As Time Goes By

Sometimes the art of making a successful sitcom looks effortless and with both its tight scripts and the starring talents of Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, As Time Goes By is a fine example. Their two characters: Jean and Lionel, fell in love during the early 1950s, but when army officer Lionel was sent to Korea they lost touch after a letter he sent her never arrived.

Both assumed the other had lost interest, but 38 years later their paths cross again, when Lionel returns to England to write his memoirs of life in the army and as a coffee-planter in Kenya (imaginatively titled ‘My Life in Kenya’). Seeking an agency temp to handle the typing, he is sent a young secretary in the form of Judith Pargetter and after hitting it off they agree to meet for dinner. That evening, though, Lionel also chances upon meeting her mother and his long-lost sweetheart: Jean.

But could their love be rekindled after so long?

Across nine series, audiences followed their complicated relationships as other admirers vied for Jean and Lionel’s affections (including double-divorcee Judith’s crush on Lionel, and his smooth agent Alistair’s fondness for Jean). Eventually, though, Judith and Alistair fall in love and the path is cleared for Lionel and Jean to get back together and marry, although their strong characters and colourful past ensured there was always something for them to fret about and for viewers to laugh at.

The finely judged scripts were penned by Bob Larbey, who’d co-written The Good Life as well as another romantic sitcom with Judi Dench (A Fine Romance) and although its gentle brand of middle-class humour wasn’t a cross-generational hit, As Time Goes By maintained a strong popularity and even occasionally contained edgier storylines that belied its twee image.

Perhaps surprisingly, the show also achieved the notoriously difficult feat of ‘breaking’ America, where Judi Dench (despite her string of high-profile film roles) became best known as Jean.

After the last series ended in 2002, viewers were given the chance to catch up with their beloved characters over a two-part special in 2005, which neatly rounded off the story with a characteristic and satisfying polish.

Season 4
Episode
Date & time
 
10: Improvements
 
10: Improvements
Thu 2 May·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Fri 3 May·11:25am
 
 
Fri 3 May·3:20pm
9: Judith's New Romance
 
9: Judith's New Romance
Wed 1 May·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Thu 2 May·11:25am
8: Wedding Day Nerves
 
8: Wedding Day Nerves
Tue 30 April·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Wed 1 May·11:25am
7: Wedding Preparations
 
7: Wedding Preparations
Mon 29 April·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Tue 30 April·11:25am
6: The Anniversary Party
 
6: The Anniversary Party
Fri 26 April·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Mon 29 April·11:25am
5: Welcome News
 
5: Welcome News
Thu 25 April·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Fri 26 April·11:25am
4: The Affair
 
4: The Affair
Wed 24 April·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Thu 25 April·11:25am
3: Getting Rid Of Gwen
 
3: Getting Rid Of Gwen
Tue 23 April·8:00pm
Rec
 
 
Wed 24 April·11:25am
2: Rewrites
 
2: Rewrites
Tue 23 April·11:25am
2: Getting To Know You - Again
 
2: Getting To Know You - Again
Tue 7 May·7:35am
1: You Must Remember This
 
1: You Must Remember This
Mon 6 May·7:35am
Rec
 
 
Mon 6 May·11:25am