BBC Radio 4 Extra, 25 December 2013
Marriage Lines was a
highly successful sitcom that ran on BBC radio and television from 1961 onwards. Starring Richard Briers and Prunella
Scales as newlyweds George and Kate, the programme debuted on the Light Programme; but only one episode now survives in the
archives. This episode, originally aired on 11 June 1965, was re-broadcast as part of a day-long homage to the actor
Richard Briers, who died in February 2013.
What emerged most tangibly from the experience of listening to the programme was just how
much styles of radio presentation have changed over the last half-century. "The Job" was a sitcom in name only; much
of the dialogue consisted of one-liners and witty ripostes delivered mostly by Briers, with Scales playing the foil.
Terence Alexander also appeared as a butt of Briers' jokes. No real attempt was made to give the drama any factual accuracy;
its roots in variety were clearly evident.
On the other hand, "The Job" showed just how significantly attitudes towards gender have changed
in the intervening period. At the time the programme was made, it was accepted that women should stay at home while
their spouses went out each day to earn the familial daily bread; when Kate gets herself a new job, it is considered so outlandish
as to threaten the very foundations of the family. The excuse given by writer Waring - that getting a job was the only
way the family could survive - is a poor one, but could be well understood at that time. The implication is obvious:
most women regarded it as their duty to stay at home; to go out to work meant that they were somehow not fulfilling their
Perhaps Marriage Lines should best be regarded as a period-piece, an example of a run-of-the-mill sitcom
that proved mildly diverting at the time, but which has now lost its point.