Thursday, 17 August 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.