Saturday, 13 June 2015
162 The Liver Birds
First watched : 1974
Despite the still above, I just caught the tail end of the Polly James era when BBC moved it to the 18.50 pm time slot towards the end of her lat series.
The series marked the TV debut for housewife-turned-writer Carla Lane initially in tandem with Myra Taylor. It was developed from a 1969 pilot under the Comedy Playhouse banner. The premise of the series was that two young working girls shared a flat in Liverpool and dealt with boyfriends , work and family as well as the strains of living with each other. Initially it starred Pauline Collins and Polly James but only ran for four episodes due to Polly's theatre commitments. By the time she was free to resume Collins was the star of Upstairs Downstairs and had to be replaced by a new character Sandra played by Welsh actress Nerys Hughes. Along with Sandra came her overbearing mother Mrs Hutchinson played by Mollie Sugden.
Polly James left at the end of the fourth series when her character Beryl got married. It was her own choice, believing that Beryl was becoming a bit of a caricature. She would continue in acting both on stage and on screen until the early noughties but would never have as high a profile again.
She was replaced by Elizabeth Estensen , as the younger but equally loud Carol. The show took a new direction by giving Carol an extended family who were regularly involved in the storylines most memorably Michael Angelis in his breakthrough role as her hippy brother Lucien who was obsessed with rabbits. They became the main reason for watching the show with the downside that Sandra came to be seen as a rather wet and straight character by comparison.
I'm not sure if I watched the series down to its end in early 1979 or not. After a quiet period Nerys Hughes went on to equal success in The District Nurse in the eighties Estensen also had long spells out of the spotlight until resurfacing in Coronation Street in 1996 and then Emmerdale ( it took weeks before I recognised her ) where she remains. Angelis's impact can be gauged by the fact that Lucien was brought back for the ill-received reprise in 1996 but as Beryl's brother. That series passed by me entirely.