Writer and creator Peter Spence originally intended To the Manor Born for radio. Instead, BBC brass decided on a half-hour television version which began its three-year run in September 1979. Spence based the series on a widow who sold her Cricket St. Thomas estate to a businessman. Some of the scenes were filmed inside the estate, known in the sitcom as Grantleigh Manor, which lent the show an authentic upper-crust atmosphere. In the series, uppity widow Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (Penelope Keith) sells her ancestral home to settle her late husband's debts. She is shocked to learn the new owner, Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles) rose from poverty to become a "nouveau riche" supermarket king -- even more surprising, his English accent and manners belie his Czechoslovakian background. Audrey moves to the nearby Grantleigh Manor Lodge, a convenient location where she can watch Richard and the estate. Richard soon learns his new neighbor is an adversary determined to dictate the "lord of the manor"'s expected duties and customs. His desire to modernize the manor often clashed with her notions of tradition -- what ignited their sparks was not just anger, but romantic tension. Whether their battles were of the sexes, class differences, city vs. country lifestyles, or all of the above, nearly every episode featured a cat-and-mouse game in which one tried to outsmart the other. As Audrey and Richard became better acquainted, the intensity of their arguments decreased and their mutual attraction grew; Audrey began to accept Richard's adaptation to upper-class country life and he more appreciated her old-fashioned ways. Other regular cast members included Audrey's longtime friend Marjory Frobisher (Angela Thorne), Richard's mother Mrs. Polouvicka (Daphne Heard), Brigadier Lemington (Anthony Sharp), Audrey's butler Brabinger (John Rudling), the estate handyman Ned (Michael Bilton), village shopkeeper Mrs. Patterson (Daphne Oxenford), and the church rector (Gerald Sim). The 21-episode series ended in 1981 with Audrey and Richard's wedding; 24 million people watched the finale. To The Manor Born later aired worldwide and on American PBS stations. In 1997, BBC Radio 2 broadcast ten To the Manor Born radio plays, six TV episode adaptations and four new stories starring Penelope Keith and Angela Thorne as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and Marjory Frobisher and Keith Barron as Richard DeVere.
Comic vignettes (three per show) about a young woman and her junior-exec husband. Betty White not only was the star but was the series' co-creator and co-producer as well, an accomplishment rare in the early 1950s. 'Elizabeth,' White's first comic role on TV, debuted on a local station in Los Angeles in 1952.