Goodnight Sweetheart was a British sitcom that ran for six series on BBC1 from 1993 to 1999. The show returned on 2 September 2016, for a one-off special entitled Many Happy Returns. It starred Nicholas Lyndhurst as Gary Sparrow, an accidental time traveller who leads a double life after discovering a time portal allowing him to travel between the London of the 1990s and the same area during the Second World War.
The show was created by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, also creators of Birds of a Feather and The New Statesman. The creators wrote the first series, while subsequent episodes were by a team of writers (including Marks and Gran).
Title card used for Series 1-6.
|Created by||Laurence Marks
|Developed by||Alomo Productions|
|Directed by||Terry Kinane
|Theme music composer||Ray Noble
|Opening theme||"Goodnight Sweetheart"|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||6|
|No. of episodes||59 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Claire Hinson
|Running time||30–45 mins|
|Original network||BBC 1|
|Picture format||576i (4:3 SDTV)
1080i (16:9 HDTV)
|Original release||Original Series:
18 November 1993 – 28 June 1999
2 September 2016
The original entrance to Duckett's Passage, leading to the Royal Oak, is located at Ezra Street, London, E2 7RH. The Royal Oak is near Ezra Street, at 73 Columbia Road, E2 7RG.
Gary Sparrow is a somewhat disillusioned TV repairman, in a drab marriage with his ambitious wife Yvonne, and best friends with Ron, a printer whose marriage is on the brink of breakdown. While on a TV repair call-out in London's East End, Gary accidentally discovers a time portal at Duckett's Passage, which leads to war time London. There he meets Phoebe, a pretty barmaid who works in the Royal Oak pub, her father Eric who runs the Royal Oak, and Reg Deadman, a dim-witted but friendly policeman.
Gary strikes up a friendship with Phoebe, and makes repeated trips through the time portal, gradually establishing a second life for himself in the 1940s. In this life, he claims to be both a secret agent (aided by his knowledge of future wartime events) and a singer-songwriter, by passing off modern-day pop songs as his own, particularly songs by The Beatles. He impresses Phoebe by bringing her goods which are widely available in the present day, but were rationed in wartime Britain, such as chocolate, bacon and nylons, and they begin a romance.
Throughout the series, Gary flits between both time periods, struggling to balance his two lives and keep Yvonne and Phoebe happy, getting tangled in webs of lies and deceit as he invents cover stories to explain away his constant absences to both. Most episodes centre on a dilemma for Gary caused by his dual life, often having to choose between letting Yvonne or Phoebe down. Ron is the only other character who knows of his double life – he helps Gary by printing 1940s five-pound notes and ID documents for him – and it is to him who Gary usually turns when in a predicament, even if helping him is to Ron's detriment.
As the series progresses, the characters are developed further. Gary and Phoebe eventually marry and have a son, Michael. Yvonne also becomes pregnant, but suffers a miscarriage. Gary opens a shop in the present day, named "Blitz and Pieces", selling goods he acquires in the 1940s as rare memorabilia. Ron and his wife Stella separate and divorce. Gary and Phoebe move to a luxury flat in Mayfair, where they befriend Noël Coward. Yvonne becomes a millionairess with a successful organic beauty products company, and a personal friend of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie. In the final episode, set on VE Day, Gary finds that the time portal has closed, trapping him in the past for good, leaving Ron to explain the truth to Yvonne.
In the 2016 special, Gary is happily married to Phoebe, with whom he has a teenage son named Michael. On his birthday in 1962, he visits the hospital where his younger self is being born and after briefly holding his infant self, is thrown forward into the future, also reopening the time portal, which is now in the toilets of a trendy East London burger joint where Blitz and Pieces used to be. During his time in the future, he learns that Ron is now living in Yvonne's basement, that multimillionaire Yvonne is now an investor on the BBC's Dragons' Den, and that he and Yvonne have a 16-year-old daughter named Ellie. He returns to the past, but decides on living a double life again so that he can get to know his daughter.
A total of 59 episodes were made, including a Christmas special in 1995 and a special in 2016. Marks and Gran, the creators, wrote the first series; many later episodes were written by other writers.
As in Marks and Gran's sitcom Get Back, most episodes of Goodnight Sweetheart — and the programme itself — were named after popular song titles. The show is named after the song Goodnight, Sweetheart, a popular song of the 1930s and 1940s, popularised by Al Bowlly in 1931; it was later sung by Nick Curtis as the series signature tune. During one episode Gary and Phoebe refer to Bowlly's death during the Second World War.
Because of a script-editing error, two different episodes (series one, episode six and series four, episode two) were both titled "In the Mood". There is no special connection between these two episodes.
|Nicholas Lyndhurst||Gary Sparrow||59||1–6 and 1 special||1993–99, 2016|
|Victor McGuire||Ron Wheatcroft|
|Christopher Ettridge||P.C. Reg Deadman||56||1–6 and 1 special (Not in 1x02, 1x04, 2x04)|
|Elizabeth Carling||Phoebe Bamford||32||4–6 and 1 special||1997–99, 2016|
|Emma Amos||Yvonne Sparrow||31||4–6 and 1 special (Not in 4x04)||1997–99, 2016|
|David Benson||Noël Coward||6||5–6||1998–99|
|Ian Lavender||Michael Sparrow||1||5||1998|
|Tim Preston||Michael Sparrow||1||1 special||2016|
|Esme Coy||Ellie||1||1 special||2016|
All six series and the 1995 Christmas Special have been released on DVD in the UK (Region 2), the Christmas special was released on the third series DVD. The first five series have been released in Australia (Region 4).
|DVD Title||No. of discs||Year||No. of episodes||DVD release||DVD Interview|
|Region 2||Region 4|
|Complete Series 1||1||1993||6||4 February 2005||3 June 2009||Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran (Creators)|
|Complete Series 2||2||1995||10||26 September 2005||3 June 2009||Christopher Ettridge (Reg Deadman)|
|Complete Series 3||2||1995 & 1996||11||23 January 2006||17 September 2009||Dervla Kirwan (old Phoebe)|
|Complete Series 4||2||1997||11||22 May 2006||2 June 2011||Emma Amos (new Yvonne)|
|Complete Series 5||2||1998||10||24 July 2006||2 August 2011||David Benson (Noël Coward)|
|Complete Series 6||2||1999||10||18 September 2006||—||Elizabeth Carling (new Phoebe)|
|Complete Series 1–6||11||1993–99||58||23 October 2006||—||All of the above|
Although the main characters are fictional, some real people have been portrayed in the wartime sequences. These include King George VI, Wilfred Pickles, Winston Churchill, Ed Murrow, Guy Burgess, George Formby, Noël Coward (played by David Benson), Celia Johnson, the Kray twins, Trevor Howard, Alfred Lennon, David Lean, Clement Attlee, Adolf Hitler and Cecil Beaton. Rolf Harris also appears as himself in a daytime dream sequence. Jack the Ripper features in one episode. Vera Lynn is also mentioned in the episode "When Two Worlds Collide" when Phoebe hears modern music, while John Lennon is mentioned as a local boy who can write better songs than Gary's modern compositions when he and Phoebe visit Liverpool in the episode "The Leaving of Liverpool". The Beatles are also mentioned numerous times throughout the show as Gary is a fan and during the wartime sequences, Gary plays many of their songs on the pub piano, while claiming to have written them.
There was talk of Goodnight Sweetheart being brought back and/or being made into a musical in 2014. The show's writers and producers have stated they have received thousands of emails and letters regarding the show wishing for its return to the small screen. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have both stated that while there are no plans to bring the series back, it might possibly come back if the planned musical is made and is a success.
On 5 July 2016 it was announced that the show would be returning to BBC One for a one-off special episode, as part of the BBC's "landmark sitcom season". Original writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran wrote the script, and original star, Nicholas Lyndhurst, returned to the role of Gary Sparrow.
The special episode aired on 2 September 2016 on BBC One. It received overwhelming praise by fans of the show and was trending on Twitter for eight hours after it aired. Writers Marks and Gran announced on Twitter on 6 October that the BBC had passed on making a new series.
In 2017, Marks and Gran said they are working as hard as they can to bring Goodnight Sweetheart back to TV screens as soon as they can with the possibilities of a new channel to air future episodes. This is backed by the campaign BBGNS are running on their website.