Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: Goodnight Sweetheart

Goodnight Sweetheart is a British sitcom that ran for six series on from 1993 to 1999 and a one-off special that aired on 2nd September 2016 (making it 59 episodes in total). It starred Nicholas Lyndhurst as Gary Sparrow, an accidental time traveler who leads a double life after discovering a time portal allowing him to travel between 1990’s London and the same area during the Second World War.

Gary Sparrow is a somewhat disillusioned TV repairman, in a drab marriage with his ambitious wife Yvonne (Michelle Holmes in Series 1-3, Emma Amos Series 4 onwards), and best friends with Ron (Victor McGuire), a printer whose marriage is on the brink of breakdown. While on a TV repair call-out in East London, Gary accidentally discovers a time portal which leads to war time London. There he meets Phoebe (Dervla Kirwan in Series 1-3, Elizabeth Carling Series 4 onwards), a pretty barmaid who works in the Royal Oak pub, her dad Eric (David Ryall) who runs the Royal Oak, and Reg Deadman (Christopher Ettridge), a dim-witted but friendly policeman.

Gary strikes up a friendship with Phoebe, and makes repeated trips through the time portal, gradually establishing a second life for himself in the 1940’s. In this life, he claims to be both a secret agent (aided by his knowledge of future wartime events) and a singer-songwriter, in fact passing off modern day pop songs as his own, particularly songs by The Beatles – including a scne where he plays I Am The Walrus to the pub – noting he just invented psychedelia! He impresses Phoebe by bringing her goods which are widely available in the present day, but were rationed in wartime Britain, such as chocolate, bacon, and nylons and they begin a romance.

Throughout the series, Gary flits between both time periods, struggling to balance his two lives and keep Yvonne and Phoebe happy, getting tangled in webs of lies and deceit as he invents cover stories to explain away his constant absences to both. Most episodes centre on a dilemma for Gary caused by his dual life, often having to choose between letting Yvonne or Phoebe down. Ron is the only other character who knows of his double life – he helps Gary by printing 1940’s five pound notes and ID documents for him – and it is to him who Gary usually turns when in a predicament, even if helping him is to Ron’s detriment.


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