Tuesday, 28 February 2017
First viewed : July 1983
Besides the water shortage, the long hot summer of 1976 was also marked by a rabies scare. I can't recall what sparked it off but there were posters in the local health centre warning of the dangers of flaunting quarantine laws. It seemed like Death was just waiting to pop over from Calais and get us. Radio playwright James Follett ( not to be confused with Labour luvvie Ken ) capitalised on this with a scary drama The Rabid Summer on Radio Four which made such an impression on me that I taped the repeat and played it to my friends.
I don't know if Nigel Slater who wrote The Mad Death some six years later heard the play but there are strong similarities. In both, the hero is a vet who has to impose unpopular control measures in the teeth of opposition from countryside interests and mad old pet-loving ladies. In this case, the vet was a younger man Hillard , played by Richard Heffer with an arrogance that made him very difficult to like. The green wellies brigade were represented by Dalry ( Richard Morant ) who was also the suspicious boyfriend of Hillard's assistant Anne ( Barbara Kellerman ). Brenda Bruce played the psychotic cat owner.
I think I missed the first episode of this three-parter but I recall a scene , which must have given Richard Whiteley nightmares ,where Hillard is ambushed in a pub by a group of yokels and has a ferret pushed to within a centimetre of his face. I also remember Dalry giving Hillard a long-overdue punch at some point in the final part.
Monday, 27 February 2017
First viewed : 9 July 1983
This three part documentary was originally part of a longer documentary series called Circuit Eleven Miami , taking advantage of a decision by the State of Florida to allow its judicial proceedings to be filmed for a year. It was first shown at an ungodly hour on BBC2 in 1979 ; these repeats went out just after nine. Interestingly, it was screened just as the Commons were seriously debating the restoration of the death penalty for the last time.
The drama centred on the trial of a man called Thomas Perri who was accused of the murder by knife of an old man in revolting circumstances. The State's only witness was his apparent accomplice Stephen Weiss who had been promised a maximum sentence of fifteen years if he helped nail Perri and send him to the chair.
What struck me most was just what U.S. lawyers were able to get away with in court. The defence's entire strategy seemed to be to unnerve Weiss by constantly accusing him of being a sexual pervert. I seem to recall one of the questions was
"Did you say to Diane [Perri's wife ] "Diane you've got such a skinny body , how can you take that python that Tommy's got ?"
The prosecutors would then object, the judge would shout "Sustained ! " and then the defence lawyer would ask another question that was equally as abusive and irrelevant.
And this went on and on. Neither Perri nor Weiss, who were both clearly relishing the presence of the cameras, seemed fazed by the proceedings.
This was in the first episode and I felt grubby just watching it. I couldn't face any more of it. Googling reveals that Perri was found guilty but not whether he was subsequently executed .
Sunday, 26 February 2017
First viewed : 5 July 1983
This was a bit of an oddity. BBC2 wanted to drum up some response for their new Community Programming Unit vehicle Open Space ( although a number of episodes were already in the can ) so they sent Julie Walters, hot on the back of her appearance in Boys from the Blackstuff , to England's most battered community i.e Liverpool to tub-thump for it.
Open Space was really just a re-launch of the 1970s programme Open Door which had fallen into odium after an infamous episode where they let some anarchist group plonk a potted tree in front of the camera and recite slogans offscreen for half an hour.
Resplendent in a garish shell suit, Julie wandered around estates and playgrounds arguing that communities should't wait for writers to come up with once-in-a-lifetime dramas like ..Blackstuff to highlight important concerns but use the opportunity provided by the CPU to make their own documntaries. How a half-hour programme buried on BBC2 in a midweek evening slot would bring about lasting change was never really addressed.
Still, Julie's evangelism did inspire me to write to the programme suggesting they come to Littleborough and cover the Coach House Project.. This was instigated at a public meeting convened by Littleborough Civic Trust in November 1979 as a response to the lack of community facilities in Littleborough ( partly down to the parsimonious policies of the old Littleborough UDC and then the tendency of Littleborough to elect councillors of a different political hue to the majority group on Rochdale MBC to which it's been tethered since 1974 ) . Rae Street and Don Pickis ( chair and vice-chair respectively of LCT ) had identified a seventeenth century building in the town centre that an ironmonger was about to vacate as a suitable site for a community centre and invited representatives from all the local voluntary groups to come on board with the project. I was at the meeting and there was a unanimous vote to green light the project with Nan Dearden the formidable chairwoman of the Townswomen's Guild nominated as chair of the steering group ( not. I suspect, an entirely agreeable surprise for Rae and Don ! )
In addition to the cost of taking on the lease for the building, which was owned by the brewery for the pub it once served , the old coach house required considerable work to make it fit for purpose and all the constituent organisations were involved in fund raising activities to various degrees. My mum's playgroup was involved, despite her reasonable questioning of what they stood to gain when they served the interests of parents in Dearnley and Smithy Bridge, a good mile away and already had premises there, By the time the Walters episode was broadcast, the Centre was still not open for business.
Besides being involved in the Civic Trust's fundraising activities, I had also made over 50 % of the proceeds from two raffles held by the Littleborough Rambling Club ( much criticised by some of the other members ) to the project . Still , there was no invitation for me to join the steering committee and quite rightly so ; they needed some specialist expertise or someone who could open up doors to further funding, not the impractical ideas of a teenager. The approach to Open Space , made without any consultation whatsoever, was probably another attempt at self-advertisement.
The reply is below :
I heard nothing more. The Coach House partially opened its doors that October and continues to this day without the benefit of my services.
The earliest subsequent Open Space programme I definitely recall watching was broadcast on 9 October 1986 titled B & B the Real Scandal which highlighted that local authorities in London were having to put homeless families into bed and breakfast accommodation , usually a single room with a shared bathroom , because of the government's restrictions on public house building.
Saturday, 25 February 2017
First viewed : July 1983
This early evening - I'll leave you to work out the exact time - chat show from the Pebble Mill team on BBC Two ran for three summer seasons from 1981 to 1983 but the first two ( when it went out as Six Fifty Five Special ) passed me by entirely. It was on five nights a week . For the second season some star power was added with Sally James from Tiswas and Anglophile actor David Soul becoming the presenting duo.
For the 1983 season Soul was replaced by swarthy young Scot Paul Coia. I recall episodes which featured John Hurt and the bloke he was playing in a film, cancer-beating jockey Bob Champion and one which featured Mike Read and Paul Gambaccini talking about 30 years of the charts. I remember Read championing The Shadows as the first group to write their own material against Gambo's plump for The Beatles given that the Shadows' tunes lacked certain vital ingredients. There was also a show given over to TV puppets where Sooty attacked Sally with a water pistol ( not that that was likely to faze her ) . It's a shame he went for her face given she was wearing a white summer dress at the time.
The feature I remember best was in the Friday episode where Bob Langley would go for a walk in the Lakes with a celebrity. The first one was Chris Bonington and I remember him saying that he fantasized about food rather than sex when he was mountaineering. The second one was Martin Shaw who talked to Bob on the summit of Latrigg - at the time I had no idea I would be in the exact same spot just a month later - who took the opportunity to show that he was a more thoughtful guy than his screen image would suggest. I remember taking the piss out of him for talking about his spiritual guru and my mum rebuking me for this nascent bigotry.
Sally James largely withdrew from TV after this to raise her family although she had a semi-regular slot on Countdown in the late eighties. She later set up a business selling school uniforms. Since 2000 she has been a regular celebrity guest on numerous programmes. Paul Coia has been lesss visible but his career continues as a game show host on satellite channels and a local radio DJ.
Friday, 24 February 2017
Thursday, 23 February 2017
First viewed : 1983
I always referred to this as "Toupee" Hooker in reference to the obvious syrup sported by William Shatner throughout the series. Contrary to popular wisdom, this was not the first regular TV vehicle for Shatner since Star Trek; he had a starring role in the forgotten Barbary Coast in the mid-seventies but his re-emergence here as a paunchy ex-detective who decides to go back on the uniformed beat was almost certainly due to the popularity of the first Star Trek movies.
Forget Shatner though, the real reason for tuning in was Heather Locklear, a pocket-sized Farrah Fawcett lookalike who joined the cast in the second series as a rookie officer. The producers wasted few opportunities to make use of her assets with storylines regularly calling for her to wear a bikini or go undercover as an exotic dancer or other such devices. The third member of the core trio was Adrian Zmed as Officer Romano who looked up to Hooker as a mentor.
T.J. Hooker was something of a throwback to seventies shows like Starsky and Hutch in contrast to more earnest fare such as Hill Street Blues or Cagney and Lacey. As such it was always watchable without ever being essential viewing. It ran until 1986.
Wednesday, 22 February 2017
First viewed : 24 June 1983
Taking their cue from BBC Two's Rock Night the year before Channel 4 gave Jools, Paula et al a five hour show to play with ( Switch was on earlier in the evening too ). I only dipped into it , partly because of Wimbledon highlights on BBC Two and partly because the line-up wasn't that great including King Sunny Ade, Culture Club, Shalamar . Marillion and Robert Plant, none of whom held much interest for me. The main draw on the schedule was Jools Holland interviewing Duran Duran at a French chateau. It was notable for the ironic questioning by Holland, clearly no great fan of the band, and Simon Le Bon in particular failing to pick up on this and making an arse of himself. The feature did the band no favours at all and sharpened critics' knives against them which was perhaps Holland's intention.
There was another in June 1984 but I don't recall seeing any of that.
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
First viewed : 21 June 1983
This was an ITV documentary about those competitions in magazines which trawled the public for advertising slogans. What struck me was that some people were almost making a living from entering them . I remember footage of a couple with a roomful of prizes and something else was being delivered while the cameras were rolling although the more cynical me of today realises that was probably a set-up.
Monday, 20 February 2017
First viewed : 20 June 1983
This four part documentary series about aspiring dancers was originally broadcast in January 1982. The one I recall watching was the second episode which followed the fortunes of 18 year old Joanna Garbutt from Newcastle as she tried to join the Bluebell dancing troop in Paris. There was a bit of bare boob-age on show which is probably why I remember it.
I can't remember if the programme mentioned that Joanna had been part of a clutch of youngsters from the North East that appeared as dancers in Bugsy Malone . It's sad to report that by the time they had a thirtieth anniversary reunion in 2005 Joanna had already passed away.
Saturday, 18 February 2017
First viewed : 20 June 1983
We come to what I expect to be one of the densest parts of the blog as there was a long gap between finishing A Levels and starting university in October. I know what you're thinking, that I should have found some gainful employment over the summer, and that's probably true but such opportunities tend to be manual and I honestly don't think I was robust enough to do a week's manual work to an employer's satisfaction.
Watching the first episode of The Happy Apple was a classic case of staying with the channel after Coronation Street. It was a seven part sitcom written by Keith Waterhouse based on a play by Jack Pulman. An advertising agency is struggling to come up with the goods until they realise their chavvy young secretary Nancy is the perfect Everygirl for market testing purposes. Of course Nancy has to be kept in her place if the success is to continue.
There was only one series and it's best remembered for providing the breakthrough role for Leslie Ash who'd been treading water since her appearance in Quadrophenia four years earlier. Just months later she was replacing the indisposed Paula Yates as co-host of The Tube. The series also starred Nicky Henson, Jeremy Chld and Peter Hugo-Daly.
First viewed : 15 June 1983
I can't find any definite confirmation of this but I think the first episode of this was broadcast on the the day of my last A Level exam ( History , appropriately enough ) and therefore my last day at school.
I remember it was in the afternoon and finished around 3-30. Afterwards, some of us mooched around the Sixth Form Centre, hesitant to make the final break although in my case ( and perhaps one or two others ) there was a practical incentive to wait another half hour for the school bus which would take me directly back to Littleborough for free. This led to an unfortunate little incident. The huddle started breaking up and an early driver called John Bradley , never a great friend but he'd matured a lot during the sixth form, offered me a lift into town. As this meant Rochdale and the need to catch an ordinary bus on to Littleborough I just said "Nah" without bothering to explain why. "Sod off then you ungrateful bastard !" was the perhaps predictable response. And so my school days ended on a sour note.
The Black Adder was eagerly anticipated as the first TV vehicle for Rowan Atkinson since the demise of Not The Nine O Clock News a year earlier. It placed him in a counter-factual scenario where the fictional character of Edmund Plantagenet, younger son of Richard Duke of York, one of the Princes in the Tower mistakenly slays Richard III after his victory at Bosworth and thus makes his father the king as Richard IV. Written by Atkinson ( his only series as a writer ) and Richard Curtis , it was expensively filmed on location and parodies a number of medieval themes and events such as dynastic marriages, church-state conflicts and religious relics ( the appearance of Joan of Arc's boobs is in shocking taste; I wonder if that's been altered in the French releases ).
Edmund is a snivelling, cowardly figure often forgotten by his father ( played with scenery-gnawing relish by Brian Blessed ) but in fact unworthy of his love anyway. He has to rely upon faithful servant Baldric ( Tony Robinson, then best known for a stint on Play Away ) to get by, hindered by the fabulously stupid Lord Percy ( Tim McInerny ) . Peter Cook made a guest appearance as Richard III.
Though quite well received at the time, the series has come to be regarded as the runt in the litter when compared to its successors. No doubt this suits Ben Elton as it's the only one in which he didn't have a hand in the writing. It isn't consistently funny but I would argue you could say that about some of the others.
Michael Grade delayed commissioning a follow-up due to the cost and insisted future series were studio-bound. Blackadder II eventually emerged in 1986 with Blackadder now a somewhat nobler Elizabethan courtier scheming just to stay alive in the treacherous politics of the time. Baldric and Percy remained in situ as descendants of their original characters . Elton came on board as a writer which also meant the involvement of Fry and Laurie. Fry had a major part in the series as Blackadder's rival Melchett and was one of the reasons I largely stayed away from it.
I did watch Blackadder the Third through and enjoyed it. This had Blackadder as the clever butler having to do the thinking for the brainless Prince Regent played by Hugh Laurie. Baldric remained in place but not Percy as McInerny was fearful of being typecast and only appeared as a different character in a guest role.
I don't think I saw any of the last series Blackadder Goes Forth but the reasons for that now evade me.
Thursday, 16 February 2017
First viewed : May 1983
This was a landmark general election in many ways. Personally, it was the first one in which I was able to vote. One of my fellow pupils, a nice girl called Claire Twigger, turned 18 on polling day and was on the front page of the Rochdale Observer waving her polling card. At the start of the campaign, I was wavering between the Tories and the SDP-Liberal Alliance and told the Tory candidate in our constituency Geoffrey Dickens that when I met him early in the campaign. My father had bought all three manifestos including Labour's notorious "longest suicide note in history" and I diligently read all three. That pointed me towards the Alliance and that firmed up as they gained on Labour in the opinion polls in the last week of the campaign even though our Liberal candidate Richard Knowles seemed a bit wet.
We were in a new seat, Littleborough and Saddleworth, that was very different from the previous one, Heywood and Royton represented by Labour right winger Joel Barnett. Barnett had been edged out of the Labour selections for the new constituencies and wasn't standing anywhere. Dickens had moved over from a Huddersfield seat and had attracted some bad publicity during the previous parliament when he almost left his wife but changed his mind on the drive to a mistress he'd picked up at a tea dance. Other than that, he was a right wing, populist buffoon with an obsession about sex that he tried to disguise as concern about paedophilia and Satanism. Knowles was a councillor in Oldham. The Labour candidate was an ex-councillor who'd been turfed out of his ward the year before following a steep rate rise.
The Conservative campaign was smooth and efficient, led by chairman Cecil Parkinson , the only sticky moment being a fierce grilling on TV for Mrs Thatcher over the sinking of the Belgrano by a viewer . The Labour campaign was a complete disaster from start to finish. Saddled with a fantasy land manifesto and a leader who looked like a confused old man, his gift for parliamentary oratory useless on the stump or TV, they made matters worse by openly disagreeing over nuclear disarmament -their greatest Achilles heel - and, in Dennis Healey and Neil Kinnock's cases, disparaging the Falklands victory.
The Alliance campaign was a game of two halves. David Steel for the Liberals had bowed to Roy Jenkins' experience and agreed to serve under him in an Alliance government. However the so-called "Prime Minister Designate" who'd been unimpressive in Parliament , was little better than Foot in the campaign. I remember him doing a Party Election Broadcast and not even looking at the camera. With a week to go, the leaders had a "summit" at Steel's house where he basically told Jenkins he was useless and that he was taking over the campaign. As soon as he did so, their standing in the opinion polls improved and in some of them they crept ahead of Labour.
The election date was right in the middle of my A Levels so I couldn't fully engage with the campaign and I couldn't stay up for the results.
The result was the biggest outrage the first past the post system has foisted on the country although UKIP supporters have a fair case for nominating 2015 instead. The Alliance surge was just a little too late for them to overtake Labour in the popular vote but they were less than a million votes behind. They ended up with 26 seats compared to Labour's 209. Despite the Falklands factor, the Tories actually polled less votes than in 1979 but ended up with an enormous majority. What most depressed me was the fate of the brave defectors who left the Labour tribe with all but four ( who included David Owen ) going down, usually in third place ( although poor Dick Crawshaw whom local Liberals wouldn't accept as their candidate came fourth ). Only John Horam ever returned to the Commons and he did it by becoming a Tory although Tom McNally survived to play a part in the Coalition government as a peer.
The only SDP gain ( the Liberals managed half a dozen ) came in Scotland where an unknown postgraduate student named Charles Kennedy ousted a Tory minister.
Monday, 13 February 2017
First viewed : 16 May 1983
I only watched a small part of this three part miniseries about the American Civil War, concentrating on two families on opposite sides in the conflict. I don't think I saw any of Gregory Peck as Abraham Lincoln. The part I do recall is the one where a pregnant wife rushes her blockade runner husband to hospital in Vicksburg. She gives birth , introduces him to his son then just as she leaves his ward it's hit by a shell killing him and all the other patients which gives you a flavour of the melodrama. The husband was played by a young Gregg Henry ( Mel Gibson's treacherous accomplice in Payback ).
Saturday, 11 February 2017
First viewed : May 1983
Granada didn't always get it right and this series definitely came to less than the sum of its parts.
Alfresco sprang from a three-part Granada-only pilot called There's Nothing To Worry About in 1982 which passed me by. When Alfresco came to the screen a year later it was billed as a successor to Not The Nine O Clock News. Talk about setting yourselves up to fail !
The first series was written by Ben Elton who also appeared in it, alongside Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Robbie Coltrane and Siobahn Redmond. It was filmed on location around Manchester rather than in the studio.
It should have been very good; instead it was dire. Elton forgot the first rule of sketch-based comedy ; that the sketches have to be short and snappy. In Alfresco , they went on interminably; even if the premise was funny the execution killed it. A great example was one in the third episode where a student ( Elton ) finds that he's taken up lodgings with the embarrassing couple from Hell ( Coltrane and Thompson ). This is going quite well until Fry and Redmond pop their heads out of the TV screen and it becomes some lame attack on cable TV. Some of it didn't even try to be funny. Redmond's performance of an old Squeeze song The Apple Tree to a backdrop of cheesy thermonuclear explosion effects was just bizarre.Fry and Laurie's two posh guys talking crap routines poisoned me against them for years afterwards.
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
First viewed : 25 April 1983
This was a long documentary series on Channel 4 about the post-war history of the South East Asian country in which the U.S. became so fatally involved. The episode I watched concerned the ill-fated President Diem who tried to hold South Vietnam against the Communist threat from, the North in the fifties and early sixties.
What gave this story human interest was that Diem increasingly relied on his family to operate his government including his younger brother Nhu and his colourful wife Madame Nhu who could always be relied on to make a bad situation worse with her intemperate remarks.
Eventually Diem and Nhu were assassinated in a military coup in 1963; the culpability of Kennedy's administration in this has always been a contentious issue. Madame Nhu was not in the country at the time and had to live out the rest of her days in exile in France. She died in 2011.
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
First viewed :10 April 1983
This earnest two-part mini- series, starring Rock Hudson as the U. S. President, speculated on how Armageddon might come about. I didn't watch all of it but I seem to recall it hinging on events at a US pumping station near the Bering Straits which U.S. forces under David Soul were defending against Soviet attackers led by Jeroen Krabbe.
This led to a really risible scene where Krabbe, on the point of overwhelming the Americans, requests a parley with Soul in the hope they can avert World War Thee with a handshake. The dialogue went :
Krabbe : You know what this means don't you ?
Soul : The end of war !!
Unfortunately , at this point, a hawk on the Soviet side throws a grenade which blows up our two Nobel Peace Prize contenders and the world's march to destruction continues although the ending was ambiguous enough to allow for a sequel or spin-off series which never materialised.
Monday, 6 February 2017
First viewed : 8 April 1983
This one reminds me that I was still going down to my gran's on a Friday evening as we watched this seven part adaptation of a P D James crime novel together.
This was the first of a number of James books brought to the screen with Roy Marsden as her detective hero Adam Dalgleish. The expert witness was forensic biologist Edwin Lorrimar ( Geoffrey Palmer ) a man so arrogant and disagreeable it gave Dalgleish a number of likely suspects including lesbian sister Brenda Blethyn, professional rival Barry Foster , unstable young colleague Andrew Ray , troubled pathologist Ray Brooks and venal police detective Malcolm Terris. I remember which one did it but as it's on YouTube I don't want to spoil anyone's enjoyment of what was a pretty good whodunnit with an excellent theme tune.
Sunday, 5 February 2017
First viewed : Spring 1983
This was an ambitious 13 part drama on BBC 1 in the 9.25 pm slot on a Thursday. It was about the 12 members of a jury on a rape case. Ten episodes concentrated on an individual member and their life outside the courtroom, one covered an affair between the other two then the final two episodes concentrated on the deliberations and the final verdict. The only actor I recognised was William Gaunt . I don't think I saw many of the preceding episodes but I certainly remember the final two.
The accused was a man with learning difficulties and the case hinged on whether he was capable of interpreting the signals he got from the woman correctly. As you would expect the jury included a ballbusting feminist, bleeding heart liberal, hanger and flogger and a guy who just wanted to get home for tea. I think they found him not guilty but I couldn't swear to that.
Saturday, 4 February 2017
First viewed : 3 April 1983
This was Channel 4's Easter night offering although it was actually made by Granada. David Plowright took advantage once more of the fact that Laurence Olivier was his bother-in-law to stage a star-studded performance of Shakespeare's monumental tragedy. Besides Larry in the title role you had the recently deceased John Hurt as Fool , Dorothy Tutin and Diana Rigg as the monstrous sisters Goneril and Regan and various other worthies. It was a studio-bound production.
I didn't watch the whole thing , perhaps the last hour or so . Olivier was getting rather hammy by this stage in his career but it was watchable enough. Diana Rigg looked a bit too nice to be playing such a horrible character.
Friday, 3 February 2017
First viewed : 25 March 1983
The London-based summer replacement for The Tube has been largely forgotten now, partly down to the fact that neither of its presenters, Yvonne French and Graham Fletcher-Cook , went on to become household names although the latter is still a working actor.
Switch was very similar to Whistle Test with short sets played to an audience of technicians in an empty studio, interspersed with the odd video. I remember Fletcher-Cook was very partisan in his tastes, pulling a face when having to cue in the video for Depeche Mode's Everything Counts and then saying "That was Depressed Toad" after it had finished.
It's to be hoped Fletcher-Cook was a fan of Paul Weller because he and the acts on his Respond label seemed to get more than their fair share of exposure. The first episode closed with a continuous set from The Questions, then Tracie ( with Weller having a rare outing as a bass player on her hit The House That Jack Built ) then The Style Council. To be fair , Weller's operation was based in the capital so they would be an easy booking.
Respond were always a shaky proposition. The Questions had some potential but they were a former Jam support act and never escaped from Weller's shadow. I think the association probably did them more harm than good. Tracie ( Young ) was a slight talent who just about deserved her handful of hits. Why on earth he signed The Main T Possee ( aka New Romantic loser Vaughan Toulouse ) though , I can't imagine. I remember my mum watching him do his dire single Fickle Public Speaking and saying "This is horrible" and she was dead right. Within a couple of years it was all over.
By that time, Switch was history. It finished in September 1983 and never returned.
Thursday, 2 February 2017
First viewed : 12 March 1983
This programme was making a comeback after a five year break. It was first broadcast in January 1977 featuring folk rockers Renaissance. The idea was that BBC Two would broadcast at least part of a concert at the same time ( mid-evening on a Saturday ) that Radio One would broadcast it in stereo. The Radio Times entry always included instructions on how to position your speakers ( if, unlike me, you had them ) for best effect . The venue for the 1983 season was always the Regal Theatre, Hitchin.
Having looked through the list of performers I'm pretty sure the only one I saw was A Flock of Seagulls in March 1983. I remember watching it with my sister who felt sorry for them because they got such a rough ride in the music press
At the time the band had just enjoyed their biggest UK hit "Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You ) and were still a big deal in America. They had a new album, "Listen", in the can so the set was understandably weighted towards giving the new songs a hearing. Like U2 , A Flock of Seagulls- only had one top notch musician in guitarist Paul Reynolds ; drummer Ali Score could have been replaced by a drum machine with no loss of flexibility were it not for the fact he was the singer's brother.
I remember being a bit disappointed at the time. "Wishing" was played early in the set and the new material sounded a bit turgid so my interest in the band started to wane from this point. Having watched it again though it actually holds up pretty well. Perhaps we were a bit spoiled for good music back then.
The series was discontinued after one more season in 1984.
Wednesday, 1 February 2017
First viewed : 10 March 1983
This Grange Hill spin-off is most remembered for keeping Todd Carty gainfully employed between his unavoidable exit from Grange Hill and Eastenders.
Tucker's Luck followed Carty's character, the lovable rogue Tucker Jenkins out of Grange Hill and into the real world, accompanied by faithful mate Alan Humphries ( George Armstrong ) ,always my favourite character. Peter McCarthy returned as Tommy Watson to make up a trio after having been dropped from the parent series a season earlier than the other two . Hilary Crane also resumed her role as Tucker's mum but Alan's dad was now played by Peter Childs ( replacing Tony Barton ). Apart from very brief cameos from Susi McMahon ( see below ) and Trisha Yates there were no other returning characters. Phil Redmond set the ball rolling as far as the writing went but later episodes were delegated to the likes of Barry Purchese and David Angus.
The series began with the trio a year on from leaving school under -qualified and ill-prepared for life on the rock and roll. Unemployment doesn't affect the boys' libidos though and much of the series was concerned with Tucker and Tommy's adventures with two girls the rather rough-looking Michelle ( Elaine Lordan ) and the Gail Tilsley-esque Alison ( Gillian Freedman ), both associated with a Neanderthal skinhead Passmore ( Peter McNamara ) who added to Tucker's woes. Alan is still holding a torch for Susi , his school girlfriend who's gone to college and is no longer interested. She briefly appears in a scene which will have had many Grange Hill viewers asking each other, was that the same girl ? Actually it was, the actress Linda Slater having had a radical makeover in the meantime.
Besides teen romance, the main focus, of the first season at least , was unemployment and it teetered on the edge of becoming too downbeat to enjoy. Coming so hot on the heels of Boys From The Blackstuff didn't help. The boys end up as none too conscientious casual labour for Alan's builder dad.
The series was quite ribald for its early evening slot, the most memorable scene being the one where the boys are helping in a house renovation and Tommy, at the wrong end of a sewage pipe, gets a faceful of you know what. Mind you that perm deserved nothing less !
I watched the entire first season but my viewing of the second in the spring of 1984 was interrupted for the prosaic reason that it clashed with dinner time at my hall of residence. I only caught the very end of the final episode after that. The girls were dispensed with but Passmore was retained for the first few episodes and rehabilitated as a decent human being.
Things weren't getting better for Alan though; when the series opened his dad had died of a heart attack , the business was failing and he was living with an unsympathetic uncle. The main new character was a young homeless man Creamy ( Adam Kotz ) that Alan wanted to help.
The third season, eighteen months later, passed me by entirely. Until yesterday, I didn't realise there' been one ! The writers seem to have adopted a scorched earth policy and excised all previous characters bar Tucker , his mum and Alan so the character of Tommy Watson was prematurely dropped from a second TV series, surely a unique distinction. From the synopses it seems to have been much more focussed on Tucker's family life.
Carty of course became a household name five years later in Eastenders but as someone who's studiously avoided that programme he'll always be Tucker to me. Armstrong wasn't able to maintain a career in acting bar a couple of appearances in The Bill but he remained involved in drama as theatre manager at a large public school in the nineties. Since then he's been a trainer for a management consultancy.