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Brighton Belles
UK, ITV (Humphrey Barclay Productions for Carlton), Sitcom, Colour, 1993
Starring: Sheila Hancock, Wendy Craig, Sheila Gish

A month before The Golden Girls ended on C4, a British adaptation - Brighton Belles - premiered on ITV, as perhaps the flagship pilot in the network's Comedy Playhouse season, with a full first series of ten further episodes already in the pipeline. The laugh-packed US scripts were being reused, a fine cast was in place, working under the wing of an experienced British sitcom producer, and everything pointed towards not only a success but a long-running one. What no one anticipated was that Brighton Belles would be a massive ratings flop - indeed, so poor were the viewing figures that the ten-part series was axed by ITV Network Centre after just six weeks. (The four remaining episodes went out quietly more than a year later.) Why did it fail? Several explanations apply, but the simplest has to be that The Golden Girls itself was already familiar to most British TV watchers (although the C4 ratings were never very high, millions had seen at least a few episodes), and people felt no reason to tune into a UK adaptation delivering the same lines. When an original piece is already nigh-on perfect, and has sated its public, why try to sell a replica? Most transatlantic sitcom adaptations air without the original series having been seen in that territory. To pitch to viewers a carbon copy of an already successful series seems pointless - in hindsight, at least.

With local changes, the Comedy Playhouse pilot of Brighton Belles used the same script as the premiere episode of The Golden Girls, swiftly introducing us to the four principal women. For Golden's Dorothy there was Frances, a sardonic, divorced former school headmistress. For Dorothy's mother Sophia there was Frances's mother Josephine, a tactless 80-year-old stroke victim once married to a Glasgow mobster. For Blanche there was Bridget, a busty, man-mad museum curator of Irish stock. For Rose there was Annie, a widowed farmer's daughter from Wiltshire, a bereavement counsellor light on brain cells. For the luxurious home on Miami Beach owned by Blanche there was the luxurious Regency house in Brighton owned by Bridget.

Brighton Belles was advertised as being about 'frank and funny women'. Frankly, too few people tuned in to find it funny, and a youthful Carlton was left with egg on its face.

Researched and written by Mark Lewisohn.

Sheila Hancock - Frances
Wendy Craig - Annie
Sheila Gish - Bridget
Jean Boht - Josephine

Susan Harris - Creator
Susan Harris - Writer and others
Christopher Skala - Scripts Adapter
James Cellan Jones - Director
Al Mitchell - Executive Producer
Humphrey Barclay - Producer
Transmission Details
Number of episodes: 11 Length: 30 mins
Pilot · 9 Mar 1993 · Tue 8.30pm
One series (10) 7 Sep-12 Oct 1993 · Tue 8.30pm · and 7 Dec-28 Dec 1994 · Wed mostly 7pm

The information in the Guide to Comedy is complied from 'The Radio Times Guide to Television Comedy' by Mark Lewisohn, published by BBC Books. More information about the book is available from the BBC Shop.
(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external links.)

Reviews supplied by Radio Times © 2003 BBC Worldwide - used under licence from BBC Worldwide.

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