Friday, 31 March 2017
First viewed : 20 November 1983
Of course 1983 was the 20th anniversary of the post-war twentieth century's most seismic event and there was a great deal of TV time devoted to it. ITV broadcast this sympathetic U.S. mini-series broadcast over three nights, concluding on the anniversary itself.
Kennedy was played by Martin Sheen who didn't look particularly like JFK but certainly had the political sympathies. John Shea was an even poorer likeness for Robert Kennedy while conversely Blair Brown did look a lot like Jackie. The series took you through the highs, -the election victory, the Cuban missile crisis - and the lows - the Bay of Pigs, the death of young Patrick - through to the day of destiny in Dallas.
As a Catholic, I still feel a sense of outraged loss even though it happened over a year before I was born. The only crumb of comfort I can glean from Trump's victory is that at least it stopped a third member of the ghastly Bush dynasty getting into the White House while the Kennedys are still stuck on one.
Thursday, 30 March 2017
First viewed : 11 November 1983
This isn't going to be very lengthy as I only saw one full length episode and that was the first. Along with a number of house mates, I watched it almost with a sense of obligation because a lad called Roger Smoothy - that was his real name - was so anxious to see it as he'd lived in Dusseldorf for a time.
The comedy drama series followed the adventures of a group of British expatriate workers thrown together on a building site in Germany. There was a core trio of three Geordies, sensible middle-aged Dennis ( Tim Healy ), appalling boor Oz ( Jimmy Nail ) and wet behind the ears youngster Neville ( Kevin Whately ) who arrived together but others such as Cockney chancer Wayne ( Gary Holton ) and boring Brummie Barry ( Timothy Spall ) were regulars throughout the series. It was initially linked to Boys From The Blackstuff but the tone couldn't have been more different. It was largely written by Likely Lads creators Clement and La Frenais ( though the concept originated with Quadrophenia director Franc Roddam ) and had much more in common with their previous work.
As D.C. alluded to in a previous comment the series was noted for a very chauvinistic view of women that wouldn't be tolerated today. I recall that in the first episode there's a scene where some of the guys visit the red light district and pick their prostitute for the night. Oz alights on a part Oriental girl called Suzie Mo and keeps banging on about it the next day - "Sex is in its infancy in Gateshead !"
One other thing that interested me was the presence of Big Pat Roach, a familiar face from the professional wrestling circuit, in a regular role as "Bomber". I'd seen him as a heavy with minimal dialogue in one or two films but it was nice to see him getting an opportunity to actually act.
I remember when it finished, Roger asked "What did you think of it ?" which was a strange question as you couldn't really expect anyone else to be all that interested in the setting. I think I said something bland and non-committal but I hadn't really liked it and didn't tune in the next week.
There were two original seasons, the second one being set in England. The hard-living Holton died before filming was completed ( necessitating some tweaking ) and that seemed to be the end of the series. It was however revived on BBC 1 as a six-part series in 2002 with Noel Clarke replacing Holton as Wayne's son , bringing both youth and an ethnic minority character into the series. I saw some of the first episode on repeat years later . It revolved around a silly plot to dismantle the Middlesbrough transporter bridge and relocate it to America. A further series was made in 2004. It was finally put to bed at Christmas that year with two special episodes in which the seriously ill Roach was unable to take part. He died while they were being filmed
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
First viewed : 9 November 1983
This is another series where I wasn't quite in at the beginning. It had started the previous year but I first saw the episode about Scottish "killer" George Beattie.
The programme's inspiration came from a fifties American series , The Court of Last Resort , which investigated possible miscarriages of justice. It avoided high profile or "political" cases in order to focus on the little men who didn't have anyone else in their corner. In Beattie's case, he was a young man who was given to telling tall stories and didn't help himself by claiming to have witnessed a real murder that occurred in his home town of Carluke in July 1973 . This put him in the frame despite an implausible window of opportunity . The detail that stuck in my head was Beattie claiming that the murder had actually been committed by a man wearing a top hat decorated with mirrors which shows that George had been watching Top of the Pops on the night of the murder. The programme din't say whether Noddy Holder had been taken in for questioning.
Because of the depth of research required, the programme could only cover two or three cases per year. When the cases came to the Appeals Court and people started being released, strong opposition to the programme began to stir and the original team fell into a trap. Ironically it was the most minor case they'd featured , a case of aggravated burglary not far from me in Heywood where a guy called Anthony Mycock had been convicted of the crime despite some glaring inconsistencies in the evidence. As the team delved into it, they became convinced that there'd been no crime committed ; the female "victim" had made it up. They tracked her down to America and secured an interview in which she admitted she'd made it up, due to "emotional stresses".
Having got that, they went to the Appeals Court . They should have smelled a rat when Lord Chief Justice Lane himself took charge of the case. The woman turned up and said the producer and presenter had intimidated her into giving the interview by such methods as threatening to expose her as a lesbian and she now stuck to her original story. Lane released Mycock almost as an afterthought - other evidence of her duplicity was just too strong - but took her accusations against the Rough Justice team as gospel and really laid into them, the right wing press scrupulously reporting every detail. The BBC chiefs buckled under pressure and took them both off the programme team in 1987.
I don't think they were guilty of anything but naivete. One look at that woman's face during her utterly fake remorse at Mycock's plight should have warned them that she was going to try and wriggle out of it the moment the pressure was off. People don't say "It's a fair cop" in real life. Peter Hill's integrity - he was the producer - can be judged from the fact that long-since retired, he was still fighting Beattie's corner during his last appeal in 2009. Beattie has been out on licence since 1988.
The presenter Martin Young was replaced by David Jessel, a worthy successor of equal tenacity. The series continued but it had been damaged by the Mycock controversy and sensing a lack of commitment from above, Jessel jumped ship to Channel 4 five years later, relaunching the programme as Trial And Error. To be honest ,I was hardly aware the programme had continued after that. It was eventually ditched for budgetary reasons in 2007.
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
First viewed : 22 October 1983
This actually started in 1982 but I didn't see it until the second season in 1983.
Jasper Carrott ( aka Bob Davies ) had taken some time to follow up on the success of his 1975 hit Funky Moped and spent the latter part of the seventies in the clubs with ITV's attempts to launch him on TV meeting with limited success. At the start of the eighties Jasper saw which way the wind was blowing and moved on to observational comedy and political satire. His reward was this part-live comedy series late on Saturday nights on BBC One. He had a strong team on the show with Nick Wilton, Chris Barrie and Jan Ravens among the supporting cast.
I had a strange relationship to the show. Carrott was a known supporter of the Labour Party and the left-wing bias was obvious in his material so I was a bit resistant to him on that score. On the other hand some of the sketches were really funny, worthy of Not the Nine O Clock News at their best.
My favourite was the brutal assault on Paul McCartney, timely in the wake of the Late Late Breakfast Show appearance detailed previously. Nick Wilton played McCartney singing a deliberately inane lyric about black people being the same as white people then he says "take it away Linda " and Jan Ravens as Mrs Macca plays a single note on the piano. I was on the floor at that one.
There was also a sketch on Coronation Street which referred to recent scandals hitting the programme such as Peter Adamson's kiddie-fondling charge ( one suspects that gag wouldn't get through today ) and subsequent acrimonious departure and Anne Kirkbride's marijuana conviction.
Sadly there were only the two seasons. Carrott would have other vehicles but they weren't as good as this.
Monday, 27 March 2017
First viewed : 1980 / 81
This was broadcast on 15/10/83 but a bit of research proves it was first shown two or three years earlier and my own recollection is that I watched it at home rather than university.
In the documentary , Clive James followed royal photographer Patrick Lichfield to Kenya where he was shooting 5 models for the 1981 Unipart calendar ( nice work if you can get it ). There are two moments I particularly remember. One id the aristocrat muttering that he didn't like big boobs because they cast too much shadow.
The other is the shoot where they required a naked girl to sit cross-legged in front of a puff adder that had been thoughtfully frozen for the purpose. The crew were bothered that it looked too inert; the girl was understandably a little concerned about what might happen if it warmed up in the sun. I seem to recall that they didn't actually use the shot in the end.
Sunday, 26 March 2017
First viewed : 14 October 1983
Now things get a bit more fractured as we enter my university days. I didn't have a portable TV for my room . There was a TV lounge in my hall of residence but it was shared with 80+ other people and the house entertainments committee were often renting videos as well. Therefore , after missing the final part of The Old Men At The Zoo and my continued anxiety over The Prisoner , I consciously avoided starting serials so there'll be a bias towards one off programmes as we cover the next three years. It's also the case that these programmes don't seem quite as distant now.
Ladybirds was a series of hour-long documentaries on Channel 4, each featuring a female singer. The only one I can definitely recall watching about was about Jane Birkin. Birkin remains a one hit wonder in the UK with Je t'aime ...moi non plus but that's largely through her own choice as she records and acts mainly in French having settled there since her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg began in 1968. By the time of the documentary she was 37 and had split up with him although they were still working together musically. I can't remember too much of the programme except that it concluded with her saying rather sweetly that she hoped people in Britain still remembered her.
Friday, 24 March 2017
First viewed : Summer 1983
This was a regional programme made by BBC North West, the rest of the country being fortunate enough to escape it. Lynda Lee was Lynda Lee-Potter, right wing columnist for the Daily Mail . She was a miner's daughter from Leigh who went to a grammar school and made her way up the social ladder as a journalist. Following a filmed report on her home town as a Nationwide feature, she was commissioned to make this series about other people from the north west who'd made good such as Debbie Moore founder of the Pineapple Dance Studios.
As a TV presenter she had an irritating voice and a very patronising manner which got my back up immediately. However, the series had one huge feather in its cap for me, a rare ( at the time at least ) TV interview with my ultimate hero, the Lakeland guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright .
There were no great revelations from the interview which he described as "a torment" at its close. I already knew he was in his late seventies so there was no shock in seeing him as a brittle old man; I just wondered at his judgement in granting an interview to the appalling Ms Potter.
Thursday, 23 March 2017
First viewed : 24 August 1981
Here's one I realise I've missed from somewhat earlier.
The Member for Chelsea was a dramatisation of one of the Victorian era's most infamous political scandals. Sir Charles Dilke was a rising star of late Victorian politics, a radical Liberal tipped as a future leader but his prospects were smashed when he was cited in a divorce case by a fellow MP Donald Crawford. Dilke made things much worse for himself by needlessly taking the stand and though he remained an MP until his death years later his prospects of high office were smashed completely.
No one really knows what went on behind closed doors. If I remember correctly, the three part serial ( on consecutive nights ) posited the idea that the woman involved Virginia Crawford ( Felicity Dean ) was actually using Dilke ( Richard Johnson ) as cover for the active sex life she and her friends were enjoying with much younger men. There was a fair amount of nudity involved which is probably why I recall it, Miss Dean being particularly well endowed.
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
First viewed : 22 September 1983
I'm not going to spend too long on this one because I only watched the pilot episode and decided it wasn't for me. It was a John Sullivan effort, prompted by a rebuke from actress Cheryl Hall ( who'd been in the first two seasons of his Citizen Smith ) that he didn't write good parts for women. Just Good Friends therefore featured an independent woman Penny Warrender ( Jan Francis, now in her mid-thirties and looking rather plain although the haircut didn't help ) who bumps into the man who jilted her at the altar years before , the slightly seedy Vince ( mid-seventies pop star and film actor Paul Nicholas ) . She's willing to take him back but on her own terms and their on-off romance played out over three seasons.
I simply didn't find the first episode funny enough though I accept that millions disagreed and made this a big hit .
Sullivan put the series to bed with the two getting wed in a Christmas Day special in 1986. However, after the success of Just Good Friends, Sullivan began to weave romantic threads into the storylines of his other big TV hit which we'll be discussing before too long.
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
First viewed : 22 September 1983
This is another reminder that we're in snooker's golden age at this point. Over on Channel 4, Steve Davis had his own late night chat show A Frame With Davis around this same time.
Give Us A Break was a mixture of Minder and The Hustler. Robert Lindsay played Micky Noades, a dodgy entrepreneur very much in the Arthur Daley mould shacked up with girlfriend Tina ( Shirin Taylor who must have been relieved to put her bra back on after The Cleopatras ) .Down on his luck he discovers that her kid brother Mo ( Paul McGann ) is a snooker ace and sets about exploiting him.
It's chiefly remembered for giving first breaks ( excuse the pun ) to McGann and writer Geoff McQueen who went on to create The Bill. That's because it wasn't much cop. The relationship between Micky and Mo was too close to Arthur and Terry in Minder with Lindsay's character so unsympathetic you never really rooted for him. It was billed as a comedy drama but the laughs were well spaced out , usually coming at the end of a laborious set-up.
A second series was planned but negative reaction to the first meant this was reduced to a single one-off episode in 1984 to tie up the loose ends.
Monday, 20 March 2017
First viewed : 19 September 1983
Part of Channel 4's early remit was to allow repeats of classic ITV series of yore such as Upstairs Downstairs, Out and The Avengers. Now it came round to The Prisoner . I had absolutely no memory of it from the first time round and knew little about it but I was still intrigued. Ellen Smiths Ltd had run coach trips from Littleborough to Portmeirion in the seventies and advertised them as the location for the series. I also noted a paperback displayed in the newsagents we used to visit in Hebden Bridge which had Patrick McGoohan with the tag line "I am not a number I am a free man !" and that also piqued my interest.
At the time the series was made in 1967 McGoohan was the highest paid actor thanks to his success as John Drake, a cerebral government agent in the series Danger Man. He had enough clout to pull the plug on Danger Man and get his new project made. As with all cult favourites the key facts have become contentious and the exact extent of McGoohan's creative contribution to The Prisoner is disputed but it's indisputable that it was his star power that got the series made at all. It's also hotly debated whether the series was in fact a continuation of Danger Man with Number Six and John Drake one and the same ; McGoohan gave different answers at different times to this
Whoever he was , Number 6 was gassed and abducted from his home in London shortly after resigning from an important government position. He wakes in a strange, isolated village full of polite. mostly disengaged people and is prevented from escaping by a sophisticated surveillance operation under the control of Number 2 ( played by a succession of different actors throughout the series including Leo McKern, George Baker and Peter Wyngarde ). Number 6 becomes locked in a battle of wits with Number 2 who wants to know the reasons behind his resignation while 6 has his own inevitable question who is number one ?
That's about the only question that does get answered in a series full of riddles and allegories. The overarching theme is the individual's resistance to being controlled by others which chimed in nicely with the era's anti-establishment ethos.
Despite the unavoidable trappings of sixties kitsch I was immediately hooked by the first episode but that presented me with a worry. After episode two, I would be in a hall of residence at university and there was no guarantee I would have access to a television to see the remainder of the series. As it turned out , I did get to see most of it although I was somewhat disappointed that not one of my 80+ house mates were consistently interested in watching it with me.
For the most part I enjoyed it although I didn't like the Alexis Kanner character and while the final episode did provide some closure it was horribly self-indulgent in the exposition. McGoohan was famously hounded by fans demanding more of an explanation.
It became his defining role . He relocated to the US not long afterwards and was rarely seen on British TV thereafter. His 1977 series, Rafferty is only remembered for being mentioned in a Teardrop Explodes song. He had a decent-ish film career with a late triumph as Edward I in Braveheart and died in 2009 after a short illness.
Sunday, 19 March 2017
First viewed : 15 September 1983
This was an interesting BBC2 drama, a five part adaptation of Angus Wilson's satirical novel by the ever-reliable Troy Kennedy -Martin. My mum tuned in for her favourite actor Stuart Wilson but didn't like it and abandoned it after the first episode. My viewing was interrupted by the inconvenient fact of starting at university during its run and I missed the final episode.
Wilson plays Simon Carter, a TV personality in a not too distant , largely pedestrianised future , who accepts a job at a London zoo run by a gerontocracy of eccentric old men, some benign, others highly dangerous. He soon finds he has to jump to the tune of another old man, a megalomaniac press baron, Lord Godmanchester ( Robert Morley ). Europe is on the verge of a nuclear war with the OPEC countries and Godmanchester wants the zoo evacuated to Wales, nurturing the wildlife reserve visions of crackpot director Leacock ( Maurice Denham ) . After Leacock's bra-less hippychick daughter ( Jan Harvey ) dies in an overzealous bout of bestiality with her dog ( mostly offscreen thankfully ) he switches loyalties to the equally insane Bob Falcon ( Robert Urquhart ) whose age doesn't prevent him screwing Carter's wife.
It's not perfect by any means. Much of it was shot on VT and the budget was a bit unequal to bringing the wide sweep of the novel to the screen. It's also flabby in places; much of the first episode is concerned with the death of a young keeper whose gonads are mashed by a giraffe and there's an extended scene at his funeral introducing characters that we don't see again. Nevertheless it had a thought-provoking premise, an excellenr cast and many bleakly comic moments.
At the time of writing you can watch it right through on YouTube.
Saturday, 18 March 2017
First viewed : 14 September 1983
This was one of my favourite TV programmes of the eighties and it's a real shame it only lasted for a couple of seasons in 1983-84. It was basically Did You See about pop music with The Guardian's Robin Denselow chairing the discussion and slipping in his own acerbic observations ( "his guitar playing didn't look live to me " ) in the arch style that Angus Deayton would soon make his own. The studio panel were usually from different worlds to engender a lively discussion and they'd cover three or four albums, books, gigs etc a show with short clips relating to each one. The first series was produced by ZTT eminence gris Jill Sinclair , the second by future Radio One assassin Trevor Dann. The theme music was Way of the West's 1981 hit "Don't Say That's Just For White Boys".
It was always entertaining but the most memorable e[isode was on 25th May 1984 when George Michael, Morrissey and Tony Blackburn gathered to discuss Everything But The Girl. Break Dance, some Atlantic reissues and the book about Joy Division An Ideal for Living. I was watching it in the common room at my hall of residence sitting next to a Welsh guy called Mike Hughes. He liked whatever the NME told him to like and was instantly hostile to Michael saying "you haven't got a thought in your head " before he'd even opened his mouth. It was ever so slightly unfair, although George's appearance., coiffed hair, vest top and sun tan, could have been said to invite it
He went a bit quiet when Michael revealed a liking for the second side of Closer. Yes, this is the show that Marcello Carlin's bangs on about whenever George Michael crops up on Popular as if all the often vapid and shallow stuff Michael has produced since is validated by this random listening choice. Michael also said their image was "pretentious and contrived and it did have very fascist elements to it" but Mr Carlin doesn't usually quote that bit. Incidentally, when I first came to Popular I thought "DJ Punctum" might actually be Mike Hughes, so similar were their opinions, but I know better now.
Denselow handled some pretty large egos very deftly and could have played for a chat show gig but instead stuck with serious journalism on Newsnight . He still writes on music for The Guardian.
Friday, 17 March 2017
First viewed : September 1983
This was the last of a quartet of BBC serials written by Michael Bird which capitalised on the opening-up of the Med to British holiday-makers in the seventies. It stretched over a decade beginning with The Lotus Eaters in 1973 , the others being Who Pays The Ferryman ? and The Aphrodite Inheritance.
This was the darkest of the four. I didn't see all of it but what I did seemed pretty good. Patrick Mower plays a photographer killed in a car crash in Rhodes. His widow Emily Richard goes over there to complete his assignments and soon feels threatened by dark forces, including visitations from her deceased husband, emanating from the sinister tycoon played by Peter Egan. From what I can recall he turned out to be an undead Templar still exerting a malevolent hold on the island.
Thursday, 16 March 2017
First viewed : Summer 1983
This must be one of the more obscure shows featured here, a late night current affairs show on Channel 4 directed at young people. There is a little footage on YouTube as The Farm were featured in their infancy during a feature on that little-covered topic, unemployment in Liverpool. I recall it because I was quite taken with one of the presenters, a fresh-faced , very straight, young lady called Julie Hall.
She went on to be a political correspondent for ITN then nailed her colours to the mast by taking on the job of Neil Kinnock's chief spin doctor which involved a presumably platonic accommodation arrangement with Peter Mandelson. She achieved notoriety during the 1992 election campaign over an election broadcast about an NHS case for both being cavalier with the truth and at least partially breaching patient confidentiality. When Kinnock resigned immediately after his defeat, she was out of a job. I actually saw her in the flesh at Burtonwood Services a couple of years later. In the nineties she was involved with Tony Blair's Active Community Unit and now works in academia.
There's one other reason why I recall her; I married someone of the same name in 1997.
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
First viewed : 11 September 1983
This monumental U.S. mini-series arrived here with such a bad press, led by Clive James in particular, that you had to tune in just to see if it was as atrocious as reputed.
It was an adaptation of Herman Wouk's mammoth novel about the Second World War in which a fictional American naval officer, Victor "Pug" Henry or a member of his family are caught up in every significant event of the war despite the inconvenient fact that the Americans were not very involved in the first third of it . Wouk himself was the main writer of the screenplay.
Robert Mitchum - at 65, surely somewhat old for a serving officer - played "Pug" and , true to the book, bumped into the great and bad on contrived pretexts. The picture above shows him shaking hands with a particularly unconvincing Hitler ( Gunter Mesiner ) - he's the short guy third from the left in case you're struggling .
The critics were right , it was crap but my mum defiantly stuck with it - "well I like it !"
There was a sequel with some casting changes five years later. War and Remembrance was, if anything. even more reviled, particularly for using Jane Seymour to represent the Holocaust victims, although I think Ali McGraw, who played the character in the earlier series, would have been worse.
Sunday, 12 March 2017
First viewed : 9 September 1983
Channel 4 gave us a late summer break from music between the end of Switch and the start of the second season of The Tube. In the same time slot we had a series of colourful nature documentaries about the coral seas presented by Leonard Nimoy. The series actually dated back to 1976 but hadn't been shown here before.
I found the one about sea snakes the most interesting. There was a team of scientists collecting sea snake venom which faced the difficulty that, despite being highly venomous, most sea snakes are surprisingly docile and reluctant to bite. Therefore you have to seriously provoke them to get a sample. I remember a diver going in and antagonising one of the most poisonous species and coming under ferocious attack although he avoided injury.
Saturday, 11 March 2017
First viewed : 7 September 1983
This was the final TV series for left wing playwright Jim Allen , ( of The Spongers fame ). Set in Collyhurst , the six-part BBC2 serial followed the fortunes of a young man, Joe Henshaw, from an impoverished childhood in the thirties, service in the war and industrial disputes in the fifties. It starred a young David Threlfall as Joe and the cast also featured James Ellis, Brenda Fricker and Peter Kerrigan..
Opening with a bare knuckle fight between two middle-aged men. it was grimy, sombre and violent. I watched half an hour of the first episode and that was enough . The series was poorly received and has never been repeated.
Allen went on to write a number of screenplays for Ken Loach and died of cancer in 1999.
Friday, 10 March 2017
First viewed : 3 September 1983
This was TV's first show to explicitly cover the burgeoning market in VHS cassettes. How quaint that now sounds; I literally can't give away a dozen or so that I've got in the cupboard. I feel very sorry for people that have substantial collections.
Video Video was broadcast on Channel 4 early on Saturday evenings and like Film ... consisted of reviews and film reports. It's only memorable for presenter Adam Faith's struggles - with the. - autocue but then uselessness was always part of his charm.
Thursday, 9 March 2017
First viewed : 29 August 1983
This one-off special, in which Clive James trawled through the worst of the B-movies of yesteryear , was actually a curtain-raiser for a Worst of Hollywood season on Channel 4 presented by Michael Medved ( later to be reviled as an arch-conservative critic in the U.S. ) . It was splendid stuff, my first introduction to the world of Ed Wood and the equally jaw-dropping Robot Monster ( a man in a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet ) , The Wild Women of Wongo and The Creeping Terror where , clearly slow-witted, teenagers are ambushed by a ( just about ) mobile carpet.
I really enjoyed it and was disappointed a few weeks later to discover that my new house mates didn't share my enthusiasm for the celebration of trash and preferred to stick with an old Amicus werewolf film over the screening of Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
First viewed : 8 August 1983
This five part drama by Willy Russell was made by Yorkshire TV and broadcast by Channel 4 on a Sunday evening. Besides being part of Russell's illustrious c.v., it's notable for superb talent-spotting by the casting crew ( John Murphy and Ruby Boyle ) as the three young male leads - each one in their teens at the time - have all gone on to greater things.
The series concerns two disadvantaged 16 year old lads from Liverpool Billy Rizley ( David Morrissey ) and his intellectually challenged mate Icky ( Spencer Leigh ) who have the cheek to turn up for the school camping trip in Wales despite weeks of truancy. Sent away, they decide to travel there under their own steam motivated by rare happy memories for Billy. They are eventually accepted as house guests by a self-sufficient hippy called Kidder ( James Hazeldine ) but he's a man with a past and all hell breaks loose when Icky makes contact with the school trip and his dodgy mate Rabbit ( Ian Hart, then going under the surname Davies ). As usual with Russell, events take a tragic turn.
We only watched half of it because by the time it came to the screen, we'd been watching Now and Then for a couple of weeks and, in our pre-VCR days, they clashed. So we turned over as soon as the credits rolled on that , for the last half hour of One Summer and caught up as best we could. I have a feeling my sister's preference would have been to watch this right through. I can't remember if this marks the beginning of her affection for all things Scouse or just a staging post.
Tuesday, 7 March 2017
First viewed : 29 July 1983
My mother watched the pilot for this the week before and said it was rubbish. Of course you don't take your mum's recommendations or otherwise on trust so I made sure I checked out the next episode. It wasn't long before I realised she was right.
I know it's still regarded with affection by many eighties kids but I just rejected it straight away mainly for its brain-numbingly repetitive formula which made Quincy seem challenging. The gang of four Vietnam vets, wise-cracking leader Hannibal ( George Peppard ), aerophobic behemoth B.A. Baracus ( Mr T) , schizo Murdock ( Dwight Shultz ) and violence-evading pretty boy Face ( Dirk Benedict ) were on the run from the US army and scratched a living as good-hearted mercs turning up in a small town and righting wrongs. It was not too dissimilar to The Incredible Hulk in that sense.
It was also like Hulk in another important sense. The Team had mastered the same mysterious art of causing violent mayhem without anyone getting seriously hurt. Cars would be blown up - actually it was usually just the one explosion filmed from different angles - then the occupants would emerge unscathed. The Beeb actually had first option on the series but rejected it for promotion of the dangerous idea that violence had n consequence . An unconcerned ITV gratefully snapped it up.
In the first couple of series the Team were assisted by a female reporter. The actress playing the first one , Melinda Culea was chivalrously told by Peppard she wasn't wanted , even before filming started and the female member was jettisoned at the end of the second season. Benedict still shamelessly champions it as the last great masculine show.
The show lasted for five seasons until everyone got bored of it and it finished in 1987.
Monday, 6 March 2017
First viewed : 28 July 1983
This was a fly on the wall documentary series in six parts about life at Edinburgh University which might have been of more interest to me had it started a few weeks later rather than finishing the night before I got my A Level results.
As it was I only saw one episode which centred on whether or not to close a day nursery for student parents in the face of budget pressures. What caught my eye was that one of the key decision makers involved was Liberal leader David Steel who was also Rector of the University. I seem to recall that some solution was found and Steel presented that same unflappable bonhomie that was always his public persona until a certain satirical puppet show got to work on him.
Sunday, 5 March 2017
First viewed : 28 July 1983
This was an eighties phenomenon to which I was strongly resistant. Alan Parker's 1980 film about students at the New York School of Performing Arts got a mixed reception at the time but did well enough to generate a TV series featuring some of the original cast. After BBC bought the series in 1982, the film was re-released to cinemas in the UK and Irene Cara's theme song went to number one, building anticipation for the TV series in the autumn.
My mother and sister went to see it at the cinema ,possibly because it was coupled with something else. I remember the biggest impression my sister took away was that Cara's puppies were no bigger than hers ! They were both enthusiastic viewers of the series when it first came on air on Saturday nights but a combination of not having seen the film with them and the terrible songs that started making the charts by "The Kids From Fame" kept me away.
The second season was switched to a Thursday night, coming on after Top of the Pops which was logical scheduling. Hence I eventually ended up watching an episode. Some old ham turns up at the School and puts budding director Doris's nose out of joint by taking over her patch but he is eventually exposed as a fraud. Doris was played by Valerie Landsburg who wasn't in the film. The girl who took Cara's role , Erica Gimpel , looked a lot like her but Landsburg couldn't have been more different from Maureen Teefy who played Doris in the film, a short, chubby Jewess replacing a willowy blonde.
It was watchable enough but didn't tempt me to tune in again. Already, you had the sense that the tide was going out for the franchise. There were four more seasons made in the US but the Beeb called it quits after Season 4 finished in 1985.
When the film was first screened on TV in 1984, I thought it was quite good.
Saturday, 4 March 2017
First viewed : 25 July 1983
This was a Sunday night single play on ITV starring Gregory's Girl 's John Gordon Sinclair. It's so obscure it's not listed on any of the actors' imdb filmographies. John plays a loser with depression who's referred to a drama therapy group by his sister Phoebe Nicholls. One of the guys in the group is Roger Lloyd Pack , a manic depressive . Phoebe's character becomes alarmed by the new ego displayed by JGS . That's all I can remember of it.
Friday, 3 March 2017
First viewed : 25 July 1983
This Esmonde and Larbey comedy series on ITV doesn't seem to have left much of a footprint despite an excellent cast, particularly notable for featuring both the UK's favourite grannies, Liz Smith and June Brown.
Bernard Holley played middle aged Peter Elston , fondly looking back to his childhood during World War Two. His younger self was played by John Alford while Sam Kelly and Marcia Warren played his parents. He had two sexpot sisters in Tracy Hyde and Cindy O' Callaghan. One got married to a serving private ; the other was engaged to a supercilious nerd Randall ( Mark Burdis ) who was dodging the front in a supposedly vital civilian role. The young Peter utterly despised him. He also had an uncle Gordon ( Barry Stanton ) who was involved in the black market and gave his nephew-in-law a box of condoms as a going away present.
Despite the latter incident, the comedy was mostly of a fairly gentle nature with all the characters bar Randall warm and sympathetic. I watched the first season ( 7 episodes ) on Sunday nights with my mum and sister . My mother would smile in recognition at many of the privations and improvisations such as using Bisto to simulate unobtainable stockings although she was generally resistant to nostalgia, especially where World War Two was concerned, having been an evacuee from Manchester.
The second season ( six episodes ) in 1984 passed me by entirely. I don't even know whether it stayed a wartime drama or moved on into the late forties.
Thursday, 2 March 2017
First viewed : 20 July 1983
I only dipped into this Channel 4 production of the enduring eighteenth century satirical opera to catch a glimpse of Paul Jones playing the central character, notorious Scottish rake Macheath. Jones had been playing the role at the National Theatre from the year before.
Wednesday, 1 March 2017
First viewed : 18 July 1983
Here's a reminder of what one of the big films of the summer was, the third Superman film starring Christopher Reeve. Here he was up against Robert Vaughan rather than Gene Hackman with sidekicks computer hacker Richard Pryor and busty femme fatale Pamela Stephenson.
The programme consisted of Peter Marshall and Susan King ( neither of whom ring any bells ) hovering around the ABC cinema in London and buttonholing celebrities , whether connected to the film or not, as they arrived at the building. This of course was interspersed with clips of the movie.
It didn't inspire me to go and watch it and I still haven't seen it.