Bob Larbey, co-writer of The Good Life, dies aged 79

Larbey worked with John Esmonde on the hit BBC sitcom, which attracted 15m viewers a week

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The Independent Online

Bob Larbey, the co-writer of BBC sitcom The Good Life, has died aged 79, his agent has confirmed.

The 1970s hit show about two neighbouring suburban couples was one of the prolific scriptwriter’s many successes with co-writer John Esmonde, who died in 2008.

Their work together spanned four decades and encompassed Ever Decreasing Circles, Brush Strokes and Please Sir!

Larbey’s solo successes included A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By.

But The Good Life, which ran between 1975 and 1978, was by far his most noteworthy work – it attracted some 15 million viewers a week and was voted the nation’s 9th favourite laugh in the Britain’s Greatest Sitcom poll.

It tells the story of 40-year-old Tom Good (played by Richard Briers), who abandons the rat race and converts his garden into a farm alongside his wife Barbara (Felicity Kendal).

Their neighbours are the henpecked Jerry and Margot Leadbetter (Paul Eddington and Penelope Keith).

The show simultaneously attacked both the middles class and the “alternative” lifestyle, evidencing Margot’s snobbishness as blindness and Tom’s obsessive self-sufficiency as over-the-top.

Larbey, who died on Monday, was born in south London in 1934. He attended school in the area, which was where he first met Esmonde. The pair began working together on comedy scripts and by the early 1960s they had enjoyed modest success with sketches for radio programmes such as I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again and television shows including The Dick Emery Show.

Their first major television breakthrough came with the secondary school-based Please Sir! in 1968. Its success led to a feature film and a follow-up series called the Fenn Street Gang

After The Good Life Larbey and Esmonde went on to write three more sitcoms for Richard Briers, starting with The Other One, which ran from 1977 to 1979. Briers also starred in Ever Decreasing Circles (1984-89) and Down to Earth (1995).

Larbey trod his own path with A Fine Romance (1981-84), which starred Judi Dench in her first ever television sitcom, alongside her real-life husband, Michael Williams.

His other solo successes included writing the screenplays for the first four episodes of The Darling Buds of May from a novel by H E Bates.

He worked again with Dench in As Time Goes By, where she was cast opposite Geoffrey Palmer in a show that ran for nine series and a couple of reunion specials between 1992 and 2005. 

Larbey married Patricia (Trish) Marshall, a scriptwriter for LWT, who died in 2006. He is survived by their son.