The Most Important Questions Raised By The Return Of ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’

Like most decent people, I’m not a fan of anyone cheating on their partners. However, if said betrayal takes place across a 54-year-time divide then I’m oddly all for it. Especially if it also features a grown man pretending to have written the best of The Beatles’ back catalogue, befriending Noel Coward, wearing dapper suits, shrugging in indifference at the rise of New Labour and indulging in some hilarious cockney japes.

Growing up in the 1990s, my favourite television programme was the BBC’s bigamy-tastic, time-travelling oddity Goodnight Sweetheart – a show so great that Woody Allen essentially lifted the entire premise for his 2011 film Midnight In Paris, but just with a sexier cast. To me, back in 1996, the glossy haired, cappuccino-sippers of Friends didn’t stand a chance against the canned laughter-aided cross between EastEnders and Back To The Future. Let’s not mention the Rolf Harris episode though, eh?

This never happened:

Now, 17 years after its final episode, the Nicholas Lyndhurst starring show is set to return this autumn for a one-off special, celebrating 60 years of comedy on the BBC. Time travel is never easy though, so here are the big questions raised by the return of Gary Sparrow and his harem of inter-dimensional wives.

The final episode of Goodnight Sweetheart saw Gary trapped in the 1940s for good, after his time portal back to his original home of 1990s closed. Not after he’d celebrated VE Day and saved Clement Attlee’s life though, of course. So – does this mean our one-off special will see us 17 years down in the line in 1962? Will he finally be busted by The Beatles for nicking all their tunes, er, before they’d even written them? The show’s writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have said that Gary has been “trying for the last 17 years to find a way back to the present”. Which all points to a groovy, early-1960s time for Gary.

One of the many, many strange things about Goodnight Sweetheart was that halfway through the show’s run – after the end of the third series of six – the actors who played Gary’s wives were totally replaced. 1940s wife Phoebe switched from Dervla Kirwan (who got fully stuck into Ballykissangel) to Elizabeth Carling, and 1990s wife Yvonne changed from Michelle Holmes into Emma Amos. Will we see yet more cast changes this time around?

Maybe the real question here is not if the new episode will see Dervla Kirwan or Elizabeth Carling as Phoebe, but if there’ll be a Phoebe at all. We wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that Gary Sparrow is so utterly useless at monogamy that he’s just moved on to someone else entirely.


Gary Sparrow’s time portal alleyway was actually a real life location just off Columbia Road in Hackney. The exterior shots were all filmed around the Royal Oak pub, which still stands today. However, back in the 1990s when filming took place, east London wasn’t quite the gentrified hipster-magnet that it is today. Seeing as Columbia Road is now awash with artisan bellend-eries, will the BBC have to hose the street clear of Aperol Spritz residue before commencing filming? Will the grease from a million fixies make shooting on the Victorian cobbles impossible? Only time will tell.