Wednesday, 1 February 2017
597 Tucker's Luck
First viewed : 10 March 1983
This Grange Hill spin-off is most remembered for keeping Todd Carty gainfully employed between his unavoidable exit from Grange Hill and Eastenders.
Tucker's Luck followed Carty's character, the lovable rogue Tucker Jenkins out of Grange Hill and into the real world, accompanied by faithful mate Alan Humphries ( George Armstrong ) ,always my favourite character. Peter McCarthy returned as Tommy Watson to make up a trio after having been dropped from the parent series a season earlier than the other two . Hilary Crane also resumed her role as Tucker's mum but Alan's dad was now played by Peter Childs ( replacing Tony Barton ). Apart from very brief cameos from Susi McMahon ( see below ) and Trisha Yates there were no other returning characters. Phil Redmond set the ball rolling as far as the writing went but later episodes were delegated to the likes of Barry Purchese and David Angus.
The series began with the trio a year on from leaving school under -qualified and ill-prepared for life on the rock and roll. Unemployment doesn't affect the boys' libidos though and much of the series was concerned with Tucker and Tommy's adventures with two girls the rather rough-looking Michelle ( Elaine Lordan ) and the Gail Tilsley-esque Alison ( Gillian Freedman ), both associated with a Neanderthal skinhead Passmore ( Peter McNamara ) who added to Tucker's woes. Alan is still holding a torch for Susi , his school girlfriend who's gone to college and is no longer interested. She briefly appears in a scene which will have had many Grange Hill viewers asking each other, was that the same girl ? Actually it was, the actress Linda Slater having had a radical makeover in the meantime.
Besides teen romance, the main focus, of the first season at least , was unemployment and it teetered on the edge of becoming too downbeat to enjoy. Coming so hot on the heels of Boys From The Blackstuff didn't help. The boys end up as none too conscientious casual labour for Alan's builder dad.
The series was quite ribald for its early evening slot, the most memorable scene being the one where the boys are helping in a house renovation and Tommy, at the wrong end of a sewage pipe, gets a faceful of you know what. Mind you that perm deserved nothing less !
I watched the entire first season but my viewing of the second in the spring of 1984 was interrupted for the prosaic reason that it clashed with dinner time at my hall of residence. I only caught the very end of the final episode after that. The girls were dispensed with but Passmore was retained for the first few episodes and rehabilitated as a decent human being.
Things weren't getting better for Alan though; when the series opened his dad had died of a heart attack , the business was failing and he was living with an unsympathetic uncle. The main new character was a young homeless man Creamy ( Adam Kotz ) that Alan wanted to help.
The third season, eighteen months later, passed me by entirely. Until yesterday, I didn't realise there' been one ! The writers seem to have adopted a scorched earth policy and excised all previous characters bar Tucker , his mum and Alan so the character of Tommy Watson was prematurely dropped from a second TV series, surely a unique distinction. From the synopses it seems to have been much more focussed on Tucker's family life.
Carty of course became a household name five years later in Eastenders but as someone who's studiously avoided that programme he'll always be Tucker to me. Armstrong wasn't able to maintain a career in acting bar a couple of appearances in The Bill but he remained involved in drama as theatre manager at a large public school in the nineties. Since then he's been a trainer for a management consultancy.