The Queen's rules for 'The Good Life' royal command performance
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The Good Life, which aired from 1975 until June 1978, was one of the Queen’s favourite television programmes at the time. The much-loved sitcom ended with a special Royal Command Performance to celebrate Her Majesty’s reign. The cast and crew were presented to the monarch and Prince Philip after the recording of the special episode wrapped, but Paul Eddington did not want to bow to the sovereign.
Paul portrayed Jerry Leadbetter in the BBC comedy who got promoted at work through cunning rather than talent.
The actor went on to feature as Jim Hacker in the sitcom Yes, Minister and before starring in the spin-off series Yes, Prime Minister in the late 1980s.
As his time on The Good Life was coming to an end, he had the opportunity to meet Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh.
It was the first time the Queen had ever attended a recording of a television series to celebrate her Silver Jubilee.
However, things got dangerously close to a minor act of treason backstage as Paul threatened to ruin the special.
Gina Esmonde, who is John Esmonde’s widow, said in the Channel 5 documentary The Good Life: Secrets and Scandals: “Paul was not sure about bowing, he wasn’t really happy about that.”
“But he did when it came to the actual time,” she continued. “Afterwards in private conversation [he was told], he was a bit pink”.
The phrase a bit pink meant he was politically left-leaning and quite the opposite of his on-screen character Jerry.
Actor Briers candidly explained in an interview many years later Paul was “towards the left, a pacifist and a quaker”.
He continued: “He was always quite vocal about it and never worried about putting his head over the parapet.”
The sitcom came to an end before the Queen could watch its recording.
A Christmas special was commissioned with the intention of the monarch attending but she was not available on the dates of filming.
Instead, the series aired a one-off special just for her in June 1978, after the Silver Jubilee year.
It was revealed in the Channel 5 documentary the Queen did not want any cheap laughs included in the episode.
The narrator said: “In the episode, a routine medical check-up for Jerry causes both couples to worry about their fitness and retirement plans, which leads to some hilarious attempts to get in shape.”
Gina said the Queen “specifically wanted it to be a normal programme”.
She explained: “They didn’t want to mention things like corgis and things like that.
“They didn’t want to make her feel like it was something they’d just slotted in for cheap laughs.
“They just wanted it to be a normal episode, which I think it was.”
The Good Life: Secrets and Scandals is available to stream on My5.
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