My Family

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My Family
Myfamily2009titlecard.jpg
My Family title card, used from series ten.
GenreSitcom
Created byFred Barron
Directed byBaz Taylor
Jay Sandrich
Dewi Humphreys
Nic Phillips
Ed Bye
StarringRobert Lindsay
Zoë Wanamaker
Kris Marshall
Daniela Denby-Ashe
Gabriel Thomson
Siobhan Hayes
Keiron Self
Rhodri Meilir
Tayler Marshall
Opening theme"My Family"
Composer(s)Graham Jarvis
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series11
No. of episodes120 + 1 short (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Donald Taffner Jr.
Fred Barron (2000–08)
Geoffrey Perkins (2000–01)
Sophie Clarke-Jervoise (2002–04)
Ian Brown (2003–04)
James Hendrie (2003–04)
Tom Leopold (2006)
Michael Jacob (2006–09)
Tom Anderson (2007–11)
Producer(s)John Bartlett
Location(s)Chiswick, London, England
Running time111x 28 minutes
3x 50 minutes
4x 60 minutes
Production company(s)Rude Boy Productions
DLT Entertainment
Sony Pictures Television
Broadcast
Original channelBBC One
Picture format(SDTV) 576i
Original airing19 September 2000 (2000-09-19) – 2 September 2011 (2011-09-02)
External links
Website
 
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My Family
Myfamily2009titlecard.jpg
My Family title card, used from series ten.
GenreSitcom
Created byFred Barron
Directed byBaz Taylor
Jay Sandrich
Dewi Humphreys
Nic Phillips
Ed Bye
StarringRobert Lindsay
Zoë Wanamaker
Kris Marshall
Daniela Denby-Ashe
Gabriel Thomson
Siobhan Hayes
Keiron Self
Rhodri Meilir
Tayler Marshall
Opening theme"My Family"
Composer(s)Graham Jarvis
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series11
No. of episodes120 + 1 short (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Donald Taffner Jr.
Fred Barron (2000–08)
Geoffrey Perkins (2000–01)
Sophie Clarke-Jervoise (2002–04)
Ian Brown (2003–04)
James Hendrie (2003–04)
Tom Leopold (2006)
Michael Jacob (2006–09)
Tom Anderson (2007–11)
Producer(s)John Bartlett
Location(s)Chiswick, London, England
Running time111x 28 minutes
3x 50 minutes
4x 60 minutes
Production company(s)Rude Boy Productions
DLT Entertainment
Sony Pictures Television
Broadcast
Original channelBBC One
Picture format(SDTV) 576i
Original airing19 September 2000 (2000-09-19) – 2 September 2011 (2011-09-02)
External links
Website

My Family was a British sitcom created and initially co-written by Fred Barron, which was produced by DLT Entertainment and Rude Boy Productions, and broadcast by BBC One for eleven series between 2000 and 2011, with Christmas specials broadcast from 2002 onwards. My Family was voted 24th in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" in 2004 and was the most watched sitcom in the United Kingdom in 2008.[1] As of 2011, it is one of only twelve British sitcoms to pass the 100 episode mark.[2]

Set in Chiswick in west London, it stars Robert Lindsay as Ben Harper, Zoë Wanamaker as his wife Susan, and Kris Marshall, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Gabriel Thomson as their children; Nick, Janey and Michael, respectively. Since the show’s debut, several characters have left and, equally, several new characters have been introduced. The character of Janey left in 2002; however, she returned in 2004 and remained until the end. Kris Marshall’s character, Nick, left in 2005 and did not return. The character of Abi, as played by Siobhan Hayes, was introduced in 2002 and left in 2008. The characters of Roger and Alfie were introduced in 2003 and 2005, respectively, as played by Keiron Self and Rhodri Meilir.

Background[edit]

In 1999 Fred Barron was considering producing a British sitcom the same way sitcoms were produced in America. My Family was to feature a group of writers rather than the standard one or two, something that had been attempted in Britain with shows including Goodnight Sweetheart and On the Buses, but was nevertheless atypical. My Family was consciously designed to have wide appeal, with characters that viewers would be able to build a relationship with in the same way as previous BBC sitcom 2point4 children which focuses around the same family unit.

The show chronicles the Harper family’s lives, a fictional middle-class British family, who live in 78 Lancaster Road, Chiswick, London. Ben, a dentist, and Susan, a tour guide who later works for an art gallery, have three children, Nick, Janey and Michael, all of whom cause problems in their own way. While Susan is a control freak, Ben prefers to leave the children to it and tries not to get involved. Janey later goes to University, but drops out and moves back in later, while Nick finally gets his own place.

Mainly focusing on Ben and Susan, the show was known to feature sub-stories ranging from Nick and his harebrained schemes to Abi and Roger’s love life. It is described as a ‘dysfunctional family’ style sitcom, however many of the episodes feature the family working together to get each other out of trouble. Nick’s bizarre jobs became a major feature of the first four series. After the departure of Nick, Abi and Roger’s love life, Michael’s schemes, Janey’s endless list of boyfriends and Alfie’s dream of musical stardom became more prominent.

The show saw considerable development and change in the lives of its characters, seeing Janey turn from teenage rebel to mother, Nick turn from prat to a responsible-for-himself prat, Abi become Roger’s wife and Michael turn from schoolboy to student and beyond. Nevertheless, Ben remained the same self-absorbed dentist, Susan remained the same control freak and Alfie remained the same dim-witted layabout lodger. The characters of Nick, Brigitte, Abi and Alfie have left the series over the ten years, although Nick has returned for guest appearances a couple of times.

Cast and characters[edit]

The series featured eight main cast members throughout its run, with numerous characters recurring throughout the ten series. The main cast members were familiar to television viewers before their roles on My Family, but not all considered to be stars. During the series' ten series run, the actors all achieved household name celebrity status.

The main characters in My Family are parents Ben and Susan Harper. They have three children, Nick, Janey and Michael. Nick is a regular character until the 2003 Christmas special, and makes one appearance in 2004's fifth series before making his final My Family appearance in the 2005 Comic Relief short as actor Kris Marshall wanted to do other projects and avoid being type-cast.[3] Janey is a regular until the 2002 Christmas special and does not appear in series four (2003), while the character is at University. Janey returns as a main character in series five.

Abi Harper first appears in series three as the daughter of Ben's cousin Richard.[4] Series three also sees the first appearance of Roger Bailey, Jnr. Roger, who becomes a main character in the fourth series, is a dentist and the son of Ben's former mentor. In the 2005 Christmas special Alfie Butts, a friend of Nick's, moves into the Harper household.[3]

My Family also features several recurring characters. Series one features Daisy Donovan as Ben's dental assistant, Brigitte. In the second series "Stupid" Brian appears as Janey's boyfriend.[3] Series four features Fiona, Michael's girlfriend. That series also sees the introduction of Hubert, a friend of Michael's, and Grace Riggs, Susan's mother, both of whom appear in subsequent series until series seven.[3] A minor recurring character from the 2006 Christmas special to series seven is Denis, the local Vicar. In addition, Mr. Alexander Casey, the Harpers' neighbour, appears in three episodes, "Driving Miss Crazy" (2001), "Neighbour Wars" (2008) and "Mary Christmas" (2010)

Main characters[edit]

Other characters[edit]

Guest cast[edit]

My Family has used several actors from various past hit sitcoms, most notably David Haig from The Thin Blue Line, Belinda Lang of 2point4 children, Diana Weston (Robert Lindsay's former long-term partner) from The Upper Hand who portrayed a male-female transsexual named Charlie, Pauline Quirke of Birds of a Feather played a bank robber (whilst her husband in Birds of a Feather was a bank robber) and Sam Kelly from On the Up.

Series synopses[edit]

Peter Capaldi portrays movie-star "Colin Judd" who visits Ben for dental health. Capaldi appeared in episode "Dentist To The Stars" which is the tenth episode of series five.

The first series, Ben, a dentist, and Susan, the worst cook in the world, are certainly loving, caring parents, they just have a problem showing it. Ben seems to be confused as to how much time and money his kids demand from him. Susan has to juggle motherhood, a career and a husband and does not have enough time to manage everything including improving her cooking skills. Nick is always working on his next hair-brained scheme to keep him amused. Janey, like any normal teenage daughter feels that her parents are seriously embarrassing whilst Michael keeps his head in his books to get away from the noise.

The second series, Ben Harper, husband and father to three different and often difficult children has spent his working life as a dentist. Just as well as most of his life seems rather like pulling teeth. His wife Susan is usually busy showing foreign tourists around London, a place she knows much better than her own kitchen. Ben and Susan have been married happily enough to have three children. However, Ben has the feeling that most of the time his children seem to speak a different language. Nick (20) has persuaded his parents he would benefit from a gap year to see something of the world. To date, he has hardly seen anything beyond the confines of the sofa. Janey (17) is into boys, fashion labels (expensive ones) and getting her own way. Michael (14) is the brightest of the trio. He is seriously into computers, and, not so seriously (yet) into girls.

Anthony Head, portrays Ben's cousin and the father of Abi Harper. Head appeared in episode "May the Best Man Win", which is the twelfth episode of the fourth series. He appears again in the 2009 Christmas special, played by Nathaniel Parker.

In series three, life in the Harper household is as hectic as ever, Janey has left for university and has been replaced in the house by their cousin Abi, who is more than a little accident prone. Ben sees this new addition to their home as a threat to the peace and quiet he's wanted throughout his married life, while Susan is happy to have another woman in the house. As for Michael, he is spending as much time thinking about girls now as his school work. And as if all this was not bad enough for Ben, Nick continued to work on his next hair-brained scheme, whether than means starring as Jesus in the local nativity play or dressing up as a drag queen!

In the fourth series, Susan is looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild, but dreading being a grandmother. Nick is getting fed up with living in his ghastly flat and trying to think of a way to move back into the family home. The gap between Michael's IQ and the rest of the family's seems to be increasing, but so is his libido. And Abi is still Abi, only more so! As for perennially put-upon Ben, what with a new arrival causing chaos in the surgery, being forced to take tango lessons and being officially declared dead, life is just one long major-league cirsis.

In Series five, Ben and Susan are enjoying some new-found tranquility, Nick has moved into his own flat, Janey is at university and Abi is usually out at evening class. Naturally the peace is not to last! Janey comes back home with baby Kenzo and Michael has been "born again" and is holding Bible study sessions in the living room. With Ben's famous dental patients, Susan's election ambitions and an unheathly obsession with Inspector Morse – not to mention the unlikely perils of house-sitting in a luxury modern apartment – domestic life is soon to be back to normal. So when Ben and Susan start being nice to each other it's no wonder Abi's suspicious; they could not be getting a divorce could they?

John Barrowman, portrays a man called "The Doctor" that Susan begins to fall for at an airport. He appeared in episode "The Guru", which is the eighth episode of series nine.

In the sixth series, Janey and son Kenzo spend much more time at the Harper house than is good for Ben, and Michael moves from scam to scam with alarming ease. Add to that the ever-so-slowly blossoming of the Abi-Roger romance and the new cuckoo in the nest, wiser-than-he-looks Alfie Butts and the problems multiply. The family's hurdles include Ben joining a secret society (The Brotherhood of the Cockerel), Susan's new job leading her to a dinner date with a new man and an encounter with squatters. In other words, as usual, problems and situations constantly conspire to remind Ben and Susan that 'Family' is an 'F' word.

In the seventh series, a mystery man arrives asking for Janey – Susan finally discovers the identity of Kenzo's father. Roger and Abi's marriage announcement gives Susan the idea to renew her marriage vows despite protests from Ben. A death in the dentist's chair is not very good for business, but, as Ben discovers, it is not very good for your private life either. Michael succeeds in placing the whole family on The Weakest Link, but Anne Robinson raises more difficult questions than might have been expected.

In the eighth series, love is in the air in the Harper house. Ben is in love – with an extremely large television; Janey is in love with a new man; and Michael's current love has announced that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Ben and Susan's credit card statement highlights each of their secret vices and an armed robbery at the local bank leads to Ben and Janey being taken as hostages. Michael and Alfie investigate the world of internet dating with mixed results and Abi realises her true vocation in life is to become a nun!

In series nine, chaos, paranoia and misunderstanding – yes, it's life as usual in the Harper household. Ben stands up to – and gets put down by – his own school bully and gets a little jealous as a rich business man falls for Susan – or is that Janey? There are new worries as they discover Michael's seeing a therapist and Ben fails his retraining exam – and, while the family is divided over mean Uncle Norris's inheritance and the acquisition of a puppy, Ben's delighted to discover he's the inspiration for a wealthy if unhappy, celebrity dentist!

In the tenth series, in the second episode ("The Son'll Come Out") Michael comes out as gay to his parents, first to his father after coming home drunk then later to his mother. He then tells them that he has been in a relationship with a guy for some time, a 25 year old solicitor called Scott Marsh, who later moves into the Harper residence, though he is later seen in gay clubs picking up guys and giving out his number, suggesting that he and Scott have broken up, but they later get back together. These consist of a nine-part tenth series and a seven-part eleventh series.

Episodes[edit]

The first episode aired on 19 September 2000, and ten series have so far been aired with seven specials, including nine Christmas specials. The eleventh series began airing on Friday 17 June 2011. A Comic Relief special short-episode has also aired.

The BBC and UKTV refuse to re-broadcast the series four episode "Blind Justice", due to the receipt of 4 complaints (from a viewing public of 12m). Although no reason was given, as this was not subject to any Ofcom procedure, it is likely that was considered offensive to blind people. This episode is banned from British TV, but it is still on the series four UK DVD release and has been screened on BBC America.

The episodes are recorded in front of a live audience in Pinewood Studios, Iver, Buckinghamshire, except where the set used is too large, this is then filmed, and played out to an invited audience 'as-live'. Also, the show, unlike most British sitcoms but in common with most American television comedies, has no location footage. Scenes taking place outdoors were actually sets.

The series is scripted by a team of writers, following the American model. Historically, British sitcoms were more generally written by one or two writers. By employing a wider number of writers to brainstorm jokes for each episode, DLT Entertainment UK Ltd, the production company, has been able to maintain a consistent and relatively long-lived product without having to wait for a single writer to produce more material.

Opening sequence[edit]

At the start of the first two series, it slides across four boxes with each character's face in them. The first box stands alone with Ben and Susan in it. The other three are lapped over each other with a photo of Michael, Janey and Nick from left to right in them. While it slides across at the start, each character's face turns with Janey and Nick smiling and the others being fairly plain faced. Once the boxes are placed, the boxes with youngsters in them drop to the bottom of the screen and are replaced with the show's logo.

At the start of the third series, four rectangle blocks fall onto a completely white screen to create Ben's face. Those blocks are then replaced with blocks that create Susan's face; each block then shows different parts of the other characters to finally reveal Nick's face. It continues to do this for Janey, Michael and (starting from the fourth episode entitled "Of Mice and Ben") the new character to the show Abi. Abi's (for the first three episodes, Michael's) face then falls into the bottom right corner while the previous faces spread across to other places of the white screen. It reveals that Nick, Janey and Michael are next to Abi and Ben and Susan are with each other at the top left of the screen. The logo fades on the top right of the screen.

The fourth series is similar to the third series opening sequence. Only difference is that the photo of each character is changed, each block does not show different parts of each character when it transitions; instead it transitions in various styles, for example in an opening in a window blind style. Series five titles still remain similar; the photos are changed again and there are eleven rectangles instead of four. Nick is almost completely absent from the opening titles in series five except in episode six of series five titled "My Will Be Done"; he was missing in some episodes from series four and a few from series three.

The series six opening titles have cut-outs of each character, as they fade into the white screen and zoom in and out and eventually stop moving. The line-up from left to right is Abi, Michael, Susan, Ben, Janey and Roger. The titles remain the same for series seven and eight; the one difference is that Janey's clothes are changed. In series nine, the line-up changes due to Abi's departure at the end of the previous series. Her place is taken by Alfie, who has been a regular since series six but never appeared in the titles until the ninth series. Starting in the 2009 Christmas Special, Alfie has been replaced by Kenzo.

Writers[edit]

The first writer of My Family was its creator, Fred Barron. He wrote eight episodes up until the fourth series. Other major writers include James Hendrie and Ian Brown who wrote numerous episodes, including the first episode together up until the 2004 Christmas Special. Steven and Jim Armogida are the only writers to remain on the show throughout its run. Writers such as Sophie Hetherington, Georgia Pritchett, James Cary and Tess Morris have all written at least one episode for the sitcom at one point. None of these writers have written more than five episodes. Andrea Solomons has written many episodes for My Family, she wrote from the second series to the sixth series. Meanwhile, Darin Henry has written one episode for the fifth series before returning for the eighth series onwards.

Paul Minett and Brian Leveson are the sitcom’s current main writers. Credited for most of the specials, at least three episodes from every series since 2005. Bert-Tyler Moore and George Jeffrie both have written a few episodes for the sitcom in its sixth and seventh series and returned for series ten. Tom Leopold wrote two episodes for the sixth series only. Tom Anderson, currently My Family's executive producer and showrunner, wrote his first episode for series seven and wrote until series ten, but remained showrunner for series eleven. Ed Dyson and David Cantor have written episodes for the seventh, eighth, ninth and eleventh series. Table correct as of episode 120.

WriterYear(s)Episodes
James Hendrie
Ian Brown
2000–200427 (inc. 2 co-written)
Fred Barron2000–20038 (inc. 4 co-written)
Shawn Schepps20001 (inc. 1 co-written)
Penny Croft20001 (inc. 1 co-written)
Andrea Solomons2001–200612 (inc. 1 co-written)
Sophie Hetherington2002–20043 (inc. 2 co-written)
Georgia Pritchett20031
James Cary20041
Darin Henry2004; 2008–20118 (inc. 2 co-written)
George Jeffrie
Bert-Tyler Moore
2006–2007; 2010–20114 (inc. 1 co-written)
Tess Morris20061 (inc. 1 co-written)
Tom Leopold20062
Steve Armogida
Jim Armogida
2000–201024 (inc. 1 co-written)
Paul Minett
Brian Leveson
2005–201013 (inc. 2 co-written)
Tom Anderson2007–20118 (inc. 2 co-written)
Ed Dyson2007–2009; 20115
David Cantor2007–2009; 20115 (inc. 1 co-written)
Amy Shindler2009–20102
Andrew Kreisberg2009–20102
Robin Taylor2009; 20112
Dan Staley20101

Show runners[edit]

Reception[edit]

Initially, the show received a poor critical response, and many dismissed its humour as mundane and dated. In spite of this, the programme received above average audience ratings, and further series were commissioned, with critical approval gradually improving as the series progressed.[7] Bruce Dessau, writing on the 100th episode, noted that it was a comedy that "the critics hate, but the public love", on the basis of ratings.[8]

Star Zoë Wanamaker said in 2007 that she was no longer happy with the quality of the writing, and claimed she and co-star Robert Lindsay even refused to film one episode because it was so poor.[9]

In May 2009, the two stars revealed they were still unhappy with the writing quality, with Robert Lindsay stating "There's some real dross (in the scripts) and we're aware of it". He later admitted that the eleventh series might be the last stating "As far as Zoe (Wanamaker) and I are concerned, we will do a tenth series of 16 episodes, which the BBC will probably split into a tenth and eleventh, then that will be it."[10]

In 2004, the show came 24th in Britain's Best Sitcom.

Cancellation[edit]

BBC One controller Danny Cohen, when commenting on the decision to axe the series, said "Now that all the Harper children have flown the nest we feel it's time to make room for new comedies". Robert Lindsay said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph: "I'm amazed by the public's love for the series [...] When Kris Marshall left in 2005 I was convinced that was it. But somehow Zoe and I have kept the essence of it together."[11]

DVD releases[edit]

All episodes are available on DVD in the UK. Each of the eleven series were released on DVD both individually and as a box set in the UK, minus the Christmas specials. On 20 November 2006, Christmas 2002 - 2005 was released on DVD, followed by Christmas 2006 - 2010 on 5 December 2011. In Canada and the United States series one to four are available on Region 1 DVD. In Australia Series one to seven are available on Region 4 DVD. A box set containing Series one to five was released on 7 April 2011 in Australia.[12] Series eight was released on 6 October 2011 in Australia.[13] Series 9 was released 3 November 2011 in Australia.[14] Series 10 was released 3 May 2012 in Australia.[15] A box set containing Series 6 to 10 was released 7 November 2012 in Australia.[16]

DVD Title# of Disc(s)Year# of EpisodesDVD release
Region 1Region 2Region 4
Complete Series One12000810 October 200622 March 200417 January 2007
Complete Series Two220011310 October 20067 June 20045 September 2007
Complete Series Three220021313 October 200912 September 20052 January 2008
Complete Series Four220031313 October 200920 March 20064 September 2008
Complete Series Five220041318 September 20062 January 2009
Complete Series Six12006725 June 20071 October 2009
Complete Series Seven22007924 September 20077 July 2011
Complete Series Eight12008714 July 20086 October 2011
Complete Series Nine22009925 May 2009
Complete Series 102201096 September 2010
Complete Series 1122011915 August 2011
Complete Series 1–11222000–20111195 December 2011
Christmas 2002200512002–2005420 November 2006
Christmas 2006–201022006–201055 December 2011
Complete Series 17122000–20077622 October 2007

References[edit]

Specific
  1. ^ Dessau, Bruce (5 May 2009). "Robert Lindsay and Zo Wanamaker on My Familys 100th episode". The Times (London). 
  2. ^ BBC axes My Family sitcom after 11 years The British Comedy Guide, 25 March 2011
  3. ^ a b c d "My Family — Characters". British Comedy Guide. 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  4. ^ "My Family Episodes — Series 3". British Comedy Guide. 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c d e My Family - Character Guide - British Comedy Guide
  6. ^ My Family - Trivia - British Comedy Guide
  7. ^ Leigh Holmwood (27 March 2008). "The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Sam Coates and Jenny Booth Updated 14 minutes ago. "The Times May 5, 2009". Entertainment.timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 25 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (31 March 2007). "Wanamaker criticises 'My Family'". Digital Spy. 
  10. ^ My Family - Article - British Comedy Guide
  11. ^ My Family dropped after 11 years BBC News, 25 March 2011
  12. ^ My Family Series 1-5 Box Set | DVD | ABC Shop
  13. ^ My Family - The Complete 8th Series (2 Disc Set)
  14. ^ http://www.ezydvd.com.au/DVD/my-family-the-complete-9th-series/dp/
  15. ^ My Family: Series 10
  16. ^ My Family: Series 6-10
General

External links[edit]