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Early Doors is a BBC sitcom written by Craig Cash and Phil Mealey. The setting is The Grapes, a small pub in Manchestermarker, where daily life revolves around the issues of love, loneliness and blocked urinals. A number of the landmarks referred to in the series are places in Stockport. In fact there is a pub in the Edgeley area of Stockport called The Grapes but this is not thought to be linked to the series.

The action centres on pub Landlord Ken (John Henshaw), especially his preoccupation with his daughter Melanie (Christine Bottomley), who is preparing to meet her real dad, and his nervous relationship with barmaid Tanya (Susan Cookson). Ken's wife left him for his best friend.

The series reflects more than a little of the northern humour displayed in The Royle Family (co-written by Cash). In a similar style to The Royle Family every scene unfolds within the spatial context of The Grapes. Two series of the show were produced between 2003 and 2004.

The title is a British slang phrase meaning those who arrive earlier than is customary, particularly with regard to drinking in a pub. Until the law was changed in 1988 pubs in England closed in the afternoon (now most are open all day). Early Doors refers to customers who were waiting or arrived soon after the pub re-opened in the evening. An earlier use of the phrase (Edwardian) occurs in British theatres where a specific door, or set of doors, were opened early to allow a scramble for the "cheaper" unreserved space in the auditorium before the "more respectable" patrons arrived.

Regular characters

  • Ken Dixon - Long-suffering landlord of The Grapes, son of Jean, father of Melanie and potential partner for part-time barmaid Tanya
  • Joe and Duffy (real name Nigel) - "The Boys" of the pub, best mates Joe and Duffy's friendship goes back to their childhood. They're willing to cover for each other if they're in trouble with their wives.
  • Eddie and Joan Bell - Eddie knows everything about nothing, can tell you tons of information about the new temporary traffic lights or the quickest route to York races but doesn't know when to shut up. Joan is Eddie's soul mate and equally gifted at conversation. She has a heart of gold and simple tastes. The couple relate stories about her mother but don't seem to do anything about the situation – the lady is 85, can't manage stairs in her house and is victimised by the local "yobs" for smelling bad ("Rancid!" according to Eddie).
  • Tommy - Miserly old git widower who isn't happy… well… at all, really, unless he's sat in his corner chair and not being annoyed by people. Will never accept a drink from anyone in case he has to get a round in, although has been known to buy the crisps after a day out at the races.
  • Tanya - Part-time barmaid and love interest of Ken, loves a bit of gossip with her best friend Debbie.
  • Jean Dixon - Ken's gossiping mother, loves to go abroad and her favourite hobby is relaxing on her sofa with a Walnut Whip or some Maltesers and talking to cleaner Winnie. Although she can be quite imposing on her son Ken, such as joining him on dates when he was younger or searching through his bedside drawers, she does have his best interests at heart, taking in him and his ex-wife and eventually giving them the pub. It's stated on the DVD commentary for series 1 that Jean is the first name of Craig Cash's mother.
  • Winnie Cooper - Cleaner of The Grapes and the upstairs flat, seemingly only friend to Jean but is liked by most people (bar Phil and Nige). Her husband can't work and her son is in prison. Can twist Jean round her little finger when she over-works her and is a family friend and pub regular. On the DVD commentary for series 1 it's stated that Winnie is the first name of Phil Mealey's mother.
  • Melanie Dixon - Ken's stepdaughter and only child, doted on by her father in hopes she never leaves for her real dad Keith Braithwaite, who she searched for after learning Ken wasn't her real father. Nonetheless she regards Ken as her real dad after Keith starts a fight with Eddie at her 21st and is carried out after Ken lamps him.
  • Debbie - Pub regular and good friend to Tanya, often leaves the kids in the car while she goes in for half a cider (but getting them some Coke and Crisps). Has cheated on her domineering husband (She mentions: "If it wasn't for here, work and putting the bin out, I'd never get out the house!") and has gone with Duffy rather than walk home.
  • Phil and Nige - Local policemen who Ken is friendly with. They often come knocking on the back door for a bitter and Coke, though they are partial to the odd cigar or brandy chaser (which Ken, keen to "grease the wheels of industry", is always happy to provide). In the second series they lose any faith they had in their work after bungling a raid by falling asleep, so turn to drug dealing, while doing the odd bit of police work on the side. Eventually Phil becomes too dependent on the drugs and finally has a paranoia attack at Melanie's 21st, thinking there's people watching him from the curtains. Possibly two of the laziest policemen in Britain!

A subtle feature of the appearances of Phil and Nige is that their police radios occasionally burst into life and spell out a profanity using the police's alphabetic code. As this sometimes happened at the same time as the characters were speaking, one had to listen quite carefully.

The show was placed at 91 in the 2003/4 BBC's Britain's Best Sitcom poll.

Theme Music

The theme music for the series is "Small World" by Roddy Frame from the 2002 album Surf.

The 2006 Channel 4 documentary Who Killed the British Sitcom used the closing music from Early Doors over its own end credits, suggesting it proves there is still hope for the genre.


Critical reception

  • "such a slow-burning comedy that you only start to smile during the next programme." [90847] - The Guardian
  • " Early Doors, a comedy by Craig Cash averaged only 1.7 million viewers in its first outing, but scored particularly highly on the appreciation indices. Jane Root decided to commission a second series, partly because such a high proportion of viewers enjoyed it." [90848] - The Guardian


Craig Cash revealed in July 2009 that genuine pints were drunk on set during the filming of the first and second series.

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