In Sickness and in Health

In Sickness and in Health
Created by Johnny Speight
Starring Warren Mitchell
Dandy Nichols
Carmel McSharry
Eamonn Walker
Arthur English
Una Stubbs
Ken Campbell
Eileen Kennally
Tricia Kelly
Harry Fowler
Hugh Lloyd
Pat Coombs
James Ellis
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 6
No. of episodes 47
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC1
Original release 1 September 1985 – 3 April 1992
Preceded by Till Death Us Do Part

In Sickness and in Health is a BBC television sitcom which ran between 1985 and 1992. It was a sequel to the highly successful Till Death Us Do Part, which ran between 1966 and 1975, and Till Death..., which ran for one series of six episodes in 1981.


After the cancellation

The series had 47 episodes, and unlike its predecessor, all the episodes have survived and are available on DVD.

Although the final show was broadcast in 1992, Warren Mitchell would continue to perform as Alf Garnett on special occasions; this meant on stage in front of a live audience, and similarly to an invited audience consisting largely of celebrities and public figures.

In 1997, a number of special shows were arranged for Granada Television, in which Alf would be in his front room in the company of Mrs Hollingbery or in the pub with a drinking partner. The material was written by Johnny Speight and Alf now grumbles about the Labour Party being returned to power under Tony Blair.

After Johnny Speight's death in 1998, Warren Mitchell decided that he no longer wanted to play Alf.

International versions

In 1991 a Dutch version of the series, In voor en tegenspoed ("In good times and in bad"), debuted on Dutch TV. According to the end credits only the first 12 episodes were based on Speight's original scripts. Two more series of episodes were written by Paul-Jan Nelissen and Marc Nelissen. The Dutch Alf Garnett is called Fred Schuit (played by Rijk de Gooyer).[1] He lives in Amsterdam, supports AFC Ajax, drinks jenever for medicinal reasons, and doesn't trust a TV-set unless it's made in Eindhoven. The series was awarded two Awards of the Dutch Academy.[2]

The American counterpart to this series was Archie Bunker's Place, which preceded In Sickness and in Health by six years.


The Garnetts



  • Ken Campbell - Fred Johnson (Series 1-6)
  • Eileen Kenally - Mrs. Johnson (Series 1-3)
  • Tricia Kelly - Mrs. Johnson (Series 4-5)
  • Yvonne D'Alpra - Mrs. Johnson (Series 6)
  • Harry Fowler - Harry the milkman (Series 1-6)
  • Arnold Diamond - Mr. Rabinsky (Series 1-4)
  • Renu Setna - Mr. Kittel (Series 2-3)
  • Fanny Carby - Barmaid (Series 3-5)
  • Hugh Lloyd - Harry Carey (Series 4-6)
  • Pat Coombs - Mrs. Carey (Series 4-6)

Episode guide

Series 1

Title Airdate Description
Episode 1 1 September 1985 The Garnetts are back in London. Else is severely arthritic and can barely walk and Alf extols the joys of the wheelchair has got her that is until he has to push her around in it. However Alf does find that the chair does come in handy for getting him on the front row at football matches of his beloved West Ham United although his response to a home win reveals that he is using it fraudulently.
Episode 2 8 September 1985 Alf complaining about his failing eye sight he takes his wife out in her wheelchair and buys her an ice cream cornet whilst avoiding giving money to the local vicar. However his poor sight proves his undoing when he accidentally goes into a ladies' toilet and is arrested as a sex pest.
Episode 3 15 September 1985 Having scrubbed the hall floor and disapproved of Else's using the milkman to place her bets, Alf feels that they are entitled to a home help but manages to antagonise three women home helps in succession. Returning from the pub he finds that the 4th home help is Winston,an extremely flamboyant gay black man who will clearly take no nonsense from him.
Episode 4 29 September 1985 Alf tries the patience of his neighbours Fred Johnson by using their phone to make a very long-winded long distance call to his daughter Rita. After expounding upon funerals in the pub Alf repays Fred by buying him so many drinks he falls over but Alf's homeward progress pushing Else in her wheelchair also ends in drunken calamity.
Episode 5 6 October 1985 Alfs' daughter Rita comes to visit and no sooner is she home Alf argues with her about her mother Else. Alf criticises Margaret Thatcher,claiming that no woman should be prime minister so Else and Rita gang up against him with Winston, who brings an equally camp friend home to throw a party for Rita. Alf is given extremely strong drink so which causes Alf to pass out while the others continue to party.
Episode 6 13 October 1985 Alf is tired of pushing Else around in her chair and he feels she should have an electric scooter instead but they cost two and a half grand and the lady at Social Security office tells Alf that as long as he is around to push his wife Else is cannot half one. Using an idea from some kids with a go-kart Alf adds jet propulsion to the Else' chair which goes out of control foiling a bank robbery and landing him in hospital. Alf is declared a hero but following Winston's view that the robbers' accomplices may be out to get him Alf ultimately decides its best to remain anonymous.

This comedy series debuted in 1985 and took the former Till Death Us Do Part characters Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell) and his wife Else (Dandy Nichols) from their Wapping house to a lower-class one-level flat in West Ham. Else now uses a wheelchair due to Nichols' real-life ill health.

The council sends a black, gay man named Winston (Eamonn Walker), to do the housework and help care for Else. Despite Alf's dual prejudices against Winston, eventually the two become used to one another, and Winston takes Alf to watch his beloved West Ham United. Nevertheless, Alf gives Winston the nickname "Marigold".

Alf and Else's daughter Rita (Una Stubbs) now lives with her husband Mike in his hometown of Liverpool and often visits her parents, although Mike does not appear (as Antony Booth had no interest in reprising the role). Usually, Alf is seen drinking with his friend Arthur (Arthur English) in the local pub.

Although his beloved Conservative Party has returned to power, Alf is not happy with Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister because, according to him, "a woman's place is in the home". He's also unhappy about Else needing to use a wheelchair and the fact he has to push her around everywhere and that, after a lifetime of hard work and paying contributions to the Welfare State, he has to fight the social security system for a decent living allowance.

Across the road lives Fred Johnson (Ken Campbell), a man stubborn like Alf, with whom he rarely gets along. When angry, Johnson bumps his head on the wall. His wife (first played by Eileen Kennally, from Series 1 to 3, then by Tricia Kelly in Series 4 and 5, and Yvonne D'Alpra in Series 6) is an odd woman who suffers from nerves. Much of the comedy surrounding the Johnsons is based on Mrs. Johnson's sympathy towards Alf, often letting him walk all over them and much to the anger of Mr. Johnson.

1985 Christmas special

Title Airdate Description
Untitled 26 December 1985 Alfs' daughter Rita has come to stay but announces her intention to go back home on Christmas Eve. Alf wants Rita to stay so in order to persuade her to stay and help him look after Else, Alf falls off a ladder and pretends to injured his leg. However, whilst Rita does stay, the knees up at the Christmas Day party goes so well that Alf's enthusiastic participation soon exposes his supposedly bad leg as nothing more than a ruse.

Series 2

Title Airdate Description
Episode 1 4 September 1986
Episode 2 11 September 1986
Episode 3 18 September 1986
Episode 4 25 September 1986
Episode 5 2 October 1986
Episode 6 9 October 1986

The first series ended on 13 October 1985 and was very popular in the ratings. On Boxing Day a Christmas special was aired, which was also successful. On 6 February 1986 Dandy Nichols died, aged 78.

When Dandy Nichols died, the decision was taken to continue the series, as the ratings and audience appreciation had been excellent. By the first episode of series two, her character has died of natural causes. Left alone after all the other mourners have gone home, Alf, the belligerent old curmudgeon who always treated his wife appallingly, gently touches the handle of her (now empty) wheelchair and sobs "Silly old moo!".

In series two, Carmel McSharry became a permanent member of the cast playing Mrs Hollingbery, a gossipy, Catholic pensioner who lives in the flat upstairs. She did make an appearance in the first series but this was very low-key, and she had not been named as Mrs Hollingbery either yet. Alf and Mrs Hollingbery don't get on at first but later become close. The roles of the Johnsons increased, and several recurring characters were added including Mr Rabinsky (a tightfisted Jew), Mr Kittel (Renu Setna) a Muslim shopkeeper, Winston's cousin, and the milkman.

1986 Christmas special

Title Airdate Description
Untitled 23 December 1986

Series 3

Title Airdate Description
Episode 1 22 October 1987
Episode 2 29 October 1987
Episode 3 5 November 1987
Episode 4 12 November 1987
Episode 5 19 November 1987
Episode 6 26 November 1987

During the third series, Rita divorces Mike and moves back to London to marry a doctor (although Una Stubbs did not appear in the show after series two). Eamonn Walker also left at the end of series three. Three characters from the 1970s Till Death Us Do Part also made a comeback - Mrs. Carey and her henpecked husband Wally (Pat Coombs and Hugh Lloyd, although Wally was now named Harry) and Alf's crazy former neighbour Min Reed (Patricia Hayes).

1987 Christmas special

Title Airdate Description
Untitled 25 December 1987

Series 4

Title Airdate Description
Episode 1 7 September 1989
Episode 2 14 September 1989
Episode 3 21 September 1989
Episode 4 28 September 1989
Episode 5 5 October 1989
Episode 6 12 October 1989
Episode 7 19 October 1989

Alf got a new lodger, Pele, and Mrs Hollingbery starts to get closer to Alf. Eventually, Alf begins courting her, and in the fourth series, they travel to the Outback to meet her long-lost brother and to get married; however, Alf gets jilted and moves back to London.

1989 Christmas special

Title Airdate Description
Untitled 25 December 1989

Series 5

Title Airdate Description
Episode 1 1 September 1990
Episode 2 8 September 1990
Episode 3 15 September 1990
Episode 4 22 September 1990
Episode 5 29 September 1990
Episode 6 6 October 1990
Episode 7 13 October 1990
Episode 8 20 October 1990
Episode 9 27 October 1990
Episode 10 3 November 1990

Series five was broadcast in 1990. These episodes focused on the build-up to Alf and Mrs.Hollingbery's big day which would end in disaster when the pair fall out at the altar over the revised terms and conditions of the ceremony. Alf objecting to the removal of the "I obey" clause by the wife. Just as she rejects and abandons him in the church, Alf is reminded by Fred that he has had a "lucky escape", to which Alf angrily replies, "What do you mean? I could have watched the bloody football!!".

1990 Christmas special

Title Airdate Description
Untitled 30 December 1990

Series 6

Title Airdate Description
Episode 1 21 February 1992
Episode 2 28 February 1992
Episode 3 6 March 1992
Episode 4 13 March 1992
Episode 5 20 March 1992
Episode 6 27 March 1992
Episode 7 3 April 1992

In 1992, after 18 months off the air, the sitcom returned for the sixth and final series of seven episodes in which Alf discovers a ton of banknotes and becomes very rich. During the final series, Arthur did not appear due to Arthur English suffering from ill health, and so Alf gained a new friend, the Irishman Michael (played by James Ellis). Tricia Kelly departed, so Mrs. Johnson runs off with another woman. The character did briefly appear in this series, but was portrayed by Yvonne D'Alpra (the third person to play the role). The last episode aired on 3 April 1992.

Theme tune

The theme tune to the programme was written and performed by Chas & Dave, although they changed the lyrics when the character of Else died and Alf was left alone. The lyrics were changed again for the episodes set in Australia during the Fourth series.

DVD releases


  1. Dutch version
  2. Awards

External links

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