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28 October 2014

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After Henry

Prunella Scales in After Henry

Created by comedy producer and writer Simon Brett, After Henry began life on Radio 4 in 1985.

A sitcom from the heart of Middle England, it followed the fortunes of Sarah France (Prunella Scales), a well-to-do GP's wife, getting on with life after the death of her husband in a car crash.

She shares her large Edwardian house with daughter Clare (Gerry Cowper) and mother Eleanor Prescott (Joan Sanderson).

Literally sandwiched between the two generations: Sarah's on the middle floor, with 'Mother' (as she's mainly known) on the top and Clare in the basement. The widow is buffeted every week by the idiosyncrasies of her strong-willed family.

Joan Sanderson

While Clare is keen to assert her independence, Mother is more intent on running her gossip network through her on-call 'geriatric Mafia'.

Salvation comes in the shape of Russell Bryant (Benjamin Whitrow), who runs the crumbling Bygone Books shop, where Sarah works.

Removed from the heated domestic situation, he provides good humoured counsel, while also sharing his woes about living with a gay partner in 1980s Britain.

Described by Scales as boasting "scripts of rare economy and distinction", the show was reportedly turned down for a TV adaptation by the BBC, prompting Brett to instead take it to Thames Television.

Their version of the series arrived on screens in 1988, with Scales and Sanderson continuing in their roles, while Janine Wood took over as Clare and Jonathan Newth as Russell.

The expansion also meant some of Mother's oft-quoted friends finally got a look-in, with Peggy Ann Wood as the infamous Vera Poling and Anne Priestley as Mary.

A confident adaptation, the sitcom won critical plaudits.

Alas, Joan Sanderson's death in 1992 ensured it ended after its fourth series.

Cast

Prunella Scales
Sarah France
Joan Sanderson
Eleanor Prescott
Janine Wood
Clare France
Jonathan Newth
Russell Bryant
Peggy Ann Wood
Vera Poling
Anne Priestley
Mary
Edward de Souza
Sam Greenland
Charles Morgan
Vicar
Phyllis Calvert
Auntie Lilian

Crew

Simon Brett
writer
Peter Frazer-Jones
director
Liddy Oldroyd
director
Peter Frazer-Jones
producer
Bill Shepherd
producer
John Howard Davies
executive producer

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