Saturday, 31 December 2016
First viewed : 2 November 1982
After Paul Hogan. there was the film Walter with Ian McKellern , then the last thing I saw that night was the first Comic Strip film Five Go Mad In Dorset. I laughed so much that my sister, who'd gone to bed, came down to see what was so funny.
The Comic Strip was a group of alternative comedians drawn together by Peter Richardson in 1980 to perform at the Raymond Revue Bar. After Rik Mayall, Alexei Sayle, Nigel Planer, Ade Edmondson and Arnold Brown had all signed up he realised he needed so put an ad out which drew in Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Channel Four originally commissioned them to do five playlets one for the first night then four in January 1983
Five Go Mad In Dorset was a vicious parody of Enid Blyton's resolutely formulaic children's adventure stories featuring the Famous Five and The Secret Seven, attacking both the writing style and Blyton's old school Tory worldview. We'd both enjoyed those books as kids but still found it hilarious. The bit that had me in hysterics was the inclusion of the half-heard conversation plot device she always used as in "Blah blah Blah... secret passages... Blah blah blah... kidnapped scientists...blah blah blah,,, Third World War " This was intoned in a deliberately wooden fashion by the two criminals who just happened to be standing by the Five's tents.
The programme drew a number of complaints about the insertion of sexual content into the story. Saunders's Anne is told she's well developed for a ten year old, French's George is implied to be involved in bestiality with the dog Timmy and the two boys played by Edmondson and Richardson are presented as gay. At the film's climax the children's Uncle Quentin played by Keith Allen is outed as a paedophile. Allen drew some credibility for his involvement with the film after years as a stuffed shirt in Crossroads.
Sadly the team was never this good again and I soon gave up on them. The only other episodes I recall are the first follow-up Five Go Mad on Mescalin which had no new ideas and Dirty Movie . In the latter, Edmondson played a porn-fixated cinema projectionist and it was absolutely dire. That was my point of departure.
As we know, these performers went on to many greater things apart from Richardson himself who was too much of a control freak to work to anyone else's script. He's still in the game as a screenwriter albeit less active in recent years.
Friday, 30 December 2016
First viewed : 2 November 1982
This followed straight after Brookside on that first night of Channel Four.
The Australian comic's show had been running for nearly a decade by this time and I'm not sure at what point Channel Four's broadcasts began. It was a sketch-based show with Hogan playing a number of recurring characters such as George Fungus and Leo Wanker. I think it's safe to say Benny Hill was a major influence on Paul's work with many sketches featuring leering men, scantily-clad lovelies and sight gags.
Although Paul's a likeable guy I never found the show more than moderately funny and I struggle to recall any individual sketch that really cut the mustard.
The Show ended in 1984 a couple of years before Paul became a mega-star with Crocodile Dundee.
Thursday, 29 December 2016
First viewed : 2 November 1982
Another piece of the modern world falls into place here with the beginning of Channel Four. That's particularly underlined by Brookside as many of these actors ( e.g. Ricky Tomlinson, Sue Johnston, Amanda Burton ) have never been off the telly since.
Brookside was the brainchild of self-regarding Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond whose company, Mersey Television, got the nod to produce the new channel's flagship soap opera . An actual cul-de-sac of thirteen houses on a new build estate in Liverpool was purchased by the company, nobody being over-keen to move into the city at the time.
The soap started with just three houses occupied. The Grants were a working class family on their way up despite patriarch Bobby's unionism . The middle class Collins family were having to downsize from their home in Cheshire following dad Paul's redundancy and the Havershams were what would soon become known as a yuppie couple.
I wasn't sure if I'd seen the very first episode so I've re-watched it and on balance I think I probably saw at least some of it; the first ten minutes are so stunningly banal they would defeat anyone's recollection. It did improve and it was poignant to see the late, lamented Katrin Cartlidge playing the Collins's daughter Lucy. The other thing that struck me was the earthy language which the show was soon forced to clean up.
I stuck with it for a few episodes partly out of fascination for Damon Grant's scally mate Gizmo ( Robert T Cullen ), the most unhealthy looking TV character until the advent of McKenzie Crook, but he didn't last long . I didn't like its all-VT antiseptic look or the obvious left-wing bias in the writing. I was forced back to a few episodes in the first half of 1985 when I was running a sort of Bad Video club at my Hall of Residence . The screenings were supposed to start at 8pm after Corrie but this lad called , I think, Satnam sometimes insisted we wait until after Brookside. Otherwise I resolutely stayed away. However someone at Record Mirror was a big fan, even putting Barry and Karen Grant on the cover in January 1985, so I was rather unwillingly kept up to date with happenings on the Close.
With Brookside , Redmond pioneered the art of stunt storylines with particularly dramatic developments deliberately leaked to the press beforehand to create a buzz. It started with the "Free George Jackson" campaign which never really took off and the poor bloke was left in jail. Then you had the seige, Sheila's rape, the body under the patio, Anna Friel's lesbian kiss, the incest and so on. None of it was enough to tempt me back.
Redmond managed to keep the show buoyant until 1994 when the Monday episode was forced out of its time slot by a third episode of Eastenders on BBC 1 and had to compete with The Bill on ITV on a Tuesday. Thereafter ratings steadily fell and in November 2002 it was cut to one 90 minute episode a week late on Saturday evening, It was never going to recover from that and indeed the axe was announced the following summer, the last episode going out in the week of its 21st anniversary.
Redmond had long boasted that the series could continue through VHS then DVD if it was chopped. Thus , a DVD , Unfinished Business , was released just after the final episode was broadcast to predictably poor reviews and low sales. It contained a trailer for the next one, Settlin' Up but that's all that was ever shot of it. By 2005 even Redmond had accepted the show was over and sold Mersey Television to the All3Media Group. The houses were put up for sale but at far too high an asking price and remained empty and decaying until 2008 when they were used in a horror film called Salvage. Just after that a property developer bought them all and sold them as private residences in 2011.
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
First viewed : 31 October 1982
We reach a real landmark here with my nomination for the Beeb's greatest drama series ever. The series followed on from the single play "The Black Stuff" ( covered in the Play For Today post ) and caught up with the members of the tarmac gang back in Liverpool. The amount of time that had elapsed since their Middlesbrough misadventure wasn't specified but couldn't have been more than two or three years at most. There aren't too many references back to the original play; foreman Dixie still isn't speaking to the rest of them and Yosser is said to be "off his head since Middlesbrough" but that's about it so sadly Yosser still doesn't find those damned tinkers. All the original cast who were needed returned to their roles.
I was interested from the start but the original series on BBC 2 was on a bit late for Sunday evening. Some consciousness that my A Level exams were not too far off was beginning to manifest itself. I remember people at school talking about the first episode but that died off a bit with the subsequent two. However I decided I couldn't miss the fourth episode which concentrated on Yosser so that's where I first came in. A quick repeat on BBC1 in the New Year allowed me to catch up soon enough .
There are five episodes in all; although the latter four focus on an individual character there are narrative links that put them in chronological order. Alan Igbon's character Loggo doesn't get his own episode ; as a single guy he didn't offer the same dramatic possibilities. The first re-introduces the characters against a backdrop of mass unemployment in the city and an ongoing battle between the shysters running a black economy and the benefit fraud investigators of the D.O.E. It sets the tragi-comic tone of the series by incorporating both Yosser's spectacularly inept attempt at wall-building and the death of George's son ( not featured in the original play ) during a D.O.E. raid .
The second, least celebrated, episode focuses on Dixie ( Tom Georgeson ), the others having a very minor part in it. He isn't in such dire financial straits as the others but still needs to work . He finds a job as a security guard at what remains of the docks but it soon becomes clear he has to acquiesce in criminal activity which the principled Dixie finds very difficult to accept . It's the episode that features Kevin ( Gary Bleasdale ) the most; a major character in the original play, it was a bit disappointing that he was relegated to a minor role in the series.
The third episode is concerned with Chrissie ( Michael Angelis ) and focuses on the impact that unemployment is having on his relationship with his wife Angie ( Julie Walters ) who now found his easy-going attitude infuriating . Although the constant cat-fighting does become a bit wearing, it established Angelis and Walters, both previously known as comic actors, as serious players.
The fourth episode is just mind-blowing with a tour de force performance from Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes , his life as an alpha male unravelling as fast as his mental state, that has been rightly lauded . All the best-remembered moments in the series are in this one - "Gizza job", "I'm desperate, Dan", the exquisitely uncomfortable encounter with Graeme Souness and Sammy Lee, the brutal fight with the police and the junior headbutt on the social worker - but you can watch it over and over again and still be moved. Yosser became something of a poster boy for the unemployed as well as a Scouse anti-hero whose name was chanted at Anfield. Hill was troubled by all this and for a long time refused to talk about the series.
The fifth one is about George Malone ( Peter Kerrigan ) whose declining health has been an issue since the first play. In that respect , the outcome is fairly predictable. That's not the main problem I have with it though. I just think the canonisation of George as the patron saint of shop stewards is over-the-top, the queue of people at his home waiting for his sage advice, ludicrous and far-fetched. The episode does redeem itself after his funeral with the glorious scene at the pub in which Yosser slays the ghastly bully "Shake Hands" in his usual fashion, restoring some male pride at last.
The series was praised to the skies and rightly so a far as its dramatic qualities go. It's a bit more difficult to accept the contention that it was a great protest against Thatcherism since much of the material was already written before she came to power. As for its political impact. well, barely six months later, Thatcher was returned with a more than tripled majority. Tory wet Ian Gilmour wrote that in 1981 Rupert Murdoch had informed him "that nowadays nobody cared about unemployment, including apparently the unemployed, and that inflation was all that mattered". Perhaps he knew something we didn't.
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
First viewed : Autumn 1982
This isn't the sort of thing you'd want to admit to watching but at least once, we chose it in preference to Tomorrow's World as a prelude to Top of the Pops.
The show was in its fourth season though they were widely spaced given that the show was entirely dependent on the celebrity birthrate. The first two were in 1973 with David Nixon as host and the third was in 1977 with Roy Castle. This fourth one had smarmy, unfunny Leslie Crowther in the chair . The format was very simple, a panel of guests had to guess the famous parent ( shown to the audience ) of a baby within a certain amount of time by putting questions to the host . The celebrity would then reveal themselves.
By this season the producers had given themselves more room for manoeuvre by having grown-up offspring coming in and answering the questions for themselves though that made it much easier for the panel and doubtless their identity was often twigged straight away ( or even known beforehand ) by a panellist who then eked out the time with pointless questions.
The one I remember featured the daughter of comic actor Arthur English who'd made some tabloid headlines the year before by fathering her at 61 with his second wife who was 36 years younger. The couple split four years later and English died in 1995 when the girl, Clare- Louise, was 14. Despite being partially deaf, she is now a working actress.
Whose Baby ? changed hosts the following year with Bernie Winters taking over until the show's demise in 1988.
Monday, 26 December 2016
First viewed : 25 October 1982
By contrast , I knew pretty much exactly when this one was going to crop up because its haunting theme tune was a big hit and introduced the hitherto obscure Irish folk group Clannad to an international audience.
Harry's Game was a three-part adaptation, by Yorkshire TV on consecutive week nights, of a Gerald Seymour novel. Harry Brown ( Ray Lonnen ) is a serving army officer sent undercover into the Republican community to flush out an IRA hitman Billy Downes ( Derek Thompson ) who has just assassinated a Cabinet minister in London. He eventually manages to trace Downes through his own girlfriend Josephine ( Gil Brailey ) but the IRA are also on to him.
It's a tense, gripping thriller which manages to capture the bleak pointlessness of the conflict without laying it on with a trowel. It's not black and white either. Harry is a ruthless operator who doesn't think twice about endangering Josephine while Billy starts regretting his involvement from the moment he pulls the trigger. There's some harrowing moments particularly the suicide of teenager Theresa ( Linda Robson ) who gets caught between a rock and a hard place.
Lonnen put in a great performance as Harry but I can't say the same about Thompson whose limitations as an actor are rather exposed here. Tony Rohr is chilling as his brigade commander; he's played IRA men so often I'm sure even Gerry Adams thinks he's a comrade.
The climax is suitably exciting though you have to ignore a major continuity gaffe when Downes's shattered windscreen repairs itself mid-car chase.
I'd love to see it again for more than one reason. The back streets of Leeds doubled for Belfast and it seems very likely that the area I lived in during my last year at University there was featured. From the few clips on YouTube, I haven't spotted the actual street I lived on ( Thomas St ) but perhaps in the whole series it would be there.
Sunday, 25 December 2016
First viewed : Autumn 1982
I've been expecting this one to crop up for quite a while; I'm surprised it was as late as 1982.
Kingswood : A Comprehensive School was a sequel of sorts to Public School which featured Radley School and was broadcast a couple of years earlier. The format was the same, a fly-on-the-wall documentary capturing as many aspects of school life as naturally as possible. Kingswood was a medium-sized comprehensive school in the unemployment blackspot of Corby , Northamptonshire.
My mum seemed to be watching it just to wind herself up. Education was her obsession probably from the day we were born, fuelled by permanent regret at having left school at 14 without taking exams. She was a convinced meritocrat and regarded the scrapping of the 11-plus as an act of murderous vandalism. What made it worse for her was that its main political advocates, the likes of Tony Benn and Shirley Williams, hadn't used the state system at all for educating their own children but were preventing the talented children from less privileged backgrounds ( and, perhaps more pertinently, those who had slipped a notch or two down the social scale ) from rising up the ladder. She had mooted the idea of sitting the entrance exams for two local private grammars to me but I wasn't interested. When I went on to a middle school - which was crap, no doubt about that - my sister was pressed a bit more urgently and eventually went to one of them, with the later assistance of the Assisted Places scheme.
Now she had a new target in Kingswood's head, Brian Tyler, an interesting contradictory figure who looked like a cross between Eric Morecambe and Elvis Costello and employed some unusual hand gestures to get his point across. He was a posthumous child and a Londoner whose family had struggled on a low income. He'd got his degree as a mature student after doing A Levels at night school. He was a zealot for comprehensive education with a king-size chip on his shoulder about private education. He firmly believed that children from privileged backgrounds should be forced to sit next to poor children while being educated. I recall Mum discussing the programme with her more liberal-minded sister that Christmas and screaming "He called me a prostitute !" which was not quite true as he had applied the term to the staff who worked in private schools rather than the parents of the children.
I felt inclined to defend him somewhat as you might expect and in his interactions with the kids he seemed to be a decent guy though inclined to let negotiations drag on too long. Direct to camera though, sitting in his chair in a hideous pink shirt and theatrically throwing his head around, he came across as a self-regarding, opinionated wanker with a very Alpha male outlook. " A family's OK if Dad's alright isn't it ? It's not much more complicated than that" just makes you cringe.
There was much more evidence of this in the episode I recall best, number 6, where they had to appoint a new deputy head. It's hard to conceive that employment law as it currently stands would allow cameras into an interview and, even given the passage of time it seems astounding that all the seven candidates must have agreed to it. One of them , a nice lady called Mrs Pinner who looked a bit long in the tooth to be moving upwards, completely collapsed in the final interview and it's hard to believe the presence of the cameras wasn't a contributory factor.
The internal candidate was a man called David Bates, a thirtysomething Derek Jacobi lookalike who had been doing the job in an acting capacity for a few months. He came across as a decent guy but not really senior management material. That was the opinion of the staff panel under the chairmanship of a history teacher who Tyler described as "very Machiavellian" ( it would be interesting to know what their relationship was like after the programme was broadcast ). Bates had managed to wheedle himself out of having to face them and they were unanimous that new blood was preferable and he wouldn't be on their shortlist.
The final interviews were conducted by Tyler and two school governors with two representatives from the local authority present in an advisory capacity. At the start of the episode , Bates had said he thought the head and governors would be onside for him and it was the county representatives that he'd have to convince and boy, did he call that right. Both the LA men ( Alan and Alistair ) were unimpressed by Bates and agreed with the staff panel that he wouldn't have made the cut as an external candidate but fatally they had different preferences for the winner. Alistair thought the qualities of a Mrs Beardsley gave them an ideal opportunity to appoint a woman to the all-male senior leadership team while Alan preferred the intellectual heft of a Mr Shepherd . When the female governor plumped for Mrs Beardsley, Tyler threw his toys out of the pram and resorted to personal abuse calling Beardsley a hypocrite and a poseur. The look of incredulous contempt from Alan at that was priceless. Tyler then said he'd want to re-advertise rather than appoint her. The threat was enough to get Alan on his side and the governors meekly came to heel and agreed to Bates's appointment. It was a riveting demonstration of power politics. Tyler got some stick in the press for his apparent misogyny and deployed what would become the trusty shield for Big Brother evictees, that it was down to selective editing.
Tyler had a brief media side career on the back of the programme , appearing on Question Time, but the circus moved on and he fell back into the nitty-gritty of headship. He eventually retired in 1998. I didn't see the 2008 What Happened Next programme which re-visited the school. Today the name survives in a Secondary Academy but the original school merged with another in the noughties and the buildings featured in the programme were razed to the ground a few years ago.
Saturday, 24 December 2016
First viewed : 11 October 1982
Normal programming was suspended on Monday 11th October 1982 for coverage of the lifting of the Tudor warship, the Mary Rose, from the bottom of the Solent. The remains of the ship had been discovered just over a decade earlier and since then a Trust headed by Prince Charles had worked to raise the ship to the surface. It had originally been planned for the day before but technical hitches postponed it for 24 hours.
I saw some of the broadcast in the morning before setting off for school but not the lift itself which had taken place before I got back. I remember that the firm who made the steel cradle around the hull, Babcock Construction, had painted their name on it on the side facing the shore. They got their come-uppance for the shameless product placement when one of the supports buckled under the strain , a heart-stopping moment for the onlookers but it did not damage the wreck.
The Mary Rose is now a major tourist attraction in Portsmouth. I've never actually seen it but funnily enough, I have been to the only comparably resurrected ship, the Vasa in Stockholm.
Friday, 23 December 2016
First viewed : Autumn 1982
Saturday Superstore , launched in October 1982 , was basically Swap Shop re-branded to reflect the fact that there was a new guy at the helm. With the benefit of hindsight, replacing Noel Edmunds for five years on the Saturday morning kids TV flagship would be the apogee of Mike Read's career and to be fair he was a competent host. Other than that, the presenting team ( Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and John Craven ) stayed the same until the following year when Philbin left to have a baby and was replaced by the much sexier Sarah Greene. A seemingly sane David Icke joined the team at the same time. The format was pretty much identical especially after they ditched the shop theme in the second season.
I only ever dipped into it occasionally - it was kids TV after all - but it was a part of the pop landscape in the eighties and so there were a few incidents that I read about and wished I'd seen such as a 3- year old Natalie Casey asking Boy George to take her to the toilet and Matt Bianco getting called " a bunch of wankers" during a live Q & A session.
Then of course in the final series Mrs T dropped by and a young girl asked her where she'd be if they dropped the bomb - well Read wasn't going to ask her any toughies was he ? Thatcher gave the usual flannel about a strong N.A.T.O. keeping the peace to which the kid listened politely then said "Yeah but where will you be ? " Thatcher icily replied "I shall be in London" thereby conceding the point that it might happen after all. Thatcher also participated in the video review slot where she pretended to like The Thrashing Doves' Beautiful Imbalance, actually a pretty good song. It was a minor hit and it's not clear whether her endorsement helped or harmed it.
The one episode I did see for myself was Frankie Goes To Hollywood's appearance to promote the Welcome To The Pleasuredome single on 22 March 1985 . I was back home for a Rochdale game ( which must have been called off because there's no result for that day in the stats ) and must have put the telly on while waiting for dinner. The lads gave an amiable interview but there was a sting in the tail. They'd brought in a collection of memorabilia to give away in a competition for which they'd devised three questions announced by Holly Johnson :
- Who did we do our first radio interview with ?
- What was unusual about that interview ? and
- Who banned Relax ?
That last one clearly hadn't been cleared with Read and as he started to protest, the other lads jumped in, "No No you can't give it away !" which of course he couldn't . Done up like a kipper, Read introduced their video through gritted teeth.
It's tempting to tie the demise of Saturday Superstore in April 1987 to Read's damaged credibility, not helped by tabloid revelations about him bonking to the music of the unfashionable Icicle Works, but at most that can only be part of the story. The show was coming under pressure from an ITV rival called No 73 and another re-boot was needed.
This time it was much more thorough. Only Greene and agony uncle Philip Hodson survived the purge and went into Going Live. We've covered Read's travails in the Pop Quiz post. Chegwin was heading the same way but managed to turn things around for himself a few years later on The Big Breakfast. Craven still had his Newsround and two years later began his long stint on Countryfile. Icke, well, we'll come back to him in due course.
Thursday, 22 December 2016
First viewed : 21 September 1982
This was a one-off documentary narrated by Barry Norman about the so-called "Charm School " ( actually the "Company of Youth" ) set up by the Rank Organisation in the 1940s to nurture young talent. Much of the programme was taken up by the story of Diana Dors and her ultimately failed attempt to conquer Hollywood in the fifties. I hadn't previously known that the overweight panel show regular was once considered a serious rival to Marilyn Monroe. The programme gave comparatively little attention to the one undisputed star among the alumni , Christopher Lee.
The third most famous product was former disc jockey Pete Murray who chose a different career to acting. The other graduates interviewed were actresses who are now almost completely forgotten , Barbara Murray ( no relation ) , Peggy Evans, Susan Beaumont and Beverly Brooks. Only Beaumont and Murray (P) survive today.
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
First viewed : Uncertain
We didn't usually watch much tennis outside of Wimbledon but in the early eighties , BBC Two screened the two US Open Finals and one Sunday evening we watched the Mens' game . The only problem is I can't remember which year it was. Both the 1982 and 1983 games featured the same two protagonists , Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl, and had pretty much the same result, a four set win for Connors.*
The incident I recall wasn't part of the actual match. During one of the breaks, the camera panned out of the stadium to a glorious late afternoon view of the Manhattan skyline and either Dan Maskell or John Barrett intoned "This is the New York skyline and that is the sun !" They duly received the Golden Egg Award on the following week's The Late,Late Breakfast Show for services to the art of stating the bloody obvious, Noel Edmunds having a good chortle at the clip.
These days Sky have exclusive rights to the tournament.
* The 1983 triumph was his last Grand Slam win.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016
First viewed : 4 September 1982
BBC One launched its autumn season with a new vehicle for Noel Edmunds, moving into adult TV with a prime time light entertainment show. It was produced by Michael Hurll who also did Top of the Pops and had a live musical act each week although it was always a safe choice.
It was a strange, hybrid show which had both derivative and innovative elements. The Golden Egg Awards for amusing recent bloomers was clearly trying to steal them from under Dennis Nordern's nose and The Hit Squad's practical joke set-up was a lame attempt to compete with Game For A Laugh on the other channel. On the other hand it was well ahead of the curve in featuring funny video clips sent in by viewers, launching the entire premise of You've Been Framed.
The other main feature of the show - and the one that would eventually sink it - was Give It A Whirl where a member of the audience would be assigned some challenge via a fairground roulette wheel. The options ranged from dangerous stunts to Generation Game - style tasks. How they got on would then feature on the following week's programme. It was clearly rigged; when a dear old lady stepped forward you knew she wasn't going to be fired out of a cannon. Lo and behold, the needle dropped on "Make A Pop Record". The resultant abortion, "Have A Cup of Tea" recorded with Chas and Dave was so bad I don't think they even bothered releasing it.
The show had teething problems and ratings for the first series were poor. Co-host comedian Leni Harper was bumped after half a dozen episodes. Then there was Peel. Hurll had made major changes to Top of the Pops aiming for a continuous party vibe then bafflingly , at the start of 1982 , persuaded Radio One's most esoteric DJ John Peel, who'd evaded the programme for over a decade , to resume a regular presenting slot. Peel's incongruous, self-deprecating presence was an immediate hit so Hurll signed him up for this as well.
On the first show, he was in the studio and gave a little monologue that would have been fine for a late night changeover on R1 with David "Kid" Jensen but was embarrassingly unsuitable for a 6pm Saturday evening TV slot. From the embarrassed titters that greeted his mention of going to see a band called Christians In Search of Filth during the week, it was clear the studio audience had no idea what to make of him. It was so badly pitched , you wondered how his usually sound judgement could have gone so awry.
After that Peel was switched to being the outside broadcaster for the stunts that couldn't be accommodated in the studio. In September 1983 he narrowly avoided being maimed or killed by flying metal when a car turned over at speed and he never appeared again. According to Edmunds they never spoke after that.
Perhaps some of Peel's chagrin was down to the choice of replacement. Mike Smith was at the absolute opposite end of the DJ spectrum to Peel, an ambitious self-publicist with no interest in music whatsoever. His willingness to be the butt of Edmunds's jokes, whilst stood in the rain until his own big gig came along, became a distinctive feature of the show.
As to the musical content it did manage to lay down a couple of marks in musical history. The first series climaxed with what, until earlier this year, was the last public appearance by Abba. It was preceded by an exquisitely awkward interview with the band, with poor Edmunds visibly struggling with the Scandinavian winter's chill they'd brought over with them.
By the second season the ratings had improved and artists appearing on the show could expect to see a sales boost in the charts the following week. This gave Edmunds another awkward interview to manage. Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson had made another single together , "Say Say Say " and then lazily decided not to make a video for it ; after all, Queen and David Bowie hadn't bothered for Under Pressure two years earlier. That however was a decent song. "Say Say Say " sounded like an outtake from Off The Wall and an outtake from Back To The Egg had been bolted together by a welder. After two weeks in the charts, the public correctly divined that this Event Single was actually mediocre rubbish and it started to drop from its number 10 peak.
A dismayed Macca quickly got off his arse and on to a plane to California to shoot a video with Jacko. He then presented it to Top Of The Pops but the programme had a longstanding rule that they didn't feature songs that were going down the charts and Hurll commendably stood his ground against McCartney's special pleading. He offered McCartney a slot for the video on this show provided that he came in for an interview, his first for the BBC in a decade.
With ill grace McCartney accepted the offer, much to the displeasure of Olivia Newton-John who hadn't expected to be playing second fiddle to anyone on her appearance. Macca brought along Linda to eat up some of the time. I thought Edmunds handled it well. He knew neither of them wanted to be there and that he wasn't going to get any great revelation out of the former Beatle but he stayed in control and didn't give him too many opportunities for monosyllabic answers. The single duly climbed back up to number 2 so Macca got the pay-off he wanted but there was no mistaking that he'd been brought down a peg. It was a considerable coup for Hurll who'd faced off against a megastar and got him to dance to his tune.
Perhaps Macca and Peelie derived a modicum of pleasure from the show's grim demise. Despite the latter's near escape, the show had continued with the daring stunts and just over 30 years ago sent hod carrier Michael Lush to his death in a shoddily prepared bungee jump stunt. They were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive in a landmark case and made a big pay out to Lush's family. Edmunds declared he couldn't carry on immediately after the accident and so the show terminated in the most abrupt fashion in November 1986.
Monday, 19 December 2016
First viewed : 1 September 1982
The following night's contribution to Rock Week was a documentary on the legendary late 60s band The Doors. Although the subtitle is the same as Jerry Hopkins ' bestselling book on the band in 1980, I'm not sure how this programme related ( if at all ) to the video released at the same time since that ran for an hour and this was only 40 minutes.
This one had much more significance for my sister who became a big fan of the band after this broadcast. How much of that was down to the music and how much to Jim Morrison's erm "crotch appeal " I wouldn't like to hazard a guess. I was and remain more ambivalent about them. I love Ray Manzarek's jazzy instrumental breaks but I find it difficult to get past those pretentious lyrics. Still, they were never boring and this documentary captured their moment in time pretty well.
Sunday, 18 December 2016
First viewed : 31 August 1982
BBC Two's Rock Week continued the following night with highlights of a Jam gig from earlier in the year in Birmingham. This was part of the The Gift tour so there were additional musicians tucked discreetly in the wings behind the core trio.
I've written extensively about The Jam on my music blogs and have little more to add here beyond noting how tight they were by this stage and how exclusively male their following appeared to be. There was hardly a female to be seen in the audience shots.
Saturday, 17 December 2016
First viewed : 30 August 1982
The Bank Holiday Rock Night concluded with a live broadcast from a Squeeze gig at the Regal Theatre, Hitchin, introduced by David Hepworth. Squeeze had been my favourite band in the late seventies and they were probably my sister's at the time so we both looked forward to this one.
There were two downsides to seeing the band at this point in time, just a few weeks before they announced they were splitting up. Firstly, neither Jools Holland nor Paul Carrack were on the keyboards. Don Snow had the musical chops but his predecessors had brought some personality to their live shows. Secondly, they were touring a duff album in Sweets For My Stranger and so the setlist contained a few duds.
Unlike the Genesis concert we were familiar with most of the material and the band were very proficient but somehow there was a spark missing. Both of us agreed that The Specials gig had been better.
Friday, 16 December 2016
First viewed : 30 August 1982
Following on from Mick were edited highlights of a Genesis concert ( 45 minutes from a two and a half hour gig ). The concert filmed was the 7 May 1980 gig at the London Lyceum as part of the tour to promote the Duke album. This was just before Phil Collins broke out as a solo performer but they were on an upward trajectory nonetheless.
I had some time for Genesis as they'd recently put out some a couple of very good singles in "Follow You Follow Me" and "Turn It On Again" but I didn't have any of their albums. The songs featured were nearly all unfamiliar to me and live, this version of Genesis , had only one person with any stage presence. Tony Banks. Mike Rutherford and their touring appendices, Daryl Stuermer and Chester Thompson had the combined charisma of a cauliflower. Therefore this was of only mild interest.
Thursday, 15 December 2016
First viewed : 30 August 1982
The next few posts will be short and easy. For the first time BBC2 gave most of the 1982 August Bank Holiday afternoon and evening to rock music linked together by David Hepworth and Mark Ellen. After a screening of Jailhouse Rock and a welcome repeat of The Specials's Rock Goes To College gig, the next programme was a documentary about Mick Fleetwood's trip to Ghana to record with some Aftrican musicians for his 1981 solo album The Visitor. It reached number 43 in the States but bombed completely over here as drummers' solo albums tend to do ( don't bother to remind me of the obvious exception - he's up next ! )
At this point in time I wasn't very interested in the Mac but , whatever his shortcomings as an MC, Fleetwood is a nice, well-meaning guy and this was diverting enough to keep us watching.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
First viewed : 17 August 1982
J B Priestley's socialist morality play has been an English Literature exam staple for decades and so this 1982 three-part adaptation was originally made as a schools programme. It was then decided that it would probably work as a prime time drama although with actors of the calibre of Bernard Hepton and Nigel Davenport on board that should have been a no-brainer.
Hepton plays Inspector Goole, a detective who intrudes on a bourgeois family dinner party as part of an investigation into the suicide of a young working class woman. He then politely but inexorably exposes that each person present bears some responsibility for her death. I won't reveal the twist at the end but I think it's pretty well known.
The budget wasn't enormous but it didn't need to be given that all the action takes place in the one room ( hence the play's popularity with Am Dram companies ). Sarah Berger from The Crucible plays a more sympathetic character here.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
First viewed : 7 August 1982
The night after Bill Grundy's quietly valedictory series commenced, another TV career crashed in a blaze of hubris and incompetence that is still talked about today.
This was the second attempt, after Saturday Live , to fill the post-Parkinson void and it crashed spectacularly. Bernard Falk was a respected journalist who effectively reported on election nights in the seventies and regularly fronted items on Nationwide. He was selected to host a live music, comedy and chat show which would last eight weeks and cover each of the Seven Deadly Sins before a final show about "Getting Caught". The opening titles had him mugging to illustrate the various Sins in a frankly rather disturbing manner. "Lust" was the subject of the first episode ( the only one I saw).
Ironically this would have been meat and drink to Grundy in his prime who made his reputation on being able to control a discussion in the studio. Falk on the other hand proved to be completely inept. Despite clutching a wad of papers, he seemed to have no idea of where he wanted the discussion to go and his consistently ill-judged questions produced some buttock-clenching moments. A group of bathing beauties had been brought in as eye candy and could only giggle in embarrassment when Falk blundered up to them and asked how they would define lust. A Salvation Army officer answered no he didn't think there was a place for lust. in a Christian marriage and then declined to elaborate. Even when, by chance, Falk landed on something interesting, he failed to recognise it . He had Karen Armstrong, a former nun, in the studio and, in the middle of her riveting account of flagellating herself, he got out of his chair and ran up to rugby stripper Erica Roe for a monosyllabic reply to his enquiry, did she do it to provoke lust ?
The comedy and music fell flat as the audience, disproportionately made up of religious people, refused to applaud the risque material. It's remarkable how much hanging rope they managed to pack into just 35 minutes.
The show is also often cited as the beginning of Oliver Reed's latter day career as a drunken saboteur of chat shows but I'm not sure he was that drunk here. Novelist Charlotte Lamb , who came on with him, said that, backstage, Ollie recognised that he had boarded the Titanic straight away and tried to scarper before she grabbed his hand and led him to the chairs. His clearly on-the-hoof contribution - " I love to look at ladies that take their clothes off . I don't even care a jot whether fellows take their clothes off and jump upon them. I think that if that is lust then that's jolly good too" - didn't add much to the sum of human knowledge but at least he was trying.
The wretched farrago was universally eviscerated in the Monday papers and apparently some BBC execs wanted to chop it there and then but Falk was able to make two more programmes on "Covetousness" ( which at least scored a point for presience by having Gary Glitter on ) and "Envy" before the Beeb axed it to save further embarrassment . Falk was allowed to continue as presenter of the escapology challenge series Now Get Out Of That which ran for a couple more years and he wrote and produced three documentaries on The Walton Sextuplets in the eighties but was certainly never considered as a chat show host again. He died of a heart condition in 1990 aged 47. The show's creator Sean Hardie resigned his post as head of light entertainment at BBC Scotland who produced the show.
Monday, 12 December 2016
First viewed : 6 August 1982
Back to the Friday night regional TV slot now and this rather nice little series provided a quietly dignified end to Bill Grundy's TV career.
Bill both wrote and presented the six-part series celebrating some of the Lancashire dialect poets of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Five of the episodes concentrated on a named individual, the final one was an anthology of light rhymes from various sources. When Bill wasn't delivering to camera, a montage of vaguely appropriate scenes or illustrations was on screen. It was excellent just before bed viewing . particularly as many of the poems such as "Bonny Brid " and "Come Whoam To Thi Childer An' Me" celebrated simple domestic sentiment.
The subject of the first programme was Rochdale's Edwin Waugh ( see above ) which Bill delivered from the foot of the Blackstone Edge Roman Road just 30 minutes stroll from our house ( and in Littleborough not Rochdale but never mind ). He never moved an inch from the spot in the entire 30 minutes.
The other poets covered were Ammon Wrigley, Samuel Fitton , Samuel Laycock and Ben Brierley.
It was repeated in 1984 and I think that was the last we saw of Grundy. He popped up again as co-host, with Paul Morley, of the G-Mex -The Tenth Event music festival in 1986 , ( not such a bizarre choice when you consider Grundy and Tony Wilson worked together at Granada ) then vanished into obscurity. He died of a heart attack in 1993 aged 69.
At the time the programme was broadcast, there were quite a few local societies dedicated to keeping the memory of these guys alive. I don't know how many there are now but at least the Edwin Waugh Dialect Society still seems to be reasonably active. Long may it continue !
Sunday, 11 December 2016
First viewed : August 1982
This was a very innovative series that has somehow fallen into obscurity. There's an internet rumour that Glynis Barber bought the rights and had the tapes destroyed but that would have been pretty futile given the popularity of VCR machines by 1984. It's much more likely that there simply isn't enough of it to make a DVD release commercially viable.
It was an adaptation of a cartoon strip that appeared in The Daily Mirror between 1932 and 1959 whose titular heroine was brave and resourceful but plagued by a perpetual knack of losing her clothes in embarrassing situations. It was extremely popular among the troops in World War II and no doubt the TV series pleased the squaddies returning from the Falklands.
There were two stories shown in ten minute episodes over a week at 9pm on BBC2 then they were collected together in an omnibus edition the following Sunday night. It was the first TV series to make such use of blue screen technology with the actors ( including Frank Thornton, Robin Bailey, Max Wall and Suzanne Danielle ) performing on a bare stage with the cartoon strip background matched at a later stage. The scripts by Mervyn Haisman were light farce and packed with Carry On double entendres.
Jane was played by Glynis Barber , fresh from the final series of Blake's Seven and looking lovely in 1940s underwear. Although she enjoyed making it at the time, Glynis was a bit spooked by the flood of skin flick offers that came her way afterwards and insisted on a body double for her sex scene in The Wicked Lady , the film she made immediately afterwards. Tough luck on Oliver Tobias who didn't get to ruffle the Barber boobs.*
The first tale was repeated a couple of times in 1983-4 but the second ( inferior ) one, actually titled Jane in the Desert and shown in September 1984, has never been re-broadcast.
* There was the briefest of glimpses of them at the end of Jane in the Desert.