Thursday, 19 October 2017
First viewed : 3 May 1987
I didn't think I'd caught the first episode of this but I do recall seeing its most controversial item, the presenter Sankha Guha making a fake cash card Blue Peter -style and then successfully extracting money from a cashpoint machine with it. I never watched it regularly as I often had better things to do on a Sunday but I remember a sympathetic feature on All About Eve in early 1988 which helped turn me on to them.
Network 7 was created by Jane Hewland and Janet Street-Porter and broadcast at noon on a Sunday lunchtime on Channel Four. It was aimed at a youth audience with fresh young presenters, a fast editing style and a focus on entertainment news rather than social problems.
It only lasted 18 months but it was influential and helped land Street-Porter a plum job with the Beeb the following year.
Wednesday, 18 October 2017
First viewed : 13 May 1987
This was a dark and demanding drama from Channel 4 based on a novel by Scottish crime writer Frederic Lindsay. Anyone unfamiliar with the book who claimed that they knew what was going on after the first episode was a liar.
Brond marked the screen debut of John Hannah as Robert, a callow Glasgow University student who witnesses the callous murder of a young boy in broad daylight by a man who conspiratorially winks at him as he goes by . The man we later learn is called Brond ( Stratford Johns ) and he keeps popping up in odd places as Robert's life descends into nightmare. At first, Brond does not interact with any other character and the story takes on an hallucinatory quality but once one of Robert's fellow lodgers turns up dead, the story becomes much more political in tone. There's a side dish of Kafka as Robert realises he's at the mercy of forces beyond his control.
There aren't too many sympathetic characters although you feel for Robert in his hopeless pursuit of Margaret ( Louise Beattie ) who clearly doesn't give a shit about him. This is paralleled by the story of Primo ( James Cosmo ) a deluded Scottish nationalist and hard man with a blind faith in Brond that is almost childlike.
The resolution left many questions unanswered as you always suspected it might. My twopennyworth is that it was a political fable with Brond the embodiment of the perfidious Englishman exploiting Scotland when it suited him. In this interpretation, Primo was your typical Scots S.A.S. man killing to order to sustain a system that didn't benefit him at all.
I enjoyed it but could have lived without seeing Stratford Johns in his underpants ( as seen above ).
Monday, 16 October 2017
First viewed : May 1987
This was the first general election of my working life and a senior officer of the council I worked for was standing for Labour in my constituency. As the history books tell us, Margaret Thatcher won a third and final term as Prime Minister with a scarcely dented majority. Labour under Neil Kinnock improved on Michael Foot's showing in 1983 but not significantly so despite a much more impressive campaign.
The result was far more significant for the Liberal-SDP Alliance. Their share of both votes and seats fell , though not disastrously so, after the campaign exposed significant differences between the SDP's leader David Owen and Liberal leader David Steel. The former SDP leader Roy Jenkins lost his Glasgow seat to a young George Galloway and Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers were defeated in their final attempts to return to the Commons. All three of them backed the calls for a merger after the election. Owen decided to resist them and brought the curtain down on his political career. I had let my membership of the SDP lapse after graduating but I decided to rejoin after the result and voted for the merger a few months later.
Saturday, 14 October 2017
First viewed : 5 May 1987
This mini-series was the sequel to A Woman of Substance . Both were based on novels by Barbara Taylor Bradford about a woman Emma Harte, who rises from humble beginnings to head a vast business empire and take revenge on the gentry family that abused her. Deborah Kerr resumed her role as the elderly Emma with Jenny Seagrove switching to play her granddaughter instead of her younger self. However, Liam Neeson retained his role as her confidante Blackie , made up as an old man and talking through a voice box like a Dalek. I think it's safe to assume he doesn't view it as his finest hour. For some lost reason, I tuned into the first episode, decided it was absolute rubbish and checked out again.
First viewed : April 1986
This is a bit out of sequence but when doing a bit of research on the series I realised I must have seen it a year earlier than I thought. C.A.T.S. Eyes was a spin-off from The Gentle Touch taking Jill Gascoigne's Maggie Forbes character out of the police station and into a private detective agency which was really a front for a Home Office covert unit. Don Warrington from Rising Damp was the man from the Ministry. In the first series Maggie was number two on the team headed by Pru ( Rosalyn Landor ) and they were assisted by sexpot Fred ( Lesley Ash ). For the second series, Maggie was promoted to replace Pru and the glamour quotient was doubled by Tessa ( Tracy Louise Ward ).
Ward was the sister of dubiously-talented Hollywood actress Rachel Ward and it was the publicity around her entrance that prompted me to tune in as she looked pretty hot. The series was a cross between Charlie's Angels and The Professionals. There was little cross over from The Gentle Touch as the more outlandish and feminocentric storylines meant it was very different in tone.
The series was popular but expensive to make so the plug was pulled after three seasons. After the series ended Gascoigne rarely appeared on UK TV. She moved to Los Angeles with husband Alfred Molina and worked mainly in theatre. In 2009 she pulled out of a planned run in Eastenders and is now in a care home suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Shortly after the series ended Ward married the Marquess of Worcester and soon gave up acting in favour of environmental politics. She is now the Duchess of Beufort.
Thursday, 12 October 2017
First viewed : Spring 1987
This was not the re-branded version of the Michael Barrymore game show but a drama series. I've always imagined I was watching a repeat run of the series originally broadcast in 1986 but in fact it was a second season, I didn't see enough of it to be totally sure of my ground here but it seemed to be promoting the politically sensitive idea that small shareholders actually counted for something. Its characters were a disparate group of people , including ex -Ant bassist Gary Tibbs as a would-be rock star, whose lives were only connected by having shares in a news agency and all seemed to get a happy ending. No doubt it was Maggie's favourite viewing.
Tuesday, 10 October 2017
First viewed : April 1987
Prospects was first broadcast on Channel Four in 1986. It did well there and so ITV decided to give a repeat of the series a prime time slot the following spring.
Prospects concerned the efforts of two young unemployed men, Pincy ( Gary Olsen ) and Billy ( Brian Bovell ) , living in London's Isle of Dogs , to improve their situation through a variety of ill thought out, often criminal ventures which usually leave them in a worse position than when they started. Chrissie Cotterill had a semi-regular role as Pincy's high maintenance girlfriend Mona. The programme was made by Euston Films and had a very Minder-ish feel with its 50 minute episodes and comic take on the black economy.
I remember catching episodes 3 and 4 and enjoying them. Episode 3 had the boys trying to devise a foolproof betting system around greyhound racing while Episode 4 saw them taking their girlfriends on a camping weekend and all four ending up in the same tent. Unfortunately, after that one, ITV decided the ratings weren't good enough and pushed the remaining eight episodes into a late night slot, abandoning plans for a second series.