Only When I Laugh was an ITV sitcom that was set in an NHS hospital ward and ran from 1979 until 1982 over four series. It revolved around three inhabitants of the ward, their surgeon and a male orderly. I don’t know what was wrong with these three guys, but it couldn’t have been good if they were in hospital for four years – though none of them really seemed to suffer from much in the way of symptoms!
The first of the patients was Roy Figgis, played by James Bolam. Roy was the trouble maker on the ward. If there was something to complain about he would, and if there was a rule to be broken he would break it. Next was Archie Glover, a role that was just made for Peter Bowles. Archie tried to distance himself from Roy, thinking he was a better class of person. Finally there was Norman Binns (Christopher Strauli) who was the nervous, Mummy’s boy type character.
Their surgeon, Mr. Thorpe, was none other than Richard Wilson, better known as Victor Meldrew from One Foot In The Grave. He would come in and order the patients about, but given how long they were under his care he obviously wasn’t much of a surgeon.
Finally there was the male Indian hospital orderly, known only as Gupte (Derrick Branche), who was ordered about even more so than the patients by Mr. Thorpe, and was the stooge for many of the jokes. This was the sort of character that you just wouldn’t get in a sitcom these days as it would not be deemed politically correct.
As with many shows from my childhood, it is once again the theme tune that I most remember, which was the rather mournfully sung (at least initially) I’m H.A.P.P.Y. For quite some time I was convinced that the programme was actually called I’m H.A.P.P.Y because of this song.