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28 October 2014

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Men Behaving Badly

Tony and Gary in Men Behaving Badly

"I shouldn’t admit to this, but I’ve been watching the Men Behaving Badly repeats on TV, and laughing like a git!" A recent confession from Martin Clunes who, for six years, was nothing less than a cultural icon as the laddish Gary Strang.

Men Behaving Badly was the defining sitcom of the 1990s. Seemingly a reaction against the onset of the caring, sharing 'new man', it appeared to revel in a politically incorrect world of booze, burps and boobs.

The cast of Men Behaving Badly

But in fact, was written by Simon Nye; who started his career translating the works of Richard Wagner, Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. The show subtly undercut the machismo of laddism, ultimately presenting the eponymous Men as ineffectual and harmless.

The series' origins are relatively unusual. TV producer Beryl Vertue came across Nye's obscure 1989 novel: Men Behaving Badly, and quickly realised it would lend itself to a TV adaptation. After some perseverance, she tracked down the author to a bank where he was working, and hired him to pen the show.

Henry Enfield was cast first, who then persuaded his friend Martin Clunes to join the production.

As Gary, Clunes was a boorish, penny-pinching landlord, with Dermot (Enfield), his feckless, day-dreaming tenant. Both spent their days trying to avoid hard work or commitment and vegging out on the sofa, drinking lager.

Neil Morrissey and Martin Clunes

An aimless existence was given some sense of purpose by the inclusion of Gary's no-nonsense girlfriend Dorothy (a career-making role for Caroline Quentin) and fantasy figure Deborah (Leslie Ash) who, in the first episode, moves into the flat upstairs.

Enfield quit after one series, feeling ill-suited to sitcom, to be replaced by Neil Morrissey as the equally feckless Tony.

With the show's apparent 'star' now gone, ITV lost faith in the series and cancelled it after the second run. It was a decision the channel would sorely regret.

Adamant there was life in the format, Vertue pitched it to the BBC who, in 1994, transmitted the third series in a post-watershed slot.

It was here the show really came alive, relishing the opportunity to embrace more colourful language and behaviour.

Neil Morrissey and Martin Clunes

While Gary struggled at being in a grown-up relationship; Tony took ever more desperate measures to woo Debs, including; in one memorable episode, offering to shave his pubic hair for charity.

The series arguably reached its peak with a wonderfully complicated 1995 edition in which Tony and Dorothy ended up in bed together.

The programme was now so popular, there was talk of a big-screen version.

However, from 1997 onwards, Men Behaving Badly was never quite the same.

Insistent on progressing the plot, Nye moved Debs and Tony into a relationship and reformatted the series into a sitcom about the two couples.

The show bowed out with a three-part Christmas special in 1998. By now it felt positively middle-aged, but still managed to offend, thanks to a near-the-knuckle gag about masturbation which sat uneasily with the rest of the day's festive fare.


Martin Clunes
Gary Strang
Harry Enfield
Neil Morrissey
Leslie Ash
Caroline Quentin
Ian Lindsay
Valerie Minifie
Dave Atkins
John Thompson


Martin Dennis
Beryl Vertue
Simon Nye

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