Two’s Company was a culture clash comedy – Dorothy McNab (Elaine Stritch) is a rich American and Robert Hiller (Donald Sinden) is her superior English butler. Their differing natures are spelt out in the opening credits (which seem to go on forever).
Running for four series between 1975 and 1979, Two’s Company‘s strength is the banter between Stritch and Sinden. Take that away and there’s not a great deal left – the writing is amusing enough but it’s hardly top-tier sitcom fare. But the first series had clearly been successful enough for A Kind of Loving (the opening episode of series two) to receive a Christmas Day airing in 1976.
The relationship between Dorothy and Robert is made clear by their choice of presents to each other. Dorothy is underwhelmed to receive an LP of Elgar’s Enigma Variations whilst Robert is equally unimpressed with an LP by Jelly Roll Morton. Once they swop, then they’re much happier. Although both presents were unsuitable, there’s no malice in their choices – possibly they genuinely wanted to widen the others musical horizons (although it was doomed to failure). This sets the tone for their general interaction – both indulge in a subtle form of one-upmanship, with honours (in this episode) ending up even.
The plot of this one is quite simple. Both say their goodbyes on Christmas Eve as they head off in different directions (Dorothy to Paris and Robert to the country). But both were fibbing and had planned to spend a quiet Christmas at home (Robert in the comfortable downstairs portion of the house) with convivial company. As both of them have now returned that creates something of a problem. And when Robert’s friend Gillian (Geraldine Newman) takes an interest in Dorothy’s friend Nigel (Derek Waring) that just adds to the tension. And then Dorothy’s cousin Clarence (John Bay) turns up …..
Clarence is your stereotypical, loud, crass American – constantly referring to Robert as “Jeeves” much to his disgust. Dorothy’s no more pleased to see him and when Gillian and Nigel leave together that means Dorothy, Robert and Clarence are fated to spend Christmas together.
Bay was married to Elaine Stritch, but he was a decent actor so his appearance here wasn’t just nepotism (it’s not his fault that Clarence was written as such an irritating person). Geraldine Newman and Derek Waring were both very experienced performers and they help to give the episode a bit of impetus.
Donald Sinden’s spot-on comic timing, even with the fairly thin material, is worth watching and he has a decent foe in Elaine Stritch. Not a classic series, but a passable way of spending twenty five minutes.