As Time Goes By is a British sitcom that aired on BBC One from 1992 to 2005. Starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, it follows the relationship between two former lovers who meet unexpectedly after not being in contact for 38 years.
The programme's title is a reference to the 1931 popular song "As Time Goes By", which was also used as the title music, recorded by Joe Fagin.
The show was written by Bob Larbey, who had co-written The Good Life. In 2004, As Time Goes By came 29th in Britain's Best Sitcom.
Lionel Hardcastle and Nurse Jean Pargetter met in the summer of 1953 or 1954 (depending on the episode) and fell in love, but when Lionel was sent to Korea
they lost touch. He had sent her a letter when he arrived in Korea, which she did not receive, and both assumed the other had lost interest. After his war service, Lionel had gone to Kenya
and became a coffee planter. He and his wife Margaret had divorced on the grounds of "mutual boredom", and he had moved back to England. Jean married, and after her husband's death set up "Type for You", a secretarial agency. She has a daughter, Judith Hanson, who had married twice, with both ending in divorce.
In the opening episodes, 38 years later, Lionel selects "Type for You" to finalize the copy for his book My Life in Kenya
. When Jean and Lionel both recognize who the other is, their romance begins to blossom again, but only after a slow start. In the third series, Lionel moves into Jean's house in Holland Park
, and they marry the following series.
As the series begins, Judith develops a crush on Lionel, and his publisher Alistair Deacon takes an interest in Jean. Both crushes are brief, and eventually Judith and Alistair fall for each other and later marry. Other plot lines feature Lionel being asked to write an American TV mini-series, Just Two People, based on his early romance with Jean. The mini-series failed after one episode. Jean eventually retires from her company, and later donates work hours for a charity shop.
Jean's very efficient secretary and Judith's best friend is Sandy, who eventually moves in with the Hardcastles after splitting with her boyfriend Nick. She later starts dating a policeman and rugby player called Harry whom, at the end of the series, she marries. Other characters are Lionel's father, Rocky, who owns a large house in Hampshire which he later gives to Lionel. The housekeeper is Mrs. Bale, who has an unusual interest in the Shipping Forecast, and the gardener is Lol Ferris. Rocky marries Madge when he is 85 and she is 78, and they frequently travel around the world. Madge was played by Joan Sims, who died between the filming of Series Eight and Nine. In Series Nine, Madge is mentioned as being on an archaeological dig in Egypt. The Reunion Specials were Middlemass's last television appearance before his death in 2006. Jean's first husband's sister Penny, who always calls Jean "poor Jean", and her dentist husband Stephen, who once accidentally declined the OBE, also make many appearances.
The programme ran for nine series from 12 January 1992 to 4 August 2002. Almost all episodes were 30 minutes in duration. The final series episode was followed by an hour-long compilation show on the 11 August 2002, and by a two part "Reunion Special" broadcast on 26
and 30 December 2005.
As Time Goes By
is sometimes on BBC America
, and frequently on PBS
across the country; this has made it a popular programme in the United States
. It has also been broadcast in Canada
, on BBC Canada
, in Australia
and in New Zealand
and SKY Network Television
As Time Goes By
was adapted and recorded for radio. Three series were broadcast on BBC Radio 2
between 1997 and 1999. The first episode included a flashback to Jean and Lionel 38 years before, something that never happened on television. All episodes correspond to a TV episode and featured the original cast. So far, only the first series has been released on BBC Audio Cassette.
Series One (1997)
- "Episode One" (18 March 1997)
- "Episode Two" (25 March 1997)
- "Episode Three" (1 April 1997)
- "Episode Four" (9 April 1997)
- "Episode Five" (16 April 1997)
- "Episode Six" (23 April 1997)
- "Episode Seven" (30 April 1997)
Series Two (1998)
- "Episode One" (18 January 1998)
- "We'll Always Have Paris" (25 January 1998)
- "Living Together — But Where?" (1 February 1998)
- "Covering Up" (8 February 1998)
- "Moving In" (15 February 1998)
- "Branching Out" (22 February 1998)
Series Three (1999)
- "The Mini Series" (14 February 1999)
- "Dealing With Sally" (21 February 1999)
- "Problems, Problems" (28 February 1999)
- "A House Full of Women" (7 March 1999)
- "Getting Rid of Gwen" (14 March 1999)
- "The Affair" (21 March 1999)
- "The Anniversary Party" (28 March 1999)
The complete series was released in DVD region code 2
by Cinema Club, in DVD region code 1 by BBC America and as five sets in DVD region code 4 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Mark Lewisohn, "Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy", BBC Worldwide Ltd, 2003