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Series / Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em

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Uh-oh, we're in trouble/Something's come along and it's burst our bubble.

Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em was a British Sitcom that originally aired on The BBC from 1973 to 1978, starring Michael Crawford as the hapless Frank Spencer. It was written by Raymond Allen, based on his own experiences as a single man. However, upon seeing the first draft for the script, Michael Crawford insisted that Frank have a wife. Michele Dotrice was then cast as the long-suffering Betty.

The series saw the well-meaning but disaster-prone Frank Spencer get himself into sticky situations, often causing someone else to break down or causing an unintentional path of destruction. Usually the episodes contained a character who is familiar with Spencer warning another character about working with him, but Frank always proves to be more of a burden than initially feared.

The series also focussed on Frank's role as a family man. Hence, it featured a Story Arc where Betty becomes pregnant and eventually gives birth to a girl, Jessica.


Episodes generally include stunt work performed by Crawford himself, often highly physical, that today would be unusual in an inexpensive half-hour Sitcom. With such a denouement in mind, typical plot lines involve picnics on high cliffs, driving lessons by the sea, household repairs, or a wide variety of new jobs such as motorcycle courier or high-rise window cleaner.

It returned for a sketch in 2016's Sports Relief telethon, with the 74 year old Crawford still doing his own stunts, as he attempted to get to the London Velodrome to see Jessica (now an adult) take part in a cycle race.

It was voted #22 in Britain's Best Sitcom.


This series provides examples of:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Frank uses "Ha-RASS-ed" instead of the traditionally British "HA-rassed". The effect of the joke has somewhat weakened in recent years due to the growing usage of the American pronunciation.
  • Accidental Pun: In "The Job Interview":
    "I do try Betty... no-one can be more trying than me..."
  • Badass Longcoat: Frank's trademark trenchcoat.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Frank's idea to escape the hotel room: "We can tie sheets together like in Colditz."
  • Bilingual Bonus: For those who understand Morse Code, the rhythm of the theme tune spells out the show's title.
  • British Brevity: The entire series is composed of three seasons (Season 1 had seven episodes, the other two had six) and three Christmas specials - a grand total of 22 episodes.
  • Captain Obvious: "Does he know what time it is?! The only reason I'm still awake is because I'm not asleep."
  • The Cast Show Off: Michael Crawford performed all his own stunts in the show, also demonstrating his singing chops in "Frank and Marvin".
  • Catchphrase: "Ooh Betty ..." is not Frank's only catchphrase of the series. Others include a quavering "Oooh ...", usually uttered with his forefinger to his mouth as he stands amidst the chaos of some disaster he has just caused (and which he himself has invariably escaped unscathed). He also sometimes complains about being "ha-RAS Sed!", or occasionally, "I've had a lot of ha-RAS Sments lately" (originally an American pronunciation). Other recurring catchphrases include references to "a bit of trouble", which usually implies some sort of undisclosed digestive disorder, and to the cat having "done a whoopsie" (presumably a euphemism for having defecated in an inappropriate place, on one occasion in Spencer's beret). If Frank is pleased (or confused) about something, he will often use the catchphrase "Mmmm — nice!" or "Ohhh — nice!"
  • Character Development: Frank receives some in Season 3, becoming more self-aware and keen to make himself appear more educated and well-spoken. He develops an air of pomposity, best demonstrated when someone enquires for "Mr Spencer?" - to which he habitually replies "I am he". He also becomes more self-assured, and much more willing to argue back when criticised, sometimes winning arguments by leaving his opponents dumbfounded by the bizarre nature of his statements.
  • Christmas Episode: "Jessica's First Christmas", "Learning to Drive" and "Learning to Fly" — although "Learning to Fly" has no Christmas theme and is deemed to be a Christmas special simply because it aired during the Christmas period.
  • Computer = Tapedrive: Mr Bradshaw's beloved HARPO in "The Employment Exchange".
  • Corpsing: One noticeable example occurs in "Wendy House" where Richard Wilson plays an insurance assessor who calls on Frank and Betty. All three sit on a sofa to discuss the situation and Wilson slowly sinks down into it so that he barely manages to come up to Crawford's shoulders. Michele Dotrice cannot stifle her laughter and this, in turn, causes both Crawford and Wilson to corpse. After a few seconds all three manage to pick up the script again and the take is retained in the finished edit.
  • Crash Course Landing: Frank is forced to make one after his instructor passes out mid-flight in "Learning to Fly".
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: A psychiatrist tries to goes to convince Frank that he's not a failure. By the end of the episode, the psychiatrist is a nervous wreck, and Frank is delighted to have been proved right - he is a failure.
  • Deus ex Machina: In "Cliffhanger", the rugby club's appearance was very timely.
  • Disappeared Dad: Frank claimed he last saw his father at Paddington Station when he was only 18 months old.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Every. Single. Time.
    • In "George's House" from Series 1, Frank and Betty are staying with Betty's brother George, whose house is completely fitted with gadgets that work using motion sensors. While trying to use the toilet without triggering the sensor that opens the door, Frank accidentally sets off the automatic flush, which gets stuck in the "on" position. His attempts to find the cistern cause the toilet to become blocked, until water pours into the bathroom and ultimately into the house's main control room. The circuits short out and the gadgets go haywire, just as George's boss is trying to persuade an American client to sign a contract to build other houses like George's. As the episode ends, the American client has driven off in a rage, George's wife is stuck in a downstairs window, smoke is pouring out of one upstairs window, and a jet of water is shooting out of another upstairs window, while Frank and Betty wonder if anyone noticed anything.
    • Perhaps the crowning example is the Series 1 episode "Have a Break, Take a Husband"; Frank and Betty go to a seaside B&B for a second honeymoon, but their room has twin beds rather than a double bed, and Frank, having already inadvertently led the proprietor to suspect that he and Betty are not really married, decides to push the beds together rather than asking for a different room. However, the bed snags on the cheap linoleum and tears a hole in it, which Frank tries to cover up. By the end of the episode, through a combination of his own ineptitude and the room's shoddy construction, he has torn a floor mat in half, broken several drawers apart, broken the door off the wardrobe, smashed a hole through the floor in the middle of the room, convinced a nervous fellow guest that his dead grandfather is trying to contact him, put two more holes in the floor under the bed, ripped the washbasin from the wall, and demolished the hotel bar as he and Betty make a midnight getaway.
  • Drives Like Crazy: In "Learning To Drive", when Frank takes his Driving Test (for the tenth time) but ends up driving the car off a pier into the sea.
    • Also, the famous motorbike sequence in "King of the Road".
  • Episode on a Plane: "Learning to Fly".
  • Expy: Frank has similar characteristics to Brian Runnicles from No Sex Please Were British, whom Crawford played on the London stage. In fact, this led to him getting the role.
  • Foil: Betty is this to Frank's extreme bouts of clumsiness.
  • Generation Xerox: In the Sports Relief special, Jessica has turned out just as hapless and klutzy as her father.
  • Happily Married: Despite everything, Frank and Betty's marriage is steady and they both clearly adore each other and their daughter.
  • Irish Priest: The long-suffering Father O'Hara. In one episode Frank even asks him about joining the priesthood.
  • The Jinx: Frank Spencer embodies this trope.
  • The Klutz: Frank Spencer is this trope Up to Eleven.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: This is the subject of the episode "Cliffhanger", where Frank accidentally reverses the company car of his latest job halfway over the edge of a cliff while on a picnic with Betty.
  • Loser Son of Loser Mum: Frank's reputation is made even worse by the fact his mother was as much of a Walking Disaster Area as he is.
  • Malaproper: "I was ejaculated from my home" being the most famous example.
  • Meet Cute: A flashback shows that Frank and Betty met at a horseriding school; Frank fell off his horse and Betty offered to help him find it.
  • Manchild: Frank's behaviour, way of thinking and emotional vulnerability makes him one of these.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Invoked in "The Job Interview" and in the flashbacks of "The Psychiatrist".
  • Mistaken for Gay: Whenever anyone reaches for Frank, he protests, "I'm a married man!"
  • Mooning: An unintentional example. At the very end of "Scottish Dancing", Frank's kilt suddenly falls down to reveal he is not wearing any underwear. Michael Crawford and the director of the episode initially rehearsed the scene with Crawford wearing Union Jack underwear to elicit the right reaction from the rest of the cast during filming.
  • Moral Guardians: Mary Whitehouse was an outspoken critic of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, at one point calling Frank Spencer a "purveyor of pornography"... just because he alluded to some downstairs trouble in one episode.
    • Frank does indeed (unknowingly) become a literal purveyor of pornography during his job as a motorbike carrier.
    • Frank also quietly assumes this role in "Men as Women" when he discovers Dr Mender, in full drag, in his house.
  • Nice Hat: Frank's signature beret.
  • No Social Skills: Frank is bewildered by everyone around him.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Frank and Betty's mother do not get on. It doesn't help that she knew his mother and hated her too.
  • Oh, Crap!: You can tell Frank knows he's in trouble when he places his index finger next to his mouth and gives a quavering "Ooh!"
  • One-Book Author: This was the only sitcom Raymond Allen ever created.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When she appears in "The Hospital Visit", Elisabeth Sladen 's Merseyside accent starts showing through the cockney one she affects.
  • Panicky Expectant Father: Frank is this just before Jessica is born.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: A stage adaptation, written and directed by Guy Unsworth based on the TV series began a UK tour at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon in February 2018 starring Joe Pasquale as Frank Spencer, with Sarah Earnshaw as Betty and Susie Blake as Mrs Fisher. Due to the success of the 2018 tour, the production began another tour in from February 2020, however due to the coronavirus pandemic many dates were cancelled.
  • Series Continuity Error: The Season 3 episode "Men as Women" marks the first appearance of Dr Mender as the Spencers' GP. However, this marks a continuity error as Dr Mender claims to have been Frank's GP for years and to still have Frank's chimney brush up his chimney when this in fact all happened to Dr Smedley.
  • Special Effect Failure: An in-universe example — Frank's performance in "Frank and Marvin", with his terrible ventriloquism act, bad jokes and his human "Vesuvius" effect which he sets off by accident.
  • Smart House: In "George's House".
  • Sticky Situation: The main plot in "Wendy House". Frank has been using superglue to build furniture to replace the items that were destroyed when he and Betty moved to their new house, and is waiting for a bus with a chair he has just made. Also waiting for a bus are an elderly woman who is feeling a bit giddy and her son, who helps her into the chair before Frank can point out that it is made with superglue; inevitably, she gets stuck to it, then the son gets stuck to the bus stop sign after handling the tube of superglue. Frank tries to enlist the help of the conductor of the bus when it arrives, but soon they are both stuck to the chair. When all four of them are taken to Accident and Emergency, they find Frank's DIY instructor, who got superglued to the classroom telephone.
  • Teetering on the Edge: In "Cliffhanger", Frank's latest job includes a company car which he and Betty use to go on a picnic. Things start out well enough until Frank manages to reverse the car halfway over the edge of the cliff. In his efforts to retrieve it, Frank ends up dangling off the rear bumper, over the edge of the cliff.
  • Title Theme Tune: The theme tune is the show's title in Morse Code.
  • Trash the Set: Practically in every episode, but this trope is the focal point of the episode "Have a Break, Take a Husband", where the hotel room starts with torn linoleum and ends up with several holes in the floor, most of the furniture destroyed, and finally the sink ripped off the wall.
  • The Un-Smile: Frank's attempt at practising a polite smile in "The Job Interview" manages to knock an employee into the pipes display.
  • Vandalism Backfire: The series used this trope several times in episodes where Frank accidentally provokes someone to a destructive but inaccurately targeted fit of anger.
    • In "The Public Relations Course", while spending the night at the house at which the title course is being held, Frank sits on his hot water bottle, causing it to spring a leak. He leaves the room to take a phone call, leaving the hot water bottle on a chair next to the bed of Eddie, a coursemate who has taken Frank under his wing. When he comes back, he accidentally squirts water from the leak into the face of Lang, a militant coursemate. In revenge, Lang empties the bottle all over what he thinks is Frank's bed, ignoring Frank's protests as Eddie returns from the bathroom. As Frank sheepishly gets into his own bed and wishes Eddie good night, Eddie attacks Lang for soaking his bed.
    • In the 1974 Christmas special, "Jessica's First Christmas", Frank gets a job at the same firm as his neighbour, Mr Jackson, who is already angry at Frank over the fact that his one-year-old daughter cries loudly every night. At one point, Frank finds Jackson's folded coat and thinks he sees something moving under it, so he puts a lit pipe under it to smoke out the "animal", setting fire to it, and then further ruining it by soaking it in water. When Jackson sees the damage done to his coat, he empties tea into the bag Frank is carrying... which turns out to be the head of the firm's bag.
    • In "Australia House", an argument between Frank and his next-door neighbour, Mr Lewis, results in the two of them demanding the return of borrowed gardening implements, including a hoe Frank borrowed from Mr Lewis. After the argument escalates to the point that Frank accidentally knocks down the fence Mr Lewis put up between their gardens to keep the Spencers' dog from defecating in his garden, Mr Lewis grabs the hoe and saws it in half, not realising it is his own until Frank points it out. Enraged, Mr Lewis throws the pieces aside... straight through the glass of his greenhouse.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside
  • Walking Disaster Area: Frank Spencer, again. Made even more apparent by the fact that Frank neither means any harm nor does he want to cause it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Season 3 seems to have erased all mention and memory of Dr Smedley.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The RAF Reunion", "The Psychiatrist", "The Employment Exchange".
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: In "Men as Women", Frank's shock at his doctor dressed in drag subsides when he realises that both the doctor and his colleague were only playing dames in a local Cinderella pantomime. Upon hearing that one of the Ugly Sisters is ill, Frank even offers to fill in at the end of the episode.

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