THE comedy writer Bob Larbey, whose work included hit TV shows The Good Life and Please Sir!, has passed away at the age of 79.
Mr. Larby was a member of one of the most successful writing partnerships in British comedy over the past 60 years. He and John Esmonde (1937—2008) had met while at school in South London. They cut their teeth on writing sketches for radio shows such as I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again.
Their major break in television came in 1968 with Please Sir! (see below). The BBC had turned down the show but Frank Muir, who was then head of entertainment at LWT, gave it the green light. The show, which starred John Alderton and Deryck Guyler, was set in a tough South London secondary school. It quickly became a hit with viewers and would eventually spawn a sequel, The Fenn Street Gang.
Larbey and Esmonde then struck comedy gold again when they came up with the idea for a sit-com set in suburbia, which featured a middle class couple leaving the rat race to embark on life of self-sufficiency, much to the horror of their snobbish neighbours. The Good Life (see below), which starred Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal, became one of the BBC’s most popular shows during its run between 1975 and 1978.
Richard Briers would go on to star in three other series penned by the pair — The Other One, Ever Decreasing Circles (see below) and Down To Earth.
Another major success for Mr. Larbey and his partner was Brush Strokes (see below). The sit-com, which starred Karl Howman as painter and decorator Jacko, ran for five series from 1986 to 1991. Mr. Howman also starred in Larbey & Esmonde’s Mulberry.
Mr. Larbey also enjoyed success as a solo writer. He wrote the screenplays for the first four episodes of The Darling Buds of May, which starred David Jason. Other solo work included two hits which starred Judi Dench — A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By (see below), which also starred Geoffrey Palmer.
Mr. Larbey is survived by his son. His wife, Patricia, passed away in 2006.
To see an excerpt from an episode of Please Sir!, click here.
To view an excerpt from The Good Life, click here.
To see a clip from Ever Decreasing Circles, click here.
To view an excerpt from Brush Strokes, click here.
To see a clip from As Time Goes By, click here.
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