Friday, 15 December 2017
First viewed : June 1988
This six-part documentary series was a showcase for the charitable project Operation Raleigh set up, originally as Operation Drake, by Colonel John Blashford-Snell with the patronage of Prince Charles. The idea was to select a number of young people from various countries, often from deprived communities, put them on board a large ship and sail them round the world to get involved in scientific research or Peace Corps- style community projects. I didn't watch much of it because I was too jealous of those taking part.
The programme helped to put the project on a permanent basis and it became the sustainable development charity Raleigh International in 1992.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
First viewed : 10 June 1988
The European Championships came round again and England qualified this time although probably wished they hadn't as they lost all three of their group games. Ireland beat them 1-0 in the first game then they were thrashed 3-1 in the other two games against Holland and the Soviet Union. It seems astonishing today that Bobby Robson kept his job after that. The main fall guy was the young Tony Adams who was absolutely destroyed by Marco Van Basten as he plundered a hat-trick but Adams proved able to shoulder it and become a stalwart in the nineties. On the other hand it was the end of the line for press darling Glenn Hoddle who marked his final England appearance with a dreadful error that let in the Soviets to score after only 3 minutes. Jack Charlton's Ireland by contrast had a good tournament, drawing with the Soviets and only narrowly being squeezed out by the Dutch.
In the other group Denmark matched England's dismal showing with their supposed superstar Michael Laudrup looking uninterested. Italy and Germany went through.
The Dutch, fielding two former First Division players you'd forgotten about in Hans Van Breukelen and 37-year old Arnold Muhren, went on to win their first international tournament beating the Soviets 2-0 in the Final. Prior to the tournament, all eyes were on their captain Ruud Gullitt , now challenging Maradona for the World's best player accolade, but even he was outshone by Van Basten who crowned a superb tournament with a contender for best ever international goal in the Final. Sadly, an ankle injury forced him out of the game just five years later.
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
First viewed : May 1988
Over four weeks in May 1988, BBC Two broadcast highlights of a special 13 hour concert to k'mark the 40th anniversary of Atlantic Records at New York's Madison Square Gardens. Most of the artists were either veteran soulsters or prog rock and therefore not my cup of tea but I did catch Emerson and Palmer ( with Robert Berry standing in for the estranged Greg Lake ) doing America with trademark showmanship and eighties hairstyles.
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
First viewed : Summer 1988
This was a late night Channel 4 music show presented by Tim Graham and Nicky Horne. It was aimed very much at the Q-buying rock fan rather than younger music fans and seemed like a throwback to the days of the Old Grey Whistle Test. It was roundly attacked in Record Mirror with particular venom directed at Horne.
I never stayed in for it but usually caught some of it when I came in from the pub. I remember the feature on Brian Wilson and his involvement with controversial doctor , Eugene Landy. It also introduced me to 10,000 Maniacs for which I'm grateful.
It only lasted the one series.
Monday, 11 December 2017
First viewed : 2 May 1988
This was a Bank Holiday documentary tracking the tempestuous story of Fleetwood Mac, resurgent once more with the success of Tango in the Night. The story has of course been told in full or in part a fair few times since so it's not easy to recall which bits were in which programme. What I do recall strongly about this one was that it concluded with an audio interview with founding genius Peter Green at a low point in his long struggle with mental illness. Green didn't want to be filmed though he was able to speak reasonably coherently. He did allow the inclusion of a few still photos taken during the interview showing a bloated, dishevelled man in a shabby duffel coat with grotesquely long fingernails which he seemed to be using as an excuse not to pick up a guitar again. It was a very downbeat ending to a supposedly celebratory programme.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
First viewed : 16 April 1988
This was a weekend football festival held at Wembley to celebrate 100 years of the Football League. The League decided to invite 16 teams to participate in a knockout tournament based on form over the last few months including one from each of the lower divisions. This had the unhappy accident of excluding the four biggest London clubs with a consequent effect on attendance. One notable absentee was Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough who didn't turn up to see his side in action on the Saturday.
The undoubted stars were Fourth Division Tranmere Rovers whose qualifying run of form had begun with a 6-1 thrashing of Rochdale on a miserable Friday evening. Perhaps helped by the 40 minute format, they put out Wimbledon and Newcastle on their run to the semi-final where Forest beat them on penalties. A majority of games actually went to penalties in the opening round.
With only four teams involved on the Sunday, the attendance shrunk to a miserable 17,000. It boiled down to a 60 minute Final between Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. With the atmosphere akin to a morgue, the two teams played the most boring sterile match since the Germany v Austria stitch-up in 1982. It finished 0-0 and Forest won on penalties.
The whole thing was something of an embarrassment to the Football League and it's tempting to see it as a significant milestone on the road to the formation of the Premier League just four years later
Saturday, 9 December 2017
First viewed : 11 April 1988
This was a series of documentaries shown over successive nights which sought to examine the prevalence of racism in British society by a series of experiments. In one example , a young white guy answered an ad for a flat and the landlady was happy to have him. Then his black mate answered the ad and got a different reception. The offender was then challenged about their attitude. I think I only saw the first one.
Friday, 8 December 2017
First viewed : 9 April 1988
This famous late night Channel Four discussion show began in 1987 but I didn't catch it until the one about horse racing which was broadcast on the same day as the Grand National. The host was , yet again, Tony Wilson, although this changed regularly. Among the guests were the Duchess of Argyll , some Communist guy and racing pundit John McCririck. I already loathed McCririck as a tiresome professional eccentric but hitherto I'd no idea that he was a hate figure in Liverpool for his right wing views about the city's problems. He lost no time in reiterating them ; his main bugbear seemed to be that Liverpudlians had played no part in securing the future of Aintree racecourse after a decade of uncertainty because they were all workshy scroungers. Naturally, our Commie friend didn't see eye to eye wit him on that. The Duchess sat patiently through that until Wilson invited her to expound her views on overuse of the whip. She said she didn't like it and then buggered off. McCririck the toady cried "Stand for Her Grace !" which Wilson and most of the other guests obeyed but the Communist stayed put in his seat.
The other one I recall was about press intrusion and ethics and was dominated by recently disgraced ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor who'd been caught out with underage rent boys. The programme brought him face to face with some of his persecutors in the press. Proctor's a scary looking bloke anyway but the looks he was giving them suggested he could pull a knife out any moment. Although the only sympathy he got on the programme came from Christine Keeler , his steadiness under fire did lead to increased investment in his new shirt selling venture. I also recall gossip columnist Nina Myskow's striking admission that the story, of her going to bed with a contestant, twenty years her junior, in a male beauty contest she was judging, was actually true.
In both cases , I think I only watched the first thirty minutes or so. It was just on too late and with no scheduled end time you could end up watching it until the early hours.
The series is most infamous for Oliver Reed's appearance in 1991 when he gave an unwanted kiss to a dowdy feminist he referred to as "Big Tits" and got asked to leave the show. It was axed , amid much protest, by Michael Grade in 1991 though sporadic revivals have taken place.
Thursday, 7 December 2017
First viewed : 5 April 1988
Having missed the first series featuring my walking hero due to not having access to a TV in Leeds I did catch some of this second series he made with farmer and broadcaster Eric Robson. I should include the caveat that he wasn't quite as big a hero to me as before, the revelations of his somewhat bitter worldview and shabby treatment of his first wife in the recently-published Ex-Fellwanderer having somewhat taken the shine away.
Still it was reasonably enjoyable to see and hear the old guy even though the series was about somewhere I'd never walked and didn't have any plans to visit. I remember them visiting Cape Wrath in Sutherland and Robson having to intervene to stop the now visually impaired octogenarian from wandering over the edge of a cliff.
A repeat of the first series followed shortly afterwards.
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
First viewed : 16 March 1988
This was a BBC Two documentary series of seven separate films chronicling some aspect of life in the north. I had a special interest in the fifth film in the series which gave a platform to cultural historian Robert Hewison to expound his views on the "heritage industry".
I'd noted a review of Hewison's recent book The Heritage Industry in The Guardian and ordered a copy from the library. At the time I was active in Littleborough Civic Trust and Hewison seemed to be attacking everything we were trying to do in terms of realising the town's tourist potential. Hewison's argument was that pouring money into heritage projects encouraged a rosy-eyed view of the past and acceptance of industrial decline and public funds should be diverted to supporting more challenging ( and usually left wing ) areas of the arts. To be fair he wasn't attacking the voluntary sector apart from the National Trust but didn't want to acknowledge that the impetus for heritage projects often came from ordinary local people. I wrote a scathing review of the book for the Littleborough Civic Trust Newsletter.
Hewison had a special contempt for the Wigan Pier Experience , one of the first museums to use live actors as part of the exhibitions. I must confess that always put me off going but it is sad to see the buildings standing forlorn and derelict since it closed in 2007.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
First viewed : 9 March 1988
That William G Stewart was a contrary cove. As well as hosting Fifteen To One, the producer of that most materialistic show The Price Is Right also produced this series of six state-of-the-nation plays for Channel Four which were decidedly critical of Thatcherism. The series was split over two seasons in 1987 and 1988.
I only saw the last one Everyone A Winner , because it was written by Barry Pilton whose humorous account of walking the Pennine Way, One Man and His Bog I'd recently enjoyed.
The play posited a world where Thatcherism ran on unchecked for decades and starred Jonathan Pryce as a well-meaning vicar trying to hold on to traditional cultural values in a world of rampant philistinism. He's relieved when his son gets a job at the British Museum then finds it consists of breaking up the exhibits and selling off the chunks to the highest bidder. Anna Carteret played his wife, a private nurse whose services go beyond medical care ( there was a brief glimpse of her boobs ).
Sunday, 3 December 2017
First viewed : February 1988
This was a short series of seven broadcasts from an alternative comedy club in Battersea on BBC 2. It was the first time I saw Arthur Smith ( the funniest in my opinion ), Tony Hawks, Simon Fanshawe, Joan Collins Fan Club and Ian Saville ( above. He must have watched his step when he ventured into Belfast ).
Saturday, 2 December 2017
First viewed : 21 February 1988
Another watershed here. Prisoner Cell Block H is the last programme with which I became really obsessed, to the point where my friends and colleagues became aware of it.
Prisoner Cell Block H was the brainchild of Australian media mogul Reg Grundy whose organisation was also responsible for Neighbours and The Young Doctors . Unlike those soaps , the adult content and violence in the show made it unsuitable for daytime viewing so it had to wait until the advent of nighttime TV to get a UK airing. It had actually finished in Australia by the time we saw it here. In Australia it was simply called Prisoner ; the Cell Block H was added here to avoid confusion with the sixties classic which is why there are very few references to Block H in the show. It must have had an odd resonance to viewers in Northern Ireland where the word "H-Block" has a very different connotation.
Prisoner Cell Block H was an ideal schedule filler for the ITV regions but the show was never networked. I think Central TV started showing it six months before Granada. The timeslot varied but it was never on before 10.30pm and usually started before midnight. It was usually on three nights a week. It was often introduced by a continuity guy - I think he was called Colin Weston - who would always smirk about it which really got up my nose.
I first caught it by accident coming home from the pub one Sunday night and wondered what on earth I was watching. It was the melodramatic third episode where the feud for top dog status between fearsome redhead Bea Smith and butch biker Frankie Doyle culminates in a riot, during which the prison social worker Bill Jackson , husband to saintly warder Meg is stabbed with a pair of scissors. I quickly picked up that it was Australian and idly wondered if Peita Toppano ( see Return To Eden ) was in it. When the cast list came up I saw that she was although I hadn't spotted her.
I had to tune in to the next episode and quickly identified her , minus the dyed red hair she'd sported as Jilly Stewart, as out of place middle class murderess Karen Travers. The episode also revealed the murderess to be rough prostitute Chrissie Latham out of jealousy. I wanted to watch more but I was getting up too early for block release in Liverpool and so I missed the next few months. The series got its first celebrity endorsement when Paul Morley said he loved it on The Other Side of Midnight.
By the time I returned to it in the summer, Frankie was gone and there was a new male deputy governor Jim Fletcher. Karen was being let out to attend a university course. Two storylines grabbed me, the plight of an old woman, Edie, who brought out Jim's softer side and the murder of a child killer , Bella , in the prison bathrooms. From that point on I was hooked. Shortly afterwards there was a small feature in the TV Times about a Prisoner Cell Block H Fan Club and I joined that although my introductory pack was held up by a national postal strike.
I soon found an ally at work in Steve, our Financial Resources Analyst, who was watching it regularly although in a fairly ironic way. He found it hard to believe I hadn't picked up that the episodes we were watching dated back to the seventies from the clothing. Others were just baffled at my enthusiasm for it. Most harped on about the low production values; Susan who was then married to a builder , couldn't see past the cardboard walls. Mike H was very amused by the idea of the fan club and enquired if he could get a signed poster of Noeline, a spectacularly ugly inmate.
The Fan Club turned out to be run by a lesbian couple from Derby. They were trying to get some co-operation from the Grundy Organisation but having cancelled the series two years earlier, its makers didn't want to know and ignored them. They finally got a break when Sheila Florence who played the endearing, drink-loving old lag Lizzie Birdsworth got in touch with them and opened doors to her fellow cast members. The magazine you got was interesting but given that they lived in the Central region they should have taken more care about spoilers; I was reading about the grisly fates of characters who hadn't yet appeared.
In the autumn Karen's story took centre stage as she got parole and then became manager of a halfway house to help re-integrate those women who'd been released back into society. At the same time she was having an on/off relationship with the prison doctor Greg. This culminated in a melodramatic incident where Karen was shot and her life was in the balance but she recovered to marry Greg ( Toppano and the actor Barry Quinn were married in real life ) and leave the series for good.
By that time, it had become that the series was actually very popular despite the timeslot and the networking issue. I was told that the CB radio network went dead during broadcasts. A woman's magazine ran a four week " Where Are They Now ?" series on some of the main stars and so I ended up buying that and bringing it in to work for Steve. Our lunchtime dinner table was actually more interested in the problem page which strangely featured a lot of guys writing in about their sexual problems. In 1989 the limpid theme tune On The Inside was a number 3 hit here for Lynne Hamilton. There were books too, a couple of novelisations and a behind the scenes story by one Hilary Kingsley which was riddled with errors.
Then the series attracted its most unlikely convert of all; my dad started coming in to watch it. We'd grown somewhat apart by then but at least we had something to share in the latter part of his life . God knows what its appeal was to a backward-looking Irishman in his sixties who was usually only interested in classical music and cricket but you can never fully understand someone else's tastes can you.
At the tail end of 1989, I went to The Palace in Manchester to see a stage play based on the series, mainly the Frankie Doyle storyline with Brit stalwart Joanna Monroe playing her, which featured a sprinkling of original cast members. The party included my college friend Mark who was very dismissive of the series as "just melodrama" but he came along for a laugh. It wasn't much cop; neither Elspeth Ballantyne ( Meg Morris ) nor Patsy King ( first governess Erica Davidson ) seemed to have any stage presence at all.
The Fan Club had a major boost when Val Lehman who played Bea Smith got in touch and was willing to come over to the UK . The girls were able to come off the dole and manage a P.A. tour of the country for her. I remember her appearing on Granada Upfront to spout off about gay equality. They repeated the trick with Betty Bobbitt who played token American Judy Bryant but then came a cropper when they invited Amanda Muggleton who played Chrissie . She was poached for pantomime work as soon as she got off the plane leaving them high and dry. Their enterprise and then relationship failed and the Fan Club finished before the series did.
The high watermark of my obsession with the series came around Easter 1991 with a storyline where Bea, who'd lost her daughter to drugs , tries to help a young drug addict called Donna played by the sadly-deceased Arkie Whiteley. It's in vain though and Donna dies from a tampered fix, leaving Bea distraught once more . The storyline profoundly affected me for the next year and I wrote a screenplay based on it envisaging Patsy Kensit as Donna and Kylie Minogue as her friend Suzie I've still got it if anyone's interested in bringing it to the screen ?
That was getting towards the end of Bea Smith's time on the show. Behind the scenes she'd fallen out with Grundy and she was written out rather tamely with a transfer to another prison arranged by her nemesis, evil lesbian warder Joan "the Freak " Ferguson. It was never quite the same without her. There was a dismal period where she was replaced by an awful character called Minnie, a sort of latterday Fagin that everyone hated. The writers then found a Bea-substitute in Myra Desmond , previously an occasional character as head of the Prison Reform Group , who came in and resumed the battle with the Freak.
Myra was eventually killed off in a terrorist seige and my interest waned. It became more of a ritual after that to tape the episodes for my dad who couldn't manage the late nights any more and see it through to the finish. Between them, the Fan Club magazines and the Kingsley book had given me a good idea of the major events to come and I was ticking off the arrival of the necessary characters to enable them to happen . Repetition was creeping in with plotlines that were blatant retreads of earlier ones. I hated the last top dog Rita Connors, the gangly giant and her motorcycle gang and only the miserly-mouthed Ray Meagher, in the last of three villainous turns , as psychotic governor Ernest Craven brightened up the tail end of the series.
At last it finished in February 1995 with the Freak getting her final comeuppance as Connors lures her into a police sting and the Department seemingly agreeing to turn the prison into a holiday camp. There was a brief phone interview with Maggie Kirkpatrick who played Ferguson, before the final episode which I taped and still have.
When Channel Five launched two years later it began repeating the series nightly from Episode One which allowed me to catch up on everything I'd missed. This was just before I got married. My wife had also been a big fan of the series and we used to watch it occasionally in the early days but not beyond Bea's departure. I've not seen any of the reboot as Wentworth. Some things are better just left as a memory.
Friday, 1 December 2017
First viewed : February 1988
Towards the end of 1987, 24 hour TV became a reality on ITV. Granada rejected the London-based Night Network and went its own way. One of its offerings was this late night arts magazine presented by, you guessed it, Tony Wilson ( did he ever leave the building ? )
He didn't have much of a budget but he was free to promote what he liked which of course meant a lot of Factory acts, something Paul Morley called him out on when he appeared on the programme. He also had the good luck that he got the gig just as his home city became the centre of a new music explosion and Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and A Guy Called Gerald all got early exposure on the programme.
I used to put it on when I'd got back from the pub so it's perhaps not too surprising that I don't recall too many specific features. I do recall him having Robert Elms on and haranguing him about his championing of Spandau Ballet and the New Romantics - "the most vapid era in music". Some might argue "vapid" was a pretty good word to describe the bulk of Factory's output that didn't involve anyone surnamed Hook or Ryder but we'll let that pass.
The show ran from 1988 to 1989.
Thursday, 30 November 2017
First viewed : February 1988
I recall this Olympics for one thing only -the exploits of Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards , the plucky British amateur who became the first British ski jumper at an Olympics since 1929. With limited training due to lack of funding, Eddie still qualified fair and square at the 1987 World Championship and became a media sensation. As a friend of mine commented "he looks like the guy that gets sand kicked in his face" which added to his underdog appeal. Edie predictably finished last in both his events and the spoilsports on the Olympic committee changed the rules to make it difficult for him ( Eddie failed to qualify in 1992, 1994 and 1998 ) , or anyone of his ilk, to qualify again but he remains a legend.
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
First viewed : 1988
I avoided this like the plague when it first arrived in the mid-eighties; the idea of the Beeb making their own cheap films to accompany pre-video ( i.e pre-1977 hits ) sounded hideous. By 1988 though, my punk-centric letterboxing when it came to consuming music had eroded and I was more receptive to listening to pop from previous eras whether I'd heard it before or not.
Therefore, I did watch the occasional episode of the third and final series in 1988. The ones I remember are Kiki Dee's Amereuse ( a soft focus film of pastoral snogging ) and The Hollies' He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother ( a film of special needs kids having a day out ). The latter airing may have helped it to number one in the autumn. I also recall hearing The Hollies' Gasoline Alley Bred and The Moody Blues' Isn't Life Strange for the first time on the programme though I don't recall anything about the accompanying films.
It was presented by Dave Lee Travis so I don't suppose it will ever surface again although the ban on editions of Top of the Pops which he presented is completely ridiculous.
Monday, 27 November 2017
First viewed : 10 February 1986
Oh this is a blunder. I don't know why I thought I didn't see the 1986 Awards ceremony when scanning those listings but I definitely remember Norman Tebbit presenting an award to Wham and giving a cheeky speech congratulating the industry and musicians for being such great capitalists. One in the eye for the nascent Red Wedge project !
I don't think I saw the 1987 awards hosted by Jonathan King but I watched it the following year with Noel Edmunds. I remember Andrew Lloyd-Webber winning some classical award and making an embarrassing speech about how watching Jack Good's shows made him a rocker or something. When New Order won Best Video for True Faith, Bernard Sumner slagged him off for it in his acceptance speech. That year was also memorable for the embarrassment suffered by Rick Astley. He won the Best Single Award for Never Gonna Give You Up but the show was over-running so a BPI exec came on stage to accept his reward for him and announce the Outstanding Contribution to Music winners, The Who who went straight into Who Are You . The problem was no one told Rick what was happening and he was halfway to the podium when The Who came on and he had to return sheepishly to his seat. Even Mick Fleetwood made a sarky remark about it the following year.
The 1989 ceremony of course has gone down in history as one of the great live TV disasters when the inexpert presenters Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox were felled by a malfunctioning autocue and the whole thing fell apart. I didn't see it at the time but have seen most of it on list shows since. It led to the decision that future ceremonies wouldn't be broadcast live, a policy that lasted for the next 18 years despite the move from the BBC to ITV in 1993. This meant that events like Lisa Stansfield's protest at the Gulf War, John Prescott's dousing and of course Jarvis Cocker's stage invasion were discreetly edited out.
Some of the subsequent highlights I recall are
- Martika seemingly off her face on something in 1993
- Host Richard O'Brien saying "Something for every taste there" after Andy Bell and k d lang's duet on Enough Is Enough
- Ben Elton's grating insincerity as host in 1998
- Chumbawamba changing the words to Tubthumping to criticise New Labour
- Nodding off during the 2000 ceremony and missing the Ronnie Wood / Brandon Block altercation
One regular feature that used to annoy me was the appearance towards the end , of the BPI chairman Maurice Oberstein until his death in 2001. No we're not going to warm to you because you've brought on a mangy dog and are wearing a stupid hat , you self-satisfied old bore.
Once we got into the noughties my interest in contemporary music waned and the last one I recall watching is when Paul Weller won the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award which was in 2006.
Sunday, 26 November 2017
First viewed : 5 February 1988
After Live Aid and Sport Aid , it was the comedians' turn. Although the charity Comic Relief had been launched in 1985, this was its live TV debut. For better or worse, this was the start of the TV charity marathon becoming a regular event.
A Night of Comic Relief ran from 7.30 pm to around 4.00 am the next day. I remember our accounting lecturer coming in with a red nose on, that morning. I also recall my mum bleating on beforehand, "But you can't keep laughing for all those hours !" There wasn't much danger of that given some of the names on the bill and all the filmed inserts with celebs standing in the desert or pushing someone in a wheelchair to tug at your heartstrings. This aspect was perfectly summed up by Ricky Gervais on Room 101 some years later - " You get Robbie Coltrane and Dawn French telling you there's a world food shortage. Well I wonder why that is ".
The programme was anchored by Griff Rhys-Jones, Lenny Henry ( this might have been the start of his slide into the hectoring bore he is today ) and Jonathan Ross. I saw the beginning and the first set piece item, a Spitting Image Question of Sport which ended with the puppet David Coleman getting blown up by his real-life counterpart who very visibly wasn't amused by the sketch at all. I then went to the pub and unfortunately came in just in time to catch a routine from Cannon and Ball which seemed to consist of smashing a load of plates. The camera then panned to Ross who'd clearly enjoyed it as much as me and said "Woo ! A stonker from Cannon and Ball there" while signalling that wasn't quite what he was thinking at the time.
Comic Relief alternates with Sport Relief so it's a biennial retreat.
Saturday, 25 November 2017
First viewed : 25 January 1988
This was a ten part BBC 1 documentary on the history of film created and presented by who else but Barry Norman. The ten episodes dealt with genres rather than periods allowing a more unified thematic approach. The series was noted for its liberal use of soft focus photography when interviewing the survivors from yesteryear. Pride of place went to a still lucid 96 year old film director Hal Roach who launched Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy in the silent era.
Friday, 24 November 2017
First viewed : Winter 1988
I must admit I'm cheating a bit here as this was on when I was playing pool down at The Red Lion on Friday nights and I hardly saw any of it at the time. Fortunately some of it is on YouTube.
It was a regional programme for Granada viewers. presented by Tony Wilson with New Order inevitably providing the theme tune. It brought in the two greatest football entertainers of the seventies for a chat about the period, based around extended footage from the ITV vaults.
Marsh of course retired tidily after making a packet in the USA and became a top football pundit. Best's playing career just dribbled away and he never found much of a role for himself beyond feeding the tabloids every so often. You would expect then that Marsh would be very assured and Best shambling and incoherent by comparison but he was generally tidy and lucid - this was just a year before the infamous Wogan appearance. You don't really think of Wilson as a football man and he did seem a bit less sure of himself in their company but he obviously knew enough to stay in the conversations.
Though, as far as I'm aware, the show wasn't broadcast outside the Granada region, the format reappeared in the very similar There's Only One Brian Moore a few years later.
Thursday, 23 November 2017
First viewed : January 1988
I'm sure I caught some Alan Whicker before this series but not being a great fan of his style, I don't know when that might have been. I'm pretty sure I caught some of this Sunday evening series on BBC One which concentrated on ex-pats from Britain who'd made a successful move to Australia. It was part of a number of programmes to coincie with Australia's bicentennial celebrations.
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
First viewed : January 1988
My mum alerted me to this one during a revision week for my first set of accountancy exams as a suggested break from revising. This was shortly after its inception as a replacement for Countdown on Channel Four
It was devised by its quizmaster William G Stewart almost as an act of atonement for producing the horrors of The Price Is Right on ITV. It was a quickfire quiz show with a high standard of question and a tough proposition for anyone who ventured on it. Contestants had three lives i.e. they could get two questions wrong and a correct answer gave you the choice of taking the next one for points or nominating someone else in the hope they'd fluff and lose a life. That way the fifteen contestants were whittled down to just three for the final round. Fifteen To One's requirement for large numbers of contestants meant it attracted people who'd fail the personality screenings for things like Telly Addicts or Blankety Blank which was quite refreshing. Stewart was friendly but brisk., with little time-wasting banter and the show was a ratings success.
I knew three people who got on it over the years. I don't think any of them have the resources to sue me but I'll use initials just in case. I haven't got the time to go looking for a relevant still.
PB - a Burnley-supporting council tax clerk from Littleborough who looked like weatherman Michael Fish's younger brother and had the personality of a lettuce. Kevin from Eggheads is Bruce Forsyth compared to this guy. He did pretty well but didn't become a series champion.
BB- PB's great rival on the Littleborough quiz scene. He was a bumptious bearded social worker - think Tom from Reggie Perrin - who played for the pub just down the road from me. I'm not sure how he did.
SL - a flaky bloke who was briefly an office colleague around this time. He'd come from Wages ( one of his ex-colleagues claimed to have spotted him having a hand shandy under the desk ) where he couldn't hack the deadlines but our section had pressures too and he'd regularly go off sick until our new boss managed to offload him, receiving a number of abusive communications thereafter. He had the gall to describe himself as a free lance musician from Devon ( where he'd fled ) and became the last man standing on his programme but then his bottle went and he didn't get on the leader board.
The programme was broadcast while I was at work so I never saw that much of it. It finished in 2003. I've never seen the daytime revival with Sandi Tovskig. Stewart died a couple of months back aged 84.
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
First viewed : 9 January 1988
This new pop show went into Channel Four's Sunday lunchtime slot previously occupied by Network 7. When I originally wrote about that show I confused the two; that post has now been corrected.
APB was ITV's Cinderella region, Border's attempt at a pop show though it also featured film and sports items as well. It was presented by Gaz Top .APB took the approach that there were enough performance and video outlets on TV and its pop features instead allowed the stars to expand on their particular interests so, for example, Michael Hutchence showed us round his motorcycle collection.
Bjork and Einar from The Sugarcubes came in and were interviewed sitting on a giant leather chair that made them look like Thuinderbirds puppets. Instead of being asked when their LP was coming out, they talked about Iceland's geography.
The programme helped turn me on to All About Eve after a feature where Julianne Regan talked about her love of candles and Goth-y stuff and she came across as a very sweet personality.
It only lasted the one series.
Monday, 20 November 2017
First viewed : 26 December 1987
This was a full-length dramatisation of another J B Priestley play, set in Yorkshire and poking fun at the Edwardian Nonconformist mentality. Three smug middle aged men, pillars of their community, and their wives are celebrating their silver wedding anniversary when the young organist they've been bullying reveals that, due to a paperwork error, they may not be legally married at all, shattering their complacency. There are many farcical complications before matters are finally resolved.
I had seen an Am Dram version of this eight years earlier and thought it dragged on a bit but Dearnley Drama Group didn't have Peter Vaughan, Timothy West and Bernard Cribbins in the three main roles and that made a hell of a difference. The play's a period piece now but , in the right hands, still very funny.
Sunday, 19 November 2017
First viewed : 25 December 1987
This was the best viewing available on Christmas night, preferable to Miss Marple and Inspector Morse , a long documentary on the famously reclusive former film star who walked away at the height of her fame. It was narrated by fellow Swedish actress Bibi Anderson and acted as a curtain raiser for a short season of her films. Garbo was still alive, though in poor health, at the time and of course didn't participate in the programme.
Saturday, 18 November 2017
First viewed : 4 December 1987
This three part serial turned into something of an embarrassment for the BBC. It was intended to be broadcast in September but was yanked after the Hungerford massacre and put back to December where it became a feelbad drama in the run up to Christmas.
David Threlfall played Don Weaver, a Liverpudlian professional criminal living in Spain and dabbling in real estate who receives a message from his ex-father in law ( James Ellis ) that his 12 year old son has been brutally murdered. He returns to his old stamping-ground to exact violent revenge assisted by Michael Angelis as an old associate and Leslie Ash . who created some extra publicity for the series by appearing topless in a shower scene. Terence Harvey as a bent cop and Craig Charles as a gangster were also along for the rude.
The series was unremittingly grim and violent. It owed a lot to Get Carter and like Carter, Weaver was an evil thug given to bouts of hypocritical self-pity and a rapist to boot. A fair proportion of the cast ended up dead by the final reel. Liverpool was portrayed as a lawless , abandoned ghost city where anything went, the boy's murder turning out to be a senseless act of gratification by three loser junkies who had no idea who he was. There was some of that old Scouse humour which somehow made things worse. Weaver is fond of showing people a photo of his apartment block in the Med and does so to one of the murderers he's about to top saying "That's my baby" to which the doomed scally replies "I'm more of a leg man myself".
Richard Griffiths was also in it as Ellis's innocent partner in a bookshop. He functioned as a sort of one man Greek chorus giving an ironic perspective on the cycle of violence which I guess gave the writers a get-out clause in the face of the criticism the series received.
Friday, 17 November 2017
First viewed : 7 November 1987
This was a one-off drama for Remembrance Day ( or near enough ) chronicling the devastation inflicted on a village cricket team by World War One. It was a familiar enough story, the sudden interruption of a glorious summer by the horrors of the world's most destructive conflict but well done with a fairly unknown cast.
Thursday, 16 November 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1987
This was a legal magazine programme on BBC Two presented by Rough Justice's David Jessel so it tended to take a rather sceptical view of the workings of the law to say the least. I watched the odd episode in the autumn of 1987 because Law was a module in the Graduate Conversion Course I was doing at Liverpool Poly at the time.
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1987
This was a BBC North West revival , in the mid-evening Friday regional slot on BBC Two, of an inter-town talent contest that ran in the fifties. It was presented by Stuart Hall. The two towns had celebrity champions. The only episode I saw had ex-Liver Bird Polly James pitted against Bill Waddington ( Coronation St's Percy Sugden ) so I'm guessing it must have been Blackburn v Oldham. There was a bit of football-based banter between the two before the contest started. The only act I can recall is a terrible female singer who did Saving All My Love For You pronouncing all her "oo" sounds as "er" hence "We'll be making love the whole night threrererrr !". I'd love to see that again but I doubt there's much chance. Apparently, another episode featured actress Clare Sweeney , presumably representing Liverpool, doing Somewhere Over The Rainbow. It only lasted for one series.
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1987
I only dipped into this and chiefly remember it for the fact that my Dad was so keen on it. He generally disdained television except for cricket but in the last decade of his life he developed a taste for period drama if it was set around the time of his boyhood as this was. The Charmer was loosely based on a fifties novel Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse by Patrick Hamilton and concerns a suave but pyschopathic conman called Gorse who seduces then swindles a wealthy widow to get a foothold in upper class society but is pursued by her thwarted lover Mr Stimpson.
Nigel Havers playing against type as a scheming arriviste, was Gorse, Bernard Hepton was Stimpson, Rosemary Leach played the mark and Fiona Fuillerton was Clarice, Gorse's unattainable lover.
The TV series went much further than the book in bringing Gorse's activities to a definite end whereas Hamilton preserved him for a further novel.
Monday, 13 November 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1987
This one went down like a lead balloon. Roy Last of the Summer Wine Clarke decided to try his hand at a detective show parody and came up with his horror. Pulaski was the name of a fictional cop show similar to ITV's Dempsey and Makepeace where an American ex-priest and his female sidekick righted wrongs. The twist was that we then saw that the actor playing Pulaski , Larry Summers ( David Andrews ) was in reality a drunken arsehole despised by co-star Kate ( Caroline Langrishe ). But in a further twist fans of the show wanted him to solve their cases and the crooks involved expected him to behave like Pulaski too.
It was far too "clever" for its own good and that , coupled with having a detestable leading actor, alienated both viewers and critics alive. I remember Nina Myskow excoriating it. I think I saw just the one episode where he was poncing about in a dress and that was more than enough.
The series was canned after just 8 episodes. Andrews hasn't appeared on British TV since but his film c.v. is actually quite impressive.