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Classic British sitcom written by Simon Nye, very loosely adapted from a not-particularly-successful novel he wrote in the late 80s. The main cast consists of Martin Clunes as Gary, Caroline Quentin as Dorothy and Leslie Ash as Deborah; the first season had Harry Enfield playing Dermot as secondary lead, while all the subsequent ones replaced him with Neil Morrissey as Tony. It's generally acknowledged that this second season was the moment when the show grew its beard. There are several reasons for this - Tony was a more interesting character than Dermot, the show moved from ITV to BBC 1 and the lack of adverts meant that Nye had a few more minutes to play with, and it hit a moment of zeitgeist as the late 80s/early 90s New Man was being brushed aside by a resurgence of laddish masculinity.
Along with Have I Got News for You, it is probably the single most-referenced show title for British newspaper headline writers and has been shamelessly ripped off for the titles of countless documentaries.
The show lasted six seasons, with a follow-up trilogy of three extra-long episodes.
Came sixteenth in Britains Best Sitcom.
Contains examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation - The US version lasted roughly thirty seconds.
- All Men Are Perverts - Well, Gary and Tony without question but there are so many variations that they're worth mentioning too. Averted with minor characters like Ken and Les, inverted every so often with Deborah and Dorothy but the big inversion is with George; he and his wife, Marjorie, have a jar in which they must put 10p every time one of them has an unfaithful thought. In his several decades of marriage, George has only blown 50p while Marjorie has spent £2386.
George: ...Sometimes I feel I should say something, but it has paid for three caravanning holidays.
- Beard of Evil - A variation, Tony grows a moustache as part of his transformation into a boring postman in the last episode, and shaves it off again at the end when he returns to normal.
- Cardboard Pal - When Tony and Gary have fallen out, Gary makes a fake Tony out of a sex doll and Tony's clothes so they can continue having their lager-fuelled conversations on the sofa.
- Casanova - Tony, until he falls for Deborah, having slept with fifty women and at one point having three girlfriends at once. Gary wants to be one, but is more of a Casanova Wannabe.
- Catch Phrase: In the script book, Simon Nye grumbles that he was never able to come up with a good one, his attempts including Tony's "Sod you, then" and "I feel like a king".
- Christmas Special - Interpolated Dorothy's idyllic-perfect-Christmas fantasy Imagine Spot with the grittier reality.
- Cloudcuckoolander - Ken. Simon Nye notes he was written as an over-promoted, incompetent Pointy-Haired Boss, but John Thompson played him as being borderline mentally ill.
- Continuity Nod - Quite a few in the Sofa episode, all of them in flashbacks. Gary having shorter hair, teenage Tony having longer hair, Gary wearing "the suit" on one of his three unsuccessful dates and Gary wearing his trousers on his head when meeting Dorothy for the first time.
- The Couch - or rather sofa
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Played for laughs with Tony over Debra
- Directionless Driver - Gary navigating in "Cardigan".
Gary: Hold on, this is a map of Dieppe!
- Dirty Coward - Gary in the thematically titled episode "Cowardice". After failing to stand up for Dorothy to a road-rager, he hires a company to send an actor to insult her in the bar and he can then pretend to beat up to regain his image. However, Hilarity Ensues when an actual thug corresponding to the description insults Dorothy and Gary manages to beat him up without realising he's not the actor.
- Embarrassing Nickname: In the last episode, all the postmen have nicknames - Tony's is "Nobby No-Mates". Another has one produced by a chain of logical connections:
Tony: He's been bitten by so many dogs, they call him Costello.
- Friend Vs Lover - The central focus of the show. One episode uses it as the title - "Your Mate V Your Bird".
- Gilligan Cut - Averted due to Simon Nye disliking them, save for a single example in the episode The Good Pub Guide.
- The Ghost - Clive, "Gary's Only Other Friend". Often referred to, but never seen save for a brief glimpse in "Wedding" (where he's played by the writer Simon Nye in a cameo).
- Also, George's wife Marjorie.
- Hey, It's That Guy! - Debra's friend Stewart in the season 2 episode How to dump your girlfriend is Robin Hood from Maid Marian and Her Merry Men.
- Ho Yay - There always seemed to be something between Tony and Gary, for all they talked about girls. Word of God confirms it saying "Men Behaving Badly was about a same-sex relationship. Everyone latched on to the lad thing, but to me there was always a significant homoerotic content in the relationship between Gary and Tony. You always got the impression that they'd rather be left alone together, but that was something that they could never admit to themselves."
- When Gary is soon to be married (later called off):
Tony: Gary...if I was a girl...with a girl's bottom and everything...would you marry me?
- I Coulda Been a Contender - Meta version: writer Simon Nye grumbled in the published script book that he inadvertently invented The Royle Family ahead of its time with the episode Watching TV.
- Inherently Funny Words: Simon Nye thought this about words such as "shed" and "cheese", inserting them wherever he could. Also the names of the foreign beers in "The Good Pub Guide":
Gary: What's this Indonesian one called?
- Jerkass - All of the main characters have their moments. Dorothy being the most prolific.
- Medium Awareness: In Sofa, Gary and Tony seem to be very aware of the flashbacks and knowingly trigger them by looking upwards towards the ceiling.
- My Local - The Crown.
- Non Sequitur - One of the main sources of humour.
(Gary and Tony have been discussing Dorothy's new boyfriend Jamie
- Porn Stash - at least three separate episodes (and possibly more) -
- Once in season 4 when Tony's girlfriend dumps him when she finds it. The episode is even called "Pornography".
- Once in the "Last Orders" trilogy where Gary and Dorothy are trying for a baby and Gary trying to overcome his impotence when trying to perform on demand is used as an excuse to "get a picture of the whole genre".
- In the last episode Dorothy, probably in a throwback to the season 4 episode, finds Tony's old stash. Then, in the absolutely last scene...
Dorothy (to her newborn baby): This is Tony...you're going to have his old room where he's had lots of adventures...most of them involving Razzle magazine!
- Refuge in Vulgarity - in the second installment of "Last Orders", the hotel is the... Groyne View.
- Retool - Season 2, arguably.
- Seinfeldian Conversation - A lot of the sofa conversations at the end of the episode are like this.
- Sexy Whatever Outfit - Gary and Dorothy attempted this kind of roleplaying, but...
Gary: I asked Dorothy to dress up as (sniggers) a nurse.
- Stalker with a Crush - Tony towards Deborah.
- Surrounded by Idiots - Gary towards George and Anthea.
- Dorothy towards Gary and Tony
- Deborah towards Gary and Tony
- Well, ANYONE towards Gary and Tony.
- Deborah towards Gary and Tony
- Dorothy towards Gary and Tony
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute - Averted when Ken replaced Les as the landlord of the Crown; they devoted an episode to the shift, and Ken was written as a very different character.
- Terrible Interviewees Montage - In the first episode of the second series, where Gary's looking for a new flatmate. The interviewees include an incomprehensible Geordie, a catatonic man (played by writer Simon Nye) and a seemingly normal man who turns out to have a disturbing fetish.
- The Unfair Sex - Diminished in the later series' but very frequent early on. One particular episode has Tony mending the fence in the back garden three times and Gary fetching something from the chemist to cure Dorothy's indigestion twice -- in the middle of the night in their pyjamas -- while the girls ignore their partners' devotion and sit on Deborah's bed to discuss how the prospect of marrying an elderly millionaire is looking more and more attractive.
- Throw It In - Most of the really juvenile parts of the show's humour were ad-libbed by the cast, such as the "Wanker Song", and Gary's line when Tony complains about "why does Debs like (her latest boyfriend) when he's got a face like an arse?" Gary: "Maybe he's got a huge knob?" Also at one point Gary has spent the night watching porn in bed, and Dorothy then comes home, climbs in and settles down, oblivious. The actress decided that she would then raise her head to reveal a tissue stuck to the side of her face.
- Unwanted Glasses Plot - Not only does Tony refuse to wear them, due to mockery from everyone else, but he has equally huge problems with contact lenses. In the end he simply decides to go without.
- Waxing Lyrical - When Tony is persuading Gary he should get back together with Dorothy.
Tony: She loves you, mate. And with a love like that, you know you should be glad.
- Weirdness Censor - Gary's office workers George and Anthea in the last episode. "No, I can't see that happening", constantly repeated when he tells them the office is closing down, in a faintly creepy, unthinking way.