Just Good Friends (TV Series 1983–1986) Poster

(1983–1986)

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The best of British sitcoms.
Scaramouche200419 July 2004
Recently the BBC held a poll on what the British people considered to be the jewel in the crown of British sitcoms. Number One was not surprisingly Only Fools and Horses. Although very funny indeed and starring the best performers in the business, there are other sitcoms which were more deserving of this high honour.

One of these is Just Good Friends. What I find amazing is that this gem of a sitcom was penned by John Sullivan who also wrote 'Fools and Horses' yet this effort only seems to have scraped into the top fifty in the number forty-three position.

Again I put this down to ignorance. The British public these days seem to have forgotten all that is in our great past and constantly fail to acknowledge anything other than what is force-fed them on a daily basis or what they can find at the end of their noses.

Only Fools and Horses is still given regular repeats on the BBC and on satellite channels and although the first episode was screened 23 years ago, two years before Just Good Friends came into being, there is still enough of them around today to continue wetting our appetites and therefore it still holds our interest.

However, Just Good Friends, which I will hereafter refer to as "JGF" to save time and wrist-ache, has not been given this same preferential treatment. It is rarely seen on our screens nowadays and only now, despite it's age has it been available to buy on DVD or video, and then through a company other than the BBC.

Why is this show treated this way? It is my opinion that it is one of the funniest shows ever.

Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis are outstanding in their roles as the ex-lovers who are reunited five years after he jilted her at the alter. Vincent is the cockney, unreliable, Jack-the-lad with a witty one-liner for every occasion and Penny is the posh, prim and proper lady who despite her reserved exterior still manages to ooze pure sexuality from every pore.

We are thereafter blessed with three series' and twenty-two episodes where their up/down, on/off and occasionally in/out relationship has us in hysterics and sometimes tears as they come to realize that whatever love threw them together in the first place is still strong and cannot be ignored.

They were surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, especially Sylvia Kay and John Ringham as Penny's upper class parents, who sometimes steal the entire episode.

Sylvia's portrayal of Daphne, is fantastic...a snob to the core. She hates Vince and everything about him, yet who can blame her? After all he failed to turn up to his own wedding leaving her only daughter heartbroken and humiliated. However, it is entertaining in certain episodes to learn that she too has had her share of "Vincents" during her life time and was once herself a slave to the same kind of excitement and 'off the cuff' lifestyle.

John Ringham however is the lovable Norman who dotes on his daughter and is hen-pecked by his wife. Despite their past, he quietly supports Penny in her quest for love with Vince and at times he genuinely seems to like him. He is the kind of understanding and practical father, I myself had and at times you just feel like cuddling him to death.

As sitcoms go, this has more ingredients than most and relies heavily on the clever writing and the deliverance of the jokes compared with others where the humour is mainly visual and physical . We have a battle of the sexes not only between Vince and Penny, but between both sets of parents, we have culture and class differences which always makes for great comedy and we have a genuine love story which never fails to boost ratings on T.V or film.

It is so touching to see such love between two people, for no matter how selfish and ignorant Vince can be, or how snobby and disagreeable Penny can be, they always return to each other because their love overcomes everything else.

If you love romantic comedy films like I do, then JGF is a real treat of a show because if you had the time, the inclination and a comfortable enough seat, you can watch each episode back to back and have the best romantic comedy film ever, running a staggering eleven hours. "Bring it on" thats what I say.

Compare this true but often ignored great with the funny but somewhat over rated 'Fools and Horses' You'll probably find this one is better. I do.
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Just Good Friends
JBlck213 January 2006
It seems amazing that it is roughly 23 years since this sit-com was broadcast on BBC, but to me it is one of the most endearing and enjoyable comedies that the BBC ever produced.

The chemistry between the two main characters, Penny and Vince, is quite addictive, and it is helped by the fact that the two actors who took the parts, Jan Francis and Paul Nicholas, were both extremely good-looking in their own right, and apparently off-screen shared a similar sense of humour. The supporting cast, {in particular Sylvia Kay as Daphne, Pennys mother} helped this comedy to become a true classic, almost ageless in quality.

John Sullivan has often received so many plaudits for the great 'Only Fools And Horses' and rightly so, but to me personally, Just Good Friends had everything that you could want in entertainment, a great cast, good story lines, great one-liners, plenty of laughter, sadness, and hope. I just hope that todays generation will get a glimpse of it sometime, and become as addicted as I did.
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7/10
Just good laughs
studioAT19 May 2011
John Sullivan was one of the best British comedy writers ever and this sitcom proves that.

Each episode is well crafted with lots of warm hearted moments that puts the crude comedy of today to shame. Every character is three dimensional and real to the point where we root for them and wish them well.

It is such a shame that this sitcom is not repeated very often because lots of the jokes still remain as funny as they were when the show was first broadcast.

However the biggest shame is that John Sullivan is still not around today to create more fantastic moments of comedy like he has in this great BBC sitcom.
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10/10
Just Good Comedy
ShadeGrenade24 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
John Sullivan had scored two major sitcom hits with 'Citizen Smith' and 'Only Fools & Horses' when he came up with this charming show. 'Just Good Friends' was a romantic comedy series that teamed Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis. They had wonderful chemistry together, and Sullivan provided them with some great lines.

The premise is this; Vince Pinner ( Nicholas ) and Penny Warrender ( Francis ) bump into one another one evening in a pub. They were supposed to have gotten married five years earlier but he got cold feet and failed to turn up at the church. Penny then married a bloke by the name of Pratt but it did not work out ( no wonder with a name like that ). Vince felt he was not yet ready for marriage. But now he is, and sets out trying to win Penny back. Not everyone is happy about this. Penny's snobbish mother Daphne ( Sylvia Kay ) for one.

'Vince' was easily the most charming rogue since Michael Caine's 'Alfie', and had female viewers swooning, but us blokes got the hots for 'Penny'. While Penny's parents were posh, Vince's ( played by Shaun Curry and Ann Lynn ) were straight out of 'Viz' - loud, uncouth, and owning a garishly decorated car which Penny's mother referred to somewhat uncharitably as 'the Batmobile'. There was talk of the Pinners landing a spin-off show, but it never came about.

Nicholas performed the Sullivan-penned theme song. An instrumental version played over the end credits, followed by a short scene ( which I usually missed as my father had by then changed channels ). Probably the most memorable episode was the one in which Penny thought she was pregnant, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Vince and Penny seemed circumspect about the news. But once alone, she burst into tears, and he casually threw away the teddy bear he had just bought.

Sylvia Kay's 'Daphne' stole the show. Her role as Christopher Blake's dimwitted mother in 'Mixed Blessings' never really did the actress justice, but this did. Here she was cast as the mother-in-law from Hell, and spat out her lines with the required venom. The late John Ringham was also good as her husband, Norman, a nice chap who seemed to occupy a different planet to everyone else.

The 'will-they-won't-they?' game kept millions of viewers in suspense. So popular was the show that when John Sullivan tried to end it after the second season, there was a public outcry. The final episode had Vince and Penny once more drifting apart, but fans were not about to let them stay this way. They were reunited on Christmas Day 1984 for a prequel to the series, depicting their courtship and dramatising the marriage-that-never-was. But even this did not satisfy viewers and in 1986, a third series appeared. It was by far the weakest of the lot ( Sullivan's heart was clearly not in it ), but it gave fans the happy ending they craved - the wedding of Vince and Penny.

Repeats of the show on terrestrial channels have surprisingly been few and far between ( although it is still shown on Sky ). Thankfully the first two seasons are on D.V.D. Nicholas only did one more sitcom - the dire 'Close To Home' for I.T.V. which cast him as a naff vet. Francis returned to drama.

Though there was an alternative comedy boom in the '80's, 'Just Good Friends' reminds us that the traditional sitcom had not yet died. On the contrary, it was in the best of health.
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10/10
Choosing the best of two perfect comedies....
robbcollett16 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
.... and that is what choosing between "Just Good Friends" and "Only fools and Horses" is all about. I think that AdamFontaine is either brave or foolish to compare these two wonderfully entertaining series.

Personally, I just loved them both. Every Shakespeare fan has his/her favourite work as does every Chaucer fan. Every Picasso devotee has a favourite painting. Me? Well, I could never get into "Citizen Smith" which was also written by John Sullivan because it was just too silly and had no real plausibility. The main character was far too "over the top" BUT, that is just my taste and opinion. If you loved "Citizen Smith" then please disregard my view of it and indulge yourself in its splendour, for you. That is the sheer joy and vive la difference.

As regards "Just Good Friends" and "Only fools and Horses", how do you measure the difference? Both had moments of almost every human emotion from despair to sheer joyful happiness and fun. Personally, I crave "Just Good Friends" more but that is probably solely due to the BBC's incompetance (or commercial exploitation) in scheduling distribution in a commercial format.... and someone, somewhere is gonna make a "nice earner" from "Just Good Friends".

I was hooked from the very first broadcast. As the series progressed, it just got better and better. Not just me, my Mum, my wife and my sons all found this series to be in the highest of BBC offerings.

Is it better than "Only fools and Horses"? It depends solely upon you as an individual and your preference. The BBC has produced many superb series all of which are equal to "Just Good Friends". The main thing is that none are better. This is one of an elite group of programmes. Choosing the best is just a very personal and individual choice.

"Just Good Friends" is entertainment personified. One of those "accidents" when everything gels from the writing through the direction and production to the acting all just come together. Above all, it's timeless and still as relevant and funny today as it was 26 years ago.
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another good comedy from john sullivan
marlowe_is_dead13 June 2002
i saw this 19 years after it was first released. the BBC have started running it from the start, and i couldn't move after watching the World Cup on tv, and on this popped -- i remember being a kid when this was on, but didn't know anything about it -- anyways, the first episode got me suckered in with a reminiscing jerk of the emotions... i have seen about 7 episodes now, and the one liners can be great, the inter-action between the 2 leads is cute, and i'm interested to see the direction it will go :)

not as good as only fools and horses (sullivan's more renowned comedy series) but very good nonetheless... oh, and i really dig that theme song! ;)
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8/10
''Hello Pen!''
RaspberryLucozade29 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
By the start of the '80's, the late John Sullivan had two sitcom successes under his belt - 'Citizen Smith' and 'Only Fools & Horses'. In 1983, he notched up his third hit for the BBC, 'Just Good Friends', starring former pop star turned actor Paul Nicolas ( anyone remember his 1976 chart hit 'Grandma's Party'? ) and stage actress Jan Francis. Unlike the previous two shows, the lead of this show was a woman. Sullivan made this a necessary condition after a remark was made to him by actress Cheryl Hall ( who appeared in 'Citizen Smith' ) who claimed that he was incapable of writing funny lines for women. 'Just Good Friends' proved Hall wrong. Jan Francis proved a funny yet believable lead, supported by an excellent performance from her ruggedly handsome co-star Paul Nicolas.

Paul and Jan played Vince Pinner and Penny Warrender. He a bookmaker and her an advertising firm secretary. Five years prior to the series, Penny and Vince were meant to be married but Vince started to have second thoughts and, as his friend and best man put it, 'done a moody' ( in other words he jilted Penny ) on the morning of the wedding. They meet by chance in a pub whilst on respective dates and after some initial bickering the relationship is slowly rekindled.

Penny's superficial and snobbish mother Daphne ( Sylvia Kay ) and her unemployed husband ( the late John Ringham ) are less than pleased to see the roguish Vince back in their daughter's life again. Vince's parents however, the loud and coarse Rita and Les ( Ann Lynn and Shaun Curry ), who run a successful scrap metal business, seem pleased that Penny is back on the scene and rebuke their son for his jilting of her.

Nicolas and the gorgeous Francis both played their parts to perfection but the support cast, particularly Shaun Curry and John Ringham, were also fantastic. The late Derek Newark had a couple of memorable roles as Vince's shady boss. Sylvia Kay's portrayal of Daphne was a world away from her portrayal as the scatterbrained Annie in 'Mixed Blessings'. The show seemed to end after two series. Fans were disappointed to see that Pen and Vince hadn't tied the knot. Even a 90 minute Christmas special, done as a prequel, leading up to the events in the pilot, was not enough to cool them off. A third series arrived in 1986 and while it was worst of the run it at least let fans have the happy ending in which they longed for in which Penny and Vince finally got married.

'Just Good Friends' was certainly no 'Only Fools' but then having said that none of Sullivan's other shows were either but it was enjoyable and at heart a touching love story.
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