Watching

Watching is a British television sitcom, produced by Granada Television for the ITV network and broadcast for seven series and four Christmas specials between 1987 and 1993.[1]

Watching
GenreSitcom
Created byJim Hitchmough
StarringPaul Bown
Emma Wray
Liza Tarbuck
Patsy Byrne
Perry Fenwick
No. of series7
No. of episodes56
Production
Producer(s)Granada Television
Running time30mins x 54
60mins x 2
Release
Original networkITV
Original release5 July 1987 (1987-07-05) β€“
4 April 1993 (1993-04-04)

The series was written by Jim Hitchmough and starred Paul Bown and Emma Wray as mismatched couple Malcolm Stoneway and Brenda Wilson.

Plot

Watching was set in Merseyside, with Brenda from Liverpool and Malcolm from Meols on the Wirral, the "posh" part of Merseyside on the other side of the River Mersey. The title refers to Brenda and her sister Pamela's hobby of "people watching", and to Malcolm's hobby of birdwatching, which initially Brenda endures rather than enjoys, but later comes to appreciate. Also, similarly to the series title, many of the episode titles are verbs that end in β€˜-ing’.

Quiet biker Malcolm, who lived with his domineering mother (played by Patsy Byrne), was accompanied on his birdwatching trips by loud scouser Brenda, who was forced to ride in the sidecar of his Norton motorbike and had a habit of rubbing his mother up the wrong way. Other key characters in the series were Brenda's sister Pamela (Liza Tarbuck), her husband David (John Bowler – Series 2 onwards) and Brenda and Pam's mother Joyce (played by Noreen Kershaw) in the last few series. The series followed Malcolm and Brenda's on/off relationship, during which Malcolm married another woman called Lucinda (played by Elizabeth Morton). However, Brenda and Malcolm finally married each other in the final episode, "Knotting", which was broadcast on 4 April 1993.

The series ran for 56 30-minute episodes over 7 series, including the two 60-minute special extended episodes.

Episode List

Series One

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
1"Meeting"Pamela and Brenda are sisters who spend time "people watching", whilst at their local the Grapes they spot Malcolm. Brenda agrees to spend the day with him.5 July 1987
2"Wrestling"Malcolm tells his colleague Terry about his day out with Brenda and it isn't long before Brenda persuades Malcolm to take her out for dinner.12 July 1987
3"Outing"Brenda tries to make another date with Malcolm, but Malcolm's mother has also made plans to spend the day with him.19 July 1987
4"Confusing"26 July 1987
5"Leaving"2 August 1987
6"Repenting"9 August 1987
7"Hiding"Malcolm injures his back whilst birdwatching.16 August 1987
8Special Episode
"Seasoning"
27 December 1987

Series Two

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
9"Falling"Brenda impresses Malcolm with her knowledge of birds. Pamela wants to change jobs, whilst Malcolm's in danger of losing his.19 February 1988
10"Dancing"Depressed about her work, her love prospects and her appearance, Pamela needs cheering up.26 February 1988
11"Visiting"Brenda isn't convinced about Malcolm's attempts to cancel their birdwatching trip.4 March 1988
12"Visiting II"Malcolm is tired of his mother's attitude and decides to leave home.11 March 1988
13"Missing"Malcolm & Brenda have been separated sometime and they're getting on everyone's nerves.18 March 1988
14"Dining"Malcolm is planning a special evening - he needs a swish venue for dinner and seeks advice.25 March 1988
15"Moving"Brenda sees Malcolm lunching with Susan and suspects he's two-timing her.1 April 1988
16Special Episode
"Twitching"
60-minute episode
Malcolm and Brenda go camping for the weekend to escape the pressures of home.24 December 1988

Series Three

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
17"Losing"Brenda has lost her job and her home, and back in Liverpool she finds she's been demoted to the settee as Pamela has refurbished the flat.3 March 1989
18"Deceiving"Brenda and Malcolm spot Pamela's boyfriend David having a celebratory lunch with another woman.10 March 1989
19"Requiting"Terry, Susan, Malcolm and Brenda attend Mod Shop's annual dinner dance, but during the MD's speech Brenda can contain herself no longer, leaving Malcolm to resign on the spot.17 March 1989
20"Breeding"Malcolm has starting a motorcycle repair business in his mother's garage, but has yet to see a customer. Meanwhile, Brenda, Malcolm, Pamela and David enjoy a day at Martin Mere, where Pamela reveals she's pregnant.24 March 1989
21"Wrenching"Malcolm's business has taken off and there's a constant stream of motorbikes at the Stoneway household but not everyone's happy.31 March 1989
22"Wedding"David and Pamela are married with Malcolm as best man, and a surprise wedding gift from Brenda.7 April 1989

Series Four

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
23"Joking"Malcolm's business is booming and he decides to take on an assistant, meanwhile Brenda is back living at her mother's and Pamela is enjoying her new home and motherhood.1 December 1989
24"Pairing"When Chris collides with the Lynch pram, Brenda is forced to return home on the bus leaving Malcolm with the pram, and Chris with the shopping.8 December 1989
25"Faltering"Brenda's presence is starting to get on David's nerves.15 December 1989
26"Exploding"Pamela suggests Brenda come clean about her night out with Chris; Brenda agrees but is surprised by Malcolm's reaction.22 December 1989
27"Repairing"Brenda has moved in with Malcolm and his mother, but Malcolm still has his doubts her fling with Chris and sets his sights on getting rid of his Romeo employee.5 January 1990
28"Petting"Malcolm and Brenda bring home an injured pigeon. They also accommodate the Lynch pet tortoise whilst Pamela and David enjoy a second honeymoon.12 January 1990
29"Floating"Brenda suggests they take a friend's boat for their latest birdwatching excursion, but will it be plain sailing?19 January 1990
30"Proposing"Brenda refuses Malcolm's offer of marriage and Aunt Peggy comes to stay at the Stoneways.26 January 1990
31"Flitting"Aunt Peggy suggests Malcolm and Brenda house-sit whilst she stays with her sister.2 February 1990

Series Five

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
32"Listing"Pamela and David are enjoying married life, and Pamela announces she is pregnant.14 December 1990
33"Nesting"Brenda and Malcolm are invited to Pamela's birthday party, although one birthday present causes problems for Pamela.21 December 1990
34"Feeding"Mrs Stoneway is concerned Malcolm isn't being looked after and both Pamela and Aunt Peggy give Brenda advice on looking after her man.4 January 1991
35"Wining"Brenda finds a kindred spirit in Uncle Bernard - they agree not to tell Peggy of his return to Aigburth.11 January 1991
36"Fixing"Lucinda leaves her car for repairs at Malcolm's garage, Brenda starts a new job and Mrs Stoneway is suspicious that Brenda is having other men stay at Aigburth.18 January 1991
37"Straying"Brenda returns to the house at Aigburth and finds both families there, having had enough she returns home to mum.25 January 1991
38"Homing"Gerald and Brenda manage to bring about reconciliation between David and Pamela but reuniting Malcolm and Brenda proves more of a challenge.1 February 1991
39"Suiting"Pamela and David engineer a chance meeting between Malcolm and Brenda, and Malcolm has special favour to ask of David.8 February 1991
40"Bonding"David tries to calm Malcolm's wedding day nerves but will Brenda make it to the church in time?15 February 1991
41"Presenting"It's Christmas time and Brenda and Malcolm both plan to avoid the festivities in the same way.22 February 1991
42Special Episode
"Slipping"
60-minute episode
Malcolm partners Brenda on a birdwatching weekend in Anglesey, but when they choose a cave as their hide, they find that time and tide wait for no man.25 December 1991

Series Six

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
43"Using"Pamela and David have moved house and Malcolm is called in as plumbing advisor.3 January 1992
44"Echoing"Malcolm persuades Lucinda to join him birdwatching, but they accidentally meet up with Brenda and Jonathan.10 January 1992
45"Doctoring"Pamela and David provide the venue for a Medics Party and Malcolm's fears are confirmed when they start taking shop.17 January 1992
46"Christening"Pamela decides Malcolm and Lucinda will make ideal godparents for Zelda, and Brenda is asked to be third.24 January 1992
47"Gulling"Brenda refuses to see Malcolm until he tells Lucinda their marriage is over. But before he has a chance Lucinda has some surprising news.31 January 1992
48"Confessing"Brenda is devastated by Malcolm's news and doesn't take kindly to his explanation.7 February 1992
49Special Episode
"Reverting"
Malcolm and Brenda try and surprise friends and family with the news they are back together.1 January 1993

Series Seven

Episode NumberEpisode TitleEpisode SynopsisOriginal Airdate
50"Migrating"Pamela accuses David of never being at home; he concedes; and returns home with a sailing boat.21 February 1993
51"Uncoupling"Malcolm's efficiency causes chaos in the Wilson household, but Mrs Wilson's attempt to offload some of her residents backfires.28 February 1993
52"Helping"Brenda complains she doesn't see enough of Malcolm but when he arranges that they meet for lunch, Mrs Stoneway throws a spanner in the works.7 March 1993
53"Engaging"Brenda is still disappointed by her relationship with Malcolm. Pamela advises they consider marriage.14 March 1993
54"Wandering One"Pamela and Brenda are on holiday together, whilst they're away Mrs. Wilson, Gerald and Malcolm move in with David.21 March 1993
55"Wandering Too"Pamela and Brenda continue their holiday, whilst life goes on at home.28 March 1993
56"Knotting"Despite some pre-wedding hitches it looks as if Brenda and Malcolm's wedding will go ahead on schedule.4 April 1993

Cast

  • Emma Wray as Brenda Wilson
  • Paul Bown as Malcolm Stoneway
  • Liza Tarbuck as Pamela Wilson
  • Patsy Byrne as Mrs Marjorie Stoneway, Malcolm's mother
  • Perry Fenwick as Terry Milton
  • Philip Fox as Sydney Clough (series 1 only)
  • John Bowler as David Lynch (series 2 on)
  • Elizabeth Spriggs as Aunt Peggy (series 2-5)
  • Liz Crowther as Susan Roberts (series 2 and 3 only)
  • Ken Jones as Uncle Bernard (series 5)
  • Russell Boulter as Chris Cameron (series 4 only)
  • Noreen Kershaw as Joyce Wilson, Brenda's Mum (series 5 on)
  • Andrew Hilton as Gerald Wilson, Brenda's young brother (series 5 on)
  • Elizabeth Morton as Lucinda Davis/Stoneway (series 5-7)
  • Richard Good as Jonathan MacMillan (series 6)
  • Ally Vuli as Roz, the Nanny (series 7)
  • Al T. Kossy as Harold, landlord of the Grapes
  • Dave Dutton as Oswald the cafe owner (series 1-5)
  • Bill Moores as "Cedric", regular at the Grapes
  • Anita Petrof - "Mary", regular at the Grapes

Note: "Cedric" and "Mary" are the names given to the characters by Brenda during her people-watching days, Cedric's "real" name is unknown, but in series one episode "Repenting" Brenda reveals that she has talked to her and that "Mary"'s real name is Freda.

Production notes

Watching was originally conceived as a comedy sketch about a shy birdwatcher and a lively girl, written by Hitchmough during a drama workshop at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. He submitted the sketch for the BBC satirical series Not the Nine O'Clock News but it was rejected.

Undeterred by this, Hitchmough developed the sketch into a hit stage play and later won a commission from Granada Television to produce a seven-part series for broadcast on Sunday nights at 10pm - a timeslot which was usually reserved for satirical comedy such as Yorkshire Television's The New Statesman and Central's Spitting Image.

After a successful first series and subsequent Christmas special, Watching was recommissioned and moved to an earlier timeslot of 8pm on Friday nights. Up until the end of the final run (broadcast at 7pm on Sunday), the series would win audiences of over 13 million viewers.

Originally, the series was produced by David Liddiment (later to become Director of Programming at ITV) and directed by Les Chatfield, a senior director at Granada. Chatfield directed all 56 episodes and took over producing duties from series 3 onwards. Liddiment became the series' executive producer.

Emma Wray sang both the opening and closing versions of the theme song, What Does He See in Me?, which was written by Charles Hart. Incidental music was written and composed by Richie Close.

In 1998, after a revival of the series was turned down by ITV, who felt that the series had run its course, Hitchmough pitched a revived version of the series to the BBC, spurred on by the success of Men Behaving Badly's move to BBC One after it was dropped by ITV. Initial talks were held, but the BBC decided not to pursue the proposed series; they did offer Hitchmough the option to record a Radio 4 adaption of his original series, in keeping with a number of popular sit-coms that had also been adapted into radio versions, but Hitchmough turned the offer down, feeling that he 'wanted to tell new stories with the characters, not redo old ones'.

Book and video releases

A novel based on the first series of Watching and written by Jim Hitchmough was published in 1990 by Bantam Books.

A video featuring the first two episodes, "Meeting" and "Wrestling", was released by CastleVision in August 1993.

DVD releases

All seven series and four specials have been released on DVD. The complete first series, including the 1987 Christmas special ("Seasoning"), was released on DVD in February 2006; also released was Watching: Series 1 -Selected Episodes, which comprised three first-season episodes: "Meeting", "Outing" and "Hiding". The complete second series was released in March 2008. The complete third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh series including the 1988, 1991 and 1993 Christmas and New Year specials ("Twitching", "Slipping" and "Reverting"), especially a nine-disc set of the complete series, were released in April, May, July, October and November 2009. All releases are distributed by Network.

DVDYear(s)Release date
The Complete Series 1198727 February 2006
The Complete Series 2198817 March 2008
The Complete Series 319896 April 2009
The Complete Series 41989-
1990
25 May 2009
The Complete Series 51990-
1991
13 July 2009
The Complete Series 619925 October 2009
The Complete Series 719939 November 2009
The Complete Series 1 to 7 Box Set1987-
1993
9 November 2009

References

  1. Evans, Jeff (1995). The Guinness Television Encyclopedia. Guinness. p. 562. ISBN 0-85112-744-4.
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