Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Esmonde and Larbey
Bob Larbey was born in south London in 1934 and made his writing debut for BBC radio, before contributing a film adaptation - Mrs Silly, starring Maggie Smith. Bob met his future writing partner in grammar school.
John Esmonde served a couple of years in the Royal Air Force in Air Ambulance before realising his budding writing partnership with Bob may prove more fruitful. They began to have sketches accepted on shows such as I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again and The Dick Emery Show.
Works of Esmonde and Larbey
Their first sitcom as a writing team came in 1966 with Room At The Bottom for the BBC. This followed the exploits of a group of maintenance men working for Saracens Manufacturing Company. Starting out as a pilot in the BBC's Comedy Playhouse programme, it lasted for one series the next year, starring Kenneth Connor, Deryck Guyler and Francis Matthews .
In 1968 Esmonde and Larbey created one of their most popular comedies with Please Sir , which starred John Alderton as a naive teacher thrown in at the deep end in a tough south London school. Part of the inspiration for this series was Bob and John's education in London schools. Although not acknowledged, the 1975 American sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter drew plenty of inspiration from this.
Due to the success of the antics of Form 5C in Please, Sir, Esmonde and Larbey wrote a spin-off - The Fenn Street Gang - which followed the students as they tried to make their way in the harsh world outside school. This starred David Barry , Peter Cleall and Carol Hawkins . Making his debut in series 2, George Baker made such an impression as a wide-boy villain that the prequel Bowler was launched in 1973. This lasted for one series and co-starred Fred Beauman , Renny Lister and Gretchen Franklin.
In the early to mid 1970s, Esmonde and Larbey produced several lesser-known comedies, sometimes lasting no longer than a pilot. These include ITV's Cosmo And Thingy, set in prehistoric times featuring a cast of cavemen and cavewomen, and Football Crazy (also for ITV) which was a children's sitcom about the football team Wormwood Rovers.
In 1975 Bob and John created their best-known sitcom - The Good Life, starring Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith. Set in Surbiton, Surrey it concerns itself with Tom and Barbara Good's (Briers and Kendal's) attempts to be self-sufficient after they decide to leave the rat race. Behind the middle-of-the-road and genteel middle class surroundings lies a sharp social commentary and well-crafted characters. It ran on the BBC until 1978, although it is still repeated often.
Esmonde and Larbey teamed up with Richard Briers again for BBC's 1977 comedy The Other One, a sitcom about a man who is a liar who attempts to hide his insecurities through charade. Two years later they returned to football with ITV's Feet First starring Jonathan Barlow as Terry Prince, a local footballer given the chance to hit the big time.
After the short-lived Now And Then (1983, ITV) they returned to form with Ever Decreasing Circles, which reunited the writers with Richard Briars. Briars starred as Martin Bryce, an irritating know-it-all with an obsessive personality who likes to interfere in the lives of all those around him. The series also featured Penelope Wilton and Peter Egan .
Another hit for Esmonde and Larbey was 1986's Brush Strokes, featuring Karl Howman and Gary Waldhorn as a house decorator and his boss. The BBC sitcom Double First only lasted one series in 1988, but marked a different approach. It starred Michael Williams.
Their last significant sitcom as a pair was 1992's Mulberry starring Karl Howman again as an apprentice Grim Reaper who has to guide Geraldine McEwan to the next world as easily as possible. However, Larbey contributed to the long-running BBC series As Time Goes By, starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, which ended in 2002.
- The Dick Emery Show (1956)
- Room At The Bottom (1966)
- Please Sir (1968)
- The Fenn Street Gang (1971)
- Cosmo And Thingy (1972)
- Bowler (1973)
- Football Crazy (1974)
- Get Some In! (1975)
- The Good Life (1975)
- The Other One (1977)
- Three Piece Suite (1977)
- Feet First (1979)
- Just Liz (1980)
- A Fine Romance (1981) - Larbey only
- Don't Rock The Boat (1982)
- The Curious Case Of Santa Claus (1982) - Larbey only
- Now And Then (1983)
- Ever Decreasing Circles (1984)
- Brush Strokes (1986)
- Double First (1988)
- On The Up (1990) - Larbey only
- Hope It Rains (1991)
- Mulberry (1992)
- As Time Goes By (1992) - Larbey only
- Down To Earth (1995)
- My Good Friend (1995) - Larbey only
- John Esmonde at IMDb - list of writing credits.
- Bob Larbey at IMDb - list of writing credits.
- BBC Guide to Comedy - information and pictures on all the shows mentioned on this page.
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