Saturday, 31 December 2016

576 The Comic Strip Presents....

First  viewed  : 2  November  1982

After   Paul  Hogan.  there  was  the  film  Walter  with  Ian  McKellern , then  the  last  thing  I  saw  that  night  was  the  first  Comic  Strip  film  Five  Go  Mad  In  Dorset.  I  laughed  so  much  that  my  sister, who'd  gone  to  bed, came  down  to  see  what  was  so  funny.

The  Comic  Strip  was  a  group  of  alternative  comedians  drawn  together  by Peter  Richardson  in  1980  to  perform  at  the  Raymond  Revue  Bar. After  Rik  Mayall, Alexei  Sayle, Nigel  Planer, Ade  Edmondson  and  Arnold  Brown  had  all  signed  up  he  realised  he  needed  so  put  an  ad  out  which  drew  in  Dawn French  and  Jennifer  Saunders. Channel  Four  originally  commissioned  them  to  do  five  playlets  one  for  the  first  night  then  four  in  January  1983

Five  Go  Mad  In  Dorset  was  a  vicious  parody  of  Enid  Blyton's  resolutely  formulaic  children's  adventure  stories  featuring  the  Famous  Five  and  The  Secret  Seven, attacking  both  the  writing  style  and  Blyton's  old  school  Tory  worldview.  We'd  both  enjoyed  those  books  as  kids  but  still  found  it  hilarious. The  bit  that  had  me  in  hysterics  was  the  inclusion of  the  half-heard  conversation   plot  device  she  always  used  as  in  "Blah  blah  Blah... secret  passages... Blah  blah  blah... kidnapped  scientists...blah  blah  blah,,, Third  World  War "  This  was  intoned  in  a  deliberately  wooden  fashion  by  the  two   criminals   who  just  happened  to  be  standing  by  the  Five's  tents.

The  programme  drew  a  number  of  complaints  about  the  insertion  of  sexual  content  into  the  story.  Saunders's  Anne  is  told  she's  well  developed  for  a  ten  year  old, French's  George  is  implied  to  be involved  in  bestiality  with  the dog  Timmy  and  the  two  boys  played  by  Edmondson  and  Richardson  are  presented  as  gay. At  the  film's  climax  the  children's  Uncle  Quentin   played  by  Keith  Allen  is  outed  as  a  paedophile.  Allen  drew  some  credibility  for  his  involvement  with  the  film  after  years  as  a  stuffed  shirt  in  Crossroads.

Sadly  the  team  was  never  this  good  again  and  I  soon   gave  up  on  them. The  only  other  episodes  I  recall  are   the  first  follow-up  Five  Go  Mad  on  Mescalin   which  had  no  new  ideas  and  Dirty  Movie . In  the  latter,   Edmondson  played  a  porn-fixated  cinema  projectionist  and  it   was  absolutely  dire.  That  was  my  point  of  departure.

As  we  know,  these  performers  went  on  to  many  greater  things  apart  from  Richardson  himself  who  was  too  much  of  a  control  freak  to  work  to  anyone  else's  script. He's  still  in  the  game  as  a  screenwriter  albeit  less  active  in  recent  years.

Friday, 30 December 2016

575 The Paul Hogan Show

First  viewed  :  2  November  1982

This  followed  straight  after  Brookside  on  that  first  night  of  Channel  Four.

The  Australian  comic's  show  had  been  running  for  nearly  a  decade  by  this  time  and  I'm  not  sure at   what  point  Channel  Four's  broadcasts  began. It  was  a  sketch-based  show  with  Hogan  playing  a  number  of  recurring  characters  such  as  George  Fungus  and  Leo  Wanker. I  think  it's  safe  to  say  Benny  Hill  was  a  major  influence  on  Paul's  work  with  many  sketches  featuring  leering  men, scantily-clad  lovelies  and  sight  gags.

Although  Paul's  a  likeable  guy  I  never  found  the  show  more  than  moderately  funny  and  I  struggle  to  recall  any  individual  sketch  that  really  cut  the  mustard.

The  Show  ended  in  1984  a  couple  of   years  before  Paul  became  a  mega-star  with  Crocodile  Dundee.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

574 Brookside

First  viewed : 2  November  1982

Another  piece  of  the  modern  world  falls  into  place  here  with  the  beginning  of  Channel  Four.  That's  particularly  underlined  by  Brookside  as  many  of  these  actors  ( e.g. Ricky  Tomlinson, Sue  Johnston, Amanda  Burton )  have  never  been  off  the  telly  since.

Brookside  was  the  brainchild  of  self-regarding  Grange  Hill  creator  Phil  Redmond  whose  company, Mersey  Television,  got  the  nod  to  produce  the  new  channel's  flagship  soap  opera .  An  actual  cul-de-sac  of  thirteen  houses  on  a  new  build  estate  in  Liverpool  was  purchased  by  the  company, nobody  being  over-keen  to  move  into  the  city  at  the  time.

The  soap  started  with  just  three  houses  occupied. The  Grants  were  a  working  class  family  on  their  way  up  despite  patriarch  Bobby's  unionism . The   middle  class  Collins  family  were  having  to  downsize  from  their  home  in  Cheshire  following  dad  Paul's  redundancy   and  the  Havershams  were  what  would  soon  become  known  as  a  yuppie  couple.

I  wasn't  sure  if  I'd  seen  the  very  first  episode  so  I've  re-watched  it  and  on  balance  I  think  I  probably  saw  at  least  some  of  it; the  first  ten  minutes  are  so  stunningly  banal  they  would  defeat  anyone's  recollection. It  did  improve  and  it  was  poignant  to  see  the  late,  lamented  Katrin  Cartlidge  playing  the  Collins's  daughter  Lucy. The  other  thing  that  struck  me  was  the  earthy  language  which  the  show  was  soon  forced  to  clean  up.

I  stuck  with  it  for  a  few  episodes  partly  out  of  fascination  for  Damon  Grant's  scally   mate  Gizmo  ( Robert  T  Cullen ),  the  most  unhealthy  looking  TV  character  until  the  advent  of  McKenzie  Crook,  but  he  didn't  last  long . I  didn't  like   its all-VT   antiseptic  look  or  the  obvious  left-wing  bias  in  the  writing.  I  was  forced  back  to  a  few  episodes  in  the  first  half  of  1985  when  I  was  running  a   sort  of   Bad  Video  club  at  my  Hall  of  Residence . The  screenings  were  supposed  to  start  at  8pm  after  Corrie  but  this  lad  called , I  think, Satnam    sometimes  insisted  we  wait  until  after  Brookside. Otherwise  I  resolutely  stayed  away. However  someone  at  Record  Mirror  was  a  big  fan, even  putting  Barry  and  Karen  Grant on  the cover  in  January  1985, so  I  was  rather  unwillingly  kept  up  to  date  with  happenings  on  the  Close.  
With  Brookside  , Redmond  pioneered  the  art  of   stunt  storylines  with  particularly  dramatic  developments  deliberately  leaked   to  the  press  beforehand  to  create  a  buzz. It  started  with the  "Free  George  Jackson"  campaign  which  never  really  took  off  and  the  poor  bloke  was  left  in  jail. Then  you  had  the  seige,  Sheila's  rape, the  body  under  the  patio, Anna  Friel's  lesbian  kiss, the  incest  and  so  on. None  of  it  was  enough  to  tempt  me  back.

Redmond  managed  to  keep  the  show  buoyant  until  1994  when  the  Monday  episode  was  forced  out  of  its time  slot  by  a  third  episode  of  Eastenders  on  BBC 1   and  had  to  compete  with  The  Bill  on  ITV  on  a  Tuesday. Thereafter  ratings  steadily  fell  and  in   November  2002  it  was  cut  to  one  90  minute   episode  a  week  late  on  Saturday  evening,  It  was  never  going  to  recover  from  that  and  indeed  the  axe  was  announced  the  following  summer, the  last  episode  going  out  in  the  week  of  its  21st  anniversary.

Redmond  had  long  boasted  that  the  series  could  continue  through  VHS  then  DVD  if  it  was  chopped.  Thus , a  DVD  , Unfinished  Business , was  released  just  after  the  final  episode  was  broadcast  to  predictably  poor  reviews  and  low  sales. It  contained  a  trailer  for  the  next  one, Settlin' Up   but  that's  all  that  was  ever  shot  of  it. By  2005  even  Redmond   had  accepted  the  show  was  over  and  sold  Mersey  Television  to  the  All3Media  Group. The  houses  were  put  up  for  sale  but  at  far  too  high  an  asking  price  and  remained  empty  and  decaying  until  2008  when  they  were  used  in  a  horror  film  called  Salvage.  Just  after  that  a  property  developer  bought  them  all   and  sold  them  as  private  residences  in  2011.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

573 Boys From The Black Stuff

First  viewed  :  31  October  1982

We  reach  a  real  landmark  here  with  my  nomination  for  the  Beeb's  greatest  drama  series  ever.  The  series  followed  on  from  the  single  play  "The  Black  Stuff"  ( covered  in  the  Play  For  Today  post )   and  caught  up  with  the  members  of  the  tarmac  gang  back  in  Liverpool. The  amount  of  time that  had  elapsed  since  their  Middlesbrough  misadventure  wasn't  specified  but  couldn't  have  been  more  than  two  or  three  years  at  most. There  aren't  too  many  references  back  to  the  original  play; foreman  Dixie  still  isn't  speaking  to  the  rest  of  them  and  Yosser  is  said  to  be  "off  his  head  since  Middlesbrough"  but  that's  about  it  so  sadly  Yosser  still  doesn't  find  those  damned  tinkers. All  the  original  cast  who  were  needed  returned  to  their  roles.

I  was  interested  from  the  start  but  the  original  series  on  BBC 2  was  on  a  bit  late  for  Sunday  evening. Some  consciousness  that  my  A  Level  exams  were  not  too  far  off   was  beginning  to  manifest  itself. I  remember  people  at  school  talking  about  the  first  episode    but  that  died  off  a  bit  with  the  subsequent  two. However  I  decided  I  couldn't  miss  the  fourth  episode  which  concentrated  on  Yosser  so  that's  where  I  first  came  in. A  quick  repeat  on  BBC1  in  the  New  Year  allowed  me  to  catch  up  soon  enough .

There  are  five  episodes  in  all; although  the  latter  four  focus  on  an  individual  character  there  are  narrative  links  that  put  them  in  chronological  order.  Alan  Igbon's  character  Loggo  doesn't  get  his  own  episode  ; as  a  single  guy  he  didn't  offer  the  same  dramatic  possibilities. The  first  re-introduces  the  characters  against  a  backdrop  of  mass  unemployment   in  the  city   and  an  ongoing  battle  between  the  shysters  running  a  black  economy  and  the  benefit  fraud  investigators  of  the  D.O.E.  It  sets  the  tragi-comic  tone  of  the  series   by  incorporating   both   Yosser's  spectacularly  inept  attempt  at  wall-building  and  the  death  of  George's  son  ( not  featured  in  the  original  play )  during  a  D.O.E.  raid .

The  second, least  celebrated,  episode  focuses  on  Dixie  ( Tom  Georgeson ), the  others  having  a  very  minor  part  in  it. He  isn't  in  such  dire  financial  straits  as  the  others  but  still  needs  to  work . He  finds  a  job  as  a  security  guard  at  what  remains  of  the  docks  but  it  soon  becomes  clear  he  has to  acquiesce  in  criminal  activity  which  the  principled  Dixie  finds  very  difficult  to  accept . It's  the  episode  that  features  Kevin  ( Gary  Bleasdale  )  the  most; a  major  character  in  the  original  play, it  was  a  bit  disappointing  that  he  was  relegated  to  a  minor  role  in  the  series.

The  third  episode  is  concerned  with   Chrissie  ( Michael  Angelis )  and   focuses   on  the  impact  that  unemployment  is  having  on  his  relationship  with  his   wife  Angie  ( Julie  Walters ) who  now  found  his  easy-going  attitude  infuriating . Although  the  constant  cat-fighting  does  become  a  bit  wearing,  it  established  Angelis  and  Walters, both  previously  known  as  comic  actors, as  serious  players.

The  fourth  episode  is  just  mind-blowing  with  a  tour  de  force  performance  from  Bernard  Hill  as  Yosser Hughes , his life  as  an  alpha  male  unravelling  as  fast  as  his  mental  state, that  has  been  rightly  lauded . All  the  best-remembered  moments  in  the  series  are  in  this  one  - "Gizza job", "I'm  desperate, Dan", the  exquisitely  uncomfortable  encounter  with  Graeme  Souness  and  Sammy  Lee, the  brutal  fight  with  the  police  and  the  junior  headbutt  on  the  social  worker -  but  you  can  watch  it  over  and  over  again  and  still  be  moved. Yosser  became  something  of  a  poster  boy  for  the  unemployed  as  well  as  a  Scouse  anti-hero  whose  name  was  chanted  at  Anfield. Hill  was  troubled  by  all  this  and  for  a  long  time  refused  to  talk  about  the  series.

The  fifth  one  is  about   George   Malone ( Peter  Kerrigan  ) whose   declining  health  has  been  an  issue  since  the  first  play. In  that  respect , the  outcome  is  fairly  predictable. That's  not  the  main  problem  I  have  with  it  though. I  just  think  the  canonisation  of  George  as  the  patron  saint  of  shop  stewards  is  over-the-top, the  queue  of  people  at  his  home  waiting  for  his  sage  advice,  ludicrous  and  far-fetched. The  episode  does  redeem  itself  after  his  funeral  with  the  glorious   scene  at  the  pub  in  which  Yosser  slays  the  ghastly  bully  "Shake  Hands"  in  his  usual  fashion, restoring  some  male  pride  at  last.

The  series  was   praised  to  the  skies  and  rightly  so  a  far  as  its  dramatic  qualities  go. It's  a  bit  more  difficult  to  accept  the  contention  that  it  was  a  great  protest  against  Thatcherism  since  much  of  the  material  was  already  written  before  she  came  to  power. As  for  its  political  impact.  well, barely  six  months  later,  Thatcher  was  returned  with  a  more  than  tripled  majority. Tory  wet  Ian  Gilmour  wrote  that  in  1981  Rupert  Murdoch  had  informed  him "that  nowadays  nobody  cared  about  unemployment, including  apparently  the  unemployed, and  that  inflation  was  all  that  mattered". Perhaps  he  knew  something  we  didn't.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

572 Whose Baby ?

First  viewed  :  Autumn  1982

This  isn't  the sort  of  thing  you'd  want  to  admit  to  watching   but  at  least  once,  we  chose  it  in  preference  to  Tomorrow's  World  as  a  prelude  to  Top  of  the  Pops.

The  show  was  in  its  fourth  season  though  they  were  widely  spaced  given  that  the  show  was  entirely  dependent  on  the  celebrity  birthrate. The  first  two  were  in  1973  with  David  Nixon  as  host  and  the  third  was in  1977  with  Roy  Castle.  This  fourth  one  had  smarmy, unfunny  Leslie  Crowther  in  the  chair  . The  format  was  very  simple, a  panel  of  guests  had  to  guess  the  famous  parent  ( shown  to  the  audience ) of  a  baby  within  a  certain  amount  of  time  by  putting  questions  to  the  host . The  celebrity  would  then  reveal  themselves.

By  this  season  the  producers  had  given  themselves  more  room  for  manoeuvre  by  having  grown-up  offspring  coming  in  and  answering  the  questions  for  themselves  though  that  made  it  much  easier  for  the  panel  and  doubtless  their  identity  was  often  twigged  straight  away  (  or  even  known  beforehand )  by  a  panellist  who  then  eked  out  the  time  with  pointless  questions.

The  one  I  remember  featured  the  daughter  of  comic  actor  Arthur  English  who'd  made  some  tabloid  headlines  the  year  before  by  fathering  her  at  61  with  his  second  wife  who  was  36  years  younger.  The  couple  split  four  years  later  and  English  died  in  1995  when  the  girl, Clare- Louise,  was  14.  Despite  being  partially  deaf,  she  is  now  a  working  actress.  

Whose  Baby ?  changed  hosts  the  following  year  with  Bernie  Winters  taking  over  until  the  show's  demise  in  1988.

Monday, 26 December 2016

571 Harry's Game

First  viewed : 25  October  1982

By  contrast , I  knew  pretty  much  exactly  when  this  one  was  going  to  crop  up  because  its  haunting  theme  tune  was  a  big  hit  and  introduced  the  hitherto  obscure  Irish  folk  group  Clannad  to  an  international  audience.

Harry's  Game  was  a  three-part  adaptation, by  Yorkshire  TV  on consecutive  week  nights, of  a  Gerald  Seymour  novel. Harry  Brown  ( Ray  Lonnen )  is  a  serving  army  officer  sent  undercover  into  the  Republican  community  to  flush  out  an  IRA  hitman  Billy  Downes  ( Derek  Thompson )  who  has  just  assassinated  a  Cabinet  minister  in  London. He  eventually  manages  to  trace  Downes  through  his  own   girlfriend  Josephine  ( Gil  Brailey )   but  the  IRA   are  also  on  to  him.

It's  a  tense,  gripping  thriller  which  manages  to  capture  the  bleak  pointlessness  of  the  conflict  without  laying  it  on  with  a  trowel. It's  not  black  and  white  either. Harry  is  a  ruthless  operator  who  doesn't  think  twice  about  endangering  Josephine  while  Billy  starts  regretting  his  involvement  from  the  moment  he  pulls  the  trigger. There's  some  harrowing  moments  particularly  the  suicide  of  teenager  Theresa  ( Linda  Robson )  who  gets  caught  between  a  rock  and  a  hard  place.

Lonnen  put  in  a  great  performance  as  Harry  but  I  can't  say  the  same  about  Thompson   whose  limitations  as  an  actor  are  rather  exposed  here. Tony  Rohr  is  chilling  as  his  brigade commander; he's  played  IRA  men  so  often  I'm  sure  even  Gerry  Adams  thinks  he's  a comrade.

The  climax  is  suitably  exciting  though  you  have  to  ignore  a  major  continuity  gaffe  when   Downes's  shattered  windscreen  repairs  itself  mid-car chase.

I'd  love  to  see  it  again  for  more  than  one  reason. The  back  streets  of  Leeds  doubled  for  Belfast  and  it  seems  very  likely  that  the  area  I  lived  in  during  my  last  year  at  University  there  was  featured.  From  the  few  clips  on  YouTube,  I  haven't  spotted  the  actual  street  I  lived  on   (  Thomas  St  ) but  perhaps  in  the  whole  series  it  would  be  there.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

570 Kingswood : A Comprehensive School

First  viewed :  Autumn  1982

I've  been  expecting  this  one  to  crop  up  for  quite  a  while; I'm  surprised  it  was  as  late  as 1982.

Kingswood : A  Comprehensive  School  was   a  sequel  of  sorts  to  Public  School   which  featured  Radley  School  and  was  broadcast  a  couple  of  years  earlier. The  format  was  the  same, a  fly-on-the-wall  documentary  capturing  as  many  aspects  of  school  life  as  naturally  as  possible. Kingswood  was  a  medium-sized  comprehensive  school  in  the  unemployment  blackspot  of  Corby , Northamptonshire.

My  mum  seemed  to  be  watching  it  just  to  wind  herself  up. Education  was  her  obsession  probably  from  the  day  we  were  born, fuelled  by  permanent  regret  at  having  left  school  at  14  without  taking  exams. She  was  a  convinced  meritocrat  and  regarded  the  scrapping  of  the  11-plus  as  an  act  of  murderous  vandalism. What  made  it  worse  for  her  was  that  its  main  political   advocates, the  likes  of  Tony  Benn  and  Shirley  Williams, hadn't  used  the  state  system  at  all  for  educating  their  own  children  but  were  preventing  the  talented   children from  less  privileged  backgrounds  ( and,  perhaps  more  pertinently,  those  who  had  slipped  a  notch  or  two  down  the  social  scale )  from  rising  up  the  ladder.  She  had  mooted  the  idea  of  sitting  the entrance exams  for  two  local  private grammars  to  me  but  I  wasn't  interested. When  I  went  on  to  a  middle  school  - which  was  crap, no  doubt  about  that  - my  sister  was  pressed  a  bit  more  urgently  and  eventually  went  to  one  of  them, with  the  later  assistance  of  the  Assisted  Places  scheme.

Now  she  had  a  new  target   in  Kingswood's  head,  Brian  Tyler, an  interesting  contradictory  figure  who  looked  like  a  cross  between  Eric  Morecambe  and  Elvis  Costello  and  employed  some  unusual  hand  gestures  to  get  his  point  across. He  was  a  posthumous  child  and  a  Londoner  whose  family  had  struggled  on  a  low  income. He'd got  his  degree  as  a  mature  student  after  doing  A  Levels  at  night  school.  He  was  a  zealot  for  comprehensive  education  with  a  king-size  chip  on  his  shoulder  about  private  education. He  firmly  believed  that  children  from  privileged  backgrounds  should  be  forced  to  sit  next  to  poor  children  while  being  educated.  I  recall  Mum  discussing  the  programme  with  her  more  liberal-minded  sister  that  Christmas  and  screaming  "He  called  me  a  prostitute !"  which  was  not  quite  true  as  he  had  applied  the  term  to  the  staff  who  worked   in  private  schools  rather  than  the  parents  of  the  children.

I  felt  inclined  to  defend  him  somewhat  as  you  might  expect  and  in  his  interactions  with  the  kids  he  seemed  to  be  a  decent  guy  though  inclined  to  let  negotiations  drag  on  too  long. Direct  to  camera  though,  sitting  in  his  chair  in  a  hideous  pink  shirt  and theatrically  throwing  his head  around, he  came  across  as  a  self-regarding,  opinionated  wanker  with  a  very  Alpha  male  outlook. " A  family's  OK  if  Dad's  alright  isn't  it  ? It's  not  much  more  complicated  than  that"  just  makes  you  cringe.

There  was  much  more  evidence  of  this  in  the  episode  I  recall  best, number  6,  where  they  had  to  appoint  a  new  deputy  head. It's  hard  to  conceive  that  employment  law  as  it  currently  stands  would  allow  cameras  into  an  interview  and,  even  given  the  passage  of  time  it  seems  astounding  that  all  the  seven  candidates  must  have  agreed  to  it.  One  of  them , a  nice  lady  called  Mrs  Pinner  who  looked  a  bit  long  in  the  tooth  to  be  moving  upwards, completely  collapsed  in  the   final  interview  and  it's  hard  to  believe  the  presence  of  the  cameras  wasn't  a  contributory  factor.

The  internal  candidate  was  a  man  called  David  Bates, a  thirtysomething  Derek  Jacobi  lookalike  who  had  been  doing  the  job  in  an  acting  capacity  for  a  few  months. He  came  across  as  a  decent  guy  but  not  really  senior  management  material. That  was  the  opinion  of  the  staff  panel  under  the  chairmanship  of  a  history  teacher  who  Tyler  described  as  "very  Machiavellian"  ( it  would  be  interesting  to  know  what  their  relationship  was  like  after  the  programme  was  broadcast ). Bates  had  managed  to  wheedle  himself  out  of  having  to  face  them  and  they  were  unanimous  that  new  blood  was  preferable  and  he  wouldn't  be  on  their  shortlist.

The  final  interviews  were  conducted  by  Tyler  and  two  school  governors  with  two  representatives  from  the  local  authority  present  in  an  advisory  capacity. At  the start  of  the  episode , Bates  had  said  he  thought  the  head  and  governors  would  be  onside  for  him  and  it  was  the county  representatives  that  he'd  have  to  convince  and  boy,  did  he  call  that  right. Both  the  LA  men  ( Alan  and  Alistair  ) were  unimpressed  by  Bates  and  agreed  with  the staff  panel  that  he  wouldn't  have  made  the  cut  as  an  external  candidate  but  fatally  they  had  different  preferences  for  the  winner.  Alistair  thought  the  qualities  of  a  Mrs  Beardsley  gave  them  an  ideal  opportunity  to  appoint  a  woman  to  the  all-male  senior  leadership  team  while  Alan  preferred  the  intellectual  heft  of  a  Mr  Shepherd .  When  the  female  governor  plumped  for   Mrs  Beardsley, Tyler  threw his  toys  out  of  the  pram  and  resorted  to  personal  abuse  calling  Beardsley  a  hypocrite  and  a  poseur. The  look  of  incredulous  contempt  from  Alan  at  that was  priceless. Tyler  then  said  he'd  want  to  re-advertise  rather  than  appoint  her. The  threat  was  enough  to  get  Alan  on  his  side   and  the  governors  meekly  came  to  heel  and  agreed  to  Bates's  appointment. It  was  a  riveting  demonstration  of  power  politics. Tyler  got  some  stick  in  the  press  for  his  apparent  misogyny  and  deployed  what  would  become  the  trusty  shield  for  Big  Brother  evictees,  that  it  was  down  to  selective  editing.

Tyler  had  a  brief  media  side  career  on  the  back  of  the  programme  , appearing  on  Question  Time,   but  the  circus  moved  on  and  he  fell  back  into  the  nitty-gritty  of  headship. He  eventually  retired  in  1998. I  didn't  see  the  2008   What  Happened  Next   programme  which  re-visited  the  school. Today  the  name  survives  in  a  Secondary  Academy  but  the  original  school  merged  with  another  in  the  noughties   and  the  buildings  featured  in  the  programme  were  razed  to  the  ground  a  few  years  ago.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

569 The Mary Rose

First  viewed  : 11  October  1982

Normal  programming  was  suspended  on  Monday  11th  October  1982  for  coverage  of  the  lifting  of  the  Tudor  warship, the  Mary  Rose,  from  the  bottom  of  the  Solent. The  remains  of  the  ship  had  been  discovered  just  over  a  decade  earlier  and  since  then  a  Trust  headed  by  Prince  Charles  had  worked  to  raise  the  ship  to  the  surface. It  had  originally  been  planned  for  the  day  before  but  technical  hitches  postponed  it  for  24  hours.

I  saw  some  of  the  broadcast  in  the  morning  before  setting  off  for  school  but  not  the  lift  itself  which  had  taken  place  before  I  got  back. I  remember  that  the  firm  who  made  the  steel  cradle  around  the  hull, Babcock  Construction,  had  painted  their  name  on  it  on  the  side  facing  the  shore. They  got  their  come-uppance  for  the  shameless  product  placement  when  one  of  the  supports  buckled  under  the  strain , a  heart-stopping  moment  for  the  onlookers  but  it  did  not  damage  the  wreck.

The  Mary  Rose  is  now  a  major  tourist  attraction  in  Portsmouth. I've  never  actually  seen  it  but  funnily  enough,  I  have  been  to  the  only  comparably  resurrected  ship,  the  Vasa  in  Stockholm.

Friday, 23 December 2016

568 Saturday Superstore

First  viewed  :  Autumn  1982

Saturday  Superstore ,  launched  in  October  1982 , was   basically  Swap  Shop  re-branded  to reflect  the  fact  that  there  was  a  new  guy  at  the  helm. With  the  benefit  of  hindsight, replacing Noel  Edmunds  for  five  years  on  the  Saturday morning  kids  TV  flagship   would  be  the apogee of  Mike  Read's  career  and  to  be  fair  he  was  a  competent  host. Other  than  that,  the   presenting  team  ( Keith  Chegwin, Maggie  Philbin  and  John  Craven )   stayed  the  same  until   the  following  year  when  Philbin  left  to  have  a  baby  and  was  replaced  by   the  much  sexier Sarah  Greene.  A  seemingly  sane  David  Icke  joined  the   team  at  the  same  time. The  format was  pretty  much  identical  especially  after  they  ditched  the  shop  theme   in  the  second  season.

I  only  ever  dipped  into  it  occasionally - it  was  kids  TV  after  all -  but  it  was  a  part  of  the  pop  landscape  in  the  eighties  and  so  there  were  a  few  incidents  that  I  read  about  and  wished  I'd  seen  such  as  a  3- year  old  Natalie  Casey  asking  Boy  George  to  take  her  to  the  toilet  and  Matt  Bianco  getting  called  " a  bunch  of  wankers"   during  a  live  Q  &  A  session.

Then  of  course  in  the  final  series  Mrs  T  dropped  by  and  a  young  girl  asked  her  where  she'd  be  if  they  dropped  the  bomb  - well  Read  wasn't  going  to  ask  her  any  toughies  was  he  ?  Thatcher  gave  the  usual  flannel  about  a  strong  N.A.T.O.  keeping  the  peace  to  which  the  kid  listened  politely  then  said  "Yeah  but  where will  you  be ? " Thatcher  icily  replied  "I  shall  be  in  London"  thereby  conceding  the  point  that  it  might  happen  after  all. Thatcher  also  participated  in  the  video  review  slot  where  she  pretended  to  like  The  Thrashing  Doves'  Beautiful  Imbalance, actually  a  pretty  good  song. It  was  a  minor  hit  and  it's  not  clear  whether  her  endorsement  helped  or  harmed  it.

The  one   episode  I  did  see  for  myself  was  Frankie  Goes  To  Hollywood's  appearance  to  promote  the  Welcome  To  The  Pleasuredome  single  on   22  March  1985 . I  was  back  home  for  a  Rochdale  game   ( which  must  have  been  called  off  because  there's  no  result  for  that  day  in  the  stats )  and  must  have  put  the  telly  on  while  waiting  for  dinner.  The  lads  gave  an  amiable  interview  but  there  was  a  sting  in  the  tail. They'd  brought  in  a  collection  of  memorabilia  to  give  away  in  a  competition  for  which  they'd  devised  three  questions  announced  by  Holly  Johnson  :

  1. Who  did  we  do  our  first  radio  interview  with ?
  2. What  was  unusual  about  that  interview ?  and
  3.  Who  banned  Relax ?
That  last  one  clearly  hadn't  been  cleared  with  Read  and  as  he  started  to  protest,  the  other  lads  jumped  in,  "No  No  you  can't  give  it  away !"  which  of  course  he  couldn't . Done  up  like  a  kipper,  Read  introduced  their  video  through  gritted  teeth.

It's  tempting to  tie  the  demise  of  Saturday  Superstore   in  April  1987  to  Read's  damaged  credibility, not  helped  by  tabloid  revelations  about  him  bonking  to  the  music  of  the  unfashionable  Icicle  Works,  but  at  most  that  can  only  be  part  of  the  story. The  show  was  coming  under  pressure  from  an  ITV  rival  called  No  73  and  another  re-boot  was  needed.

This  time  it  was  much  more  thorough. Only  Greene  and  agony  uncle  Philip  Hodson  survived  the  purge  and  went  into  Going   Live.  We've  covered  Read's  travails  in  the  Pop  Quiz  post. Chegwin  was  heading  the  same  way  but  managed  to  turn  things  around  for  himself  a  few  years  later  on  The  Big  Breakfast. Craven  still  had  his  Newsround  and  two  years  later  began  his  long  stint  on  Countryfile. Icke, well,  we'll  come  back  to  him  in  due  course.


Thursday, 22 December 2016

567 The Rank Charm School

First  viewed  : 21  September  1982

This  was  a  one-off  documentary  narrated  by  Barry  Norman  about  the  so-called  "Charm  School "   (  actually  the  "Company  of  Youth" )  set  up  by  the  Rank  Organisation  in  the  1940s  to  nurture  young  talent. Much  of  the  programme  was  taken  up  by  the  story  of  Diana  Dors  and  her  ultimately  failed  attempt  to  conquer  Hollywood  in  the  fifties. I  hadn't  previously  known  that  the  overweight  panel  show  regular  was  once  considered  a  serious  rival  to  Marilyn  Monroe. The  programme  gave  comparatively  little  attention  to  the  one  undisputed  star  among  the  alumni  , Christopher  Lee.

The  third  most  famous  product  was  former  disc  jockey  Pete  Murray  who  chose  a  different  career  to  acting. The  other  graduates  interviewed  were  actresses  who  are  now  almost  completely  forgotten , Barbara  Murray  ( no  relation ) , Peggy  Evans,  Susan  Beaumont  and  Beverly  Brooks. Only  Beaumont  and  Murray  (P)  survive  today.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

566 The U S Open Tennis Championships

First  viewed  :  Uncertain

We  didn't  usually  watch  much  tennis  outside  of  Wimbledon  but  in  the  early  eighties , BBC  Two  screened  the  two  US  Open  Finals  and  one  Sunday  evening  we  watched  the  Mens'  game . The  only   problem  is  I  can't  remember  which  year  it  was.  Both  the  1982   and  1983  games  featured  the  same  two  protagonists , Jimmy  Connors  and  Ivan  Lendl,  and  had  pretty  much  the  same  result, a  four  set  win  for  Connors.*

The  incident  I  recall  wasn't  part  of  the  actual  match. During  one  of  the  breaks, the  camera  panned  out  of  the  stadium  to  a  glorious  late  afternoon  view  of  the  Manhattan  skyline  and  either  Dan  Maskell  or  John  Barrett   intoned  "This  is  the  New  York  skyline  and  that  is  the  sun !"   They  duly  received  the  Golden  Egg  Award  on  the  following  week's   The  Late,Late  Breakfast  Show  for  services  to  the  art  of  stating  the  bloody  obvious, Noel  Edmunds  having  a  good  chortle  at  the  clip.

These  days  Sky  have  exclusive  rights  to  the  tournament.

* The  1983  triumph  was  his  last  Grand  Slam  win.  

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

565 The Late , Late Breakfast Show

First  viewed  :  4  September  1982

BBC  One  launched  its  autumn  season  with  a  new  vehicle  for  Noel  Edmunds, moving  into  adult  TV  with  a  prime  time  light  entertainment  show.  It  was  produced  by  Michael  Hurll  who  also  did  Top  of  the  Pops  and  had  a  live  musical  act  each  week  although  it  was  always  a  safe  choice.

It  was  a  strange,  hybrid  show  which  had  both  derivative  and  innovative  elements. The  Golden  Egg  Awards  for  amusing  recent  bloomers  was  clearly  trying  to  steal  them  from  under  Dennis  Nordern's  nose  and  The  Hit  Squad's  practical  joke  set-up  was  a  lame  attempt  to  compete  with  Game  For  A  Laugh  on  the  other  channel. On  the  other  hand  it  was  well  ahead  of  the  curve  in  featuring  funny  video  clips  sent  in  by  viewers, launching  the  entire  premise  of  You've  Been  Framed.

The   other   main  feature  of  the  show   - and  the  one  that  would  eventually  sink  it  - was  Give  It  A  Whirl  where  a  member  of  the  audience  would  be  assigned  some  challenge  via  a  fairground  roulette  wheel.  The  options  ranged  from  dangerous  stunts  to  Generation  Game - style  tasks.  How  they  got  on  would  then  feature  on  the  following  week's  programme. It  was  clearly  rigged; when  a  dear  old  lady  stepped  forward  you  knew  she  wasn't  going  to  be  fired  out  of  a  cannon. Lo  and  behold,  the  needle  dropped  on  "Make  A  Pop  Record". The  resultant  abortion,  "Have  A  Cup  of  Tea"  recorded  with  Chas  and  Dave  was  so  bad  I  don't  think  they  even  bothered  releasing  it.

The  show  had  teething  problems  and  ratings  for  the  first  series  were  poor. Co-host  comedian   Leni  Harper  was  bumped  after  half  a  dozen  episodes. Then  there  was  Peel. Hurll  had  made  major  changes  to  Top  of  the  Pops  aiming  for  a  continuous  party  vibe  then  bafflingly , at  the  start  of  1982 , persuaded  Radio  One's  most  esoteric  DJ  John  Peel,  who'd   evaded  the  programme  for  over  a  decade , to  resume  a  regular  presenting  slot. Peel's  incongruous, self-deprecating  presence  was  an  immediate  hit  so  Hurll  signed  him  up  for  this  as  well.

On  the  first  show,  he  was  in  the  studio  and  gave  a  little  monologue  that   would  have  been  fine  for  a  late  night  changeover  on  R1  with  David  "Kid"  Jensen  but  was  embarrassingly  unsuitable  for  a  6pm  Saturday  evening  TV  slot.  From  the  embarrassed  titters  that  greeted  his  mention  of  going  to  see  a  band  called  Christians  In  Search  of  Filth  during  the  week,  it  was  clear  the  studio  audience  had  no  idea  what  to  make  of  him. It  was  so  badly  pitched , you  wondered  how  his  usually  sound  judgement  could  have  gone  so  awry.

After  that   Peel  was  switched  to  being  the  outside  broadcaster  for  the  stunts  that  couldn't  be  accommodated  in  the  studio. In  September  1983  he  narrowly  avoided  being  maimed  or  killed  by  flying  metal  when  a  car  turned  over  at  speed  and  he  never  appeared  again. According  to  Edmunds  they  never  spoke  after  that.

Perhaps  some  of  Peel's  chagrin  was  down  to  the  choice  of  replacement. Mike  Smith  was  at  the  absolute  opposite  end  of   the  DJ  spectrum  to  Peel, an  ambitious  self-publicist  with  no  interest  in  music  whatsoever. His  willingness  to  be  the  butt  of  Edmunds's  jokes,  whilst  stood  in  the  rain  until  his  own  big  gig  came  along,  became  a  distinctive  feature  of  the  show.

As  to  the  musical  content  it  did   manage  to  lay down   a  couple  of   marks  in  musical  history. The  first  series  climaxed  with  what,  until  earlier  this  year,  was  the  last  public  appearance  by  Abba. It  was  preceded  by  an  exquisitely  awkward  interview  with  the  band,  with  poor  Edmunds   visibly  struggling  with  the  Scandinavian  winter's  chill  they'd  brought  over  with  them.

 By  the  second  season  the  ratings  had  improved  and  artists  appearing  on  the  show  could  expect  to  see  a  sales  boost  in  the  charts  the  following  week. This  gave  Edmunds  another  awkward  interview  to  manage. Paul  McCartney and  Michael  Jackson  had  made  another  single  together  , "Say  Say  Say "  and  then  lazily  decided  not  to  make  a  video  for  it ;  after  all,  Queen  and  David  Bowie   hadn't  bothered  for  Under  Pressure   two  years  earlier. That  however  was  a  decent  song. "Say  Say  Say "  sounded  like  an  outtake  from  Off  The  Wall  and  an  outtake  from  Back  To  The  Egg   had  been  bolted  together  by  a  welder.  After  two  weeks  in  the  charts,  the  public  correctly  divined  that  this  Event  Single  was  actually  mediocre  rubbish  and  it  started  to  drop  from  its  number  10  peak.

A  dismayed  Macca  quickly  got  off  his  arse  and  on  to  a  plane  to  California  to  shoot  a  video  with  Jacko.  He  then  presented  it  to  Top  Of  The  Pops   but  the  programme   had  a  longstanding  rule  that  they  didn't  feature  songs  that  were  going  down  the  charts  and  Hurll  commendably  stood  his  ground  against  McCartney's  special  pleading. He  offered  McCartney  a  slot  for  the  video  on  this  show  provided  that  he  came  in  for  an  interview, his  first  for  the  BBC  in  a  decade.  

With  ill  grace  McCartney  accepted   the  offer,  much  to  the  displeasure  of  Olivia  Newton-John  who  hadn't  expected  to  be  playing  second  fiddle  to  anyone  on  her  appearance.  Macca  brought  along  Linda  to  eat  up  some  of  the  time. I  thought  Edmunds  handled  it  well. He  knew  neither  of  them  wanted  to  be  there  and  that  he  wasn't  going  to  get  any  great  revelation  out  of  the  former  Beatle  but  he  stayed  in  control  and  didn't  give  him  too  many  opportunities  for  monosyllabic  answers. The  single  duly  climbed  back  up  to  number  2  so  Macca  got  the  pay-off  he  wanted  but  there  was  no  mistaking  that  he'd  been  brought  down  a  peg.  It  was   a  considerable  coup  for  Hurll  who'd  faced  off  against  a  megastar  and  got  him  to  dance  to  his  tune.

Perhaps  Macca  and  Peelie  derived  a  modicum  of  pleasure  from   the  show's  grim  demise. Despite  the  latter's  near  escape, the  show  had  continued  with  the  daring  stunts  and   just  over  30  years  ago  sent  hod  carrier  Michael  Lush  to  his  death  in  a  shoddily  prepared  bungee  jump  stunt.  They  were  prosecuted  by  the  Health  and  Safety  Executive  in  a  landmark  case  and  made  a  big  pay  out  to  Lush's  family.  Edmunds  declared  he  couldn't  carry  on  immediately  after  the  accident  and  so  the  show  terminated  in  the  most  abrupt  fashion  in  November  1986.

Monday, 19 December 2016

564 The Doors - No One Here Gets Out Alive

First  viewed  : 1  September  1982

The  following  night's  contribution  to  Rock  Week  was  a  documentary  on  the  legendary  late  60s  band  The  Doors.  Although  the  subtitle  is  the  same  as  Jerry  Hopkins '  bestselling  book  on  the  band  in  1980,   I'm  not  sure  how  this  programme  related  (  if  at  all  )   to  the  video  released  at  the  same  time  since  that  ran  for  an  hour  and  this  was   only  40  minutes.

This  one  had  much  more  significance  for  my  sister  who  became  a  big  fan  of  the  band  after  this  broadcast. How  much  of  that  was  down  to  the  music  and  how  much  to  Jim  Morrison's  erm  "crotch  appeal "  I  wouldn't  like  to  hazard  a  guess. I  was  and  remain  more  ambivalent  about  them. I  love  Ray  Manzarek's  jazzy  instrumental  breaks  but  I  find  it  difficult   to  get  past  those  pretentious  lyrics. Still,  they  were  never  boring  and  this  documentary  captured  their  moment  in  time  pretty  well.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

563 The Jam at Bingley Hall

First  viewed : 31  August  1982

BBC  Two's  Rock  Week  continued  the  following  night  with  highlights  of  a  Jam  gig  from earlier  in  the  year  in  Birmingham. This  was  part  of  the  The  Gift   tour  so  there  were additional  musicians  tucked  discreetly  in  the  wings  behind  the  core  trio.

I've  written  extensively  about  The  Jam  on   my  music  blogs  and  have  little  more  to add  here beyond  noting  how  tight  they  were  by  this  stage  and  how  exclusively  male  their  following appeared  to  be. There  was  hardly  a  female  to  be  seen  in  the  audience  shots.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

562 Squeeze

First  viewed :  30  August  1982

The  Bank  Holiday  Rock  Night  concluded  with  a  live  broadcast  from  a  Squeeze  gig  at  the  Regal  Theatre, Hitchin,  introduced  by  David  Hepworth. Squeeze  had  been  my  favourite  band  in  the  late  seventies  and  they  were  probably  my  sister's  at  the  time   so  we  both  looked  forward  to  this  one.

There  were  two  downsides  to  seeing  the  band  at  this  point  in  time, just  a  few  weeks  before  they  announced  they  were  splitting  up. Firstly,  neither  Jools  Holland  nor  Paul  Carrack  were  on  the  keyboards. Don  Snow  had  the  musical  chops  but  his  predecessors  had  brought  some  personality  to  their  live  shows. Secondly,  they  were  touring  a  duff  album  in  Sweets  For  My  Stranger  and  so  the  setlist  contained  a  few  duds.

Unlike  the  Genesis  concert  we  were  familiar  with  most  of  the  material  and  the  band  were  very  proficient  but  somehow  there  was  a  spark  missing. Both  of  us  agreed  that  The  Specials  gig  had  been  better.

Friday, 16 December 2016

561 Genesis in Concert

First  viewed  :  30  August  1982

Following  on  from  Mick  were  edited  highlights  of  a  Genesis  concert  ( 45  minutes  from  a  two  and  a  half  hour  gig ). The  concert  filmed  was  the  7  May  1980  gig  at  the  London  Lyceum   as  part  of  the  tour  to  promote  the  Duke  album. This  was  just  before  Phil  Collins   broke  out  as  a  solo  performer  but  they  were  on  an  upward  trajectory  nonetheless.

I  had  some  time  for   Genesis  as  they'd  recently  put  out  some  a  couple  of  very  good  singles  in  "Follow  You  Follow  Me"  and  "Turn  It  On  Again"  but  I  didn't  have  any  of  their  albums. The  songs  featured  were  nearly  all  unfamiliar  to  me   and  live, this  version  of  Genesis  , had  only  one  person  with  any  stage  presence. Tony  Banks. Mike  Rutherford  and  their  touring  appendices,    Daryl  Stuermer  and  Chester  Thompson  had  the  combined  charisma  of  a cauliflower. Therefore  this  was  of  only  mild  interest.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

560 The Visitor

First  viewed : 30  August  1982

The  next  few  posts  will  be  short  and  easy. For  the  first  time  BBC2  gave  most  of  the  1982  August  Bank  Holiday  afternoon   and  evening  to  rock  music  linked  together  by  David  Hepworth  and  Mark  Ellen. After  a  screening  of  Jailhouse  Rock   and  a  welcome  repeat  of  The  Specials's  Rock  Goes  To  College  gig, the  next  programme  was  a  documentary  about  Mick  Fleetwood's  trip  to  Ghana  to  record  with  some  Aftrican  musicians  for  his  1981  solo  album  The  Visitor.  It  reached  number  43  in  the  States  but  bombed  completely  over  here  as  drummers'  solo  albums  tend  to  do  ( don't  bother  to remind  me  of  the  obvious  exception - he's  up  next  ! )

At  this  point  in  time  I  wasn't  very  interested  in  the  Mac  but , whatever  his  shortcomings  as  an  MC, Fleetwood  is  a  nice, well-meaning  guy  and  this  was  diverting   enough  to  keep  us  watching.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

559 An Inspector Calls

First  viewed : 17  August  1982

J  B  Priestley's  socialist  morality  play  has  been  an  English  Literature  exam  staple  for  decades and  so  this  1982  three-part   adaptation  was  originally  made  as  a  schools  programme. It  was then  decided  that  it  would  probably  work  as  a  prime  time  drama  although  with  actors  of  the calibre  of  Bernard  Hepton  and  Nigel  Davenport  on  board  that  should  have  been  a  no-brainer.

Hepton  plays  Inspector  Goole, a  detective  who  intrudes  on  a  bourgeois  family  dinner  party  as part  of  an  investigation  into  the  suicide  of  a  young  working  class  woman. He  then  politely but  inexorably  exposes  that  each  person  present  bears  some  responsibility  for  her  death. I won't  reveal  the  twist  at  the  end  but  I  think  it's  pretty  well  known.

The  budget  wasn't  enormous  but  it  didn't  need  to  be  given  that  all  the  action  takes  place  in  the  one  room  ( hence  the  play's  popularity  with  Am  Dram  companies ). Sarah  Berger  from  The  Crucible  plays  a  more  sympathetic  character  here.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

558 Sin On Saturday

First  viewed :  7  August  1982

The  night  after  Bill  Grundy's  quietly  valedictory  series  commenced, another  TV  career  crashed  in  a  blaze  of  hubris  and  incompetence  that  is  still  talked  about  today.

This  was  the  second  attempt, after  Saturday  Live , to  fill  the  post-Parkinson  void  and  it   crashed  spectacularly. Bernard  Falk  was  a  respected  journalist  who  effectively  reported  on election  nights  in  the  seventies  and  regularly  fronted  items  on  Nationwide.  He  was   selected to  host  a  live  music, comedy  and  chat  show  which  would  last  eight  weeks  and  cover  each of the  Seven  Deadly  Sins   before  a  final  show  about  "Getting  Caught". The  opening  titles  had  him  mugging  to  illustrate  the  various  Sins  in  a  frankly  rather  disturbing  manner. "Lust"  was  the  subject  of  the  first  episode ( the  only  one  I  saw).

Ironically  this  would  have  been  meat  and  drink  to  Grundy  in  his  prime  who  made  his  reputation  on  being  able  to  control   a  discussion  in  the  studio. Falk  on  the  other  hand  proved  to  be  completely  inept. Despite  clutching  a  wad  of  papers,  he  seemed  to  have  no  idea  of  where  he  wanted  the  discussion  to  go  and  his  consistently  ill-judged  questions  produced  some  buttock-clenching  moments. A  group  of  bathing  beauties  had  been  brought  in   as  eye  candy  and  could  only   giggle  in  embarrassment   when  Falk  blundered  up  to  them  and  asked   how  they  would  define  lust. A  Salvation  Army  officer  answered  no  he  didn't  think  there  was  a  place  for  lust.  in  a  Christian  marriage  and  then  declined  to  elaborate. Even  when,  by  chance, Falk  landed  on  something  interesting,  he  failed  to  recognise  it . He  had  Karen  Armstrong,  a  former  nun,  in   the  studio  and,  in  the  middle  of  her  riveting  account  of  flagellating  herself,  he  got  out  of  his  chair  and  ran  up  to  rugby  stripper  Erica  Roe   for  a  monosyllabic  reply  to  his  enquiry, did  she  do it  to  provoke  lust ?

The  comedy  and  music  fell  flat  as  the   audience, disproportionately  made  up  of  religious  people, refused  to  applaud  the  risque  material. It's  remarkable  how  much  hanging  rope  they  managed  to  pack  into  just  35  minutes.

The  show  is  also  often  cited  as  the  beginning  of  Oliver  Reed's  latter  day  career  as  a  drunken  saboteur  of  chat  shows  but  I'm  not  sure  he  was  that  drunk  here. Novelist  Charlotte  Lamb , who  came  on  with  him,  said  that,  backstage,  Ollie   recognised  that   he  had  boarded  the  Titanic  straight  away  and   tried  to  scarper  before  she  grabbed  his  hand  and  led  him  to  the  chairs. His  clearly  on-the-hoof   contribution - "  I  love  to  look  at  ladies  that   take  their  clothes  off . I  don't  even  care  a  jot  whether  fellows   take  their  clothes  off   and  jump  upon  them. I  think  that  if  that  is  lust  then  that's  jolly  good  too" -  didn't  add  much  to  the  sum  of  human  knowledge  but  at  least  he  was  trying.

The  wretched  farrago  was  universally  eviscerated  in  the  Monday  papers  and  apparently  some  BBC  execs  wanted  to  chop  it  there  and  then  but  Falk  was  able  to  make  two  more  programmes  on  "Covetousness"  ( which  at  least  scored  a  point  for  presience  by  having  Gary  Glitter  on )  and  "Envy"  before  the  Beeb   axed  it  to  save  further  embarrassment . Falk  was  allowed  to  continue  as  presenter  of  the  escapology  challenge  series  Now  Get  Out  Of  That   which  ran  for  a  couple  more  years   and  he  wrote  and  produced  three  documentaries  on  The  Walton  Sextuplets  in  the  eighties  but  was  certainly  never  considered  as  a  chat  show  host  again. He  died  of  a  heart  condition  in  1990  aged  47. The  show's  creator  Sean  Hardie  resigned  his  post  as  head  of  light  entertainment  at  BBC  Scotland  who  produced  the  show.

Monday, 12 December 2016

557 The Lancashire Lads

First  viewed  : 6  August  1982

Back  to  the  Friday  night  regional  TV  slot  now  and  this  rather  nice  little  series  provided  a quietly  dignified  end  to  Bill  Grundy's  TV  career.

Bill  both  wrote  and  presented  the  six-part  series  celebrating  some  of  the  Lancashire  dialect  poets  of  the  eighteenth  and  nineteenth  centuries. Five  of  the  episodes  concentrated  on  a  named  individual, the  final  one  was  an  anthology  of  light  rhymes  from  various  sources. When  Bill  wasn't  delivering  to  camera,  a  montage  of  vaguely  appropriate  scenes  or  illustrations   was  on  screen. It  was  excellent  just  before  bed  viewing . particularly  as  many  of  the  poems  such  as  "Bonny  Brid "  and  "Come  Whoam  To  Thi  Childer  An' Me"  celebrated  simple  domestic  sentiment.

The  subject  of  the  first  programme  was  Rochdale's  Edwin  Waugh  ( see  above )  which  Bill  delivered  from  the  foot  of  the  Blackstone  Edge  Roman  Road  just  30  minutes  stroll  from  our  house  ( and  in  Littleborough  not  Rochdale  but  never  mind ). He  never  moved  an  inch  from  the  spot  in  the  entire  30  minutes.  

The  other  poets  covered  were  Ammon  Wrigley, Samuel  Fitton , Samuel  Laycock  and  Ben  Brierley.

It  was  repeated  in  1984  and  I  think  that  was  the  last  we  saw  of  Grundy. He  popped  up  again  as  co-host,  with  Paul Morley,  of   the  G-Mex -The  Tenth  Event   music  festival  in  1986  , ( not  such  a  bizarre  choice  when  you  consider  Grundy  and  Tony  Wilson  worked  together  at  Granada ) then  vanished  into  obscurity. He died  of  a  heart  attack  in  1993  aged  69.

At  the  time  the  programme  was  broadcast,  there  were  quite  a  few  local  societies  dedicated  to  keeping  the  memory  of  these  guys   alive. I  don't  know  how  many  there  are  now  but  at  least  the  Edwin  Waugh  Dialect  Society  still  seems  to  be  reasonably  active. Long  may  it  continue !

Sunday, 11 December 2016

556 Jane

First  viewed  :  August  1982

This  was a  very  innovative  series  that  has  somehow  fallen  into  obscurity. There's  an  internet  rumour  that  Glynis  Barber  bought  the  rights  and  had  the  tapes  destroyed  but  that  would  have  been  pretty  futile  given  the  popularity  of  VCR  machines  by  1984. It's  much  more  likely  that  there  simply  isn't  enough  of  it  to  make  a  DVD  release  commercially  viable.

It  was  an  adaptation  of  a  cartoon  strip  that  appeared  in  The  Daily  Mirror  between  1932  and  1959  whose  titular  heroine  was  brave  and  resourceful  but  plagued  by  a  perpetual  knack  of  losing  her  clothes  in  embarrassing  situations. It  was  extremely  popular  among  the  troops  in  World  War  II  and  no  doubt  the  TV  series  pleased  the  squaddies  returning  from  the  Falklands.

There  were  two  stories  shown  in  ten  minute  episodes  over  a  week  at  9pm on  BBC2  then  they  were  collected  together  in  an  omnibus  edition  the  following  Sunday  night. It  was  the  first  TV  series  to  make  such  use  of  blue  screen  technology  with  the  actors  ( including  Frank  Thornton, Robin  Bailey, Max  Wall  and  Suzanne  Danielle )  performing  on  a  bare  stage  with  the   cartoon  strip  background  matched  at  a  later  stage. The  scripts  by  Mervyn  Haisman  were  light  farce  and  packed  with  Carry  On  double  entendres.

Jane  was  played  by  Glynis  Barber , fresh  from  the  final  series  of  Blake's  Seven    and  looking  lovely  in  1940s  underwear. Although  she  enjoyed  making  it  at  the  time,  Glynis  was  a  bit  spooked  by  the  flood  of  skin  flick  offers  that  came  her  way  afterwards  and  insisted  on  a  body  double  for  her  sex  scene  in  The  Wicked  Lady  , the  film  she  made  immediately  afterwards. Tough  luck  on  Oliver  Tobias  who  didn't  get  to  ruffle  the  Barber  boobs.*

The  first  tale  was  repeated  a  couple  of  times  in  1983-4 but  the  second ( inferior )  one, actually  titled  Jane  in  the  Desert  and  shown  in  September  1984,  has  never  been  re-broadcast.

* There  was  the  briefest  of  glimpses  of  them  at  the  end  of  Jane  in  the  Desert.