The Lamentable Passing Of Brighton Belles Into Lore

The Golden Girls was one of the most watched US sitcoms for every season it ran between 1985 and 1991. We’ve looked at some of the international remakes of the show before, but let’s take a closer peek at the British version Brighton Belles.

In 1992, Carlton Television was soon to take over the London franchise of the ITV regions, and it was looking around for something to counter-program some of the BBC’s biggest sitcom hits. Eyes wandered over the Atlantic, and coveted their prime time behemoths …

On the face of it, this seemed like a great idea, what with the recent success of The Upper Hand, which was based on a similar deal to remake the original scripts from Who’s The Boss?. And it was also a good move to try the Comedy Playhouse format too. Other shows that were piloted in that run were:

  • The 10%ers by Grant Naylor.
  • Wild Oats by Steve Knight and Mike Whitehill – a vehicle for Leslie Grantham and Bread’s Jonathon Morris.
  • Stuck On You by Mark Bussell and Justin Sbresni, starring Neil Morrissey and Amelia Bullmore, in a forced flatshare premise.
  • Once In A Lifetime by Nick Symons, Sandi Toksvig and Joolz, about reunited twins, starring Pam Ferris, Lisa Maxwell and Kate Robbins.
  • Cut And Run by Tim Firth, starring Tim Healy and Carla Mendonca, which was about a crew filming some badgers.
  • The Complete Guide To Relationships by Kim Fuller.
  • Sailortown by Martin Lynch and Mark Bussell, a vehicle for James Nesbitt about two brothers taking control of a pub in Belfast.

The pilot of Brighton Belles performed rather well. Going out on a Tuesday, it was watched by 11 million viewers, and beaten that day only by the soaps. It compared favourably to other sitcoms that week including Watching (12.6m), and One Foot In The Grave (15.9m).

Liverpool Echo – Wednesday 10 March 1993
Aberdeen Press and Journal – Wednesday 24 March 1993

It was almost inevitable that this would be one of the shows that made it to series, and alongside The 10%ers, it was promply commissioned for 10 more episodes.

Shortly thereafter, this long think-piece was published in The Stage.

The Stage – Thursday 08 April 1993

I wish there was more to be found about the fate of that Rhoda remake.

Come the autumn though, as broadcast drew closer, feet seemed to be getting a little chilled.

The Stage – Thursday 02 September 1993

The promotional side of things was going nicely though, with a few articles appearing in the run up to the full series.

Daily Mirror – Saturday 04 September 1993
Evening Herald (Dublin) – Monday 06 September 1993

Meanwhile, there were developments from one of the other pilots, with news that Channel 4 were close to a deal for a full series of The Complete Guide To Relationships.

The Stage – Thursday 16 September 1993

Ultimately though, it wasn’t to be.

Brighton Belles got a positive review for its first new episode in The Stage …

… but it only drew 7.6m viewers (52nd for the week), against the 10.12m who watched 2point4 Children.

Ratings didn’t improve, and by mid-October, ITV pulled the series from the schedules, leaving half of it unaired (they finally appeared over a year later).

The Stage – Thursday 07 October 1993

So, the ratings were far from stellar, but the reviews were just lukewarm, and not the vitriolic takedowns we might have expected to see given the show’s subsequent reputation.

This column from Simon London is worth reading in full …

Daily Mirror – Saturday 11 September 1993

… given that he seems to have been so wrong about 2point4 Children as well.

But as time went on, the spectacles looking back at the show began to take on a rather more brown tint.

The Stage – Thursday 13 April 1995
The Stage – Thursday 18 January 1996
The Stage – Thursday 01 October 1998
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