Friday, 23 February 2018
First viewed : Uncertain
I think I probably saw some of BBC 2's long-running history documentary series earlier but the first episode I definitely recall was the one on 17 January 1990 which looked at conspiracy theories surrounding Nazi deputy leader Rudolf Hess . In particular, it featured Hugh Thomas the surgeon who examined Hess in prison and couldn't find any trace of the wounds Hess suffered in World War One. Thomas's book concluded that the man imprisoned for life in Spandau Prison wasn't Hess at all.
Some of the issues raised remain unresolved.
Thursday, 22 February 2018
First viewed : January 1990
This was the latest Andrea Newman novel to be adapted for TV and followed the usual formula of sex and secrets amongst the well-to-do middle class. The series was boosted by the casting of Trevor Eve , returning to British TV after spending most of the eighties chasing fame in Hollywood with only moderate success. He played Felix Kramer , a bored writer who starts having an affair with the stepdaughter of his best friend played by Jim Carter. For men of my age, that provided the opportunity to see one of the early Grange Hill girls ( redhead Rudi Davies who played Penny Lewis ) naked.
Despite that, I only dipped in and out of the series.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018
First viewed : 15 January 1990
This was the last of the three Wainwright series made in his lifetime, looking at his long distance trail, the Coast To Coast Walk from St Bees to Robin Hood's Bay. By this point, the poor bloke was clearly on his last legs and none of the places where he and Eric Robson venture are far from a road. There was a lot of calling in for refreshments and finding bridges and boulders where AW and Robson could converse sitting down.
The most memorable bit was when the pair ventured into Kirkby Stephen. First he was stopped by an old guy in the street who wanted to meet him and they left that footage in the programme. Then they went in a cafe for fish and chips where it became clear that AW liked his vinegar.
It was quite melancholy viewing and Wainwright died aged 84, a year after the series was broadcast.
Tuesday, 20 February 2018
First viewed : 4 January 1990
I didn't catch this Channel Four drama series about the heroin trade first time round in 1989 but saw it all on repeat.
The action took place in London, Germany and Pakistan showing the impact of the drug on various lives. Bill Paterson played Jack Lithgow a Home Office minister looking to combat the drug trade whose efforts are undermined when his daughter Caroline ( Julia Ormond in her first screen role ) becomes an addict. British policy affects decent farmer Fazal ( Jamal Shah ) driving him into the orbit of evil drug lord Tariq Butt ( Talat Hussain ). Butt's main European distributors are German businessman Rosshalde ( George Kukura ) and his English wife Helen ( Lindsay Duncan ) who has to take over the operation when her husband is arrested.
It was a tightly plotted, absorbing drama with reasonably happy endings; Butt quite literally gets it in the neck.
The story was adapted for the big screen in 2000 which in turn inspired a 2004 miniseries.
Monday, 19 February 2018
First viewed : 1 January 1990
We move into the nineties now with a wildlife documentary about Australia's cane toads. The film was made in Australia where it was a very popular theatrical feature reflecting the country's ambivalence towards the animal.
The species is only native to the Carribbean but they were introduced in Northern Australia in 1935 ( as featured in Fields of Fire ) to control the cane grub which was devastating sugar crops. They were not particularly successful at that but they did breed very successfully and have had a significant effect on the ecosystems of Northern Australia. They also proved very effective in controlling the stray dog population as their skin contains toxins which will kill a dog that tries to eat it. They are not generally dangerous to humans and have been used for a free trip as the poison is hallucinogenic in moderate quantities.
The documentary was fairly humorous in tone while not avoiding the problems posed by the animals.
Sunday, 18 February 2018
First viewed : 31 December 1989
I said goodbye to the eighties with BBC Two's three hour musical review of the decade largely compiled from Top of the Pops and Old Grey Whistle Test performances. It was intelligently compiled with appropriate segmentation and a sense of humour and covered most of the best stuff.
I taped the whole show for good measure and occasionally re-watched it in subsequent years, once when I was hosting the Christian Social Group while my parents were away in 1996 . I only ditched the tape about three years ago deciding that keeping music on VHS was now pretty pointless.
Saturday, 17 February 2018
First viewed : Winter 89-90
We now enter a new phase as in December 1989 we finally got a VCR. I think the spur was Mum's beloved Beauty and the Beast being rescheduled in a late night slot. Apart from that, this was the first programme we regularly taped.
This was a nighttime Granada show which I think the other networks took. It had a simple format. Two pub quiz teams competed against each other, the winners going through to the next round until we got to a Final. The first and best host was Ross King but he soon passed on to Ted Robbins who didn't seem entirely literate and often fluffed the questions.
It was during Ted's reign that I auditioned twice for the programme. Both times it was set up by my friend and fellow Dale supporter Mark Wilbraham but we didn't make it through. The second time Mum was on the team and admitted that she'd be nervous which I think did for us.We didn't get to meet Ted but I did see Matthew Kelly signing in at reception.
Stuart Hall then took over and the set was revamped to look like a pub with Hall playing the avuncular landlord. It ran until the end of 1995.