Only When I Laugh (TV series)

Only When I Laugh is a British television sitcom made by Yorkshire Television for ITV. It aired between 29 October 1979 and 16 December 1982 and was set in the ward of a NHS hospital. The title is in response to the question, "Does it hurt?"

Only When I Laugh
Written byEric Chappell
Directed byVernon Lawrence
Graeme Muir
StarringJames Bolam
Peter Bowles
Christopher Strauli
Richard Wilson
Derrick Branche
Theme music composerKen Jones
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series4
No. of episodes29 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Vernon Lawrence
Editor(s)Phil Cooke
Keith Coppock
Jim Molyneux
Trevor Pugh
Stuart Quarmby
Lance Tattersall
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Yorkshire Television
DistributorITV Studios
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3
Original release29 October 1979 (1979-10-29) 
16 December 1982 (1982-12-16)

It starred James Bolam, Peter Bowles, and Christopher Strauli as patients Roy Figgis, Archie Glover, and Norman Binns. Mr. Gordon Thorpe, their consultant surgeon, was played by Richard Wilson; and Gupte, the staff nurse from Delhi, was played by Derrick Branche.

The show was one of many successes for writer Eric Chappell, and has been repeated on ITV4 since 2019, formerly on ITV3.


In a discussion of Eric Chappell's work in The Guinness Book of Classic British TV, Only When I Laugh was described as "intermittently rewarding".[1]


Guest appearances have been made by Gwen Taylor, John Quayle, Neil McCarthy, Patrick Troughton, Moira Lister, Pat Ashton, Neil Connery, Pamela Cundell, Brenda Cowling, Reginald Marsh, Rosalind Ayres, Ann Beach, Mary Tamm, Karl Howman, Isla Blair, Ronnie Stevens, Stephen Greif, Robert Gillespie, Sylvia Kay and Frank Middlemass.


29 episodes were broadcast over four series including a Christmas special.

DVD release

  • In region 2 all four series of Only When I Laugh have been released on DVD by Network DVD, and a complete series box set has also been released.
  • In region 1 series 1 & 2 have been released in individual DVDs (now discontinued). A complete 5 disc box set was released on 10 March 2009.[2]
  • Region 4 has only released the complete series box set.
DVD Title No. of Discs Year Episodes DVD release
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series 1 1 1979 7 23 September 2003 8 July 2006
Complete Series 2 1 1980 7 16 September 2003 15 November 2007
Complete Series 3 1 1981 8 21 July 2008
Complete Series 4 1 1982 7 15 September 2008
Complete Series 1–4 4 19791982 29 10 March 2009 15 September 2008 12 April 2008


  1. The Guinness Book of Classic British TV, by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, Second Edition.Guinness Publishing Ltd., 1996 ISBN 0851126286 (p.67).
  2. News on "Only When I Laugh" DVD release Archived 1 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
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