Thursday, 17 August 2017

766 Three Sovereigns for Sarah

First  viewed :   28  August  1986

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

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

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

765 Baby, Baby

First  viewed : Summer  1986

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

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

764 Blockbusters

First  viewed :  Uncertain

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 14 August 2017

763 No One Speaks for the Dead

First  viewed :  19  August  1986

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

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

Sunday, 13 August 2017

762 The Way They Were

First  viewed :  4 August  1986

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

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

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

Saturday, 12 August 2017

761 Fighting Back

First  viewed :  4  August  1986

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

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

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

Friday, 11 August 2017

760 The Price

First  viewed : July  1986

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

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

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