Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
a BBC situation
, written by Raymond Allen
and Michele Dotrice
The series followed the accident-prone Frank Spencer and his
tolerant wife Betty through Frank's various attempts to hold down a
job, which frequently end in disaster.
Noted for its stuntwork, as well as featuring various
well-remembered catchphrases, the series was voted #22 in the BBC's
poll to find "Britain's Best
Each episode saw the well-meaning and optimistic, but naïve,
clueless, accident-prone tank top
-wearing character, Frank Spencer
(Michael Crawford), and his very tolerant but often frustrated
wife, Betty (Michele Dotrice), getting into situations that usually
spiralled ridiculously out of control, frequently resulting in
someone else's nervous breakdown
or some unlikely destructive catastrophe. Frequently the viewer
would see a scene in which a character who is familiar with Spencer
would warn another about him, although he was usually harder to
work with than they had feared.Episodes usually included stunt work
performed by Crawford himself, often highly physical, that even
today would be unusual in an inexpensive half-hour comedy. With
such a denouement
mind, typical plot lines would involve picnics on high cliffs,
driving lessons by the sea, household repairs, or a wide variety of
new jobs such as motorcycle courier or high-rise window cleaner.
The latter stunt really did go wrong when the rigging equipment
being used jammed, necessitating a rescue by the Fire Service. The
1978 Christmas special saw Michael Crawford hanging from the
outside of a small aeroplane.
The character of Frank
smiling Frank, sporting his
and trench coat
, was married to (apparently normal)
Betty (Michele Dotrice) and in later series they had a baby
daughter, Jessica, which offered scope for even more slapstick
humour. Frank was a gift for impersonators, and for a time it
became a cliché
that every half-decent
impersonator was doing him, particularly his main catchphrase
"Ooh Betty", which, although assumed
in many references in popular culture, he never actually
This was not Frank's only catchphrase of the series. Others
included a quavering "Oooh...", usually uttered with his forefinger
to his mouth as he stood amidst the chaos of some disaster he had
just caused (and which he himself had invariably escaped
unscathed). He would also sometimes complain about being
"ha-RASSed!", or occasionally, "I've had a lot of ha-RASSments
lately" (perhaps surprisingly, most people now use this
pronunciation, but this is probably more because of American
influence). Other recurring catchphrases included references to "a
bit of trouble", which usually implied some sort of undisclosed
digestive disorder, and reference to the cat having done a
"whoopsie" (on one occasion in Spencer's beret).
Despite his unfailing ability to infuriate people, Frank was
essentially a very sympathetic character, who inspired as much
affection from his audience as from his ever-loving and patient
wife, Betty. The ability to convey this lovable aspect of his
character - which meant that, crucially, the audience was always on
Frank's 'side' - was a notable achievement of the writer and main
actors. For all his extraordinary faults, we never doubted that
Frank adored Betty and would do anything for her, and in their own
way they were blissfully happy together. He also adored the memory
of his late mother and - in later episodes - also worshipped his
daughter, Jessica (named after his mother). Indeed, at times in the
series there were some remarkably poignant moments amid the chaos,
as for example the scene in which he serenades his young baby with
to send her to sleep.
For the final series, made five years after the previous one
(although there had been two Christmas specials inbetween), Frank's
character changed markedly. He became more self-aware, and keen to
make himself appear more educated and well-spoken. He developed an
air of pomposity which was always best demonstrated when someone
would approach and enquire 'Mr Spencer?' to which he would always
reply 'I am he'. He also became more self assured and whereas in
the past when shouted at for doing something wrong he would have
gone to pieces he would now argue back and more often than not win
an argument though usually because he would leave his opponets
dumbfounded by the bizzarness of what he would say.
Crawford himself has talked of how he based many of Frank's
reactions on those of a young child. Crawford also found it
difficult to break out of the public association with the role,
despite his later career as a hugely successful musical performer
on the West
End and Broadway stage, in
popular shows such as Barnum and Phantom of the
and Norman Wisdom
were the BBC's first and second
choices for the role of Frank. However the choice of Crawford
proved effective, as many of Frank's mannerisms and turns of phrase
were invented by Crawford, and his stunt-performing and singing
skills were undoubtedly useful.
In addition to Frank and Betty, every episode would introduce at
least one other character (a doctor, a neighbour, an employer etc)
who would be seen to gradually suffer the inevitably chaotic
consequences of Frank's fleeting presence in their lives. These
characters were often played by some of the great recognisable
character actors of the 1970s British sit-com era, and indeed
spotting these famous faces - and enjoying their reactions to the
torture of Frank's hapless influence - is one of the joys of
watching the series. Examples of actors appearing in one episode
only included Fulton Mackay
, Glynn Edwards
, George A. Cooper
, Bernard Hepton
The theme tune by Ronnie
features a piccolo
out the title in Morse code
... --- -- . -- --- - .... . .-. ... -.. --- .- ...- . . -- .-.-.-S o m e/m o t h e r s /d o /a v e/e m /(full stop)
Series One (1973)
|Getting a Job (aka The Job Interview)
||15 February 1973
||Frank's off for the latest in a long line of job interviews.
Once he is freed from a stuck lift, surely it should be plain
sailing. He just has to follow Betty's advice and remember to
||22 February 1973
||Betty's brother has fitted his house with the latest in
electronic wizardry. Frank's not impressed. Having jammed the
unjammable doors and blocked the unblockable sink, he's now lost a
pair of slippers down the toilet.
|Love Thy Neighbour
||1 March 1973
||Betty's mother has had one of her funny turns and it's up to
Frank to call a doctor. With the phone box out of order since the
last time he used it, Betty suggests he pay a visit to their new
|Have a Break, Take a Husband
||8 March 1973
||Frank and Betty are off on their second honeymoon, When the
lino in their hotel room gets ripped, Frank decides a few minor
adjustments will soon cover the crime.
|The Hospital Visit
||15 March 1973
||Frank's been fending for himself with Betty in hospital, and
has just had a spot of bother with a Steak and Kidney pudding. It
blew up! Now he's off to visit her, but is the recovery ward ready
||22 March 1973
||Convinced he's a failure, Frank has decided to seek expert
help. The psychiatrist sets out to prove that he is not really a
failure, but only thinks he is. Surely Frank can't prove
|The Employment Exchange
||29 March 1973
||In desperation the new manager at the employment exchange
finally gives Frank a job himself. A bit of trouble with a tea urn
and a computer soon has him regretting his decision.
Series Two (1973)
||22 November 1973
||Frank's latest job includes a company car which he and Betty
use to go on a picnic. Things start out well enough until Frank
manages to reverse the car halfway over the edge of the cliff.
|The RAF Reunion
||29 November 1973
||Frank attends his annual RAF reunion and reflects on his past
|The Public Relations Course
||6 December 1973
||Having lost yet another job Betty suggests Frank try out a
course in Public Relations training. Frank heads off to the school
run by Mr Watson a very self confident experienced Public Relations
expert who is confident he can make Frank a success but Frank
proves too much even for him.
|Frank and Marvin
||13 December 1973
||Frank discovers he is going to be a father and determines to
make a success of his new job at a holiday camp as an entertainer.
His act includes a very poor ventriloquist act, bad jokes about
kangaroos, an interesting rendition of Early One Morning and a
human volcano act which he manages to set off by accident.
||20 December 1973
||In preparation for parenthood Betty has been looking after two
young children from the neighbourhood and she convinces Frank to
come along on one of their outings. The girls seem wary of Frank at
first but his accident prone ways which they find hilarious soon
wins them over.
||This episode involves the most famous stunt of the series when
Frank who is roller skating at a rink manages to burst through the
fire exit and on a hellish but hilarious journey through the
streets dodging buses and cars, ducking under lorries and crashing
into a baby shop.
|The Baby Arrives
||27 December 1973
||Frank is worrying about his impending fatherhood and is
starting to annoy the hospital staff with his constant false
alarms. The doctors tell the Spencers that they have another week
to go but that night baby Spencer has other ideas. With their
doctor on holiday another one is drafted in, the same one whose car
Frank reversed into earlier that day.
||Birth of Jessica.
1974 and 1975 Christmas specials
|Jessica's First Christmas
||25 December 1974
|Learning to Drive
||25 December 1975
Series Three (1978)
||11 November 1978
||The Spencers' move gets off to a bad start when Frank manages
to fall out of the moving van into a barrel of tar and take half
the furniture with him. Things get worse when within hours of
arriving he not only gets on the wrong side of Mr Lewis from next
door but half destroys his bedroom ceiling.
||In this episode, Frank sings a lullaby to his daughter Jessica.
First appearance of Frank's bad tempered neighbour Mr Lewis.
||18 November 1978
||Frank is being kept very busy at woodwork classes especially
when the insurance company value his entire collection of furniture
at £40. To speed things along he has started using super glue which
unfortunately manages to stick him, an old lady and a bus conductor
to a chair. In addition to new furniture, Frank is building a Wendy
House for Jessica, a very LARGE Wendy House which proves too big to
get through the workshop door.
||Features One Foot in the
Grave star Richard Wilson as the insurance man. First
appearance of Columbo, Frank's dog.
||25 November 1978
||Frank and Betty have taken up Scottish country dancing and
Frank has decided to go into Politics and with a gala dinner for
his party's parliamentary candidate approaching the rest of the
committee are determined not to let Frank cause an
|Men as Women
||2 December 1978
||Frank receives a letter from Grandad Spencer in Australia
inviting him and Betty to join him and help run his farm. Meanwhile
Dr Mender appears to be very depressed and preoccupied and for once
Frank is not responsible.
||This episode marks the first appearance of Dr Mender as the
Spencer's GP. This marks a continuity error as Dr Mender claims to
have been Frank's GP for years and to still have Frank's chimney
brush up his chimney when this was in fact Dr Smedley.
|King of the Road (aka Demon King)
||9 December 1978
||Frank's new job as a motorbike courier lands him in trouble
with the law and up before the magistrates. Frank defends himself
in the only way he knows how.
||16 December 1978
||Frank is taking elocution lessons in preparation for his flying
lessons. Meanwhile a letter arrives from Australia House asking the
Spencers to come discuss their possible emigration to Australia. By
the end of the interview Mr Lawrence tells Frank he can go just to
get rid of him.
1978 Christmas special
|Learning to Fly
||25 December 1978
||Frank begins his flying lessons at the local school but things
take a bit of a bad turn when Frank manages to cause his instructor
to pass out in mid flight.
Frank and Betty Spencer
(Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice)
The BBC has repeated Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
times since the series was produced in the 1970s. The programme has been
shown in Catalan public
television, Nigeria on the NTA in the 1980s and 1990s and
in Australia on the Seven Network
channel Great Comedy Classics
British Channel G.O.L.D.
and BBC Prime
took over repeats of the programme in 2007.
References in popular culture
- In the song "You Probably Couldn't See For the Lights But You
Were Staring Straight at Me" by the Arctic Monkeys, a lyric is "Could all go a
bit Frank Spencer".
- The song The Ballad of Frank Spencer by The Barron Knights
- The song "Kylie Said to
Jason" by the KLF contains the lyric
"Trapped in a rerun / Of a seventies sitcom soap / Some Mothers
Do Have Them [sic] / Or The
Archie Bunker Show"
Plinge in Terry Pratchett's novel Maskerade is a nervous Frank Spencer-ish type
who also wears a beret. The novel is a parody of The Phantom of the Opera, which in
1986 was made into a musical, in which
Michael Crawford played the titular role.
- The song "Mimic Man" by British pop group Black Lace contains a verse "mimicking"
- One of the few impressions David Brent performs on The Office which succeeds in
making his colleagues laugh is one of Frank Spencer.
- On Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge the radio series, Alan insists
a young impersonator does his Frank Spencer twice despite the fact
that he doesn't normally impersonate Frank Spencer.
- In the sitcom I'm Alan
Partridge, during a dream scene, Alan says to two IRA
terrorists that their berets are also worn by Saddam Hussein, Frank Spencer, and the
- On the Ali G: Bling Bling DVD. Borat is reporting on
his 'Borat's Guide to Britain' during the Edinburgh festival and
says: "When you hear the word 'England', you probably think of the
country with the most talented actors in the world; Laurence
Olivier, Alec Guinness and Frank Spencer 'ooh Betsy, the cat done a
shit! That man can do nothing right and two things wrong"
- In The Now Show, Prince Edward is usually
portrayed as Frank Spencer by Hugh
show was even mentioned once in the British House of
Commons, when Labour Party
leader John Smith taunted
Prime Minister John Major in a speech in 1993, by saying recent
government mishaps would be considered 'too far-fetched' if
submitted to the show's producers by script-writers.
- In one episode of The Royle Family, Nana tells the
family that her doctor's name is Michael Crawford, before laughing
and repeatedly imitating Frank Spencer's famous catchphrase 'Oooh,
- The comic Russell Brand, incorporated some of Frank
Spencer's mannerism in his weekly radio shows on Radio 2, most
notably "Cat done a whoopsie on the carpet."
- In one episode of One Foot In The Grave, Victor
Meldrew tells a garden centre that the delivery man who delivered a
plant must have been named Frank Spencer, because they planted the
plant in to the toilet.