SWEET SIXTEEN This page is dedicated to one of the funniest and yet most reviled British sitcom ever aired.
The 1983 British sitcom Sweet Sixteen was intended to be a major vehicle for the then enormously popular Penelope Keith (The Good neighbors, To The Manor Born) and was expected to have an extended run.
.....Penelope Keith as Helen Walker...........Christopher Villiers as Peter Morgan..
Everyone involved in the production was shocked and dismayed when public outcry against it was so intense that the series had to be cancelled after only six episodes. It only aired once on PBS in the US and was never released on VHS or DVD. It is one of the rarest of all series. If you have a copy count yourself very lucky.
The plot of Sweet Sixteen was that Helen Walker, the hard-as-nails boss of a successful building company, falls in love with her architect, Peter Morgan, has an affair with him and discovers she's pregnant. The title, and much of the humor, derives from fact that she's 41 while he's only 25: 16 (sweet sixteen) years younger.
Audiences were appalled to see Penelope Keith in such a role. This is understandable since she'd earned her popularity playing ultra proper characters like Margo Leadbetter in The Good Neighbors (Life in the UK), Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in To The Manor Born and Maria Wislack in the immensely respected and successful play ON APPROVAL.
I believe there was another problem. Penelope Keith's previous characters may have acted bossy or arrogant but were in fact rather clueless and as such, laughable. Helen Morgan, on the other hand, really was tough and smart and successful. Yes, she had her good side but she kept it guarded. She was also the better of every man on the show, though she wasn't arrogant about it. This also may have put audiences, at least the male half, off a bit.
Sweet Sixteen's failure is a shame because in every respect it was outstanding. The writing was brighter, funnier and wittier than the best of The Good Neighbors and On Approval. The acting was universally great, even for the smallest of roles, and the situations unique and interesting. Penelope Keith and Christopher Villiers played very well off each other and added good chemistry to the mix.
Sadly, the audiences of the time were so prejudiced against the series that they were blind to these excellent qualities. The first 28-minute episode aired 16 October, 1983 and the last aired 20 November, 1983.
Fans of this series complain that too many plot elements were left unresolved. I humbly disagree. Helen and Peter got married, he took over the business and she needed to have some part of the business so they built a small office near her home. I felt it ended perfectly and makes a well-rounded mini-series.
Episode 1: Helen discovers she's pregnant and tells Peter, who's flabbergasted at first but after the shock asks her to marry him.
Episode 2: Helen backs out of the engagement. Peter meets Helen's son, who is almost as old as he is.
Episode 3: Coached by her son, Peter musters up the courage to ask Helen to marry him again.
Episode 4: Helen has high blood pressure problems, which force Peter to take over the business. Problems ensue.
Episode 5: They finally get married. Helen meets Peter's mother, who looks as young as she does.
Episode 6: Helen settles in to domestic life, but is still needed to sort out some problems in the business.
Helen Walker - Penelope Keith
Peter Morgan - Christopher Villiers (Played the wayward son in the 1987 BBC production of Mansfield Park.)
Jane (Helen's secretary) - Joan Blackman
Dr. Ballintine - Mike Grady
Arthur Poole (old construction foreman) - the great character actor John Rapley
Millie Poole (Arthur's wife) - played by Sheila Fay. Millie was the only character strong-willed enough to stand up to Helen.
Ken Green (accountant) - the popular Victor Spinetti
James Walker (Helen's son) Matthew Solan (Starred as Chuffy (Lord Chufnel) in the popular Jeeves and Wooster series.)
If you're familiar with this series you may recall the light, sweet melody used as its theme. The music came from the 1977, #3 hit by Dan Hill titled Sometimes When We Touch.
Now for the true purpose of this page. I am fortunate to have a copy of Sweet Sixteen. It is a very old, very grainy, VHS recording made at super long play. It is going to die at any moment. I should very much like hearing from anyone who has a good copy of this series and would be willing to sell me a clean copy of it, preferably on DVD. I will be happy to pay for it and all handling and shipping fees. If you have a copy of Sweet Sixteen, even if you can't share copies of it, please send me an email. I'd enjoy hearing from anyone who's seen this series.
Stephanie Jean has posted the entire Sweet Sixteen series on her youtube webpage: http://youtube.com/user/steffsstuff/videos. You'll need to look for it because Steffanie has many videos on her page, many of which, like On Approval and Grace are outstanding.
Also, as I did with my pages dedicated to ON APPROVAL and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, I would like to build up a list of people who have copies of this series to help others who don't to obtain them, or just to commun with fans. Please send me your email address and I'll post it with a blocker so that spam spiders can't use it.
Finally, if enough people email requests to either Acorn Media (email@example.com) or The Criterion Collection (firstname.lastname@example.org), there is a chance that they will add Sweet Sixteen to their list of shows to be produced and released on DVD. If you would like to support this effort, please do so. Thank you.
I sincerely hope you've enjoyed this page as much as I have putting it together.
(Click here to browse 70 topics on my main site ranging from triangle looms and Knitting Nancies to magnetic rocket engines.)