Thursday, 17 August 2017

766 Three Sovereigns for Sarah

First  viewed :   28  August  1986

This  US  mini-series  took  on  the  task  of  presenting  a  more  factual  account  of  the  Salem  Witch  Trials  of  1692  than  Arthur  Miller's  The  Crucible . It  told  the  story  from  the  point  of  view  of  Sarah  Cloyce  ( Vanessa  Redgrave ) ,  the  survivor  of  three  sisters  accused  of  witchcraft who  spent  the  next  decade  fighting  to  clear  her  executed  sisters'  names. Sarah  does  not  appear  in  The  Crucible  ,  a  victim  of  Miller's  compositing  but  one  of  her  sisters, Rebecca  Nurse,  does.

After  ten  years,  Sarah  gets  a  hearing  from  an  examining  magistrate  ( Patrick  McGoohan )   and  points  out  the  social  tensions  in  the  village  that  led  to  the  accusations. He  eventually  decides  that  he  cannot  establish  the  full  facts  a decade  later  but  grants  Sarah  three  sovereigns  as  symbolic compensation  for  the  three  damaged  lives  hence  the  title.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

765 Baby, Baby

First  viewed : Summer  1986

This  was  a  late  night  Channel  4  show  taking  a  light-hearted  look  at  the  joys  of  early  parenthood. As  both  of   the  main  The  Tube  presenters  had  recently  become  parents,  they  were  the  obvious  choices  to  host  it  As  it  would  be  another  21  years  before  I  became  really  interested  in  the  subject,  I  think  I  only  caught  one  episode.   I  remember  a  feature   calculating  the  opportunity  cost  of  having  a  sprog  with  yobbish  chants  of  "We  still  want  the  baby!"  after  every  item. There  was  also  a  female  celeb  - I  can't  recall  who - telling  how  desperate  she  was  for  a  drink  of  Perrier  Water  while  she  was  giving  birth. In  addition,  think  this  was   where  I  came  across  Rowland  Rivron  for  the  first time

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

764 Blockbusters

First  viewed :  Uncertain

I've  no idea  when  I  first  caught  this  but  the  "dole  period"  would  be  the  best  guess.

 Blockbusters   had  been  running  since  1983, an  early  evening  general  knowledge  quiz  with  A  Level  students  as   contestants  and  the  nicest  guy  on  TV  as  quizmaster. Bob  Holness  had  spent  much  of  his  previous  career  on  radio  but  became  a  much-loved TV  personality  through  the  show.

The  programme  had  a  rather  strange  format  with  the  built-in  unfairness  of  having  two  contestants  against  one  although  the  solo  performer  had   to  answer  one  less  question  to  make  a  line.

I  liked  it  but , once  I  started  work,  it  was  on  a  bit  too  early  to  catch. However  it  did  become  a  part  of  my  holiday  routine  in  Keswick  in  the  early  nineties. I'd  come  back  from  my  walk  around  4-5 pm   and  then  have  a  couple  of  hours  or  so  to  recuperate   before  going  out  for  something  to  eat  and  watching  Blockbusters  was  one  of  the  things  that  filled  the  gap. It   was  then  that  I  first  caught  the  famous  hand  jive  sequence  where  all  that  week's  contestants  ran  on  to  the  stage  and  did  a  dance  with  glimpses  of  Bob  himself  having  a  bop  in  the  background.

The  show  was  initially  cancelled  in  1993  but  has  had  no  less  than  four  separate  revivals, mostly  on  satellite  channels. Bob  hosted  the  first  one  on  Sky  in  1994 . Sadly he  died  in  2012  after  a  decade  of  ill  health.


Monday, 14 August 2017

763 No One Speaks for the Dead

First  viewed :  19  August  1986

This   was   a  one-off  documentary  on  ITV  highlighting  the  fact  that  men  who  killed  their  partners  could  get  away  with  impugning  their  characters  to  claim  provocation  and  get  a  reduction  to  manslaughter . This  was  because  the  law  forbade  their  friends  speaking  up  for  them  as  that  would  amount  to  hearsay  evidence. The  film-maker  Judy  Lever  produced   a  score  of  witnesses  in  three  such  cases  who  could  not  be  heard.

I  don't  know  if  it's  been  rectified  since  or  the  problem  still  remains.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

762 The Way They Were

First  viewed :  4 August  1986

Neatly  timed  to  follow  Tony  Wilson's  Festival  of  The  Tenth  Summer  in  Manchester  which  had  climaxed  a  fortnight  earlier  , Channel  4  broadcast  this  compilation  of  clips  from  his  groundbreaking  So  It  Goes  and  What's  On  on  Granada  in  the  late  seventies,  programmes  that  completely  passed  me  by  at  the  time. It  was  fantastic  of  course  with  almost  every  performance  worthy  of  comment. Some  of  the  tapes  had  perished  a  bit  over  the  intervening  decade  and  were  broadcast  with  an  apology. Included  were :

  • The  Sex  Pistols  with  Glen  Matlock  doing  Anarchy  in  the  UK
  • A  damaged  recording  of  Elvis  Costello's  Alison 
  • Pete  Shelley 's  hopeless  plea  of  "Don't  gob  on  me"  before  What  Do  I  Get  
  • Iggy  Pop  doing  The  Passenger with  that  horse's  tail  protruding  from  his  arse
  • XTC  ( Neon  Shuffle  )  and  The  Tom  Robinson  Band  ( Glad  To  Be  Gay ) , two  acts  normally  excised  from  this sort  of  thing
  • The  early  Fall  line  up  doing  Industrial  Estate  with  keyboard  player  Una  Baines  looking  like  she;s  dropped  by  from  the  local  library
  • Joy  Division,  saved  to  the  end  with  Shadowplay . Ian  Curtis  was  in  restrained  form  compared  to  their   performance  on   Something  Else   a  year  later  ( their  only  other TV  appearance ) and  the  director  decided  to  compensate for  their  lack  of  stage  presence  with  primitive  graphical  overlays  which  the  band  hated

By  what  I  assume  was  a  fantastic  coincidence, the  first  ad  break  featured  that   Roger  Daltrey  ad  for  American  Express , you  know  the  one  where  he  boasts  about  his  trout  farm  that  has  dogged  him  ever  since. The  irony  was  exquisite.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

761 Fighting Back

First  viewed :  4  August  1986

This  was  a  five-part  Monday  night  serial, a  sort  of  Cathy  Come  Home  for  the  eighties   although  rather  more  optimistic  in  tone. Faded  pop  singer  Hazel  O' Connor  returned  to  acting  as  Viv  Sharpe  a  feisty  single  mother  fighting  the  system  in  multicultural  Bristol .  Viv  has  two  kids,  Neil  ( Tony  Carney )  by  feckless  Irish  boyfriend  Bruce  ( Derek  Thompson  again )  and  Yvonne  ( Cheryl  Maiker )  by  black  drug  dealer  Danny  ( Malcolm  Frederick ). She  later  completes  the  sexual  hat-trick  by  sleeping  with  slippery  Asian  lawyer  Eddy  ( Madhav  Sharma  ). Before  that  though,  Viv  has  her  kids  taken  away  but  fights  back  from  squat-land  getting  involved  in  local  politics  with  the  aid  of   a  lesbian  couple.

It  was  OK  although  some  of  the  characters  veered  towards  stereotypes. It  wasn't  really  my  mum's  thing  at  all  so  I  watched  it  on  and  off, the  first  and  final  episodes  and  perhaps  one  in  between.

Despite  a  strong  performance  as  Viv, there were  no  more  TV  roles  for  Hazel  who  divided  her  time  thereafter  between  stage  roles  and  trying  to  resurrect  her  singing  career. She  still tours  regularly  from  her  base  in  Ireland. As  we'll  soon  see, Thompson  hung  around  in  Bristol  for  his  next  TV  role.

Friday, 11 August 2017

760 The Price

First  viewed : July  1986

I  missed  this  when  first  broadcast  at  the  beginning  of  1985  and  didn't  catch  the  first  episode  when  it  was  repeated  over  consecutive  nights  the  following  year.  However, once  in  I  was  gripped.

Peter  Barkworth, in  the  middle  of  a  real  hot  streak  playing  troubled  middle  aged  men  on  TV,  was  Geoffrey  Carr, head  of  a  large  computer  firm  whose  wife  Frances ( Harriet  Walter )   and  daughter   Kate  ( Aingeal  Grehan )  are  kidnapped  by  a  pair  of  IRA  renegades  ( one  of  them , Frank  played  by   Derek  Thompson )  and  held  for  ransom. While  Geoffrey  starts  vacillating, looking  for   a  way  to  pay  without  losing  his  grip  on  the  company, Frances  begins  a  relationship  with  Frank. I  remember  a  scene  of  them  screwing  in  full  view  of  Kate, the  latter  unconvinced  by  Mum's  explanation  that  she's  only  doing  it  to  ensure  their  survival. They  do  survive  but  there's  a  little  sting  in  the  tail  for  Geoffrey.

The  series  is  now  hard  to  obtain  which  is  a  pity.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

759 Rewind

First  viewed  :  Summer  1986

Rewind   was  a  stopgap  emergency  programme  that  filled  the  gap  in  the  Friday  evening  schedule  when  The  Chart  Show  was  taken  off  air  due  to  a  dispute  with  The Musician's  Union. It  simply  consisted  of  live  performances  from  the  channel's  still-young  music  archive  ( i.e  first  broadcast  on  The  Tube, Switch , Whatever  You  Want etc ) . Of  course  I'd  seen  most  of  them  before  and  the  interruption  to  The  Chart  Show   was  a  considerable  irritation  to  me. The  dispute  was  resolved  at  the  end  of  August.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

758 Screenplay

First  viewed : 23  July  1986

Screenplay  was   the  latest  umbrella  brand  for  single  feature  length  dramas  on  BBC  Two. It  started  in  July  1986

Brick  Is  Beautiful  ( 23  July  1986 )

This  was  the  third  play  broadcast  and  was  the  tale  of  a  young  unemployed  Mancunian,  Steve  ( Christopher  Wild ) who  takes  advantage  of  Thatcher's  controversial  Enterprise  Allowance  Scheme  and  starts  selling  old  bricks  from  derelict  industrial  sites. He  is  successful  but  finds  he  has  to  jettison   his  girlfriend  ( Caroline  Milmoe  )  and  old  mates  ( including  Grange  Hill's  Terry  Sue  Patt )  in  the  process. This  was  hammered  home  in  the  final  scene where  he  has  to  clear  them  off  one  of  his  sites  - "You're  standing  in  money - my  money".

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

757 No Place To Rest

First  viewed : 14  July  1986

This  was  a  one-off  documentary on  BBC1  produced  by  BBC TV  Wales.  It  reported  on  the  scandal  of  Cefn  Coed  Cemetery  in  Wales   which  the  local  authority  were  not  managing  with  due  care  and  attention  to  say  the  least. They  seemed  intent  on  turning  it  into  a  Hammer  Horror  set  with  broken  stones  and  scattered  body  parts  strewn  around  the  place. The  council  stayed  tight-lipped  and  didn't  participate  in  the  programme. Merthyr  is  a    Labour  rotten borough  and   I  suspect  heads  stayed  in  place.

Monday, 7 August 2017

756 Under Fire

First  viewed : July  1986

 This was  a  political  interview  programme  broadcast  in  the  Granada  region  and presented  by  Tony Wilson ( of  course )  in  which  he  interrogated  a  prominent  politician  ( not  necessarily  from  the  north  west  )  aided  by  one  of  their  political  opponents.

I'm  more  sure  of  the  dating  because  when Roy  Hattersley  appeared  on  the  programme,  his  co-inquisitor  was  Cyril  Smith  who  was  teasing  about  whether  he  would  stand  again  in  Rochdale, a  position  he  qualified  at  the  Liberal  Assembly  that  September.

The  other  two  episodes  I  remember  had  the  Liberal  MP  David  Alton  and  SDP  leader  David  Owen  in  the  chair . The  latter  had  Jack  Straw as  his  co-inquisitor   who  completely  lost  it  at  the  end. Straw  claimed  to  have  worked  for   Owen  in  the  past  although,  looking  at  his  c.v ,.I'm  not  sure  when  that  would  have  been  because  he  was  a  researcher  for  World  in  Action  when  Owen  was  Foreign  Secretary. anyhow  the  exchange  went :

STRAW : Politicians  have  to  be  strong  and  I  know  you're  weak

OWEN : You  didn't  think  so  at  the  time

STRAW : Yes  I  did

OWEN : I  don't  come  on  television  programmes  just  to  rubbish  other  politicians

STRAW : You  betrayed  the  Labour  party  and  I  can  never  forgive  you  for  that !

OWEN : The  Labour  party  betrayed  me

It  ran  for  just one  series.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

755 Return To Eden

First  viewed :  30  June  1986

Here's  a  clean  break  and  the  start  of  one  of  the  densest  parts  of  this  blog. My  university  days came  to  a close  at  the  end  of  June  1986. I  had  the  offer  of  a  place  on  an  M.A.  course  at  Leeds  but  my  efforts  to  secure  funding  for  it  were  unsuccessful  and  deservedly  so - it  would  have  been  generous  to  call  my  application  letter  half-hearted. I  kept  the  option  open  as  long  as  possible  and  attended  a  three  day  training  course  for  Executive  members  of  the  Union  in  July  but  eventually  I  had  to  decline  the  offer  and  resign  my  post  as  Communications  Officer.

I  had  no  real  option  but  to  return  home  and  start  looking  for  work. I'd  not  prepared  for  this. I'd  had  one  desultory  careers  interview  at  Leeds  but  not  acted  on  any  of  the  advice  received. I  was  reliant  on  looking  through  the  newspapers  and  sending  applications  off  and  was  kept  to  the  task  by  my  mother who  was  old-school  Tory  in  her  attitude  to  unemployment  benefit  and  thought  it  scandalous  that  I  was  "on  the  dole".  I  didn't  have  a  moment's  peace  during  the  day  but  she  did  at  least  allow  me  to  watch  the  TV  in  an  evening.

On  the  first  Monday  back  home  Return  To  Eden  started. It  followed  an  Australian  mini-series  of  the  same  title  which  had  been  screened here  in  1984. I  didn't  see  that but  it  concerned  a  plain  heiress  Stephanie  Harper  ( Rebecca  Gilling )  whose  young  husband  Greg throws  her  to  a  crocodile aided  by  her  treacherous  best  friend  Jilly. Stephanie  survives  the  mauling  and  is  taken  by  a  bushman  to  a  brilliant  plastic  surgeon  Dan  Marshall  ( James  Smillie  )  who  turns her  into  a  supermodel  and  marries  her. Her  new  wealth  and  identity  enables  her  to  turn  the  tables  on  her  foes and  at  the  end  Greg  is  killed  ( but see  below )  and  Jilly  imprisoned.

The  mini-series  was  so  successful  that  for  the  follow-up  it  was  turned  into  a  22-part  glossy  soap opera  to  compete  with  the  American  giants. The  British  critics absolutely  eviscerated  it  , the  Daily  Telegraph  accusing  it  of  "plumbing  new  depths"   in  lowbrow  entertainment  but  I  think  they  missed  the  point. Return  To  Eden  was   trashy  but  knowingly  so  and  gloriously  entertaining. It  was  Dynasty  taken  a few  notches  further  with  each  plot  twist  more   ridiculously  over  the  top  than  the  one  before  and  dialogue  so  bad  that  each  line  was a  test  of  the  actor's  ability  to  keep  a  straight  face.

It  started  seven  years  on  with  Jilly's  release  from  prison  and  the  revelation  that  she  was  actually  Stephanie's  half-sister. The  original  actress  Wendy  Hughes  was  replaced  by  the  gorgeous  Austro-Italian  actress  Peta  Toppano  who  I  was  instantly  smitten  with  despite  the  fact  that  she  was  playing  an  insanely  jealous, scheming  superbitch. Stephanie  was  remarkably  slow  to  realise  that  the  revelation  of  their  sisterhood  had  made  Jilly  worse  not  better  and  fell  prey  to  her  alliance  with  business  rival  Jake  Sanders  ( Daniel  Abineri ) who  turned  out  to  be  Greg's  half-brother  seeking  revenge  on  both  of  them  ( no  explanation  of  why  Stephanie  hadn't  met him  before  of  course ). They  knock  Stephanie  off  her  perch  and  she  has to  come  back  once  more  - this  time  in  disguise  as  an  Arab  princess  -  in  order  to  wreak  her  revenge. That  was  the  main  plot  but  there  were  many  sub-plots involving  Stephanie's  children  as  diversions.

In  the  suitably  ludicrous  final  episode  Stephanie, having  lured  Jilly  into  a  ruinous  business  hoax  and  revealed  herself  , offers  to  put  her  entire fortune on  the  outcome  of  a  horse race , her's  against  Jake's.  enabling  all  the  cast to  gather   for  the  finale  including   Jilly's  unseen  caller  who  is  obviously  going  to   be  Greg  back  from  the  dead.  Stephanie wins  the  race  but  magnanimously  lets Jake  and  Jilly  attend  her  party. Jilly  is  now  pregnant  and  pretends  to  faint  but  pulls a  gun  on  Stephanie  when  the  trio  are  upstairs. Jake  intervenes  and gets  shot  in  the  struggle. He  then  has  an  extravagant  death  scene,  staggering  around  then  falling  down  the  stairs  in  front  of   the  party  guests, some  of  whom  are  clearly  amused, before  conking  out  with  a  blood-spattered  Stephanie, having  wrested  the  gun  from  Jilly   stood   at  the  top  of  the  stairs  with  it.  Jilly  then  appears  accusing  Stephanie  of  the  deed.

It  was  a  suitable  cliffhanger  for  a  second  season  that  was  never made, ratings  in  Australia  not  being  good  enough  to  justify  the  expense. The main  players  were  subsequently  re-hired  to  shoot  ten  more  minutes  to  be tacked  on  to repeat  showings  resolving  some  of  the  threads  though  not  all; the   return  of  Greg  storyline  was  left  hanging.  The  series  had  a  late  night  repeat  here  in  1990  and  has  since  been  shown  on  satellite  channels.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

754 Naked Video

First  viewed : 2  June  1986

I  remember  seeing  this  at  the  "Cardboard  House ".  That  was  a  house in  Headingley  occupied  by  four  friends  of  mine  from  the  first   year  at  the  hall  of  residence.  I  had  wanted  to  go  with  them  but  it  wasn't  to  be ; now  I  lived  very  close  to  them  and  was  often  round  in  those  last  weeks.   The  "Cardboard  "  epithet  was  pejorative ; one  of  the  occupants , a  Geordie  guy  called  Andy,  had  acquired  the  nickname   "Cardboard  Man"  i.e. thin  and  "stiff"   ( the  ultimate  insult ) during  that  first  year , after  protesting  at  the  drunken  rampage  of  a  gang  of  morons when  everyone  else  was  keeping  their  heads  down , and  it  followed  him  into  the  shared  house .  

 On  Monday 2.6.86 . I  was  watching  World  Cup  Grandstand  there  and  when  it  finished  at  9pm  we  switched  over  to  The  Fall  and Rise  of  Reginald  Perrin.  Unfortunately  for  Naked  Video . it  was  the  classic episode  where  Jimmy  announces  his  secret  army  so the  show  which  followed  it  had  its  work  cut  out  to  keep  us  laughing.

We gave  Naked  Video  a  fair  chance  but  were  soon  picking  holes  in  it. Naked Video  derived  from  a  BBC  Scotland   radio  show  Naked  Radio  that  had  been  running  since  1981  with  an  emphasis  on  topical  satire. When  it  came  to  TV,  Gregor  Fisher  and  Elaine  C  Smith  crossed  over  but  were  balanced out  by  the  English  Helen  Lederer  and  Welsh  John  Sparkes  so  the  show  was  less  overtly  Scottish  in  nature.

It  came  across  as  a pale  imitation  of  Not The  Nine  O  Clock  News . I  remember  us  ( a  group   of  either  Alliance  or  soft  Tory  supporters )  protesting  at  how  many  of  the  sketches  had  an  anti-nuclear  theme.

I  should  mention  that  the  show did  launch  three  notable  comic  creations  in  Rab  C Nesbitt   and The Baldy  Man  ( both  Fisher  )  and  Welsh  nerd  Shadwell ( Sparkes  ).  It  ran  for  five  seasons,  finishing  in  1991.  

Friday, 4 August 2017

753 World Cup 1986

First  viewed  : 31  May  1986

While  not  being  terribly  enamoured  of  the  winners, I  think  I'd  have  to  nominate  this  as  my  favourite  of  all  the  World  Cups  I've  seen, the  main  reason  being  that  it  coincided  with  the  end  of  my  university  days, a  time  remembered  with  great  fondness. Many  of  the  games  were  watched  in  friends' houses  which  considerably  enhanced  the  experience.

The  tournament  was  originally  handed  to  Colombia  but  by  1982  it  was  clear  they  weren't  ready  and  it  went  to  Mexico  instead. After  the  Germany-Austria  stitch-up in  1982,  the  final games  in  the  group  stages  had  to  be  played  simultaneously  and  after  the  first  group  stage,  every  match  was  played  on  a  knockout  basis.

England  qualified  fairly  comfortably  and  got  a  pretty  easy  group  but  went  into  the  tournament  with  a  problem. Captain  Bryan  Robson  injured  his  shoulder  in  a warm-up  game. My  friend  Sean  put  it  succintly  "every  time  he  falls  over  his  arm  comes  off".  England's  first  game  was  against  Portugal  which  presented  me  with  a dilemma  as  my  first  exam  was  the  next  day. Eventually I made  a  deal  with  myself  that  I'd  just  watch  the  first  half  then  go  to  bed. Mercifully  I  missed  the  worst  of  it. An  inhibited  Robson  had  to  come  off  just  after  Portugal  scored  the  only  goal  of  the game  and  England  were  in  trouble .

The discussion  of  England's  difficulties  before  someone  else's  game  gave rise to  one  of  my  favourite  punditry  moments. Trevor  Francis  hadn't  been  selected  for  the  squad  but  was on  a  satellite  link  from  Spain  so  he  could  be  part  of  ITV's  World  Cup  team.  Brian  Moore  asked  the  panel  what  could  be  done  to  improve  England's  chances  and  Kevin  Keegan  took  the  opportunity  to  laud  his  ex-team  mate  at  Newcastle , Peter  Beardsley. He  went  into  a  long  promotion  of  Beardsley's  abilities  then  realised  they  hadn't  brought  Francis  in  for  a  while  and  suddenly  said "I  don't  know  what  you  think  Trev ?"

FRANCIS : ( taken  by  surprise )  Wha-oh. Are  you  asking  me  Kev ?

BRIAN  MOORE :  ( cutting  in )  Very  briefly  Trevor, the  teams  are  coming  out  !

FRANCIS : ( totally  deadpan ) Well  very  briefly  Brian , I've  never  seen  Beardsley  play

( Sounds  of  corpsing  in  the  studio  as  they  cut to  the  start  of  the  game )

I  saw  England's  next  game  against  the  mighty  Morocco  in  the  Student  Union  with  some  mates. Things  went  to  pieces  after  42  minutes  when  Robson's  arm   duly  fell  out  again  and  he'd  hardly  left  the  pitch  before  Ray  Wilkins  joined  him  in  the  dressing  room  for  throwing  the  ball  at  the  referee. England  held  on  for  a  0-0  draw  to  ever  louder  shouts  of  abuse  from  the  student  hordes.

That  meant  it  was  all  or  nothing  against  already-qualified  Poland. Robson  was  forced  to  bring  in  the  in-form  Everton  duo  of  Peter  Reid  and  Trevor  Steven  and  selected  Beardsley  instead  of  useless  Mark  Hateley, surely  one  of  England's  worst  ever  players. England  duly  saw  off  Poland  3-0 , a  hat-trick  turning  Gary  Lineker  into  a  superstar. England  then  beat  Paraguay  by  the  same  scoreline  with  Lineker  scoring  twice. I  don't  think  I  really  need  to  say  how  the  next  game  against  Argentina  panned  out.

ITV  definitely  had  the  best  team  of  pundits  with  Brian  Clough  regularly  locking  horns  with  the  outspoken  Mick  Channon  especially  when  the  latter  suggested  that  Germany deliberately  lost  their  fixture  against  Denmark  in  order  to  play  Morocco  in  the  next  round - "You'd  better  watch  what  you  say  young  man !"  Channon  was  also  noted  for  his  persistent  mispronunciation  of  "Lineker "  as  "Lin-acre". Rather  sadly,  it  turned  out  to  be  Channon's  swansong  as  a  pundit. He  had  just  been  given  a  free  transfer  by  Portsmouth  and , despite  rumours  that  he  was  on  his  way  to  Spotland  at  one  point, the World  Cup  proved  to  be  the  end  of  his   connection  with  football  as  he  built  up  a  successful  business  as  a  racehorse  trainer.  

Denmark  were  something  of  a  surprise  package  at  the  Finals. They  came  through  their  group  winning  all  three  games  including  a  6-1  demolition  of  a  Uruguay  team  whose  sole  aim  appeared  to  be the  maiming  of  their  opponents  and  former  Liverpool  target  Michael  Laudrup  looked  set  to  be  a  superstar. Unfortunately,  they  came  a  real  cropper  in  the  next  game  against  Spain  who  exposed  all  their  defensive  frailties  and  thrashed  them  5-1. I  remember  watching  that  one  in  someone's  loft-bedroom  and  trying  an  onion  bhaji  for  the  first  time.

Other memorable  games  were  Pat  Jennings's  swansong    for  Northern  Ireland  against  Brazil, Scotland  failing  to  beat  Uruguay  despite  their  opponents  picking  up  a  red  card  in  the  first  minute, Belgium  coming  good  at  the  right  time  to  beat  the  fancied  Soviets  4-3  and  France  edging  out  Brazil  on  penalties  after  Zico  had  missed  one  during  the  game  having  just  come  on.

The  last  games  were  played  after  I'd  left  university  and  I  watched  the Argies  beat  the  Germans  in  the  Final  back  at  home.  

Thursday, 3 August 2017

752 Video Jukebox

First  viewed : 9  May  1986

This  was  excellent  , an  Omnibus  special  on  BBC  One  celebrating  the  art  of  the  pop  video  which  ran  through  the  night. It  was  billed  as  finishing  at  2am  but  actually  went  on  until  4am. That  allowed  it  to  be  comprehensive  with  interviews  with  all  the  major  players - Bowie, John  Landis, Madness, David  Byrne, Godley  and  Creme  etc. The  presenters,  oddly  enough,  were  John  Peel  and  his  producer  John  Walters  , neither  of  them  notable  champions  of  the  video  age  but  they  read  their  autocues  professionally  enough. It  really  was  an  enjoyable  night  by  the  telly.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

751 Bread

First  viewed : 1  May  1986

And  to  make  it  a  hat-trick  of  crap  sitcoms, along  came  the  latest  effort  from  Carla  Lane.

I  know  this  series  was  very  popular  and  my  wife  was  a  fan  but  I  watched  the  first  episode and  decided  it  wasn't  for  me,  despite  the  charms  of  Caroline Millmoe  as  a  supporting  character.

Bread  gave  Carmel  McSharry  a  starring  role  as  Nellie  Boswell  the   Liverpudlian  Catholic  matriarch  to  whom  her  five  rather  charmless  children , including  the  always-annoying  Jonathan  Morris,, ultimately  deferred. He  was the only  one  who  had  a  steady  job; the  others  managed  to  put  the  titular  bread  on  the  table  by  various  dodgy  means.

"Bread"  for  money is  actually  a  Cockney  rhyming  slang  expression  and  Liverpudlians  apparently  had  an  ambivalent  attitude  towards  the  series ,many  feeling  it  fuelled  the  growing  stereotype  of  the  perma-unemployed  scrounging  Scouser.

Nonetheless , the  series  ran  for  seven  seasons  up  to  1991  and  allowed  Lane  to  indulge  her  idiosyncratic  solutions  to  animal  welfare. However,  its  demise  also  proved  the  end  of  her  reign  as  the  queen  of  comic  writing. Three  subsequent  efforts  in  the  nineties  ( Screaming, Luv  and  Searching )  were  critically  mauled  and  shortlived. She  died  last  year  aged  87.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

750 Lame Ducks

First  viewed : May  1986

No  Place  Like  Home  mercifully  finished in  April  1986  but  the  Beeb  found  a  worthy  successor  for  its  Wednesday  night  slot with  a  repeat  of  this  comedy  series  which  I'd  been  fortunate  enough  to  miss  the  first  time  round  on  BBC 2. I  suppose  it  was  marginally  better  than  NPLH  but  only  because  Marcia  Warren  wasn't  in  it.

Lame  Ducks  starred  John  Duttine  as  Mr  Drake  a  man  who  opts  out  of  normal  life  after  losing  his  job  and  his  wife  after  a  car  accident. On  his  way,  he  picks  up  some  other  losers  including  Lorraine Chase  and  Tony   Millan  ( Tucker  from  Citizen  Smith )  as  a  postman   walking  a  giant  ball  around  the  world. Brian  Murphy  joined  them  as  an  incompetent  private  eye  hired  by  Drake's  wife. The  odd  bunch  find  an  unlikely  refuge  in  an  abandoned  railway  station.

Lame  Ducks'  main  failing  was simple  ; it  wasn't  funny  at  all. John  Duttine  was  ubiquitous  in  TV  drama  in  the   late  seventies  and  eighties  but  he  wasn't  a  comic  actor. Similarly,  the  series'  writer Peter  Hammond  was  better  known  for writing  for crime  and  science  fiction  series  and   hadn't  ventured  into  comedy  before. Chase's  Cockney  airhead  shtick  was  also  wearing  very  thin  by  now.

The  repeats  did  not  persuade  the  Beeb  to  commission  another  series.

Monday, 31 July 2017

749 The Boys of 66

First  viewed : 15  April  1986

As  a  sort  of  curtain-raiser  for  the  forthcoming  World  Cup , ITV  made  this  wonderful  documentary  narrated  by  Michael  Parkinson about  the  victorious  England  team  of  twenty  years  earlier, all  of  whom  were  still  alive  at  this  point. The  programme  largely  concentrated  on  what  they  were  doing  for  a  living  subsequently, a  reminder  that  our  top  footballers  were  not set  up  for  life  in  those  days.

Therefore  you  had  Ray  Wilson, an  undertaker  in  his  native  Huddersfield, Roger  Hunt  running  a  haulage  firm  and  Martin  Peters  and  Geoff  Hurst  working  in  the  same  insurance  company  after  less  than  glittering  managerial  careers. Predictably, Jack  Charlton, about  to  start  his  famous  reign  in  charge  of  Ireland, was  the  most  assured  raconteur  although  they  were all  comfortable  enough  in  front  of  the  camera.

The  most  poignant  contributions  came  from  those  who'd  retired  the  earliest, the  full  backs  Ray  Wilson  and  George  Cohen. Wilson  said  he'd  be  chased  out  of  the  pub  if  he  tried  to  trade  on  his  fame  in  Huddersfield  while  Cohen  was  quite  happy  to  be  filmed  having  a  colostomy  bag  fitted  after  a  serious  bout  with  cancer.

Sadly,  Alf  Ramsey  , working  for  a  construction  firm  since an  undistinguished  spell  at  Birmingham  City  drew  an  end  to  his  managerial  career  , declined  to  take  part  and  in  Parkinson's  words  "remains  an  enigma".

It  all  seemed  an  awfully  long  time  ago  then; thirty  years  on  it  seems  like  ancient  history.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

748 Revid

First  viewed : 11  April  1986

I  thought  I  might  have  difficulty  finding  stills  for  this  one. It  followed  The  Chart  Show  on  Friday  evenings.

Revid  was  a  VHS  review  show  hosted  by  annoying  mod  cheerleader  Gary  Crowley  and  a  camp  American  bald  guy,  Jon  Stephen  Fink,  who  wrote  for  Jasper  Carrott.  It  worked  quite  well  because  the  pair  had  completely  different  tastes  and  rarely  agreed  about  anything. For  example,  Fink  thought  Peggy  Sue  Got  Married  was  a  marvellously  emotive  movie  about  life  choices,  Crowley  dismissed  it  as  a  Back  to  the  Future  rip-off.

Unfortunately, the  series  didn't  last  long. Fink  has  subsequently  become  a  successful  author.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

747 The Chart Show

First  viewed :  11  April  1986

Easter  went  by, the  dissertation  was finished,  and  it  was  clear  that  I  had  to  go  back  to  living  in  Leeds  for  the  final  term. On  top  of  my  imminent  Finals, I  had  also  made  life  harder  for myself   by  becoming  Communications  Officer  for  the  Student  Union, a  non-sabbatical  post  on  the  Executive. The   Labour  Club  hadn't  got  a  full slate  of  candidates  together  on  the  day  nominations  closed  and  I  actually  had  a choice  of  two  posts  I  could  take  unopposed. It  was  quite  insane  for  a  Final  year  student  to  take  a  position  that  ran  from  March to  February  in  the  next  academic year  but  I  couldn't  resist  the chance  to  get  on  the  top  table  for  however  brief  a  term  although  I  was  now  forming  a  plan  to  do  an  MA  and  then  go  for  one  of  the  five  sabbatical  posts ,thus  postponing  my  encounter  with  the job  market  for  another  two  years. In  the  event  it  did  subsequently  give  me  something  to  put  in  the  "Previous  Employment"  section  on  application  forms  and  use  the  President  as  a  reference; whether  or  not  these  factors  proved  as  useful  as  a  First  would  have  been, is  a  moot  point.

The  most  immediate  practical  point  was  that  being  on  the  Executive  meant  that  every  tenth  night, I  had  to  be  present  and  nominally  in  charge  of  the  Union  building  until  it  shut  around  11.30pm. There  could  be  no  sneaking  off  for  that  last  train  back  to  Littleborough.

I had  not  been  able  to  get  the   legal assurance  I needed  to  cancel  the  last  cheque  for  Thomas  St   and  I  would  not  even  consider  going  back  there  and  so  I  went  to  the  University  Accommodation  office  and  got  a  place  in  Lupton  Flats  ( sadly  notable  as  the  scene  of  the  last  Yorkshire  Ripper  murder  in  1980  )  for  the  final  term. It  was of  course  ruinously  expensive  to  rent  two  properties  at once. It  was  a  self-catering  property  but  I  never  gave  the  kitchen  a  thought  and  used  nearby  takeaways  or  the  Union  to  eat  which  didn't  help  my  bank  blance  either. The  facilities  were  shared  with  five  other  students;I  had  a  nodding  acquaintance  with  the  guy  next  door  who  seemed  a  good  bloke  but  never  got  to  know  the  others  at  all. I  don't  suppose  they  minded  one  less person  in  the  kitchen.

There  was  a  TV  room  shared  between  the  whole  complex  of  flats  but  I  used  it  sparingly, only  going  in  for  programmes  that  I  knew  would  command  a  majority  preference. Most  egregiously  this  meant  that  I  missed the  first  Wainwright  series  on  BBC2 , the  only  one  made  while  he  was  still  a  reasonably  active  man.

The  Chart  Show  started  on  Channel  4  when  The  Tube  went  for  its  summer  break.  It  was  a  cross  between  MTV  and  the  early  seventies  programme  Zocco  with  no  presenter  introducing  the  videos.  Instead, information  on  the  record  was  conveyed  by  a  computer  graphical  overlay. For  its  main  chart, the  programme  used  the  alternative Pepsi  chart rather  than  the  official  Gallup  version. As  well  as  that , the  show  featured  a dance  chart, metal  chart  and  indie  chart  on  tri-weekly  rotation. I was  particularly  keen  on  the  latter  as  it  enabled  me  to  see  and  hear   the  "shambling" acts  Record  Mirror  was  covering  at the  time.

It  quickly  became  one  of  my  favourite  shows  and  it  was  very  frustrating  when  it  was  taken  off  air  for  a  few  weeks  in  the  summer  due  to  predictable  opposition  from  the  Musician's  Union. It  returned  in  August  for  a  few  weeks  before  giving  way  to  what  turned  out  to  be  the  final  season  of  The  Tube.  When  it   returned  in  April  1987  it  became  a   permanent  fixture.

At  the  beginning  of  1989,  it  was  promoted  to  ITV on  Saturday mornings  which  meant  I  missed  quite  a  few  episodes  through  going  to  away  fixtures. When  we  got  a  VCR  machine  at  the  end  of  that  year , it  became  probably  my  most  taped  programme  ( with  the  obvious  advantage  of  being  able  to  speed  through  the  crap  stuff ).

The  show  survived  into  my  married  life  and  I  remember  watching  a  few  episodes  in  my  new  house  but  the  increased  take-up  of  satellite  and  cable  TV was  making  it  obsolete  and  it  was  axed  in  August  1998  in  favour  of  Ant  and  Dec  vehicle  CD-UK. A  brief  revival  on  Channel  4  in   2003   passed  me  by.

Friday, 28 July 2017

746 Robin of Sherwood

Image result for jason  connery  as robin  of  sherwood

First  viewed  : 5  April  1986

I  never  caught  this  show  with  Michael  Praed  in  the  title  role  but  I  did  see  at  least  the  first  episode  of  the  third  season  with  Jason  "son  of  Sean"  Connery  replacing  him. Connery  was  actually  playing  a  different  character  who  takes  on  the  mantle  of  "Robin  Hood"  after  Praed's  character  was  killed  at  the  end  of  season  two.  Although  Connery  looked  more  like  an  Australian  beach  bum  than  a  medieval  outlaw, I  thought  it  was  quite  good  but  as  I'll  explain  shortly  I wasn't  in  a  position  to  continue  with  it.

The  third  season  turned  out  to  be  the  final  one  but  that  wasn't  down  to  Connery  who  was  generally  accepted  as  a  decent  substitute. The  real  reason  goes  back  to  the  previous  post ; the  series  was  part-financed  by  Goldcrest  and  when  Absolute  Beginners  flopped,  they  had  to  pull  the  plug  leaving  plotlines  unresolved.

Connery's  mediocre  career  limps  on, this  still  being  his  most  famous  role.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

745 The Beginner's Guide To Absolute Beginners

First  viewed  : 29  March  1986

Oh  yes,  you  couldn't  get  away  from  the  desperate  hype  surrounding  the  release  of  this  film. Its  makers,  Goldcrest  Films,  had  been  hit  for  six  by  the  box  office  disaster  that  was  Revolution  and  the  whole  future  of  the  British  film  industry  was  seen  to  rest  on  the  success  of  Julian  Temple's  musical  version  of  the  Colin  McInnes  novel  of  teenage  London  in  the  late  fifties  much  loved  by  the  mods  ( hence  The  Jam's  1981 hit  of  the  same  name ). The  media  obligingly  gave  it  saturation  coverage  including  this  short  documentary  on  ITV.

Unsurprisingly, the  film  failed  to  live  up  to  expectations. Much  of  the  music  was  anachronistic, an  eighties  version  of  what  fifties  jazz  was  like  from  Sade  and  The  Style  Council, in  other  words  the  film  was  promoting  the  new  jazz / anti-rock   movement  which  had  already  passed  its  peak  by  1986. It  was  also  too  London-centric , finding  parts  for  the  likes  of  Ray  Davies  and  Mandy  Rice-Davies  and  giving  the  main  female  role  to  a  far  too  young  Patsy  Kensit. The  male  lead  was  unknown  Eddie  O  Connell  who  couldn't  carry  the  film.

Temple  fled  to  America  and  Goldcrest  went  belly  up  but  then   the  little-hyped  Mona  Lisa  came  along  and  the  industry  wasn't  so  dead  after  all.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

744 The Holy City

Image result for david  Hayman  the  holy  city

First  viewed : 28  March  1986

This  was  a  one-off  drama  for  Good  Friday  which set  the  story  of  Christ's  Passion  in  contemporary  Glasgow. David  Hayman  played  the  Christ  figure  as  some kind of  left  wing  street  preacher. I  remember  my  sister  seeing  a  trailer  and  saying  "That  looks  awful".  I   caught  a  small  part  of  it  showing  Hayman  stopping  a  man  beating  up  his  girlfriend  by  saying  "Gae  on  if  ye've  never  done  it  yourself".

The  play  is  also  notable  for  one  of  the  last  screen  appearances  of  Fulton  McKay who  died  the  following  year.

It  has  never  been  repeated  and  has  a  very  meagre  entry  on  imdb.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

743 British Cinema : A Personal View

First  viewed :  19  March  1986

As  part  of  British  Film  Year  ( which  was  actually  1985 ) ITV  commissioned  three  notable  British  directors  to  make  an  hour's  documentary  film  giving  their  thoughts  on  the  industry.
I  only  saw  the  middle  one. Sandwiched  between  Alan  Parker  and  Richard  Attenborough  was   Lindsay  Anderson  , director  of  This  Sporting  Life  and  If. 

Anderson  was  incensed  by  a  comment  from  David  Puttnam  that  the  British  film  industry  was  now  essentially  an  adjunct  to  Hollywood  and  judged  that  the  best  counter-argument  would  be  an  account  of  his  own  career  as  a  pioneer  of  the  Free  Cinema  movement in  the  fifties  and  beyond. As  an  example  of  making  yourself  the  hero  of  your story  it  would  be  hard  to  beat . Nevertheless  it  was  an  interesting  tale  and  Anderson  was  a good  raconteur. He  concluded  by   offering  his  1982  political  satire  Britannia Hospital  as  the  apogee  of  his  art, not  an  assessment  many  would  agree  with.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

742 Halley's Comet : The Encounter

First  viewed : 13  March  1986

One  afternoon,  in  the  academic  year  1973-74,  several  of  my  class  mates  claimed  to  have  seen  a  comet  flying  past  the  school  window. By  the  time  I  got  there,  it  had  gone. I  know  now  that  whatever  they  saw , it  certainly  wasn't  a  comet  and,  as  it  was  still  daylight,  it  was  unlikely  to  have  been  a  meteorite  either. Back  then,  I  was  gutted  to  have  missed  it  and  the sense  of  disappointment  and  determination  to  catch  the  next  one  lingered.

Therefore,  I  got  very  excited  when  the  most  famous  comet  of  all , the  one  identified,  by  the  astronomer  whose  name  it  bears,  as  a  regular  visitor to  Earth  every  74-79  years, came by  once  again  in  the  autumn  of  1985. After  reading  in  the  paper  where  to  find  it  I  went  out  on  several  nights , at  least  once  accompanied  by  the  infamous  Pete, but  we  could  see  nothing.  Of  course, the  light  pollution  from  a  city  like  Leeds  is  considerable but  in  fact,  on  this  occasion,  the  comet  was  not  visible  to  the  naked  eye  from  anywhere  in  the  northern  hemisphere  so  I  missed  out  on  my  comet  sighting  again. I  vowed  to  live  until  96  in  order  to  see  it  on  its  next  visit. As  both  my  parents  died  of  strokes  at  the  age  of  71, that  seems  rather  optimistic  now.

However  I  did  watch  BBC  One's  live  coverage  of  the  comet's  encounter  with  the  Giotto  space  probe  that  was  sent  up  to  view  it  at  close  quarters  a  few  months  later. The  pictures  were  computer-enhanced  to  make  them  a  bit  more  comprehensible  to  the  lay  viewer. Frankly,  it  looked  like  an  abstract  school  painting  but   Patrick  Moore  got  very  excited  about  it  and  that  was  good  enough  for  me.

The  happy  ending  here  was  provided  by  Comet  Hale-Bop  which  I  saw  on  a  number  of  occasions  in  1997  and  happened  to  be  in  the  sky  when  a  certain  event  of  personal  significance  took  place. We'll  leave  it  there  I  think.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

741 No Place Like Home

First  viewed : March  1986

Like,  I  suspect,  many  people, my  only  exposure  to  this  domestic  sitcom  was  the  12  unendurable  minutes  between  the  end  of  Coronation  Street   on  ITV and  the  start  of  Dallas  on  BBC  1  in  the  spring  of  1986  when  this  was  in  its  third  series . That  however  was  more  than  enough  to  earn  my  nomination  as  worst-ever  sitcom.

The  series  was  written  by  a  Jon  Watkins  and  concerned  a  middle  aged  couple,  the  Crabtrees  ( William  Gaunt  from  The  Champions  and  Patricia  Garwood )  whose  four  children  decline  to  leave  home. The  eldest  girl  moves  back  in  with  aggravatingly  gormless  husband  Raymond  ( Daniel  Hill )  in  tow.  To  make  matters  infinitely  worse   they  lived  next  door  to  the  Bottings. Trevor  ( Michael  Sharvell-Martin )  was  something  of  a  soul-mate  for  Pa  Crabtree  but wife  Vera  was  something  else.

There  was  nothing  wrong  with  Marcia  Warren  as  the  mother   in  Now  and  Then   a  few  years  earlier  but,  faced  with  a  fairly  unbelievable  character  in  the childless  animal  lover  Vera,  she  resorted  to  the  most  grotesque  over-acting  I've  ever  seen  on  British  TV,  beating even  Christopher  Rozycki  in  Casualty.  Playing  Vera   as  a  demented  perpetual  student,  she  was  absolutely  unwatchable  and  her  cast  mates  ( including  a  young  Martin  Clunes )  looked  a  bit  embarrassed  when  she  got  going.

Clunes  actually  got  out  at  the  end  of  the  third  season  and  I  suspect  the  producers  realised they  had  to  do  something  about  Warren. Vera  did  not  appear  in  the  fourth  season  and  when  she  re-surfaced  in  the  fifth   and  final  season  in  1987  she  was  played  by  Anne  Penfold.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

740 Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense

First  viewed  :  Winter  1986

This  one  brings  back  a  few  memories. Living  back  at  home  that  term  threw  up  some  challenges. Towards  the  end  of  the  previous  year,  I  had  been  elected, at  the  third  attempt ,  to  serve  on  the  Student  Union  Council  which  met  fortnightly  on  a  Monday. To  ensure  Councillors  took  their  responsibilities  seriously,  there  was  a  three  strikes  you're  off   attendance  policy  unless  the  Council  accepted  your  request / explanation  for  absence. I  was  already  a  strike  down  for  missing  a  meeting  to  attend  an  FA  Cup  replay  where  Dale  beat  Scunthorpe  to  earn  a  Third  Round  meeting  with  Manchester  United. Apparently  the  vote  was  close  and  divided  roughly  on  gender  lines.

With  something  like  30  people  at the  meetings,  they  tended  to  drag  on  for  hours   and  it  was  always  a  bit  hairy  whether  they'd  finish  in  time  for  me  to  catch  the  last  train  to  Littleborough  at  10.30 pm. With  some  avowed  political  foes  in  the  room,  I  didn't  like  asking  to  leave  early  too  often. By  means  of  some  desperate  sprinting  on  occasion ,  I  did  manage  to  retain  my  place  on  the  Council  without  being  stranded .

I  began  to  notice   a  young  man  who  also  got  off   that  train  at  Littleborough  although  I'm  not  sure  where  he  got  on. He  looked  like  one  of  the  Farreys  a  family  I  knew  from  school  although  he  wasn't  the  one  I  knew  best. On  one  occasion  he  was  clearly  drunk  and  involved  in  a  physical  altercation  with  a  guard. I  mention  it  because  a  few months later,  I  caught an  item  on  local  news  where  police  were  appealing  for  information  about  the  death  of  a Carl  Farrey  who  had  fallen  from  a  Leeds -Manchester  train. Putting  two  and  two  together,  I   went into  the  police  station  and  told  them  about the  incident  I'd  seen  but  it  didn't  seem  to  be   relevant. I  can't  give  any  closure  to  the  story; it's  just  one  of  those  strange,  sad  coincidences.

Anyhow,  after  he'd  melted  into  the  night,  I'd  usually  have  time  to  pop  into  Lords'  chip  shop  just  before  they  closed  and  get  a  late  supper. When  I  got  in,  this  would  usually  be  on.

The  series  was  a  follow-up  to  1980's  Hammer  House  of  Horror  with  a  similar  number  of  spooky  one-off  dramas  filmed  in  1984.  This  time  round,  it was  partly  funded  by  20th  Century  Fox  which  meant  that  nearly  all  of  them  had  an  American  lead  ( e.g. Dirk  Benedict, Mary  Crosby, Christina  Raines ). Unlike  the  earlier  series  it  was  not  nationally  networked  by  ITV  with  different  regions  showing  it  at  different times. I'm  guessing  this  might  have  been  because  the  films  were  70  minutes  long, an  inconvenient  length  for  British  television. I  don't  know  whether  Granada  had  broadcast  it  before  this  appropriately graveyard  slot  on  a  Monday  night.

  I  remember  three  of  them  reasonably  clearly, none  of  them  having  a  happy ending. In  Last  Video   and  Testament  ,  David  Langton  from  Upstairs  Downstairs   fakes  his  own  death  then  leads  his  wife  and  her  lover  into  a death  trap  before  fulfilling  his  pledge  to  dance  on  her  grave. In  Black  Carrion  , an  ageing  rocker  holds  a  village  in  his  thrall  after  they  mistakenly lynch  his  brother . In  Czech  Mate  Susan  George  finds  herself  trapped  behind  the  Iron  Curtain  after  a  defector  steals  her  identity  to  make  her  escape.

Monday, 17 July 2017

739 Every Second Counts

First  viewed :  8  February  1986

Every  Second  Counts  was  the  new  year replacement  for  Bob's  Full  House  on  Saturday  evenings. As  Dale  were  playing  Preston  North  End  away  ( a 1-1  draw  in  PNE's  worst-ever  season ) there's  no  obvious  reason  why  I  wouldn't  have  seen  the  very  first  episode.

Like  The Generation  Game , the  contestants  played  as  couples  ( three  of  them )  and  played  against  each  other   in  a   number  of   general  knowledge  rounds  earning  seconds  rather  than  points  for  a  correct  answer. When  the  rounds  were  completed,  the  couple  with  the  most  seconds  took  them  into  the  second  stage  where, answering  in  turn ,  they  had  to  complete  four  more  rounds  of  escalating  difficulty  matched  by  an  increase  in  the  quality  of  the  prize  on  offer,  within  the  total  number  of  seconds  they  had  earned. The  host  was  diminutive  magician  Paul  Daniels.

I  never  liked  it  as  much  as  Bob's  Full  House   because  Daniels  was  an  irritant, never  as  funny  as  he  thought  he  was  but  the  quizzing  itself  was  OK.

It  ran  until  1993.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

738 Aspel and Company

First  viewed  : Uncertain

This  Saturday  night  chat  show  on  ITV  started  in  1984  but  as  we  were  pretty  chained  to  the BBC   on  Saturday  nights,  it  was  a  while  before  I  first  saw  it. The  show  garnered  a  lot  of  attention,  seven  weeks  into  its  first  season, when  Margaret  Thatcher  appeared  on  the show  and  started  crying  when  talking  about  her  father  attracting  widespread  cynicism. After  that,  it  got  a  lot  of  good  press  for  Aspel's  quietly  forensic,  self-effacing  style  in  contrast  to  the  self-promoting  mugging  of  Wogan  and  Harty. Even  if  the  guests  weren't  that  interesting , it  was  absorbing  to  see  the  ultimate  professional  at  work.

One  episode  above  all   stands  out  and  no  prizes  for  guessing  which  one.  Oliver  Reed's  notorious  second  appearance  on  the  show  in  February  1987  occurred  at  the  end  of  my  first  week  at  work  and  thus  constitutes  my  first  " water cooler  moment".

Oliver  had  been  drinking  something  rather  stronger  than  water  when  he  came  on  to  promote  his  new  film  Castaway  and  after  putting  down  his jug  of  orange  juice  and  God  knows  what else.  the  dishevelled  actor  went  over  to  the  house  band  and  asked  them  to  give  him  some  backing  for  a  rendition  of  The  Wild  One. They  gamely  gave  it  a  go  whilst  trying  not  to  corpse and  Ollie  bawled  out  a  verse  while  "dancing"  in  a  manner  that  suggested  he  should  be  in  a  police  cell  rather  than  a TV  studio.

Having  satisfied  his  craving  to  be  a  rock  star  he  did  sit  down   and  manage  to  give  vaguely  coherent  answers  to  Aspel's  tart  questions like  "You've  just  finished  making  the  film  Castaway, do  you  remember  any  of  it  ?" He  spilled   some  of  his  "juice "  on  fellow  guest, the  tiresomely  wacky  comic  actress , Su  Pollard,  who  was  wearing  a  typically  exhibitionist  dress  so  he  deserves  some  credit  if  he  meant  it. Clive  James  asked  him  why  he  drank, getting  the reply  that  the  finest  people  Ollie  knew  were  those  he'd  met  in  pubs.

The  show  outlasted  its  rivals  but  came  to  grief  in  1993  when  Sylvester  Stallone, Arnold  Schwarzenegger  and  Bruce  Willis  appeared  on  the  show  to  promote  their  new  restaurant  venture  in  London, Planet  Hollywood. The  plugging  was  so  outrageously  obvious , with  Aspel   having  to  read  out  the  menu,  that  the  show  was  heavily  criticised  in  the  press. Aspel  took  it  on  the  chin  and  announced  he'd  be  quitting  chat  shows  at  the  end  of  the  season  which  had  5  more  episodes  to  run.