Wednesday, 30 November 2016
First viewed : Uncertain
I think I may have seen one or two episodes of this first time round when it was shown on BBC 2 in May 1981 but it's certain my sister and I watched it all the way through when it was repeated on BBC 1 in July 1982.
Private Schulz was the last work of acclaimed screenwriter Jack Pulman who made his name with I Claudius. He died in 1979 before it went into production. In the comic drama, Schulz ( Michael Elphick ) is an unsuccessful fraudster who is released from prison in Berlin in 1939 to aid the war effort and finds himself working for the Gestapo under the fanatical but incompetent Major Neuheim ( Ian Richardson ) . At his own suggestion he is put in charge of a plan to ruin Britain's economy by means of forged bank notes. Schulz has no ideological attachment to the Nazis who he thinks are nuts nor any real patriotism. He just wants to enrich himself and get off with mercenary prostitute Bertha ( Billie Whitelaw ). However he does look out for Jewish friend Solly ( Cyril Shaps ) who is a skilled forger and can be seen as something of a Schindler figure. Two of the episodes are set in Britain where Schultz encounters in the first a double agent and in the second a gangster both also played by Richardson.
The series divided critics. Some, like Clive James, believed that it was just too early to make members of the SS figures of fun. Those who got past that hump enjoyed the coal -black humour and farcical elements immensely , hence its repeat.
It made a star out of Elphick, hitherto a thuggish character actor. Richardson of course would make his name, some years on , playing a more famous TV villain but I'd say he was even better here as Neuheim, a man without any redeeming features but yet absurd enough to be amusing.
Monday, 28 November 2016
First viewed : Summer 1982
This one-season US drama has been forgotten but I thought it was quite good . Influenced by Hill Street Blues, the idea was to look at an event from three different perspectives so that you had a medical drama, a legal series and a cop show all in one. To do this idea justice, the producers decided they had to break out of the 50 minute straitjacket and presented the networks with 90 minute episodes. They gave it a shot but couldn't make it work and edited down the remaining episodes to fit the normal schedules.
That was the series's undoing and only fourteen episodes were made but it was a pity. Bond girl Maud Adams played the main medical character while the lawyers were a love triangle with Vincent Baggetta ( risen again from Eddie Capra ) as defence man Lou Pellegrino and Craig T Nelson as prosecutor Ken Dutton, vying for the lovely Megan ( Molly Cheek ). Dennis Franz was the most memorable of the cops.
The two episodes I recall best are the one where Maud had to cope with an outbreak of bubonic plague and a thoughtful one where Lou has a professional crisis after a killer he got off strikes again and fails to defend a rape suspect properly. Ken recognises the man isn't guilty and generously finds Lou a missing witness. Whether that would ever happen in real life is highly debatable but it certainly created a tremendous warmth towards both characters.
While Nelson became a prominent character actor, poor Vince didn't get another crack at stardom and, apart from a short run as a minor character in The Colbys , he was reduced to guest roles. Even those had dried up by the mid-90s.
Sunday, 27 November 2016
First viewed : 30 June 1982
I can't write too much about this six part adaptaton of Elizabeth Jane Howard's 1969 novel as I only dipped into it while my mum and sister were following it closely. It was very much in the Bouquet of Barbed Wire mould about the shenanigans going on in a middle class family.
What attention I gave it was largely down to the amount of skin displayed by Liz Garvie as she embarked on a relationship with an insufferably smug middle-aged writer played by the not-exactly-trim Anton Rodgers. Having said that , the couple married in real life the following year so who am I to say what women find attractive ?
Saturday, 26 November 2016
First viewed : 14 June 1982
The World Cup Finals came round again in the summer of 1982. This time it was in Spain so the matches were shown at a decent hour for UK viewing. Therefore I saw a much greater proportion of them compared to 1978. The number of teams taking part had been expanded from 16 to 24 so it was a bigger tournament all round. For us in Blighty, it started a day late as neither channel deemed it politic to screen the opening match, where the Argies as holders were beaten 1-0 by Belgium, while the Falklands conflict was still in progress. Luckily, none of the home nations got to play
Ron Greenwood's England had managed to qualify for the Finals at the third attempt although not with any great honour, scraping through a not particularly difficult group with a couple of embarrassing defeats along the way. The 2-1 defeat in Oslo was immortalised by a Norwegian commentator completely losing the plot and invoking the ghosts of British prime ministers to taunt them about the defeat " Maggie Thatcher ! Winston Churchill ! Clement Attlee !... Your boys took a hell of a beating !" I wasn't really behind them as Peter Barnes had been dropped for Arsenal dullard Graham Rix and the baleful influence of Arsenal coach Don Howe was making England boring to watch.
England's preparations were hampered by injuries to their best players, Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan. Both were in the squad but wouldn't be fit for the group games. As it was the team got off to a flyer with a 3-1 victory over France with Bryan Robson ( in his only effective World Cup; he came to the net two as a crocked passenger ) scoring the fastest ever goal in the Finals. Thereafter the team deflated like a slow puncture, winning 2-0 against Czechoslovakia to ensure passage to the next round, 1-0 against Kuwait then two goalless draws in the Second Round against West Germany and Spain. In the latter game Greenwood threw on Brooking and Keegan with 25 minutes to go . The latter had a chance with a header that he might have done better with if fully fit but it went wide. England were out and Keegan's international career was over. Greenwood retired and to his eternal resentment Keegan was left out of Bobby Robson's first squad. It was genuinely sad; Keegan had been England's only consistent performer in the dark days of the seventies and deserved a better finale.
Scotland had also qualified , for their third Finals in a row. Having dismally failed to get out of an easy group in 1978 they could hardly complain at now being faced with a very daunting group including tournament favourites Brazil and the highly-fancied USSR. They made a decent fist of it beating minnows New Zealand 5-2 and securing a battling 2-2 draw with the Soviets. In the end it came down to goalkeepers. While Brazil had to come up with two screamers to get past the Asiatic-looking Rinat Dasayev for the Soviets in a tight 2-1 victory , Scotland had amazingly kept faith with the useless Alan Rough who duly conceded four after a thunderbolt from defender David Narey had given Scotland an unexpected lead against the Brazilians. Once again Scotland were out of the World Cup on goal difference.
For good measure Northern Ireland had also qualified ( at the expense of Sweden ) with a squad featuring players from Cambridge United, Linfield and Glentoran. There had been speculation that manager Billy Bingham might find a place in the squad for George Best, now 36 but still playing ( of a sort ) in American indoor football. In the end Bingham thought better of it . The Irish unexpectedly qualified from their group after a heroic 1-0 win against Spain with ten men and then got a battling draw against Austria before a rapidly-improving France sent them home with a thumping 4-1 win.
Many football writers, wanting to pick a side they'd actually seen in action, have nominated the Brazilian 1982 team as the best side not to actually win the trophy. I disagree ; that honour must surely go to the Hungarians in 1954 and I think Holland in 1974 also have a better claim. The Brazilians had 9 great stars like Socrates, Falcao and Zico but they also had a carthorse up front in Serginho and a very suspect keeper in Waldir Peres. Nevertheless they avenged their controversial elimination by arch-rivals Argentina in 1978 by putting the holders out in a match which saw Diego Maradona sent off. However they were then put to the sword by the Italians' Paolo Rossi who'd misfired in 1978 but came good at exactly the right time four years later.
The exit of the Brazilians was entirely fair but otherwise the tournament was marred by some appalling injustices. Spain scraped through their group by means of a terrible penalty decision in their match against Yugoslavia who were caning them at the time ( though the Yugoslavs didn't help themselves with a sulky performance against Honduras in their final match ). That was nothing compared to the exit of the Algerians. Picking up the baton from neighbours Tunisia in 1978, they produced an almighty shock by defeating West Germany in their opening game. They then lost to Austria but still had an excellent chance of qualifying against already-eliminated Chile. They raced to a 3-0 lead in the first half but fatally let the the Chileans get a couple of goals back in the second. That meant that instead of the final match being a turkey shoot between West Germany and Austria for the other place, both teams could go through if the Germans won by one or two goals.
With FIFA having failed to grasp the nettle of suspect scorelines after the Argentina-Peru game four years earlier, the Germans and Austrians staged another Anschluss with both sides passing the ball around aimlessly to eat up the time after the Germans took the lead. Commentators threw their microphones down and both sides were roundly booed by their own supporters. The Algerians of course protested but FIFA allowed the result to stand. Ever since then the final group matches in tournaments have had to be played simultaneously to prevent this happening again.
France eliminated the Austrians in the next round but there was more outrage to come from the Germans who met the French in the semi-finals. This of course refers to the shocking foul by goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on France's Patrick Battiston who'd put the ball past him before the keeper's head-high challenge knocked him unconscious. How the referee could have interpreted it as anything other than a straight red card is unfathomable with the ball so far away from the point of impact . Even if the collision was unavoidable - and it wasn't - there was no need for Schumacher's feet to leave the ground. The match was an absolute cracker finishing 3-3 with the Germans winning on penalties but that can't assuage the obscenity of Schumacher reamaining on the pitch.
I hated the Italians for their negative tactics - they'd bored the world to death in the first group stage with three draws - but after beating Poland ( who'd provided some good cheer by edging out their Soviet oppressors ) in the semis, they simply had to beat the Germans for the good of the tournament and they did , 3-1. I don't think I bothered watching much of it.
Off the pitch the surprise was that ITV trounced the Beeb in its coverage. They not only had the better theme tune , they also had a secret weapon who became a major TV star overnight. Jimmy Greaves had had a rough time since his controversial exclusion from the World Cup Final team in 1966. Age and an increasing consumption of alcohol robbed him of his sharpness and he retired from the professional game in 1971. He then descended into major alcoholism, eventually resuming his career in non-league football as part of his efforts to beat the booze. In 1980 he began working as a pundit on ATV's regional highlights show but the World Cup panel was his first national exposure. It was an inspired choice. His witty irreverence and relaxed bloke-y charm made the build-ups to the matches unmissable and he was flooded with TV work of all kinds thereafter. Eventually he became a bit of an arsehole but in 1982 he was at the top of his game.
Friday, 25 November 2016
First viewed : 14 May 1982
1982 was a big year for Status Quo who proclaimed it their 20th anniversary year although they were dating their life from a schoolboy band formed by Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster in 1962 and were not called Status Quo until 1967.At the start of the year rat-haired drummer John Coghlan decided it was an opportune time to call it a day and had to be replaced by relatively short-haired Pete Kircher who'd recently been with new wave nearly-men The Original Mirrors. Their most recent album was imaginatively titled 1982.
This gig at the NEC, Birmingham was a charity concert for the Prince's Trust which I suppose gave the BBC a justification for giving them 50 minutes' worth of free publicity.
I liked Quo in the seventies while acknowledging that variety wasn't their strongest suit but now felt they were getting past their sell-by date. Nevertheless front men Rossi and Parfitt seemed like good eggs and there'd be a fair smattering of familiar songs in the set so we watched it.
The Quo were an accomplished live act by this point, they put on a good show and I can't think of anything more to add to this one.
Thursday, 24 November 2016
First viewed : 12 May 1982
I came very late to this adaptation of the Wilkie Collins classic detective novel, only seeing the last episode despite glowing critical reports for the adaptation.
I had a distinct memory of watching it at my gran's house but the simple fact that it was on a Wednesday rather than a Friday triggered some detective work of my own. The explanation began to dawn when I realised that the twelfth must be the second Wednesday of the month and therefore it would be the occasion of a Littleborough Rambling Club committee meeting. Moreover , given that the Club effectively shut up shop at the beginning of June it would almost certainly be the final one. The meetings were nearly always held at my gran's house so they didn't interfere with my mum's TV viewing.
Knowing I still had a file of LRC paperwork in the cupboard, I decided to do a bit of digging and managed to fill some gaps in my memory having long ago decided that the last six months of the club's existence were best forgotten. It turns out it wasn't a routine meeting but a Fourth Anniversary Social Evening , taking place four years to the date after myself and original member Patrick had drawn up a programme of where we were going to visit on Saturdays for the next couple of months. This was taken to be the date of birth of the club although we didn't start calling it a society until 18 months later.
To take the story forward from the Kessler post , the Club had been rocked by a couple more departures. At the AGM in January, Sean's brother Frank expected his ascension to the post of Treasurer to be confirmed. I was a bit suspicious of his enthusiasm for the post but said I'd give my vote to whoever amassed the most points ( two for attending a meeting, three for a walk ) over the year ; that's how anal it had become. Frank had carefully made sure he stayed just ahead of the competition for that purpose. On the night though, my sister made a spur of the moment decision to challenge him. God knows why; she certainly hadn't pre-warned me. I didn't know which way to turn . Frank had played by the rules but Helen was my sister and he'd annoyed me by criticising me for committing 50 % of the raffle proceeds to the Coach House Trust , a decision I'd had to take for myself because none of the others had turned up to a Civic Trust meeting where I'd begun selling the tickets. So I gave my vote to Helen and it swung it for her.
Frank understandably was incensed and immediately quit the Club. He wasn't a very useful member but it was silly to lose someone over less than a tenner. Moreover, he refused to co-operate with filling out the bank form for changing signatories leaving our financial arrangements in a state of limbo ( which had some future significance as we'll come to in due course ). Sean did not quit in sympathy so the Club staggered on. We were pinning our hopes on a printed programme, care of the secretary's mum, which had been long promised but finally materialised in April. Just before it came out though there was another resignation. Sean didn't turn up for a Sunday walk. Normally he'd come up with an excuse but this time he didn't . I can't remember whether he actually said "I couldn't be bothered" or just shrugged but it was obvious where the land lay. I couldn't duck the challenge and deliberately insulted him - the exact words would take too long to explain - to force his resignation. I think he might have been angling for that anyway. The whole conversation can't have lasted for more than a couple of minutes.
Of course with a printed programme out there, we had to carry on until the last date on the sheet but it would need a big response to save the Club now and when no one but me turned up for the first one, it was clear the end was nigh. Things were patched up with Sean so he came to the Social Evening ( Frank stayed out in the cold ) and we amicably agreed to stop the committee meetings and plan no more public walks until there was a good prospect of more support. There were no dissenters to this, just relief all round.
I stayed there until my gran arrived safely back from our house, hence my tuning in to The Woman In White. Collins's novel is cited as one of the earliest detective novels and here got the full Brideshead Revisited treatment in terms of its leisurely pace if not on quite the same epic scale. A young man Walter Hartright ( Daniel Gerroll ) is engaged as a drawing tutor to two women, Laura a young heiress ( Jenny Seagrove ) and her older penniless half-sister Marion ( Brideshead's Diana Quick ). Walter becomes aware of a plot to seize Laura's fortune involving her fiance Percival Glyde ( John Shrapnel ) and her uncle, the flamboyant Italian aristocrat Count Fosco ( Alan Badel who died a fortnight before the series aired ) using her likeness to an unstable young woman dressed in white with whom Walter had a strange encounter at the start of the novel.
By the time I came to it the plot appeared to have succeeded but Glyde perished at the start of the final episode while trying to cover his tracks. However Fosco was a more formidable opponent but Walter discovers by chance a deadly chink in his armour and most of the episode consisted of a battle of wits between the two with a final twist after the end credits. I was intrigued enough to buy the book a couple of years later .
Monday, 21 November 2016
First viewed : 6 May 1982
This programme of course had been running since 1971 but always in a very late night slot on BBC Two until April 1982 when it started showing at the more civilised 22.10pm on a Thursday.
Old Grey Whistle Test was conceived as the anti-Top of the Pops in 1971 after that programme's "Album Slot" where artists played less commercial material failed to take off with the audience. There are many well-aired arguments about the difference between rock and pop and its relationship to the gender divide which I won't launch into here. The main differences between the shows were as follows :
- Artists played more than one number
- They played live in the studio
- There was no audience apart from the production staff
- The artists did not need to be in the charts ; a few mentions in the music press was generally enough to generate an invite
- Top of the Pops had a mass audience; OGWT didn't
The programme's first presenter was a rock critic Richard Williams but he was soon replaced by the ultra-conservative "Whispering" Bob Harris who liked folk and country rock and started looking out of touch as early as 1972 when he gave a cold reception to Roxy Music and the New York Dolls. Nevertheless he survived until 1978 when he thought it was best left to new co-host Annie Nightingale to handle this new punk stuff ( Harris had been famously assaulted by Sid Vicious at the Speakeasy Club ).
She was still in charge when I first tuned in on 6.5.82 for Spandau Ballet, some affection lingering even though their current LP Diamond was a load of crap. Gang of Four were also on, with then-unknown Eddie Reader as a backing vocalist, but couldn't do their current single I Love A Man In A Uniform because of the Falklands War. I remember an episode with Tom Verlaine on a few weeks later but otherwise that was all I saw of the Nightingale era. I would however be a loyal listener to her Sunday night request show on Radio One for the next ten years
Since 1980, Annie had been assisted by Smash Hits editor David Hepworth whose magazine had risen with the new wave even though Hepworth's own tastes were closer to Harris. When the show returned in the autumn, it had an early Saturday evening repeat slot and Hepworth was in the chair, assisted by Smash Hits sidekick Mark Ellen. The show now had more of a magazine format and wasn't averse to filling space with videos. I remember Glen Matlock's doomed new outfit The Hot Club doing their single The Dirt That She Walks On Is Sacred Ground To Me on their first show.
It was watchable but I think they may have been better off sticking to their guns and trying to ride out the New Pop wave. With a proliferation of new music shows on TV it was in danger of losing its USP In 1983 the repeat switched to Tuesdays and I stopped watching it regularly. In 1984 it had another makeover , dropping the "Old Grey" and the hoary old Stone Fox Chase theme tune. and introducing new presenters in Radio One's perennial understudy Richard Skinner and Rochdalian newcomer Andy Kershaw who'd recently been acting as Billy Bragg's road manager. Kershaw looked like he never went to bed and was highly opinionated but he did give it a renewed sense of identity as an unabashed champion of guitar music particularly if it came from America. It also said goodbye to its late night slot and went out on a Tuesday evening only.
It was finally axed by new broom Janet Street-Porter coming in as Head of Youth Programmes in 1987. Ironically, the last regular episode went out in the same week that its brash Channel 4 rival The Tube ended, though there was a New Years Eve Special to give it a proper send-off.
Sunday, 20 November 2016
First viewed : April 1982
I can't remember which school mate sold this to me as being funny and I can't decide whether he or the ITV exec who decided this was suitable for an early evening slot was most in need of counselling.
Horace was originally a single play , broadcast as a Play for Today on BBC1 in 1972. Horace ( Barry Jackson ) is a mentally retarded man who lives with his mother and works in a joke shop in Yorkshire. Jackson retained the role in this series of six half hour dramas broadcast twice weekly at 7pm ten years later.
I should have known there was something up when I saw who the writer was. Roy Minton was not exactly known for comedy . The still-shocking Scum , which lifted the lid on the UK's borstal system, had been blocked by the BBC 1 Controller Bill Cotton as a further Play for Today in 1977 and had to be re-shot as a feature film two years later.
We had also read a Minton play in my Drama class at school circa 1980. I think it was called Bovver and concerned a nice middle class young man who, very unwisely, calls on the two skinheads in the flat upstairs to ask them to turn the noise down. He is subjected to a systematic process of abuse and brutalization by the articulate Vic and his Neanderthal mate Terry ( I think ) whose dialogue consisted mainly of expletives. I remember that part falling to Tony Mooney ( now a reasonably successful TV actor, most recently in Scott and Bailey ) and him relishing the opportunity to say lines like " Let's kick the shit out of him Vic !" On the other hand some of the nice girls in the class could hardly bring themselves to utter lines like "You're up and down like a whore's drawers ". Happy times !
The one episode of Horace I saw had some structural similarity to the latter play, without the bad language of course. It's the weekend and Horace has been allowed out to explore the countryside. He comes across a group of four young boys making a show of camping in a nearby wood. The merciless little bastards tease and abuse his trust in a variety of ways. My mum was appalled by the sustained cruelty and rightly so; it was as funny as haemorrhoids . The picture postcard loveliness of the West Riding setting ( Mirfield , near Huddersfield ) only made it seem worse.
It only lasted for one series. My guess is that someone saw a superficial similarity between Horace and Selwyn Froggit and thought they might have another ratings winner. But there's a world of difference between terminal stupidity and mental illness and Horace is barely remembered today.
I should mention that Barry Jackson was excellent in the title role. He had a long career in TV with a late triumph as Dr Bullard in Midsomer Murders. He died three years ago aged 75.
Saturday, 19 November 2016
First viewed : 8 April 1982
This grim and nasty three-part thriller has never been repeated and remains chained up like a mad relative in the BBC archive. It was originally a radio play by Edward Boyd , broadcast in 1975. I missed the first episode.
Fresh from Blood Money, stone-faced Cavan Kendall plays Talion, a ruthless hit man hired to take out the leader of a strange cult in the wilds of Scotland after a bomb in London kills a millionaire's daughter. Tallon infiltrates the cult but a detective, Hardekker ( Bernard Horsfall ) and his son ( an unorthodox procedure ) have already done that and resent him getting in the way. It turns out the cult worship Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson ( the first time I'd heard of the latter ).
There are a number of killings , largely carried out by James Wynn, familiar as the wimpy science teacher Mr Sutcliffe from Grange Hill but here playing a gay psychopath. The finale ,which explains the title, is suitably gruesome.
It would be worth watching again so let's hope they see fit to release it at some point.
Friday, 18 November 2016
First viewed : 4 April 1982
I came to this one half way through its run as my schoolmates were telling me how good it was.
Whoops Apocalypse was a six-part black comedy about the end of the world given the geo-political situation in the early eighties. Despite the writers Andrew Marshall and David Renwick not being all that well known at the time, they assembled an impressive array of British comedy talent to bring their bleak satire to life.
US President Johnny Cyclops ( Barry Morse ) a Reaganesque imbecile faces Dubienkin ( Richard Griffiths ) head of a senile Soviet gerontocracy ( not too far from the truth ). Cyclops is advised by The Deacon ( John "C.J." Barron ) a right wing evangelical nut who seeks to restore the Shah ( Bruce Montague ) to Iran and then deliver a super-nuclear weapon, the Quark Bomb via an international terrorist known as Lacrobat ( John Cleese ). The Soviets meanwhile are busy enticing Britain's Labour government, headed by Kevin Pork ( Peter Jones ) who thinks he's Superman, into the Warsaw Pact. When all these plans fall apart, the world is plunged into nuclear catastrophe.
Whoops Apocalypse was timely but only just; when Leonid Brezhnev finally shuffled off this mortal coil just months later the tectonic plates started to move away from the likelihood of M.A.D. That's probably why it's receded from public memory although it should also be noted that David Kelly's portrayal of Abdab, the Shah's fawning valet , would now be viewed as highly offensive. Having said all that , it's still a highly inventive and rich comedy that stands up to repeat viewing.
Marshall and Renwick later produced a film with the same title but very little of the plot in 1986 but I haven't seen that. Going their separate ways they both hit gold with 2.4 Children and One Foot In The Grave respectively. I'd take Whoops Apocalypse over either.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
First viewed : 11 August 1981
A quick flick through a copy of Clive James' s Glued To The Box the other day revealed that I'd missed this one out.
It was a one-off documentary from Thames TV who'd managed to find four or five ladies of the night prepared to talk on camera about their "profession". I only really remember two of them. There was a chubby girl called Lindi who'd set up her own company ( the programme didn't tell you how it had described its business ) and was doing well for herself. She proudly displayed the latest furnishings and accessories in her torture chamber, ready for Frank Bough to try out on his next visit ( she didn't supply any names of course ). The other one I remember was Sheila, an older woman with a cut glass Home Counties accent , describing "putting the johnny on" with exquisite disdain. There was no footage of the ladies actually "on the job" as it were.
As you'd expect the programme provided plenty of material for discussion with my friends afterwards. Sean was awestruck by Sheila - "she was posh !!" . I demonstrated my naivete by querying a scene where one of the girls ran through her tariff, with sex at, I don't know, £25 and a full strip at £100 or thereabouts. I questioned how you could have one without the other and had the operation of slit knickers patiently explained to me. You live and learn.
Monday, 14 November 2016
First viewed : 4 April 1982
He's fallen out of fashion now but around this time Stan Barstow's A Kind of Loving was a set text in schools across Britain, almost guaranteeing this ten-part serialisation a decent audience. Barstow was one of the wave of working class novelists that lit up the literary scene in the immediate post-war decades although I expect the book's value as a cautionary tale about the dangers of pre-marital sex at least partially accounts for its popularity with schools.
Vic Brown is a 20 year old , slightly naive, male from a stable working class family in the fictional Lancastrian town of Cressley in the late fifties. He works as a trainee draftsman in an office full of similar peers, all with vague ideas of bettering themselves. What derails Vic's plans is a shotgun marriage to lower middle class Ingrid who he fancies but doesn't really love. To make matters worse her mother hates his guts.
The ITV dramatization went beyond the very popular 1962 film version starring Alan Bates by incorporating the events in Barstow's two subsequent novels about Vic The Watchers On The Shore and The Right True End, which take his story into the early seventies. This presented a problem with the casting as craggy Clive Wood, playing Vic, looked older than his 28 years and was completely unconvincing as a man barely out of his teens in the early episodes.
The series is probably chiefly remembered as the launching pad for Joanne Whalley's career. The dark-eyed actress from Salford wasn't exactly a newcomer, having a number of credits as a child actress in the seventies including brief runs in both Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm. With a couple of scenes in which she is briefly topless, Joanne is probably a bit chubbier than she would have liked but Ingrid was her breakthrough role and she was soon able to kick her parallel career as lead singer of dud girl group Cindy and the Saffrons into touch.
Clare Kelly also made an impression as the mother-in-law from hell, following in the formidable footsteps of Thora Hird from the film version. Mrs Rothwell gives us a clue as to why the novel has fallen from grace. Neither her nor Ingrid are very favourably presented in a story told exclusively from a male point of view . Both the couple's dads are presented as sound, sensible fellows who keep their semi-hysterical spouses in check . Such a patriarchy may have been quite an accurate portrayal of the society from which Barstow sprang but it jars with modern sensibilities.
That sort of society was dying on its feet by 1982. The local Methodist chapel was now either a discount warehouse or a mosque and there was no pressure at all on a pregnant girl to get married so A Kind of Loving was a quaint period drama . It's quite good but murderously slow to get going.
While Whalley went off to Hollywood, Wood has stayed a reliable but unstarry actor on stage and screen in the UK, with recurring roles in The Bill and London's Burning the next best thing to this. Mind you a bloke who's been to bed with both Joanne Whalley and Susan Penhaligon ( who appears later in the series as his mistress, Donna ) can't really complain about his luck not holding .
Sunday, 13 November 2016
First viewed : April 1982
The news and political agenda was set for the next few months on 2 April 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands , one of the last remnants of the British Empire, 8.000 miles away in the South Atlantic. Argentina had a long-standing claim to the territory which it called The Malvinas and the country's military dictator General Galtieri had taken the fateful decision to boost his shaky regime, encouraged by the scaling back of Britain's military commitment to the region by Margaret Thatcher's parsimonious regime.
The clearly expressed wish of the 2,000 or so sheep farmers making a scrappy living on the islands was to remain British and the tabloids immediately whipped up a storm of outrage in the UK on their behalf. Urbane Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington fell on his sword immediately and it could well have been curtains for his boss too had she not taken the decision to send a naval task force down to the South Atlantic to wrest them back from "the Argies". The force included Prince Andrew , second in line to the throne ( though not for much longer ) then serving in the Royal Navy.
With a couple of BBC reporters on the ships, the nation followed the progress of the force on a nightly basis as they moved towards the islands with support from the rest of the world that was lukewarm at best . The biggest threat came from the Argentinians' French -made missile, the Exocet , a word that entered the English language at this point and is still in use today. Exocets took out some of the ships although not either of the two main aircraft carriers. For her part Britain torpedoed an Argentinian cruiser, the General Belgrano which kept their navy cowering in its ports for the duration of the war.
Each development was sombrely announced to the world by a Ministry of Defence official called Ian McDonald, an intensely serious-looking bloke whose dolorous tones made him something of a star. These pronouncements would often interrupt other programmes as news flashes.
When the soldiers reached the Falklands the fighting was over fairly quickly ( though it probably didn't seem like that to the boys on the ground ). Galtieri had kept his best troops at home for his own protection and the miserable conscripts on the islands were no match for professional soldiers. By the middle of June it was all over.
Thatcher's colossal gamble had paid off and it transformed her political prospects. Without the war, or if the expedition had ended in failure, she could well have been another Edward Heath, a one-term Tory failure. It's one of the great might-have-beens in political history. At the time of the Argentinian invasion unemployment was riding high ( having just past three million ) and so was the Alliance of the Liberals and Social Democrats. Just a week earlier Roy Jenkins had won the Glasgow Hillhead by-election for the SDP, the latest in a string of by-election triumphs.
The Falklands changed all that. Even before the real fighting began, the Conservatives won the Mitcham and Morden by-election caused by the decision of a high-minded Labour defector , Bruce Douglas-Mann, to re-fight his seat as an SDP candidate. This is still the last time a governing party has gained a seat at a by-election although perhaps that won't be the case for much longer. While the Falkland Islands hardly had much impact on peoples' everyday lives , the British victory cheered people up and secured Thatcher's position. In her own party, her position became unassailable . Even though it raised one of their number, Francis Pym, to Foreign Secretary, the victory completely neutered the Tory "wets" and Pym was immediately dumped after the 1983 election.
While the Falklands was bad news for the SDP in general, it was a godsend for one of the Gang of Four. Even as a Labour MP , David Owen's position in Plymouh Devonport had looked a bit shaky but his robust support for the task force in a naval constituency transformed his prospects. It secured the seat and won him a respect in Parliament that was denied to the returning Jenkins. In a little over a year, he would be the party leader.
I supported the task force and in my battered emotional state said some pretty stupid things about wanting to get called up and finished off gloriously. For all sorts of reasons this was never very likely and I cringe at the memory.
Thursday, 10 November 2016
First viewed : 25 February 1982
Kenny Everett returned to the BBC after falling out with Thames TV over the scheduling of The Kenny Everett Video Show. He'd already started broadcasting on Radio One again but his new TV vehicle began early in 1982 just after Top of the Pops on a Thursday. Fearing that Thames would hold copyright on his previous comic characters Kenny introduced a number of new ones for this series most famously Cupid Stunt the infinitely vulgar film star based on Bette Midler talking to a cardboard Michael Parkinson
I saw the first show and a fair few others but it never quite grabbed me in the same way as the ITV version. Kenny had lost a little of that manic energy and seemed more of a skilful comic actor than a genuinely anarchic force ( obviously, his appearance at a Conservative party election rally the following year greatly accelerated this process ) . The characters quickly became bogged down by their catchphrases and fitting them all in meant the show started to look formulaic in the same way as The Two Ronnies. The scripts also came to rely too much on innuendo . I remember watching one episode at my hall of residence and my best mate there contemptuously remarking "They should re-name it "The Kenny Everett Gay Show ".
However there was at least one reason for the heterosexual community to watch, in in the form of Brazilian -born actress Cleo Rocos who , always revealingly clad, acted as a comic foil to Ken in many of the sketches. Her first appearance was a very funny sketch where she was a politician being interviewed and described the SDP as offering " a middle course" while the camera zoomed in inexorably towards her ample cleavage.
There was usually a musical guest and the first show had Bill Wyman being predictably wooden in a misfiring sketch about Ken mistaking him for Jagger. Bill then got to perform his dreary new single A New Fashion which contains the unfortunate line "Gimmee, gimmee gimmee some good old fashioned melody " to which my sister instantly ( and accurately ) retorted "Well this hasn't got any !"
The series ended in 1988, Kenny and Cleo moving on to a one series-only quiz show Brainstorm after which he mainly went back to commercial radio before his death from AIDS in 1995. He was only 50 but his time had gone past, a trailblazer already superseded by the likes of Chris Evans. Rocas has manfully tried to keep her career afloat since, a fairly disastrous appearance on Celebrity Big Brother proving conclusively that she wasn't funny in her own right. Dirk Benedict also skewered her fading credentials as a sex symbol by disparaging her "middle-aged cleavage" and reporting her for sexual harassment. Her latest venture is as a tequila distiller.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
First viewed : 25 January 1982
Not every good idea originated in the north. While BBC North West were paying Stuart Hall and Bill Grundy to grouse at each other on Sweet and Sour, BBC South West came up with a modest winner. They invited viewers in the region to send in supposedly real-life eerie stories from the region. The 13 best were turned into half hour dramas with name actors. Originally broadcast in the regional slot on a Friday night ( when we had Home Ground ) , it was quickly upgraded to the national pre-Newsnight slot on a Monday night on BBC 2. There were two seasons of six and seven episodes.
I think I only saw two of them. The first was the opener The Sabbatical in which Keith Barron played an unsettled vicar who gets stuck in a ruined church and finds a naked congregation bearing down on him. They were all pretty old but it was a totally unexpected conclusion to a regional programme. Perhaps there was a nudist colony nearby. As well as appearing in this one, Barron acted as narrator for the other five episodes in the first season.
The other one I recall was the third episode The Breakdown , wherein a lonely widower suspected of his wife's murder goes to the aid of a woman whose car has broken down near his isolated house. This didn't have any nudity but did give singer Anita Harris ( usually a rather annoying variety show perennial ) a chance to show an impressive pair of 40 year old legs as the mysterious woman. The ending was well-telegraphed but the episode did succeed in conjuring up the required sinister vibe.
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
First viewed : January 1982
This early evening BBC2 arts programme filmed from the same Riverside studios as the Old Grey Whistle Test ( hence the name ) could be filed under the "yoof TV" banner as most participants were under 30 but it didn't have any vox pop sections to interrupt its arts coverage.
It began just after Christmas and was originally scheduled against Coronation Street so I doubt I saw the first episode but soon became a regular when it moved to 18.55 pm. Although some of the content of this magazine show was pretentious or tedious, you could usually rely on at least one item sending your jaw to the floor and having my Mum in the room waiting for Corrie made it twice as fun. The content was often quite risque for so early in the evening with some of the dancers wearing not much clothing and doing provocative routines. There was also a feature on Bow Wow Wow which had footage from the photo-shoot for their controversial album cover and came within a centimetre of showing you Annabella Lwin's 15-year old left nipple.
The general rule for the bands featured in the studio seemed to be that they hadn't yet made the Top 40 although it definitely helped if you were a Goth act with Bauhaus, Sex Gang Children, The Specimen, Birthday Party ,Danielle Dax, Danse Society and Test Department all featuring over the show's three seasons. Established acts were featured if they had something to say or were attempting something a bit different ( which gave rise to some of the show's most memorable moments ).
The highlights for me were :
- A young Benjamin Zephaniah performing a poem which climaxed with the killer couplet "To others she is Valerie / But to me she is my mummy". I'm presuming there was some improvement before he started being lauded.
- David Sylvian doing a spellbinding acoustic version of Ghosts .
- A feature on punk's next generation featuring the obnoxious Gary Bushell and the band Blitz, one of whose members drove a stake through the heart of Joe Strummer with the comment "Anyone who says they don't want to be rich is either a liar or a bleeding idiot".
- Eddie Tudorpole giving a straight-faced guided tour of his lodgings which looked like Fagin had been the last tenant.
- Malcolm McLaren's fashion tip to girls - Start wearing your bra on the outside. Strangely enough it didn't catch on.
- Ken Livingstone admitting he cried at E.T.
- A feature on the Hacienda in Manchester which first revealed Tony Wilson's involvement in the music scene to me.
- Presenter Victoria Studd going on a very straight date with Bobby Guppy of Bucks Fizz. Quite what the brief was for that item is hard to imagine.
- And finally... the dodgy dancers. The one I recall from the time is Peter Murphy from Bauhaus in a ridiculous pair of trousers , throwing a few shapes in a sand pit to a Bauhuas track with a rather more accomplished young woman ( who I believe became his wife ). I didn't originally see the more notorious appearance of Sham 69's Jimmy Pursey doing a beyond-embarrassing routine to The Stranglers' The Men In Black but it's now a YouTube must-see ( though perhaps not if you love the song ).
I didn't see much of the third and final season in autumn 1983 when I was in my first term at university. Too much else going on I suppose. Of the presenters, Steve Blacknell became a well known TV face in the eighties and now works in media training and Studd worked in TV on and off until her 1994 marriage to Helena Bonham-Carter's brother. The others have vanished without trace.
Monday, 7 November 2016
First viewed : 9 January 1982
Well panic over . Thanks to my wonderful and talented sister, we're back up and running more efficiently than before.
We now move into 1982, a year that did have its good moments for me, but perversely I almost resented them for smudging the canvas of Gothic gloom that I was painting around myself following the events of the previous year.
There was some good television too but O.T.T. doesn't fall into that category I'm afraid. O.T.T. sprang from Tiswas. A tour of nightclubs and colleges in 1981 convinced most of the Tiswas team that there was a ready made adult audience if they made the break from children's TV and did a late night adult version of the show. Unfortunately the one member who wasn't convinced and decided to stay put was Sally James whose plunging cleavage was the main reason adults tuned into Tiswas in the first place.
The rather chunky Helen Atkinson-Wood was recruited to replace her as Chris Tarrant, Lenny Henry, Bob Carolgees and John Gorman re-appeared on O.T.T. at the beginning of 1982. Alexei Sayle had a stand-up spot although his brand of political-edged humour fit in like a stone in a shoe. As with Tiswas there were musical interludes and as it was filmed by Central TV there was a heavy Brum bias with The Beat featuring and funk-poppers Fashion appearing twice .
I didn't see the first episode but caught the furore over the balloon dance item where three naked men did a ( pretty funny actually ) routine with balloons covering their vitals. At the other end of the year, I was part of a delegation asking certain teachers if they were willing to do their own version for the Sixth Form Review. Game for a laugh science teacher Eddie Robinson actually said yes but fortunately for his career - he later became a headmaster in Bury - there were no other takers.
After the fuss I tuned in for the second episode and was pretty disappointed. There was plenty of smut but nothing very titillating- the cartoons were the naughtiest item - or very funny compared to say Dave Allen or Benny Hill. In the sketches Tarrant proved that acting isn't one of his talents and without his puppets, Carolgees was nothing .
It fell on Henry to keep the show afloat and he was rewarded by the appearance of Bernard Manning on the show, replacing Sayle who had a prior commitment to honour. Lenny had to sit through a fusillade of racist jokes until Manning turned to address him directly "It's alright laughing Lenny Henry , it's alright for you black people, you can walk home on your own at night".
The show's run came to an end in April 1982 and under pressure from the IBA ,Central insisted on major changes. It returned a year later as a pre-recorded show called Saturday Stayback which I don't think I ever saw. It only lasted for six episodes anyway. O.T.T. didn't finish anyone's career ; all five presenters lived to fight another day and still defend the show.