Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is a British sitcom created and written by Raymond Allen and starring Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice. It was first broadcast in 1973 and ran for three series, ending in 1978, and returning in 2016 for a one-off special. The series follows the accident-prone Frank Spencer and his tolerant wife, Betty, through Frank's various attempts to hold down a job, which frequently end in disaster. The sitcom was noted for its stuntwork, performed by Crawford himself, as well as featuring various well-remembered and much lampooned catchphrases, that have become part of popular culture. In a 2004 poll to find Britain's Best Sitcom, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em came 22nd.
|Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em|
|Created by||Raymond Allen|
|Written by||Raymond Allen|
|Directed by||Michael Mills (1973, plus two specials)|
Sydney Lotterby (1975)
|Theme music composer||Ronnie Hazlehurst|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3 (plus 3 Christmas Specials and 1 Sport Relief Special)|
|No. of episodes||23|
|Producer(s)||Michael Mills (13 episodes, 1973, plus 2 specials)|
Sydney Lotterby (7 episodes, 1978)
|Running time||30 minutes (per episode)|
|Distributor||BBC Worldwide |
ABC (Australia, home video)
Warner Home Video (US, home video)
|Picture format||625-line PAL (1973–78) |
1080i HDTV (2016)
|Audio format||Monaural (1973–78) |
Surround sound 5.1 (2016)
|Original release||Original Series|
15 February 1973 –
25 December 1978
Sport Relief Special
18 March 2016
The expression "Some mothers do have them" is (or once was) a common British saying - as a (usually gentle, even kindly) criticism of someone as foolish or inept.
The character of Frank Spencer
The wimpish, smiling Frank, sporting his trademark beret and trench coat, is married to the apparently normal Betty (Michele Dotrice) and in later series they have a baby daughter, Jessica. The character was popular with television impressionists such as Mike Yarwood in the 1970s, particularly his main catchphrase, "Ooh Betty", which is allegedly only ever said in one episode (Series 2, Episode 2). Other sources, such as TV Tropes and British Classic Comedy claim that he never said it and attribute it to Mike Yarwood's impressions.
"Ooh Betty ..." is not Frank's only catchphrase of the series. Others include a quavering "Oooh ...", usually uttered with his forefinger to his mouth as he stands amidst the chaos of some disaster he has just caused (and which he himself has invariably escaped unscathed). He also sometimes complains about being "ha-RASSed!", or occasionally, "I've had a lot of ha-RASSments lately" (originally an American pronunciation). Other recurring catchphrases include references to "a bit of trouble", which usually implies some sort of undisclosed digestive disorder, and to the cat having "done a whoopsie" (presumably a euphemism for having defecated in an inappropriate place, on one occasion in Spencer's beret). If Frank is pleased (or confused) about something, he will often use the catchphrase "Mmmm — nice!" or "Ohhh — nice!"
Despite his unfailing ability to infuriate people, Frank is essentially a very sympathetic character, who inspires much affection from his ever-loving and patient wife, Betty. He also venerates the memory of his late mother, Jessica, and worships his daughter, also named Jessica; references to Frank's mother suggest that she was very like her son. Crawford himself has talked of how he based many of Frank's reactions on those of a young child.
The final series was written by Allen, based on stories by Michael Crawford (not written by Crawford himself as sometimes reported) and was made after a break of five years, although there had been two Christmas specials in between. Frank's character changes noticeably in this series, becoming more self-aware and keen to make himself appear more educated and well-spoken. He develops an air of pomposity, best demonstrated when someone enquires for "Mr Spencer?" - to which he habitually replies "I am he". He also becomes more self-assured, and much more willing to argue back when criticised, sometimes winning arguments by leaving his opponents dumbfounded by the bizarre nature of his statements.
Acknowledging the show's success in Australia, in the final series he mentions relations who live there, and contemplates emigrating himself.
Crawford also found it difficult to break out of the public association with the role, despite his later career as a hugely successful musical performer on the West End and Broadway stage, in popular shows such as Barnum and The Phantom of the Opera.
- Jessica Forte as Jessica Spencer (5 episodes)
- Jane Hylton as Mrs Fisher (3 episodes)
- Dick Bentley as Grandad Spencer (3 episodes)
- Glynn Edwards as Mr Lewis (3 episodes)
- Anthony Woodruff as Dr. Smedley (3 episodes)
- Hazel Bainbridge in 3 roles as Mrs Cooper/Mrs Partridge/Miss Perkins (3 episodes)
Ronnie Barker and Norman Wisdom were the BBC's first and second choices for the role of Frank. However the casting of Crawford proved effective, as many of Frank's mannerisms and turns of phrase were invented by the actor (some having been used previously by Crawford in the film Hello, Dolly!), and his stunt-performing and singing skills were used in the series.
In addition to Frank and Betty, most episodes would introduce at least one other character (a doctor, a neighbour, an employer, etc.) who would be seen to gradually suffer the inevitably chaotic consequences of Frank's fleeting presence in their lives. These characters were often played by some of the greatest and recognisable character actors of the era, including George Baker, James Cossins, Peter Jeffrey, Richard Wilson, Fulton Mackay, Bernard Hepton, Christopher Timothy, George Sewell, Bryan Pringle, Christopher Biggins, Milton Johns, Diane Holland, John Ringham, David Ryall, Gretchen Franklin, Geoffrey Chater, Royston Tickner, Michael Redfern, Babar Bhatti, Norman Chappell, Geoffrey Whitehead and Elisabeth Sladen (who, in her autobiography, mentions that she was considered for the role of Betty).
[•••] [― ― ―] [― ―] [•]/ [― ―] [― ― ―] [―] [••••] [•] [•―•] [•••]/ [―••] [― ― ―]/ [•―] [•••―] [•]/ [•] [― ―] /[•―•―•―] [S] [o] [m] [e]/ [m] [o] [t] [h] [e] [r] [s] / [d] [o] / [a] [v] [e]/ [e] [m] /(full stop)
Series One (Early 1973)
|"Getting a Job" (aka "The Job Interview")||15 February 1973||Newly married Frank and Betty are due to move into their new flat, but are currently living with Betty's mother, Mrs Fisher. Betty has bought Frank a new briefcase for his impending job interview at Lewis & Co.'s ironmongers for the position of area sales manager. With Betty's advice of remembering to smile, Frank turns up at his interview later than expected, after getting stuck in a lift. When he finally meets the general manager, Mr Lewis, he causes him a lot of frustration. By the end of the interview, Mr Lewis is on the verge of a breakdown.||The initial shot of the postman delivering the present that Betty has got for Frank's interview is of 2 Hemlock Road, White City, W12.|
|"George's House"||22 February 1973||Frank and Betty are invited to stay the weekend at Betty's brother George's modern electronically designed home. George receives a visit from Mr Fletcher, an American house builder, who may well offer George's employer an order worth thousands of pounds if he likes the equipment, but after Frank loses his slippers down the toilet and ruins it, trouble begins to brew. The situation worsens when the cistern starts to leak and the water ends up interfering with the house's electrical systems, causing George's electronic gadgets to become uncontrollable and Betty and Frank to damage the electric control system, which then sets the house on fire..||stars Peter Greene, Michael Golden|
|"Love Thy Neighbour"||1 March 1973||Betty's mother turns up at the Spencer household unexpectedly, suitcase in hand, after leaving her husband and collapses on their couch. Betty feels that Dr Smedley should be contacted, and Frank is the one left to do it, but with the phone box out of action, he pays a visit to his new neighbour, Mr Faraday. Frank calls Dr Smedley but gives him Mr Faraday's address rather his own, and causes a misunderstanding. After all the confusion, Frank locks himself out of the house, and once again has to trouble Mr Faraday, this time for the use of his ladder.||First appearance of Dr. H. S. Smedley, the family doctor (portrayed here by Anthony Woodruff).|
|"Have a Break, Take a Husband" (aka "Hotel")||8 March 1973||As a second honeymoon, Frank and Betty decide to take a trip to a very old fashioned hotel owned by Mr Bedford. Things get off to a bad start when Frank very nearly misses the train and has to run after it down the platform. After arriving at their hotel, Frank takes it upon himself to make a few adjustments to the broken room, which eventually result in their lino getting torn, a broken wardrobe and a hole in their floor. Meanwhile, across the landing, another guest, Kenny, is having difficulty getting to sleep between the noises coming from the Spencers' destroyed room and his furniture disappearing. Property that was allegedly damaged included two holes in the floor/ceiling, a lino, a painting, drawers and a wardrobe. After the episode, the hotel closed down the room for ten days for a renovation.||Scenes were filmed in Herne Bay in Kent, including the train station and Carlton Hotel. Interior scenes with the hotel room is filmed in the studios, guest stars Cyril Shaps and Neil McCarthy.|
|"The Hospital Visit"||15 March 1973||Frank's been fending for himself with Betty in hospital, and has just had a spot of bother with a steak and kidney pudding (which explodes). Now he's off to visit her, but is the recovery ward ready for him?||guest stars Elisabeth Sladen|
|"The Psychiatrist"||22 March 1973||After being relieved of his job as a member of a fire crew, Frank feels that he is a failure. Betty thinks that he should go and see someone who would understand his situation. He goes to see Mr Webster, a psychiatrist who tries his best to get to the root of Frank's problem.||guest stars Bernard Hepton|
|"The Employment Exchange"||29 March 1973||Having lost his latest job as a window cleaner, Frank ends up back at the employment exchange, where new manager Mr Bradshaw insists that he can be employed. Bradshaw takes Frank on as an employee around the building, but soon begins to regret it.||guest stars George A. Cooper, Edward Hardwicke|
Series Two (Late 1973)
|"Cliffhanger"||22 November 1973||Frank's latest job includes a company car which he and Betty use to go on a picnic. Things start out well enough until Frank manages to reverse the car halfway over the edge of the cliff.|
|"The RAF Reunion"||29 November 1973||Frank attends his annual RAF reunion and reflects on his past experiences.||This episode contains flashbacks of Frank's past.
Guest stars Fulton Mackay.
|"The Public Relations Course"||6 December 1973||Having lost yet another job Betty suggests Frank try out a course in public relations training. Frank heads off to the school run by Mr Watson, a very experienced public relations expert, who is confident he can make Frank a success but Frank proves too much even for him.||Guest stars James Cossins.|
|"Frank and Marvin"||13 December 1973||Frank discovers he is going to be a father and determines to make a success of his new job at a holiday camp as an entertainer. His act includes a very poor ventriloquist act, bad jokes about kangaroos, an interesting rendition of "Early One Morning" and a human volcano act, which he manages to set off by accident.||Guest stars Christopher Timothy.|
|"Father's Clinic"||20 December 1973||In preparation for parenthood, Betty has been looking after two young children from the neighbourhood and she convinces Frank to come along on one of their outings. The girls seem wary of Frank at first, but his accident-prone ways which they find hilarious soon win them over.||This episode involves an elaborate stunt when Frank, who is roller skating at a rink, manages to burst through the fire exit and on a hellish journey through the streets, dodging buses and cars, ducking under lorries and crashing into a baby shop.|
|"The Baby Arrives"||27 December 1973||Frank is worrying about his impending fatherhood and is starting to annoy the hospital staff with his constant false alarms. The doctors tell the Spencers that they have another week to go but that night baby Spencer has other ideas. With their doctor on holiday another one is drafted in, the same one whose car Frank reversed into earlier that day.||Birth and first appearance of Jessica, Frank's daughter.
Guest appearance of Diane Holland as the maternity ward receptionist.
1974 and 1975 Christmas specials
|"Jessica's First Christmas"||25 December 1974||Frank gets involved in the church's nativity play (in the role of an angel), much against Father O'Hara's wishes — and with predictably disastrous results.||Guest starring Cyril Luckham and Bryan Pringle. This episode probably shows one of the series's riskiest stunts where after crashing upwards through the church's roof, Frank has to be rescued by helicopter.|
|"Learning to Drive"||25 December 1975||After being fired from his job as a Christmas pixie, Frank receives a letter from the BBC inviting him to appear on a show called Man about the Home. David Jacobs turns up and attempts to film but Frank's DIY disasters become apparent. At the same time, Frank is taking driving lessons. He takes his test (for the 10th time) — a series of near misses ensue and Frank ends up driving off the end of a pier into the sea. Even then, he yells to the harassed and bedraggled examiner, who has made rapidly for the shore, "Mr Hayes — have I passed?"||Extensive filming on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, including the Kingsferry Bridge and Sheerness jetty. Guest stars Campbell Singer, George Sewell and Peter Jeffrey.|
Series Three (1978)
|"Moving House"||11 November 1978||The Spencers' move gets off to a bad start when Frank manages to fall out of the moving van into a barrel of tar and take half the furniture with him. Things get worse when within hours of arriving he not only gets on the wrong side of Mr Lewis from next door but half destroys his bedroom ceiling.||In this episode, Frank sings a lullaby to his daughter, Jessica. First appearance of Frank's new, bad tempered neighbour, Mr Lewis (Glynn Edwards), and his wife (Jean Boht). Also includes an appearance by Milton Johns as housing officer Mr Denham.|
|"Wendy House"||18 November 1978||Frank is being kept very busy at woodwork classes especially when the insurance company value his entire collection of furniture at £40. To speed things along he has started using super glue which unfortunately manages to stick him, an old lady and a bus conductor to a chair. In addition to new furniture, Frank is building a Wendy House for Jessica, a very large Wendy House that proves too big to get through the workshop door.||Features Richard Wilson as the insurance man. First appearance of Columbo, Frank's dog.|
|"Scottish Dancing"||25 November 1978||Frank and Betty have taken up Scottish country dancing and Frank has decided to go into politics and with a gala dinner for a Liberal Party candidate approaching, the rest of the committee are determined not to let Frank cause an embarrassment.|
|"Men as Women"||2 December 1978||Frank receives a letter from Grandpa Spencer in Australia inviting him and Betty to join him and help run his farm. Meanwhile, Dr Mender (Derek Farr) appears to be very depressed and preoccupied and for once Frank is not responsible.||First appearance of Grandpa Spencer.|
|"King of the Road" (aka "Demon King")||9 December 1978||Frank's new job as a motorbike courier lands him in trouble with the law and up before the magistrates. Frank defends himself in the only way he knows how.|
|"Australia House"||16 December 1978||Frank is taking elocution lessons in preparation for his flying lessons. Meanwhile, a letter arrives from Australia House asking the Spencers to come discuss their possible emigration to Australia. By the end of the interview Mr Lawrence tells Frank he can go just to get rid of him.||
Starring Edward Hardwicke
1978 Christmas special
|"Learning to Fly"||25 December 1978||Frank begins his flying lessons at the local school but things take a bit of a bad turn when Frank manages to cause his instructor to pass out in mid flight.
Starring Christopher Biggins as a learner pilot.
Due to time pressures and aircraft noise problems, sound recordists were unable to accurately capture the audio within the aircraft cockpit. To alleviate this, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop used stock library sounds, including wind noise, the Wilhelm Scream No3 and radio chatter from a previous episode of Dad's Army. The engine sound was recreated using an edited version of the aircraft sounds used in the film The Dam Busters. Post-syncing issues mean it is clearly evident in these scenes that the actors' voices have had to be re-recorded.
2016 Sport Relief sketch
|"Frank Relief"||18 March 2016||Frank is on a journey by bicycle and roller skates to see his daughter Jessica take part in a race at the Olympic Velodrome.||Sketch for Sport Relief. Gemma Arterton guest stars as a grown up version of Baby Jessica, alongside Paul McCartney, Jenson Button, Boris Johnson, Roy Hodgson, Arsène Wenger, David Walliams, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Bradley Wiggins, Clare Balding, Chris Hoy, Andy Murray, and Jamie Murray playing themselves, & Christopher Wilson as the newsagent.|
The BBC has repeated Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em several times since the series was produced in the 1970s. The programme has been shown on Catalan public television, the GBC in the 1970s, Nigeria on the NTA in the 1980s and 1990s and in Australia on the Seven Network's Great Comedy Classics Franchise in 2006-2007, GO! from 2009 to 2010 until the sitcom now screens on 7TWO. British channels Gold, BBC Two and BBC Prime took over repeats of the programme in 2007.
On 4 October 2015, it was reported that the BBC were planning a return of the sitcom, with Crawford and Dotrice purported to be involved in shooting scheduled for early 2016. The news was met extremely positively on social media. On 18 March 2016, Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice reprised their roles for a one-off sketch for Sport Relief. Gemma Arterton guest stars as a grown up version of Baby Jessica, alongside Boris Johnson, Sir Paul McCartney, Roy Hodgson, Arsène Wenger, David Walliams, Jessica Ennis, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Clare Balding, Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Andy Murray, and Jamie Murray playing themselves, and featured Chris Wilson as the Newsagent.
Home video releases
In the United Kingdom six episodes from Series 1 and various selected episodes of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em were originally released by BBC Video on VHS in the 1990s. Series 1 and Series 2 were released on VHS and DVD on 21 October 2002. Series 3 and the Christmas Specials were released on VHS and DVD on 19 May 2003. The Complete Series was released on VHS and DVD on 6 October 2003, by Second Sight available in Region 2. On 1 November 2010, 2 entertain reissued Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Christmas Specials. On 14 February 2011 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Series and Christmas Specials was reissued by 2 entertain with new packaging.
In Australia Series 1-3 and the Christmas Specials were released in 2003 and 2004. The complete boxset was released in 2004 on DVD in region 4.
In the United States 13 selected episodes were released on VHS in 1998, and reissued on DVD region 1 in 2001.
In popular culture
- In The Now Show, Prince Edward is usually portrayed as Frank Spencer by Hugh Dennis. In an episode from June 2010, the show had a sketch where Fabio Capello used Frank Spencer impressions as a motivational strategy for the England World Cup Squad.
- The programme, and the character of Frank Spencer specifically, have even been mentioned several times in the UK House of Commons. On one notable occasion, Labour Party leader John Smith taunted Conservative Prime Minister John Major in a speech in 1993, by saying recent government mishaps would be considered "too much" if submitted to the show's producers by scriptwriters.
- On 14 November 1998, during an edition of Noel's House Party Michael Crawford appeared as Frank to celebrate 25 years of the show.
- English rock band Arctic Monkeys mention Frank Spencer in their song "You Probably Couldn't See for the Lights but You Were Staring Straight at Me" from their 2006 album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not with the lines: "I'm so tense, never tenser/Could all go a bit Frank Spencer."
- English band Reuben named a song after the show - "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" is the second track on their second album Very Fast Very Dangerous.
- The title of the series "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" is similar to Jimmy Clitheroe's catchphrase from the late-1950s to early-1970s: "Don't Some Mothers 'Ave 'Em!"
- Many of Frank Spencer's antics and catchphrases have been lampooned by numerous comedians, including Mike Yarwood and Lenny Henry.
A stage adaptation, written and directed by Guy Unsworth based on the TV series will begin a UK tour at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon in February 2018. Comedian Joe Pasquale plays Frank Spencer, with Sarah Earnshaw as Betty and Susie Blake as Mrs Fisher.
- "Michael Crawford to reprise Frank Spencer for Sport Relief". BBC News. 18 February 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- BBC. "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
- "Does the Frank Spencer music have Morse code?". BBC News. 4 October 2007.
- Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em Article".
- Rollerskating - Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - BBC classic comedy. YouTube. 15 June 2007.
- "BBC bosses discuss return of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em revival". Mail Online. 4 October 2015.
- "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Collection  [VHS] ". Amazon.co.uk. 6 October 2003. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
- "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Collection  [DVD] ". Amazon.co.uk. 6 October 2003. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
- "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Christmas Specials [DVD]". Amazon.co.uk. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
- "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete series 1-3 and Christmas Specials [DVD] ". Amazon.co.uk. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
- "Government Economic and Social Policy". millbanksystems.com.
- "Search: "some mothers do 'ave"". millbanksystems.com.
- "Search: "frank spencer"". millbanksystems.com.
- "Release "Very Fast Very Dangerous" by Reuben - MusicBrainz". musicbrainz.org.
- "Stage adaptation of Some Mothers Do Have 'Em set for UK tour". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 5 September 2017.