Thursday, 31 August 2017

779 The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald

First  viewed : 22  November  1986

Channel  Four  broadcast  this  legal  marathon   on  the  23rd  anniversary  of  the  Kennedy  assassination. It  was  as  realistic  as  it  could  be  given  that  the  defendant  had  been  dead  for  over  20  years. It  was  conducted  by  a  genuine  judge  and  the  cases  were  argued  by  two  high-powered  lawyers, Manson-prosecutor  Vincent  Bugliosi  for  the  prosecution  and  Gerry  Spence, who  won  compensation  for  the  family  of  nuclear  whistle-blower  Karen  Silkwood, for  the  defence. The  jury was  selected  according  to  normal  Texan  procedure. The  witnesses  were  all  genuine  but  it  didn't  tell  you  how  many  had  declined  to  participate.

In  the  end  Bugliosi  was  triumphant  against  the  over-emotional  Spence  and  got  a  guilty  verdict.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

778 Strike It Lucky

First  viewed : Uncertain

This  started  at  the  end  of  October  1986  but  I've  absolutely  no idea  of  when  I  first  caught  an  episode. Based  on  a  US  game  show  Strike  It  Rich ,it  was  re-named  here  to  avoid  confusion  with  a  recent  BBC1  drama  with  that  title. Strike  It  Lucky  was  a  game  show  which  tested  general  knowledge  but  also  had  elements  of  gambling  and  snakes  and  ladders    as  contestants  risked  landing  on  Hot  Spots .

It  was  hosted  by  comedian  Michael  Barrymore   who'd  won  New  Faces  in  1979  and  been  a  regular  on  Royal  Variety  Performances  but  hadn't  yet  found  the  right  TV  vehicle. Strike  It  Lucky  made  him  a  household  name  and  deservedly  so  for  his  manic  energy  and  genuine  interest  in  the  contestants, the  pre-game  chat  often  lasting  for  well  over  5  minutes.

The  show  ran  for  thirteen  years  before  Barrymore  wanted  to  pursue  other  projects. Alas  for  him  that  only  lasted  for  a  couple  of  years  before  the  death  of  a  young  man  in  his  swimming  pool  in  2001   and  the  prolonged  uncertainty  over  what  charges  he  would  face  in relation  to  it  utterly  destroyed  his  TV  career. His  sporadic  appearances  as  a  clearly  reluctant  participant  in  reality  shows  only  underline  his  fall  from  grace.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

777 Lost Empires

First  viewed : 24  October  1986

This  was  another  golden  Granada  adaptation , this  time  of  JB  Priestley's  novel  of  music  hall  life  just  before  the  cataclysm  of  the  First  World  War. David  Plowright  again  called  in  family  favours  to  get  his  brother-in-law  Sir  Laurence   Olivier  to  appear  in  the  series. I  watched  this  one  on  my  own   ; I  never  understood  why  my  mum, usually  a  sucker  for  period  drama,   wasn't  interested.

The  seven  part  serial  is  often  remembered  as  providing  the  first  leading  role  on  TV  for   the  26-year  old  Colin  Firth  as  the  orphaned  young  man  Richard  Herncastle  who  goes  to  work  for  his  uncle  Nick  ( John  Castle ) , an  icy, cynical,  illusionist  in  a  travelling  music  hall  company. It's  through  Richard's  eyes  that  we  see  a  colourful  world  teetering  on  the  brink  of  catastrophe. As  well  as  learning  stage  craft,  Richard  also  works  his  way  through  the  female  cast  from  true  love,  naive  Nancy  ( Beatie  Edney  )  to  a  dangerous  liaison  with  older  woman  Julie  ( Carmen  du  Sautoy )  plus  casual  encounters  with  Nonie ( Francesca  McGregor ) , a  saucy  French  acrobat  and  Lily  ( Pamela  Stephenson ) a  sweet  English  rose  on  stage  but  a  debauched  voyeur  in  private.

Olivier  played  Harry  Burrard  in  the  first  episode , a  hopelessly out  of  date  comedian  with  nowhere  to  go  who  interprets  the  merciless  heckling  as  a   political  plot  against  him.  Brian  Glover  played  Julie's  partner,  Tommy  Beamish  a  bullying  boorish  comedian. The  notorious  Christopher  Rozycki  popped  in  for  one  scene  as  a  drunken  Russian  and  chewed  the  scenery  in  fine  style; he  had  a  glass  of  whiskey  in  one  hand  and  there  wasn't  much  left  by  the  end  of  the  scene  even  though  he  hadn't  drunk  any  of  it.

Though  somewhat  bleak  in  tone,  I  really  enjoyed  it  and  am  disappointed  it's  not  more  celebrated.            

Monday, 28 August 2017

776 General Studies Art And Upheaval Songs of Protest

First  viewed : October  1986

This  was  broadcast  a  few  times  so  I  can't  be  certain  of  the  date. I  am  pretty  certain  it's  the   very  last  schools  programme  to  feature  here. It  just  caught  my  eye  during  a  flick  through  the Radio  Times. It  was  narrated  by  Mel  Smith  but  also  had  an  on-screen  presenter  Edward  Hayward  who  produced  many  of  the  BBC's  schools  programming  in  the  seventies  and  eighties.  As  the  title  suggests,  it  provided  a  brief  look  at  the  history  of  the  protest  song,  zeroing  in  on  Billie  Holliday's  anti-lynching  protest  Strange  Fruit   and  finishing  with  Billy  Bragg  championing  Jerusalem  ( which  I'd  say  was  anticipatory  rather  than  a  protest  but  whatever ).

I  note  that  the  programme  that  preceded  one  of  its  broadcasts  was  "Media  Studies - Inside  Television  Making  News"   which  surprises  me. I  hadn't  realised  that  the "subject"  had  become  embedded  that  early.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

775 The Late Late Show

First  viewed  :  Autumn  1986

This  show  is  of  course  an  institution  in  Ireland  and  the  second  longest-running  talk  show  in  the  world  after  The  Tonight  Show  in  the  US.  For  37  years  it  was  presented  by  Gay  Byrne , in  latter  years  also  the  show's  producer, who  retired  just  before  the  millennium  and  was  responsible  for  breaking  the  taboo  on  public  discussion  of  a  number  of  controversial  subjects  in  Catholic  Ireland.

Channel  Four  used  it  to  fill  up  their  afternoon  schedules  in  the   second  half  of  the  eighties  which  was  when  I  caught  the  odd  episode  but  other  than  that . I  don't  think  it's   been  regularly  broadcast  here. Byrne  was  perhaps  a  little  too  unctuous  for  Anglo-Saxon  tastes.

One  or  two  of   its  incidents  have  crossed  over  into  the  UK  consciousness  though.  In  1992,  it  ended  the  ministerial  career  of  Northern  Ireland  Secretary  Peter  Brooke  who  was  prodded  into  giving  a  rendition  of  Oh  My  Darling  Clementine   on  the  same  day  as  an  IRA atrocity  in  Ulster. Not  long  after  that, the  nascent  Boyzone  appeared  on  the  show  and  a  nakedly  hostile  Byrne  persuaded them  to  do  their  dance  routine  without  the  benefit  of  a  backing  track, a  clip  that's  been  much  repeated  since. Sadly,  it  did  not  kill  their  career  off  as  he  intended  but  full  marks  for  trying  Gay !

Friday, 25 August 2017

774 The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

First  viewed :  8  October  1986

This  is  one  of   those  where  I  can't  quite  put  my  finger  on  why  I  stuck  with  it  -  apart  from  the  boredom  of  being  on  the  dole  of  course - despite  finding  much  of  it  unpleasant  and  distasteful. It  was  a  four  part  adaptation  of  a  Fay  Weldon  novel  about  a  large,  unattractive  woman  who  executes  a  long  and  elaborate  revenge  plan  against  her  husband  and  the  woman  for  whom  he  abandoned  her . I  haven't  read  the  novel  so  I don't  know  if  its  clearer  there  whether  she  actually  makes  a  Satanic  pact  to  achieve  her  ends  as  suggested  by  the  series  or  merely  takes  on  a  new  personality.

Newcomer  Julie  T  Wallace  played  Ruth  with  Patricia  Hodge  as  the  scarlet  woman, romantic  novelist  Mary  Fisher. The  husband  Bobo  was  played  by  Dennis  Waterman  with  such  a  lack  of  charm  or  personality  that  you  couldn't  understand  why  either  of  them  wanted  him . It  was  hard  to  know  where  your  sympathies  were  supposed  to  lie  in  the  series. Ruth's  revenge  plan  involved  such  cruelty  to  innocents.  including  abandoning  her  own  children  and  making  Mary's  mother ( Liz  Smith )  appear  incontinent  in  order  to  ruin  Mary's  idyll,  that  the  latter  seemed  sympathetic  by  comparison. The  plan  also  involved  extreme  personal  degradation   including  a  naked  beating  from  a  kinky  judge  ( Bernard  Hepton )  in  order  to  get  Bobo  a  lengthy  sentence  after  she  frames  him  and  then  bonking  with  a  priest  ( Tom  Baker, someone  I  never  wanted  to see  naked )  before  sending  him  on  to  Mary. In  the  final  act  she  has  extensive  plastic  surgery  to  look  exactly  like  the  now  deceased  Mary  and  moves  back  in  with  Bobo  prompting  the  obvious  question, what  was  it  all  for  ?  The  series  was  also  entirely  filmed  on  VT  giving  it  a  suitably  harsh  look.

I  did  like  the  theme  song,  Warm  Love  Gone  Cold  by  Christine  Collister and  took  an  interest  in  her  career  for  some  time  afterwards. The  series  went  down  well  both  here  and  in   America  and  there  was  a  considerably  bowdlerised  film  version  starring  Roseanne  Barr  and  Meryl  Streep  in  1989.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

773 The Theban Plays

First  viewed  :  16  September  1986

Having  completed  the  Shakespeare  plays  the  year  before, the  BBC  Two  drama  department turned  their  attention  to  the  Greek  playwrights  with   the  three   tragic  plays  by  Sophocles  broadcast  on  consecutive  nights. I  was  interested  because  I'd  studied  the  first  one  Oedipus Rex   for  A  Levels  three  years  earlier  and  I'd  read  the  following  two  because  they'd  also  been  in  the  textbook  we  were  given.

I  think  the  story  in  the  first  one  is  pretty  well  known. Oedipus  the  king  of  Thebes  is  visited  by  a  prophet  bearing  the  exceedingly  unwelcome  news  that  the  man  he  slew  to  get  the  throne  and  his  bride  was  actually  his  father  and  his  wife  and  mother  to  his  four  kids  is  actually  his  own  mother. She  tops  herself  and  he  is banished  from  the city  by  his  brother-in-law  Creon  who  then  takes  the  throne  himself. The  second  one  Oedipus  at  Colonus  isn't  a  barrel  of  laughs  either  with  the  blind  Oedipus  wandering  the  wastes  as  a  beggar  accompanied  by  loyal  daughter  Antigone  and  then  plagued  by  unwelcome  visitors  including  estranged  son  Polynices  who  receives  only  a  curse  for  his trouble. The  last  one  Antigone  is  more  political  in  tone  with  a  battle  of  wills  between  the  titular  heroine  and  the  now  tyrannical  Creon  over  the  burial  of   Polynices's  body.

The  plays  were  presented  on   a  stark  minimalist  set  with  mix  and  match  anachronistic  clothing, Creon's  final  costume  looking  like  it  was  on  loan  from  General  Pinochet.  Anthony  Quayle  played  Oedipus, something  of  a  departure  from  his  usual  bluff  and  genial  screen  persona . John  Shrapnel  played  the  bullheaded  Creon  and  Juliet  Stevenson  was  the  predictable  choice  for  Antigone. The  Chorus  included  such  familiar  faces  as  Ian Hogg, Peter  Jeffrey  and  Bernard  Hill.

It  hasn't  been  repeated  to  date.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

772 Paradise Postponed

First  viewed : 15  September  1986

This  was  a  flawed  but  interesting ten  part   serial  which  my  mother  enjoyed  more  than  I  did  although  I  stuck  with  it. It  was  written  by  John  Mortimer. Mortimer  was  a  genuine  polymath, a  prominent  barrister  who  also  wrote  copiously  after  working  in  a  wartime  propaganda  unit  and  achieved  success  in  both  fields. As  a  lawyer  he  achieved  prominence  in  a  number  of  obscenity trials  such  as  the  Oz  trial  and  then  the  Never  Mind  The  Bollocks  Case. As  a  writer  he  came  to  the  fore  through  TV  in  the  late  seventies  as  the  creator  of  Rumpole  of  the  Bailey.  In  the  eighties,  he  took  on  a  third  role  as  an  arch-critic  of  the  Thatcher  government,  using  his  public  profile  to  hector  the  electorate  about  the  iniquities  of  Tory  policies . These  harangues, not  helped  by  his  personal  likeness  to  a  supercilious  toad, did  the  socialist  cause more  harm  than  good.

Paradise  Postponed   was  a  lament  for  the  decline  of  post-war  idealism  which  demonstrated  a  degree  of  self-knowledge  not  immediately  apparent  in  his  public  appearances. Like  Bleak  House , the  story  rested  on  an  inheritance  issue. Why  did  Simeon  Simcox  ( Michael  Hordern )  a  socialist  vicar  in  East  Anglia  but  cushioned  by  the  wealth  from  shares  in  a  family  brewery  leave  those  shares  to  a  locally-born  Tory  Cabinet  minister  Leslie  Titmus  ( David  Threlfall ) ?  Most  interested  in  solving  that  mystery  are  his  disinherited  sons ,  Henry ( Peter  Egan ) , a  self-interested  writer  long  since  moved  to  the  right  and  Fred ( Paul  Shelley ) a  liberal  but  rather  indolent  doctor. The  story  unfolds  mainly   in  flashbacks  illustrating  the  changes  in  social  attitudes  since  the  days  of  Attlee.

The  main  flaws  were  twofold. Firstly,  a  rather  mechanical  plot  relying  too  much  on  Arthur  Nubble ( Kenny  Ireland ) , Fred's  entrepreneurial  old  schoolfriend  periodically  popping  up  with  a  revelation  to  move  it  forward. The  great  secret  becomes  obvious  well  before  the  final  episode. The  other was  that  Mortimer  tried  to  cram  in  too  much  social  commentary  so  that  characters  often  became  mouthpieces  for  his  themes. I  still  cringe  at  the  memory  of  Henry's  scene  with  his  daughter  Francesca  ( Leonie  Mellinger )  where  she  goes  into  a  rant  about  how  unidealistic  she  is,  concluding  with  "And  I  don't  give  a  damn  about  great  stinking  whales !"

Threlfall  had  already  caught  the  eye  in  Nicholas  Nickleby  and  The  Gathering  Seed   but  it  was  Titmus  that  made  his  name  as  an  actor,  transforming  from  a  gauche  provincial  nobody  to  a  smooth-talking ,high-ranking  politician  with   the  aid   of  the  Radio  3  cricket  commentary. There  was  much  interested  speculation  in  the  papers  about  who  Titmus  might  be  based on. Norman  Tebbit  was  an  obvious candidate  but  Peter  Walker  was   also  mentioned  a  lot. Mortimer   was  pretty  fair  to  Titmus. He  gets  where  he  is  by  hard  work  and  determination  and  though  his  marriage  to  volatile  Charlie  ( Zoe  Wanamaker )  is  politically  advantageous , he  does  treat  her  with  genuine  care  and  affection. He  is  clearly  morally  superior  to  the  local  Tory  old  guard  that  despise  him.

Mortimer  went  on  to  write  a  sequel,  Titmus  Regained  , a  less  ambitious  three  parter  in  1991  which  I  didn't  see. Apart  from  Threlfall, I  think  only  Paul  Shelley  returned  from  the  original  cast. It  didn't  have  anything like  the  same  impact. Rumpole  of  the  Bailey  finished  on  TV  in  the  following  year ( although  he  was  resurrected  on  radio  in  the  noughties ). Mortimer's  star  then  dimmed,  particularly  after  the  death  of   Labour  leader  John  Smith  in  1994. His  successor  Tony  Blair  regarded  the  "Labour  luvvies " in  the  entertainment  industry  as an  electoral  embarrassment  and  froze  them  out. Mortimer  continued  to  write, mainly  about  Rumpole, until  his  death  in  2009.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

771 The Making of Aliens

First  viewed : 9  September  1986

This  was  a  late  night  programme  on  ITV  which  was  effectively  an  extended  advert  for  the  film  with  director  James  Cameron  being  careful  not  to  give  too  much  away. It  did  whet  my  appetite  for  the  movie - I'd  enjoyed  the  first  one - but  I  didn't  go  to  see it  because  I  still  owed  my  Mum  some  money  from  my  last  university  term  and  thought  it  would  be  self-indulgent  to  go  to  the  cinema  or  buy  records  while  that  was  the  case.  It  was  one  of  the  first  videos  I  took  out  when  we  got  a  VCR  player  at  the  end  of  1989  and  I  wasn't  disappointed.

Monday, 21 August 2017

770 Casualty

First  viewed : Autumn  1986

This  TV  phenomenon  began  life  as  a  replacement  for  Juliet  Bravo  on  a  Saturday  evening  and  has  never  relinquished  its  spot  since. The  genius  of  the  show  is  that  the  setting  lets  the  writers  get  away  with  melodrama  every  week  and  allows  a  regular  parade  of  guest  stars  to  check  in  and  out  ( sometimes  permanently ).  As  well  as   their  coping  with  each   medical crisis  the   writers  throw  their  way,  the  programme  looks  at  the  personal  lives  of  the  staff  with  story  arcs  developing  over  the  course  of  a  season. Both  its  creators,  Jeremy  Brock  and  Paul  Unwin,  were  passionate  left  wing  champions  of  the  NHS  but  with  The  Monocled  Mutineer  drawing  away  most  of  the  Tory  fire , the  launch  of  Casualty  was   uncontroversial 

 I  don't  have  a  fascination  with  medical  matters  and  didn't  watch  the  opening  episode  but  did  catch  at  least  one  from  the  first  series  in  order  to  see  the  lunatic  over-acting  of  Christopher  Rozycki  as  the  Polish  porter  Kuba  which  seemed  to  be  the  main  talking  point. I  became  a  more  regular  viewer  in  the  second  season  when  Kate  Hardie  joined  the  cast  as  a  student  nurse  who  had  an  affair  with  Charlie  ( Derek  Thompson )  although  she  wasn't  in  it  for  long  and  I  dropped  out  again  once  she'd  gone.

I  became  a  regular  viewer  at  the  start  of  the  nineties  when  Nigel  Le  Vaillant  was  the  star  as  passionate  registrar  Julian  Chapman. His  interaction  with  the  steadier  Charlie  was  one  of  the  highpoints  of  the   series. Another  favourite  character  from  this  time  was  Kelly  Liddle  ( Adie  Allen )  a  student  nurse  that  couldn't  hack  it. Sadly  Le  Vaillant    decided  to  quit  in  Season  7  and  although  I  eventually  warmed  to  his  successor  Mike  Barrett  ( Clive  Mantle )  it  wasn't  quite  the  same  without  Julian.

The  show's  writers  responded  to  the  criticism  of  left  wing  bias  in  Season  8   by  introducing  a  character ,  Rachel  Longworth  ( Jane  Gurnett )  a  nurse  who  actually  supported  the  market-led  reforms  to  the  NHS. At  first  she  was  a  bit  of  a  joke, just  an  unlikely  mouthpiece, but  eventually  they  let  her  become  a  real  character  who  had  a fling  with  Barrett . That  series  also  saw  Tara  Moran  from  recently  deceased  soap  Families  join  as  a  nurse  but  she  turned  out  to  be  a  fly  by  night. Another  favourite  of  mine  Suzanna  Hamilton  came  in  as  a  young  doctor  with  no  bedside  manner  but  she too  departed  before  the  end  of  the  season, a  great  shame  as  her  character  could  have  been  developed  a  lot  more. Long  servng  nurse  Duffy  ( Cathy  Shipton )  left  towards   the  end  of  the  series  leaving  Charlie  as  the  only  survivor  from  the original  cast.

Season  9  introduced  one  of  the  most  irritating  characters  in  bolshie,  stud-in-the-nose  nurse  Jude  Kocarnik  ( Lisa  Coleman )  while  Baz  ( Julia  Watson )  returned  from  the  first  series  and  became  embroiled in  a  long  running  affair  with  Charlie.

I  think  I  lost  interest  some  time  in  Season  10  ( 1995-96 ). I  came  back  to  it  briefly  after I  got  married   ( December  1997 )  noting  lad's  mag  favourite  Claire  Goose  in  the  cast   but  my  interest  was  finally  killed  off  by  the  scene  at  the  end  of  Season  12  ( 1998 ) when  the  cast  broke  out  into  a  version  of  "Everlasting  Love" which  was  then  released  as  a  single. I  just  thought  that  was so  naff  and  unworthy  of  the  series.

Inevitably,  it's  been  on  in  the  living  room  since  then  and  I've  caught  odd  snatches  but  never  been  tempted  to  re-engage  with  the  series.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

769 Call Me Mister

First  viewed  : Autumn  1986

After  four  seasons  of  Bergerac , John  Nettles  wanted  a  break  so  there  was  only  a  Christmas  special  in  1986. Creator  Robert  Banks  Stewart  and  the  crew  came  up  with  this  one  to  fill  the  gap  in  the  autumn  schedule. With  Crocodile  Dundee  riding  high  in  the  cinemas, this  series  looked  to  tap  into  the  vogue  for  bluff  Aussie  guys  by  casting  Steve  Bisley  as  Sir  Jack  Bartholomew , a   former  Australian  police  officer  who  inherits  a  title  and  estate  in  England  to  the  dismay  of  his  posh  relatives  played  by  Haydn  Gwynne  and  Rupert  Frazer. He  prefers  to  set  up  as  a   private  detective  instead  with  the  help  of  much-younger  girlfriend  and  part-time  singer Julie  ( Dulice  Leicier  from  Grange  Hill ).

Unsurprisingly,  it  was  fairly  similar  to  Bergerac  but  a  bit  lighter  in  tone.  As  with  Brush  Strokes , I  gave  it  a  try  for  one  episode . I  thought  it  was  passable  but  not  good  enough  to  become  appointment  TV.  

When  Bergerac  returned  the  following  year, Call  Me  Mister  slipped  quietly  out  of  memory.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

768 Brush Strokes

First  viewed  : 1  September  1986

This  was  the  latest  comedy  from  the  Esmonde  and  Larbey  writing  team  ( Please  Sir,  The  Good  Life,  Ever  Decreasing  Circles )  and  starred  Karl  Howman  , a  familiar  face  playing  Cockney  villains  in  The  Sweeney, Minder  and  The  Professionals,  as  Jacko, a   womanising  painter. The  producers  seemed  to  know  they  might  have  a  problem  with  the  material  from  the  start; I  remember  Howman  in  The  Radio  Times   giving  a  defensive  interview  insisting  that  the  series  celebrated  women  rather  than  demeaned  them  and  that  was  before  the  first  episode  was  even  broadcast !

I  only  watched  that  first  episode  which  introduced  Jacko  and  his  boss  ( Gary  Waldhorn )  and  saw  Jacko  trying  to  date  two  girls  at  once  in  different  parts  of  the  same  pub. I  thought  it  was  crap  and  saw  no  more  of  the  Dulux-coated  lothario's  adventures.  However  it  was  popular  and  ran  for  5  series  until  1991.

As  with  Carla  Lane  and  Bread , Brush  Strokes  was  the  last  major success  for  the  Esmonde-Larbey  team, their  nineties  efforts  such  as  Mulberry  which  also  starred  Howman, leaving  little  impression.  

Friday, 18 August 2017

767 The Monocled Mutineer

First  viewed : 31 August  1986

This  series  seems  half-forgotten  now  but  in  1986  it  was  deeply  controversial. It  was  based  on  a  book  of  the  same  name  by  William  Allison  and  John  Fairley  published  in  1978  adapted  for  the  screen  by  Alan  Bleasdale. It  traced  the  career  of  a  criminal  called  Percy  Toplis  who  had  spells  in  the  army  and  was  shot  dead  by  police  near  Penrith  in  1920  while  on  the  run  for  the  murder  of  a  taxi  driver . While  in  the  army,  he  sometimes  posed  as  an  officer,  with  a  monocle  as  part  of  his  disguise,  to  pull  girls  or  impress  friends . That  much  is  undisputed. However  the  book  alleged  that  Toplis  was  the  ringleader  of  the  Etaples  mutiny  of  1917  and  that  he  was  pursued  after  the  war  by  the  Secret  Service  who  arranged  the  ambush  leading  to  his  death. Historians  with  no  axe  to  grind   pointed  out  that  the  records  showed  that  Toplis's  regiment   was  on  its  way  to  India  at  the  time  of  the  mutiny, an  event  that  the authors  had  greatly  exaggerated. This  led  Tory  politicians  and  the  Daily  Mail  to  excoriate  the  BBC  for  supposed  left  wing  bias  for  advertising  the  drama  as  "a  true-life  story".

I  missed  nearly  all  of  it  first  time  round  because  I  had  become  reconciled  with  my  old  friends  Michael  and  Sean  and  went  to  the  pub  with  them  on  a  Sunday  night  instead. I  did  see  a  small  part  of  the  first  episode  in  The  Red  Lion, Littleborough  with  them,  showing  the  horrendously  botched  execution  of  a  young  deserter. When  the  series  was  repeated  in  1988,  I  watched  it  right  through  and  it  was  an  impressive  piece  of  drama  with  Paul  McGann  furthering  his  reputation  in  the  main  role.

At  the  time  of  the  broadcast , a  witness  to  Toplis's  death  was  still  alive, a  man  called  De  Courcey  Parry  who  did  not  enter  the  controversy. When  I  used  to  attend  slide  shows  at  Kewsick's  Moot  Hall  in  the  early  nineties  ,the  host  Ray  McHaffie   would  always  point  him  out  as  an  old  man  attending  a  summer  fete  on  one  of  his  slides.


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  Scouse  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.