Mind Your Language
is a British comedy television series
, that premiered on ITV
in late 1977. Produced by LWT
and directed by Stuart Allen, it is set in a school for adult students in London
, focusing on the English as a Foreign Language
class taught by Mr. Jeremy Brown, portrayed by Barry Evans
, who had to deal with a motley crew of foreigners. Three series were made by LWT between 1977-79, and the show was briefly revived in 1986 with some of the original cast.
The series focuses on the adult students of the English as a Foreign Language class in a London school. The classes take place in the early evening, and are taught by Mr. Brown, though on occasion other individuals take over the class if he is not available. The class consists of foreigners with varying degrees of English proficiency. The humour of the show is derived from the students misunderstanding English words or terms, and plays up to the cultural stereotype
of their individual nation of origin.
Season One takes place over a full school year, starting with Mr. Brown being hired by the Headmistress Miss Courtney, and ends with the students sitting for their Lower Cambridge Certificate. Season Two begins at the start of the next school year, with all ten previous students returning after having failed their exam, and two new students joining them, for a total of twelve. Season One and Two primarily took place within the classroom, but the later seasons explored settings outside of the school.
More recently the show has been criticised as being politically incorrect and even racist, but in its day the show was popular because of its light-hearted take on multiculturalism and because it gave some otherwise unrepresented minorities a television presence, albeit represented as caricatures.
The show was cancelled in 1979 by Michael Grade
, then LWT's Deputy Controller of Entertainment, who considered the stereotyping offensive. Nevertheless the series was sold to other countries, including Pakistan
, New Zealand
, Sri Lanka
, and Singapore
. It was also one of the first British TV programmes shown in South Africa
after the end of the boycott by Equity
. It was resurrected briefly for the export market by an independent producer in the mid 1980s. Some ITV companies didn't show any of the episodes made in 1986. Only Granada transmitted the final 13 episodes consecutively as a complete series. The 1986 resurrected series was filmed at Uxbridge
Technical College, Middlesex.
Various international television shows based on the premise of Mind Your Language have followed the original series. Among them are What a Country! (US), Zaban Sambhal Ke (India), Zaban Sambhal Kai (Pakistan) and Second Chance! (Nigeria).
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The series was released as a boxed set on Region 2 DVD in 2003, and on Region 1 DVD in 2004. However, this set excludes the Season 1 episode Kill Or Cure
, the Season 2 episode Don't Forget The Driver
, the Season 3 episode Guilty Or Not Guilty?
and the entirety of Season 4.
An alternate boxed set was released by Network DVD in November 2007, containing the complete Seasons 1 to 3.
The remaining fourth series has yet to be released on DVD.
Cast and characters
- Jeremy Brown, portrayed by Barry Evans, is the English teacher and focal point of most of the series. He is hired in the series pilot, in which he is warned that the previous teacher was driven insane by the students. Mr. Brown is up to the challenge, and often has to put up with the students' often literal interpretations of the English language. Despite his frustrations with the students, he grows fond of them and often goes out of his way to help them and vice versa. In the 12th episode, he told his students of how he was left on an orphanage In Jeremy Street 30 years ago and grew up without any parents, he suspected that Sidney is his father after he heard that Sidney left his baby in the same orphanage.
- Miss Dolores Courtney, portrayed by Zara Nutley, is the school's pompous and tight-fisted principal. She thinks poorly of Mr. Brown and his abilities as a teacher, and often drops in unannounced into his class to check on the students' progress. Over time she grows fond of Mr. Brown as well as his students.
- Sidney, portrayed by Tommy Godfrey (Season 1 - 3), is the caretaker of the school. He is a London Cockney who frequently speaks in slang rhyme. He becomes a father figure and friend to Mr. Brown and the male students of his class.
- Gladys, portrayed by Iris Sadler (Season 1 - 3), is the old lady in charge of the tea room at the school. She is, in contrast to Miss Courtney, affable and friendly towards Mr. Brown and the students. She takes Miss Courtney's domineering attitude in stride, and gets along well with everyone.
- Giovanni Capello (in season 2 Giovanni Cupello), portrayed by George Camiller, is an Italian cook, the class's loudest student and de-facto class monitor. He is best friends with Max, who becomes his flatmate. Giovanni's main English problem is understanding metaphors and large words, though he often answers wrongly on purpose to amuse the class. When shocked or surprised, he often remarks "Santa Maria" or "Holy Ravioli", and also often says "Okey kokey" instead of "OK".
- Anna Schmidt, portrayed by Jacki Harding, is a stereotypical 1970s German and an au pair. In her introduction, she refers to "German efficiency", and accordingly Anna is a hardworking student, occasionally asking legitimate questions and as the series progresses, answering Mr. Brown's questions correctly. Her main problem is mixing "V" and "W" sounds.
- Chung Su-Lee, portrayed by Pik-Sen Lim (Season 1 - 3), is a secretary at the Chinese Embassy. She is never seen without her little red book of Mao, which she often quotes from. She constantly mixes up her "R's" and "L's". Early in the series, she had a fierce ideological rivalry with Taro, her Japanese classmate, but later on the series, he often springs to defend her when a character insults her or China.
- Taro Nagazumi, portrayed by Robert Lee (Season 1 - 3) is a Japanese electronics representative. He has a reasonable command of English, but has a habit of adding "-o" to every word he says. Early in the series he is at odds with Su-Lee due to Japan and China's own political differences in the 1970s, but becomes a close friend of hers later on. He is never seen without his camera.
- Jamila Ranjha, portrayed by Jamila Massey (Season 1 - 3), is an Indian housewife from Simla. When she first joins the class she can barely speak English, and needs Ali to translate her Urdu, but by series 3, she has become one of the better English speakers. She often calls Mr. Brown "Masterjee".
- Maximillian Papandrious, portrayed by Kevork Malikyan (Season 1 - 3), is a Greek shipping office worker, and is often paired with Giovanni. He is attracted to Danielle but as the show progresses the three became a gang of sorts. Max tends to misunderstand metaphors and large words. He also has a heavy accent, which causes him to add "H" to almost every word he says. Later, he shares his flat with Giovanni.
- Juan Cervantes, portrayed by Ricardo Montez, is a Spanish bartender with an optimistic streak. Juan is always laughing at himself, confident of his answers even when they are completely wrong. Early in the series Juan speaks almost no English, and answers everything with "por favor" (please), necessitating Giovanni to translate some key terms for him. Juan's English improves as the series went on, but he remained one of the worst speakers, often speaking a mix of English and Spanish. He cares a great deal for Mr. Brown, whom he considers almost family.
- Ranjeet Singh, portrayed by Albert Moses, is a Tube worker from Punjab in India and a very devoted Sikh. He constantly argues with Ali, who is a Pakistani Muslim. He tends to mix up his general knowledge, and upon being corrected he always puts his hands together for "a thousand apologies".
- Danielle Favre, portrayed by Françoise Pascal (Season 1 - 3), is an amorous French au pair who instantly grabs the attention of all men, including Mr. Brown. Her good looks often distract Giovanni and Max from their answers, while Mr. Brown is often found in seemingly incriminating positions with her. She is annoyed when Ingrid Svenson joins the class, instigating a rivalry for Mr. Brown's attention.
- Ali Nadeem, portrayed by Dino Shafeek (Season 1 - 3), is one of the first students that Mr. Brown meets at the school. He is originally from Lahore, Pakistan, although he once stated he grew up in Delhi. Never seen without his Jinnah cap, he is the most vocal of the students and often literally misinterprets everything said by others. As a Pakistani Muslim he has a vocal and occasionally physical rivalry with Ranjeet, who is an Indian Sikh. By the middle of Season 2, although they continue to argue, Ali's rivalry with Ranjeet becomes less malicious, and they are on occasion able to work together without complaint. Ali's typical catch phrase is "oh blimey!", and also "jolly good".
- Ingrid Svenson, portrayed by Anna Bergman (Season 2 and 4), is a Swedish au pair who joins the class at the beginning of Season 2. She is attractive and straightforward about her attraction to Mr. Brown, sparking a rivalry between her and Danielle. Her main problem with English is word order, often getting words mixed up, such as "you for I question answer". She transfers schools at the end of Season 2, but returns in the independently produced Season 4.
- Zoltán Szabó, portrayed by Gabor Vernon (Season 2), is a Hungarian student who only appears during Season 2. He has a very basic level of English and requires a phrasebook for everything. He picks up slang quickly, most of which comes from Giovanni and Juan. At the end of series 2, he goes back to Hungary. His typical catchphase is to say "Bocsánat?" [pronounced "bochanot", Hungarian word for 'Sorry', 'Excuse me'] to everything said to him in English.
- In the fourth season, Mr. Brown and Miss Courtney were still at the school, as were Anna, Giovanni, Ingrid, Juan and Ranjeet. New students included Maria Papandrious, portrayed by Jenny Lee-Wright, Michelle Dumas (Marie-Elise Grepne), Farrukh Azzam (Raj Patel), and Fu Wong Chang (Vincent Wong).