During a service call out to a part of the East End he is not familiar with, Gary Sparrow, a TV repairman living an ordinary life in 1990s Cricklewood, unknowingly walks through a time portal to 1940s London. He does not realise what has happened at first and simply thinks he is lost. He wanders into a local public house (The Royal Oak) which, he decides must be a World War II theme pub; however, after an air raid, he realises the truth.
Upon discovering he can return to the future, Gary uses his time travelling ability to flit between the past and the present. He starts a cross-time romance with Royal Oak barmaid, Phoebe Bamford, while still living his regular life in the 1990s with wife Yvonne. Neither Yvonne nor Phoebe know that Gary is a time traveller (or an adulterer). Gary's only confidant is his modern day best friend and printer, Ron Wheatcroft. Ron is able to replicate items that Gary needs to get by in the past (such as period money and ration cards) and to help him present 'cover stories' to Yvonne, though he performs the latter rather unwillingly.
Gary exploits his obvious advantage as a person from the future by claiming to be a 'secret agent' with 'classified' information pertaining to the war. He also plays well-known songs on the piano that post-date his 1940s audience (for example; Beatles songs) and then claims he wrote them.
Eventually, both Phoebe and Yvonne are pregnant at the same time, making Gary's juggling of past and present lives even more complex. While Yvonne's pregnancy ends in miscarriage, Phoebe goes on to have a son they name Michael. During the pregnancy, Gary and Phoebe get married. In his conversations with Ron, Gary rationalises that he is not a bigamist, even though he is married to two different women: since Yvonne was not born yet during World War II (when Gary is married to Phoebe), and since Phoebe appears to have died at some point before the present (when Gary is married to Yvonne), Gary considers himself faithful to both wives. He argues that 'my wives exist in different temporal aspects of a four-dimensional space-time continuum' although Ron considers this to be a 'typical bigamist’s excuse'.
As the series progresses, Gary finds himself in increasingly complex time travel scenarios, for example; in one episode, he uses the time portal for what he assumes will be a routine trip back to the 40s, however, is surprised to find that he has actually gone back to the Victorian era. While there, a policeman tries to frame him for the murders committed by Jack the Ripper. After being chased down the street by rampaging locals, he manages to escape back into modern times.
Later episodes in the series found both of Gary's wives gaining notable success. In the present, Yvonne became a millionaire through the beauty-aids business she founded. In the past, Gary and Phoebe moved to a "posh" part of town and Phoebe became a night-club singer, as she and Gary became acquainted with Noel Coward. However, despite the glamorous turn of events, the subject of marital disintegration was still a prominent theme of the show, culminating in Gary being made to face the question of which wife he ultimately loved the most.
Phoebe is a 1940s barmaid who becomes the girlfriend and eventually the wife of 1990s time traveler, Gary Sparrow. Throughout the series, Phoebe is unaware that Gary is both a time traveler and an adulterer (later a bigamist).
Phoebe works at the Royal Oak: an East End public house owned by her father, Eric. She is married to a serving British soldier (Donald Bamford, who appears in two episodes) although early in the series she reveals to Gary that it is a mutually loveless marriage made for convenience only. Eric takes a quick disliking to Gary; not only is he suspicious of his motives, but as Phoebe is married to a serving British soldier, Gary looks like a slacker by comparison.
Gary is able to supply Phoebe with items considered luxurious by World War II ration standards (such as chocolate, wine and stockings) and often uses these items as consolation gifts for his constant absences (which he claims are due to "secret war work" but are really when he returns to the 90s and to his wife, Yvonne). Though she eventually tires of his excuses and will not accept the gifts as readily, initially, Phoebe is impressed by what she perceives as Gary's glamorous lifestyle. Gary takes her to a VIP cocktail party and to dinner at the Savoy Hotel, however, Phoebe's father is quick to remind her that she is a "married woman"" whenever Gary visits.
At the end of the first series, Gary decides not to return to the 1940s. However, when the second series begins, Gary's modern day best friend (and confidant) Ron Wheatcroft persuades him to go back in time to invest some money so that they will be rich in the 1990s. This scheme fails, but while there, he accidentally meets Phoebe and rekindles their relationship. Phoebe's father has died in an air raid, and her husband has been imprisoned in a POW camp; Gary's emotional and business support to her advances his prospects with her.
Eventually Gary and Phoebe marry and have a son they call Michael. She and Gary move to a "posh" part of town and Phoebe becomes a night-club singer, as she and Gary became acquainted with Noel Coward. Yvonne, too, is notably successful, starting her own million pound beauty aids business. However, despite the glamorous turn of events, both wives remain unaware of Gary's time-traveling or bigamy, and both continue to demand explanations as to why he is away all the time.
At the end of the final series, Gary prevents an assassination attempt on future Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, which leads to the time portal closing, giving him no choice but to remain in the 1940s. He paints a final message to Ron and Yvonne on the same Mayfair flat wall that Ron will one day strip old wallpaper from and discover, and thus, as far as we know, Yvonne is the only wife who ever learns of both Gary's time-traveling, and his bigamy.
Yvonne, the "Blonde Bomb", is the long-suffering wife of Gary Sparrow: a time traveller and cross-time adulterer (later bigamist). It is not until the final episode of the series that Yvonne is made aware that Gary is a time traveller to war-torn 1940s London, and that he has a wife and child back in the past.
Throughout the series, Yvonne is led to believe that Gary is travelling about the country searching out antiques for his memorabilia shop, however in reality, he is making numerous trips back to the 1940s via a time portal he accidentally stumbled across one day while out on a TV repair job.
Yvonne is the stereotypical 1990s "power woman": corporate minded yet socially and environmentally aware. She eventually starts her own enormously successful natural beauty-aids business, although this does little to lessen her sense of insecurity about her husband Gary, who always seems to be absent and uncommitted to her needs. Yvonne's birthday is suggested to be in March or April as she said "my birthday isn't for five months" and the month was November as Ron thought Gary was organising a surprise Guy Fawkes party as mentioned in the series 1 episode "The more I see you."
Ron was the best friend and confidante of main character and adulturer (later bigamist) Gary Sparrow. As a Master Printer with his own business Ron was able to provide Gary with appropriate war time currency and documentation.
Ron's fortunes dwindled as the show progressed. In the earlier series he was married to Stella (a character who made few on-screen appearances) but the marriage ended in series 4. In addition he was forced to sell his business(although he remained at the company). In addition due to his "playboy lifestyle" his flat and possessions were repossessed after the bank declined to extend his overdraft. His fortunes improved however when he moved into the West End flat which Gary had purchased for himself in the past. He even started having a relationship with the wealthy socialite Flic (the relationship however only lasted for a few months).
Gary and Ron had a co-dependent friendship; without Ron, Gary had no-one to aid him with his time-travelling problems and Ron did not appear to have any friends other than Gary.
Born in the Edwardian era, PC Reg Deadman was a stereotypically and lovably daft, his ignorance sometimes stretching to unbelievable proportions. His lack of intelligence is often taken as a running joke in the series, ensuring he always remain a comic foil for Gary and Phoebe, one notable example being his lack of knowledge of sex (and therefore an apparently almost complete disinterest in relationships), although he occasionally makes unwillingly comedic references to his adulterous wife Minnie. He is shown to have only had sex once, which became a main plot point when it was revealed he had fathered a son. Thanks to Gary's help, he was able to be reunited with the mother of his child.
He pretty much takes 1990s time traveler Gary Sparrow (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst) at his word when he says he is a World War II "secret agent" and Hollywood songwriter. Reg and Gary (the show's main protagonist) eventually become good friends, with Reg never seeming to catch on that there was something genuinely odd about his new pal.
He is unique in the series in that, although some characters (such as Ron and Yvonne) have relatives who interact with Gary on his travels in time, Reg has two, and he is the only 1940s character to have a descendent of his shown in the 1990s. In fact, it was Reg's grandson that was responsible for Gary finding the time portal in the first place; it was him who directed Gary down Duckette's Passage in the first place. This character interacts with Gary and Yvonne occasionally.
He has 11 middle names, due to his father naming him after the entire Spurs football team who'd won the 1901 F.A. Cup. Although in Season Two he gives it as 'Reginald Horatio Deadman'.