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  • Despite their protestations ITV are not known for their sit-coms. It is usually a mirth fee zone but every now and then a gem is discovered and Shelly is a bona fide, premium grade comedy classic.

    Hywel Bennett plays the over educated professional layabout Shelley whose mission in life is to avoid work and muse about life. It was anti establishment and anti Tory which gave it a political edge.

    It had sharp writing and funny without resorting to knockabout comedy. In Hywel Bennett they found the perfect actor.

    Bennett was someone who was a rising star in the late 1960s but problems in his personal life meant he hit skid row in the early 70s and was out of the limelight until the late 1970s.

    Shelley established him back to the forefront, he might had looked older and less baby faced than before but still attractive enough to make Shelley appealing enough to women and an everyman philosopher without turning to bombast.

    Later series had to deal with issues when his screen wife left the show and had him musing to a tape recorder to his daughter now relocated to Canada. Some years later Shelly returned in new episodes, more wiser, more cynical but still funny as ever.

    A lasting tribute to the talents of Hywel Bennett.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    University graduate James Shelley is an unemployment statistic in Thatcher's Britain. With a difference. He doesn't work because he doesn't want to. With girlfriend Fran, he lives in Mrs.Hawkins' boarding house in Pangloss Road. When not laying about in bed all day he is to be found either in the pub or else engaging in witty repartee with the harassed staff of the local Unemployment Benefit Office.

    The timing of 'Shelley' was perfect; as unemployment rose to three million in the early '80's, the character was seen by some as a champion of the underdog, a man who shrugged off the insults of toffee-nosed D.H.S.S. officers, and gave as good as he got.

    Hywel Bennett was outstanding as Shelley, and Peter Tilbury's scripts were a world away from normal I.T.V. sitcom fare. Belinda Sinclair made a good foil, often matching him insult for insult. When Fran departed ( along with Tilbury ), the show declined in quality, despite first-rate scripts by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, as Shelley seemed lonely and down in the dumps on his own. It recovered some of its sparkle in 1988 when it returned as 'The Return Of Shelley', taking the opportunity to mock the 'yuppie' phenomenon of the time.

    'Rising Damp' is rightly regarded as I.T.V.'s best sitcom, but in my view 'Shelley' runs it a close second.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A lost classic TV series sometimes seen on satellite.(The best place for repeats, but worthwhile when they dig up classics like this!)

    James Shelley (The excellent actor, Hywel Bennett) is an ex-Uni over-qualified person for the jobs market. With qualifications as long as his arm, surely there's something he could do though - well, his best virtue is as a professional layabout!

    Constantly at odds with the establishment, that especially in Thatcherite 1980's Britain is uncompromising, he manages to enter into mouthy exchanges, well AT the Labour Exchanges! With his pregnant wife-to-be Fran, where the series starts, there will obviously have to be a time when he'll have to woefully except employment. Even when he does, his battle begins again, IN work! One of my favourite lines is where he can't believe in the amount of tax that can actually be taken from our wage packets. (This is where we lose any contempt for the layabout we may have had and join him!)"give it back... the booty, the swag!" On being informed by the first tax official the amount he's had deducted is right: "They can't take this much ... not without a gun and a getaway car!" on entering the office of the next tax official: "Look, just hand it back, and we'll say no more about it!" At one point, he visits a psychiatrist on someone else's behalf, only to tell the shrink : "Try and take things easier...cut down on the rubbish you talk, and if you're not feeling better in a week...kill yourself!"

    It's actually at this point visiting the taxman really, never mind being in work that he decides to marry Fran - as the taxman informs him he'd get more money with the married allowance (After saying to the taxman that if a single person gets less, it's like 'fining' them for not being married - "Do you put them in prison if they continue?!"). The series progresses well, especially the quick-talker's banter with his landlady, Mrs 'H' (Jospehine Tewson)whom he's at odds with. As ProfessorStahlman rightly says, after this, (1981+) when Fran left, it wore decidedly tiresome, not because of Hywel Bennett, but it just didn't work when James was in work, so long, trying to earn a crust, and having had a daughter, who lived in Canada with Fran from his now-defunct relationship with her. A good script at times nonetheless and the early series are always a definite must-see!
  • I just by chance stumbled across an old episode of Shelly on forces TV. And watched it just to see if it was as good as I remember it. I was 15 when Shelly first aired and the razor sharp script and Hywell Bennett's dead pan sarcastic delivery for me makes it one of the most underrated shows of all time.. This show was ahead of it's time it was almost too good to be classed as a sit com Peter Tilburys writing is a masterclass in comedic writing whilst Bennett delivers the gags and one liners with immaculate comic timing. I wonder if Ricky Gervais ever watched Shelly as his shows remind me of Shelley's sarcastic wit. Was the show as good as I remember it? Yes it was and more.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I too have caught up with this on British Forces TV! It usually followed the Dukes of Hazzard. Something of a curate's egg is British Forces TV, i.e. 'good in parts'.

    There is the occasional sharp, edgy comedy now, such as Fleabag, but they are more rare. Also most comedy these days seems politically neutered.

    Not sure what I have to add but I want to say something, if only to add an additional review further to commend it to those who have yet to discover it.

    So, Shelley has some really sharp and funny writing, indeed amongst the best I ever heard in a TV situation comedy. I often found myself laughing out aloud which I don't often do at TV comedy these days! Sometimes the writing was very near the bone in a way you would not find in most TV comedy these days.

    One of the writers was Andy Hamilton, who is IMHO, and I am sure in his, one of the best British comedy writers of the past two generations. However, other contributory writers were pretty good too. When you saw, however, that an episode was written by Andy Hamilton you knew you were in for a treat.

    I am not sure what to make of Hywel Bennett's Shelley. I am ambivalent about his character which is probably part of his appeal. Shelley's wife Fran left him with their daughter because he couldn't settle down to a career and so fulfil his duties as husband and father. Not exactly an example to follow, whatever your political orientation. He redeemed himself, to some degree, in that he was very witty, could be kind and politically his heart was in the right place. However, I personally wish that at the very end of the final series he was shown finally ready to rejoin the rat race, if only for the sake of being reunited with his family or starting another one.

    The supporting actors read like a Who's Who of British character actors. It would be almost invidious to pick out just the one but David Ryall, who was his landlord in the final series, was one of my favourites. He provided a masterclass in subtle, humane comedy support. Ars vita, vita brevis. 'Art endures although life is short'. Almost, including Hywel Bennett, all the major actors who appeared in the series, have now long gone to that great casting session in the Sky, peace be on their souls. However, thank Heaven that their gift for entertaining us survives them!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Shelley' was one of ITV's longest running sitcoms ( running from the late '70's right through to the early 90's ), yet is little remembered now. One can only assume it is due to the use of some rude remarks made towards gentlemen of the foreign persuasion in some of the early episodes ( in the first episode Shelley told an Indian landlord exactly what he thought of him and his filthy bedsit when he was looking for a place to live ). Now it is true that when viewed now it does not stand the test of time like it once did, but if one were to ignore that minor detail, they would find that 'Shelley' is nevertheless a funny ( and topical ) little piece.

    It was the creation of Peter Tilbury and starred the late Hywel Bennett as unemployment statistic James Shelley, who mainly would be referred to as 'Shelley'. Though a well educated university graduate ( he has a degree in geography ), he is a spectacularly lazy individual who openly admits his poor work ethic is down to his refusal to work. This frustrates his girlfriend Fran, who later became his wife and who he later fathered a child with.

    Shelley initially lodged with Fran in a bedsit in Pangloss Road where the landlady was Edna Hawkins ( played by Josephine Tewson ). However, both Fran and Mrs. Hawkins left after the fourth series when Shelley and Fran split up.

    Hywel Bennett was fantastic as Shelley. He was not dissimilar in personality to the later 'Rab C. Nesbitt', though not as funny as Gregor Fisher's portrayal in my opinion. Belinda Sinclair made a good foil for Shelley and it was not as funny when she left the show, along with Josephine Tewson, who later attained greater fame in 'Keeping Up Appearances' as Hyacinth Bucket's nervous neighbour Elizabeth. Later episodes were further let down by the change in scriptwriters when Peter Tilbury departed.

    The show looked to have ended in 1984 but returned four years later as 'The Return Of Shelley' but it wasn't as funny. It soon became clear that the show had run out of ideas and in 1992 it finally ended when Thames Television lost its ITV franchise.

    Not superb comedy ( that's only my personal opinion though ) but there were some fine moments that made it worth watching
  • This was must watch enjoyable tv as a teenager,but rewatching this year was a big disappointment a lot of talking which every half hour feels like an hour,also everyone remembers this being about a job shy layabout actually from the 2nd series on he's desperately looking for a job, the biggest laugh I got was realising the main complaints about tories destroying the jobs schools and nhs are the same as comedians are making now 40 years later with nuclear war being replaced with brexit