Friday, 30 June 2017
First viewed : 27 August 1985
Storyboard was an ITV drama strand similar to the Beeb's Play for Today. Ladies in Charge was a comic drama about three young single women who, having been involved in war work during World War One, are looking for new sources of excitement. They set themselves up as a sort of detective agency but the wording of their advertisement leads some men to think they are offering services of a rather different kind. I was rather taken with the trio of Carol Royle, Julia Hills and Amanda Root.
The play made a good impression and led to a short series under the same title although Root was unavailable and replaced by Julia Swift. Unfortunately it coincided with my Finals in 1986 and passed me by entirely. Only six episodes were made and it's largely forgotten.
Thursday, 29 June 2017
First viewed : 16 August 1985
This was a one-off wildlife special presented by a hirsute Simon King. It set a number of challenges for garden birds by devising contraptions which would release food if the bird followed a sequence of tasks using its beak. If I remember correctly, the tits proved the most adept. It was first broadcast in April but I'm pretty sure it was the repeat I saw.
Wednesday, 28 June 2017
First viewed : 12 August 1985
This was a five part adaptation of an interwar novel by Francis Brett Young. There was a popular British film version in 1948 starring Michael Denison. It is remembered as being the first and only TV series with a leading role for Daniel Day-Lewis as My Beautiful Launderette was already in the cinemas when it was first broadcast.
Day-Lewis played Jonathan Dakers , a young man whose parents neglect him yet dote on his younger brother Harold ( Benedict Taylor ). When his father dies, Jonathan abandons his medical studies to take a junior post in a medical practice in an industrial town so that Harold can complete his public school education and maintain his social standing. Jonathan's social conscience soon makes him an enemy of Dr Craig ( John Stone ) the corrupt head of a rival practice. As if things weren't bad enough , Edie ( Caroline Bliss ) the object of his desire falls for Harold instead. There isn't a happy ending either.
Perhaps Jonathan is too good to be true; is anyone really that self-sacrificing ? Nevertheless,I enjoyed the series but I did think Day-Lewis was actually a bit wooden. My mum disagreed and said his ponderous delivery was a mark of his being "very upper class".
Tuesday, 27 June 2017
First viewed : Summer 1985
This influential talent show certainly brightened up tea times for a couple of months in the Countdown slot on Channel Four.
The Gong Show had actually been cancelled in the US five years earlier so we were watching episodes from the late seventies. The format was somewhat similar to New Faces with the acts performing to a three-strong celebrity panel, each one of whom had the ability to bring the act to a close by striking the titular gong after a specified amount of time. The panel were reasonably famous; Jamie Farr from M.A.S.H. seemed to be on a lot and I remember seeing Dionne Warwick, looking very uncomfortable once.
There were occasionally acts who were reasonably talented but they didn't win very much. The point of the show was that most of the acts were absolutely dire, just begging to be gonged. A classic example were Have You Got A Nickel ( pictured above ), two nubile young girls in hot pants whose act consisted of sitting on the floor eating ice lollies suggestively. Amazingly, the panel allowed them to complete their "performance".
The first shows we saw here were presented by a guy called John Barbour who was your bog standard oily US TV host. He left early on and was replaced by the show's creator Chuck Baris who was something else. Leaning back with his eyes closed and the phoniest perma-grin on his face, Chuck took insincerity to a new art form,chiding the panel - "Aww,what did you do that for ?" - with mock horror whenever the gong was struck. I remember watching the end of the Racing that preceded it once and John McCririck gave the show an impromptu trailer -
"Stay tuned for that Gong Show. It's tacky, it's hideous but it's also hilarious. That guy who presents it is the worst human being in the world."
Quite an endorsement when you think about it.
There were a couple of repeat acts who were purely there to feed Chuck. The Unknown Comic was a man with a paper bag on his head who bantered with the host and was occasionally amusing. Gene Gene The Dancing Machine on the other hand was an overweight stage hand who shuffled about amidst a storm of missiles from the audience while Chuck demonstrated Forsyth-esque dancing skills to his backing track.
The show ended here when Richard and Carol returned from their summer holidays . A pilot for a British version hosted by Frankie Howerd died a horrible death that December and it was never seen again. Baris died earlier this year aged 87.
Monday, 26 June 2017
This was another Jonathan King effort, a sort of British counterpart to Entertainment USA. The show would come from a different town each week and its young presenters would anchor what was almost a tourist information film about the place, interspersed with music videos featuring, surprise surprise, American AOR hits. King advertised for new presenting talent in his column for The Sun but after the changeover at the end of season one he got fed up of this and so Jenny Powell and Tony Baker ( above ) remained in place for the rest of the series.
The programme was unceremoniously dumped in 1988 when Janet Street-Porter took over as Head of Youth Programming and axed both of King's shows as one of her first priorities. Powell dusted herself down and her presenting career is still ongoing but Baker has disappeared.
Sunday, 25 June 2017
First viewed : Summer 1985
I wouldn't have remembered what this was called but I do recall this popular medical programme presented by Graeme Garden ( now minus most of his hair ). Graeme presented it in a jocular fashion,, usually in a lab coat, but it was a serious programme.
The only bit that's stuck with me is Graeme giving a big build up before unveiling the creature with the fastest reflexes in the animal kingdom which turned out to be - the cockroach ! He then demonstrated this by trying and failing to swat some. Bad news for Environmental Health Officers everywhere.
Saturday, 24 June 2017
First viewed : 29 July 1985
This was one of a series of programmes to mark the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which ended the Second World War. Ludovic Kennedy was the anchor man. The one I saw followed Leonard Cheshire, an observer on the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki and a British P.o.W. who saw its effects on the ground returning to the city to chew over its fate. Both remained convinced that the bombing was necessary and justified.
Thursday, 22 June 2017
First viewed : 24 July 1985
This six-part serial on Wednesday evenings seems to have fallen through the cracks which is a little surprising as it was the first TV series to give the leading role to David Hayman. It also featured one of the last appearances of Dr Who's Ian Marter in a supporting role.
Hayman played Joe Barrow, a dour professional rock climber who is forced to re-evaluate his life when a serious accident curtails his career. His marriage to Kath ( Alison Spiro ) is on the rocks but he fancies his doctor, Susan ( Jan Harvey ) anyway. He gets a job as an instructor at an Outward Bound School in the Lakes but his lack of people skills and dodgy boss Don ( Neil Phillips from A Kind Of Loving ) don't make his new life any easier.
The similarity in the premise to the soon-to-come Howard's Way had me looking at the respective crews for connections but, apart from proximity and Jan Harvey starring in both, I couldn't find any.
Fell Tiger had great scenery ( the main draw for me ) but not much else to recommend it. If I recall correctly there wasn't much climbing footage in it. The series went out at 8pm and it perhaps needed to be post-watershed to pep up the party with some sex and violence.
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
First viewed : 23 July 1985
I can only remember watching this once and I can pin it down to the same evening as the OMD concert which makes sense.
Film Buff of the Year was a cross between Mastermind and Screen Test chaired by the dry-as-a-bone Robin Ray. There were specialist rounds but they were assigned in advance not chosen ; my personal nightmare would have been Jerry Lewis. The episode I watched had a guy answering questions about Clint Eastwood. I remember one of the questions was name a film in which Clint Eastwood dies . The Beguiled must have been one but I'm a bit stumped for the others. High Plains Drifter would be a tricky one to call.
The series ran from 1982 to 1986.
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
First viewed : 23 July 1985
This was a one-off special by the ORS 85 crew interspersing concert footage from a date on the Crush tour with a mini-documentary presented by Peter Powell who was, to be fair, a long time fan of the band. This included a brief contribution from Tony Wilson and a short interview with the guys themselves.
The concert was fairly enjoyable although the sound was a bit murky and Andy McCluskey's vocals were always a bit wayward even in the studio, The other comment to make is that this wasn't the best time to catch OMD. The Crush LP was patchy and the one before that, Junk Culture , was a dog so you got crap like White Trash and Crush rubbing shoulders with the classics - Messages, Enola Gay, Maid of Orleans and so on.
Monday, 19 June 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
This 10 minute BBC 2 space filler was like a condensed version of Radio One's My Top !2. Steve Blacknell turned up at a celebrity's home , rifled through their record collection and chose one or two discs for a 30-second clip and a few words of praise from the owner. It wasn't a bad idea for a longer show but it simply wasn't worth the trouble of tuning in for just 10 minutes.
The only one I'm certain I saw ( because of what followed it ) was on 23.7.85 when the subject was camp astrologist Russell Grant. I remember him picking out Chris de Burgh and, this being pre -The Lady In Red , my mum saying she'd never heard of him.
Sunday, 18 June 2017
First viewed : 13 July 1985
This of course was the TV event of the year, the huge concert following on from the Band Aid record. I have already written about it on other blogs so you'll have to forgive any repetition here.
The TV coverage was on BBC Two, compered by the Whistle Test team with various Radio One DJs and other celebrities dropping by to help. Some of these no doubt baffled American viewers and Ian Astbury from The Cult, who'd only just cracked the Top 40 , baffled everybody including host David Hepworth who only worked out who he was right at the end of the link. The Wembley Stadium concert finished around 9pm with the one at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia continuing into the small hours. It should be remembered that other countries were participating too as sporadic satellite inserts showed.
I didn't watch it right through. I had to compromise with my Dad as there was cricket on BBC One. I watched the first few acts - Status Quo, Style Council, Boomtown Rats ,Adam Ant ( a one song set comprising his failed comeback hit ) and Ultravox. The latter were one of the few acts I genuinely wanted to see because apparently Bob Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith ( presumably with Midge Ure's acquiescence ) had decided they didn't want any synth acts apart from Ultravox so no OMD, Human League or Depeche Mode. I can understand the thinking, that they were putting on a rock concert but other people on the bill - Style Council, Sade, solo Bryan Ferry , Nik Kershaw - weren't playing stadium-friendly music either.
I came back to it briefly around 4.30 during Paul Young's set then it was tea time and when I returned it was Queen, universally regarded as the best set of the day. I then saw the Dancing In The Streets video, Simple Minds, David Bowie, Pamela Stephenson blubbing at the Ethiopian footage set to The Cars' Drive, The Who , Elton John, Madonna with The Thompson Twins ( one imagines her viewing that now and asking "Who were those guys again ? ), Paul McCartney and his malfunctioning microphone and then the all star rendition of Do They Know Its Christmas featuring a peeved Stuart Adamson whose band had been left off the bill because Geldof thought they'd split up.
That closed the Wembley concert . I stayed with Philadelphia through Tom Petty, The Cars , Neil Young and The Power Station featuring Michael Des Barres deputising for the indisposed Robert Palmer. Then Jeff Bridges took the mike to do the link to the next act. With no clear idea of what he was going to say, the actor made a complete tit of himself, improvising a history lesson about "us flower children" before finishing with the words "Phew rock and roll". The memory intruded when watching his films for years afterwards.
The next act were unfortunately Crosby Stills and Nash who carried on in that vein giving little homilies about Woodstock before a set of their most anodyne songs. I decided it was time for bed so yes guys you literally did send me to sleep.
Saturday, 17 June 2017
First viewed : July 1985
This is one that got away for me. I saw odd bits of it when the first season was repeated in the summer of 1985 and was intrigued but it was on too late and for most of the second season I was living in a house without a TV.
Travelling Man was made by Granada. It was written by Roger Marshall one of the original team on The Avengers. Leigh Lawson played Max Lomax, an ex-policeman who has recently been released from stir after being framed for a drugs offence . He retreats to his narrowboat Harmony on the Cheshire Ring , observed by various parties who believe he has access to a stash of money. Max is looking for both his son Stephen and the man who framed him and this is the overarching narrative although Max has diversionary adventures along the way so that many of the episodes are self-contained. There are obvious similarities to Out and The Fugitive and Shoestring were also influences.
What made Travelling Man unique was the setting, the grim storylines working themselves out against the picturesque and lesisurely-paced lifestyle of the canal traveller although unfortunately it was all shot on VT. The series was successful and the haunting theme tune was a minor hit for Duncan Browne but a third season had to be scrapped because Lawson fell out with the producers.
The series also introduced some young talent. Alan Cumming made his TV debut in one episode as Max's pal Jamie and it also provided my first sighting of Kate Hardie as jailbait Susie.
Thursday, 15 June 2017
First viewed : April 1985
I don't know why my mum started watching this in 1985; we'd ignored it throughout the seventies. Yorkshire TV's answer to Coronation St had always been a poor relation, shunted around the daytime schedules by the different ITV companies and much mocked for its agricultural storylines. Nonetheless the show had gradually built up a loyal audience and by the eighties had a regular twice-weekly evening slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays i.e. the alternative nights to Coronation Street.
I picked up on it during the Easter Holidays in 1985. The storylines at the time seemed to concentrate on the alpha male rivalry between independent farmer and miserable bugger Jack Sugden ( Clive Hornby ) and the suave but rotund Alan Turner ( Richard Thorp ), manager for a larger agricultural concern NY Estates. Turner was a fairly recent addition to the cast as a replacement for Jack's younger brother Joe ( Frazer Hines who was taking time out from the show ). There was some tabloid interest in building up Turner as a JR type villain but it never really caught on ; he was an averagely venal man who caught corners when he could but never a real villain.
The rivalry took on an extra spice when Turner accidentally ran over Jack's rather charmless illegitimate son Jackie Merrick ( Ian Sharrock ) putting him in intensive care for a while. There were further complications when Jackie's sister Sandy started seeing Turner's slimy son Terence ( Stephen Marchant ).
There were a couple of characters I'd heard of before watching the show was pompous pub landlord Amos Brearley with his pipe and mutton chop whiskers and catchphrase "Nay Nay Mr Wilks" , your stereotypical tight-fisted and belligerent Yorkshireman. The other was Walter, an extra in the pub scenes "played" by a guy called Al Dixon. He was never credited in the cast list because he didn't say anything but he was always there and became a sort of running joke.
Towards the end of 1985, the cast was shaken up by the re-appearance of lawless quarry owner Harry Mowlem ( Godfrey James ) an aggressive Bluebeard character who came to a sticky end at the hands of local villains. At that point though I had a tough call to make. The Thursday episode was scheduled against BBC1's fledgling soap Eastenders which was taking a hit as a result. At the beginning of 1986 therefore, the BBC Controller Michael Grade decided to switch that episode around with Top of the Pops . We didn't have a VCR at this point so reluctantly I had to let Emmerdale Farm go just as they were introducing a stunning new character in Kathy Bates ( Malandra Burrows ).
Therefore, I wasn't watching in 1993 when Phil Redmond changed the rules of the game for British soaps for good by having a plane crash into the village, wiping out a few unnecessary characters. I remember my friend Rosemary lamenting the demise of her favourite, Archie. It was a genuine TV landmark and revived interest in an ailing soap now renamed as Emmerdale..
I didn't get back into it until the end of 1997 when I was newly married and mortgaged. My wife liked it and we couldn't afford to go out much. After over a decade away there was much to catch up on. There were only three survivors from my previous stint, Jack with his false teeth, Alan Turner who now ran the pub,Amos having retired to Spain and shiftless gamekeeper Seth Armstrong ( Stan Richards ), still sporting that stupid handlebar moustache.
Terence was no longer in the cast although oddly the actor's name had been re-cycled for a new character, the shifty yuppie boyfriend of the show's queen bitch Kim Tate ( Claire King ). She was in permanent conflict with her stepson Chris who'd been left crippled by the plane crash and was played by her real-life husband Peter Avory.
When not focussed on the Tates , much of the attention went to a family of ne'er do wells the Dingles , their star early on being the super-sized Mandy Dingle ( Lisa Riley who soon outgrew the show, so to speak ). I watched it for around three years but gradually got a bit fed up with the stunt storylines , the never-ending supply of new Dingles and the casting of Seventies refugees like Patrick Mower and Elisabeth Estensen. Thereafter I'd check in sporadically but I really disliked the character Cain Dingle and thought the storyline of him screwing both the policewoman and her young daughter was distasteful. What really ended my interest was the Soapstars programme in 2002 which catapulted five amateur actors into the show to the alarm of acting union Equity and the rest of the cast. Although they did well enough to earn an extension to their initial contracts, they were all gone within a year and the whole episode seemed grubby and cynical. The following year I tuned in to watch the hammy exit of Chris Tate then my interest ceased for good.
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
First viewed ; April 1985
There are few more identifiably eighties icons than Max if only as a sort of test card for how far computer graphics had come on by 1985.
Max was a product of the boom in promotional videos; both his creators, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel , were involved in the business and launched the character in an hour-long TV drama set in a dystopian future. Canadian actor Matt Frewer played an investigative reporter who meets with a nasty accident . While comatose his brain waves are digitally recorded by a computer geek and used to launch a virtual version which soon turns out to have an eccentric life of its own. I wasn't sufficiently enticed to watch the original programme.
The character was then used to host an early Saturday evening show starting the following week on Channel Four. It was very similar to Rock n. America with Max providing comic inserts in between pop videos. Frewer remained in the role and was allowed creative input into the character which he based on a particularly insincere and smarmy US TV host. Because VR was still in its infancy, his appearance was not actually computer-generated at all and required Frewer to spend many hours virtually immobilised in latex.
I still wasn't in from the beginning and remember my mum shouting me down from upstairs wondering why I wasn't watching a programme that showed a lot of music videos. It never became appointment TV for me ; I found Max's smart alec persona irritating as of course it was meant to be. Nevertheless, it considerably boosted Channel Four's viewing figures.
By the time of the second season the producers had realised the potential of Max as an interviewer who could ask questions human hosts would avoid. Sting was one of the initial victims. The road to Mrs Merton starts here.
The third and final season was early in 1987. One of the very last episodes featured Max interviewing Oliver Reed not long after his notorious appearance on Aspel & Company. On this occasion Reed was debonair, completely sober and unruffled by anything Max could throw at him.
By then the producers felt that the show had run its course. The latter two seasons had been shown in the U.S. but not made much impact in a nation saturated by MTV's fare. Instead ABC went back to source and re-shot the pilot retaining Frewer but making some plot changes. It launched Max Headroom , a sci-fi adventure series which ran for two seasons in 1987-88. If this was ever shown in the UK, I never saw it.
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
First viewed : 12 April 1985
This was a late night BBC One documentary about the mad bigot who had already proved himself to be one of the major obstacles to achieving peace in Northern Ireland. The "Reverend " Ian Paisley had had himself ordained in America to set up a splinter church of his own, his views being too extreme for mainstream Presbyterianism ( not known for its liberalism as we're currently being reminded ) . The man imagined himself to be a latter day John Knox and it shows just how bad the situation in Northern Ireland had become that his violently expressed sixteenth century bigotry found a mass following.
We know his story had a happy-ish ending but that looked a long way off when this was broadcast.
Monday, 12 June 2017
First viewed : 11 April 1985
This one season-only US series is only really remembered for killing off one of its cast.
Cover Up starred Jennifer O' Neill as Dani Reynolds, a famous fashion photographer who discovers that her husband's death was due to him being a government agent. Despite a rather obvious lack of training, Dani decides to pick up where he left off and recruits a photogenic ex-Green Beret Mac ( Jon-Eric Hexum ) as part of her cover now that she's working for the CIA.
By the time the pilot was shown here , we knew the tragic story. Hexum had been fooling around with a gun on set preparing for a scene and managed to fire the wadding from a blank cartridge into his skull. He died six days later. The producers decided to go with the eight episodes they had in the can then replace Mac with a new character played by Anthony Hamilton. As with any unexpected death in the US, there's been some lurid speculation after his mother settled out of court with the TV company but there's nothing there but a stupid accident.
I watched some of the pilot but it didn't engage me so I never came back to it. It was cancelled after one season due to poor ratings.
Sunday, 11 June 2017
First viewed : 8 April 1985
This was the BBC's second adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, the first being broadcast in 1959. It was adapted into eight 50 minute parts by Arthur Hopcraft and broadcast on BBC2 on a Wednesday with a Sunday repeat.
The action begins when three young people, Esther, Ada and Richard go to live with their guardian John Jarndyce played by Denholm Elliott. All are in some way connected with an interminable legal case involving conflicting wills , Jarndyce v Jarndyce from which the wise and kindly John expects absolutely nothing and counsels his wards accordingly. Nearby live an aristocratic couple, the Dedlocks, also involved in the case. Lady Dedlock ( Diana Rigg ) is startled by the handwriting on a routine legal document which the family lawyer Tulkinghorn ( Peter Vaughan ) notices and decides to investigate. As usual with Dickens, there is a large cast of colourful supporting players played by the likes of Bernard Hepton, Frank Windsor and T P McKenna . The final episode is largely concerned with the disintegration of young Richard ( an early role for Darling Buds of May 's Philip Franks ) who casts off his guardian's advice and gets involved in the case.
I saw the first and final episodes but , again due to living in a hall of residence, only snatches of what came in between which was a shame because it looked very good. With a cast like that, it could hardly fail.
Why the Beeb decided to commission Andrew Davies to produce another version twenty years later I'm not quite sure.
Saturday, 10 June 2017
First viewed : April 1985
This is an equivalent post to the one about cricket the previous year, something I was watching to ward off holiday boredom. To make it more interesting, I popped out to the bookies and put a small bet on a horse called Temple Rise. In a photo-finish it was declared joint winner. Thankfully, I didn't develop the habit.
Thursday, 8 June 2017
First viewed : March 1985
This was a violently depressing "comedy" from the pen of Carla Lane. Michael Angelis led the cast as one of four alcoholics drying out on a detoxification programme.. The premise didn't promise too many laughs and it didn't deliver any. The wonder is that it ran to a second season the following year.
Wednesday, 7 June 2017
First viewed : March 1985
Again, I just dipped into this ITV serial, perhaps only the last episode. It was a dramatisation of the race between Scott and Amundsen for the South Pole in 1912 It was made by Central Television alone although it featured all Norwegian actors for Amundsen's party with the unknown Sverre Ankar Ousdal playing Amundsen. Martin Shaw played Scott and the series gave him that crucial opportunity to escape from his Professionals persona that would always elude Lewis Collins.
The series had an excellent cast ( including a young Hugh Grant in a minor role ) and high production values. Given the setting and how well known the eventual outcome was, it couldn't evade seeming a bit gloomy but it was impressive TV nonetheless.
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
First viewed : March 1985
Another partly-glimpsed serial from the first half of 1985, Cover Her Face was ITV's third P.D. James adaptation with Roy Marsden as poetry-loving detective Adam Dalgleish. This one had a particularly convoluted plot shifting from the murder of a Cypriot drug dealer that Dalgleish was already investigating in London to the country mansion of the Maxie family living a highly anachronistic lifestyle for the 1980s. The connecting link, or one of them at least , was Sally Jupp ( Kim Thomson ) a single mother and scheming minx who doesn't make it to the final episode. Life On Mars 's Philip Glenister had an early role as her bumpkin patsy.
I came in about halfway through and was intrigued enough to see it through to the end where the murderer, as usual, turned out to be the least likely suspect.
Monday, 5 June 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
I'm sure I must have caught some of the earlier iterations of this show that went out, usually on a Saturday night, in 1982-84 following the success of his encounter with Larry Hagman. However what I'm really talking about here is the thrice-weekly show that went out at 7pm from February 1985 when Michael Grade re-vamped the schedules.
Wogan lasted half an hour and was unashamedly a plug show. Everyone on it was selling something. It normally got through three guests, interviewed separately, with a musical break though these were much reduced and restricted to established acts in later years. I remember my mum being enthused by an appearance by The Flaming Mussolinis early on.
This was Terry Wogan at the height of his fame but crucially not at his best. As the Victoria Principal interview referred to a few posts back proved, he could not be as irreverent as he was on radio. All guests had to be accorded a certain amount of deference and the strain showed. At the time I thought the squirming in the chair was part of his act along with the regrettable mugging and sideways glances at the camera but after a thoughtful interview he gave to Smash Hits I realised that he was genuinely uncomfortable with representing the Establishment.
He had some breaks with guest presenters coming in like Derek Jameson and Sue Lawley who disgraced herself by allowing the audience to mock Vivienne Westwood. Bruce Forsyth took that opportunity to re-launch himself as an all-round entertainer after years of crappy game shows and a dire sitcom on ITV.
As the decade turned , the totemic eighties shows - and this was undoubtedly one of them - started shedding viewers. I didn't see the infamous George Best interview in 1990 (and still haven't seen the whole version which apparently contained some very libellous remarks about Tommy Docherty ) but it certainly didn't do the programme any favours.
There was though one huge spike in the declining viewing figures , in 1991 when David Icke called in. Icke had quit his successful TV presenting career in order to become a spokesperson for the Green Party and was at the helm when they achieved 15% of the vote in the 1989 European elections. He left that position a year or so later and we soon found out why. Early in 1991 he called perhaps the most bizarre press conference of all time in order to announce the probable end of the world, his own qualification to be the chosen prophet as a son of God and the special properties of the colour turquoise. The general verdict was that he had suffered a serious mental breakdown and gone insane.
His appearance on the show promised to be a real car crash, particularly after the Westwood experience and certainly the studio audience were ready to turn it into a bearpit. To his credit, Icke was extremely calm and made his arguments very cogently. Terry wasn't rude to him and occasionally tried to pick at the low hanging fruit in Icke's rhetoric with polite scepticism but mainly he just listened with increasingly visible discomfort. He entirely missed the largest chink in Icke's armour, that "the Godhead" had told him to move a younger woman into his home alongside his wife, but perhaps that wasn't a suitable line of inquiry that early in the evening.
It wasn't long after that that Terry told the Beeb he thought the show had had its day and he wanted to quit. He was persuaded to stick it out another year before the show finally made way for ill-fated soap El Dorado . Terry was moved to a Friday night show, more focused on comedy with Frank Skinner as a sidekick, but it failed to pull enough punters away from The Word and didn't last. Terry retreated back to radio and we soon fell in love with him again.
Sunday, 4 June 2017
First viewed : February 1985
Again, I only saw a small portion of this comic drama serial at the beginning of 1985. The original Charters and Caldicott were two cricket-loving obsessives used as comic relief in the 1938 Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes. They were so popular they appeared in other films and on radio until one of the actors died in 1952. Keith Waterhouse decided to revive them and place them as old men in the eighties played by Robin Bailey and Michael Aldridge. Bailey of course had form playing a cricket bore in Tales from the Long Room which was revived - with Bailey- on Channel 4 immediately after this series finished.
The plot was actually a murder mystery. A dead girl is found in Caldicott's flat and the two old buffers decide to investigate the crime without of course missing an over, much to the exasperation of the police.
They have not been revived since.
Saturday, 3 June 2017
First viewed : February 1985
I only caught snatches of this black comedy serial, largely because my curiosity was piqued by a nice Scouse girl at my hall of residence called Gaye McParlin ( now a director at professional services firm EY ) who was a big fan of Tom Sharpe on whose novel it was based. She was excited at it coming to the screen and was recommending it to us.
The story concerned an aristocratic woman Lady Maud ( Geraldine James ) whose treacherous husband Sir Giles ( George Cole ) wants to allow a motorway through her ancestral lands. His ally is mild-mannered bureaucrat Dundridge ( Simon Cadell ) while she can call on her dodgy East European gardener Blott ( David Suchet ) to help her thwart them.
I didn't like it much; the humour seemed cruel rather than funny ( although my wife disagrees ). The only part that sticks in my mind is George Cole strapped to a bed wearing only a leather pouch, not a pretty sight and staggering that, at the height of his fame in Minder , he agreed to do it.
Friday, 2 June 2017
First viewed : February 1985
One of the most iconic TV shows of the eighties began halfway through the decade.
Miami Vice was something of a successor to Starsky and Hutch. Both creator Anthony Yerkovich and executive producer Michael Mann had written for the earlier show and both David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser would direct episodes. Their equivalents were Crockett and Tubbs played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas two thirtysomething actors whose careers hadn't reached the heights once expected.
However the series didn't make its impact through being just another buddy cop show. Yerkovich's starting concept was "MTV cops" and he won a larger budget to purchase the rights to use contemporary pop tunes alongside the original electronic music supplied by Jan Hammer and inspired by the film scores of Tangerine Dream. Phil Collins was a particular favourite and showed his appreciation for the boost to his bank balance by becoming a guest star on the show Both stars attempted to launch their own musical careers on the back of the show; Johnson's was more successful.
Just as important was the look of the show. Mann stipulated "no earth tones " so everyone was in pastel colours. Jacket and T-shirt combos, rolled up sleeves and wearing shoes without socks became instant eighties fashion statements. The coastal setting provided a good excuse for a regular parade of well-toned bikini-clad flesh in the background /Crockett drove a car he couldn't possibly have afforded without being as bent as a nine bob note but nobody minded.
In contrast to the glitzy presentation the storylines were quite dark. Miami was one of the drug capitals of the US and the duo's adversaries were ruthless gangsters who mowed down anyone in their way. The guys' boss was played by the sinister Edward Olmos from Blade Runner adding a further neo-noir dimension to the show.
When these two aspects to the programme blended well the results could be quite impressive but often they didn't . The endless parade of pop stars of dubious acting talent including Sheena Easton ( who married Crockett ) and Glenn Frey as well as Collins was a distraction and the need to incorporate a montage while a popular song played in place of dialogue meant that exposition was often sketchy.
For those reasons, it never became compulsive viewing for me and only two atypical episodes stand out. One was an episode where Tubbs was kidnapped by a religious maniac who was killing prostitutes and the other was called "Stone's War " where the titular character ( surely a playful pop at Mann's contemporary. Oliver Stone ) had to be protected because he had explosive film of American activities in Central America. That episode featured the most bizarre guest star of all. Nixon's unrepentant aide G. Gordon Liddy as a black ops chief.
The series was cancelled in 1989 after a slow decline in ratings following Mann's departure at the end of season two. He directed a feature film version in 2005.
Thursday, 1 June 2017
First viewed : 9 September 1984
Here's another that slipped through the net earlier. Lace was a two part adaptation of Shirley Conran's bestseller. It was necessarily bowdlerised , the Arab prince's penchant for slipping goldfish into intimate places had to be jettisoned for instance. The story is utter hokum, three schoolgirls ( played by overaged actresses ) at a Swiss finishing school in 1960 have illicit liaisons with older men and one gets pregnant. They assume joint responsibility for this and drop the baby girl, Lilli, in for adoption. The adoptive parents are killed in Hungary and the six year old girl goes into a Hungarian work camp ( in 1966 ? really ? ) . She eventually escapes and goes to Paris where she works her way up from whore to film star remarkably quickly then calls the three successful career women together to pose the infamous question "Which one of you bitches is my mother ?"
A young Phoebe Cates played Lilli and certainly looked the part but was in trouble the moment she opened her mouth. The three women Brooke Adams, Bess Armstrong and Arielle Dombasie were better but only by comparison. Slumming Brits in it included Nikolas Grace, Leigh Lawson, Trevor Eve and Annette Badland.