Wednesday, 30 November 2016

548 Private Schulz


First  viewed : Uncertain

I  think  I  may  have  seen  one  or  two  episodes  of  this  first  time  round  when  it  was  shown  on  BBC 2  in  May  1981  but it's  certain  my  sister  and  I watched  it  all  the  way  through  when  it was  repeated  on  BBC  1  in  July  1982.

Private  Schulz  was  the  last  work  of  acclaimed  screenwriter  Jack  Pulman  who  made  his name with  I  Claudius.  He  died  in  1979  before  it  went  into  production. In  the  comic  drama, Schulz ( Michael  Elphick )  is  an  unsuccessful  fraudster  who  is  released  from  prison  in  Berlin  in 1939 to  aid  the  war  effort  and  finds  himself  working  for  the  Gestapo  under  the  fanatical  but incompetent  Major  Neuheim  ( Ian  Richardson ) . At  his  own  suggestion  he  is  put  in  charge  of a  plan  to  ruin  Britain's  economy  by  means  of  forged  bank  notes. Schulz  has  no  ideological attachment  to  the  Nazis  who  he  thinks  are  nuts  nor  any  real  patriotism. He  just  wants  to enrich  himself  and  get  off  with  mercenary  prostitute  Bertha  ( Billie  Whitelaw ).  However  he does  look  out  for  Jewish  friend  Solly  ( Cyril  Shaps )  who  is  a  skilled  forger   and  can  be seen  as  something  of  a  Schindler  figure.  Two  of  the  episodes  are  set  in  Britain  where Schultz  encounters in  the  first  a  double  agent  and  in  the  second  a  gangster  both  also  played by  Richardson.

The   series  divided  critics.  Some,  like  Clive  James,  believed  that  it  was  just  too  early  to make  members  of  the  SS  figures  of  fun. Those  who  got  past  that  hump  enjoyed  the  coal -black  humour  and  farcical  elements  immensely , hence  its  repeat.  

It  made  a  star  out  of  Elphick,  hitherto  a  thuggish  character  actor. Richardson  of  course  would  make  his  name, some  years  on  , playing  a  more  famous  TV  villain   but  I'd  say  he  was  even  better  here  as  Neuheim, a  man  without  any  redeeming  features  but  yet  absurd  enough  to  be  amusing.

Monday, 28 November 2016

547 Chicago Story




First  viewed : Summer  1982

This  one-season  US  drama  has  been  forgotten  but  I  thought  it  was  quite  good . Influenced  by  Hill  Street  Blues,   the  idea   was  to  look  at  an  event  from  three  different  perspectives   so  that  you  had  a  medical  drama, a  legal  series  and  a  cop  show  all  in  one. To  do  this  idea  justice,  the  producers  decided  they  had  to  break  out  of  the  50  minute  straitjacket  and  presented  the  networks  with  90  minute  episodes. They  gave  it  a  shot  but  couldn't  make  it  work  and  edited  down  the  remaining  episodes  to  fit  the  normal  schedules.

That  was  the  series's  undoing  and  only  fourteen  episodes  were  made  but  it was  a  pity. Bond  girl  Maud  Adams  played  the  main  medical  character  while  the  lawyers  were  a  love  triangle  with  Vincent  Baggetta  ( risen  again  from  Eddie  Capra  )  as  defence  man  Lou  Pellegrino  and  Craig  T  Nelson  as  prosecutor  Ken  Dutton,   vying  for  the  lovely  Megan  ( Molly  Cheek ). Dennis  Franz  was  the  most  memorable  of  the  cops.

The  two  episodes  I  recall   best   are  the  one  where  Maud  had  to  cope  with  an  outbreak  of   bubonic  plague  and  a  thoughtful  one  where  Lou  has  a  professional  crisis  after   a  killer  he  got   off  strikes  again  and  fails  to  defend  a  rape  suspect  properly. Ken  recognises  the  man  isn't  guilty  and  generously  finds  Lou  a  missing  witness. Whether  that  would  ever  happen  in  real  life  is  highly  debatable  but  it  certainly  created  a  tremendous  warmth  towards  both  characters.

While  Nelson  became  a  prominent  character  actor,  poor  Vince  didn't  get  another  crack  at  stardom  and,  apart  from  a  short  run   as  a  minor  character  in  The  Colbys ,  he  was  reduced  to  guest  roles. Even  those  had  dried  up  by  the  mid-90s.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

546 Something In Disguise


First  viewed  :  30  June  1982

I  can't  write  too  much  about  this  six  part  adaptaton  of  Elizabeth  Jane  Howard's  1969  novel  as  I  only  dipped  into  it  while  my  mum  and  sister  were  following  it  closely. It  was  very  much  in  the  Bouquet  of  Barbed  Wire  mould  about  the  shenanigans  going  on  in  a  middle  class  family.

What  attention  I  gave  it  was  largely  down  to  the  amount  of  skin  displayed  by  Liz  Garvie  as  she  embarked   on  a  relationship  with  an  insufferably  smug  middle-aged  writer  played  by  the  not-exactly-trim  Anton  Rodgers.  Having  said  that , the  couple  married  in  real  life  the  following  year  so  who  am  I  to  say  what  women  find  attractive ?

Saturday, 26 November 2016

545 World Cup 1982


First  viewed : 14  June  1982

The  World  Cup  Finals  came  round  again  in  the  summer  of  1982. This  time  it  was  in  Spain  so  the  matches  were  shown  at  a  decent  hour  for  UK  viewing. Therefore  I  saw  a  much  greater  proportion  of  them  compared  to  1978. The  number  of  teams  taking  part  had  been  expanded  from  16  to  24  so  it  was  a  bigger  tournament  all  round. For  us  in  Blighty,  it  started  a  day  late  as  neither  channel  deemed  it  politic  to  screen  the  opening  match,  where  the  Argies  as  holders  were  beaten  1-0  by  Belgium,  while  the  Falklands  conflict  was  still  in  progress. Luckily, none  of  the  home  nations  got  to  play

Ron  Greenwood's  England  had  managed  to  qualify  for  the  Finals  at  the  third  attempt   although  not  with  any great  honour, scraping  through  a  not  particularly  difficult  group  with  a couple  of  embarrassing defeats  along  the  way. The  2-1  defeat  in  Oslo  was  immortalised by  a Norwegian  commentator completely  losing  the  plot  and  invoking  the  ghosts  of  British  prime ministers  to  taunt  them about  the  defeat " Maggie  Thatcher ! Winston  Churchill ! Clement Attlee !... Your  boys  took  a hell  of  a  beating !" I  wasn't  really  behind  them  as  Peter  Barnes had  been  dropped  for  Arsenal dullard  Graham  Rix   and  the  baleful  influence  of   Arsenal coach  Don  Howe  was  making England  boring  to  watch.

England's  preparations  were  hampered  by  injuries  to  their  best  players,  Trevor  Brooking  and Kevin  Keegan. Both  were  in  the  squad  but  wouldn't  be fit  for  the  group  games. As  it  was  the team  got  off  to a  flyer  with  a  3-1  victory  over  France  with  Bryan  Robson ( in  his  only effective  World  Cup; he  came  to  the  net  two  as  a  crocked  passenger )  scoring  the  fastest  ever goal  in  the Finals. Thereafter  the  team  deflated  like  a  slow  puncture, winning  2-0  against Czechoslovakia  to  ensure  passage  to  the  next  round, 1-0 against  Kuwait  then  two  goalless draws  in  the  Second  Round  against  West  Germany  and  Spain. In  the  latter  game  Greenwood threw  on  Brooking  and  Keegan  with  25  minutes  to  go . The  latter  had  a  chance  with  a header  that  he  might  have  done  better  with  if  fully  fit  but  it  went  wide. England  were  out and  Keegan's  international  career  was  over.  Greenwood  retired  and  to  his  eternal  resentment Keegan  was  left  out  of  Bobby  Robson's  first  squad. It  was  genuinely  sad; Keegan  had  been England's  only  consistent  performer  in  the  dark  days  of  the  seventies  and  deserved  a  better finale.

Scotland  had  also  qualified  , for  their  third  Finals  in  a  row. Having  dismally  failed  to  get  out of  an  easy  group in  1978  they  could  hardly  complain  at  now  being  faced  with  a  very  daunting  group  including tournament  favourites  Brazil  and  the   highly-fancied  USSR. They  made  a  decent  fist  of  it  beating  minnows  New  Zealand  5-2  and  securing  a  battling  2-2   draw  with  the  Soviets. In  the  end  it  came  down  to  goalkeepers. While  Brazil  had  to  come  up  with  two  screamers  to  get  past  the  Asiatic-looking  Rinat  Dasayev  for  the  Soviets  in  a  tight  2-1  victory  , Scotland  had  amazingly  kept  faith  with  the   useless  Alan  Rough   who  duly  conceded  four  after  a  thunderbolt  from  defender  David  Narey  had  given  Scotland  an  unexpected  lead  against  the  Brazilians.  Once  again  Scotland  were  out  of  the  World  Cup  on  goal  difference.

For  good  measure  Northern  Ireland  had  also  qualified  ( at  the  expense  of  Sweden ) with  a squad  featuring  players  from  Cambridge  United, Linfield  and  Glentoran.  There  had  been speculation  that  manager  Billy  Bingham  might  find  a  place  in  the  squad  for  George  Best, now  36  but  still  playing  ( of  a  sort )  in  American  indoor  football. In  the  end  Bingham thought better  of  it . The  Irish  unexpectedly  qualified  from  their  group  after  a  heroic 1-0 win  against   Spain  with  ten  men   and  then  got  a  battling  draw  against  Austria  before  a  rapidly-improving  France  sent  them  home  with  a  thumping  4-1  win.

Many  football  writers, wanting  to  pick  a  side  they'd  actually  seen  in  action,  have  nominated  the  Brazilian  1982  team  as  the  best  side  not  to  actually  win  the  trophy.  I  disagree  ; that  honour  must  surely  go  to  the  Hungarians  in  1954  and  I  think  Holland  in  1974  also  have  a  better  claim. The  Brazilians  had  9  great  stars  like  Socrates, Falcao  and  Zico  but  they  also  had  a  carthorse  up  front  in  Serginho  and  a  very  suspect  keeper  in  Waldir  Peres. Nevertheless  they  avenged  their  controversial  elimination  by  arch-rivals  Argentina  in  1978  by  putting  the  holders  out  in  a  match  which  saw  Diego  Maradona  sent  off.  However  they  were  then put  to  the  sword  by  the  Italians'  Paolo  Rossi  who'd  misfired  in  1978  but  came  good  at  exactly  the right  time  four  years  later.

The  exit  of  the  Brazilians  was  entirely  fair  but  otherwise  the  tournament  was  marred  by  some  appalling  injustices. Spain  scraped  through  their  group  by  means  of  a  terrible  penalty  decision  in  their  match  against  Yugoslavia  who  were  caning  them  at  the  time  ( though  the  Yugoslavs  didn't  help  themselves  with  a  sulky  performance  against  Honduras  in  their  final  match ). That  was  nothing  compared  to  the  exit  of  the  Algerians. Picking  up  the  baton  from  neighbours  Tunisia  in  1978, they  produced  an  almighty  shock  by  defeating  West  Germany  in  their  opening  game. They  then  lost  to  Austria  but  still  had  an  excellent  chance  of  qualifying  against  already-eliminated  Chile. They  raced  to  a  3-0  lead  in  the  first  half  but  fatally  let  the  the  Chileans  get  a couple  of  goals  back  in  the  second. That  meant  that  instead  of  the  final  match   being  a  turkey  shoot  between  West  Germany  and  Austria  for  the other  place, both  teams  could  go  through  if  the  Germans  won  by  one  or  two  goals.

With  FIFA  having  failed  to  grasp  the  nettle  of   suspect  scorelines  after  the  Argentina-Peru  game  four  years  earlier, the  Germans  and  Austrians  staged  another  Anschluss  with  both  sides  passing  the  ball  around  aimlessly  to  eat  up  the  time  after  the  Germans  took  the  lead. Commentators  threw  their  microphones  down  and  both  sides  were  roundly  booed  by  their  own  supporters. The  Algerians  of  course  protested  but  FIFA allowed  the  result  to  stand. Ever  since  then  the  final   group  matches  in  tournaments  have  had  to  be  played  simultaneously  to  prevent  this  happening  again.

France  eliminated  the  Austrians  in  the  next  round  but  there  was  more  outrage  to  come  from  the  Germans  who  met  the  French  in  the  semi-finals. This  of  course  refers  to   the  shocking  foul  by  goalkeeper  Harald  Schumacher  on  France's  Patrick  Battiston  who'd  put  the  ball  past  him  before  the  keeper's  head-high  challenge  knocked  him  unconscious. How  the  referee   could  have  interpreted  it  as  anything  other  than  a  straight  red  card  is  unfathomable  with  the  ball  so  far  away from  the  point  of  impact . Even  if  the  collision  was  unavoidable  - and  it  wasn't - there  was  no  need  for  Schumacher's  feet  to  leave  the  ground.  The  match  was  an  absolute  cracker  finishing  3-3  with  the  Germans  winning  on  penalties  but  that  can't  assuage  the  obscenity  of  Schumacher  reamaining  on  the  pitch.

I  hated  the  Italians  for  their  negative  tactics  - they'd  bored  the  world  to  death  in  the  first  group  stage  with  three  draws - but  after  beating  Poland  ( who'd  provided  some  good  cheer  by  edging  out  their  Soviet  oppressors )  in  the  semis, they  simply  had  to  beat  the  Germans  for  the  good  of  the  tournament  and  they  did , 3-1. I  don't  think  I  bothered  watching  much  of  it.

Off  the  pitch  the  surprise  was  that  ITV  trounced  the  Beeb  in  its  coverage. They  not  only  had  the  better  theme  tune , they  also  had  a  secret  weapon  who  became  a  major  TV  star  overnight. Jimmy  Greaves  had  had  a  rough  time  since  his  controversial  exclusion  from  the World  Cup  Final  team  in  1966. Age  and  an  increasing  consumption  of  alcohol  robbed  him  of  his  sharpness  and  he  retired  from  the  professional  game  in  1971. He  then  descended  into  major  alcoholism, eventually  resuming  his  career  in  non-league  football  as  part  of  his  efforts  to  beat  the  booze. In  1980  he  began  working  as  a  pundit  on  ATV's  regional  highlights  show  but  the  World  Cup  panel  was  his  first  national  exposure. It  was  an  inspired  choice. His  witty  irreverence   and  relaxed  bloke-y  charm  made  the  build-ups  to  the  matches  unmissable  and  he  was  flooded  with  TV  work  of  all  kinds  thereafter. Eventually  he  became  a  bit  of  an  arsehole  but  in  1982  he  was  at  the  top  of  his  game.  

Friday, 25 November 2016

544 Status Quo - Live on One


First  viewed  : 14  May  1982

1982  was  a  big  year  for  Status  Quo  who  proclaimed   it  their  20th  anniversary  year  although  they  were  dating  their  life   from  a  schoolboy  band  formed  by  Francis  Rossi  and  Alan  Lancaster  in  1962   and  were  not  called  Status  Quo  until  1967.At  the  start  of  the year  rat-haired  drummer  John  Coghlan  decided  it  was  an  opportune  time  to  call  it  a  day  and  had  to  be  replaced  by  relatively  short-haired  Pete  Kircher   who'd  recently  been  with  new  wave  nearly-men  The  Original  Mirrors. Their  most  recent  album  was  imaginatively  titled  1982.

This  gig  at  the  NEC, Birmingham  was  a  charity  concert  for  the Prince's  Trust  which  I  suppose  gave  the  BBC  a  justification  for giving  them  50  minutes'  worth  of  free  publicity.

I  liked  Quo in  the  seventies  while  acknowledging  that  variety  wasn't  their  strongest  suit  but  now  felt  they  were  getting  past  their  sell-by  date. Nevertheless  front  men  Rossi  and  Parfitt   seemed  like  good  eggs  and  there'd  be  a  fair  smattering  of  familiar  songs  in  the set  so  we  watched  it.

The  Quo  were  an  accomplished  live  act  by  this  point, they  put  on  a  good  show  and  I  can't  think  of  anything  more  to  add  to  this  one.

   

Thursday, 24 November 2016

543 The Woman In White


First  viewed : 12  May  1982

I  came  very  late  to  this  adaptation  of  the  Wilkie  Collins  classic  detective  novel, only  seeing the  last  episode  despite  glowing  critical  reports  for  the  adaptation.

I  had  a  distinct  memory  of  watching  it  at  my  gran's  house  but  the  simple  fact  that  it  was  on  a  Wednesday  rather  than  a  Friday  triggered  some  detective  work  of  my  own. The  explanation  began  to  dawn  when  I  realised  that  the  twelfth  must be  the  second  Wednesday  of  the  month  and  therefore  it  would  be  the  occasion  of  a  Littleborough  Rambling  Club  committee  meeting. Moreover , given  that  the  Club  effectively  shut  up  shop  at  the  beginning  of  June  it  would  almost  certainly  be  the  final  one. The  meetings  were  nearly  always  held  at  my  gran's  house  so  they  didn't  interfere  with  my  mum's  TV  viewing.

Knowing  I   still  had  a  file  of  LRC  paperwork  in  the  cupboard,  I  decided  to  do  a  bit  of digging  and  managed  to  fill  some  gaps  in  my  memory  having  long  ago  decided  that  the  last six  months  of  the  club's  existence  were  best  forgotten. It   turns  out  it   wasn't  a  routine  meeting  but  a  Fourth  Anniversary  Social  Evening , taking  place  four  years  to  the  date  after  myself  and  original  member  Patrick  had  drawn  up  a  programme  of   where we  were  going  to  visit  on  Saturdays  for  the  next  couple  of  months. This  was   taken  to  be  the  date  of  birth  of  the  club  although  we  didn't  start  calling  it  a  society  until  18  months  later.

To  take  the  story  forward  from  the  Kessler  post , the  Club  had  been  rocked  by  a  couple  more  departures. At  the  AGM  in  January,  Sean's  brother  Frank  expected  his  ascension  to  the  post  of  Treasurer  to  be  confirmed. I  was  a  bit  suspicious  of  his  enthusiasm  for  the  post  but  said  I'd  give  my  vote  to  whoever  amassed  the  most  points   ( two  for  attending  a  meeting, three  for  a  walk )  over  the  year ; that's  how  anal  it  had  become. Frank  had  carefully  made  sure  he  stayed  just  ahead  of  the  competition  for  that  purpose. On  the  night  though,  my  sister  made  a  spur  of  the  moment  decision  to  challenge  him. God  knows  why; she  certainly  hadn't pre-warned me.  I  didn't  know  which  way  to  turn . Frank  had  played  by  the  rules  but  Helen  was  my  sister  and  he'd  annoyed  me  by  criticising  me  for  committing   50  %  of  the  raffle  proceeds  to  the  Coach  House  Trust , a  decision  I'd  had  to  take  for  myself  because  none  of  the  others  had  turned  up  to  a  Civic  Trust  meeting  where  I'd  begun  selling  the  tickets. So  I  gave  my  vote  to  Helen  and  it  swung  it  for  her.

Frank  understandably was  incensed  and  immediately  quit  the  Club. He  wasn't  a  very  useful  member  but  it  was  silly  to lose  someone  over  less  than  a  tenner. Moreover,  he  refused  to  co-operate  with filling  out   the  bank  form  for  changing  signatories  leaving  our  financial  arrangements  in  a  state  of  limbo  ( which  had  some  future  significance  as  we'll  come  to  in  due  course ). Sean  did  not  quit  in  sympathy  so  the  Club  staggered  on. We  were  pinning  our  hopes  on  a  printed programme,  care  of   the  secretary's  mum,  which  had  been  long  promised  but  finally materialised  in  April. Just  before  it  came  out  though  there  was  another  resignation. Sean  didn't  turn  up  for  a  Sunday  walk. Normally  he'd  come  up  with  an  excuse  but  this  time  he  didn't . I can't  remember  whether  he  actually  said  "I  couldn't  be  bothered"  or  just  shrugged  but  it  was  obvious  where  the  land  lay. I  couldn't  duck  the  challenge  and deliberately  insulted  him  - the  exact  words  would  take  too  long  to explain -  to  force  his  resignation. I  think  he  might  have  been  angling  for  that   anyway. The  whole  conversation  can't  have  lasted  for  more  than  a  couple  of  minutes.

Of  course  with  a  printed  programme  out  there,  we  had  to  carry  on  until  the  last  date  on  the  sheet  but  it  would  need  a  big  response  to  save  the  Club  now  and  when  no  one  but  me    turned  up  for  the  first  one,  it  was  clear  the  end  was  nigh. Things  were  patched  up  with  Sean  so  he  came  to  the  Social  Evening  ( Frank  stayed  out  in  the cold )  and  we   amicably  agreed  to  stop  the  committee  meetings  and  plan  no  more  public  walks  until  there  was  a   good  prospect  of  more  support. There  were  no  dissenters  to  this, just  relief  all  round.

I  stayed  there  until  my  gran  arrived  safely  back from  our  house, hence  my  tuning  in   to  The Woman  In  White. Collins's  novel  is  cited  as  one  of  the  earliest  detective  novels  and  here  got  the  full  Brideshead  Revisited  treatment  in  terms  of  its  leisurely  pace   if  not  on  quite  the  same  epic  scale.  A  young  man  Walter  Hartright  ( Daniel  Gerroll )  is  engaged  as  a  drawing  tutor  to  two  women, Laura  a  young  heiress ( Jenny  Seagrove )  and  her  older  penniless  half-sister  Marion  ( Brideshead's    Diana  Quick ). Walter  becomes  aware  of  a  plot  to  seize   Laura's  fortune  involving  her  fiance  Percival  Glyde  (  John  Shrapnel )  and  her  uncle, the  flamboyant  Italian  aristocrat  Count  Fosco  ( Alan  Badel  who  died  a  fortnight  before  the  series  aired )  using  her  likeness  to  an  unstable  young  woman  dressed  in  white  with  whom  Walter  had  a  strange  encounter at  the  start  of  the  novel.

By  the  time  I  came  to  it  the  plot  appeared  to  have  succeeded  but  Glyde  perished  at  the  start  of  the  final   episode  while  trying  to  cover  his  tracks. However  Fosco  was  a  more  formidable  opponent  but  Walter  discovers  by  chance  a  deadly  chink  in  his  armour  and  most of  the  episode  consisted  of  a  battle  of  wits  between  the  two  with  a  final  twist  after  the  end  credits. I  was  intrigued  enough  to  buy  the  book  a  couple  of  years  later .      

Monday, 21 November 2016

542 Old Grey Whistle Test


First  viewed  :  6  May  1982

This  programme  of  course  had  been  running  since  1971   but  always  in  a  very  late  night  slot  on  BBC  Two  until  April  1982  when  it  started  showing  at  the  more  civilised  22.10pm   on  a  Thursday.

Old  Grey  Whistle  Test   was   conceived  as  the  anti-Top  of  the  Pops  in  1971  after  that  programme's  "Album  Slot"  where  artists  played  less  commercial  material  failed  to  take  off  with  the  audience. There  are  many  well-aired  arguments  about  the  difference  between  rock  and  pop  and  its  relationship  to  the  gender  divide  which  I  won't  launch  into  here. The  main  differences  between  the  shows  were  as  follows :

  • Artists  played  more  than  one  number
  • They  played  live  in  the  studio
  • There  was  no  audience  apart  from  the  production  staff
  • The  artists  did  not  need  to  be  in  the  charts ; a  few  mentions  in  the  music  press  was  generally  enough  to  generate  an  invite 
  • Top  of  the  Pops  had  a  mass  audience; OGWT   didn't
The  programme's  first  presenter  was  a  rock  critic  Richard  Williams  but  he  was  soon  replaced  by  the  ultra-conservative  "Whispering"  Bob  Harris  who  liked  folk  and  country  rock   and  started  looking  out  of  touch  as  early  as 1972  when  he  gave  a  cold  reception  to  Roxy  Music  and  the  New  York  Dolls. Nevertheless  he survived  until  1978 when  he  thought  it  was  best  left  to  new  co-host  Annie  Nightingale  to  handle  this  new  punk  stuff  ( Harris  had  been  famously  assaulted  by  Sid  Vicious  at  the  Speakeasy  Club ).

She  was  still  in  charge when  I  first  tuned  in  on  6.5.82  for  Spandau  Ballet,  some  affection  lingering  even  though  their  current  LP  Diamond  was  a  load  of  crap. Gang  of  Four  were  also  on, with  then-unknown  Eddie  Reader  as  a  backing  vocalist, but  couldn't  do  their  current  single  I  Love  A  Man  In  A  Uniform  because  of  the  Falklands  War.  I  remember  an  episode  with  Tom  Verlaine  on  a  few  weeks  later  but  otherwise  that  was  all  I  saw  of  the  Nightingale  era. I  would  however  be  a  loyal  listener  to  her  Sunday  night  request  show  on  Radio  One  for  the  next  ten  years  

Since  1980,  Annie  had  been  assisted  by  Smash  Hits  editor  David  Hepworth  whose  magazine  had  risen  with  the  new  wave  even  though  Hepworth's  own  tastes  were  closer  to  Harris.  When  the  show  returned  in  the  autumn,  it  had  an   early  Saturday  evening  repeat  slot  and   Hepworth   was  in  the  chair,  assisted  by  Smash  Hits  sidekick  Mark  Ellen. The  show  now  had  more  of  a  magazine  format  and  wasn't  averse  to  filling  space  with  videos.  I  remember  Glen  Matlock's  doomed  new  outfit  The  Hot  Club  doing  their  single  The  Dirt  That  She  Walks  On  Is  Sacred  Ground  To  Me   on  their  first  show.  

It  was  watchable  but  I  think  they  may  have  been  better  off  sticking  to  their  guns  and  trying  to  ride  out  the  New  Pop  wave. With  a  proliferation  of  new  music  shows  on  TV  it  was  in  danger  of  losing  its  USP  In  1983  the  repeat  switched  to  Tuesdays  and  I  stopped  watching  it  regularly. In  1984   it  had  another  makeover , dropping  the  "Old  Grey"  and  the  hoary  old  Stone  Fox  Chase  theme  tune.   and  introducing  new  presenters  in  Radio  One's  perennial  understudy  Richard  Skinner  and   Rochdalian  newcomer  Andy  Kershaw  who'd  recently  been  acting  as  Billy  Bragg's  road  manager.  Kershaw  looked  like  he  never  went  to  bed  and  was  highly  opinionated  but  he  did  give  it  a  renewed  sense  of  identity  as  an  unabashed  champion   of  guitar  music  particularly  if  it  came   from  America. It  also  said  goodbye  to  its  late  night  slot  and  went  out  on  a  Tuesday  evening  only.

It  was  finally  axed  by  new  broom  Janet Street-Porter  coming  in  as  Head  of  Youth  Programmes  in  1987.  Ironically,  the  last   regular  episode went  out  in  the  same  week  that  its  brash  Channel  4  rival  The  Tube  ended, though  there  was  a  New  Years  Eve Special  to  give  it  a  proper  send-off.  

Sunday, 20 November 2016

541 Horace




First  viewed : April  1982

I  can't  remember  which  school  mate  sold  this  to  me  as  being  funny  and  I  can't  decide  whether  he  or  the  ITV  exec  who  decided  this  was  suitable  for  an  early  evening  slot  was  most  in  need  of  counselling.

Horace  was  originally  a  single  play , broadcast  as  a  Play  for  Today  on  BBC1  in  1972. Horace  (  Barry  Jackson  ) is  a  mentally  retarded  man  who  lives  with  his  mother  and  works   in  a  joke  shop  in  Yorkshire.  Jackson  retained  the  role  in  this  series  of   six  half  hour  dramas broadcast  twice  weekly  at  7pm  ten  years  later.

I  should  have  known  there  was  something  up  when  I  saw  who  the  writer  was. Roy  Minton was  not  exactly  known  for  comedy . The  still-shocking  Scum , which  lifted  the  lid  on the  UK's  borstal  system,  had  been  blocked  by  the  BBC  1  Controller  Bill  Cotton  as  a  further  Play  for  Today  in  1977  and  had  to  be  re-shot  as   a  feature  film  two  years  later.

We  had  also  read  a  Minton  play  in  my  Drama  class  at  school  circa  1980. I  think  it  was called  Bovver  and  concerned  a  nice  middle  class  young  man  who,  very  unwisely,  calls  on the two  skinheads  in  the  flat  upstairs  to   ask  them  to   turn  the  noise  down. He  is  subjected  to  a systematic  process  of    abuse  and   brutalization  by  the  articulate  Vic  and  his  Neanderthal mate Terry ( I  think ) whose  dialogue  consisted  mainly  of  expletives. I  remember  that  part  falling  to Tony  Mooney ( now   a  reasonably  successful  TV  actor,  most  recently  in  Scott  and  Bailey ) and  him  relishing the  opportunity  to  say  lines  like  " Let's  kick  the  shit  out  of  him  Vic  !"  On the  other  hand some  of  the  nice  girls  in  the  class  could  hardly  bring  themselves  to   utter lines  like  "You're  up  and  down  like  a  whore's  drawers ". Happy  times !

The  one  episode  of  Horace  I  saw  had  some  structural  similarity  to  the  latter  play, without  the  bad  language  of  course. It's  the   weekend  and  Horace  has  been  allowed  out  to  explore  the  countryside. He  comes  across  a  group  of  four  young  boys  making  a  show  of  camping  in  a  nearby  wood. The  merciless  little  bastards  tease  and  abuse  his  trust  in  a  variety  of  ways. My  mum  was  appalled  by  the  sustained  cruelty  and  rightly  so; it  was  as  funny  as  haemorrhoids . The  picture  postcard  loveliness  of  the  West  Riding  setting  ( Mirfield , near  Huddersfield )  only  made  it  seem  worse.

It  only  lasted  for  one  series. My  guess  is  that  someone  saw  a  superficial  similarity  between  Horace  and   Selwyn  Froggit   and  thought  they  might  have  another  ratings  winner. But  there's  a  world  of  difference  between  terminal  stupidity  and  mental  illness  and  Horace  is  barely  remembered  today.

I  should  mention  that  Barry  Jackson  was  excellent  in  the  title  role. He  had  a  long  career  in  TV  with  a  late  triumph  as  Dr  Bullard  in  Midsomer  Murders. He  died  three  years  ago  aged  75.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

540 Badger By Owl-Light


First  viewed  : 8  April  1982

This  grim  and  nasty  three-part  thriller  has  never  been  repeated  and  remains  chained  up  like  a  mad  relative  in  the  BBC  archive. It  was  originally  a  radio  play by  Edward  Boyd , broadcast  in  1975. I  missed  the  first  episode.

Fresh  from  Blood  Money, stone-faced  Cavan  Kendall  plays  Talion, a  ruthless  hit  man  hired  to  take  out  the  leader  of  a  strange  cult  in  the  wilds  of  Scotland  after  a  bomb  in  London  kills  a  millionaire's  daughter. Tallon  infiltrates  the  cult  but  a   detective, Hardekker  ( Bernard  Horsfall )  and  his  son  ( an  unorthodox  procedure )  have  already  done  that  and  resent  him  getting  in  the  way. It  turns  out  the  cult  worship  Adolf  Hitler  and  Charles  Manson  ( the  first  time  I'd  heard  of  the  latter ).

There  are  a  number  of  killings  , largely  carried  out  by  James  Wynn, familiar  as  the  wimpy  science  teacher  Mr  Sutcliffe  from  Grange  Hill   but  here  playing  a  gay  psychopath. The  finale ,which  explains  the  title, is  suitably  gruesome.

It  would  be  worth  watching  again  so  let's  hope  they  see  fit  to  release  it  at  some  point.


Friday, 18 November 2016

539 Whoops Apocalypse



First  viewed  :  4  April  1982

I  came  to  this  one  half  way  through  its  run  as  my  schoolmates  were  telling  me  how  good  it  was.

Whoops  Apocalypse  was  a   six-part  black  comedy  about  the  end  of  the  world  given  the  geo-political  situation  in  the  early  eighties. Despite  the  writers  Andrew  Marshall  and  David  Renwick  not  being  all  that  well  known  at  the  time, they  assembled  an  impressive  array  of  British  comedy  talent  to  bring  their  bleak  satire  to  life.

US  President  Johnny  Cyclops  ( Barry  Morse )  a  Reaganesque  imbecile  faces  Dubienkin  ( Richard  Griffiths  )  head  of   a   senile   Soviet  gerontocracy  ( not  too  far  from  the  truth ). Cyclops  is  advised  by  The  Deacon  ( John  "C.J."  Barron )  a  right  wing  evangelical  nut  who seeks  to  restore  the  Shah  ( Bruce  Montague )  to  Iran  and  then  deliver  a  super-nuclear   weapon,  the  Quark  Bomb  via  an  international  terrorist  known  as  Lacrobat  ( John  Cleese ). The Soviets  meanwhile  are  busy  enticing  Britain's  Labour  government,  headed  by  Kevin  Pork  ( Peter  Jones )  who  thinks  he's  Superman, into  the  Warsaw  Pact. When  all  these  plans  fall apart, the  world  is  plunged  into  nuclear  catastrophe.

Whoops  Apocalypse  was  timely  but  only  just; when  Leonid  Brezhnev  finally  shuffled  off  this  mortal  coil  just  months  later  the  tectonic  plates  started  to  move  away  from  the  likelihood  of  M.A.D.  That's  probably  why  it's  receded  from  public  memory  although  it  should  also  be  noted  that  David  Kelly's  portrayal  of  Abdab, the  Shah's  fawning  valet  , would  now  be  viewed  as  highly  offensive.  Having  said  all  that , it's  still  a  highly  inventive  and  rich  comedy  that  stands  up  to  repeat  viewing.

Marshall  and  Renwick  later  produced   a  film  with  the  same  title  but  very  little  of  the  plot  in  1986  but  I  haven't  seen  that. Going  their  separate  ways  they  both  hit  gold  with  2.4  Children  and  One  Foot  In  The  Grave  respectively. I'd  take  Whoops  Apocalypse  over  either.
   

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

538 Prostitute I Am - Common I'm Not


First  viewed : 11  August  1981

A  quick  flick  through  a  copy  of  Clive  James' s  Glued  To  The  Box  the  other  day  revealed  that  I'd  missed  this  one  out.

It  was  a  one-off  documentary  from  Thames  TV  who'd  managed  to  find  four  or  five  ladies  of the  night  prepared  to  talk  on  camera  about  their  "profession". I  only  really  remember  two  of them. There  was  a  chubby  girl  called  Lindi  who'd  set  up  her  own  company  ( the  programme didn't  tell  you  how  it  had  described  its  business )  and  was doing  well  for  herself. She  proudly displayed  the  latest  furnishings  and  accessories  in  her  torture  chamber, ready  for  Frank  Bough to  try  out  on  his  next  visit  ( she  didn't  supply  any  names  of  course ). The  other  one  I remember  was  Sheila, an  older  woman  with  a  cut  glass  Home  Counties  accent , describing   "putting  the  johnny  on"  with  exquisite  disdain. There  was  no  footage  of  the  ladies  actually "on  the  job"  as  it  were.

As  you'd  expect  the  programme  provided  plenty  of  material  for  discussion  with  my  friends afterwards. Sean  was  awestruck  by  Sheila  - "she  was  posh  !!" . I  demonstrated  my  naivete  by querying  a  scene  where  one  of  the  girls  ran  through  her  tariff,  with  sex  at, I  don't  know, £25 and  a  full  strip  at  £100 or  thereabouts. I  questioned  how  you  could  have  one  without  the other  and  had  the  operation  of  slit  knickers  patiently  explained  to  me. You  live  and  learn.

Monday, 14 November 2016

537 A Kind of Loving


First  viewed : 4  April  1982

He's  fallen  out  of  fashion  now  but  around  this  time  Stan  Barstow's  A Kind  of  Loving  was   a set  text  in  schools  across  Britain, almost  guaranteeing  this  ten-part  serialisation  a  decent audience. Barstow  was  one  of  the  wave  of  working  class  novelists  that  lit  up  the  literary scene  in  the immediate   post-war  decades  although  I  expect  the  book's  value  as  a  cautionary tale  about  the  dangers  of  pre-marital  sex  at  least  partially  accounts  for  its  popularity  with schools.

Vic  Brown   is  a  20  year  old , slightly  naive,  male  from  a  stable  working  class  family  in  the  fictional  Lancastrian  town  of  Cressley  in  the  late  fifties. He  works  as  a  trainee  draftsman  in  an  office  full  of  similar  peers,  all  with  vague  ideas  of  bettering  themselves. What  derails  Vic's   plans  is  a  shotgun  marriage  to  lower  middle  class  Ingrid  who  he  fancies  but  doesn't  really  love. To  make  matters  worse  her  mother  hates  his  guts.

The  ITV  dramatization  went  beyond  the  very  popular  1962   film  version  starring Alan  Bates  by  incorporating  the  events   in   Barstow's  two  subsequent  novels   about  Vic  The  Watchers  On  The  Shore  and  The  Right  True  End,  which  take  his  story  into  the  early  seventies. This  presented  a  problem  with  the  casting  as  craggy  Clive  Wood,  playing  Vic,  looked  older  than   his  28  years   and  was  completely  unconvincing  as  a  man  barely  out  of  his  teens  in  the  early  episodes.

The  series  is  probably  chiefly  remembered  as  the  launching  pad  for  Joanne  Whalley's  career. The  dark-eyed  actress  from  Salford  wasn't  exactly  a  newcomer,  having  a  number  of  credits  as  a  child  actress  in  the  seventies  including  brief  runs  in  both   Coronation  Street  and  Emmerdale  Farm. With  a  couple  of  scenes  in  which  she  is  briefly  topless, Joanne  is  probably  a  bit  chubbier  than  she  would  have  liked  but  Ingrid  was  her  breakthrough  role  and  she  was  soon  able  to  kick  her  parallel  career  as  lead  singer  of  dud  girl  group  Cindy  and  the  Saffrons   into  touch.

Clare  Kelly  also  made  an  impression  as  the  mother-in-law  from  hell, following  in  the  formidable  footsteps  of  Thora  Hird  from  the  film  version. Mrs  Rothwell  gives  us  a  clue  as  to  why  the  novel  has  fallen  from  grace.  Neither  her  nor  Ingrid  are  very  favourably  presented  in  a  story  told  exclusively  from  a  male  point  of  view . Both  the  couple's  dads  are  presented  as  sound,  sensible  fellows  who  keep  their  semi-hysterical  spouses  in  check .  Such  a  patriarchy  may  have  been  quite  an  accurate  portrayal  of  the  society  from  which  Barstow  sprang  but  it  jars  with  modern  sensibilities.

That   sort  of   society  was  dying  on  its  feet  by  1982. The  local  Methodist  chapel  was  now  either  a  discount  warehouse  or  a  mosque   and  there  was  no  pressure  at  all  on  a  pregnant  girl  to  get   married  so  A  Kind  of  Loving  was  a  quaint  period  drama . It's  quite  good  but  murderously  slow  to  get  going.

While  Whalley  went  off  to  Hollywood, Wood  has  stayed  a  reliable  but  unstarry  actor  on  stage  and  screen in  the  UK,  with  recurring  roles  in  The  Bill  and  London's  Burning  the  next  best  thing  to  this. Mind  you  a  bloke  who's  been  to  bed  with   both   Joanne  Whalley  and  Susan  Penhaligon  ( who  appears  later in  the  series  as  his  mistress,  Donna )  can't  really  complain  about  his  luck  not  holding .

  

Sunday, 13 November 2016

536 The Falklands War




First  viewed : April  1982

The  news  and  political  agenda  was  set  for  the  next  few  months  on  2  April  1982  when  Argentina  invaded  the  Falkland  Islands , one  of  the  last  remnants  of  the  British  Empire, 8.000  miles  away  in  the  South  Atlantic. Argentina  had  a  long-standing  claim  to  the  territory  which  it  called  The  Malvinas  and   the  country's  military  dictator  General  Galtieri  had  taken  the  fateful  decision  to  boost  his  shaky  regime, encouraged  by  the  scaling  back  of  Britain's  military  commitment  to  the  region  by  Margaret  Thatcher's  parsimonious  regime.

The  clearly  expressed  wish  of  the  2,000  or  so  sheep  farmers  making  a  scrappy  living  on  the  islands  was  to  remain  British  and  the  tabloids  immediately  whipped  up   a   storm  of  outrage  in  the  UK  on  their  behalf. Urbane  Foreign  Secretary  Lord  Carrington  fell  on  his  sword  immediately  and  it  could  well  have  been  curtains  for  his  boss  too  had  she  not  taken  the  decision  to  send  a  naval  task  force  down  to  the  South  Atlantic  to  wrest  them  back  from  "the  Argies". The  force  included  Prince  Andrew , second  in  line  to  the  throne  ( though  not  for  much  longer )  then  serving  in  the  Royal  Navy.

With  a  couple  of  BBC  reporters  on  the  ships, the  nation  followed  the  progress  of  the  force  on  a  nightly  basis  as  they  moved  towards  the  islands  with  support  from  the  rest  of  the  world  that  was  lukewarm  at  best . The  biggest  threat  came  from  the  Argentinians'  French -made  missile, the  Exocet , a  word  that  entered  the  English  language  at  this  point  and  is  still  in  use  today. Exocets  took  out  some  of  the  ships   although  not  either  of  the  two  main  aircraft  carriers. For  her  part  Britain  torpedoed  an  Argentinian  cruiser, the  General  Belgrano  which  kept  their  navy  cowering  in  its  ports  for  the duration  of  the war.

Each  development  was  sombrely  announced  to  the  world  by  a  Ministry  of  Defence  official  called  Ian  McDonald, an  intensely serious-looking  bloke  whose  dolorous  tones  made  him  something  of  a  star. These  pronouncements  would  often  interrupt  other  programmes  as  news  flashes.

When  the  soldiers  reached  the  Falklands  the  fighting  was  over  fairly  quickly  ( though  it  probably  didn't  seem  like  that  to  the boys  on  the  ground ). Galtieri  had  kept  his  best  troops  at  home  for  his  own  protection  and  the  miserable  conscripts  on  the  islands  were  no  match  for  professional  soldiers. By  the  middle of  June  it  was  all  over.

Thatcher's  colossal  gamble  had  paid  off  and  it  transformed  her  political  prospects. Without  the  war,  or  if  the  expedition  had  ended  in  failure, she  could  well  have  been  another  Edward  Heath, a  one-term  Tory  failure. It's  one  of  the  great  might-have-beens  in  political  history. At  the  time  of  the  Argentinian  invasion  unemployment  was  riding  high  ( having  just  past  three  million ) and  so  was  the  Alliance  of  the  Liberals  and  Social  Democrats. Just   a  week  earlier  Roy  Jenkins  had  won  the  Glasgow  Hillhead  by-election  for  the  SDP, the  latest  in  a  string  of  by-election  triumphs.

 The  Falklands  changed  all  that. Even  before  the  real  fighting  began,  the  Conservatives  won  the  Mitcham  and  Morden  by-election  caused  by  the  decision  of  a  high-minded  Labour  defector , Bruce  Douglas-Mann, to  re-fight  his  seat  as  an  SDP  candidate. This  is  still  the  last  time  a  governing  party  has  gained  a  seat  at  a  by-election  although  perhaps  that  won't  be  the  case  for  much  longer. While  the  Falkland  Islands  hardly  had  much  impact  on  peoples'  everyday  lives , the  British  victory  cheered  people  up  and  secured  Thatcher's  position. In  her  own  party,  her  position  became   unassailable . Even  though  it  raised  one  of  their  number, Francis  Pym, to  Foreign  Secretary,  the  victory  completely  neutered  the  Tory  "wets"  and  Pym  was  immediately  dumped  after  the  1983  election.

While  the  Falklands  was  bad  news  for  the  SDP  in  general, it  was  a  godsend  for  one  of  the  Gang  of  Four.  Even  as  a  Labour  MP , David  Owen's  position  in  Plymouh  Devonport  had  looked  a  bit  shaky  but  his  robust  support  for  the  task  force  in  a  naval  constituency  transformed  his  prospects. It  secured  the  seat  and  won  him  a  respect  in  Parliament  that  was  denied  to  the  returning  Jenkins. In  a  little  over  a  year,  he  would  be  the  party  leader.  

I  supported  the  task  force  and  in  my  battered  emotional  state  said  some  pretty  stupid  things  about  wanting  to  get  called  up  and  finished  off  gloriously. For  all  sorts  of  reasons   this  was  never  very  likely  and  I  cringe  at  the  memory.  



Thursday, 10 November 2016

535 The Kenny Everett Television Show


First  viewed  : 25  February  1982

Kenny  Everett  returned  to  the  BBC  after  falling  out  with  Thames  TV  over  the  scheduling  of The  Kenny  Everett  Video  Show.  He'd  already  started  broadcasting  on  Radio  One  again  but   his  new  TV  vehicle  began  early  in  1982  just  after  Top  of  the  Pops  on  a  Thursday. Fearing that  Thames  would  hold  copyright  on  his  previous  comic  characters  Kenny  introduced  a number  of  new  ones  for  this  series  most  famously  Cupid  Stunt  the  infinitely  vulgar  film  star  based  on  Bette  Midler  talking  to  a  cardboard  Michael  Parkinson

I  saw  the  first  show  and  a  fair  few  others  but  it  never  quite  grabbed  me  in  the  same  way  as  the  ITV  version. Kenny  had  lost  a  little  of  that  manic  energy  and  seemed  more  of  a  skilful  comic  actor   than  a  genuinely  anarchic  force ( obviously,  his  appearance  at  a Conservative  party  election  rally  the  following  year  greatly  accelerated  this  process ) . The  characters  quickly  became  bogged  down  by  their  catchphrases  and  fitting  them  all  in  meant  the  show  started  to  look  formulaic  in  the  same  way  as  The  Two  Ronnies.  The  scripts  also  came  to  rely  too  much  on  innuendo . I  remember  watching  one  episode  at  my  hall  of  residence  and  my  best  mate  there  contemptuously  remarking  "They  should  re-name  it  "The  Kenny  Everett  Gay  Show ".

However  there  was  at  least  one  reason  for  the  heterosexual  community  to  watch,  in  in  the  form  of  Brazilian -born  actress  Cleo  Rocos  who , always  revealingly  clad, acted  as  a  comic  foil  to  Ken  in  many  of  the  sketches. Her  first  appearance  was  a  very  funny  sketch  where  she  was  a  politician  being  interviewed  and  described  the  SDP  as  offering  " a  middle  course"  while  the  camera  zoomed  in   inexorably  towards  her  ample  cleavage.

There  was  usually  a  musical  guest  and  the  first  show  had  Bill  Wyman  being  predictably  wooden  in  a  misfiring  sketch  about  Ken  mistaking  him  for  Jagger. Bill  then  got  to  perform  his  dreary  new  single  A  New  Fashion   which  contains  the  unfortunate  line  "Gimmee, gimmee  gimmee  some  good  old  fashioned  melody "  to  which  my  sister  instantly ( and  accurately  )  retorted "Well  this  hasn't  got  any !"

The  series  ended  in  1988, Kenny  and  Cleo  moving  on  to  a  one  series-only  quiz  show  Brainstorm  after  which  he  mainly  went  back  to  commercial  radio  before  his  death  from  AIDS  in  1995. He  was  only  50  but  his  time  had   gone  past,  a  trailblazer  already   superseded  by  the  likes  of  Chris  Evans. Rocas  has  manfully  tried  to  keep  her  career  afloat  since, a  fairly  disastrous  appearance  on  Celebrity  Big  Brother   proving  conclusively  that  she  wasn't  funny  in  her  own  right. Dirk  Benedict  also  skewered  her  fading   credentials  as  a  sex  symbol  by  disparaging  her  "middle-aged  cleavage"  and  reporting  her  for  sexual  harassment.  Her  latest  venture  is  as  a  tequila  distiller.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

534 West Country Tales


First  viewed  :  25  January  1982

Not   every  good  idea  originated  in  the  north.   While  BBC  North  West  were  paying  Stuart  Hall  and  Bill  Grundy  to  grouse  at  each  other  on  Sweet  and  Sour,  BBC  South  West  came  up  with  a  modest  winner. They  invited  viewers  in  the  region  to  send  in  supposedly  real-life  eerie  stories  from  the  region. The  13  best  were  turned  into  half  hour  dramas  with  name  actors.  Originally  broadcast  in  the  regional  slot  on  a  Friday  night ( when  we  had  Home  Ground ) , it  was  quickly  upgraded  to  the  national   pre-Newsnight  slot  on  a  Monday night  on  BBC  2.  There  were  two  seasons  of  six  and  seven  episodes.

I  think  I  only  saw  two  of  them.  The  first  was  the  opener  The  Sabbatical   in  which  Keith  Barron  played  an  unsettled  vicar  who  gets  stuck  in  a  ruined  church  and  finds  a  naked  congregation  bearing  down  on  him. They  were  all  pretty  old  but  it  was  a  totally  unexpected  conclusion  to  a  regional  programme. Perhaps  there  was  a  nudist  colony  nearby. As  well  as  appearing  in  this  one, Barron  acted  as  narrator  for  the  other  five  episodes  in  the  first  season.

The  other  one  I  recall  was  the  third  episode  The  Breakdown , wherein  a   lonely  widower  suspected  of   his   wife's  murder  goes  to  the  aid  of  a  woman  whose  car  has  broken  down  near  his  isolated  house. This  didn't  have  any  nudity  but  did  give  singer  Anita  Harris  ( usually  a  rather  annoying  variety  show  perennial )  a  chance  to  show  an  impressive  pair  of  40  year  old  legs  as  the  mysterious  woman.  The  ending  was  well-telegraphed  but  the   episode  did  succeed  in  conjuring  up  the  required  sinister  vibe.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

533 Riverside


First  viewed  :  January  1982

This  early  evening  BBC2  arts  programme   filmed  from  the  same  Riverside  studios  as  the  Old  Grey  Whistle   Test  ( hence  the  name  )  could  be  filed  under  the  "yoof  TV"   banner  as  most  participants  were  under  30   but  it  didn't  have  any  vox  pop  sections  to  interrupt  its  arts  coverage.

It  began  just  after  Christmas  and  was  originally  scheduled  against  Coronation  Street  so  I doubt  I  saw  the  first  episode  but  soon  became  a  regular  when  it  moved  to  18.55 pm. Although  some  of  the  content  of  this  magazine   show  was  pretentious  or  tedious,  you  could  usually rely  on  at  least  one  item  sending  your  jaw  to  the  floor  and  having  my  Mum  in  the  room waiting  for  Corrie   made  it  twice  as  fun. The  content  was  often  quite  risque  for  so  early  in the  evening  with  some  of  the  dancers  wearing  not  much  clothing  and  doing  provocative routines. There  was  also  a  feature  on  Bow  Wow  Wow  which  had  footage  from  the  photo-shoot  for  their  controversial  album  cover and  came  within  a  centimetre  of  showing  you Annabella  Lwin's  15-year  old  left  nipple.

The   general  rule  for  the  bands  featured  in  the  studio  seemed  to  be  that  they  hadn't  yet  made  the  Top  40  although  it  definitely  helped  if  you  were  a  Goth  act  with  Bauhaus, Sex  Gang  Children, The  Specimen, Birthday  Party  ,Danielle  Dax, Danse  Society and  Test  Department  all  featuring  over  the  show's  three  seasons.  Established  acts  were  featured  if  they  had  something  to  say  or  were  attempting  something  a  bit  different  ( which  gave  rise  to  some  of  the  show's  most  memorable  moments ).

The  highlights  for  me  were  :

  • A  young  Benjamin  Zephaniah  performing  a  poem  which  climaxed  with  the  killer  couplet  "To  others  she  is  Valerie / But  to  me  she  is  my  mummy". I'm  presuming  there  was  some  improvement  before  he  started  being  lauded.
  • David  Sylvian  doing  a  spellbinding  acoustic version  of  Ghosts .
  • A  feature  on  punk's  next  generation  featuring  the  obnoxious  Gary  Bushell  and  the  band  Blitz, one  of  whose  members  drove  a  stake  through  the  heart  of  Joe  Strummer  with  the  comment  "Anyone  who  says  they  don't  want  to  be  rich  is  either  a  liar  or  a  bleeding  idiot".
  • Eddie  Tudorpole  giving   a  straight-faced  guided  tour  of  his  lodgings  which  looked  like  Fagin  had  been  the  last  tenant.
  • Malcolm  McLaren's  fashion  tip  to  girls - Start  wearing  your  bra  on  the  outside. Strangely  enough  it  didn't  catch  on.
  • Ken  Livingstone  admitting  he  cried  at  E.T.
  • A  feature  on  the  Hacienda  in  Manchester  which  first  revealed  Tony Wilson's  involvement  in  the  music  scene  to  me.
  • Presenter  Victoria  Studd  going  on  a  very  straight  date  with  Bobby  Guppy  of  Bucks  Fizz. Quite  what  the  brief  was  for  that  item is  hard  to  imagine. 
  • And  finally... the  dodgy  dancers. The  one  I  recall  from  the  time  is  Peter  Murphy  from  Bauhaus  in  a  ridiculous  pair  of  trousers , throwing  a  few  shapes  in  a  sand  pit  to  a  Bauhuas  track  with  a  rather  more  accomplished  young  woman ( who  I  believe  became  his  wife ). I  didn't  originally  see  the  more  notorious  appearance  of  Sham  69's  Jimmy  Pursey  doing  a  beyond-embarrassing  routine  to  The  Stranglers' The  Men  In  Black   but  it's  now  a  YouTube  must-see  ( though  perhaps  not  if  you  love  the  song ).


I  didn't  see  much  of  the  third  and  final  season  in  autumn  1983  when  I  was  in  my  first  term at  university. Too  much  else  going  on I  suppose. Of  the  presenters,  Steve  Blacknell   became  a well  known  TV  face  in  the  eighties  and  now  works  in  media  training   and  Studd  worked  in TV  on  and  off   until  her  1994  marriage  to  Helena  Bonham-Carter's  brother.  The  others  have vanished  without  trace.

Monday, 7 November 2016

532 O.T.T.


First  viewed  :  9  January  1982

Well  panic  over . Thanks  to  my  wonderful  and  talented  sister,  we're  back  up  and  running  more  efficiently  than  before.

We  now  move  into  1982, a  year  that  did  have  its   good  moments   for  me, but  perversely  I  almost  resented  them  for  smudging  the  canvas  of  Gothic  gloom  that  I  was  painting  around  myself  following  the  events  of  the  previous year.

There  was  some  good  television  too  but  O.T.T. doesn't  fall  into  that  category  I'm  afraid. O.T.T.  sprang  from  Tiswas.   A  tour  of  nightclubs  and  colleges  in  1981  convinced  most  of  the  Tiswas  team   that  there  was  a  ready  made  adult  audience  if  they  made  the  break  from  children's  TV  and  did  a  late  night  adult  version  of  the  show. Unfortunately  the  one  member  who  wasn't  convinced  and  decided  to  stay  put   was  Sally  James  whose  plunging  cleavage  was  the  main  reason  adults  tuned  into  Tiswas   in  the  first  place.

The  rather  chunky  Helen  Atkinson-Wood  was  recruited  to  replace  her  as  Chris  Tarrant, Lenny  Henry, Bob  Carolgees  and  John  Gorman  re-appeared  on  O.T.T. at  the  beginning  of  1982. Alexei  Sayle  had  a  stand-up  spot  although  his  brand  of  political-edged  humour  fit  in  like  a  stone  in  a  shoe. As  with  Tiswas  there  were  musical  interludes  and  as  it  was  filmed   by   Central  TV  there  was  a heavy  Brum  bias  with  The  Beat  featuring  and  funk-poppers  Fashion  appearing  twice .

 I  didn't  see  the  first  episode  but  caught  the  furore  over  the  balloon  dance  item  where  three  naked  men  did  a  ( pretty  funny  actually )  routine  with  balloons  covering  their  vitals. At  the  other  end  of  the  year,  I  was  part  of  a  delegation  asking  certain  teachers  if  they  were  willing  to  do  their  own  version  for  the  Sixth  Form  Review. Game  for  a  laugh  science  teacher  Eddie  Robinson  actually  said  yes  but  fortunately  for  his  career  - he  later  became  a  headmaster  in  Bury - there  were  no  other  takers.

After  the  fuss  I  tuned  in  for  the  second  episode  and  was  pretty  disappointed. There  was  plenty  of  smut  but  nothing  very  titillating- the  cartoons  were  the  naughtiest  item - or  very  funny  compared  to  say  Dave  Allen  or  Benny  Hill. In  the  sketches  Tarrant  proved  that  acting  isn't  one  of  his  talents  and  without  his  puppets,  Carolgees  was  nothing .

It  fell  on  Henry  to  keep  the  show  afloat  and  he  was  rewarded  by  the  appearance  of  Bernard  Manning  on  the  show, replacing  Sayle  who  had  a  prior  commitment  to  honour. Lenny  had  to  sit  through  a  fusillade  of  racist  jokes  until  Manning   turned  to  address  him  directly "It's  alright  laughing  Lenny  Henry , it's  alright  for  you  black  people, you  can  walk  home  on  your  own  at  night".

The  show's  run   came  to  an  end in  April  1982  and  under  pressure  from  the   IBA  ,Central  insisted  on  major  changes.  It  returned  a  year  later  as  a  pre-recorded  show  called  Saturday  Stayback  which  I  don't  think  I  ever  saw. It  only  lasted  for  six  episodes  anyway.  O.T.T.  didn't  finish  anyone's  career  ; all  five  presenters  lived  to  fight  another  day  and  still  defend  the  show.