Happy Families, 1985
Ben Elton’s spin on the brilliant 1949 Ealing film Kind Hearts And Coronets cast Jennifer Saunders in multiple roles: as all four daughters of the Fuddle family and also as their mad granny Edith.
Not an enormous ratings success and more a self contained comedy than a traditional sitcom, Happy Families was broadcast in 6 parts in 1985. The humour was robust, vulgar and semi-surreal, but it did benefit from an all star cast.
Despite it’s lack of success it made writer Ben Elton the youngest sole BBC script writer on a mainstream programme at the age of 26, having made his name few years earlier as head writer on The Young Ones. He has since said he considers Happy Families to be amongst his best work.
The show has never had an official DVD or video release.
Happy Families told the tale of the dysfunctional Fuddle family. The story revolves around grandson Guy Fuddle’s attempts to track down his four sisters for a family reunion.
Edith Fuddle charges her dopey grandson Guy with the task of tracking down and reuniting his four lost sisters, ostensibly so that, as her dying wish, she could see her family together one last time.
So off goes Guy to find the missing siblings, with the middle four episodes dedicated to the hunt for each one: TV soap star Cassie, jailbird Roxanne, novice nun Joyce, and dumb beauty Madeleine.
The final episode brings about the unlikely reunion and reveals Granny’s real and sinister motive for bringing the grandchildren together – she required an organ transplant from each of them in order to save her life. The siblings agreed, provided that first she assign them her entire estate. In a final twist it is discovered that Granny is not ill but, miraculously, pregnant, so she is left penniless but holding the baby.
Jennifer Saunders – Granny, Cassie, Madeleine, Joyce and Roxanne Fuddle (6 episodes)
Adrian Edmundson – Guy Fuddle
Dawn French – Cook
Stephen Fry – Dr. De Quincy
Written By: Ben Elton
Original Transmission Dates: 17th October – 21st November 1985