Tom, Dick and Harriet

Tom, Dick and Harriet is a British sitcom that aired for two seasons from 1982 to 1983. It was created by the sitcom writing team of Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke, and it starred veteran actor Lionel Jeffries in one of his very few television roles, only seven months after his previous TV sitcom role in Father Charlie, Ian Ogilvy (who had a few years before been cast as Simon Templar a.k.a. The Saint in Return of the Saint), and Brigit Forsyth (best known for her role as Thelma Ferris in The Likely Lads/Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?).

It was made by Thames Television for the ITV network.

Thomas Maddison (played by Jeffries) had spent 40 years living in the deepest Cornwall countryside, and hen-pecked at that, his late wife banning him from smoking, drinking, and even casually looking at other women. With him becoming a widower, Maddison, unable to wait to break free from the shackles that had bound him for so long, heads off to the bright lights of London, where his son Richard (Dick) (played by Ogilvy) lives with his wife Harriet (played by Forsyth). Suffice to say, his rather primitive manners, his disgusting habits, and his womanising creates havoc for his son and his daughter-in-law, both of them being well-manicured executives; him in advertising, her in magazine publishing. However, in the second series, Harriet conceives and (in a rather speedy nine months) delivers Richard a son and Thomas a grandson.

Like other Thames sitcoms of the 1980s, the format of Tom, Dick and Harriet was sold to the US, through the US TV producer and executive Don L. Taffner, who distributed Thames material to US TV in both format and syndication. It was sold to CBS in the same year that the original series finished in the UK, and the US version was named Foot at the Door. D.L. Taffner’s production company managed to make 6 episodes of it after which it was cancelled. In the US version, the widower was named Jonah Foot, and he was played by Harold Gould. Foot had lived in New Hampshire, and following his wife’s death he moved to New York City, living in the Manhattan apartment of his son Jim, played by Kenneth Gilman, and his wife Harriet, played by Diana Canova, best known for her roles in Soap (TV series) and later in Throb.

However, in 1993, 10 years after the second and last series of Tom, Dick and Harriet aired on ITV, its format was sold to the Netherlands. The Dutch version was called Het Zonnetje in Huis, and went down very well with Dutch audiences, while success-wise the British original had failed to reach the dizzy heights of many of Cooke and Mortimer’s previous projects. The Dutch version actually ran for 9 series in over a period of 10 years, from 1993 to 2003. It originally began on the Netherlands Public Broadcasting, and it was made by one of its main constituent members VARA. VARA made the first 2 series of it in 1993 and 1994, after which later in the latter year it moved to the commercial station RTL 4, who made it until the end. In the Dutch version, the widower was named Piet Bovenkerk, played by John Kraaijkamp, Sr., who moved to the Amsterdam apartment of his son Erik, played by Kraaijkamp, Sr.’s son Johnny Kraaijkamp, Jr., and his wife Catharina, played by Martine Bijl.