Thursday, 21 September 2017

795 We Can Keep You Forever

First  viewed :  21  January  1987

This  was  a  one-off  documentary  about   the  thorny  issue  of  whether  or  not  there  were  still  prisoners  of  war  being  held  in  South  East  Asia.  The  programme  focused  mainly  on  Laos  where  a  number  of  pilots  flying  aid  to  anti-communist  forces  in  the  so-called  "Secret  War"  were  shot  down  and  captured  by  the  Viet  Cong's  allies,  the  Pathet  Lao. Most  of  the  M.I.A.s  unaccounted  for  seemed  to  be  in  this  category. The  accumulation  of  evidence  seemed  to  be  quite  strong  and  even  Henry  Kissinger  , interviewed  for  the  programme, was  careful  not  to  entirely  dismiss  the  possibility  of  surviving  prisoners. The  programme  included  an  interview  with  a  real-life  Rambo  figure  planning  incursions  into  remote  areas  of  Laos  from  Thailand  with  the  aid  of  motley  remnants  of  the  anti -communist  force.

Monday, 18 September 2017

794 The World According To Smith and Jones

First  viewed : 11  January  1987

This  was  all  a   bit  strange. Between  Seasons  3 and  4  of  Alas  Smith  and  Jones,  Mel  and  Griff  popped  over  to  ITV  to  make  a  comedy  series  for  the  Sunday  night  slot  usually  occupied  by  Spitting  Image. It  took  the  form  of  the  duo  sitting  behind  a  desk  a  la  The  Two  Ronnies  and  presenting  a  mock-history  of  the  world  through  the  use  of  old  film  clips. It's  probably best  remembered  for  Griff  finding  some  anonymous  fat  guy  among  the  footage  and  claiming  it  to  be  one  of  Mel's  ancestors - not  exactly  high  brow  comedy. The  critics  reviled  it; I  thought  it  was  quite  well  put  together  and  harmless  wind-down  entertainment.

For  some  reason  ITV  stopped  the 12-part  series  after  episode  6 ( almost  certainly  the  last  thing  I  watched  on  the  night  before  I  started  work )  and  presented  the  rest  as  a  new  series  the  following  year. In  between, the new  season  of  Alas  Smith  and  Jones  was   broadcast  on  BBC 2  and  the  first  episode  saw  Mel  and  Griff  ripping  into  the  series  themselves. Perhaps  it  was  a  necessary  penance  as  the  Beeb  had  seriously  contemplated  cutting  them  adrift  for  their  temporary  desertion  but  it  was  odd  to  say  the  least.   

Sunday, 17 September 2017

793 Rockcliffe's Babies

First  viewed : 9  January  1987

More  than  any  other  programme, this  reminds  me  of  those  first  few  weeks  of  1987  before  I  entered  the  world  of  work. More  specifically,  it  reminds  me  of  Fridays  and  a  brief  adventure  which  didn't  seem   all  that  significant  at  the time  but  had  two  big  pointers  for  the  future. In  September  1986,  I  went  to  an  Enrolment  Day  at  Rochdale  College   looking  for  something  that  might  improve  my  employability  and  signed  up  for  a  course  in  Public  Administration  there. On  the  first   morning  the  tutor  asked  us  to  list  our  qualifications  and  shortly  afterwards,  he  pulled  me  out, said  it  wasn't  the  right  course  for  me  and  he'd  arranged for  me  to  attend  a  more  advanced  course  at  Bolton  Institute  of  Higher  Education. This  turned  out  to  be  the  second  year  of  the   qualification  course  for  the  Institute  of  Chartered  Secretaries  and  Administrators,  of  which  I  wasn't  a  student  member  nor  did  I  have  a  sponsoring  authority  so  I  don't  know  what  he  had  arranged  with  regard  to  the  fees. Anyway,  I  started  attending  the  course  and  no  one  challenged  my  place  or  chased  me  for  money. Not  only  did  it  get  me  more  acquainted  with  my  future  place  of  abode, the  course  also  had  a  financial  accounting  module  which  gave  me  a  bit  of  a  head  start  when  studying  the  subject  for  real  12  months  later. Rockliffe's  Babies  was  the  viewing  highlight  of  the  evenings  after  my  last  few  attendances  there.  

 It  concerned  seven  young  plain  clothes  constables  working  for  a  London  crime  squad  under  hard  task  master  Sergeant  Rockliffe  ( Ian  Hogg )  on  a  tough  manor  known  as  "The  Dragon"  hence  the  theme  tune  of  stroppy  kids  chanting  about  social  deprivation. They  comprised  two  sensible  girls  Jan  and  Karen  ( Alphonsia  Emmanuel  and  Susannah  Shelling ) , poncey  graduate  David  ( Bill  Champion ),  headstrong,  accident-prone  Scouser  Gerry  ( Joe  McGann ), lazy  Welshman  Paul ( Martyn  Ellis ). slow-witted  yokel  Keith  ( John  Blakey )  and  street  smart  Steve  ( Brett  Fancy ). The  latter  character  dates  the  show  more  than  anything  else . Though  an  effective  copper  and  good  team  player,  Steve  was  also  an  overt  racist  with  links  to  far  right  groups  and  it's  inconceivable  now  that  any  such  character  would  be  allowed  to  go  through  two  seasons  without  being  made  to  account  for  such  transgressions.

Though  the  setting  was  grim  and  bleak, there  was  a  lot  of  humour  in the  show  in  the  banter  between  the  seven  fledglings  and  with  their  mentor. I  think  it's  probably  the  cop  show  that's  come  closest  to  recapturing  the  essence  of  The  Sweeney. On  the  downside,  Hogg's  mannered  style  of  acting  was  an  acquired  taste  that  I  never  really  savoured   and  the  whole  series  was  shot  on  VT  which  didn't  do  it  any  favours.

The  programme   ran  for  two  seasons  before  mutating  into  something  else  which  I'll  cover  as  a  separate  show. Apart  from  Shelling  whose  career  seems  to  have  ground  to   halt  a  decade  ago  they're  all  still  acting  but  none  have  become  stars, McGann  having  probably  the  highest  profile  now. For  Champion, Ellis  and  Blakey  as  well  as  Shelling  this  was  definitely  the  highpoint  of  their  careers.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

792 Home and Away

First  viewed : 7  January  1987

This  was  nothing  to  do  with  Australian  soap  operas  but  a  one-off  documentary  about  two  female  footballers,  Kerry  Davis  and  Rose  Reilly. At  the  time,  the  women's  game  seemed  to  be  defined  by  the  Not  The  Nine  O  Clock  News  sketch  with  Smith  and  Jones  as  two  pervs  sitting  through  a  really  inept  display  for  the  shirt-swapping  at  the  end. That  may  have  been  an  exaggeration  but  there  was  certainly  no  money  in  it  so  Kerry  from  Crewe  and  Rose  from  Kilmarnock  had  to  up  sticks  and  sign  semi-professionally  for  Italian  clubs, Lazio  and  AC  Milan  respectively. Rose  had  actually  been  playing  in  Italy  for  over  a  decade   but  Kerry  hadn't  taken  any  Italian  lessons  beforehand  and  was  struggling  to  settle. I  remember  doing  a  radio  interview  and  tetchily  asking  them "Do  you  not  think  I  would  speak  Italian  if  I  could ?" The  programme  climaxed  with  a  game  between  the  two  sides ; I  can't  recall  who  came  out  on  top.

Despite  her  issues  Kerry  did  play  for  four  seasons  in  Italy  for  Lazio  and  Napoli   before  returning  to  the  UK  and  is  remembered  as  a  top  England  international  as  the  women's  game  rose  in  status. Rose  played  on  until  she  was  forty  and  appeared   for  both  Scotland  and  Italy , winning  the  women's  world  cup  with  the  latter  in  1984.

Friday, 15 September 2017

791 Sporting Triangles

First  viewed : 7  January  1987

This  was  ITV's  belated  attempt  to  match  BBC  One's  long-running  A  Question  of  Sport.  The  teams  of   sporting  celebrities  had  to  navigate  their  way  around  a  Trivial  Pursuits-style  board  answering  questions  relating  to  their  own  sport  or  others,  depending  where  they  landed.  Like  its  rival  Sporting  Triangles  started  with  two  teams  of  three  under  resident  captains  Jimmy  Greaves  and  Tessa  Sanderson. It  switched  to  three  teams  of  two  when  Emlyn  Hughes  was  poached  from  AQOS . Andy  Gray  began  his  TV  career  here  as  an  alternative  captain, the  shows  featuring  three  out  of  the  four  in  random  combinations. Nick  Owen  was  quizmaster  for  the  first  two  seasons  then  was  replaced  by  Andy  Craig  until  the  show  was  axed  in  1990.

I  checked  out  the  first  episode  with  its  strong  line  up  of  guests  ( Bryan  Robson, Dennis  Taylor, Seb  Coe  and  Lloyd  Honeyghan )  but  didn't  watch  much  of  it  after  that. That's  not  because  I  thought  it  was  atrocious  but   I'm  not  a  general  sports  fan  and  didn't   have  the  appetite  for  two  sports  quiz  programmes  a  week.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

790 Alfred Hitchcock Presents

First  viewed : 6  January  1987

Alfred  Hitchcock  Presents  was  a  re-boot  of  an  American  TV  classic  from  the  fifties  and  early  sixties   whereby  the  great  film  director  would  play  on  his  reputation  as  the  master  of  suspense  with  a  campy  monologue  and  epilogue  bookending  a  short  drama. Hitchcock  himself  only  directed  a  handful  of  them  but  it  was  an  extremely  popular  series.

Twenty  years  after  it  finished , NBC  decided  to  revive  it  with  re-filmed  versions  of   previous  episodes  and  some  entirely  new  stories. Of  course  Hitchcock  had  been  dead  for  five  years  by  then  but  they  colorised   his  contributions  and  re-used  them, fitting  the  most  apposite    they  could  find  to  the  new  stories  and  hoping  for  the  best.  It  ran  for  four  years.

ITV  ( or  at  least  Granada )  broadcast  it  very  late  at  night  and  the  only  one  I  recall  watching  is  The  Creeper  ( one  of  the  re-filmed  stories )   because  it  starred  Karen  Allen. She  played  Jackie  Foster, a  paranoid  yuppie  woman  who  is  plagued  by  a  stalker  and  ends  up  garotted  by  someone  she  actually  does  trust.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

789 Inspector Morse

First  viewed  :  January  1987

I  wasn't  a  great  fan  of  this  when  it  started  and  I  think  I  saw  most  of  it  through  repeats  in the  nineties. I  thought if  John  Thaw  wanted  to  do  another  police  detective  series  then  it  should  be  as  Jack  Regan, older  and  possibly  wiser  but  still  in  and  around  "the  manor " ,not  poncing  around  Oxford  listening  to  classical  music in  a  fancy  old  Jaguar. I  found  his  attempt  at  an  upper  class  accent  particularly  aggravating.

The  series  was  liberally  based  on  the  novels  by  Colin  Dexter; the  Lewis  character  as  played  by  Kevin  Whately  was  completely  different  from  the  man  described  in  the  books. There  were  originally  seven  seasons  of  3-5  episodes  between  1987  and  1993  then  Thaw  went off  to do  Cavanagh  Q.C.  probably  to  the  relief   of  Dexter  who  was  struggling  to  keep  pace  with  the  series. Thereafter,  there  was  one  episode  per  year  until  the  character  was  killed  off  in  2000. There  have  been  two  spin-off  series  Lewis  ( which  may  have  just  finished ) and  Endeavour ( ongoing ),

Although  I  did  get  to  like  it, I  don't  completely  endorse  it. For  all  its  high  production  values, I don't  think  it  always  justified  its  two  hour  length. There  are  only  two  episodes  ( both  from  the  1992  season ) where  I  can  recall  the  plot  in  detail, the  infamous  rave  story  directed  by  Danny  Boyle  where  Morse  investigates  the  suicide  of  his  neice  and  has  to  brush  up  on  what  these  young  people  are  getting  off  on  and  the  one  where  an  old  flame  of  Morse   helps  arrange  her  dying  partner's  suicide  to  frame  his  son-in-law  whose infidelity  caused  his  daughter's  death.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

788 Carrot Confidential

First  viewed : 3  January  1987

Jasper  was  back  with  a  new  vehicle, four  years  after  Carrott's  Lib  finished.

Carrott  Confidential  was  on  a  bit  earlier  on  a  Saturday  evening  than  Carrott's  Lib  so  the  content  was  toned  down  a  bit  and  he  didn't  have  as  strong  a  team  around  him. I  think  Steve  Punt  and  Hugh  Dennis  have  improved  over  the  years  but  they  were  awful  at  this  point, their  solo  slot  the  equivalent  of  Ronnie  Corbett's  armchair  turn  in  The  Two  Ronnies.

Carrott  Confidential  also  had  less  political  content  although  Jasper  did  come  a  cropper  when  he  made  an  offhand  remark  about  Denzil  Davies  MP, seemingly  selected  at  random, being  drunk   in  the  Commons. Before  the  following  week's  programme, the  Beeb  had  to  broadcast  a  grovelling  apology  to  Davies  for  the  offence  caused.

Carrott  Confidential   ran  for   two  seasons  before  another  re-boot  as  Canned  Carrott  in  1990. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

787 Name That Tune

First  viewed  : Uncertain

This  had  been  running  since  1976  with  Tom O' Connor  as  the  first  host   and  it's  quite  likely  that  I'd  caught  some  of  it  before  1986  but  that's  when  it  started  preceding  Coronation  Street  with  irritating  song-and-dance  man  Lionel  Blair  ( who  succeeded  O' Connor  in  1983 ) as  host.

I  now  look  back  in  wonder  at  my  naivete  in  pondering  how  a  contestant  in  the  final  round  could  identify  a  song  like  Let  Me  Be  The  One  ( The  Shadows' long-forgotten  Eurovision  entry  in  1975 )  from  one  note  on  the  piano.  Now  it's  perfectly  obvious   that  the  tune  was  selected  from  a  narrow  range  of  songs   to  which  the  contestants  had  prior  exposure  before  the  show  went  on  air.

The  show  was  axed  in  1988  with  a  revival  hosted  by  Jools  Holland  on  Channel  5  in  1997-98.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

786 EastEnders

First  viewed  :  25  December  1986

When  this  started  in  February  1985,  I  instantly  took  against  the  idea  of  the  BBC  having  a  twice  weekly  soap. The  idea  of  a  public  service  broadcaster  spending  the  licence  fee  on  a  product  already  well   supplied  by  the  commercial  channels  seemed   like  a  capitulation  to  Thatcherite  philistinism. I  also  suspected  that  it  in  part  stemmed  from  Southerners'  resentment  that  the  nation's favourite  soap  was  firmly  embedded  in  the  industrial  north. I  made  a  deliberate  point  of  not  watching  it  and  hoped  it  would  soon  fall  flat  on  its  face.

Initially  it  looked  like  my  hopes  would  be  realised. Only  one  person, a  Londoner  of  course,  in  my  hall  of  residence  seemed  interested  in  it. However  when  I  came  back  to university  in  the  autumn,  I  realised  everything  had  changed . The   father  of   young  Michelle's  baby  had  become  a  hot  topic  among  my  peers  and  the  soap's  stars  were  now  all  over  the  tabloids. The  following  year  they  all  started  crashing  the  charts  with  terrible  records, none  more  so  than  Nick  Berry's  Every  Loser  Wins, the  worst  number  one  of  all  time.

The  first  time  I  caught  a  snatch  was  the  tail  end  of  the  Christmas  Day  episode  in  1986  because  I'd  come  down  for  Only  Fools  and  Horses. It  was  the  one  where  "Dirty"  Den  Watts  ( Leslie  Grantham )   tells  his  wife  Ange  he's  divorcing  her. Grantham  is  a  particular  bugbear  for  me. One, he's  a  bloody  awful  actor  with  only  two  expressions- sneering  psychopath  or  bug-eyed  maniac. Two  he's  a  fully  fledged  murderer  that  I  don't  particularly  want  to  support  through  the  licence  fee. I  just  don't  get  how  the  people  that  holler  for  racists  and  sex  offenders  to  be  banished  from  our  screens  are  content  that  he  still  has  an  acting  career.

The  more  attention  the  show  got,  the  more  resolved  I  became  never  to  watch  a  full  episode  of  it. This  became  more  difficult  when  my  sister  returned  home  in  1987 and  infected  Mum  with  the  virus. The  peril  increased  after  I  got  married  and  found  my  wife  was  a  fan. I  can  proudly  say  I  still   haven't  watched  an  episode  from  start  to  finish  but  I  have  come  dangerously  close. One  Sunday  afternoon,  I  came  home  drenched  and  exhausted  from  an  arduous  walk  and  sat   on  the  sofa   through  most  of  an  omnibus  edition  where  John  Junkin  played  a  former  boys  home  warden  who'd  mistreated  Billy  Mitchell. I  also  saw  a  fair  chunk  of  the  one  where  Martin  Kemp's  character   made  his  fiery  exit.  Fortunately,  my  wife  threw  it  off  some  time  in  the  mid-noughties  and  the  danger  has  passed. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

785 Court Report Australia

First  viewed : 18  December  1986

This  was  a  late  night  Channel  Four  programme  providing  a  speedy  dramatisation  of  recent  events  in  a  Sydney  courtroom  where  the  British  government  was  trying  to  prevent  the  publication  of  a  memoir  by  a  former  M15  officer  Peter  Wright. Wright  now  lived  in  Tasmania, but  dissatisfied  with  his  pension, he  decided  to  publish  his  account  despite  having  signed  a  lifelong  confidentiality  agreement  on  commencing  employment. The  British  government  brought  a  case  in  Australia  that  they  should  co-operate  in  suppressing  the  book  because  of  this  breach  of  contract.

The  Spycatcher  affair  became  a  cause  celebre  for  the  left  because  of  Wright's  claims  that  fellow  agents  were  active  in  a  plot  to  bring  down  Harold  Wilson's  Labour  government.  To them, that  was  obviously  the  reason  Thatcher  wanted  it  banned .Even  those  of  us  in  the  centre  were  enjoying  the  sight  of  Thatcher  not  getting  everything  her  own  way

The  Australian  court  case  which  the  UK  government  lost  is  remembered  for  two  main  reasons. One  is  that  defending  Wright  gave  a  big  public  platform  to  an  ambitious  young  lawyer  named  Malcolm  Turnbull  who  is  now  sitting  pretty  as  Australia's  Prime  Minister. The  proceedings  also  left  their  mark  when  the  UK  government's  fall  guy, the  Cabinet  Secretary  Sir  Robert  Armstrong, conceded  to  Turnbull  that  governments  sometimes  had  to  be  "economical  with  the  truth", a  phrase  that  is  now  in  every  day  use.

After  the  defeat  in  Sydney, imported  copies  winged  their  way  into  the  UK  and  Labour  MP  Dale  Campbell-Savours  started  reading  extracts  in  the  Commons  to  get  it  into  Hansard  but  the  government  fought  on   for  the  next  eighteen  months  to  stop  it  being  published  in  England . On  the  day  of  its  final  defeat  in  1988,  a  special  Panorama  programme  was   broadcast. It  revealed  the  outcome  of  their  own  investigation  into  Spycatcher  in  which  a  cornered  Wright  admitted  that  his  headline  claims  were  sensational  exaggerations  to  generate  sales. The  infamous  anti-Labour  plot  amounted  to  nothing  more  than  a  lunchtime  pub  conversation.

What  was  that  about  sound  and  fury  and  signifying  nothing. ?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

784 Infected

First  viewed : 16  December  1986

I've   effectively  covered  this  here.

Monday, 4 September 2017

783 Fonda : The Man and his Movies

First  viewed  : 15  December  1986

This  was  a  late  night  repeat  of  a  tribute  documentary  made  in  the  wake  of  the  actor's  death  in  1982. It  was  narrated  by  Arthur  Hill  and  covered  both  his  career  and  his  personal  life  including  his  many  marriages  and  difficult  relationships  with  his  children. I  can't  really  think  of  anything  more  to  say  about  it; it  was  just  one  of  those  let's  not  go  to  bed  yet  viewings.    

Sunday, 3 September 2017

782 Beadle's About

First  viewed :  Uncertain

This  was  never  the  coolest  show  to  admit  you  enjoyed  but  you'd  be  hard  pressed  not  to  find  something  amusing  in  Jeremy  Beadle's  pranks. Beadle's  About  was  basically  Game  for  A  Laugh  with  the  other  three  planks  jettisoned. Jeremy  had  a  studio  audience  but  the  bulk  of  the  show  was  replaying  the  set-ups  on  film. The  pranks  would  always  end  up  with  Jeremy  appearing  in  a  thin  disguise  and  the  victim  realising  he/she  had  been  had.  The  participants  would  then  be  invited  to  the  studio  for  Jeremy  to  have  a  final  word  with  after  the  film  had  been  run.

The  show  ran  for  ten  years  and  was  replaced  with  the  similar  It's  Beadle.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

781 North and South

First  viewed : December  1986

This  epic  US  mini-series   about  the   American  Civil  War  was  based  on  a  set  of  novels  by  John  Jakes  and  was  a  worthy  successor  to  The  Thorn  Birds  in  the  trash  stakes. I  only  dipped  in  and  out  but  my  mum  and  sister  watched  it  throughout. The  latter  had  been  to  the  US  during  the  summer  and  seen  one  of  the  major  locations  used  in  the  series.

It  concerned  two  friends  Orry  ( Patrick  Swayze )  and  George  ( James  Read )  who  were  at  military  academy  together  but  then  find  themselves  on  opposite  sides  in  the  conflict  and  of  course  keep  bumping  into  each  other.  Orry's  simpering  love  interest  Madeline  was  played  by  English  actress  Lesley-Anne  Down; she  was  32  at  the  time  and  as  Upstairs  Downstairs   was  literally  half  a  lifetime  ago  for  me,   it  was  very  difficult  to  accept  her  as  an  ingenue  with  a  Southern  accent. Kirstie  Alley  was  also  in  it  as  George's  sister  Virgilia, an  anti-slavery  fanatic. Historical  figures  popped  up  regularly  with  Hal  Holbrook  playing  Lincoln.

The  cast  also  featured  many  Hollywood  vets  slumming  it  including  repeat  offenders  Jean  Simmonds  and  Robert  Mitchum   but  also  James  Stewart  and  Olivia  de Havilland.

There  was  a  shorter  second  series  made in  1994  but  if  it  was  shown  in   the  UK  I  never  saw  it.


Friday, 1 September 2017

780 40 Minutes

First  viewed : Uncertain

This  documentary  strand  on  BBC  Two  had  been  running  since  1981  so  I  think  I  must  have  caught  sight  of  it  before, but  the  first  programme  I  can  definitely  recall  is  a  two-parter  from  December  1986  entitled  The  Chosen  Few which  followed  the  fortunes  of  two  applicants  for  the  Civil  Service, an  opinionated  male  leftie  and  a  middle  of  the  road  public  school  girl. Given  I  was  job-hunting  at  the  time,  it  was  of  considerable  interest  although  I  never  applied  to join  the  Civil  Service  myself.

I  can't  remember  now  which  one  of  them  got  the  job. He  seemed  to  be  rubbing  the  panel  up  the  wrong  way  while  her  suggestion  of  a  buffer  state  between  Israel  and  its  hostile  neighbours  was  rightly  ridiculed. Perhaps  it  was  neither  of  them  as  there  were  other  candidates  in  the  field  who  weren't  filmed.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

779 The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald

First  viewed : 22  November  1986

Channel  Four  broadcast  this  legal  marathon   on  the  23rd  anniversary  of  the  Kennedy  assassination. It  was  as  realistic  as  it  could  be  given  that  the  defendant  had  been  dead  for  over  20  years. It  was  conducted  by  a  genuine  judge  and  the  cases  were  argued  by  two  high-powered  lawyers, Manson-prosecutor  Vincent  Bugliosi  for  the  prosecution  and  Gerry  Spence, who  won  compensation  for  the  family  of  nuclear  whistle-blower  Karen  Silkwood, for  the  defence. The  jury was  selected  according  to  normal  Texan  procedure. The  witnesses  were  all  genuine  but  it  didn't  tell  you  how  many  had  declined  to  participate.

In  the  end  Bugliosi  was  triumphant  against  the  over-emotional  Spence  and  got  a  guilty  verdict.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

778 Strike It Lucky

First  viewed : Uncertain

This  started  at  the  end  of  October  1986  but  I've  absolutely  no idea  of  when  I  first  caught  an  episode. Based  on  a  US  game  show  Strike  It  Rich ,it  was  re-named  here  to  avoid  confusion  with  a  recent  BBC1  drama  with  that  title. Strike  It  Lucky  was  a  game  show  which  tested  general  knowledge  but  also  had  elements  of  gambling  and  snakes  and  ladders    as  contestants  risked  landing  on  Hot  Spots .

It  was  hosted  by  comedian  Michael  Barrymore   who'd  won  New  Faces  in  1979  and  been  a  regular  on  Royal  Variety  Performances  but  hadn't  yet  found  the  right  TV  vehicle. Strike  It  Lucky  made  him  a  household  name  and  deservedly  so  for  his  manic  energy  and  genuine  interest  in  the  contestants, the  pre-game  chat  often  lasting  for  well  over  5  minutes.

The  show  ran  for  thirteen  years  before  Barrymore  wanted  to  pursue  other  projects. Alas  for  him  that  only  lasted  for  a  couple  of  years  before  the  death  of  a  young  man  in  his  swimming  pool  in  2001   and  the  prolonged  uncertainty  over  what  charges  he  would  face  in relation  to  it  utterly  destroyed  his  TV  career. His  sporadic  appearances  as  a  clearly  reluctant  participant  in  reality  shows  only  underline  his  fall  from  grace.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

777 Lost Empires

First  viewed : 24  October  1986

This  was  another  golden  Granada  adaptation , this  time  of  JB  Priestley's  novel  of  music  hall  life  just  before  the  cataclysm  of  the  First  World  War. David  Plowright  again  called  in  family  favours  to  get  his  brother-in-law  Sir  Laurence   Olivier  to  appear  in  the  series. I  watched  this  one  on  my  own   ; I  never  understood  why  my  mum, usually  a  sucker  for  period  drama,   wasn't  interested.

The  seven  part  serial  is  often  remembered  as  providing  the  first  leading  role  on  TV  for   the  26-year  old  Colin  Firth  as  the  orphaned  young  man  Richard  Herncastle  who  goes  to  work  for  his  uncle  Nick  ( John  Castle ) , an  icy, cynical,  illusionist  in  a  travelling  music  hall  company. It's  through  Richard's  eyes  that  we  see  a  colourful  world  teetering  on  the  brink  of  catastrophe. As  well  as  learning  stage  craft,  Richard  also  works  his  way  through  the  female  cast  from  true  love,  naive  Nancy  ( Beatie  Edney  )  to  a  dangerous  liaison  with  older  woman  Julie  ( Carmen  du  Sautoy )  plus  casual  encounters  with  Nonie ( Francesca  McGregor ) , a  saucy  French  acrobat  and  Lily  ( Pamela  Stephenson ) a  sweet  English  rose  on  stage  but  a  debauched  voyeur  in  private.

Olivier  played  Harry  Burrard  in  the  first  episode , a  hopelessly out  of  date  comedian  with  nowhere  to  go  who  interprets  the  merciless  heckling  as  a   political  plot  against  him.  Brian  Glover  played  Julie's  partner,  Tommy  Beamish  a  bullying  boorish  comedian. The  notorious  Christopher  Rozycki  popped  in  for  one  scene  as  a  drunken  Russian  and  chewed  the  scenery  in  fine  style; he  had  a  glass  of  whiskey  in  one  hand  and  there  wasn't  much  left  by  the  end  of  the  scene  even  though  he  hadn't  drunk  any  of  it.

Though  somewhat  bleak  in  tone,  I  really  enjoyed  it  and  am  disappointed  it's  not  more  celebrated.            

Monday, 28 August 2017

776 General Studies Art And Upheaval Songs of Protest

First  viewed : October  1986

This  was  broadcast  a  few  times  so  I  can't  be  certain  of  the  date. I  am  pretty  certain  it's  the   very  last  schools  programme  to  feature  here. It  just  caught  my  eye  during  a  flick  through  the Radio  Times. It  was  narrated  by  Mel  Smith  but  also  had  an  on-screen  presenter  Edward  Hayward  who  produced  many  of  the  BBC's  schools  programming  in  the  seventies  and  eighties.  As  the  title  suggests,  it  provided  a  brief  look  at  the  history  of  the  protest  song,  zeroing  in  on  Billie  Holliday's  anti-lynching  protest  Strange  Fruit   and  finishing  with  Billy  Bragg  championing  Jerusalem  ( which  I'd  say  was  anticipatory  rather  than  a  protest  but  whatever ).

I  note  that  the  programme  that  preceded  one  of  its  broadcasts  was  "Media  Studies - Inside  Television  Making  News"   which  surprises  me. I  hadn't  realised  that  the "subject"  had  become  embedded  that  early.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

775 The Late Late Show

First  viewed  :  Autumn  1986

This  show  is  of  course  an  institution  in  Ireland  and  the  second  longest-running  talk  show  in  the  world  after  The  Tonight  Show  in  the  US.  For  37  years  it  was  presented  by  Gay  Byrne , in  latter  years  also  the  show's  producer, who  retired  just  before  the  millennium  and  was  responsible  for  breaking  the  taboo  on  public  discussion  of  a  number  of  controversial  subjects  in  Catholic  Ireland.

Channel  Four  used  it  to  fill  up  their  afternoon  schedules  in  the   second  half  of  the  eighties  which  was  when  I  caught  the  odd  episode  but  other  than  that . I  don't  think  it's   been  regularly  broadcast  here. Byrne  was  perhaps  a  little  too  unctuous  for  Anglo-Saxon  tastes.

One  or  two  of   its  incidents  have  crossed  over  into  the  UK  consciousness  though.  In  1992,  it  ended  the  ministerial  career  of  Northern  Ireland  Secretary  Peter  Brooke  who  was  prodded  into  giving  a  rendition  of  Oh  My  Darling  Clementine   on  the  same  day  as  an  IRA atrocity  in  Ulster. Not  long  after  that, the  nascent  Boyzone  appeared  on  the  show  and  a  nakedly  hostile  Byrne  persuaded them  to  do  their  dance  routine  without  the  benefit  of  a  backing  track, a  clip  that's  been  much  repeated  since. Sadly,  it  did  not  kill  their  career  off  as  he  intended  but  full  marks  for  trying  Gay !

Friday, 25 August 2017

774 The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

First  viewed :  8  October  1986

This  is  one  of   those  where  I  can't  quite  put  my  finger  on  why  I  stuck  with  it  -  apart  from  the  boredom  of  being  on  the  dole  of  course - despite  finding  much  of  it  unpleasant  and  distasteful. It  was  a  four  part  adaptation  of  a  Fay  Weldon  novel  about  a  large,  unattractive  woman  who  executes  a  long  and  elaborate  revenge  plan  against  her  husband  and  the  woman  for  whom  he  abandoned  her . I  haven't  read  the  novel  so  I don't  know  if  its  clearer  there  whether  she  actually  makes  a  Satanic  pact  to  achieve  her  ends  as  suggested  by  the  series  or  merely  takes  on  a  new  personality.

Newcomer  Julie  T  Wallace  played  Ruth  with  Patricia  Hodge  as  the  scarlet  woman, romantic  novelist  Mary  Fisher. The  husband  Bobo  was  played  by  Dennis  Waterman  with  such  a  lack  of  charm  or  personality  that  you  couldn't  understand  why  either  of  them  wanted  him . It  was  hard  to  know  where  your  sympathies  were  supposed  to  lie  in  the  series. Ruth's  revenge  plan  involved  such  cruelty  to  innocents.  including  abandoning  her  own  children  and  making  Mary's  mother ( Liz  Smith )  appear  incontinent  in  order  to  ruin  Mary's  idyll,  that  the  latter  seemed  sympathetic  by  comparison. The  plan  also  involved  extreme  personal  degradation   including  a  naked  beating  from  a  kinky  judge  ( Bernard  Hepton )  in  order  to  get  Bobo  a  lengthy  sentence  after  she  frames  him  and  then  bonking  with  a  priest  ( Tom  Baker, someone  I  never  wanted  to see  naked )  before  sending  him  on  to  Mary. In  the  final  act  she  has  extensive  plastic  surgery  to  look  exactly  like  the  now  deceased  Mary  and  moves  back  in  with  Bobo  prompting  the  obvious  question, what  was  it  all  for  ?  The  series  was  also  entirely  filmed  on  VT  giving  it  a  suitably  harsh  look.

I  did  like  the  theme  song,  Warm  Love  Gone  Cold  by  Christine  Collister and  took  an  interest  in  her  career  for  some  time  afterwards. The  series  went  down  well  both  here  and  in   America  and  there  was  a  considerably  bowdlerised  film  version  starring  Roseanne  Barr  and  Meryl  Streep  in  1989.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

773 The Theban Plays

First  viewed  :  16  September  1986

Having  completed  the  Shakespeare  plays  the  year  before, the  BBC  Two  drama  department turned  their  attention  to  the  Greek  playwrights  with   the  three   tragic  plays  by  Sophocles  broadcast  on  consecutive  nights. I  was  interested  because  I'd  studied  the  first  one  Oedipus Rex   for  A  Levels  three  years  earlier  and  I'd  read  the  following  two  because  they'd  also  been  in  the  textbook  we  were  given.

I  think  the  story  in  the  first  one  is  pretty  well  known. Oedipus  the  king  of  Thebes  is  visited  by  a  prophet  bearing  the  exceedingly  unwelcome  news  that  the  man  he  slew  to  get  the  throne  and  his  bride  was  actually  his  father  and  his  wife  and  mother  to  his  four  kids  is  actually  his  own  mother. She  tops  herself  and  he  is banished  from  the city  by  his  brother-in-law  Creon  who  then  takes  the  throne  himself. The  second  one  Oedipus  at  Colonus  isn't  a  barrel  of  laughs  either  with  the  blind  Oedipus  wandering  the  wastes  as  a  beggar  accompanied  by  loyal  daughter  Antigone  and  then  plagued  by  unwelcome  visitors  including  estranged  son  Polynices  who  receives  only  a  curse  for  his trouble. The  last  one  Antigone  is  more  political  in  tone  with  a  battle  of  wills  between  the  titular  heroine  and  the  now  tyrannical  Creon  over  the  burial  of   Polynices's  body.

The  plays  were  presented  on   a  stark  minimalist  set  with  mix  and  match  anachronistic  clothing, Creon's  final  costume  looking  like  it  was  on  loan  from  General  Pinochet.  Anthony  Quayle  played  Oedipus, something  of  a  departure  from  his  usual  bluff  and  genial  screen  persona . John  Shrapnel  played  the  bullheaded  Creon  and  Juliet  Stevenson  was  the  predictable  choice  for  Antigone. The  Chorus  included  such  familiar  faces  as  Ian Hogg, Peter  Jeffrey  and  Bernard  Hill.

It  hasn't  been  repeated  to  date.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

772 Paradise Postponed

First  viewed : 15  September  1986

This  was  a  flawed  but  interesting ten  part   serial  which  my  mother  enjoyed  more  than  I  did  although  I  stuck  with  it. It  was  written  by  John  Mortimer. Mortimer  was  a  genuine  polymath, a  prominent  barrister  who  also  wrote  copiously  after  working  in  a  wartime  propaganda  unit  and  achieved  success  in  both  fields. As  a  lawyer  he  achieved  prominence  in  a  number  of  obscenity trials  such  as  the  Oz  trial  and  then  the  Never  Mind  The  Bollocks  Case. As  a  writer  he  came  to  the  fore  through  TV  in  the  late  seventies  as  the  creator  of  Rumpole  of  the  Bailey.  In  the  eighties,  he  took  on  a  third  role  as  an  arch-critic  of  the  Thatcher  government,  using  his  public  profile  to  hector  the  electorate  about  the  iniquities  of  Tory  policies . These  harangues, not  helped  by  his  personal  likeness  to  a  supercilious  toad, did  the  socialist  cause more  harm  than  good.

Paradise  Postponed   was  a  lament  for  the  decline  of  post-war  idealism  which  demonstrated  a  degree  of  self-knowledge  not  immediately  apparent  in  his  public  appearances. Like  Bleak  House , the  story  rested  on  an  inheritance  issue. Why  did  Simeon  Simcox  ( Michael  Hordern )  a  socialist  vicar  in  East  Anglia  but  cushioned  by  the  wealth  from  shares  in  a  family  brewery  leave  those  shares  to  a  locally-born  Tory  Cabinet  minister  Leslie  Titmus  ( David  Threlfall ) ?  Most  interested  in  solving  that  mystery  are  his  disinherited  sons ,  Henry ( Peter  Egan ) , a  self-interested  writer  long  since  moved  to  the  right  and  Fred ( Paul  Shelley ) a  liberal  but  rather  indolent  doctor. The  story  unfolds  mainly   in  flashbacks  illustrating  the  changes  in  social  attitudes  since  the  days  of  Attlee.

The  main  flaws  were  twofold. Firstly,  a  rather  mechanical  plot  relying  too  much  on  Arthur  Nubble ( Kenny  Ireland ) , Fred's  entrepreneurial  old  schoolfriend  periodically  popping  up  with  a  revelation  to  move  it  forward. The  great  secret  becomes  obvious  well  before  the  final  episode. The  other was  that  Mortimer  tried  to  cram  in  too  much  social  commentary  so  that  characters  often  became  mouthpieces  for  his  themes. I  still  cringe  at  the  memory  of  Henry's  scene  with  his  daughter  Francesca  ( Leonie  Mellinger )  where  she  goes  into  a  rant  about  how  unidealistic  she  is,  concluding  with  "And  I  don't  give  a  damn  about  great  stinking  whales !"

Threlfall  had  already  caught  the  eye  in  Nicholas  Nickleby  and  The  Gathering  Seed   but  it  was  Titmus  that  made  his  name  as  an  actor,  transforming  from  a  gauche  provincial  nobody  to  a  smooth-talking ,high-ranking  politician  with   the  aid   of  the  Radio  3  cricket  commentary. There  was  much  interested  speculation  in  the  papers  about  who  Titmus  might  be  based on. Norman  Tebbit  was  an  obvious candidate  but  Peter  Walker  was   also  mentioned  a  lot. Mortimer   was  pretty  fair  to  Titmus. He  gets  where  he  is  by  hard  work  and  determination  and  though  his  marriage  to  volatile  Charlie  ( Zoe  Wanamaker )  is  politically  advantageous , he  does  treat  her  with  genuine  care  and  affection. He  is  clearly  morally  superior  to  the  local  Tory  old  guard  that  despise  him.

Mortimer  went  on  to  write  a  sequel,  Titmus  Regained  , a  less  ambitious  three  parter  in  1991  which  I  didn't  see. Apart  from  Threlfall, I  think  only  Paul  Shelley  returned  from  the  original  cast. It  didn't  have  anything like  the  same  impact. Rumpole  of  the  Bailey  finished  on  TV  in  the  following  year ( although  he  was  resurrected  on  radio  in  the  noughties ). Mortimer's  star  then  dimmed,  particularly  after  the  death  of   Labour  leader  John  Smith  in  1994. His  successor  Tony  Blair  regarded  the  "Labour  luvvies " in  the  entertainment  industry  as an  electoral  embarrassment  and  froze  them  out. Mortimer  continued  to  write, mainly  about  Rumpole, until  his  death  in  2009.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

771 The Making of Aliens

First  viewed : 9  September  1986

This  was  a  late  night  programme  on  ITV  which  was  effectively  an  extended  advert  for  the  film  with  director  James  Cameron  being  careful  not  to  give  too  much  away. It  did  whet  my  appetite  for  the  movie - I'd  enjoyed  the  first  one - but  I  didn't  go  to  see it  because  I  still  owed  my  Mum  some  money  from  my  last  university  term  and  thought  it  would  be  self-indulgent  to  go  to  the  cinema  or  buy  records  while  that  was  the  case.  It  was  one  of  the  first  videos  I  took  out  when  we  got  a  VCR  player  at  the  end  of  1989  and  I  wasn't  disappointed.

Monday, 21 August 2017

770 Casualty

First  viewed : Autumn  1986

This  TV  phenomenon  began  life  as  a  replacement  for  Juliet  Bravo  on  a  Saturday  evening  and  has  never  relinquished  its  spot  since. The  genius  of  the  show  is  that  the  setting  lets  the  writers  get  away  with  melodrama  every  week  and  allows  a  regular  parade  of  guest  stars  to  check  in  and  out  ( sometimes  permanently ).  As  well  as   their  coping  with  each   medical crisis  the   writers  throw  their  way,  the  programme  looks  at  the  personal  lives  of  the  staff  with  story  arcs  developing  over  the  course  of  a  season. Both  its  creators,  Jeremy  Brock  and  Paul  Unwin,  were  passionate  left  wing  champions  of  the  NHS  but  with  The  Monocled  Mutineer  drawing  away  most  of  the  Tory  fire , the  launch  of  Casualty  was   uncontroversial 

 I  don't  have  a  fascination  with  medical  matters  and  didn't  watch  the  opening  episode  but  did  catch  at  least  one  from  the  first  series  in  order  to  see  the  lunatic  over-acting  of  Christopher  Rozycki  as  the  Polish  porter  Kuba  which  seemed  to  be  the  main  talking  point. I  became  a  more  regular  viewer  in  the  second  season  when  Kate  Hardie  joined  the  cast  as  a  student  nurse  who  had  an  affair  with  Charlie  ( Derek  Thompson )  although  she  wasn't  in  it  for  long  and  I  dropped  out  again  once  she'd  gone.

I  became  a  regular  viewer  at  the  start  of  the  nineties  when  Nigel  Le  Vaillant  was  the  star  as  passionate  registrar  Julian  Chapman. His  interaction  with  the  steadier  Charlie  was  one  of  the  highpoints  of  the   series. Another  favourite  character  from  this  time  was  Kelly  Liddle  ( Adie  Allen )  a  student  nurse  that  couldn't  hack  it. Sadly  Le  Vaillant    decided  to  quit  in  Season  7  and  although  I  eventually  warmed  to  his  successor  Mike  Barrett  ( Clive  Mantle )  it  wasn't  quite  the  same  without  Julian.

The  show's  writers  responded  to  the  criticism  of  left  wing  bias  in  Season  8   by  introducing  a  character ,  Rachel  Longworth  ( Jane  Gurnett )  a  nurse  who  actually  supported  the  market-led  reforms  to  the  NHS. At  first  she  was  a  bit  of  a  joke, just  an  unlikely  mouthpiece, but  eventually  they  let  her  become  a  real  character  who  had  a fling  with  Barrett . That  series  also  saw  Tara  Moran  from  recently  deceased  soap  Families  join  as  a  nurse  but  she  turned  out  to  be  a  fly  by  night. Another  favourite  of  mine  Suzanna  Hamilton  came  in  as  a  young  doctor  with  no  bedside  manner  but  she too  departed  before  the  end  of  the  season, a  great  shame  as  her  character  could  have  been  developed  a  lot  more. Long  servng  nurse  Duffy  ( Cathy  Shipton )  left  towards   the  end  of  the  series  leaving  Charlie  as  the  only  survivor  from  the original  cast.

Season  9  introduced  one  of  the  most  irritating  characters  in  bolshie,  stud-in-the-nose  nurse  Jude  Kocarnik  ( Lisa  Coleman )  while  Baz  ( Julia  Watson )  returned  from  the  first  series  and  became  embroiled in  a  long  running  affair  with  Charlie.

I  think  I  lost  interest  some  time  in  Season  10  ( 1995-96 ). I  came  back  to  it  briefly  after I  got  married   ( December  1997 )  noting  lad's  mag  favourite  Claire  Goose  in  the  cast   but  my  interest  was  finally  killed  off  by  the  scene  at  the  end  of  Season  12  ( 1998 ) when  the  cast  broke  out  into  a  version  of  "Everlasting  Love" which  was  then  released  as  a  single. I  just  thought  that  was so  naff  and  unworthy  of  the  series.

Inevitably,  it's  been  on  in  the  living  room  since  then  and  I've  caught  odd  snatches  but  never  been  tempted  to  re-engage  with  the  series.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

769 Call Me Mister

First  viewed  : Autumn  1986

After  four  seasons  of  Bergerac , John  Nettles  wanted  a  break  so  there  was  only  a  Christmas  special  in  1986. Creator  Robert  Banks  Stewart  and  the  crew  came  up  with  this  one  to  fill  the  gap  in  the  autumn  schedule. With  Crocodile  Dundee  riding  high  in  the  cinemas, this  series  looked  to  tap  into  the  vogue  for  bluff  Aussie  guys  by  casting  Steve  Bisley  as  Sir  Jack  Bartholomew , a   former  Australian  police  officer  who  inherits  a  title  and  estate  in  England  to  the  dismay  of  his  posh  relatives  played  by  Haydn  Gwynne  and  Rupert  Frazer. He  prefers  to  set  up  as  a   private  detective  instead  with  the  help  of  much-younger  girlfriend  and  part-time  singer Julie  ( Dulice  Leicier  from  Grange  Hill ).

Unsurprisingly,  it  was  fairly  similar  to  Bergerac  but  a  bit  lighter  in  tone.  As  with  Brush  Strokes , I  gave  it  a  try  for  one  episode . I  thought  it  was  passable  but  not  good  enough  to  become  appointment  TV.  

When  Bergerac  returned  the  following  year, Call  Me  Mister  slipped  quietly  out  of  memory.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

768 Brush Strokes

First  viewed  : 1  September  1986

This  was  the  latest  comedy  from  the  Esmonde  and  Larbey  writing  team  ( Please  Sir,  The  Good  Life,  Ever  Decreasing  Circles )  and  starred  Karl  Howman  , a  familiar  face  playing  Cockney  villains  in  The  Sweeney, Minder  and  The  Professionals,  as  Jacko, a   womanising  painter. The  producers  seemed  to  know  they  might  have  a  problem  with  the  material  from  the  start; I  remember  Howman  in  The  Radio  Times   giving  a  defensive  interview  insisting  that  the  series  celebrated  women  rather  than  demeaned  them  and  that  was  before  the  first  episode  was  even  broadcast !

I  only  watched  that  first  episode  which  introduced  Jacko  and  his  boss  ( Gary  Waldhorn )  and  saw  Jacko  trying  to  date  two  girls  at  once  in  different  parts  of  the  same  pub. I  thought  it  was  crap  and  saw  no  more  of  the  Dulux-coated  lothario's  adventures.  However  it  was  popular  and  ran  for  5  series  until  1991.

As  with  Carla  Lane  and  Bread , Brush  Strokes  was  the  last  major success  for  the  Esmonde-Larbey  team, their  nineties  efforts  such  as  Mulberry  which  also  starred  Howman, leaving  little  impression.  

Friday, 18 August 2017

767 The Monocled Mutineer

First  viewed : 31 August  1986

This  series  seems  half-forgotten  now  but  in  1986  it  was  deeply  controversial. It  was  based  on  a  book  of  the  same  name  by  William  Allison  and  John  Fairley  published  in  1978  adapted  for  the  screen  by  Alan  Bleasdale. It  traced  the  career  of  a  criminal  called  Percy  Toplis  who  had  spells  in  the  army  and  was  shot  dead  by  police  near  Penrith  in  1920  while  on  the  run  for  the  murder  of  a  taxi  driver . While  in  the  army,  he  sometimes  posed  as  an  officer,  with  a  monocle  as  part  of  his  disguise,  to  pull  girls  or  impress  friends . That  much  is  undisputed. However  the  book  alleged  that  Toplis  was  the  ringleader  of  the  Etaples  mutiny  of  1917  and  that  he  was  pursued  after  the  war  by  the  Secret  Service  who  arranged  the  ambush  leading  to  his  death. Historians  with  no  axe  to  grind   pointed  out  that  the  records  showed  that  Toplis's  regiment   was  on  its  way  to  India  at  the  time  of  the  mutiny, an  event  that  the authors  had  greatly  exaggerated. This  led  Tory  politicians  and  the  Daily  Mail  to  excoriate  the  BBC  for  supposed  left  wing  bias  for  advertising  the  drama  as  "a  true-life  story".

I  missed  nearly  all  of  it  first  time  round  because  I  had  become  reconciled  with  my  old  friends  Michael  and  Sean  and  went  to  the  pub  with  them  on  a  Sunday  night  instead. I  did  see  a  small  part  of  the  first  episode  in  The  Red  Lion, Littleborough  with  them,  showing  the  horrendously  botched  execution  of  a  young  deserter. When  the  series  was  repeated  in  1988,  I  watched  it  right  through  and  it  was  an  impressive  piece  of  drama  with  Paul  McGann  furthering  his  reputation  in  the  main  role.

At  the  time  of  the  broadcast , a  witness  to  Toplis's  death  was  still  alive, a  man  called  De  Courcey  Parry  who  did  not  enter  the  controversy. When  I  used  to  attend  slide  shows  at  Kewsick's  Moot  Hall  in  the  early  nineties  ,the  host  Ray  McHaffie   would  always  point  him  out  as  an  old  man  attending  a  summer  fete  on  one  of  his  slides.


Thursday, 17 August 2017

766 Three Sovereigns for Sarah

First  viewed :   28  August  1986

This  US  mini-series  took  on  the  task  of  presenting  a  more  factual  account  of  the  Salem  Witch  Trials  of  1692  than  Arthur  Miller's  The  Crucible . It  told  the  story  from  the  point  of  view  of  Sarah  Cloyce  ( Vanessa  Redgrave ) ,  the  survivor  of  three  sisters  accused  of  witchcraft who  spent  the  next  decade  fighting  to  clear  her  executed  sisters'  names. Sarah  does  not  appear  in  The  Crucible  ,  a  victim  of  Miller's  compositing  but  one  of  her  sisters, Rebecca  Nurse,  does.

After  ten  years,  Sarah  gets  a  hearing  from  an  examining  magistrate  ( Patrick  McGoohan )   and  points  out  the  social  tensions  in  the  village  that  led  to  the  accusations. He  eventually  decides  that  he  cannot  establish  the  full  facts  a decade  later  but  grants  Sarah  three  sovereigns  as  symbolic compensation  for  the  three  damaged  lives  hence  the  title.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

765 Baby, Baby

First  viewed : Summer  1986

This  was  a  late  night  Channel  4  show  taking  a  light-hearted  look  at  the  joys  of  early  parenthood. As  both  of   the  main  The  Tube  presenters  had  recently  become  parents,  they  were  the  obvious  choices  to  host  it  As  it  would  be  another  21  years  before  I  became  really  interested  in  the  subject,  I  think  I  only  caught  one  episode.   I  remember  a  feature   calculating  the  opportunity  cost  of  having  a  sprog  with  yobbish  chants  of  "We  still  want  the  baby!"  after  every  item. There  was  also  a  female  celeb  - I  can't  recall  who - telling  how  desperate  she  was  for  a  drink  of  Perrier  Water  while  she  was  giving  birth. In  addition,  think  this  was   where  I  came  across  Rowland  Rivron  for  the  first time