Sunday, 18 March 2018
First viewed : Summer 1990
This was nothing to do with Dick Turpin, it was a short-lived US action series broadcast late night on a Friday on ITV. It starred a block of wood called Sam Jones - best known for being Flash Gordon in the 1980 film - as a road cop in the near future which looked and sounded very like the late eighties. He had an even more lunk -headed sidekick Jetto played by Mark Jackson, a former Australian rules footballer who was similarly challenged in the acting department. His rig had a concealed helicopter and could become invisible.
I only ever saw this half-conscious and it just seemed noisy and utterly vacuous. Only nine episodes were made.
Saturday, 17 March 2018
First viewed : 31 July 1990
This was a two part US mini-series based on a true crime book by Ann Rule about convicted murderer Diane Downs who killed one of her children and seriously wounded the other two in order to be with her selfish lover.. The prosecutor adopted the two surviving children after her conviction. Apart from Downs herself, all the character's names were changed to afford some measure of privacy.
Downs was played by Farrah Fawcett, a casting choice by which one imagines the fairly dowdy Downs would have been flattered. Her lover was played by real-life husband Ryan Neal. The ever-busy John Shea played the prosecutor.
The scene I remember best is the courtroom scene where it's alleged that Downs used Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf to psyche herself up for the shootings and she starts grooving along to it in the dock.
Friday, 16 March 2018
First viewed : 30 July 1990
This timely post-Cold War thriller was a joint venture between Granada and a German TV company. I can't remember too much of the plot detail but it starred the always reliable Jeroen Krabbe as a deceitful people smuggler whose main victims played by Suzanna Hamilton and Joanne Pearce unite to take revenge against him.
Thursday, 15 March 2018
First viewed : 24 July 1990
This was a two part US mini series based on the true life case of Steven Stayner who was kidnapped by a paedophile at the age of seven and passed off with scary ease as his son in another town. His ordeal ended when he was fourteen and his abductor Parnell needed a younger boy, five-year old Timothy White and Stayner made a break with White to save him from the same fate. Stayner acted as a consultant to the series and took a cameo role as a policeman.
As usual, I only came in on the second part where Steven had been restored to his parents and struggled to adjust to normal family life . In particular he had problems at school where his class mates assumed the rapes had turned him queer and taunted him accordingly. Corin Nemec played Steven.
The sad postscipt to the story is that both boys died young. Before the series had even been broadcast in the UK, Stayner had been killed in a motorcycle accident aged just 24. White died of a pulmonary embolism in 2010 aged 35.
Wednesday, 14 March 2018
First viewed : 21 July 1990
Channel Four broadcast a live transmission of this extravagant concert from the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Ex- Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, a man never slow to recognise his own importance, was quick to make a connection between the fall of the Berlin Wall and his own magnum opus a decade earlier and resurrect the live show more or less on the site of the infamous dividing line. His ex-band mates were not invited to resume their roles with Waters putting together a new band and inviting a fairly impressive cast of guest stars to perform particular numbers including Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Van Morrison and Sinead O Connor.
I didn't watch the whole show. The difficulty with The Wall as an album is that it's musically threadbare. The other band members hardly contributed anything to the writing and yet Waters can barely string two chords together in his compositions and all the guest stars in the world couldn't turn his dreary dirges into great songs. Having guest vocalists sugared the pill to an extent in the first half of the show but for the latter part you had to endure his strained ranting on most of the songs. I'm sure his ex-bandmates noted the irony of him choosing to deliver the last few numbers while dressed as a military dictator.
It's only fair to note that the concert was a charitable event to benefit the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief founded by war hero turned philanthropist Leonard Cheshire. It didn't actually make that much money after Waters recouped his investment and the charity didn't long survive Cheshire's death two years later.
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
First viewed : 8 June 1990
This certainly wasn't the greatest of World Cups with the losing Finalists almost certainly the worst team ever to get to the last match but for all sorts of reasons it was a significant and memorable one. The Finals were hosted by Italy meaning all the games were broadcast at a reasonable time for UK viewing. I think in terms of how many games I saw this was probably my most watched tournament.
England had slugged their way through the qualifying group in unconvincing fashion and manager Bobby Robson was quitting after the tournament so expectations weren't high. On top of that, the English FA had lobbied the organisers to base England in Cagliari to keep troublesome supporters off the Italian mainland for as long as possible. And then, as per usual, there were injury doubts about captain Bryan Robson who had to pack it in during the second game. England's group was dubbed the "Group of Sleep" because five of the six games ended in draws. England and Ireland started the sequence with a 1-1 draw , a dire game now remembered for Gary Lineker's little "accident" on the pitch and it went on from there. England actually broke the deadlock with a 1-0 win over Egypt. Ireland and Holland were playing at the same time and after Niall Quinn's equaliser in the 71st minute, photographers captured a chat between the respective captains Mick McCarthy and Ruud Gullitt suggesting that the remainder of the game wasn't going to be too competitive as both teams would go through with England as results stood.
The surprise package of the tournament were The Cameroons who managed to beat holders Argentina with only nine men in the opening match. Their star player was the 38 year old Roger Milla who'd only joined the squad at the last minute at the request of the country's president. With Romania also putting in a strong showing, Argentina only scraped into the next round in third place.
I remember the Romania v Argentina game for the unusual family circumstances. I came home from work to find we had unexpected visitors, my uncle Ben ( who I hadn't seen for the best part of 20 years ) together with Aunt Nancy and my cousin Peter ( neither of whom I'd met before ) were staying in Manchester and had dropped in unexpectedly. Much to his parents' displeasure, Peter, who I think was around 18 or 19 at the time , wanted to get involved in the car trade and the only thing he found remotely interesting about me was the ex-army left hand drive Chevette I was driving at the time. I very unwisely said I'd bought it from my friend Chris's brother who dealt in ex-military vehicles. Peter of course wanted to meet him and even more foolishly I said he might be in the Red Lion. So I ended up taking him down there. The pub was nearly empty - it was a Monday evening - and there was no sign of Chris's brother but I had a devil of a job persuading Peter to call it quits and return to the house for the match. in which, it was obvious, he had no interest whatsoever. Sometimes, you're better off just keeping your mouth shut. I've never seen Peter since but apparently he's now a teacher living in Quebec, the car thing not having worked out.
Scotland made their customary early exit, their fate sealed by a first match loss to Costa Rica while the USA, the hosts for the next tournament, lost every match.
The Second Round was where things got tasty. The Argentinians achieved their best result by beating arch-rivals Brazil by 1-0. West Germany and Holland's game was characterised by their usual bonhomie with Rijkard and Voeller sent off for fighting after Rijkard had spat in Vioeller's perm. Cameroon got past Colombia with the winner gifted to them by Colombia's textbook crazy keeper Higuita
Yugoslavia, fielding a number of outstandingly talented individuals , got the better of Spain thanks to a wonder goal by erratic superstar Dragan Stojkovic. It didn't look promising when a hard cross looped off a Yugoslav head towards Stojkovic ten yards out from the far post with two men on him. Stojkovic took it down with a sublime touch which left Spain' s Martin-Vasquez lunging into thin air and stroked the ball home with all the time in the world. It was outrageously good.
I watched Ireland's match against Romania in a pub in Ashton. We had a sizeable contingent of Manchester Irish where I worked and I stayed behind to watch the game with them. It was OK for a 0-0 with Mick McCarthy somehow managing to avoid a booking for a string of poorly-timed tackles. I recall helping my friends re-arrange the furniture when David O' Leary's penalty went in. Ireland were then in the Quarter-Finals without having won a match.
I saw all of England's subsequent matches at my friend Carl's house. England, with the hype around their new young star Paul Gascoigne mushrooming, played a tense game with Belgium with the sides evenly-matched until the relatively unsung David Platt scored a dramatic winner in the last minute of extra time. Gary Lineker's gaping grin as the players piled on Platt became one of the defining images of the tournament.
In the Quarters, Argentina scraped past 10-man Yugoslavia on penalties with both Maradona and Stojkovic missing their kicks. Yugoslavia were by far the better side and it's sad to recount that shortly afterwards their team was rent asunder as the country fell apart so that the likes of Savicevic, Pancev and Prosinecki could never play in the same side again. Ireland's adventure ended as Italy squeezed past them with a single goal by their bug-eyed striker Schillaci. West Germany did what they needed to against an impressive Czech side.
England were lined up to be The Cameroons' next scalp and that looked well on the cards when the Africans went 2-1 up with 25 minutes to go. However the undisciplined defending that was their Achilles heel eventually undid them and two clinical penalties from Gary Lineker saw England safely through to the Semi-Finals.
The game against West Germany in the Semis was the most significant game for English football in the past 30 years. England matched the Germans stride for stride and after both sides hit the post in extra time it finished 1-1. Apart from the two goals, the most significant event was the booking of Gascoigne for a rash tackle which meant he would miss the Final were England to get through, prompting a flood of tears. The Germans got through after Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed their kicks in the penalty shoot-out making the yellow card academic but it was Gazza's tears that came to symbolize the heroic defeat.
England's run to the brink of the World Cup Final put an emphatic full stop to a dismal decade for the game. Financial mismanagement, endless broadcasting wrangles, hooliganism , the European ban and three stadium tragedies in five years had made English football more of a pariah sport than the national game in the eighties. Gazza's tears washed away all that and renewed the country's love of the game, re-establishing a grip on the nation's psyche that it's never looked like relinquishing since. The guy's now an unemployable alcoholic after an unfulfilled career but you can never take that away from him.
Argentina got through on penalties again, putting the hosts out after a 1-1 draw leaving the English fan with something of a dilemna over who to back in the Final. You had to go with the Germans though. Argentina had only won two games and were a mediocre side relying on Maradona, himself not the force he was four years earlier, and a decent striker in Canigga. They finally ran out of luck in a dismal Final settled by a penalty with the Argentinians finishing with only nine men. It was West Germany's final game before unification with the East Germans that October.
One other thing I recall which blighted ITV's coverage of the tournament was the constant running of an annoying ad featuring lisping ex-Blue Peter man Peter Purves walking into an empty stadium to advertise National Power. It came on at every commercial break and drove me to distraction.
Sunday, 11 March 2018
First viewed : 4 June 1990
This was a two part drama documentary about the events in Northern Ireland that culminated in the Stalker Inquiry which dominated the news in 1986. Six unarmed people, one of them without terrorist connections. had been killed by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary giving rise to a suspicion that a so-called "shoot to kill" policy had been adopted by the R.U.C. The government reluctantly conceded an inquiry led by the Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, John Stalker who was mysteriously suspended from duty before he concluded his report.
The four hour drama tried to stick as close to the truth as possible and Stalker felt it largely succeeded. Predictably, Sir John Hermon, the RUC Chief who obstructed him all the way denounced it as "totally without any credibility". Jack Shepherd played Stalker and David Calder ( who ironically looked much more like Stalker ) played his deputy John Thorburn. T T P McKenna played Hermon.
I only caught the second part which put me at a disadvantage since it was a complex investigation. The programme has not been repeated.