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

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.

Read more: John Esmonde dies
Goodbye to Richard Briers
 
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent