively living together. It's a constant uphill struggle, from his unsuccessful attempt to escape from the bed without waking her and her being impaled on the rose he leaves and his expression of delight at the prospect of bubble-and-squeak, which she surveys with snobbish indifference. Something drives them together, however, as they lurch from one event to another.

She comes to work as a secretary for his landscape gardening business and makes catastrophic errors in the management of the diary. She struggles through it, as does he in accompanying her to the dentist and dealing with her hysterical outbreaks and subsequent denials.

The writing is consistently sharp and funny. When she overloads his diary to include a woodland clearing in one day, he retorts, "And where is this woodland? The Epping Forest? And who do you think it is? Me and a gang of lumberjacks?"

The dialogue sparkles, especially when Laura and Mike are set off against the super bourgeoisie successful couple, Helen and Phil, who are altogether classier, richer and annoyingly more attractive. Pathos and humour is in full flight when they come round to reveal news of Helen's pregnancy, while Laura and Mike are packing up in preparation for a break-up. Despite their foibles and annoyances, it is the odd couple who appear more human and likeable.

Even 25-years on, this is a domestic sitcom of the highest order.

Reviewed on: 21 May 2006
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Eighties sitcom continues the comic travails of a famous mismatched couple
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Director: James Cellan Jones

Writer: Bob Larbey

Starring: Judi Dench, Michael Williams, Susan Penhaligon, Richard Warwick, Geoffrey Rose, George Tovey

Year: 1982

Runtime: 175 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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