Follow TV Tropes


Series / As Time Goes By

Go To
As Time Goes By follows the somewhat unusual love story of Jean (Judi Dench) and Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer), two former lovers who reunite unexpectedly thirty-eight years after their romance during The Korean War. In the opening episode, Lionel has divorced his wife and returned to England from a coffee plantation in Kenya and is seeking a secretary to help with his autobiography My Life in Kenya. He requests one from the "Type for You" secretarial agency, not realizing that it is run by his old flame Jean, who by this time is widowed and has a grown daughter, Judith (Moira Brooker). After Lionel asks Judith on a date and the two main characters finally meet, Lionel and Jean both realize the other's identity. We find out that their relationship ended not from any loss of affection, but as the result of the post office losing a letter that Lionel had sent to Jean. Although they part on good terms never intending to meet again because they feel it is simply too late and that they are both too old for that sort of thing, they are thrown back together by circumstances.

Lionel and Jean's romance gets off to a slow start, with each being the object of youthful affection during the first series, he from her daughter Judith and she from his wealthy and flamboyant publisher Alistair (Philip Bretherton). At the conclusion of the first series, Lionel and Jean share their first kiss (again). By series three — after some hilarious miscommunications — Lionel has moved into Jean's house, and they finally marry in series four. Along the way, Lionel writes a mini-series about their romance for American television which fails spectacularly (not through any fault of his own), Jean opens a second branch of her secretarial agency and eventually retires, and the two acquire a country house from Lionel's somewhat unconventional father.

The series also focuses on the adventures of Judith, Jean's daughter, Sandy (Jenny Funnell), one of Jean's employees who eventually comes to live with them, and Alistair, Lionel's publisher. The three "young people", as they are sometimes called, provide much consternation for Jean, who tries more than once to play matchmaker, and much hilarity for the audience. Judith and Alistair, after being on and off for nine years, get married in the final series of the show. Sandy, who moves in with the Hardcastle/Pargetter clan after a bad break-up, starts dating a policeman named Harry (David Michaels, later Daniel Ryan), whom she eventually accompanies to Canada.

Adding extra sparkle to the show are Lionel's father and stepmother Rocky (Frank Middlemass) and Madge (Joan Sims), who though in their '80s remain young at heart and are firmly determined to act less than their age, and their housekeeper Mrs. Bale (Janet Henfrey), a Mrs. Danvers-esque figure who is somewhat obsessed with the weather in the English Channel and gives unusually precise times for when she will be serving meals.

Jean's somewhat overbearing sister-in-law from her first marriage Penny (Moyra Fraser) and Penny's rather dim husband Stephen (Paul Chapman) are also recurring characters.

The series lasted from January, 1992 to December, 2005. It consists of nine seasons of 30 minute episodes and two reunion specials. Came twenty-ninth in Britains Best Sitcom.

This show provides examples of:

  • Acting Unnatural: More than once, such as waiting for Judy to bring in her boyfriend or Jean to return from the psychotherapist: they are waiting but they shouldn't look like it!
  • Actor Allusion: In "An Old Flame", Lionel jokingly asks if the secretive phone call Jean was making was part of a mission for MI-5. At the time, of course, Judi Dench was also playing M, the head of MI-6, in the James Bond films.
  • Adaptation Decay: The adaptation of Lionel's book is an in-universe example, a parody of Executive Meddling-plagued American adaptations of British works which seemed ubiquitous at the time.
  • Apologises a Lot: In one episode, Sandy dates a guy who is always apologising, sometimes preemptively just in case something goes wrong. She leaves him when she realises this is an aspect of a fetish he has.
  • A Rare Sentence: For a secretarial agency office, at least. "It's a gorilla!"
    Jean: I'll ask once more: what is it?
  • Beta Couple: Rocky and Madge function as the Beta Couple in the beginning of the series, bringing to the forefront Lionel and Jean's concerns that its too late for them to fall in love and get married. Indeed, it is at Rocky and Madge's wedding that the two decide to live together. After Lionel and Jean's marriage, however, Judith and Alistair are the primary Beta Couple, and Jean spends much of her time managing their On-Again, Off-Again Relationship.
  • The Bore:
    • Stephen's chief quality is his tendency to chatter on about the most mundane subjects with intense interest (for instance, his attempt to give up newspapers), although he's rather sweet-natured. Jean and Lionel use this to their advantage in one episode.
    • Mrs. Flack, Lionel's replacement secretary, talks so much that it's completely impossible for him to get any writing done. However, she's so well-intentioned and cheerful that he can't manage to fire her.
    • Judy's brief, much-older boyfriend Eric is a very nice man, but also terribly dull. She's half-relieved that he ends up breaking it off, because she "didn't have the heart to give him the push."
    • Lionel is often accused of this, especially compared to (and by) his Cool Old Guy father.
  • British Brevity: Of a sort; each series is only about seven episodes long, but there are nine series (ten if you include the series 10 specials), meaning it still met a healthy 69 episode total.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In one episode Alistair's publishing company collapses and he has to cope with living on the same level as the rest of the cast. In the end, he remembers he forgot one of his regional stations and still has a million pounds or so to build back up from (which is essentially treated as a Reset Button).
  • Captain Obvious (also bit of a Running Gag)
    Everyone: Oh, you wrote a book?
    Lionel: Yes, My Life in Kenya.
    Everyone: What's it about?
    Lionel: My life in Kenya.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • When Lionel agrees (very reluctantly) to treat Stephen in his fake-capacity as a psychiatrist (Jean had told her in-laws that he was one in an attempt to change the subject), he breaks down and tells Stephen that he's not a psychiatrist. Stephen responds by taking this to be some sort of healing method and declares "If you're not at the top of your profession, Lionel, I'd like to know who is."
    • In the episode with Lionel's "deeply personal problem," Lionel decides to end the whole situation by telling Judy and Sandy the truth: that Jean only said there was one because Judy accused her of trying to meddle in her and Alastair's break-up. And the real reason Alastair visited was to sell Lionel on marketing his book in Japan. Judy and Sandy don't believe a word of it.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Alistair has a few, including "Hey, hey..."
    • Rocky's "Rock on!"
    • Mrs. Bale: "(Lunch/Dinner) will be served in _____ and a half minutes"
  • Characterization Marches On: In his first appearance, Stephen is rather more astute than his wife and knows immediately that the "met on the dodgems" story is a lie for Penny's benefit. After that he's switched into friendly but dull and a bit dim, and in a blatant Retcon is astonished at the real story of their meeting (and calls that a fiction).
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Alistair flirts with every woman he see and vocally fantasizes about Judy and Sandy being in states of undress (at one point he unrealstically speculates they might try to get information out of him by stripping). Judy cites his constantly pulling other women one of the times that she dumps him. However, he does genuinely care about the family and puts himself out of his way to help them on multiple occasions.
  • The City vs. the Country: A variation, as Jean and Lionel are embraced by the locals in the country at Rocky's old house (as they are happy to embrace the simple life), while the other "townies" that come down for weekends are frowned upon for their energy, rudeness, and "gang-like" socializing.
  • Clip Show: As a cap to the end of the series, a 60-minute episode aired, made up of flashbacks as Lionel and Jean (mostly Jean) reminisce about the funniest bits of the series.
  • Comedic Irony: When Jean is organizing a day out for the local old-age home and there's a moment of awkwardness when she asks the family to help, which at present includes octogenarians Rocky and Madge on a visit. They enthusiastically agree, however, because it must be simply awful to be aged, the poor dears.
  • Cool Old Guy: Lionel's father likes to "boogie" at the Hard Rock Cafe, frequently travels the world, and is constantly encouraging the gang to "Rock on!"
  • Cool Old Lady: Madge, Rocky's country-singing, drum-playing wife, whom he marries in Series Three.
  • Coupled Couples: Played with in the first season, with potential ships between Lionel and Judy, and Alistair and Jean. The four exchange partners and get married later on.
  • Covers Always Lie: ''My Life In Kenya", Lionel's (dull) book about running a coffee plantation, ends up with a cover featuring him holding a rifle with a beautiful woman hanging onto his leg.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Lol's repeated claims that he "fell over" after getting beaten up by the townies' goons.
  • December–December Romance: Madge and Rocky, who had been having an affair for ten years before tying the knot. Lionel and Jean are a lesser version (maybe October or November).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lionel is apt to make sarcastic comments, especially when everything around him (often from the intervention of Jean) is going completely mad. Example:
    "Compared to pushing a pea up Vesuvius with my nose, it was a delightful experience"
    • It's not just Lionel. Something like 90% of the show's humour comes from this.
      Jean: Of course I've aged! Who do you think you are, Peter Pan?
  • Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Inverted in the episodes where Lionel and Jean are in Los Angeles. Americans do know what "take a leak" means, thank you so much.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Harry habitually calls Lionel "sir", to Lionel's dismay.
  • Ear Trumpet: Referenced by Lionel in the episode when he's having difficulty hearing: "I'm not having an ear trumpet!"
  • Establishing Character Moment: Madge gets a brilliant one: overtaking Alistair on the road to Rocky's house while driving a pink Cadillac with pronghorns mounted on the front and a "Land of Dixie" car horn, and dressed in a cowgirl outfit complete with hat.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, the reason for the disastrous outcome of Lionel's series Just Two People. Includes tropes like Cliché Storm, "London, England" Syndrome, and Viewers Are Morons (specifically, that their target demographic is 'a potato farmer in Idaho').
  • Flanderization: Jean gets much sillier by the later seasons, starting a Lies Snowball as a matter of routine, and Lionel is almost always the Only Sane Man to the messes she creates with her meddling. Stephen is perfectly sensible in the first episode he appears in, but is simply an introvert who talks less than Penny. From the second episode he is in, he starts turning into the Cloudcuckoolander we know and love.
  • Foil: The fun-loving, adventurous, and wild Richard "Rocky" Hardcastle is a complete contrast to his son. He even calls Lionel a "dismal Jimmy" at one point.
  • Foreshadowing: In a first-season episode, Lionel sarcastically remarks that his never-delivered letter to Jean is probably in the Imperial War Museum. It is.
  • Forever Fling: The story centers on a couple that reconnects unexpectedly 38 years after their wartime romance and slowly falls back in love.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: No matter how successful Jean's business was, it almost defies belief that someone who started as a solo temp after being widowed could afford to keep a house in Holland Park, one of London's most exclusive neighbourhoods.
  • Gossip Evolution: A staple in the village. After sternly telling off the posh townies, Jean and Lionel return the next weekend to find that Lionel holds the Victoria Cross (Jean invented the "KBM"note  medal for him during the argument), that Jean put out the barbecue with a fire extinguisher, and that she and Lionel threw six of them over the hedge. Jean eventually "admits" that Lionel only threw two, because a little notoriety never hurts.
    "Remind me to start a rumour here one day."
  • G-Rated Drug: In series 5, Stephen attempts to give up newspapers after realising he just finds the news depressing, but after getting it down to a few days a week 'I got withdrawal symptoms and now I'm back on two a day'.
  • Handsome Lech: Alistair, during the later seasons. When he's not with Judy he still hits on any woman in his vicinity, but finds much less success.
  • Happily Married: Rocky and Madge definitely fit the bill, traveling the world together from the Nashville to Tibet and never thinking they're too old for pretty much anything. The two are as devoted as they come and true soul-mates.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jean's ex-sister-in-law Penny abuses her poor husband Stephen to no end. Because of Penny's incessant talking, Stephen can never get a word in edgewise, except in the episode when Lionel and Jean conspire to keep Stephen talking in order to avoid unpleasant personal inquiries from Penny. Ironically, their marriage is improved when Stephen pretends that he had an affair, but this is counteracted when he admits the truth.
  • Hidden Depths: Alastair is a careless womanizer and is inevitably described as "flash" by everyone who meets him, but he really does care about Lionel, Jean, Judy, and Sandy. Judy notes after the failure of the television series that he actually seems real when he's feeling low.
  • Humble Hero: As revealed in the reunion special, when Lionel was in Kenya years ago he took on the financial burdens of supporting the family of a man who worked on his plantation but died, so all the kids could go to school and the mother would be well off. For this, the family calls him "Father." He never once spoke of it to Jean or mentions it in his book My Life in Kenya, despite being sure it must have come up at one point, but when Jean insists he never talked about it, Lionel just accepts he might not have and leaves the matter to rest. He just did what he saw as the right thing to do and did it.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Played with in Lionel. Rocky's house in the country (and Lionel's childhood home) suggests that the family had wealth to some degree - and still does, if the exotic nature of Rocky and Madge's travels is any indication. However, Lionel worries later in the series that he doesn't have a pension fund. He did make money of his own from his coffee plantation in Kenya, but was unable to withdraw any assets from the country.
  • I Need A Freakin Drink: When one of Jean and Lionel's neighbors have moved out and put their home up for sale, both are in need of strong drinks when Judith tells them Penny and Stephen are looking into buying the house. Jean orders a double and Lionel a triple.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Plays an integral part in Lionel and Jean's relationship. Lionel's (misdirected?) letter to Jean ends their relationship; if the letter had gotten to Jean they probably would have gotten married. They both start off rather cross with each other until they talk about it; fortunately they believe each other. Later, they find the missing letter in a wartime museum.
  • Informed Attractiveness: "Ms. Icecubes," the new woman at Type for You is described by all the characters as incredibly beautiful.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Sandy tells Lionel to tell Harry she doesn't want to see him when he visits after they have an argument. Harry assents and leaves...just as Sandy comes down the stairs, disappointed that he didn't put up a fight.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The dialogue version happens when Lionel's ex-wife visits. Lionel finishes reassuring Jean that she's not competing with anything because Margaret was so drab and unglamorous. Then Margaret turns up in a beautifully tailored outfit, expensively-styled hair, and a few dozen diamonds on her hands, neck, and ears.
  • Lies Snowball:
    • This happens quite often, especially when Penny and Stephen come to visit. Consequently, it is never revealed to the troublesome couple that Lionel is not in fact a psychiatrist, and he even ends up counseling Stephen professionally. Other such lies include that Jean and Lionel met whilst "in the dodgems" (bumper cars for Americans) at a fairground, Jean takes judo, Lionel sprained his ankle while playing golf, and that Jean and Lionel were sleeping together (before they were), which resulted in their first night together being spent at Penny and Stephen's house in the country.
    • Numerous episode plots in later seasons resulted from Jean's reflexive creation of a Lies Snowball and Lionel either refusing to play along or doing it under protest.
  • Love Triangle: Inverted when Judy and Sandy each (unknowingly) try to set the other up with Alistair, to Jean and Lionel's amusement. He feels rather put out when it falls apart.
  • Ludicrous Precision: A mild example, but Mrs Bale always says lunch will be served in an odd number of minutes, or "X and a half" minutes, in an unnatural way.
  • Mathematician's Answer: When Lionel is wondering why he clears his throat whenever he turns the page of a book and asks Jean what she thinks it is, she answers "annoying."
  • May–December Romance:
    • Played with at the beginning of the series. Judy is attracted to Lionel and Alistair is attracted to Jean. While Jean and Lionel are flattered by the attentions of young, attractive people, they also judge each other for inviting them.
    • Much later, Judy briefly dates a bookshop owner who's at least ten years older than Jean and Lionel.
  • Mind Screw: Alistair gives Lionel a Romanian novel, Thunder and the Moon, to read with the idea of Lionel maybe writing a TV script from it. The first line of the book is: "I am alone with my sheep. But my sheep are not alone with me."
  • Mirthless Laughter: In one episode, Judy says that Jean seems to know where her life is going. Jean's reply is "You've heard of a hollow laugh? If I knew how to do one, I'd do it."
  • Mistaken for Gay: Discussed when Judith looks at her invitation to Penny and Stephen's anniversary party. It is addressed to her and "man of the hour." As she is currently on the outs with Alistair, she briefly considers taking Sandy as her plus one. However, a moment later she wonders if Penny would misconstrue the women as an actual couple because of how the invitation is addressed and Jean notes it would be very in character for Penny to make that mistake.
  • The Nicknamer: Alistair constantly annoys Lionel by calling him "Ly". He also call Jean "Lovely Lady," but she doesn't seem to mind.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Jean, to an extent, whenever someone new moves in next door. Dies down a bit once she meets them, but her curiosity is usually channeled in other directions.
  • Not So Above It All: In later seasons, Lionel is the Only Sane Man... except when his hearing starts to become erratic and he resists every sensible and well-meaning entreaty to have his ears checked.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Jean tries to cheer up young newlywed Anne on their Paris holiday, Lionel winds up meeting husband Terry and having to haul him up to their room, drunk. When Jean arrives later she tries to help him clean up when Anne unexpectedly calls—and sees Terry half-dressed behind Jean.
    Anne: How could you?!
    Jean: What? [cottons on] Oh don't be ridiculous!
    Terry: Oh no, you see, she just came in and found me in bed with Lionel!
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Lionel and Jean's old trick for getting a park bench to themselves: clap their hands, slap their knees, and make other eccentric hand gestures while staring forward with expressionless faces.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Stephen is a peculiar case. One one hand, he can fall for Jean's lies about Lionel being a psychiatrist and other tales, but on the other hand he can be very sharp and manipulative towards Penny when he needs to be like affirming her false belief he's having an affair. He needed a cover story for the surprise anniversary party he's planning for her and when she finds out about some of the facts and accuses him of adultery, he goes with it. And for added measure if she feels he might stray again, she might put more effort into their marriage.
  • Old Retainer: Mrs Bale, the housekeeper for the country house. She cared for Lionel when he was a boy. She also has aspects of The Jeeves, although her employers are not stupid.
  • Only Sane Man: This often applies to Lionel, especially when Jean, Judith, and Sandy are participating in feminine behaviour which is totally mysterious to him. For example, the episode in which Judy and Sandy are each trying to set the other up with Alistair.
  • On-Again, Off-Again Relationship: Judy and Alastair. The tension is driven mainly by Alastair's habit of vanishing, flirting with other women, and/or treating her as a convenient source of fun while he's busy jetsetting for his publishing house.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Played for laughs in one episode when Penny and Stephen are over for drinks. Penny is concerned and privately asks Jean if Lionel is on some medications because she has never seem him talk so much in all the time she's known him. Jean assures her Lionel is fine and doesn't tell Penny that Lionel and Jean talking and letting Stephen ramble on are their ways to control the conversation so Penny herself cannot dominate and be her innocently condescending person that she tends to be.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Lionel's "I got so excited I fell off my perch" joke that several people convince him to omit during his best man speech at his father's wedding. He says it's about a parrot with no legs, but the full joke is never revealed to the audience. Just as well since the humor is in the Chirping Crickets reaction it invariably receives.
  • Picnic Episode: "The Picnic."
  • The Polly Anna: Alistair is usually enthusiastically positive about everything. On the rare occasions when he isn't, it's treated as a big deal.
  • Pretty Boy: Margaret's much younger boyfriend Gary, who Lionel and Jean later describe as a "toy boy" without much brain.
  • Put on a Bus: A Real Life Writes the Plot example. Joan Sims (Madge) became very ill by the end of the series and was unable to appear in the finale, and passed away before the reunion special. Her absence was explained as going on vacation to places Rocky wasn't interested in.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jean and Lionel deliver a blistering one to the townies after finding that they had their gardener Lol beaten up for getting mad at their off-roading through his garden. Jean ends by threatening to set the dogs on them—no, they don't have any dogs, but for the townies they'll get some.
  • Reset Button: Used much more sparingly than in most sitcoms, with many actions having consequences and being referenced later. See Brought Down to Normal for an exception.
  • Roadside Wave: Judy and Sandy get splashed in a rainstorm after an already-bad week thanks to Alastair and Harry. Lionel's unsympathetic reaction helps to kick off that episode's plot.
  • Rushed Inverted Reading: Jean quickly grabs a book and shoves one at Lionel to pretend they've been reading rather than sleeping when one of the girls knocks on the door.
  • Sassy Secretary: Sandy is definitely sassy, often gossiping with Judy about Jean's PL (personal life), and offering sage dating advice to her boss. She gets away with it because of her warm heart and skill at her job.
    "I'm only facetious on Fridays."
  • Scrabble Babble: (Series 5, Episode 1) During a game of Scrabble, after disagreements over furzes and an attempt to change cottage to pottage, Jean places flug and claims it's Old English.
  • Sexy Secretary: When Lionel hires a temp from Jean's second branch to help him revise his book, Jean is furious to learn that they have sent him a gorgeous secretary named Daisy. Although she is temporarily replaced by the distinctly non-sexy and endlessly talkative Gwen Flack, Daisy returns after Mrs. Flack relieves them all by going to live with her cousin in Dorset. Daisy is well-aware of this trope and not happy with it, as Sally Curtis had been sending her out to male clients with the recommendation of "bright and attractive" rather than just "bright".
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: When Lionel, Alastair, Judy, and Sandy go through a good deal of effort and subterfuge to arrange a surprise trip to Barbados for Lionel and Jean, the whole thing comes to naught because Jean's passport is out of date. But she's quite happy anyway that they tried it at all (and they go off to get her passport renewed before the credits roll).
  • Show Some Leg: This is hinted at rather innocently a number of times. In an early episode, Jean suggests that her daughter Judy cross her legs while apologizing to a man. She does this when speaking with Lionel, who notices, and asks her if she always does that. After being turned down for a promotion, Judy complains about feeling like her main job in the office is to be "knees and dimples" for unsatisfied customers.
  • Show Within a Show: Lionel's miniseries "Just Two People" based on his romance with Jean is featured prominently in the show. The miniseries tanks (thanks to some terrible acting and re-writes), but not before we get to see portions of just how awful it is.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: When the Dunkins move into the house next to Jean and Lionel's, the pair are invited over for drinks so the neighbors can meet. After an intense time where the husband and wife disagree about practically everything, Lionel and Alistar go to the neighborhood pub for a drink themselves. There Mr. Dunkin walks in with a black eye. A few minutes later, Jean arrives to tell them she went over to the Dunkins to return a forgotten item and saw Mrs. Dunkin also with a black eye. During this telling, Mrs. Dunkin shows up and silently stares down her husband, at which point they run into the other's arms and kiss passionately and he carries her our of the pub. Later episodes reveal this is a common occurrence between the pair.
  • Smithical Marriage: When Lionel and Jean slept together for the first time in their youth, Lionel checked them into the bed & breakfast as Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Smith in the faint hope that the unusual first name would make them more plausible. But they figure the employees probably figured it out from their evident nervousness and lack of luggage.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse:
    • Lampshaded by Jean in "The Mini-Series".
      Lionel: She seemed thoroughly nice.
      Jean: Did she flop on the desk and cry "Why is my beauty such a curse?"
    • Daisy has to actually deal with this, though, when she realizes Sally Curtis is describing her as "bright and attractive," and assigning her only to male clients.
  • Surprise Party: Stephen tries to throw a surprise anniversary party for Penny. When she notices his furtive behavior, she assumes he's having an affair—and he goes along with it because...
    "I'm not very good at thinking up excuses. So when she said 'you swine, you're having an affair!' I thought 'well that's a good excuse!'"
  • Stunned Silence: When Alistair starts to suggest that Judy move in with him, she tells him to clear off and then gives him a blistering "The Reason You Suck" Speech about his habit of disappearing from her life for weeks and then expecting her to put everything on hold for his convenience. He's left sitting dumbfounded at the kitchen table.
  • Take That!: The aforementioned miniseries is a none-too-subtle dig at American television.
  • Tantrum Throwing: At the very beginning of the series, a woman dismissed from the agency throws a shoe at the office window.
  • Tempting Fate: After discovering that Mrs Flack is "tidying" the house unasked-for, Lionel declares that he's definitely going to let her go and that nothing she says or does can make him go soft... then she turns up on crutches.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Lionel and Jean rekindle their romance when Jean, in her efforts to stop Penny's poor-Jeaning, says that she is already in a romantic relationship with him. As a result, Penny insists on moving them into the master bedroom. Lionel refuses to sleep in the chair and suggests they just deal with the situation like grown-ups by sharing the bed without comment. Then, once he and Jean are settled in, they lock eyes.
  • Thriving Ex-Crush: In the episode "Lionel's Ex-Wife", the titular Margaret contacts Lionel out of the blue and invites him out to have a drink; she is very different now, glamorous, lavishly dressed and with a handsome young boy toy. At the end of the episode, Margaret openly admits to Lionel and Jean that invoking this trope was her main reason for getting in touch.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Lionel's love of custard tarts.
  • Translator Buddy: Judy sometimes serves as this between Alastair and Lionel.
  • The Unpronounceable: "Mrs Thing" is referred to as that for this reason.
  • Upper-Class Twit:
    • The "gang" of townies in the country that Jean and Lionel eventually tell off for their rude behavior.
    • And Alistair of course, but at least he's likeable, more or less. (He seems to be rich more by work than by inheritance.)
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: In the first few series.
  • Wacky Guy:
    • Alistair is a millionaire publisher who is often completely incomprehensible to the other characters, using words like "hype," "mega," and "hey, hey, hey." He also seems to know just about everyone worth knowing, and often offers to help Lionel get dinner reservations or redecorate his apartment. He's also prone to grand romantic gestures; when Judy rejects his Herald-Gram, Alastair turns up on horseback in full armor.
    • Rocky definitely qualifies as well. He loves going on adventures, sees his age as no reason to not be happy with a new bride, but rather a reason to pursue happiness and getting as much joy out of life as he can.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: During the third series, Lionel learns his father, Rocky, is terminally ill and is not expected to last out the year. He apparently got better, because eleven years later he was still around for the reunion special, and suffering no apparent effects from his illness.
    • Although this could be logically explained if you assume the doctor on the other end of the line is the same doctor who made Mrs. Bale and Lionel feel absolutely rotten in one latter-season episode; if he could make Mrs. Bale feel like a used-up old rag (instead of feeling general exhaustion) and Lionel feel like he's on his last legs (instead of suffering from a minor illness), he could certainly convince Lionel that his father was close to his death bed (instead of going through a major but completely recoverable illness).
  • Will They or Won't They?: There was some question as to whether Judy and Alistair would get together. The two ping-ponged from dating to fighting to just friends, and after one offer to move in and two proposals scattered throughout the series, the two finally tie the knot in the final season.
  • You Owe Me: Lionel learns in season 2 that the reason Alistair has been personally taking care of Lionel's needs and not giving the job to some lower rank and file is Rocky loaned Alistair's father a considerable amount back in the 1940s so the man's publishing company could be started. Years later, presumably when Lionel told his father of the intention to write his book, Rocky called in the debt to not only help get the book published but Lionel well taken care of.