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2 September 2014
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The Mrs Merton Show

Caroline Aherne as Mrs Merton

Caroline Aherne wasn't the first person to dress up as a woman of "a certain age" to host a chatshow - Barry Humphries's Dame Edna was there years before. But in the role of simple northern housewife and agony aunt Mrs Merton, she hit on comedy gold.

Beginning on Stockport local radio, Mrs Merton's unique style of advice – veering swiftly from prim, 1950s-ish attitudes to deeply down-to-earth discussions of bedroom shenanigans in the flick of a chintzy blouse-sleeve – proved an instant hit.

Richard Whiteley and Mrs Merton

By the early 90s the character had graduated to a small role on ITV's Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Shed Show.

In 1995 the quietly prying pensioner arrived at BBC TWO, where she regularly grilled celebrities in front of a select audience of real-life pensioners, most of them well-known by Aherne.

Shane Richie and Mrs Merton

The celebs were put at ease by Aherne's easy banter about the price of milk and the hardships of World War II, often leaving themselves completely off guard when the quick mind lurking beneath the steel-grey hair decided to put the sensible, flat-heeled shoe in.

Soon the show's popularity led to a move to BBC ONE and even a series recorded in Las Vegas.

So successful was the programme that it spawned a spin-off, "Mrs Merton and Malcolm", depicting her character's life at home with her son Malcolm (Aherne's long-time writing partner Craig Cash).

Debbie McGee

The show was not a success, due both to its downbeat writing and to the fact that Malcolm seemed less a mummy's boy and more someone with profound learning difficulties, leading to several complaints from viewers.

Despite the failure of Mrs Merton and Malcolm, the Merton legend still lives on.  Even today, few will ever forget Mrs Merton's question to "the lovely" Debbie McGee, "So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

Cast

Caroline Aherne
Mrs Merton

Crew

Caroline Aherne
writer
Craig Cash
writer
Henry Normal
writer
Dave Gorman
writer
Pati Marr
director
Tony Prescott
director
Dominic Brigstocke
director
Philippa Robinson
director
Peter Kessler
producer
Mark Gorton
producer
Spencer Campbell
producer
Philippa Robinson
producer
Kenton Allen
producer
Andy Harries
executive producer
Clive Tulloh
executive producer

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