Tuesday, 23 January 2018
First viewed : Spring 1989
This was one of the great TV disasters of the eighties, getting Michael Grade's reign as Channel 4's Chief Executive off to an inauspicious start. Club X picked up the baton dropped by BBC2's equally dismal Mainstream a decade earlier, how to make an arts programme with an appeal beyond the middle class intelligentsia. The bright idea of editor Charlie Parsons ( from Network 7 ) was to set it in a night club, the "South Bank Show in Stringfellows" as one contemporary review put it.
The biggest problems the show had were technical issues. The lighting was awful with the presenters often barely discernible in the gloom. Even more telling was the sound, the programme setting challenges that no sound recordist could have mastered. It seemed like every interview was nigh-on inaudible amidst audience chatter. Many were actually scuppered by the audience, either inadvertently through tripping over a wire or deliberately by a disgruntled clubber wanting the music back on rather than watch some amateur-ish artsy-farty set piece.
I remember seeing the notorious body paint item where some fully nude models were daubed in blue paint, provoking a predictable volley of complaints. I also recall the Buygones section, a standalone item where an unseen Victor Lewis-Smith took the mickey out of the buying habits of previous decades. As it included things like X-ray Specs and Sea Monkeys ( which I actually bought in 1976 ) that I recalled from my childhood comic purchases, I didn't really appreciate it ( although Lewis-Smith is actually five years older than me ).
Unsurprisingly, the show was not re-commissioned after 23 episodes. Parsons went on to more success with The Word.
Saturday, 20 January 2018
First viewed : 10 April 1989
This U.S./ Australian mini-series was a dramatization of the toppling of the Marcos regime in the Philippines four years earlier. Naturally, the story had to be told through the eyes of a fictitious American journalist played by Gary Busey who by lucky chance , happened to be present at every noteworthy event. The star of course was First Lady Imelda and her infamous shoe collection, played as Alexis Colby by the genuinely Filipino Tessie Tomas. It was OK as long as you didn't take it too seriously.
Friday, 19 January 2018
First viewed : 28 March 1989
In February 1989, Play for Today made a brief comeback on a Tuesday night in the guise of Play on One.
The Gift ( 28.03.1989)
I only watched a snatch of this one about two young footballers because of the well-publicised acting debut of ex-Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty ( strange to think he's only six managers ago for them ). He'd recently been put out to grass after an underachieving season at ambitious non-league outfit Altrincham FC. Docherty played an ageing football manager ( not too much of a stretch there ) whose legend status saved him from the sack - the only line I remember is him saying "Am I sacked ?"- but he was kicked upstairs and it was his coach who got the boot. All too realistically, the first the latter knew of it was when his replacement turned up at a training session.
A Master of the Marionettes ( 18.04.1989 )
Kenneth Cranham starred in this one as successful security systems salesman Teddy , fond of giving his colleagues pretentious "survival of the fittest" lectures down the pub. I can't remember what the catalyst for his inevitable downfall was but in the course of it, he finds out that his best mate ( John Duttine ) is shagging his wife ( Carol Drinkwater ). I was much amused by Duttine's line "but we're still friends !". The play ends in the same pub with his dullard colleague Harry ( David Bradley ) trotting out the exact same lines as Teddy earlier.
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
First viewed : March 1989
When I was working full time, I invariably ended up with a lot of leave to take in March having saved it up both to cover midweek away games and in the always forlorn hope that someone might come up with an interesting holiday proposition. As the weather often wasn't that good, I'd end up mooching around at home to no real purpose.
I checked out the afternoon repeats of Randall and Hopkirk ( Deceased ) after a reference to the series' premise on Telly Addicts intrigued me.
The series was made in 1969 and concerned a pair of private detectives , one of whom , Marty Hopkirk, was killed in the pilot episode. He returns in a white suit to advise and look after his partner ( the only person who can see and hear him ) and look in on how his widow, the firm's secretary Jeanie, is doing. Only one season of 26 episodes was made. Despite the tragic events of the first episode, the series was generally quite comic in tone.
I thought the episode was OK but very dated.
With inevitable irony, Kenneth Cope who played Hopkirk , ( an unusually sympathetic role for the actor ) has long outlived his screen partner. Mike Pratt ( father of top session bassist Guy ) died of lung cancer in 1976.
The series was remade for the BBC by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 2000. Cope declined the offer of a cameo role. It ran for two seasons but only had half the number of episodes of the original.
Tuesday, 16 January 2018
First viewed : Early 1989
This was another DEF II programme. It was initially made in the UK in 1987 for consumption on US cable television ; Janet Street-Porter bought into it at the beginning of 1989. Although The Chart Show regularly featured the independent chart, this was the first music show in the UK to focus solely on the independent scene and thus captured the height of Madchester and the beginnings of grunge. The programme took a suitably lo-fi approach with most of the footage shot on camcorders. Former PiL associate Jeanette Lee presented the first few episodes but thereafter it dispensed with presenters.
I don't really know why I didn't watch it more. Two years earlier, I suspect I'd have watched it religiously but I was becoming rather disillusioned with the music scene around this time. I'm only confident in saying I saw the episode on 20 February 1989 when former Microdisney man Cathal Coughlan performed the rather challenging "Only Losers Take The Bus" with his confrontational new outfit Fatima Mansions.
The series ran until 1991 when the acts it featured were starting to penetrate the charts with ease and independent was no longer synonymous with "alternative".
Monday, 15 January 2018
First viewed : Early 1989
This Aussie soap arrived in the UK in February 1989 on ITV to do battle with the BBC's Neighbours although they weren't directly scheduled against each other. Ironically, Home and Away only came about because Australia 's Seven network realised what a blunder they'd made in selling Neighbours to a rival company and needed to re-enter the soap market. Home and Away was based around a fostering couple bringing troubled children to an idyllic beachside community, the fictional Summer Bay. The concept allowed for regular replenishment of the young cast. While Home and Away never managed to launch stars to rival Kylie and Jason , it did become popular in its own right and it's generally thought that British interest is what's kept the show afloat over the years.
I initially dipped into it to look for Prisoner faces but finding only minor players Ray Meagher and Judy Nunn as the local shopkeepers I didn't linger.
I came back to it in 1991 for a glimpse at what Dannii Minogue's acting ability was like but was soon distracted by the lovely Rebekah Elmaloglou. She played Sophie Simpson and was only 17. She was short and clearly had some youthful skin problems but my goodness what a rack, huge and completely natural. I remember a young girl on our team called Rachel saying her boyfriend was transfixed by them and watched it religiously just to drool over her. I can't say many of the storylines grabbed me. I remember one about a boy getting a puppy to impress the girls and a doomed romance because the girl was dying of leukaemia which was quite touching but that's all.
Eventually, even phenomenal boobs weren't enough to keep me watching and I checked out before Sophie did. The show continues to run on Channel 5. Elmaloglou quit the show in 1992 suffering from nervous exhaustion but never found regular work and returned to Summer Bay as an adult Sophie in the early noughties. Since 2013 she has had a regular role in Neighbours.
Sunday, 14 January 2018
First viewed : 28 January 1989
This US drama series went out on Saturday nights after the news. It sought to capitalise on the growing phenomenon of talk radio but also owed a good deal to Shoestring. Gary Cole played ex-cop Jack Killian who is rescued from alcoholism after accidentally shooting his partner by radio station boss Devon King ( Wendy Kilbourne ) who gives him a late night phone in show and a persona, the Night Hawk. Jack then tries to resolve his callers' problems during the day, insomnia presumably being another of his problems. Brad Fiedel provided the musical score which seemed to have been heavily influenced by Sade.
With his strong female superior and ethnic assistant Billy ( Dennis Dun ), Midnight Caller was the cop show re-tooled for the politically correct nineties although this didn't prevent it being heavily criticised for its AIDS episode in the first season. My mum liked it but I never found it that engaging; the only episode I can really recall is the one where he put a death row inmate on the air just before his execution.
Eventually the necessarily dark look of the show and downbeat subject matter wore down its audience and the show was cancelled after three seasons. Cole hasn't had such a prominent role since but he remains a very busy actor.