My Family

This article is about the British sitcom. For the US film, see My Family (film). For other TV series, see My Family (disambiguation).
My Family
Genre Sitcom
Created by Fred Barron
Directed by Baz Taylor
Jay Sandrich
Dewi Humphreys
Nic Phillips
Ed Bye
Starring Robert Lindsay
Zoë Wanamaker
Kris Marshall
Daniela Denby-Ashe
Gabriel Thomson
Siobhan Hayes
Keiron Self
Rhodri Meilir
Tayler Marshall
Opening theme "My Family"
Composer(s) Graham Jarvis
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 11
No. of episodes 120 + 1 short (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Donald Taffner Jr.
Geoffrey Perkins (2000–01)
Fred Barron (2000–08)
Sophie Clarke-Jervoise (2002–04)
Ian Brown (2003–04)
James Hendrie (2003–04)
Tom Leopold (2006)
Michael Jacob (2006–09)
Tom Anderson (2007–11)
Producer(s) John Bartlett
Location(s) Chiswick, London, England
Running time 111x 28 minutes
3x 50 minutes
4x 60 minutes
Production company(s) Rude Boy Productions
DLT Entertainment
Original network BBC One
Picture format (SDTV) 576i
Original release 19 September 2000 (2000-09-19) – 2 September 2011 (2011-09-02)
External links

My Family is a British sitcom created and initially co-written by Fred Barron, which was produced by DLT Entertainment and Rude Boy Productions, and broadcast by BBC One for eleven series between 2000 and 2011, with Christmas specials broadcast from 2002 onwards. My Family was voted 24th in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" in 2004 and was the most watched sitcom in the United Kingdom in 2008.[1] As of 2011, it is one of only twelve British sitcoms to pass the 100 episode mark.[2]

Set in Chiswick in west London, it stars Robert Lindsay as Ben Harper, Zoë Wanamaker as his wife Susan, and Kris Marshall, Daniela Denby-Ashe, and Gabriel Thomson as their children Nick, Janey and Michael. Since the show’s debut, several characters have left and others have been introduced. The character of Janey left in 2002, then returned in 2004 and remained until the end. Kris Marshall's character, Nick, left in 2005 and returned for occasional brief guest appearances, though he was frequently mentioned by other characters. The character of Abi, as played by Siobhan Hayes, was introduced in 2002 and left in 2008. The characters of Roger and Alfie were introduced in 2003 and 2005, played by Keiron Self and Rhodri Meilir.


In 1999, Fred Barron was considering producing a British sitcom the same way sitcoms were produced in the U.S. My Family was to feature a group of writers rather than the standard one or two, something that had been attempted in the UK with shows including Goodnight Sweetheart and On the Buses, but was nevertheless atypical. My Family was consciously designed to have wide appeal, with characters viewers could build a relationship with in the same way as previous BBC sitcom 2point4 Children which focuses around a similar family unit.

The show chronicles the lives of the Harpers, a fictional middle-class British family who live at 78 Lancaster Road, Chiswick, London. Dentist Ben and his wife Susan, a tour guide who later works for an art gallery, have three children: Nick, Janey, and Michael, who complicate their lives. Susan is a control freak, but Ben prefers to leave the children to it and stay as uninvolved as possible. Janey later goes to University, but drops out and moves back in later, while Nick finally gets his own place.

Mainly focusing on Ben and Susan, the show was known to feature sub-stories ranging from Nick's harebrained schemes to Abi and Roger's love life. It is described as a "dysfunctional family"-style sitcom, however many of the episodes feature the family working together to get one another out of trouble. Nick's bizarre jobs became a major feature of the first four series. After the departure of Nick, Abi and Roger's love life, Michael's schemes, Janey's endless list of boyfriends, and Alfie's dream of musical stardom became more prominent.

The show saw considerable development and change in its characters' lives, seeing Janey turn from teenage rebel to mother, Nick turn from prat to responsible prat, Abi marry Roger, and Michael go through and beyond school days. Meanwhile, Ben remained the same self-absorbed dentist, Susan remained the same control freak, and Alfie remained the same dimwitted layabout lodger. The characters of Nick, Brigitte, Abi, and Alfie have left the series over the 10 years, although Nick has returned for a few guest appearances.

Cast and characters

The series featured eight main cast members throughout its run, with numerous characters recurring throughout the 10 series. The main cast members were familiar to television viewers before their roles on My Family, but not all were considered stars. During the tenth series run, the actors all achieved household name celebrity status.

The main characters in My Family are parents Ben and Susan Harper. They have three children, Nick, Janey and Michael. Nick is a regular character until the 2003 Christmas special, and makes one appearance in 2004's fifth series before making his final My Family appearance in the 2005 Comic Relief short as actor Kris Marshall wanted to do other projects and avoid being type-cast.[3] Janey is a regular until the 2002 Christmas special and does not appear in series four (2003), while the character is at University. Janey returns as a main character in series five.

Abi Harper first appears in series three as the daughter of Ben's cousin Richard.[4] Series three also sees the first appearance of Roger Bailey, Jnr. Roger, who becomes a main character in the fourth series, is a dentist and the son of Ben's former mentor. In the 2005 Christmas special Alfie Butts, a friend of Nick's, moves into the Harper household.[3]

My Family also features several recurring characters. Series one features Daisy Donovan as Ben's dental assistant, Brigitte. In the second series "Stupid" Brian appears as Janey's boyfriend.[3] Series four features Michael's girlfriend Fiona. That series also sees the introduction of Michael's friend Hubert and Susan's mother Grace Riggs, who both appear in subsequent series until series seven.[3] A minor recurring character from the 2006 Christmas special to series seven is Denis, the local Vicar. In addition, Mr. Alexander Casey, the Harpers' neighbour, appears in three episodes, "Driving Miss Crazy" (2001), "Neighbour Wars" (2008), and "Mary Christmas" (2010)

Main characters

Character Played by Series Episode count
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Ben Harper Robert Lindsay Main 117 + 1 short
Susan Harper Zoë Wanamaker Main 115 + 1 short
Nick Harper Kris Marshall Main guest N/A 45 + 1 short
Janey Harper Daniela Denby-Ashe Mainrecurring N/A Main 94 + 1 short
Michael Harper Gabriel Thomson Main 114 + 1 short
Abi Harper Siobhan Hayes N/A Main N/A 57
Roger Bailey Keiron Self N/A guest Main 59
Alfie Butts Rhodri Meilir N/A Main N/A 31
Kenzo Harper Tayler Marshall N/A recurring main 23

Other characters

Guest cast

My Family has used several actors from various past hit sitcoms, most notably David Haig from The Thin Blue Line, Belinda Lang of 2point4 Children, Diana Weston (Robert Lindsay's former long-term partner) from The Upper Hand who portrayed a male-female transsexual named Charlie, Pauline Quirke of Birds of a Feather played a bank robber (whilst her husband in Birds of a Feather was a bank robber), and Sam Kelly from On the Up.

Series synopses

Peter Capaldi portrays movie-star "Colin Judd" who visits Ben for dental health. Capaldi appeared in episode "Dentist To The Stars" which is the tenth episode of series five.

The first series, Ben, a dentist, and Susan, the worst cook in the world, are certainly loving, caring parents; they just have a problem showing it. Ben seems to be confused as to how much time and money his kids demand from him. Susan has to juggle motherhood, a career, and a husband and hasn't enough time to manage everything, including improving her cooking skills. Nick is always working on his next hair-brained scheme to keep him amused. Janey, like any normal teenage daughter, feels that her parents are seriously embarrassing whilst Michael keeps his head in his books to get away from the noise.

The second series, Ben Harper, husband and father to three different and often difficult children, has spent his working life as a dentist. Just as well as most of his life seems rather like pulling teeth. His wife Susan is usually busy showing foreign tourists around London, a place she knows much better than her own kitchen. Ben and Susan have been married happily enough to have three children. However, Ben has the feeling that most of the time his children seem to speak a different language. Nick (20) has persuaded his parents he would benefit from a gap year to see something of the world, but he has hardly seen anything beyond the confines of the sofa. Janey (17) is into boys, fashion labels (expensive ones), and getting her own way. Michael (14) is the brightest of the trio. He is seriously into computers and not so seriously (yet) into girls.

Anthony Head, portrays Ben's cousin and the father of Abi Harper. Head appeared in episode "May the Best Man Win", which is the twelfth episode of the fourth series. He appears again in the 2009 Christmas special, played by Nathaniel Parker.

In series three, life in the Harper household is as hectic as ever, Janey has left for university but the seriously accident-prone Cousin Abi has moved in. Ben sees this new addition to their home as a threat to the peace and quiet he's wanted throughout his married life, while Susan is happy to have another woman in the house. As for Michael, he is now spending as much time thinking about girls now as his schoolwork. Furthermore, Nick continued to work on his next hair-brained scheme, whether that means starring as Jesus in the local nativity play or dressing up as a drag queen!

In the fourth series, Susan looks forward to the birth of her first grandchild, but dreads being a grandmother. Nick is getting fed up with living in his ghastly flat and trying to think of a way to move back into the family home. The gap between Michael's IQ and the rest of the family's seems to be increasing, but so is his libido. And Abi is still Abi, only more so! As for perennially put-upon Ben, what with a new arrival causing chaos in the surgery, being forced to take tango lessons and being officially declared dead, life is just one long major-league cirsis.

In Series five, Ben and Susan are enjoying some new-found tranquility, Nick has moved into his own flat, Janey is at university and Abi is usually out at evening class. Naturally the peace is not to last! Janey comes back home with baby Kenzo and Michael has been "born again" and is holding Bible study sessions in the living room. With Ben's famous dental patients, Susan's election ambitions and an unheathly obsession with Inspector Morse – not to mention the unlikely perils of house-sitting in a luxury modern apartment – domestic life will soon be back to Harper-Normal. So when Ben and Susan start being nice to each other, it's no wonder Abi's suspicious; they could not be getting a divorce, could they?

John Barrowman, portrays a man called "The Doctor" that Susan begins to fall for at an airport. He appeared in episode "The Guru", which is the eighth episode of series nine.

In the sixth series, Janey and son Kenzo spend much more time at the Harper house than is good for Ben, and Michael moves from scam to scam with alarming ease. Add to that the ever-so-slowly blossoming of the Abi-Roger romance and the new cuckoo in the nest, wiser-than-he-looks Alfie Butts and the problems multiply. The family's hurdles include Ben joining a secret society (The Brotherhood of the Cockerel), Susan's new job leading her to a dinner date with a new man and an encounter with squatters. In other words, as usual, problems and situations constantly conspire to remind Ben and Susan that "family" is an "F" word.

In the seventh series, a mystery man arrives asking for Janey – Susan finally discovers the identity of Kenzo's father. Roger and Abi's marriage announcement gives Susan the idea to renew her marriage vows despite protests from Ben. A death in the dentist's chair is not very good for business, but Ben discovers it's not good for his private life either. Michael succeeds in placing the whole family on The Weakest Link, but Anne Robinson raises more difficult questions than might have been expected.

In the eighth series, love is in the air in the Harper house. Ben is in love with an extremely large television; Janey is in love with a new man; and Michael's current love has announced that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Ben and Susan's credit-card statement highlights each of their secret vices, and an armed robbery at the local bank leads to Ben and Janey being taken as hostages. Michael and Alfie investigate the world of internet dating with mixed results, and Abi realises her true vocation in life is to become a nun!

In series nine, chaos, paranoia and misunderstanding – yes, it's life as usual in the Harper household. Ben stands up to – and gets put down by – his own school bully and gets a little jealous as a rich businessman falls for Susan – or is that Janey? There are new worries as they discover that Michael's seeing a therapist and Ben fails his retraining exam – and, while the family is divided over mean Uncle Norris' inheritance and the acquisition of a puppy, Ben's delighted to discover he's the inspiration for a wealthy if unhappy, celebrity dentist!

In the tenth series, in the second episode ("The Son'll Come Out") Michael comes out as gay to his parents, first to his father after coming home drunk, then later to his mother. He then tells them that he has been in a relationship with a guy for some time, 25-year-old solicitor Scott Marsh, who later moves into the Harper residence, though he is later seen in gay clubs picking up guys and giving out his number, suggesting that he and Scott have broken up, but they later get back together. These consist of a nine-part tenth series and a seven-part eleventh series.


The first episode aired on 19 September 2000, and ten series have so far been aired with seven specials, including nine Christmas specials. The eleventh series began airing on Friday 17 June 2011. A Comic Relief special short-episode has also aired.

The BBC and UKTV refuse to re-broadcast the series four episode "Blind Justice", due to the receipt of 4 complaints (from a viewing public of 12m). Although no reason was given, as this was not subject to any Ofcom procedure, it is likely that was considered offensive to blind people. This episode is banned from British TV, but it is still on the series four UK DVD release and has been screened on BBC America.

The episodes are recorded in front of a live audience in Pinewood Studios, Iver, Buckinghamshire, except where the set used is too large, this is then filmed, and played out to an invited audience 'as-live'. Also, the show, unlike most British sitcoms but in common with most American television comedies, has no location footage. Scenes taking place outdoors were actually sets.

The series is scripted by a team of writers, following the American model. Historically, British sitcoms were more generally written by one or two writers. By employing a wider number of writers to brainstorm jokes for each episode, DLT Entertainment UK Ltd, the production company, has been able to maintain a consistent and relatively long-lived product without having to wait for a single writer to produce more material.

Opening sequence

At the start of the first two series, it slides across four boxes with each character's face in them. The first box stands alone with Ben and Susan in it. The other three are lapped over each other with a photo of Michael, Janey and Nick from left to right in them. While it slides across at the start, each character's face turns with Janey and Nick smiling and the others being fairly plain faced. Once the boxes are placed, the boxes with youngsters in them drop to the bottom of the screen and are replaced with the show's logo.

At the start of the third series, four rectangle blocks fall onto a completely white screen to create Ben's face. Those blocks are then replaced with blocks that create Susan's face; each block then shows different parts of the other characters to finally reveal Nick's face. It continues to do this for Janey, Michael and (starting from the fourth episode entitled "Of Mice and Ben") the new character to the show Abi. Abi's (for the first three episodes, Michael's) face then falls into the bottom right corner while the previous faces spread across to other places of the white screen. It reveals that Nick, Janey and Michael are next to Abi and Ben and Susan are with each other at the top left of the screen. The logo fades on the top right of the screen.

The fourth series is similar to the third series opening sequence. Only difference is that the photo of each character is changed, each block does not show different parts of each character when it transitions; instead it transitions in various styles, for example in an opening in a window blind style. Series five titles still remain similar; the photos are changed again and there are eleven rectangles instead of four. Nick is almost completely absent from the opening titles in series five except in episode six of series five titled "My Will Be Done"; he was missing in some episodes from series four and a few from series three.

The series six opening titles have cut-outs of each character, as they fade into the white screen and zoom in and out and eventually stop moving. The line-up from left to right is Abi, Michael, Susan, Ben, Janey and Roger. The titles remain the same for series seven and eight; the one difference is that Janey's clothes are changed. In series nine, the line-up changes due to Abi's departure at the end of the previous series. Her place is taken by Alfie, who has been a regular since series six but never appeared in the titles until the ninth series. Starting in the 2009 Christmas Special, Alfie has been replaced by Kenzo.


The first writer of My Family was its creator, Fred Barron with British writer, Penny Croft. Barron wrote eight episodes up until the fourth series. Other major writers include James Hendrie and Ian Brown who wrote numerous episodes, including the first episode together up until the 2004 Christmas Special. Steven and Jim Armogida are the only writers to remain on the show throughout its run. Writers such as Sophie Hetherington, Georgia Pritchett, James Cary and Tess Morris have all written at least one episode for the sitcom at one point. None of these writers have written more than five episodes. Andrea Solomons has written many episodes for My Family, she wrote from the second series to the sixth series. Meanwhile, Darin Henry has written one episode for the fifth series before returning for the eighth series onwards.

Paul Minett and Brian Leveson are the sitcom's current main writers. Credited for most of the specials, at least three episodes from every series since 2005. Bert-Tyler Moore and George Jeffrie both have written a few episodes for the sitcom in its sixth and seventh series and returned for series ten. Tom Leopold wrote two episodes for the sixth series only. Tom Anderson, currently My Family's executive producer and showrunner, wrote his first episode for series seven and wrote until series ten, but remained showrunner for series eleven. Ed Dyson and David Cantor have written episodes for the seventh, eighth, ninth and eleventh series. Table correct as of episode 120.

Writer Year(s) Episodes
James Hendrie
Ian Brown
2000–2004 27 (inc. 2 co-written)
Fred Barron 2000–2003 8 (inc. 4 co-written)
Shawn Schepps 2000 1 (inc. 1 co-written)
Penny Croft 2000 1 (inc. 1 co-written)
Andrea Solomons 2001–2006 12 (inc. 1 co-written)
Sophie Hetherington 2002–2004 3 (inc. 2 co-written)
Georgia Pritchett 2003 1
James Cary 2004 1
Darin Henry 2004; 2008–2011 8 (inc. 2 co-written)
George Jeffrie
Bert-Tyler Moore
2006–2007; 2010–2011 4 (inc. 1 co-written)
Tess Morris 2006 1 (inc. 1 co-written)
Tom Leopold 2006 2
Steve Armogida
Jim Armogida
2000–2010 24 (inc. 1 co-written)
Paul Minett
Brian Leveson
2005–2010 13 (inc. 2 co-written)
Tom Anderson 2007–2011 8 (inc. 2 co-written)
Ed Dyson 2007–2009; 2011 5
David Cantor 2007–2009; 2011 5 (inc. 1 co-written)
Amy Shindler 2009–2010 2
Andrew Kreisberg 2009–2010 2
Robin Taylor 2009; 2011 2
Dan Staley 2010 1

Show runners


Initially, the show received a poor critical response, and many dismissed its humour as mundane and dated. In spite of this, the programme received above average audience ratings, and further series were commissioned, with critical approval gradually improving as the series progressed.[7] Bruce Dessau, writing on the 100th episode, noted that it was a comedy that "the critics hate, but the public love", on the basis of ratings.[8]

Zoë Wanamaker said in 2007 that she was no longer happy with the quality of the writing, and claimed she and co-star Robert Lindsay even refused to film one episode because it was so poor.[9] In May 2009, the two stars revealed they were still unhappy with the writing quality, with Lindsay stating "There's some real dross (in the scripts) and we're aware of it". He later admitted that the eleventh series might be the last stating "As far as Zoë (Wanamaker) and I are concerned, we will do a tenth series of 16 episodes, which the BBC will probably split into a tenth and eleventh, then that will be it."[10]

In 2004, the show came 24th in Britain's Best Sitcom.


BBC One controller Danny Cohen, when commenting on the decision to axe the series, said "Now that all the Harper children have flown the nest we feel it's time to make room for new comedies". Robert Lindsay said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph: "I'm amazed by the public's love for the series [...] When Kris Marshall left in 2005 I was convinced that was it. But somehow Zoë and I have kept the essence of it together."[11]

DVD releases

All episodes are available on DVD in the UK. Each of the eleven series were released on DVD both individually and as a box set in the UK, minus the Christmas specials. On 20 November 2006, Christmas 2002 - 2005 was released on DVD, followed by Christmas 2006 - 2010 on 5 December 2011. In Canada and the United States series one to four are available on Region 1 DVD. In Australia Series one to seven are available on Region 4 DVD. A box set containing Series one to five was released on 7 April 2011 in Australia.[12] Series eight was released on 6 October 2011 in Australia.[13] Series 9 was released 3 November 2011 in Australia.[14] Series 10 was released 3 May 2012 in Australia.[15] A box set containing Series 6 to 10 was released 7 November 2012 in Australia.[16]

DVD Title # of Disc(s) Year # of Episodes DVD release
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series One 1 2000 8 10 October 2006 22 March 2004 17 January 2007
Complete Series Two 2 2001 13 10 October 2006 7 June 2004 5 September 2007
Complete Series Three 2 2002 13 13 October 2009 12 September 2005 2 January 2008
Complete Series Four 2 2003 13 13 October 2009 20 March 2006 4 September 2008
Complete Series Five 2 2004–2005 13 18 September 2006 2 January 2009
Complete Series Six 1 2006 7 25 June 2007 1 October 2009
Complete Series Seven 2 2007 9 24 September 2007 7 July 2011
Complete Series Eight 1 2008 7 14 July 2008 6 October 2011
Complete Series Nine 2 2009 9 25 May 2009
Complete Series 10 2 2010 9 6 September 2010
Complete Series 11 2 2011 9 15 August 2011
Complete Series 1–11 22 2000–2011 119 5 December 2011
Christmas 20022005 1 2002–2005 4 20 November 2006
Christmas 2006–2010 2 2006–2010 5 5 December 2011
Complete Series 17 12 2000–2007 76 22 October 2007


  1. Dessau, Bruce (5 May 2009). "Robert Lindsay and Zo Wanamaker on My Family's 100th episode". The Times. London.
  2. BBC axes My Family sitcom after 11 years The British Comedy Guide, 25 March 2011
  3. 1 2 3 4 "My Family — Characters". British Comedy Guide. 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  4. "My Family Episodes — Series 3". British Comedy Guide. 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "My Family". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  6. My Family - Trivia - British Comedy Guide
  7. Leigh Holmwood (27 March 2008). "The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  8. Sam Coates and Jenny Booth Updated 14 minutes ago. "The Times May 5, 2009". Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  9. Kilkelly, Daniel (31 March 2007). "Wanamaker criticises "My Family"". Digital Spy.
  10. My Family - Article - British Comedy Guide
  11. My Family dropped after 11 years BBC News, 25 March 2011
  12. My Family Series 1-5 Box Set | DVD | ABC Shop
  13. My Family - The Complete 8th Series (2 Disc Set)
  14. My Family: Series 10
  15. My Family: Series 6-10
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