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.

No comments:

Post a Comment