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Actors/Actresses

Mulberry – brilliant Britcom that lasted only two seasons

There are times that BBC commissioning folks get it right and times they don’t. Mulberry is one of those “didn’t get it right” moments in British comedy history. After two wonderful seasons (13 episodes) with brilliant scripts by Bob Larbey and, then, writing partner, John Esmonde and a wonderful cast headed by Karl Howman in the lead role, the series was abruptly halted without much of an explanation from the BBC prior to the beginning of production on series 3.

We caught up with Karl yesterday for our British comedy writers program for PBS. Karl spoke at great length about Bob and John and what it meant to him, personally, to have a series such as Mulberry where the lead part was written specifically with him in mind from a casting standpoint from the beginning. Karl and Bob had become close friends over the years through their work association on mid-70′s series, Get Some In, followed by A Fine Romance, then Brush Strokes.

It was Mulberry, however, that attracted me to the talents of Karl as the apprentice Grim Reaper sent to get Miss Farnaby, played by the great Geraldine McEwan. The sentimental / comical side of Mulberry, armed with a true love of life and laughter, attempted to make Miss Farnaby’s last days on Earth, happy ones before taking her hand and walking across the bridge to the other side.

In the interview, Karl also spoke not only about the importance of the writing to the success of a British comedy, but about the process of how Bob Larbey and John Esmonde wrote and, specifically, Bob’s keen sense of observation when developing characters for his series.

Mulberry was their last series together writing as a duo. Bob later went on to solo write As Time Goes By, which starred Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. Speaking of, our next interview (and last of this trip), the fabulous Judi Dench.

  • Cora L

    It really is a shame that BBC “didn’t get it right.” This is such a great series and it really made me (the viewer) think. As stated in another blog entry about Stephen Fry – viewers aren’t stupid – and programs such as Mulberry make an interesting change from the everyday program.
    Again, looking forward to this special about the writers!

  • Mary Ann Decker

    Mulberry was an utterly charming show. I was lucky enough to enjoy it on my local Detroit PBS station. I enjoyed everything about the show, too bad it did not last longer.

    • Irishboi79

      I also found mulberry on Detroit PBS One of the most memorable shows. I watched with my mum.

  • Andrea Allen

    Just found Mulberry…a little late. Love it!

  • Andrea Allen

    Just found Mulberry…a little late. Love it!

  • Irishboi79

    I also found mulberry on Detroit PBS One of the most memorable shows. I watched with my mum.

  • Irishboi79

    I also found mulberry on Detroit PBS One of the most memorable shows. I watched with my mum.

  • brian gladwin

    brian g I have just come across Mulberry, and I can’t believe that such a brilliant show is almost unknown. The writing and acting are fantastic. Whoever in the BBC cancelled the final series should have been sacked. It rates in my view as just about the best British comedy of all time.

  • dandilion

    we got mulberry on pbs in buffalo in the mid-to-late 90s [i think it was] …. so long ago, it’s a bit hard to pin-point. the first episode made me shiver, laugh & cry …. it was the greatest show i had ever seen!
    it’s a sin that viewers couldn’t have a loud, collective voice in keeping it on the air! D:<

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