Thursday, 26 May 2016

400 Shoestring

First  viewed  : 30  September  1979

Another  new  series  launched  on  the  same  night  as  To  The  Manor  Born  ( in  fact  it  directly  followed  it  )  was  much  more  to  my  liking. Shoestring   heralded   a  whole  new  genre  of  unconventional  TV  detective  series  and  for  my  money  remains  the  best. I  watched  the  first  series  on  my  own  but  my  mum  and  sister  came  on  board  for  the  second.

The  largely  unknown  Trevor  Eve  played  Eddie  Shoestring , a  dishevelled  young  man  in  Bristol ,  recovering  from  a  nervous  breakdown  suffered  from  working  with  computers. Having  decided to  try  his  hand  at  being  a  private  detective,  Eddie's  landlady / lover  Erica  ( Doran  Godwin ) who  is  also  a  barrister,  finds  him  a  case  investigating  the  suicide  of  the  girlfriend   of  a  popular  DJ  at  the  local  radio  station  Radio  West. Having  absolved  the  DJ  from  blame  - in  an  uncharacteristically  dark  storyline  the  girl  killed  herself  after  turning  to  escort  work   and  finding one  of  her  clients  to  be  her  dad - Eddie  is  hired  by  the  station  to  be  its  own "private  ear"  who  will  investigate  cases  for  listeners  and  once  solved, recount  an  anonymised    version  of  his  investigation  over  the  air . The  other  regular  characters  were  his  cautious  but  usually  supportive  boss  Don  Satchley  ( Michael  Medwin )  and  jolly  receptionist  Sonia  ( Liz  Crowther )   with  her  voluminous  frocks.

Unlike  To  The  Manor  Born  , I   can  remember  the  details  of  individual  storylines  pretty  well. A  lot  of  them  involved  tracing  missing  persons. There  was  one  where  he  was  hunting  down a sixties  pop  star  whose  record  suddenly  became  popular  again  and  another  where  he  tracked down  the  wife  of  a  man  who  the  neighbours  thought  had  murdered  her. Other  memorable episodes  were  the  one  where  he  investigated  a  Moonie-like  religious  cult, a  travel  agency which  was  really  a  front  for  burglary  and  the  final  nerve-racking  episode  where  Eddie  had  to track  down  some  dangerously  defective  toys  at  Christmas. There  was  also  the  notorious episode  where  Toyah  Willcox  got  to  perform  a  generous  slice  of  her  music  despite  her character  being  a  fairly  peripheral  part  of  the  proceedings.

What  made  Eddie  such  a  compelling  character  was  his  obvious  vulnerability. He  was  slightly built  so  usually  came  out  the  worst  in  any  physical  confrontations  and  clearly  still  mentally fragile. In  one  episode  he  freaked  out  at  being  faced  with  a  mainframe  computer  again  and in the  episode  "Mockingbird"  he  was  driven  almost  to  breaking  point  by  the  taunts  of  a malevolent  wannabe.

After  two  highly  successful  series  with  Eve a  national  heartthrob, the  Beeb  were  aghast  when he  decided  to  quit  while  he  was  ahead  and  abandon  the  series  for  further  stage  work  and later , a  largely  unsuccessful  attempt  at  stardom  in  America. It  was  a  brave  step  but  whether his  co-stars  ( particularly  Godwin  who  hasn't  acted  in  the  last  two  decades )  appreciated  it   would  be  interesting  to  ascertain. The  production  team  came  up  with  a  replacement  series  in Bergerac  which  I  came  to  like  in  time   but  always  thought  was  a  poor  substitute. Like  Fawlty  Towers, Shoestring  left  you  wanting  more.

Shoestring  was  repeated  in  1981  and  1982  but  then  disappeared  from  terrestrial   television  until   January   2002  when  some  episodes , highly  edited  for  daytime  viewing, were  aired  in  the  afternoon. For  a  long  time  there  was  no  DVD  release  because  the  amount  of  music  played  in  the  scenes  at  Radio  West  made  it  uneconomic  to  clear  all  the  rights  but  eventually  some  deal  with  the  P.R.S .  was  done  and  a  box  set  of  the  first  series  came  out  in  2012.                 

1 comment:

  1. Still waiting for the second series DVD. Loved Shoestring, as you say, it was one of the best.