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28 October 2014

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Timothy West and Sheila Hancock in Bedtime

This series about the lives of three couples living in adjoining terraced houses, from the pen of writer and comedian Andy Hamilton, seems on the surface to be about as cosy and conventional as British sitcoms get.

But its twee-sounding premise hid an inventive and original comedy with much to admire in both its strong writing and performances.

Each episode focused on the bedtime chat between retired couple Andrew and Alice Oldfield (Timothy West and Sheila Hancock) whose marriage has reached Meldrew-esque levels: i.e. a curmudgeonly, world-weary husband bleating about his petty worries to his long-suffering wife.

Fay Ripley in Bedtime

But while One Foot in the Grave was peppered with slapstick and surreal moments, Bedtime was quieter and much more real, with variety added by the action regularly switching from Andrew and Alice to the night-time goings on in their neighbours’ homes.

The clever conceit of exploring characters through what they say in that brief period before sleep is something all viewers can associate with and it enabled Hamilton to turn his sights onto a range of contrasting co-habiting couples and their varied but equally messy lives.

In the first series, we see young partners Paul and Sarah struggling with their newborn baby while actress Sapphire conducts an affair with TV celebrity Gulliver; in series two they are replaced by Simon and Faith (who are wrestling with commitment issues) and a single father trying to balance his relationships with son Ralph and glamorous girlfriend Stacey.

Vincent Ebrahim and Timothy West in Bedtime

The show attracted a classy cast to support the always excellent West and Hancock, including not only Doon Mackichan and Alun Armstrong but also an early role for Hollywood starlet Sienna Miller.

Throughout, the writing was well-observed and sustained a gentle, bittersweet tone that sat well in its unusual late night weekday slot on BBC One.

To enhance the day-by-day story, the show was broadcast on consecutive nights as a mini-series. The result was a low-key but intelligent and highly enjoyable sitcom.


Meera Syal
Doon Mackichan
Sheila Hancock
Alice Oldfield
Timothy West
Andrew Oldfield
David Gillespie
Emma Pierson
Stephen Tompkinson
Paul Newcombe
Claire Skinner
Sarah Newcombe
Kevin McNally
Alun Armstrong
Neil Henshaw
Adam Paul Harvey
Sienna Miller


Andy Hamilton
Andy Hamilton
Sue Howells
Denise O'Donoghue
executive producer
Jimmy Mulville
executive producer

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