Tuesday, 20 February 2018
First viewed : 4 January 1990
I didn't catch this Channel Four drama series about the heroin trade first time round in 1989 but saw it all on repeat.
The action took place in London, Germany and Pakistan showing the impact of the drug on various lives. Bill Paterson played Jack Lithgow a Home Office minister looking to combat the drug trade whose efforts are undermined when his daughter Caroline ( Julia Ormond in her first screen role ) becomes an addict. British policy affects decent farmer Fazal ( Jamal Shah ) driving him into the orbit of evil drug lord Tariq Butt ( Talat Hussain ). Butt's main European distributors are German businessman Rosshalde ( George Kukura ) and his English wife Helen ( Lindsay Duncan ) who has to take over the operation when her husband is arrested.
It was a tightly plotted, absorbing drama with reasonably happy endings; Butt quite literally gets it in the neck.
The story was adapted for the big screen in 2000 which in turn inspired a 2004 miniseries.
Monday, 19 February 2018
First viewed : 1 January 1990
We move into the nineties now with a wildlife documentary about Australia's cane toads. The film was made in Australia where it was a very popular theatrical feature reflecting the country's ambivalence towards the animal.
The species is only native to the Carribbean but they were introduced in Northern Australia in 1935 ( as featured in Fields of Fire ) to control the cane grub which was devastating sugar crops. They were not particularly successful at that but they did breed very successfully and have had a significant effect on the ecosystems of Northern Australia. They also proved very effective in controlling the stray dog population as their skin contains toxins which will kill a dog that tries to eat it. They are not generally dangerous to humans and have been used for a free trip as the poison is hallucinogenic in moderate quantities.
The documentary was fairly humorous in tone while not avoiding the problems posed by the animals.
Sunday, 18 February 2018
First viewed : 31 December 1989
I said goodbye to the eighties with BBC Two's three hour musical review of the decade largely compiled from Top of the Pops and Old Grey Whistle Test performances. It was intelligently compiled with appropriate segmentation and a sense of humour and covered most of the best stuff.
I taped the whole show for good measure and occasionally re-watched it in subsequent years, once when I was hosting the Christian Social Group while my parents were away in 1996 . I only ditched the tape about three years ago deciding that keeping music on VHS was now pretty pointless.
Saturday, 17 February 2018
First viewed : Winter 89-90
We now enter a new phase as in December 1989 we finally got a VCR. I think the spur was Mum's beloved Beauty and the Beast being rescheduled in a late night slot. Apart from that, this was the first programme we regularly taped.
This was a nighttime Granada show which I think the other networks took. It had a simple format. Two pub quiz teams competed against each other, the winners going through to the next round until we got to a Final. The first and best host was Ross King but he soon passed on to Ted Robbins who didn't seem entirely literate and often fluffed the questions.
It was during Ted's reign that I auditioned twice for the programme. Both times it was set up by my friend and fellow Dale supporter Mark Wilbraham but we didn't make it through. The second time Mum was on the team and admitted that she'd be nervous which I think did for us.We didn't get to meet Ted but I did see Matthew Kelly signing in at reception.
Stuart Hall then took over and the set was revamped to look like a pub with Hall playing the avuncular landlord. It ran until the end of 1995.
Friday, 16 February 2018
First viewed : 12 December 1989
This was a feature length drama about a man walking from Land's End to John O' Groats. Joss Ackland replaced the deceased Ray McAnally in the main role as Alan Holly a retired office worker fulfilling a lifetime's ambition. Tom Wilkinson was one of the family members tracking his progress. Along the way, Holly meets many different characters without really communicating with any of them and it seemed like a collection of slice of life vignettes rather than a unified drama although Holly's deteriorating health gave the later stages a bit more cohesion.
Thursday, 15 February 2018
First viewed : 21 November 1989
I watched a bit of this TV landmark. After years of prevarication the Commons eventually allowed in the cameras. The MP who got to make the first televised speech, the Tory bully boy Ian Gow, was ironically an ardent opponent of the idea. I remember it going off just as Paddy Ashdown was starting to speak, the other party managers having colluded in trying to stop the Liberal Democrats getting any airtime.
I've occasionally watched debates since but generally wait for the news summaries instead.
Wednesday, 14 February 2018
First viewed : Uncertain
This unusual Channel 4 chat show was made by Gallus Besom, a production company set up by Muriel Gray after making her name on The Tube and The Media Show. The fresh spin was that Muriel, a keen rambler, would interview her subjects whilst on the move in a location that meant something to the subject.
The series kicked off on 21 November 1989 with Muriel talking to former miners leader Arthur Scargill. That is the one I remember but I have the nagging feeling I saw it on a later mid-morning repeat rather than on a Friday evening.
Muriel and Arthur went for a walk in Worsbrough Dale near his base in Barnsley. It was a very amicable encounter and what struck me was how conservative he was on subjects other than economics. The way they were following had been laid out with interpretive panels and exhibits explaining the industrial history of the area. Scargill demonstrated a Fred Dibnah-like enthusiasm for this and was having none of it when Gray sounded a sceptical note ( no doubt derived from Robert Hewison ) about the value of the heritage industry.
I think there was only one series