If You Like This…

February 23, 2022

By Steve O’Brien

Here’s our handy guide for some perfect TV pairings…

If you like this…

Bless This House

While big-screen Sid James was an inveterate skirt-chaser and twinkle-eyed lad-about-town, small-screen Sid was, certainly in the 1970s, a respectable, pipe-smoking family man. That’s how TV viewers saw him, anyway, through six series (and one feature film spin-off) of ITV’s insanely popular Bless This House. As travelling stationery salesman Sid Abbot, he was the dad to two kids – teenage dreamer Sally (Sally Geeson) and workshy art student Mike (Robin Stewart) – and husband to the wily Jean (Diana Coupland). Kudos too to Patsy Rowlands and Anthony Jackson as the Abbots’ next-door neighbours.

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Please Sir!

Related they may not have been, but the class of 5C were every bit as much of a family as the Abbots. And at the head of that band of brothers (and sisters) was Bernard ‘Privet’ Hedges, the class’ long-suffering teacher, played with doe-eyed charm by John Alderton. If you can get past the fact that the ‘teenagers’ are anything but, there’s much to love in Please Sir!, from Frankie’s fanciful boasts, to Peter Denyer’s adorably dim Dennis, to Richard Davies’ fabulously crabby chemistry teacher, Mr Price. Please Sir! proved so popular in the early 70s, that it produced a movie and a TV spin-off, The Fenn Street Gang, which ran for three seasons between 1971 and ‘73.


If you like this…

Sapphire and Steel

Almost entirely studio-bound, Sapphire and Steel clearly had a budget nearer to Crossroads than Star Wars, but PJ Hammond’s time-twisty sci-fi series used its stagey limitations to its advantage, creating an eerily claustrophobic atmosphere throughout its three-year run. An intoxicating mix of JB Priestley and Nigel Kneale, Sapphire and Steel is a series that’s never been forgotten by those who were spooked by it back in the 1970s.

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An outlier in the career of its creator Robert Banks Stewart (who went on to devise the resolutely non-sci-fi Bergerac and Shoestring), this fantasy series concerns an alien plot to undermine British society by sending high-frequency signals to brainwash people into committing subversive acts. Only 11 episodes long, the series plays very much like a prototype X-Files and its grim, paranoid tone gives it something of a sci-fi Ipcress File feel.


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Bulman debuted in June 1985, but viewers had long-been familiar with Don Henderson’s copper-turn private eye George Bulman. First appearing in 1976’s The XYY Man, then its 1978 spin-off, Strangers, and finally in his own show, Bulman is one of the great characters of 80s TV, a scruffy, Shakespeare-quoting private dick with a weird love of carrier bags. Look out for a plethora of top-tier guest stars including Ingrid Pitt, Alun Armstrong, Peter Wyngarde, George Sewell, Sheila Hancock, Jack Shepherd, Peter Wyngarde, Iain Cuthbertson and Robert Hardy.

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Big Breadwinner Hog

If you only know Peter Egan as the swoonsome charm-machine Paul Ryman in Ever Decreasing Circles, you’ll probably need a Valium after seeing him as thuggish London gangster Hogarth in this unflinchingly brutal crime drama from the pen of Robin Chapman. Widely condemned in 1969 for its violence and supposed amorality, Hogarth has proved such an unforgettable bad guy that he came in at No.9 in a 2002 Radio Times poll of TV’s nastiest villains.


If you like this…


Trevor Eve secured his signature role in 1979 when he debuted as down-at-heel private dick Eddie Shoestring in this gritty, Bristol-based crime drama. Look out for guest turns from such names as Harry H Corbett, Toyah Willcox, Diana Dors, Michael Elphick, Kevin Whately and Patrick Malahide.

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Minder: The Dennis Waterman Years

If the city of Bristol was a central character in Shoestring, then West London was as integral to Minder as Arthur Daley and Terry McCann, as played by Dennis Waterman, were. Launched on ITV just a month after Shoestring, Minder would become one of the defining series of the 1980s, reflecting the flipside of the Thatcher dream as low-level con man Arthur Daley (played with rogue-ish charm by the great George Cole) wheeled and dealed his way around modern-day London. 


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7-63 Up

Michael Apted’s peerless series of documentary films has been screening regularly since 1964. In many ways, it’s a real-life soap opera, as we’ve been following the ups, downs and everything inbetweens of Neil, Andrew, Charles, Suzy, Jackie and the rest ever since they were seven years old. The last film, from 2019, saw Apted’s subjects now in their early 60s. The next instalment is due in 2026, though it will be the first without any involvement from Apted, who sadly died in 2021.

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Look at Life: Volume 1 – Transport

Every film in the Up series is a cherishable document of a particular point in British life. Social historians then have much to chew on with Apted’s show, as they do this, the Rank Organisation’s Look at Life series of full-colour documentary shorts, which ran from 1959 to ‘69. Volume 1 in Network’s eight-volume collection focuses on transport and includes films on the changing technology of trains, the RMS Queen Elizabeth, Germany’s motorways, the Montague Motor Museum and even the world’s first underwater sightseeing bus.

Order Bless This House

Order Please Sir!

Order Sapphire and Steel

Order Undermine

Order Bulman

Order Big Breadwinner Hog

Order Shoestring

Order Minder: The Dennis Waterman Years

Order 7-63 Up

Order Look at Life: Volume 1 – Transport

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