ITV Watching cast now - from Hollywood fame to quitting acting

The cast of hit 1980s/1990s ITV sitcom Watching which was set on Merseyside
The cast of hit 1980s/1990s ITV sitcom Watching -Credit:Granada Television

ITV sitcom Watching proved so popular that it ran for a massive six years, regularly reeling in an impressive 13 million viewers.

Produced by Granada Television and aired on ITV, the programme charted the convoluted and unexpected romance between the sharp-tongued and street wise Brenda and a the slightly sappy Malcolm. The title cleverly alluded to Brenda's (played by Emma Wray) and her sister Pamela's (Lisa Tarbuck) fondness for 'people watching', as well as Malcolm's (Paul Bown) keen interest in birdwatching.

The sitcom's huge success played a pivotal role in kick-starting many of the cast members' acting careers. Some subsequently appeared in popular soaps like EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

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Additionally, some cast members were established stars of screen and stage who, unfortunately, are no longer with us today. Interestingly, two co-stars found love off-screen, whilst one actress achieved fame in Hollywood. Another chose to step away from the glitz and glamour of showbiz altogether.

The series composed of 56, 30-minute episodes across seven series, featuring two special extended hour-long episodes, the Liverpool Echo previously reported. The story culminated with Brenda and Malcolm tying the knot in the final episode, titled "Knotting", aired on April 4, 1993.

In respect of this iconic bit of '80s/'90s television, we decided to check up on the show's stars - what they're up to now, and their accomplishments since their time on the show.

Beginning with Paul Bown (Malcolm Stoneway)....

Actors Emma Wray and Paul Bown in character as Brenda Wilson and Malcolm Stoneway in sitcom Watching, circa 1992
Actors Emma Wray and Paul Bown in character as Brenda Wilson and Malcolm Stoneway in sitcom Watching, circa 1992 -Credit:TV Times/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Taking the lead role as birdwatcher Malcolm in his breakthrough performance, Staffordshire-born actor Paul is now 66 and has crafted a successful career in popular TV programmes like Coronation Street, Casualty, Holby City, Endeavour and Father Brown.

In Corrie, he made a mark as Roy Cropper's brother, with other TV drama roles including appearing in A Confession with Martin Freeman and Bancroft. An interesting titbit - Paul got to share screen space with Rowan Atkinson as the original Baldrick in Blackadder's pilot episode and even made a cameo in The Damned United, starring Hollywood actor Michael Sheen.

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In 2022 he appeared in BBC One comedy series Death in Paradise as chess champion Maurice Holburne. In his personal life, Paul is married to Jane Jamieson and together they have four children.

Emma Wray (Brenda Wilson)

Emma Wray played smart mouthed Brenda Wilson
Emma Wray played smart mouthed Brenda Wilson -Credit:Getty Images

Emma, who brought Brenda Wilson to life on screen, was a perfect fit for the Merseyside-set show. Born in Birkenhead, she even sang the catchy theme song What Does He See in Me?

Known for playing the boisterous Brenda, she was often forced to ride in love interest Malcolm's Norton motorbike sidecar during his birdwatching escapades. Another comic outlet in the show was Brenda's delight in irritating Malcolm's domineering mother, Marjorie, played by Patsy Byrne.

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Emma had a significant part in Yorkshire Television's show Stay Lucky, but surprisingly retired from acting in 1999 after her final role as Donna in the series My Wonderful Life. It was reported she worked for a time as a nanny after ditching showbiz.

During her 12-year acting stint, Emma, 59, dated co-actor Perry Fenwick, who went on to become a familiar face in EastEnders, and landed roles in popular shows like Boon and Minder. Emma appears to keep her personal life private, and it is not known if she is married or in a relationship.

Liza Tarbuck (Pamela Lynch)

Liza Tarbuck (right) alongside her Watching co-stars Paul Brown and Emma Wray
Liza Tarbuck (right) alongside her Watching co-stars Paul Brown and Emma Wray -Credit:Mirrorpix

Famously known as the daughter of Liverpool comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, Liza honed her skills at the National Youth Theatre and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Her big break came with the show Watching, where she portrayed Brenda's sister, before landing a role as Angie in the 1998 Falklands War drama Tumbledown, alongside Hollywood star Colin Firth.

Later, she took on the lead role in BBC One comedy-drama Linda Green and made a guest appearance in Ricky Gervais' popular comedy series Extras. The 59 year old boasts an impressive list of acting credits, including roles in French and Saunders, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Saxondale, Bleak House, Bonkers and Doctor Who.

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Liza hosted the fashion programme She's Gotta Have It and Sky One's Blockbusters, and has been a guest presenter on the BBC show Have I Got News for You, and The Big Breakfast with Johnny Vaughan, Sara Cox and Richard Bacon. However, she famously left the hit Channel 4 show after just one year.

In addition to her extensive TV work, Liza has also found success with her Saturday evening show on BBC Radio 2. She has also recently played the character of Siobhain in the Channel 4 comedy drama The Change.

Perry Fenwick (Terry Milton)

Actor Perry Fenwick went on to become a star in EastEnders
Perry Fenwick has become best known for playing Billy Mitchell in EastEnders -Credit:No credit

London-born Perry made his television debut in the show, before securing the iconic role of Billy Mitchell in the EastEnders. Since 1998, the 61 year old has portrayed the character in Albert Square, despite originally being cast as a guest character.

Perry has also featured in TV shows such as Inspector Morse, The Brittas Empire, Minder, On The Up, The Thin Blue Line and the renowned detective series Bergerac, starring John Nettles. He was romantically involved with Watching co-star Emma Wray and was famously married to former Coronation Street actress Angela Lonsdale.

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The couple parted ways in 2010 after five years of marriage. Perry boasts numerous film credits, including Empire State, The Winslow Boy and Mona Lisa. However, it is his portrayal of Billy Mitchell, a role he has held for over two decades, that most TV viewers will recognise him for.

Patsy Byrne (Marjorie Stoneway)

Cast of ITV's Watching, from left, Emma Wray, Paul Bown and Patsy Byrne
Cast of ITV's Watching, from left, Emma Wray, Paul Bown and Patsy Byrne -Credit:Getty Images

Many TV comedy fans will remember Patsy for her role as Nursie in Blackadder. However, it was her performance as Malcolm's domineering mother Mrs Stoneway where Patsy truly shone.

A graduate of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Patsy sadly passed away at the age of 80 in 2014. She had an illustrious TV and film career which included roles in Inspector Morse, 2point4 Children, Les Miserables, David Copperfield and Stealing Heaven, to name a few.

She also starred in the hit ITV series Heartbeat, boasting an impressive acting career that spanned over three decades.

Philip Fox (Sidney Clough)

Philip Fox (left) with Tim McInnerny and Rowan Atkinson in a scene from the unaired pilot of the BBC television series 'Blackadder', June 20th 1982. Fox played the character of Baldrick in the pilot before Tony Robinson took over
Actors (L-R) Philip Fox, Tim McInnerny and Rowan Atkinson in a scene from the unaired pilot of the BBC television series 'Blackadder', June 20 1982 -Credit:Radio Times via Getty Images

The actor narrowly missed out on a role in the hit comedy Blackadder, with the pilot not being broadcast and fellow actor Tony Robinson famously securing the role of iconic dogsbody Baldrick. However, Philip has since enjoyed a successful career in TV, film and radio.

His credits include appearances in Waking The Dead, People Like Us, Maxwell, Don't Tell Father, Midsummer Murders, Foyle's War and comedy shows such as I'm Alan Partridge. He is also recognised for his work with BBC Radio 4, featuring in shows like The Art of Deception, The Razor's Edge, The Yellow Dog and Inspector Cadaver.

Interestingly, he made a cameo in Superman IV and earned a credit in the film Maurice, which starred Hollywood heavyweight Hugh Grant.

John Bowler (David Lynch)

John Bowler went on to star in Emmerdale as well as EastEnders and Corrie
John Bowler went on to star in Emmerdale as well as EastEnders and Corrie -Credit:Getty Images

John studied acting in Glasgow before getting his break on Watching, appearing in the series early in his career. Now, at 71, John has had a distinguished career.

Uniquely, the seasoned actor has appeared in all three major soaps: EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his role as PC Roger Valentine in 229 episodes of the popular ITV police drama The Bill.

John has also featured in popular TV shows such as Casualty, Law and Order UK, WPC 56, Holby City, DCI Banks, Doctor Who, Father Brown and, since 2019, Emmerdale as DI Goldberg. He made a brief appearance in Corrie in 2002 and then a year later played the character Dougie Slade in six episodes, before completing a full round of soap appearances with a role in ITV's Emmerdale. In 2022, he played the role of Liam Nicholson in the BBC daytime soap opera Doctors.

Elizabeth Spriggs (Aunty Peggy)

Actress Elizabeth Spriggs
Actress Elizabeth Spriggs -Credit:PA

A decade after her acting debut in 1968, Elizabeth was awarded the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role for her standout performance in Love Letters on Blue Paper. She also earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her part in the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility, which starred Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.

The well-loved actress also appeared in the box office hit Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as her career continued to soar to Hollywood heights. Elizabeth, who passed away aged 78 in 2008, secured sought-after roles in Richard's Things, Impromptu and Paradise Road, and enjoyed an impressive TV career that spanned an incredible 50 years.

She featured in a wide range of well-known shows including Casualty, Heartbeat, Doctor Who, The Royal, Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie's Poirot and Swiss Toni. Her star-studded funeral was attended by a host of top actors including Peter Vaughan, Jeremy Irons and Robert Hardy.