As Time Goes By (TV series)

As Time Goes By is a British romantic sitcom which aired on BBC One from 1992 to 2005, running for nine series and three specials.

As Time Goes By
From left: Sandy (Jenny Funnell), Jean (Judi Dench), Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer), Alistair (Philip Bretherton) and Judy (Moira Brooker)
Romantic comedy
Created byColin Bostock-Smith
Written byBob Larbey
Directed bySydney Lotterby
StarringJudi Dench
Geoffrey Palmer
Moira Brooker
Philip Bretherton
Jenny Funnell
Joan Sims
Frank Middlemass
Moyra Fraser
Paul Chapman
Janet Henfrey
Tim Wylton
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series9
No. of episodes67 (inc. 3 specials) (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Philip Jones (1992–2002)
Trevor McCallum (1996)
John Reynolds (1996–2005)
Don Taffner (2002–05)
John Bartlett (2005)
Donald Taffner Jr. (2005)
Producer(s)Sydney Lotterby
Editor(s)John Jarvis (1992)
Chris Wadsworth (1992–2002)
Mykola Pawluk (2005)
Running time64×30 minutes
1×45 minutes
1×50 minutes
1×60 minutes
Production company(s)Theatre of Comedy Entertainment
DLT Entertainment Ltd.
Original networkBBC One
Original release12 January 1992 
14 December 2005

Starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, it follows the relationship between two former lovers who meet unexpectedly after not having been in contact for 38 years.

The programme's original working title had been Winter with Flowers[1] but was changed during its first day of filming due to the cast's protestations. The new title was taken from the 1931 Herman Hupfeld song "As Time Goes By", which was used as the title music, the recorded version by Joe Fagin.[2]

The show was created by Colin Bostock-Smith,[3] but written by Bob Larbey,[2] who had co-written both The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles with John Esmonde. In 2004, As Time Goes By was ranked No. 29 in Britain's Best Sitcom.[4]

The series was produced by Theatre of Comedy Entertainment, in association with DLT Entertainment Ltd. for the BBC.


  • Jean Mary Hardcastle (née Pargetter, previously Hanson) (Judi Dench) – Judith's mother who later becomes Lionel's wife.
  • Lionel Hardcastle (Geoffrey Palmer) – Jean's husband and Rocky's son.
  • Judith "Judy" Deacon (née Hanson) (Moira Brooker) – Jean's daughter, and Sandy's best friend, later Alistair's wife.
  • Alistair Deacon (Philip Bretherton) – Initially publisher of Lionel's book, then Judith's husband.
  • Sandy Edwards (Jenny Funnell) – Jean's secretary and receptionist, Judith's best friend and later Harry's wife.
  • Penny Johnson (née Hanson) (Moyra Fraser) – Jean's sister-in-law (from Jean's first marriage to David).
  • Stephen Johnson (Paul Chapman) – Penny's husband.
  • Harry (David Michaels and Daniel Ryan) – Sandy's husband.
  • Mrs. Bale (Janet Henfrey) – Hardcastle country home housekeeper.
  • Lol Ferris (Tim Wylton) – Hardcastle country home gardener.
  • Richard "Rocky" Hardcastle (Frank Middlemass) – Lionel's irrepressible father who owns a country home in the Hampshire countryside, alongside a vast fortune.
  • Madge Darbley-Hardcastle (Joan Sims) – Rocky Hardcastle's wife, seven years his junior. Due to the death of actress Joan Sims in 2001, two years ahead of the filming of the reunion specials, she is explained away as having become an archaeologist in Egypt.

In the March 2011 PBS pledge drive programming special Behind the Britcoms: from Script to Screen hosted by cast members Moira Brooker and Philip Bretherton, the series creator/producer revealed that Jean Simmons had declined the first offer of the role of Jean (which was written with her in mind) due to her reluctance to uproot her life—specifically mentioning her dogs, garden, and family—in California.


Second Lieutenant Lionel Hardcastle (Geoffrey Palmer) and Middlesex Hospital nurse Jean Pargetter (Judi Dench) met in the summer of 1953 and fell head over heels in love, but then Lionel was posted to Korea. He still wrote to her, but Jean didn't receive his letters. Because of this mix-up, each assumed the other had lost interest. After his war service Lionel emigrated to Kenya, became a coffee planter, and married Margaret, whom he later divorced due to "mutual boredom". Some time after his divorce he returned to England. Meanwhile, Jean had also married and bore one child, Judith (Moira Brooker). After her husband's death, Jean opened Type for You, a secretarial agency. Her daughter Judith, 35 years old during the series, is twice divorced (from Ken, who had "sad eyes", and Edward, who was "very clever") and, during most of the series, lives with her mother and also works at the secretarial agency.

Lionel, now writing his memoir, 'My life in Kenya', hires a typist through Type for You, unaware that Jean owns the agency. He and Jean first meet again when Lionel picks up Judith for a dinner date. Although Lionel and Jean's reunion is full of missteps and miscues, their romance gradually rekindles. In the third series, Lionel moves into Jean's house in Holland Park, London; they marry during the fourth series.

In the first series Judith develops a crush on Lionel while Lionel's publisher, the vain but good-hearted Alistair Deacon (Philip Bretherton), takes a similar interest in Jean and likes to call her "Lovely Lady". Both crushes are brief; eventually Judith and Alistair fall for each other and, in the final series, marry. Other story arcs feature Lionel being asked to write an American TV mini-series, Just Two People, based on his early romance with Jean. The mini-series fails after much rewriting and network interference. Jean eventually retires from Type for You and later volunteers at a charity shop.

Jean's very efficient secretary and Judith's best friend is Sandy (Jenny Funnell), who eventually moves in with the Hardcastles after splitting with her boyfriend Nick. After Jean's retirement, Judy and Sandy become co-managers of Type for You. Sandy dates Harry (David Michaels, later replaced by Daniel Ryan), a policeman and amateur rugby player, whom she marries at the end of the series. Sandy's last name was never revealed on the show.

Other notable characters include Lionel's irrepressible father Rocky (Frank Middlemass), whose favourite saying is "Rock On" and who owns a large country house in Hampshire which he later gives to Lionel; the housekeeper, Mrs. Bale (Janet Henfrey), who has an unusual interest in the Shipping Forecast and gives exact times that meals are ready, the gardener, Lol Ferris (Tim Wylton), who says Jean is a "tender woman", and Lionel's glamorous young secretary Daisy (Justine Glenton in one episode, Series 3, and Zoe Hilson, Series 4), who firmly repels Alistair's clumsy efforts to chat her up every time they meet. In an early series of the show, Lionel received news from Rocky's physician that his father was dying and had less than a year to live, but this plotline was dropped and Rocky continued to appear throughout the show's later series, including the final "Reunion Special" in 2005.

Rocky marries Madge (Joan Sims), as much a character as Rocky is, when he is 85 and she is 78. They travel the world, are country and western music fans, tool about in Madge's classic Cadillac convertible (with steer horns on the grille), and hang out at the local pub, where Madge sings. In series nine, Madge is mentioned as being on an archaeological dig in Egypt; in reality Joan Sims died before filming began. Also appearing many times are Penny (Moyra Fraser), the meddling, neurotic sister of Jean's late first husband, who calls Jean "poor Jean", and Penny's well-meaning but dull dentist husband, Stephen (Paul Chapman), who once accidentally declined an OBE.[5]


The programme ran for nine series, from 12 January 1992 to 4 August 2002. Nearly every episode was thirty minutes long. The final series episode was followed by an hour-long compilation show on 11 August 2002, and by a two part "Reunion Special" broadcast on 26 and 30 December 2005. The reunion specials were the last appearance of Frank Middlemass, who played Rocky, before his death in 2006.[6] Actress Joan Sims died in 2001, meaning Rocky's wife, Madge Darbley-Hardcastle, does not appear after series 7 or in the reunion specials.

International broadcasts

As Time Goes By has appeared in the United States on BBC America, and has been running weekly on PBS member stations almost continuously since the early 2000s, with various cast members appearing on its perennial pledge drives. It has run in Canada on BBC Canada and TVOntario, in Australia on ABC, 7TWO and 9Gem, in New Zealand on both UKTV and SKY Network Television, in Finland on YLE TV1,[7] and on DSTV in Nigeria. RTÉ One has broadcast the series in Ireland repeatedly. It has been broadcast by Gold for viewers in the UK and Ireland as of 2010, and by UKTV in Australia as of 2011.


As Time Goes By was adapted and recorded for radio. Three series were broadcast on BBC Radio 2 between 1997 and 1999. The first episode included a flashback to Jean and Lionel 38 years before, something that never happened on television. All episodes correspond to a TV episode and featured the original cast, apart from Jon Glover substituting for Bretherton in episodes 1-5 of Series One. So far, only the first series has been released on BBC audio cassette. Series One was repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra from December 2014 to January 2015.

Home media

In Region 1 in North America the complete series has been released in individual sets and as a complete series from BBC Video. In the United Kingdom on Region 2, the series has been released several times; Universal Playback released the first four series on VHS and DVD format, with 2 Entertain acquiring the rights to release the remaining series on DVD, and additionally re-releasing the Series one to four and a complete collection on DVD. Cinema Club acquired the right to release the complete series over two sets, with the first containing Series One to Four and the following set containing Series Five to Nine. Acorn Media has released to 'The Reunion Specials' on DVD. In Australia on Region 4, the complete series has been released as individual sets and as a complete collection.

North America

  • Series 1 & 2 – released 17 September 2002[8] / re-released 30 August 2005 (2-disc set)
  • Series 3 – released 17 September 2002 [9] / re-released 30 August 2005 (2-disc set)
  • Series 4 – released 2 April 2002[10] / re-released 30 August 2005 (2-disc set)
  • Series 5 – released 2002 / re-released 30 August 2005 (1-disc set)[11]
  • Series 6 – released 2002 / re-released 30 August 2005 (1-disc set)[12]
  • Series 7 – released 2002 / re-released 30 August 2005 (1-disc set)[13]
  • Series 8 & 9 – released 2003 / re-released 30 August 2005 (2-disc set)[14]
  • You Must Remember This – released 30 September 2003[15] / re-released 30 August 2005 (1-disc set)[16]
  • The Reunion Specials – released 10 January 2006 (1-disc set)[17]
  • Complete Original Series – released 30 August 2005 (11-disc set)[18]

United Kingdom

  • Series 1 & 2 – released 17 March 2003 (3-VHS set / 3-DVD set distributed by Universal Playback)[19][20]
  • Series 3 – released 25 October 2004 (3-VHS set / 3-DVD set distributed by Universal Playback)[21][22]
  • Series 4 – released 21 February 2005 (1-VHS set / 1-DVD setdistributed by Universal Playback)[23][24]
  • Series 1 – re-released 5 February 2007 (1-DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 2 – re-released 5 February 2007 (1-DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 3 – re-released 5 February 2007 (2 DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 4 – re-released 5 February 2007 (2-DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 5 – released 24 October 2005 (1-DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 6 – released 20 January 2006 (1-DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 7 – released 20 March 2006 (1 DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 8 – released 22 May 2006 (1 DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • Series 9 – released 21 August 2006 (1 DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)
  • The Complete Series 14 – released 11 September 2006 (6-DVD set distributed by Cinema Club)
  • The Complete Series 59 – released 2 October 2006 (5-DVD set distributed by Cinema Club)
  • The Reunion Specials – released 16 July 2012 (1-DVD set distributed by Acorn Media)
  • Complete Series 19 – released 2 November 2015 (11-DVD set distributed by 2 Entertain)


  • As Time Goes By – Series 1 and 2 (2 Disc Set)
  • As Time Goes By – Series 3 and 4 (3 Disc Set) – 10 November 2004
  • As Time Goes By – Series 5 and 6 (2 Disc Set) – 7 April 2005
  • As Time Goes By – Series 7 and 8 (2 Disc Set) – 6 October 2005
  • As Time Goes By – Series 9 - 9 August 2004
  • As Time Goes By – Series 1–9: Collectors Edition (11 Disc Box Set) – 6 October 2006


  1. page 18: "In the early 90s he was brought the script for As Time Goes By, which was at first titled Winter with Flowers". Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "As Time Goes By Crew List". Archived from the original on 20 February 2001. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  3. "The Den of Geek interview: Colin Bostock-Smith". Den of Geek. 14 May 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  4. "BBC - Programmes categorised as Comedy". BBC. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  5. "Comedy – As Time Goes By". BBC. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  6. "Schedules - LPB". Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  7. "Ulkomaiset tv-sarjat". 19 April 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  8. "As Time Goes By: The Complete Series, Vol. 1 & 2". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  9. "As Time Goes By Vol.3". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  10. "As Time Goes By - Complete Series 4". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  11. "As Time Goes By - Complete Series 5". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  12. "As Time Goes By - Complete Series 6". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  13. "As Time Goes By - Complete Series 7". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  14. "As Time Goes By - Complete Series 8 & 9". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  15. "As Time Goes By -You Must Remember This DVD". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  16. "As Time Goes By - You Must Remember This". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  17. "As Time Goes By - Reunion Specials". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  18. "As Time Goes By: Complete Original Series". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  19. "As Time Goes By - Series 1 & 2". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  20. "As Time Goes By - Series 1 & 2[DVD]". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  21. "As Time Goes By - Series 3 [VHS]". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  22. "As Time Goes By - Series 3 [DVD]". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  23. "As Time Goes By: Series 4 [VHS]". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  24. "As Time Goes By: Series 4 [DVD]". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
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