The series followed the accident-prone Frank Spencer and his tolerant wife Betty through Frank's various attempts to hold down a job, which frequently end in disaster.
Noted for its stuntwork, as well as featuring various well-remembered catchphrases, the series was voted #22 in the BBC's poll to find "Britain's Best Sitcom".
The wimpish smiling Frank, sporting his trademark beret and trench coat, was married to (apparently normal) Betty (Michele Dotrice) and in later series they had a baby daughter, Jessica, which offered scope for even more slapstick humour. Frank was a gift for impersonators, and for a time it became a cliché that every half-decent impersonator was doing him, particularly his main catchphrase "Ooh Betty", which, although assumed in many references in popular culture, he never actually says.
This was not Frank's only catchphrase of the series. Others included a quavering "Oooh...", usually uttered with his forefinger to his mouth as he stood amidst the chaos of some disaster he had just caused (and which he himself had invariably escaped unscathed). He would also also sometimes complain about being "ha-RASSed!", or occasionally, "I've had a lot of ha-RASSments lately" (surprisingly, most people now use this pronunciation). Other recurring catchphrases included references to "a bit of trouble", which usually implied some sort of undisclosed digestive disorder, and reference to the cat having done a "whoopsie" (on one occasion in Spencer's beret).
Despite his unfailing ability to infuriate people, Frank was essentially a very sympathetic character, who inspired as much affection from his audience as from his ever-loving and patient wife, Betty. The ability to convey this lovable aspect of his character - which meant that, crucially, the audience was always on Frank's 'side' - was a notable achievement of the writer and main actors. For all his extraordinary faults, we never doubted that Frank adored Betty and would do anything for her, and in their own way they were blissfully happy together. He also adored the memory of his late mother and - in later episodes - also worshipped his daughter, Jessica (named after his mother). Indeed, at times in the series there were some remarkably poignant moments amid the chaos, as for example the scene in which he serenades his young baby with a lullaby to send her to sleep.
For the final series, made 3 years after the previous one, Frank's character changed markedly. He became more self-aware, and keen to make himself appear more educated and well-spoken.
Crawford himself has talked of how he based many of Frank's reactions on those of a young child, and of how he found it difficult to break out of the public association with the role, despite his later career as a hugely successful musical performer on the West End and Broadway stage, in popular shows such as Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.
In addition to Frank and Betty, every episode would introduce at least one other character (a doctor, a neighbour, an employer etc) who would be seen to gradually suffer the inevitably chaotic consequences of Frank's fleeting presence in their lives. These characters were often played by some of the great recognisable character actors of the 1970s British sit-com era, and indeed spotting these famous faces - and enjoying their reactions to the torture of Frank's hapless influence - is one of the joys of watching the series. Examples of actors appearing in one episode only included Fulton Mackay, Glyn Edwards, George A. Cooper, James Cossins, Richard Wilson and Christopher Timothy.
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|Getting a Job (aka The Job Interview||15 February|
|George's House||22 February|
|Love Thy Neighbour||1 March|
|Have a Break, Take a Husband||8 March|
|The Hospital Visit||15 March|
|The Psychiatrist||22 March|
|The Employment Exchange||29 March|
|The RAF Reunion||29 November|
|The Public Relations Course||6 December|
|Frank and Marvin||13 December|
|Fathers' Clinic''||20 December|
|The Baby Arrives||27 December|
|Jessica's First Christmas||25 December|
|Learning to Drive||25 December|
|Moving House||11 November|
|Wendy House||18 November|
|Scottish Dancing||25 November|
|Men as Women||2 December|
|King of the Road (aka Demon King)||9 December|
|Australia House||16 December|
|Learning to Fly||25 December|