Joint Account is a role-reversal comedy. Belinda Braithwaite (Hannah Gordon) is a successful bank manager, whilst her husband David (Peter Egan) is perfectly content to stay at home and look after the house and children. But now the kids have gone to Uni, Belinda wants to quit the rat race – which means David’s cosy life is under threat ….
Airing for two series between 1989 and 1990, Don Webb’s sitcom now has a pleasantly dated air. The notion that the man might prefer to stay at home whilst the woman goes out to work is clearly seen as “not the done thing”. And casting Peter Egan, who’d previously played the louche Paul Ryman in Ever Decreasing Circles only serves to increase the incongruity.
Egan had been acting since the late 1960’s, racking up an impressive list of television and theatre credits, although prior to Ever Decreasing Circles he’d not appeared in a sitcom. But the enormous success of EDC made it understandable that the BBC would have been keen to find him another sitcom vehicle.
It was decided to pair him with Hannah Gordon, another television favourite. Gordon had enjoyed an equally successful career since the mid 1960’s and had proved herself to be equally at home in both drama and comedy.
Prior to Joint Account, Don Webb had tended to write drama (ten episodes for Juliet Bravo, five for Rockcliffe’s Babies). Quite what inspired his move into sitcom is a slight mystery, but since his later credits were also dramatic (Byker Grove, an adaptation of Elidor, Ellington, The Bill) it seems as if he decided that it wasn’t his forte.
The opening episode sets out the basic premise. David finds plenty to do during the day apart from housework (delivering meals on wheels, working at the Citizens Advice Bureau) but is disinclined to go and find himself a real job. He’s happy with his life and not at all threatened that Belinda is the breadwinner.
This state of affairs is viewed by Ned (John Bird), one of Belinda’s colleagues at the bank, as decidedly odd. Or maybe he’s simply a male chauvinist, irritated that Belinda’s the branch manager rather than him (he says as much in his opening scene).
Episode one also introduces us to several other regulars, the sarcastic bank clerk Jessica (Ruth Mitchell) and the Braithwaite’s next-door neighbour Louise (Lill Roughley), who has an unrequited pash for David. The second episode sees the debut of absent-minded solictor Charles Ruby (Richard Aylen).
After work, Belinda and Jessica go for a pint and a game of darts (another unsubtle role reversal twist) which enables Belinda to explain how unfufilled she feels. She believes that one of the main roles of a bank manager is to drive people into debt, which depresses her. David’s a graduate engineer and Belinda wants him to start to put his skills into action. David on the other hand is quite content as he is.
Joint Account is a pleasant time-waster, although it’s not really a surprise that it only lasted two series. Egan and Gordon are always worth watching and John Bird, as Belinda’s work rival Ned, is as good value as always, but at times the series seems content to plough a fairly bland furrow.
Despite the best efforts of the regulars, none of the characters ever really feel like real people (contrast this to the first-class characterisation of Martin, Ann and Paul in Ever Decreasing Circles). This means that whilst Joint Account is capable of raising some smiles and chuckles, unlike the best sitcoms there’s nothing happening below the surface.
Joint Account was released by Simply Media on the 5th of September 2016. It’s a three disc set, with series one (six episodes) on the first disc and the ten episodes of series two on the second and third discs. The RRP is £29.99