A Sharp Intake of Breath

A Sharp Intake of Breath is a British sitcom starring David Jason, Jacqueline Clarke with Richard Wilson and Alun Armstrong for series 1-3, which ran from 1977 to 1981, when Jason took up the role of Del Trotter in Only Fools & Horses. It was made for the ITV network by ATV and recorded at their Elstree Studios. The opening titles featured cartoons by Mel Calman. Series 1-3 were written by Ronnie Taylor, series 4 by Vince Powell following the death of Taylor in 1979.

A Sharp Intake of Breath
A Sharp Intake of Breath opening titles by Mel Calman
GenreSituation Comedy
Created byRonnie Taylor
Written byRonnie Taylor (1977–80)
Vince Powell (1981)
Directed byLes Chatfield (1977–79)
Stuart Allen (1980–81)
StarringDavid Jason
Jacqueline Clarke
Richard Wilson
(series 1–3)
Alun Armstrong
(series 1–2)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series4
No. of episodes22
Producer(s)Les Chatfield (1977–79)
Stuart Allen (1980–81)
Running time30 Minutes
Production company(s)ATV
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3
Audio formatMono
Original release28 July 1977 (1977-07-28) (pilot)
28 February 1978 (1978-02-28) 
15 February 1981 (1981-02-15)


Jason played an everyman character called Peter Barnes and Jacqueline Clarke played his wife Sheila. Wilson and Armstrong played a range of petty officials and bureaucrats whose actions frustrated Barnes' attempts to deal with the necessities of everyday life. The title A Sharp Intake of Breath refers to the reactions of various characters to seemingly simple requests by Peter, generally followed by a denial. The show made use of the fourth wall plot device.



Pilot (1977)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
"A Sharp Intake of Breath"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor28 July 1977 (1977-07-28)
The pilot was part of ITV's The Sounds of Laughter series of six one-off comedies. Sheila fancies having a small porch added to the back door off the kitchen, so calls in a local builder. Peter heads off to see his bank manager for a loan to cover the quote. Sheila Barnes was played by Patricia Brake in this episode.

Series 1 (1978)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Your Life In Their Hands"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor20 February 1978 (1978-02-20)
Peter doesn't much feel like eating his breakfast, which leads Sheila to insist he visit the doctor for a check-up.
22"Happy Motoring"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor27 February 1978 (1978-02-27)
The car won't start, which is doubly frustrating as Peter not only has places to go, but also give Sheila a driving lesson. Typically, it turns out to be rather expensive a repair.
33"Somewhere In The Sun"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor6 March 1978 (1978-03-06)
What could be easier than booking a summer holiday? As Peter is about to find out; just about anything.
44"See You In Court"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor13 March 1978 (1978-03-13)
The Barnes' marital bliss is thrown awry when he's forced to bring his very drunk boss home from an office party. Peter's desperate to bring their relationship back from the brink of divorce.
55"The Gasman Cometh"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor20 March 1978 (1978-03-20)
Peter begins to tear his hair out when men from the gas board arrive to install his new central heating: he has not asked for, and does not want, it.
66"Seven Year Hitch"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor27 March 1978 (1978-03-27)
For their seventh wedding anniversary, Peter and Sheila intend to stay in the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon.

Series 2 (1979)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
71"Your Move"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor19 February 1979 (1979-02-19)
Sheila's suddenly desperate to move home. She's never been happy living in their current home,apparently! All this is news to Peter, who's forced to engage with local estate agents.
82"Your Very Good Health"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor26 February 1979 (1979-02-26)
Peter's hospitalised after a small accident in the garden damages his ankle. His doctor's nice enough, but the matron?
93"Where There's A Will"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor5 March 1979 (1979-03-05)
The Barnes' are forced to deal with Sheila's argumentative family when her aunt dies. After a series of mishaps at the wake and dealing with a grasping vicar, Peter's very surprised to discover that they've been left an old piano.
104"Another Little Drink"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor12 March 1979 (1979-03-12)
Double trouble's on the horizon when Peter's workmates won't let him leave the pub without another few rounds down him first. Sheila's not happy, and after a struggle to extricate his car, neither is P.C. Reynolds
115"The Square On The Hypoteneuse"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor19 March 1979 (1979-03-19)
Commiserating with a stranger in the pub leads to all manner of domestic disharmony for poor Peter Barnes when both his wife and girlfriend arrive.
126"What About The Workers"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor26 March 1979 (1979-03-26)
Peter's caught up in the officiousness of trade unionism when a repair man at his firm spots him, a white collared worker, turning a conveyor belt on and off. Matters are set to only get worse as the shop steward arrives.

Series 3 (1980)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
131"The Spare Part"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor4 January 1980 (1980-01-04)
A leaky washing machine is only the start of the Barnes's problems. Peter's attempt to acquire the necessary replacement part is easier said than done, especially with British Rail involved.
142"Just Cause Or Impediment"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor11 January 1980 (1980-01-11)
Peter's lined up for best man duties, but first he needs a suit. Then there's the small matter of getting to the church on time.
153"Look Who's Coming For Ever"Les ChatfieldRonnie Taylor18 January 1980 (1980-01-18)
When her brother and sister-in-law head for a fortnight's holiday in Benidorm, Sheila's Dad comes to stay with the Barnes'. Peter isn't keen, but ends up hitting it off with the old man, who takes him for a round of golf.

Series 4 (1981)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
161"Wheels"Stuart AllenVince Powell11 January 1981 (1981-01-11)
Peter's asked to deliver the company chairman his car - a flash Mercedes. Giving it a quick drive around, he encounters a group of anti-car, anti-pollution protesters and is swiftly arrested alongside them.
172"Match Of The Day"Stuart AllenVince Powell18 January 1981 (1981-01-18)
After managing to secure a ticket to a major international football match at Wembley, Peter manages to lose - and reacquire - his ticket numerous times. Will he make it to see the big game?
183"The Train Now Standing"Stuart AllenVince Powell25 January 1981 (1981-01-25)
Having discovered that the train he and Sheila catch into London has been cancelled, Peter heads to the offices of British Rail to demand changes.
194"While The Cat's Away"Stuart AllenVince Powell1 February 1981 (1981-02-01)
With Sheila away visiting her ill mother, Terry challenges Peter to prove he's still got what it takes and can chat up a lady in the pub. When he fails, Terry organises the pair a double-date at a Chinese restaurant.
205"The Weekend"Stuart AllenVince Powell8 February 1981 (1981-02-08)
Having bumped into an old army friend in the park, Peter and Sheila are invited to stay with him - 'Snogger' Sutcliffe - and his wife for the weekend at their country retreat.
216"Rear Window"Stuart AllenVince Powell15 February 1981 (1981-02-15)
Having failed to ingratiate himself with the new neighbours, Peter manages to sprain his ankle falling from a ladder. Sat in bed with little more to do than look out of the window, he soon becomes convinced that the short-tempered new neighbour has murdered his wife.

Home media

The Complete series was released on DVD 04/05/2015 and as of August 2017 is currently being repeated on UK Gold.

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