It’s always fun to stumble across a shared universe, and finding a new one in a pair of British sitcoms is even better. I’m not talking about spin-offs here, which are overtly shared universes (think Man About The House, Robin’s Nest, and George & Mildred), but ones that are almost unspoken.
And one such exists in a pair of strangely overlooked/underrated sitcoms from the writer Andrew Marshall.
I’m sure we all remember 2point4 Children, but considering just how well watched it was at the time, it doesn’t seem to be talked about much these days.
It ran for eight series between 1991 and 1999, and during that time, Marshall also wrote another sitcom called Health & Efficiency, which ran for two series between 1993 and 1995. I don’t remember watching this one at the time, nor have I seen it since. It’s worth seeking out though, and I shall be watching much more if I can, not least for the brilliant performance by Deborah Norton as the Thatcher-like hospital administrator.
So, what’s all this got to do with a shared universe? Plenty of writers have more than one sitcom on the air at any given moment before the millenium.
It’s the character Dr Phil Brooke, as played by Victor McGuire.
His first appearance is in two episodes of 2point4 Children, in the series two episodes Bird On A Wire and Thank Your Lucky Stars, both of which aired in October 1992, a full year before he returns in Health & Efficiency.
And it’s not just that McGuire is playing a cameo as a doctor, he’s playing the same doctor, with the same name. BBC Genome confirms this.
Last in the domestic comedy series by Andrew Marshall and starring Belinda Lang, Gary Olsen
Thank Your Lucky Stars.
David lies seriously ill in hospital, while Rona races to the altar.
Director/Producer Richard Boden
Bill: Belinda Lang
Ben: Gary Olsen
Rona: Julia Hills
Jenny: Clare Woodgate
David: John Pickard
Auntie Pearl: Barbara Lott
Peggy: Patsy Byrne
Dr Brooke: Victor McGuire
Angel: Ray Polhill
Gordon: Andrew Hall
Beth: Jenny Lynch
Don: Timothy Page
I can’t see the name of the hospital on screen in the episode of 2point4 Children, but unsurprisingly the sets are laid out differently to the ones in Health & Efficiency.
It would be safe to assume that it’s the same hospital though, but even if it’s not, it doesn’t matter.
Here’s the thing – Gary Olsen is in both series, playing a different character in each.
Dr Phil Brooke, when confronted with the parent of a patient who resembles exactly one of his colleagues, must have been freaked out, and it’s no wonder he was so bloody useless with Bill and Ben.
To end, here’s a fun little dig the producers of 2point4 Children are having at the BBC for not releasing the show on video.