Saturday, 31 October 2015
First watched : September 1976
Fawlty Towers came to BBC1 in September 1976 after a successful run on BBC2 the year before. It is of course a TV legend , one of the greatest sitcoms ever and the most successful venture in which any of the ex-Pythons have been involved and I don't think I've anything new to say about it.
I didn't really get into it until the repeats in 1980, a year after the second series was broadcast. My particular favourite is the episode where they have to get a dead body out of the hotel with Basil the rat a close second. Coincidentally both feature Geoffrey Palmer as the doctor.
The show famously lasted for only 12 episodes and is often quoted as the textbook example of going out when you're on top. It withstands repeated viewing; even when you can quote large parts of the dialogue there's still something there that you haven't quite picked up on before, so rich and condensed are the scripts.
Friday, 30 October 2015
First watched : 1975
A little research has proved I'm a bit late in including this one as the scene I remember most was actually broadcast in 1975. It was during the second of four serial inserts starring the comic detective duo Piggy Malone ( Ronnie Barker ) and Charley Farley ( Ronnie Corbett ) , Death Can Be Fatal where Charley is being smuggled through an airport in a large packing case to save on air fare. He's rigged up a series of pipes to the air holes so that he can be given drinks but got it wrong so that the drink is coming out of the side through another hole. When Piggy is trying to feed him some orange juice , it looks to an elderly customer who Piggy has already alarmed that he's having a piss on the concourse. I thought that was the funniest thing I'd ever seen on TV and was chuckling about it for hours afterwards.
The duo got their own show in 1971 after doing time on The Frost Report where according to Corbett they were drawn together as grammar school boys without the Oxbridge education of their colleagues. The show played to their strengths with many sketches highlighting Barker's genius for clever wordplay and musical parody. There was also a healthy dose of seaside postcard smut; even though much of it still went over my head, the tuts of mum or gran gave it a delicious frisson of naughtiness.
Other favourite bits included the rude waiter sketch ( "You're nuts my lord "), the phantom raspberry blower and the apparently innocuous song about a naturalist which repeated the wrong bits ( "the bum - the bum - the bum - the bum - the bumblebee at bay ). Of the musical parodies the Adam and the Ants one is notable for how uncannily Barker, as portly guitarist Marco Pirroni , resembles Pirroni as he is today.
Like many people I regarded Ronnie Corbett's solo spot in the chair as an endurance test or a chance to go for a pee but eventually I made the connection with the way my dad rambled off the point when he had an audience and it became much funnier when I imagined Corbett was taking the piss out of him.
In 1980 Not The Nine O Clock News did a savage and unusually long parody sketch "The Two Ninnies" apparently in response to a disparaging remark Barker had made. It implied that Barker who wrote 75 % of the show was using that to make himself look good at Corbett's expense ( there was a general perception that they were unequally talented ) and went to town on their love of innuendo with an outrageous but not too far off the mark song parody. Corbett was less offended than Barker but shared his anger that it had been broadcast by the BBC.
Nevertheless it didn't sink the show which carried on for another seven years. I remember their parody of Kid Creole and the Coconuts based on There's Something Wrong in Paradise which must have been late 1983 at the earliest but I didn't stay with the show to the finish. In the end it did seem to have outstayed its welcome. Ronnie Barker announced his retirement in 1987 on Wogan and that brought the series to an end. For all the talk of him being something of a passenger Ronnie Corbett always had other irons in the fire and continues working to this day.
Barker opened an antiques shop but admitted it was to keep himself busy rather than make money. After 10 years he made a limited return to the public eye contributing to a couple of tribute nights then taking a couple of straight acting roles. In 2005 he reunited with Corbett to do a series The Two Ronnies Sketchbook where they did new links between some classic sketches but his health was deteriorating and the Christmas edition had to be filmed in July. He died that October aged 76.
Thursday, 29 October 2015
First watched : 1976
This was more of a favourite of my mum and sister which I occasionally caught without becoming particularly engaged with it.
Based on a real-life personality The Duchess of Duke Street was the creation of Upstairs Downstairs producer John Hawkesworth and covered roughly the same period of history as the ITV series. Gemma Jones played the titular character Louisa Trotter, a woman who rose from being a humble maid to the proprietor of a grand hotel through being a mistress first to Edward Prince of Wales then a handsome aristocrat played by Christopher Cazenove. For most of the series Jones was playing a character older than herself and speaking in a rough Cockney accent which I found quite offputting.
Two series were made totalling 31 episodes. Although it was a career-making role for the largely unknown Jones she didn't take full advantage of it, disappearing from public life for a decade and a half to raise her son. When she returned to acting in the mid-nineties she was welcomed back with open arms and has been much in demand as a character address since, winning a BAFTA for her role in the series Marvellous last year.
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
First watched : 1976
The Bionic Woman was a successful spin-off from The Six Million Dollar Man. The character of Jaime Sommers was first introduced as the tennis-playing girlfriend of Steve Austin who needs reconstruction after a parachuting accident. She had the same abilities as Steve save for a bionic ear instead of a bionic eye. She was actually killed off but the character was so popular it was decided to bring her back in her own series with the catch that her memory was damaged so she couldn't rekindle the affair with Steve.
Despite this the pair continued to work together and for a couple of years the two series were intertwined. Then the network decided to drop TBW and another one picked it up which meant Jaime and Steve had to stay apart although some of the supporting players continued to appear in both series.
Lindsay Wagner, a moderately successful film actress played Jaime. What was most surprising about her was that , despite being very pretty, she didn't have bionic boobs and it was unusual to see a flat-chested actress playing a glamorous role in the era of so-called "jiggle TV". During the series some episodes featured Jaime's modified Alsatian but thankfully plans for a third series, The Bionic Dog, fell through.
The series ended in 1978 although three TV movies kept the story going until 1994. Wagner has continued to act mainly on TV and has given some lectures on self-help and meditation. She was not involved in the 2007 revival which was halted by a strike.
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
First watched : 1976
The Muppet Show was the TV phenomenon of the mid-seventies. Jim Henson's creations took puppetry light years beyond Hartley Hare and Lambchop and any show featuring puppet sidekicks today owes something to The Muppets. Henson's work first featured in Sesame Street and was by far the best thing about the programme but he began to feel stifled by the format and wanted to do something with broader appeal. Two American networks demurred at his Muppets pilots but Lew Grade offered him the opportunity to make it in England and then syndicate the show worldwide.
The Muppet Show was a show-within-a-show set in an old vaudeville theatre where the backstage chatter and the views of two aged critics in their box were as important as the performance itself . I read somewhere that The Muppets' greatest appeal was their incompetence. You had Kermit, the host who was a bag of nerves, Miss Piggy, the unattractive sex symbol, Fozzy the unfunny comedian and The Great Gonzo who had no talent whatsoever . I think there's something in that. It was also a great family show that piled slapstick , music and satire on top of each other at great pace so it never got boring.
The show was an instant success and went round the world winning many awards and creating a marketing bonanza. A string of Muppet films began in 1979 . Big names clamoured to be the human guest star on the show. In 1981 Richard Pryor had to drop out of his slot at the last minute so scriptwriter Chris Langham who had some performing experience from his stint on Not The Nine O Clock News had to fill the gap.
My favourite Muppet was Kermit's little nephew Robin whose mawkish Halfway Down The Stairs was a Top 10 hit in June 1977 while my sister liked Rowlf, the dog pianist.
The British show ended in 1981 because Henson had better offers in the US and all future Muppet programmes have been made there. Henson's untimely death in 1990 didn't stop the juggernaut and a new series was launched this year.
Monday, 26 October 2015
First watched : 6 September 1976
ITV was generally an arid desert as far as good sitcoms went - forget the racist angle, Love Thy Neighbour was complete shite anyway - but George and Mildred was better than most including the one from which it was a spin-off.
George and Mildred took the middle-aged couple the Ropers letting the flat in Man About The House and replanted them in a nice neighbourhood ( through the unlikely device of a CPO on the old property ) next door to the impeccably middle class Fourmiles with annoying little boy Tristram.
Mildred ( Yootha Joyce ) wants to move up in the world to compensate for her sexual frustration with George ( Brian Murphy ) who by contrast doesn't want to lose contact with his old mates down the boozer. Jeffrey Fourmile ( the giant Norman Eshley ) is appalled tby having them as neighbours though his wife Ann ( Sheila Fearn ) is more easy going and Tristram ( Nicholas Bond-Owen ) is adept at , apparently innocently, giving voice to the sentiments the adults are trying to disguise. Roy Kinnear as George's dishonest mate Jerry headed a strong supporting cast.
George and Mildred was never very subtle in its exploration of class conflict but it was pretty funny and very popular . Although Ann was a sympathetic character who often defused situations with common sense you never quite decided who you wanted to side with among the other three with their conflicting agendas. As for Tristram it was a fertile subject of playground discussion as to what grisly fate would suit him best
It was only brought to an end by the unexpected death of Yootha Joyce in 1980 from chronic alcoholism, unexpected because none of her colleagues were aware of the problem. I suspect I wasn't watching by then as I have no recollection of seeing Tristram getting older.
Apart from Kinnear, George and Mildred was a high point for all the cast. Murphy, now in his eighties , has worked steadily since including inevitably a stint in Last of the Summer Wine . Eshley was an extremely busy actor in the seventies usually in serious roles but then it all seemed to go a bit quiet for him in the eighties. In 1993 he was involved in a serious road crash sustaining head injuries which left him unable to work in theatre though he still pops up on telly in small roles. Fearn quit acting after the childrens sitcom News at Twelve in 1988 and disappeared into private life. And finally what of little Tristram. Nicholas Bond-Owen whose acting was just about passable continued in acting to the end of his teens then worked for Penguin Books as a distributor. He now works in the same capacity for City A.M.
Sunday, 25 October 2015
First watched : Uncertain
Another in the "only watched when off sick" category , Pipkins emerged round about the same time as Hickory House in the same time slot and I've always had difficulty disentangling the two in my recollection. Pipkins had no connection to Tony Burrows and Roger Greenaway's novelty musical act of the same name.
Pipkins started out in 1973 as Inigo Pipkin with actor George Woodbridge playing an elderly puppet maker assisted by some of his creations Hartley Hare, Topov the monkey , the imaginatively named Pig and Octavia the ostrich. Woodbridge died halfway through filming the second series so the title had to be changed and Jackie Lee's distinctive theme tune dropped. In a first for children's TV it was explained in the programme itself that Mr Pipkins had died with assistant Johnny ( Ben Laryea ) taking over the shop.
The show was pretty low budget with all the puppets looking pretty ragged. Hartley, the main character with the annoyingly camp voice , looked particularly rough and actually rather scary. Perhaps he was the inspiration for the rabbit in Donnie Darko.
The programme ran until 1981 when ATV had to restructure itself into Central.
Saturday, 24 October 2015
First watched : 1976
I hardly want to admit to ever watching this dreck but I do recall checking it out to see a Celebrity Squares regular, the oafish Arthur Mullard, in action.
Yus My Dear was a spin-off from another sitcom Romany Jones of which I've no recollection at all. Both series were written by the On The Buses team of Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe. Both of those guys were disguising patrician real names ( Rene Cadier and Harvey Wolf-Lubroff respectively ) and to judge from Yus My Dear both nursed a pathological hatred of the white working class.
All the supposed humour in the series is derived from mocking the perceived values and behaviour of the proles. Mullard's character Wally Briggs is a gross caricature, a fat, badly-dressed ignoramus whose job is sitting reading The Sun on a building site and whose only exercise is taking his whippets ( please ! ) for a walk. His wife Lil played by Queenie Watts is a vulgarian with dyed hair, rushing out to buy the latest consumer crap while brother Benny ( Mike Reid in a bad wig ) is a spiv and freeloader.
The only good thing to say about this unfunny offensive shite is that it only lasted a year. Mullard 's career was by then almost over. Nearing 70 at the time he largely dropped out of public view after a shortlived series Whizzkid's Guide in the early eighties and died in 1995 whereupon his daughter thoroughly trashed his reputation with allegations of domestic and sexual abuse, possibly influenced by the fact he left most of his money to the National Children's Home rather than his own kids. Watts, a well-known pub landlady as well as actress , had died much earlier in 1980.
Thursday, 22 October 2015
First watched : September 1976
I'd often heard about the show but this new series in 1976 was my first opportunity to watch the original TV prank show. Well, actually this wasn't the original as the first American series was broadcast in 1948 and even that was derived from a radio show The Candid Microphone. The first British version didn't air until 1960 and ran for seven years presented by David Nixon with radio actor Jonathan Routh and Arthur Arkins pulling the pranks. It was eventually yanked after a long running rights dispute with the original American series host Allen Funt. There was a brief revival in 1974 in which Routh was not involved but he was tempted back in 1976 by having his name out front.
The aim of course was to produce comedy by embarrassing members of the general public with practical jokes and getting them involved in fake scenarios. The set-ups were generally fairly benign compared to successors like Game For A Laugh and Balls of Steel but it was still pretty funny for its time. I remember taking part in a few crocodiles behind unsuspecting shoppers in Littleborough while the show was on air.
What was most surprising about the show was how ill-fitted Routh was for subterfuge. A tall, heavy-set man with eyebrows that looked like exotic caterpillars he was pretty distinctive and for every successful prank filmed there must have been hundreds that failed because he was recognised straight away.
That's perhaps why it only ran for one series. Routh turned to writing eccentric guide books and painting at his beach home in Jamaica which had no electricity. He died in 2008 aged 80.
Saturday, 17 October 2015
First watched : July 1976
I only remember this for the 14-year old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci and her unprecedented , scoreboard-foxing, perfect 10 score. I wasn't very interested in the sport but my sister was a passionate devotee despite being physically almost as uncoordinated as me and Nadia's skill and grace only increased her fascination. We'll talk more about Nadia when we get to 1980.
Friday, 16 October 2015
First watched : 12 July 1976
I can't find any stills for this although it seems to be fondly remembered on anglers' chat rooms as one of the first attempts to bring their "sport" to the telly.
The Fishing Race was the brainchild of Daily Mail sports columnist Ian Wooldridge, a competition between three pairs of "big name " ( in their own field at least ) anglers to see who could land the most different types of British freshwater fish in a given time period. The prize was a special trophy The Golden Maggot. To spice the programme up - angling not exactly being a spectator sport - the contestants were encouraged to bend the rules so one guy produced a piranha borrowed from the local zoo.
I was watching it because, as explained in previous posts, I had been driven into the company of a friend and neighbour who was a keen angler and as we lived a stone's throw from the Rochdale Canal was often to be found dipping his rod there. I had to follow suit, drew some money out of my Yorkshire Bank Savings Account and got a cheap-ish rod from my mum's catalogue. Though I was interested in fish from a nature lover's perspective , I didn't have any skill or patience and was a bit squeamish about handling the maggots , wearing my mum's gardening gloves to general derision. I caught , at the most, three baby perch on separate occasions , and as a hobby it didn't survive that glorious summer. I can't remember who I ended up selling the rod to either.
Since I've been walking as a hobby I've come to despise anglers as surly misanthropes who expect you to hurdle those ridiculous long poles that they stretch across the towpath of the canals where they fish. Given that most of the fish in our waters are pretty much inedible ( I realise that game fishers might be a different breed ) , it seems the main point of the pastime is getting away from the missus on a Sunday , staring at a stretch of water for hours on end being preferable to putting up a shelf or driving to the mother-in-law's. The one clear memory I have of The Fishing Race is one stubborn git , against all advice, staying in one spot trying to land a salmon and thereby scuppering his team's chances in the competition, which would tend to support my negative outlook.
Thursday, 15 October 2015
First watched : Summer 1976
One from the countdown period to the end of my primary school days, The Great Saturday Morning Picture Show was a wraparound title for presenting two US classics from the 1930s, Flash Gordon and Hopalong Cassidy . Two instalments of Flash, the first ever science fiction serial, bookended one of the 66, roughly hour-long, films starring William Boyd as Cassidy and neatly filled out the mid-morning slot on a Saturday before Grandstand. Of Hopalong Cassidy I have no memory at all ; I suspect I might have popped down to the shops to spend my pocket money while that was on.
I did enjoy Flash Gordon though. I was vaguely aware that it was both campy and creaky in terms of its production values but I enjoyed the big cast of larger-than-life characters , my favourite being the giant King Vultan ( Jack Lipson ) , the love triangle between Flash, Dale and Aura and the frequency with which the hero was placed in mortal peril. I passed on the 1980 film version though and still haven't seen it ; some memories are best left alone.
Thursday, 8 October 2015
First watched : 1976
My first encounter with the comedy legends came via Thursday evening repeats on BBC 1 of the truncated , little-loved , Cleese-less final series from 1974, for which the "Flying Circus" part of the title had been dropped. There's an exhaustive literature on the show so it seems superfluous to repeat the historical detail about the six guys who made up the team.
I enjoyed the show and the fact that my mother found it silly and incomprehensible ( and parts of it were to me too ) increased my loyalty to the show. The only sketch I clearly remember is the Queen Victoria Handicap ( pictured above ). Once that run was over of course we had to make do with the films ( I first saw Holy Grail in 1979, Now For Something Completely Different in 1983 and The Meaning of Life in 1984; my Catholicism has prevented me from watching Life of Brian in full ).
The principals all went on to other things and we'll be meeting most of them again. Of the survivors , following Graham Chapman's death from cancer in 1989, it's always seemed to me that despite The Rutles and a no doubt lucrative career in ( usually dire ) Hollywood comedies, Eric Idle is the one who's never really escaped the show. Of course John Cleese is also still primarily a comic actor but it's not Python that comes first to mind when his name comes up. Idle has no Basil Fawlty on his c.v. nor is he a historian, travel presenter or film director and it was noticeable that when Always Look On The Bright Side of Life was a fluke hit in 1990 , Idle was the only Python who came into the Top of the Pops studio to perform it.
The surviving Pythons reunited on stage last year for 10 shows largely down to losing a legal case brought by the producer of the Holy Grail film. Cleese also had a hefty divorce settlement to pay. The reviews were mixed but it did pull in the punters. I suspect it will be the final Python project but you never know.
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
First watched : 1976
This had been going a while but I think I first caught it when it started following Top of the Pops on a Thursday in May 1976. Porridge was Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais's next project after Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and , of necessity, another very male-centric sitcom.
Ronnie Barker ( often wrongly assumed to have had a hand in writing it ) played Norman Stanley Fletcher, an habitual criminal banged up with naive first timer Godber ( Richard Beckinsale ) and supervised by pompous martinet Mr McKay ( Fulton McKay ) and his neurotic, easily-swayed deputy Mr Barraclough ( Brian Wilde ) . They were supported by a rich cast of inmates, none of whom appeared in every episode, most notably gay knitter Lukewarm ( Christopher Biggins ) and fearsome tobacco baron ( Peter Vaughan, one of my favourite actors ) .
The series is very fondly remembered and I know I enjoyed it at the time but I now find details of individual storylines hard to recall. Three series were made in total with the last episode broadcast in 1977. The series ended because Barker didn't want to become too identified with the one character though he then agreed to reprise the character in a spin-off series Going Straight the following year.
Monday, 5 October 2015
First watched : 14 May 1976
I only caught the last bit of this, probably coming in from playing out. It was an 80 minute special where the already-veteran Max mooched and joked his way through the past 75 years of popular entertainment in his usual style. It grabbed me because he was impersonating Gary Glitter when I came in although I was assured the rest of the programme wouldn't have been of much interest to me. It must have been popular because it was subsequently expanded to a six-part series later in the year.
Thursday, 1 October 2015
First watched : 1 May 1976
Here is a genuine milestone, the first televised football match I watched from beginning to end.
My interest in professional football was slow to develop. I first became aware of the sport when my mum ( an avid Man Utd fan although I'm not sure she ever went to a game ) bought me a sticker album for what must have been the 1971-72 season. I formed some likes and dislikes, largely based on the strips I think, which have never really left me . I also liked certain players whose stickers I got including Norman Hunter, Asa Hartford and Len Cantello. I do still tend to think of those 22 clubs as being the ones that really belong in the top flight, even including Huddersfield Town who were relegated at the end of that season and have never got back to the highest level.
At school nearly everyone was a Leeds United fan and the first Cup Final I remember being talked about was the 1973 one when Sunderland beat Leeds. I didn't watch the game but I remember the shock on everyone's faces at the result. I also remember hearing about the 1974 Final when Liverpool crushed Newcastle ( including the bragging fool Malcolm McDonald ) as a number of kids seemed to be switching their allegiance to the Scousers despite Leeds winning the title in some style that season. I think I might actually have watched some of the build up to the 1975 Final ( West Ham v Fulham ) and got bored before the match began. It's a shame I missed that game as it was an ex-Rochdale player, Alan Taylor, who stole the show with both goals.
This being my first full match on TV ( I saw snatches of the 1974 World Cup ) was a direct result of the demise of my Adventurous Club ( see the post on Here Come The Double Deckers for more details ) in April 1976 . As I mentioned there the other kids started a new club from which I was specifically excluded. There was no alternative but to walk a short way down the road and play with a lad called Mark instead. Mum was never happy at me associating with him because he'd unintentionally caused me a serious injury a few years before but I'd never held it against him.
The important thing now was that he and John , my chief nemesis ( and next door neighbour ) absolutely detested each other. Though it rarely erupted into open hostilities their's was a classic alpha male rivalry and they tended to avoid each other most of the time. Mark was not involved in the Adventurous Club; indeed its main adventure was an ( unsuccessful ) mission to retrieve a football he had allegedly stolen from John's school. I correctly judged that John would see having Mark in his new club as too high a price to pay to complete my ostracism.
Though a looser cannon, Mark was usually a more easy-going and friendly lad than John if you showed him due deference and those few weeks spent mainly in his company were a pleasant change. His main interests were fishing and football. Though his dad was ( hopefully still is but I haven't seen him recently ) a Dale stalwart Mark was a big Man U fan. In the week before their encounter with Southampton he pored endlessly over his pre-match programme telling me who the danger men were and who was most likely to score the winner.
Because of this I can still tell you the United team without recourse to wikipedia : Alex Stepney, Alex Forsyth, Stewart Houston, Martin Buchan, Brian Greenhoff, Gerry Daly, Sammy McIlroy, Steve Coppell, Stuart Pearson, Lou Macari, Gordon Hill. Sub : David McCreery. This was pretty much the team that had won the Second Division title twelve months earlier. They had finished the season in third place behind Liverpool and surprise package QPR whose manager they would lure away in little over a year's time. Coppell was my gran's favourite player , his balancing of a playing career and studying at university appealing to her ideals of prudence and hard work.
Their opponents were Second Division Southampton of whose number I could now name around seven. Though no fan of United I wanted them to win because the Saints had spoiled the party by defeating Crystal Palace then of the Third Division who had made the semi-final after a thrilling giant-killing run.
It wasn't to be. United were lacklustre throughout and seven minutes from time their former player Jim McCalliog played a perfect pass for the little known Bobby Stokes to run on to , take the ball past Stepney and score. Many years later I would get to know McCalliog slightly as he was living a few doors away while managing ( not with any great success ) Halifax Town and he seemed like a nice bloke. The result was a sensation and made their manager Lawrie McMenemy, who'd never actually played League football , a household name. Stokes unfortunately fell victim to what seemed a bit of a curse on Cup Final scorers during the seventies as he , Taylor , Ian Porterfield ( the Sunderland scorer ) and Allan Clarke ( the Leeds scorer in 1972 ) all suffered serious injuries not long afterwards which blighted their subsequent careers. He died twenty years ago of bronchial pneumonia aged 44.
Mark was mortified but he got over it as you do and enjoyed their triumph over Liverpool the following year.I didn't see that one , preferring to go for a walk with my dad, who was completely uninterested in football, instead.
By the time of the next one I was fully engaged with football , buying Shoot and watching all the televised matches. Like everyone else I expected Arsenal, in the top five, to beat Ipswich, not too far clear of the relegation zone and with some of their best players only half-fit , comfortably. Though I didn't like Arsenal much I hated Ipswich for knocking one of my favourite teams, West Brom, out in the semis. Arsenal though didn't turn up and Ipswich beat them much more comfortably than the 1-0 scoreline suggests. It was Alan Hudson's last game for Arsenal and effectively the end of his career as a top class player.
Arsenal returned to Wembley the following year and beat United 3-2 after one of the most remarkable finales. Arsenal were cruising to a 2-0 victory when their manager Terry Neill succumbed to sentimentality and decided to give young substitute Steve Walford, a defender, a run-out. Quick as a flash United exploited the defensive confusion caused and were level. Then , just as suddenly, Liam Brady , by a long distance the man of the match, set up a last minute winner for Alan Sunderland to give Arsenal the victory.
Arsenal came back for the third year in a row in 1980 to play West Ham, still marooned in the Second Division despite the presence of top talent like Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire. The former of those two scored the winner early on with a rare header but the most significant incident occurred late in the game . Due to injury West Ham fielded 17 year old Paul Allen in midfield, the youngest ever player in the Final at the time. He was at the forefront of a West Ham breakaway and bearing down on goal to crown a fairy tale story. Then Willie Young, Arsenal's graceless ginger stopper , chopped him down , taking the booking for the team. The outrage at his cynicism led to the introduction of mandatory red cards for such " professional" fouls, a rule change which remains in the game today.
1981 saw a team I had some emotional investment in , Manchester City, make the Final against Tottenham Hotspur. City were still recovering from the crazed second coming of Malcolm Allison two years earlier and their appearance in the Final was something of a surprise having knocked out title contenders and press darlings Ipswich along the way. City acquitted themselves well in the Final and were unlucky to be held to a draw by means of an unfortunate deflection from Tommy Hutchison who'd scored City's goal earlier. In the replay they were edged 3-2 with the winner a memorable solo goal from the less celebrated of their Argentinian pair, Ricky Villa. Our maths teacher was a big Spurs fan and was so overcome with the victory we spent the entire next lesson talking about it despite the imminence of our O Level exams.
Tottenham had to do without the Argentinians the following year as we were fighting them in the South Atlantic at the time which gave Second Division QPR under Terry Venables more of a chance . This one also went to a replay with a Glenn Hoddle penalty finally settling the tie. It hasn't left much impression on me.
1983's Final was the third in a row to go to a replay with Ron Atkinson's Manchester United facing Jimmy Melia's Brighton who'd managed to combine Cup heroics including knocking out Liverpool and relegation from the top flight. The previous Saturday Brighton's giant centre half Steve Foster had been booked which took him over the suspension line and despite a High court challenge to the FA he was unable to play in the Final. His replacement utility man Steve Gatting played heroically and Brighton would have won the game had former Rangers striker Gordon Smith not fluffed a golden chance in the last minute. With Foster restored to the side Brighton went down 4-0 in the replay with the United fans gleefully taunting Foster with "What a difference you have made !"
I watched the 1984 Final at my hall of residence at Leeds when Everton on the up beat Watford in decline 2-0, Graham Taylor paying the penalty for sticking too long with dodgy keeper Steve Sherwood. BBC 's coverage was notable for giving too many free plugs to Watford chairman Elton John's latest single.
I watched the 1985 Final between Manchester United and Everton at home and I remember warning my mum that referee Peter Willis, who always caused controversy whenever he reffed a Dale game , would do something to get himself noticed. He duly delivered by sending off United's Kevin Moran for a not especially bad tackle so I suppose justice was done when United won the game with a great goal by Norman Whiteside .
I don't remember much about the all-Merseyside final in 1986 apart from getting annoyed by all the cloying comment about the rival fans sitting together as if the Red half hadn't just got English clubs banned from European competition for the rest of the decade. Liverpool won 3-1 as part of a Double.
The following year's was my favourite Final as Coventry , a team I'd long been willing to actually win something , beat Tottenham 3-2 after putting out Manchester United in the earlier rounds. They won with an own goal from Gary Mabutt but it's journeyman striker Keith Houchen's second equaliser , a classic diving header that's remembered.
The 1988 Final was also won by the underdogs as Wimbledon spoiled Liverpool's party by taking home the trophy with a headed goal from Lawrie Sanchez and a penalty save by giant keeper Dave Beasant. Those two moments apart the game was pretty dismal.
A year later there was a dismal atmosphere to the game for a different reason given the deaths at Hillsborough in one of the semi's. It was Liverpool and Everton again with the Reds winning 3-2 after extra time.
In 1990 it was Manchester United against Crystal Palace who'd beaten Liverpool 4-3 in the semis. This was one of the rare occasions I wanted United to win a game, having a strong dislike of Steve Coppell's Palace since witnessing their gamesmanship in a match at Maine Road three years earlier. Palace had also put Dale out in the fifth round and if we could have got past them our quarter-final opponents would have been fellow Fourth Division side Cambridge. The match was a 3-3 thriller with fingers pointed at United's Scottish goalkeeper Jim Leighton despite none of the Palace goals being due to an obvious howler. Then came the decision that turned things round for the beleagured United manager Alec Ferguson when he dropped Leighton ( who he'd brought in from his previous club Aberdeen ) for the replay, replacing him with former Coventry and Luton man Les Sealey. Sealey duly kept a clean sheet and United won 1-0 with a goal from soon to be displaced left back Lee Martin.
1991 was a disappointing result for me . Like most neutrals I had great respect for Brian Clough and his Nottingham Forest team. After Forest's 1980 European Cup win he'd lost his way a bit , over-spent on indifferent players and mislaid right hand man Peter Taylor but gradually he'd rebuilt the side and by the late eighties they were clearly the second best side in the country playing a scintillating brand of football. They weren't able to seriously challenge Liverpool for the title but were a formidable cup side with two recent League Cups and a victory in the short lived Full Members Cup. Now they had the chance to give Brian Clough the one honour that had always eluded him.
It didn't turn out that way. Forest could rightly feel aggrieved that bubble-permed referee Roger Milford, anxious to maintain his smiley image, didn't send off Paul Gascoigne for his two berserk fouls ( either one of which would get him a straight red today ) early on which would have given them a considerable advantage. Nevertheless they didn't play that well and eventually succumbed to a Des Walker own goal after extra time. During the break after full time Clough excited comment by talking to a policeman rather than going on the pitch and giving a team talk. It signalled the beginning of the end ; two years later he was forced by a combination of drink, scandal and relegation to relinquish his post at Forest and he never managed anyone again.
The 1992 Final was routine with Liverpool easily disposing of Second Division Sunderland 2-0 in a match I only remember for Jimmy Hill's bizarre argument that a blatant penalty Sunderland's Paul Bracewell got away with didn't count because of the angle of his tackle.
1993 saw Arsenal beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 with a goal from their first reserve centre half Andy Linighan and then a year later United beat Chelsea 4-0. The outcomes were getting very predictable. 1995 sprung a bit of a surprise when the "dogs of war" approach Joe Royle adopted at Everton to stave off relegation was enough to beat United , deprived of the services of Eric Cantona after his moment of lunacy earlier in the year. I think I saw Cantona crown his comeback with the winning goal against Liverpool the following year but my interest in top flight football was waning. With each year of the Premier League it was clearer that money ruled football more than ever before and the number of potential prizewinners was shrinking to a handful of clubs populated by dislikeable foreign mercenaries.
I don't think I saw the 1997 Final between Chelsea and Middlesbrough; I just had too much else going on in my life at the time, breaking a twenty-year viewing stretch. And I'm not sure I've ever sat down and watched a full Final since I got married late that year. I may have been tempted by the City-Stoke final in 2011 had I been in but I was out on a walk that day.