Although the Granada sit-com The Brothers McGregor ran for four series and twenty-six episodes, few people watching at the time, or remembering the programme since, realise that it was a spin-off from Coronation Street. Indeed very little publicity was given to this fact on the programme's launch in 1985, possibly so as to avoid viewers prejudging what the programme would be like.
John Stevenson was responsible for writing Episode 2203 of Coronation Street which was broadcast on 12th May 1982 and which featured, as its main storyline, a party held in the Rovers Return Inn to celebrate the engagement of reformed scouse jailbird Eddie Yeats to Marion Willis. Among the guests invited were the McGregor Brothers from Liverpool. The visual joke of the two characters, Wesley and Cyril was that although they were introduced as brothers one was white and one was mixed-race, the explanation being given that they were in fact half-brothers, sharing the same mother. The party, mainly through the intervention of the two guests, got more and more riotous to the point where Annie Walker rang the police who turned up as Cyril and Wesley rolled the pub piano out of the front door and on to the street, intending to carry on the party into the night.
John Stevenson was taken with his creations, as were fellow-writer Julian Roach and Coronation Street executive producer Bill Podmore and a suggestion was made to Granada Television Managing Director David Plowright that the two brothers would be worthy of a sitcom of their own.
The resulting programme made its debut on Wednesday 4th September 1985 and, although it garnered few critical reviews, it was an immediate success in the ratings achieving 6th place for the week with 15.15 million viewers. Subsequent weeks saw a slight drop but the first series gained overall average ratings of over 13 million viewers.
The two actors who played Cyril and Wesley in their Coronation Street appearance (Carl Chase and Tony Osoba) were either unavailable or unwilling to reprise their roles and Philip Whitchurch and Paul Barber were cast in their place. The Brother's working background as dodgy second-hand car dealers through their own concern ("Rathbone Motors") was expanded on. Cyril was shown to have ambitions to be as big a singer as Frank Sinatra in Liverpool's clubland, not realising that in everyone else's view he was the worst singer in the world. Wesley saw himself as a great business tycoon but his scams and deals constantly failed. Their mother, Dolly, lived in her own fantasy world which involved Wesley's long-gone father returning to her and a series of rambling monologues which occasionally involved Prince Philip. Cyril's girlfriend, punk Glenys Pike, had been engaged to him for six years but he refused to commit himself further. Other regular characters were Colwyn Stanley, owner of the Blue Cockatoo nightclub whose patrons Cyril regularly tormented with his singing and Nigel, a young lad who helped out at Rathbone Motors.
John Stevenson and Julian Roach shared the writing duties between them, Podmore was also the executive producer and Bernard Thompson produced all twenty-six episodes.
When the series returned in April 1986 it had suffered a strong fall in the ratings with its viewing figures halved and no episodes appearing in the national top twenty. Nevertheless Granada persevered in making the programme although the fourth series in July and August 1988 was consigned to the graveyard slot of 10.35pm. It was the sit-com's final nail in the coffin and a fifth series was never commissioned.
Although the programme was always fully networked there were slight differences in the transmission times for seasons two and three. All of the country saw season two on Thursday evenings at 8.30pm except for the programme's "home" region of Granada Television where transmission took place at 9.00pm. For season three TVS (and the station it "fed", Channel Television) saw the programme at 7.30pm on Thursdays as opposed to the rest of the country which saw it at 8.00pm on Mondays. As reported in a 1987 issue of Broadcast magazine this "graveyard" slot opposite EastEnders on BBC1 was a form of retaliation for Granada dropping TVS's magazine programme The Sunday Show and was all part on an on-going battle by TVS against the "Big 5" ITV stations (Granada, London Weekend Television, Thames Television, Yorkshire Television and Central Television) who effectively controlled ITV's networking arrangements.
Both Whitchurch and Barber went on to greater successes, the former appearing in The Bill for several years followed by the regular role of Tyler in My Hero, while Barber appeared in the smash-hit movie The Full Monty but remains best known to television viewers as Denzil in Only Fools and Horses.
A paperback novelisation by Angus Wells of the first six episodes of season one was published by Grafton books on 21st November 1985.
Season One (1985)Edit
- The Getaway Car
- The Royal Letter
- Cyril's Marital Status
- The Vicar Buys a Car
- The Talent Contest
- The Impressive Address
- Nye Jenkins
Season Two (1986)Edit
- The Traffic Warden (Also known as Return of the Scouse Duo)
- Fitness Freaks (Also known as The Blue and the Red)
- Cyril's Singing (Also known as The Pies Have Arrived)
- Criminal Connections (Also known as Double Trouble)
- Irate Dinner Tables (Also known as The Persistent Mr Pyecroft)
- Victorian Porn (Also known as Dennis Dodgy Books)