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An unusual Brit Com whose premise is that Gary Sparrow (played by Only Fools and Horses' Nicholas Lyndhurst), a down-on-his-luck TV repairman in a failing marriage, discovers a time portal which leads to 1940s London. Once there, he meets a young woman and they fall in love. And now suddenly there's no need to go through the trauma of a divorce in the 1990s, because he can have two separate lives...Gary gets away with it by having his best friend Ron, a printer, print him easily-forged 1940s white banknotes to fund his past lifestyle. He justifies his knowledge of the future events of WW2 to Phoebe (his past wife) by claiming to be a secret agent, while he says he earns his money as a singer-songwriter, passing off much of the next fifty years of popular music as his own. Eventually Gary ends up running a 1940s memorabilia shop built over the time portal, whose merchandise, while genuine, is suspiciously well preserved.Came fiftieth in Britain's Best Sitcom.
Provides Examples Of:
Accidental Pervert: Gary ends up groping the new owner of the Royal oak, when he discovers her bent over in her underwear in the bedtroom, thinking she is Phoebe
Acting Unnatural: When Ron sucessfully travels back to the past, his attempts to fit in end up with the locals believing him to be clinically insane.
Advice Backfire: Ron goes to Gary for help with his failing marriage, Gary having two women seems the obvious choice. Gary's advice of staying out all night to leave Stella guessing, backfires spectacularly.
All Girls Want Bad Boys / Evil Is Sexy: In one episode the portal is struck by lightening just as Gary enters it and he's split into multiple Garys, Yvonne (and, to a lesser extent, Phoebe) is quite taken with Evil Gary.
Ambiguously Gay: Phoebe's husband Donald, he only married her because his family forced him into it and had had plans to move abroad with another man who he was very upset about the death of. He happily handed Phoebe over to Gary, admitting he didn't love her but was fond of her in a brotherly way and wanted her to be happy.
Anti-Hero: Gary. He's a bigamist, an adulterer, a plagiarist, treats his friends Ron and Reg poorly, and apparently has no qualms about threatening Britain's wartime economy by passing around large sums of counterfeit money.note This was actually considered a serious issue: In 1942 the Germans launched Operation Bernhard, a plan to wreck the British economy by flooding the country with forged banknotes.
Artistic License – History: Surprisingly averted, although Gary does meet some major figures, his interactions with them, could have happened in the history we know today.
Bad Present: After Gary accidentally changes the past, he travels back to discover that amongst other things, Thatcher had been in power for over 20 years.
Big Eater: Ron, who can't decide between Indian and Chinese takeaway, so he has both.
Black Comedy: Some parts could be extremely black, not surprising considering half the show was set during the second world war.
Perhaps the blackest part was when Gary met his old friend Reg Deadman (From the 1940s) in an assisted living facility in the 90s where he was suffering from severe dementia.
Denser and Wackier: Started out as a fairly straight sitcom about a cheating husband with a time travel twist but in the final series we had Gary being split into multiple Garys, a time travelling teenage criminal from the future and Jack the Ripper.
Downer Ending: In the final episode Gary discovers the time portal has closed, meaning he will be trapped in the past for good. In spite of everything, he and Yvonne are genuinely upset that they won't see each other again. In a touching last scene, they speak to each other, unknowingly, on opposite sides of the now-closed portal.
Gary: I'm never gonna see Yvonne, or Ron, or Baywatch ever again!
Everybody Smokes: In the 40s. Gary, at first, is shocked and tries to warn Phoebe of the danger to her health but by Series Three he's happily puffing away himself after an Of Course I Smoke false start.
However, he does convince her to give up during her pregnancy.
Flanderization: Compare the portrayal of Reg Dedman in the pilot with what he would become by series 2. He essentially transforms from a dopey yet competent constable into a man who is an older and thinner version of Chief Wiggum.
Identical Grandson: Reg has an identical grandson in the nineties and an identical grandfather in the Victorian era and Ron has an identical grandfather in the forties. There's also a Victorian woman identical to Yvonne, who is presumably an ancestor of hers.
Jack the Ripper: Appears in one episode where Gary accidentally time-travels the wrong way. Turns out his mysterious disappearance was because he, too, was a time traveller, and got run over in modern London.
Henpecked Husband: Gary to Yvonne and Ron to Stella. It's no wonder he decided to stay with Phoebe in the end.
Karma Houdini: Stella. She was continually abusive to him, cheated on him, and then blackmailed him into accepting a one-sided divorce (following an altercation with Stella's fancy man when Ron came home early) that ended up leaving him without his money, home, or business.
Killed Off Screen: Phoebe's father (a main character in Series One) was killed in a bomb blast in between Series' One and Two.
A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": Gary, a pianist, would play songs from the future and claim he had written them himself. By the end of the series, he has laid claim to most of The Beatles' back catalogue. One of the show's cleverer aspects was that they were sometimes arranged in a more contemporary style, such as a jazz version of California Dreamin'.
The Load: Arguably, Yvonne. Gary clearly wasn't happy in the 90's to begin with and most of his problems stem from trying to juggle his life with her and his life with Phoebe. One could argue that the fact Gary keeps going back to the past is a clear indication that its the only place he actually is happy in and all his problems stem from his time-period.
Its also worth noting that apart from Ron, we never see Gary engage with any other friends in his present. Compare that with the numerous relationships he forges in the 40's, definitely signifies a lot about where Gary would rather be.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted, many famous characters appear in the 1940s segments...but of course none of them are around to complain about their portrayal. In later series, Noël Coward was a recurring character and Clement Attlee appears in the final episode.
Also Robert Maxwell, and George Formby.
Oh, Crap: Gary, when Phoebe and Yvonne come face to face in "When Two Worlds Collide".
Pass the Popcorn: In one of Gary's nightmares, he's confronted by both Yvonne and Phoebe whilst Ron also calls him out on his behavior towards him. The women then demand Gary choose between them while Ron sits watching and tucks into a bag of popcorn.
Politically Correct History: Subverted in the episode The Yanks are Coming. Two black American soldiers find themselves the victim of racism via a Southern American Sergeant. Also notable in the kind but surprised reactions of Phoebe and Reg who had never seen black men in the East End before.
Portal Slam: Gary finds himself trapped in 1945 in the final episode.
Rule of Cool: The writers make no attempt to explain why only certain people can use the time portals or why they can be affected by outside influences such as lightning, bombs and rescuing future British Prime Ministers. Probably for the best.
San Dimas Time / Meanwhile, in the Future: Rarely used but occasionally crop up, for example in the last episode where Gary's message to Ron and Yvonne in the future appears as he writes it in the past.
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In the present, Gary is upset to discover that his grown-up son Michael has fallen on hard times and is selling some of Phoebe's belongings. Gary therefore returns to the past and arranges for Michael to receive the royalties from a song he "wrote" in the 1940s. When Gary meets Michael again, he finds that the money helped him and he is now more prosperous and married with children.
In one episode Gary ends up meeting the Resistance in Occupied France, who are represented by a woman who dresses like Michelle from 'Allo 'Allo! and uses her Catch Phrase "Listen very carefully, I vill say zis only wurnce".
An episode with a bank manger called Mainwaring and a chief clerk named Wilson who act identically to the characters of the same name in Dad's Army. Gary even sings the show's theme song to Mr. Mainwaring, getting a bemused reaction. Subverted when the bank's tea boy shows up; Gary asks if he's called Pike, but his actual name turns out to be Major.note (which Word of God has confirmed was a shout-out to the then-Prime Minister, John Major, and gives a little extra meaning to Gary's later accusation that Major was an "uncoordinated, shambling idiot" who couldn't even handle a tea tray)
Took a Level in Badass: The time portal has this effect on Gary. In the present, he's just a lowly TV repairman in a drab marriage. In the 1940s, aided by his knowledge of the future and some forged banknotes, he's wealthy, a spy, a singer-songwriter and playwright, and has access to luxury items which were scarce in wartime Britain.