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.


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