Monday, 21 August 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1986
This TV phenomenon began life as a replacement for Juliet Bravo on a Saturday evening and has never relinquished its spot since. The genius of the show is that the setting lets the writers get away with melodrama every week and allows a regular parade of guest stars to check in and out ( sometimes permanently ). As well as their coping with each medical crisis the writers throw their way, the programme looks at the personal lives of the staff with story arcs developing over the course of a season. Both its creators, Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin, were passionate left wing champions of the NHS but with The Monocled Mutineer drawing away most of the Tory fire , the launch of Casualty was uncontroversial.
I don't have a fascination with medical matters and didn't watch the opening episode but did catch at least one from the first series in order to see the lunatic over-acting of Christopher Rozycki as the Polish porter Kuba which seemed to be the main talking point. I became a more regular viewer in the second season when Kate Hardie joined the cast as a student nurse who had an affair with Charlie ( Derek Thompson ) although she wasn't in it for long and I dropped out again once she'd gone.
I became a regular viewer at the start of the nineties when Nigel Le Vaillant was the star as passionate registrar Julian Chapman. His interaction with the steadier Charlie was one of the highpoints of the series. Another favourite character from this time was Kelly Liddle ( Adie Allen ) a student nurse that couldn't hack it. Sadly Le Vaillant decided to quit in Season 7 and although I eventually warmed to his successor Mike Barrett ( Clive Mantle ) it wasn't quite the same without Julian.
The show's writers responded to the criticism of left wing bias in Season 8 by introducing a character , Rachel Longworth ( Jane Gurnett ) a nurse who actually supported the market-led reforms to the NHS. At first she was a bit of a joke, just an unlikely mouthpiece, but eventually they let her become a real character who had a fling with Barrett . That series also saw Tara Moran from recently deceased soap Families join as a nurse but she turned out to be a fly by night. Another favourite of mine Suzanna Hamilton came in as a young doctor with no bedside manner but she too departed before the end of the season, a great shame as her character could have been developed a lot more. Long servng nurse Duffy ( Cathy Shipton ) left towards the end of the series leaving Charlie as the only survivor from the original cast.
Season 9 introduced one of the most irritating characters in bolshie, stud-in-the-nose nurse Jude Kocarnik ( Lisa Coleman ) while Baz ( Julia Watson ) returned from the first series and became embroiled in a long running affair with Charlie.
I think I lost interest some time in Season 10 ( 1995-96 ). I came back to it briefly after I got married ( December 1997 ) noting lad's mag favourite Claire Goose in the cast but my interest was finally killed off by the scene at the end of Season 12 ( 1998 ) when the cast broke out into a version of "Everlasting Love" which was then released as a single. I just thought that was so naff and unworthy of the series.
Inevitably, it's been on in the living room since then and I've caught odd snatches but never been tempted to re-engage with the series.
Sunday, 20 August 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1986
After four seasons of Bergerac , John Nettles wanted a break so there was only a Christmas special in 1986. Creator Robert Banks Stewart and the crew came up with this one to fill the gap in the autumn schedule. With Crocodile Dundee riding high in the cinemas, this series looked to tap into the vogue for bluff Aussie guys by casting Steve Bisley as Sir Jack Bartholomew , a former Australian police officer who inherits a title and estate in England to the dismay of his posh relatives played by Haydn Gwynne and Rupert Frazer. He prefers to set up as a private detective instead with the help of much-younger girlfriend and part-time singer Julie ( Dulice Leicier from Grange Hill ).
Unsurprisingly, it was fairly similar to Bergerac but a bit lighter in tone. As with Brush Strokes , I gave it a try for one episode . I thought it was passable but not good enough to become appointment TV.
When Bergerac returned the following year, Call Me Mister slipped quietly out of memory.
Saturday, 19 August 2017
First viewed : 1 September 1986
This was the latest comedy from the Esmonde and Larbey writing team ( Please Sir, The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles ) and starred Karl Howman , a familiar face playing Cockney villains in The Sweeney, Minder and The Professionals, as Jacko, a womanising painter. The producers seemed to know they might have a problem with the material from the start; I remember Howman in The Radio Times giving a defensive interview insisting that the series celebrated women rather than demeaned them and that was before the first episode was even broadcast !
I only watched that first episode which introduced Jacko and his boss ( Gary Waldhorn ) and saw Jacko trying to date two girls at once in different parts of the same pub. I thought it was crap and saw no more of the Dulux-coated lothario's adventures. However it was popular and ran for 5 series until 1991.
As with Carla Lane and Bread , Brush Strokes was the last major success for the Esmonde-Larbey team, their nineties efforts such as Mulberry which also starred Howman, leaving little impression.
Friday, 18 August 2017
First viewed : 31 August 1986
This series seems half-forgotten now but in 1986 it was deeply controversial. It was based on a book of the same name by William Allison and John Fairley published in 1978 adapted for the screen by Alan Bleasdale. It traced the career of a criminal called Percy Toplis who had spells in the army and was shot dead by police near Penrith in 1920 while on the run for the murder of a taxi driver . While in the army, he sometimes posed as an officer, with a monocle as part of his disguise, to pull girls or impress friends . That much is undisputed. However the book alleged that Toplis was the ringleader of the Etaples mutiny of 1917 and that he was pursued after the war by the Secret Service who arranged the ambush leading to his death. Historians with no axe to grind pointed out that the records showed that Toplis's regiment was on its way to India at the time of the mutiny, an event that the authors had greatly exaggerated. This led Tory politicians and the Daily Mail to excoriate the BBC for supposed left wing bias for advertising the drama as "a true-life story".
I missed nearly all of it first time round because I had become reconciled with my old friends Michael and Sean and went to the pub with them on a Sunday night instead. I did see a small part of the first episode in The Red Lion, Littleborough with them, showing the horrendously botched execution of a young deserter. When the series was repeated in 1988, I watched it right through and it was an impressive piece of drama with Paul McGann furthering his reputation in the main role.
At the time of the broadcast , a witness to Toplis's death was still alive, a man called De Courcey Parry who did not enter the controversy. When I used to attend slide shows at Kewsick's Moot Hall in the early nineties ,the host Ray McHaffie would always point him out as an old man attending a summer fete on one of his slides.
Thursday, 17 August 2017
First viewed : 28 August 1986
This US mini-series took on the task of presenting a more factual account of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 than Arthur Miller's The Crucible . It told the story from the point of view of Sarah Cloyce ( Vanessa Redgrave ) , the survivor of three sisters accused of witchcraft who spent the next decade fighting to clear her executed sisters' names. Sarah does not appear in The Crucible , a victim of Miller's compositing but one of her sisters, Rebecca Nurse, does.
After ten years, Sarah gets a hearing from an examining magistrate ( Patrick McGoohan ) and points out the social tensions in the village that led to the accusations. He eventually decides that he cannot establish the full facts a decade later but grants Sarah three sovereigns as symbolic compensation for the three damaged lives hence the title.
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
First viewed : Summer 1986
This was a late night Channel 4 show taking a light-hearted look at the joys of early parenthood. As both of the main The Tube presenters had recently become parents, they were the obvious choices to host it As it would be another 21 years before I became really interested in the subject, I think I only caught one episode. I remember a feature calculating the opportunity cost of having a sprog with yobbish chants of "We still want the baby!" after every item. There was also a female celeb - I can't recall who - telling how desperate she was for a drink of Perrier Water while she was giving birth. In addition, think this was where I came across Rowland Rivron for the first time
Tuesday, 15 August 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
I've no idea when I first caught this but the "dole period" would be the best guess.
Blockbusters had been running since 1983, an early evening general knowledge quiz with A Level students as contestants and the nicest guy on TV as quizmaster. Bob Holness had spent much of his previous career on radio but became a much-loved TV personality through the show.
The programme had a rather strange format with the built-in unfairness of having two contestants against one although the solo performer had to answer one less question to make a line.
I liked it but , once I started work, it was on a bit too early to catch. However it did become a part of my holiday routine in Keswick in the early nineties. I'd come back from my walk around 4-5 pm and then have a couple of hours or so to recuperate before going out for something to eat and watching Blockbusters was one of the things that filled the gap. It was then that I first caught the famous hand jive sequence where all that week's contestants ran on to the stage and did a dance with glimpses of Bob himself having a bop in the background.
The show was initially cancelled in 1993 but has had no less than four separate revivals, mostly on satellite channels. Bob hosted the first one on Sky in 1994 . Sadly he died in 2012 after a decade of ill health.