Sunday, 10 December 2017
First viewed : 16 April 1988
This was a weekend football festival held at Wembley to celebrate 100 years of the Football League. The League decided to invite 16 teams to participate in a knockout tournament based on form over the last few months including one from each of the lower divisions. This had the unhappy accident of excluding the four biggest London clubs with a consequent effect on attendance. One notable absentee was Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough who didn't turn up to see his side in action on the Saturday.
The undoubted stars were Fourth Division Tranmere Rovers whose qualifying run of form had begun with a 6-1 thrashing of Rochdale on a miserable Friday evening. Perhaps helped by the 40 minute format, they put out Wimbledon and Newcastle on their run to the semi-final where Forest beat them on penalties. A majority of games actually went to penalties in the opening round.
With only four teams involved on the Sunday, the attendance shrunk to a miserable 17,000. It boiled down to a 60 minute Final between Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. With the atmosphere akin to a morgue, the two teams played the most boring sterile match since the Germany v Austria stitch-up in 1982. It finished 0-0 and Forest won on penalties.
The whole thing was something of an embarrassment to the Football League and it's tempting to see it as a significant milestone on the road to the formation of the Premier League just four years later
Saturday, 9 December 2017
First viewed : 11 April 1988
This was a series of documentaries shown over successive nights which sought to examine the prevalence of racism in British society by a series of experiments. In one example , a young white guy answered an ad for a flat and the landlady was happy to have him. Then his black mate answered the ad and got a different reception. The offender was then challenged about their attitude. I think I only saw the first one.
Friday, 8 December 2017
First viewed : 9 April 1988
This famous late night Channel Four discussion show began in 1987 but I didn't catch it until the one about horse racing which was broadcast on the same day as the Grand National. The host was , yet again, Tony Wilson, although this changed regularly. Among the guests were the Duchess of Argyll , some Communist guy and racing pundit John McCririck. I already loathed McCririck as a tiresome professional eccentric but hitherto I'd no idea that he was a hate figure in Liverpool for his right wing views about the city's problems. He lost no time in reiterating them ; his main bugbear seemed to be that Liverpudlians had played no part in securing the future of Aintree racecourse after a decade of uncertainty because they were all workshy scroungers. Naturally, our Commie friend didn't see eye to eye wit him on that. The Duchess sat patiently through that until Wilson invited her to expound her views on overuse of the whip. She said she didn't like it and then buggered off. McCririck the toady cried "Stand for Her Grace !" which Wilson and most of the other guests obeyed but the Communist stayed put in his seat.
The other one I recall was about press intrusion and ethics and was dominated by recently disgraced ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor who'd been caught out with underage rent boys. The programme brought him face to face with some of his persecutors in the press. Proctor's a scary looking bloke anyway but the looks he was giving them suggested he could pull a knife out any moment. Although the only sympathy he got on the programme came from Christine Keeler , his steadiness under fire did lead to increased investment in his new shirt selling venture. I also recall gossip columnist Nina Myskow's striking admission that the story, of her going to bed with a contestant, twenty years her junior, in a male beauty contest she was judging, was actually true.
In both cases , I think I only watched the first thirty minutes or so. It was just on too late and with no scheduled end time you could end up watching it until the early hours.
The series is most infamous for Oliver Reed's appearance in 1991 when he gave an unwanted kiss to a dowdy feminist he referred to as "Big Tits" and got asked to leave the show. It was axed , amid much protest, by Michael Grade in 1991 though sporadic revivals have taken place.
Thursday, 7 December 2017
First viewed : 5 April 1988
Having missed the first series featuring my walking hero due to not having access to a TV in Leeds I did catch some of this second series he made with farmer and broadcaster Eric Robson. I should include the caveat that he wasn't quite as big a hero to me as before, the revelations of his somewhat bitter worldview and shabby treatment of his first wife in the recently-published Ex-Fellwanderer having somewhat taken the shine away.
Still it was reasonably enjoyable to see and hear the old guy even though the series was about somewhere I'd never walked and didn't have any plans to visit. I remember them visiting Cape Wrath in Sutherland and Robson having to intervene to stop the now visually impaired octogenarian from wandering over the edge of a cliff.
A repeat of the first series followed shortly afterwards.
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
First viewed : 16 March 1988
This was a BBC Two documentary series of seven separate films chronicling some aspect of life in the north. I had a special interest in the fifth film in the series which gave a platform to cultural historian Robert Hewison to expound his views on the "heritage industry".
I'd noted a review of Hewison's recent book The Heritage Industry in The Guardian and ordered a copy from the library. At the time I was active in Littleborough Civic Trust and Hewison seemed to be attacking everything we were trying to do in terms of realising the town's tourist potential. Hewison's argument was that pouring money into heritage projects encouraged a rosy-eyed view of the past and acceptance of industrial decline and public funds should be diverted to supporting more challenging ( and usually left wing ) areas of the arts. To be fair he wasn't attacking the voluntary sector apart from the National Trust but didn't want to acknowledge that the impetus for heritage projects often came from ordinary local people. I wrote a scathing review of the book for the Littleborough Civic Trust Newsletter.
Hewison had a special contempt for the Wigan Pier Experience , one of the first museums to use live actors as part of the exhibitions. I must confess that always put me off going but it is sad to see the buildings standing forlorn and derelict since it closed in 2007.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
First viewed : 9 March 1988
That William G Stewart was a contrary cove. As well as hosting Fifteen To One, the producer of that most materialistic show The Price Is Right also produced this series of six state-of-the-nation plays for Channel Four which were decidedly critical of Thatcherism. The series was split over two seasons in 1987 and 1988.
I only saw the last one Everyone A Winner , because it was written by Barry Pilton whose humorous account of walking the Pennine Way, One Man and His Bog I'd recently enjoyed.
The play posited a world where Thatcherism ran on unchecked for decades and starred Jonathan Pryce as a well-meaning vicar trying to hold on to traditional cultural values in a world of rampant philistinism. He's relieved when his son gets a job at the British Museum then finds it consists of breaking up the exhibits and selling off the chunks to the highest bidder. Anna Carteret played his wife, a private nurse whose services go beyond medical care ( there was a brief glimpse of her boobs ).
Sunday, 3 December 2017
First viewed : February 1988
This was a short series of seven broadcasts from an alternative comedy club in Battersea on BBC 2. It was the first time I saw Arthur Smith ( the funniest in my opinion ), Tony Hawks, Simon Fanshawe, Joan Collins Fan Club and Ian Saville ( above. He must have watched his step when he ventured into Belfast ).