THE LATE, great RALPH BATES was the eponymous hero, dumped via mantlepiece-mounted letter by his wife and forced to take solace in a lonely hearts-style encounter group which turns out to be nutter haven. Group leader is bizarre, rotund woman with no clue whatsoever, other members included a slightly dippy woman for developing love interest with Bates, Ralph, a wooly-hatted loser (“Would you like a ride in my motorcycle combination”) played by PETER “PLEASE, SIR” DENYER and Kirk St. Moritz, medallion chauvinist who turned out to be shy mummy’s boy in real life.Read More
Posts Tagged With '1986'
THE PERMANENTLY knackered University of Lowlands was the setting for this bracing slice of higher edutainment with PETER “COME ALONG, TEGAN” DAVIDSON as blue-eyed ingénue campus doc Stephen Daker, brightly and naively walking into a nightmarish world of self-interest and mutual exploitation, and getting the sharp end of the stick right in his pleasant, open face. Yes, once again it’s a case of ‘sick and twisted institution becomes metaphor for Thatcher’s Britain’ (see also The Old Men at the Zoo), but as this is Andrew Davies on script duties, the ‘do you see?’ symbolism seldom gets too outrageously clunky, and even when it does, it does with all the eye-rolling splendour the cast can muster.
And what a cast. Daker’s departmental colleagues-cum-bitter, scheming rivals come first, with white-coated, smouldering crypto-lesbian ultra-feminist Rose Marie (BARBARA FLYNN), nerdish private enterprise wannabe and all-round amoral walking nervous breakdown Bob ‘Let’s get ON with our lives, buddy!’ Buzzard (DAVID TROUGHTON) and ultra-soused, self-mythologising, not-terribly-wise old man Jock McCannon (GRAHAM CROWDEN). Davidson’s love interest sparring parters were no-nonsense sports therapist-cum-copper Amy Turtle (AMANDA HILLWOOD) in series one, and permanently cross Polish art student Grete Grotowska (JOANNA KANSKA) thereafter. JOHN BIRD was ineffectual, paranoid vice chancellor Ernest Hemingway (do you see?) at the start. Second series involved the purchase of the university by your standard shady, defence-linked American conglomerate headed by Commie-fearing smoothie Jack B. Daniels (do you continue to see?) with his eye on the main chance of closing down all that bothersome ‘learning’ and setting up a big old ‘research’ facility. Other one-off cameos included HUGH GRANT’s early turn as a priest with busy hands, JAMES GROUT as blithe nudist humanities don George Bunn, JOE MEILA as weird, saturnine creative writing tutor Ron Rust, who’s supposedly the writer of the series they’re all appearing in, and TIMOTHY WEST as sexually frustrated Professor John Thomas Fury (do you – look, there’s a lot of this sort of stuff). Excellent stuff all round, filmed round the convincingly bleak environs of the University of East Anglia. One-off revival A VERY POLISH PRACTICE got bleaker still, relocating Stephen, Greta and Bob to… well, you can probably guess.Read More
IT WAS the best of times, it was the blurst of times. Having manufactured, variously, a menstrual egg-timer, record sleeves made of sandpaper, a desk that hung from a boardroom ceiling and numerous long-running feuds, the late great TONY “ANTHONY H” WILSON decided to turn his hand to, naturally, a late night magazine programme. After all, Manchester was where it was all happening back then, even if it amounted to little more than yet another re-release of Blue Monday. Hence this: a pretentious-as-hell “arts review” which somehow landed a slot on night-time network ITV. From within a set entirely furnished by IKEA (when they only had one store in Warrington and they were trendy), Tone held forth on acid house, himself, the opening of the Liverpool Tate (“Have they got the Rothkos right?” Anthony says: yes!), Martin Amis, Peter Greenaway, Factory Records, himself, why Manchester was the greatest city in the world, the Hacienda, why Ian Curtis would have been bigger than Bono, and himself. It’s claimed every single person who saw the show later went off and formed a band. Sadly, they were all shit.Read More
EVERYBODY NEEDS good ones. It helps to make the perfect blend. And just a friendly wave each morning, or in our case each lunchtime and teatime, can turn them from mere NEIGHBOURS into, ahem, good friends.
The whole world knows about who used to be in this show, so instead here are ten choice historic Ramsay Street escapades:
1) DR CLIVE GIBBONS PERFORMS A TRACHEOTOMY
It was the Montague and Capulet romantic sparring betwixt Scott Robinson and “Lenny” Ramsay that, according to received wisdom, propelled Neighbours into the hearts of a nation’s teens and caused Alison Grade to miss double biology. But this unforgivable piece of Stalinist revisionism shamefully erases the unparalleled contribution of Dr Clive Gibbons. Thanks to his freewheeling attitude and Simon Parkin hair, it was Clive who the kids tuned into see, long before Scott fretted about flunking his HSC. He called his car Bertha. He raised the ire of Max Ramsay with his zany gorillagram agency (although practically everything somehow aggravated Max, whose contract specified he had to storm around in a vest at least once in every episode). He organised a pancake contest at the coffee shop. And he joined forces with Max’s son Shane to form RAGGS – the Ramsay And Gibbons Gardening Service. They didn’t just fling these scripts together, you know. But Clive’s finest 25 minutes arrived when Lucy got stung by a wasp and couldn’t breathe. Armed with just a ballpoint pen, Clive performed an emergency tracheotomy on the Robinson kitchen table to save her life. Don’t hold it against him.
2) LUCY ROBINSON FALLS DOWN A DRAIN
The original Kylie Flinker issue Lucy clearly endured numerous scrapes in the early days, not least when she plunged down a sewer in pursuit of her missing terrier Basil. Robinson Jnr remained trapped in this chasm for days, the outside world oblivious to her adenoidal pleas for help. Eventually freed, Lucy nevertheless temporarily lost her sight as a result of her subterranean ordeal. However, once it returned, Lucy duplicitously pretended to be still blind, as a ruse to distract father Jim from a blossoming relationship with one of his many “lady friends”. Lucy’s comeuppance came when the unfortunate Basil later drowned at the beach, despite Mike’s best efforts to rescue him. Lucy was later packed off on some kind of finishing school grand tour of Europe while the character was being recast, an event that provided plentiful ammunition for the likes of Tina Baker and Alison Graham to make endless remarks about “but why hasn’t anyone noticed her face has changed?”
3) DAPHNE CLARKE BREATHES HER LAST
First spied cavorting in her scanties as a stripper at a Ramsay Street “bucks party”, Daphne Lawrence soon became a reformed character and flitted between the duelling lotharios, Des and Shane. Ensnaring the affable bank manager with her patented recipe for lemon chicken, she agreed to marry Des, only for their nuptials to be halted as a bank robber hijacked her car. Fortunately, the couple did belatedly make it down the aisle, only for Des to strain his back carrying her over the threshold. She ran the coffee shop at Lassiter’s, became a mother figure to brooding leather-jacketed pin-up Mike and even befriended Des’s scatterbrained mother and all-time greatest Neighbours character Eileen Clarke. But the tao of Grundy ensures that no character can be afforded prolonged happiness before the melodramatic incidental music kicks in sooner or later. Left in a coma after a car crash, Daphne opened her eyes one final time to utter a final “I love you, Clarkey” to Des, before suffering a cardiac arrest and dying. The nation wept over its Crispy Pancakes.
4) JANE HARRIS TAKES OFF HER GLASSES
One of the great legends of celluloid states that there are only seven stories, told and retold through the generations. Nobody’s quite sure what the other six are, but we do know that one of them involves a plain, bespectacled, bookish female removing her spectacles to be transformed, swan-like, into a ravishing beauty. Right from the moment Plain Jane Superbrain moved into Ramsay Street to lodge with interfering nan Mrs Mangel, we could see that at some point this plain, bespectacled, bookish figure would, at some point, be removing her spectacles and, well, you get the picture. So it transpired that, with her heart set on a tryst with “spunk” Mike at the annual Erinsborough High shindig, the neighbourhood “dag” underwent a makeover at the deft hands of Daphne and Helen and, yes, took off her glasses. From that moment there was no stopping Jane, as the blonde temptress embarked on a career with the Daniels Corporation and even had a brief fling with Scott, the minx. The quiet ones are always the worst.
5) HENRY RAMSAY FALLS IN THE SWIMMING POOL
Every Neighbours obsessive knows that the show began on Channel Seven in Australia before being axed, only to be audaciously revived by the Ten network a few months later, prompting a whole new set of opening titles. The original sequence had been a primitive reel of footage featuring Max looking over his fence and Paul Robinson dressed as a baby. The new era brought a complete overhaul, each episode now heralded by a whimsical tableau involving a Robinson family cricket match that ended in Paul hitting the ball through Madge’s window. Now, as characters came and went, they re-edited the titles to keep pace with the cast, even Bouncer getting in on the act eventually. But the best was yet to come when the cricket was replaced by a poolside Ramsay Street barbecue. Scott and Charlene now hurled a beach ball at shaggy loafer and resident comic foil Henry Ramsay, who promptly fell backwards into the pool. The combination of Andy Crane’s teatime introductions (“Now it’s time to meet those antipodean… Neeeeeigh-bours!”) and this iconic image came to somehow represent imperial phase Neighbours. It even survived the departures of Minogue and Donovan, the beach ball lobbing duties now falling to Bronwyn and the annoying Sharon. But shamefully, when Craig McLachlan jumped ship for Summer Bay, they kept the falling in the pool bit, but now with Matt Robinson. Things, it was clear, would never be the same again.
6) PAUL ROBINSON MARRIES GAIL TO IMPRESS MR UDAGAWA
The hub of the Erinsborough business community was the shadowy Daniels Corporation, a blue-chip international conglomerate boasting financial interests in Hong Kong, New York and a small-scale chauffeur operation, operating from a cramped office in a suburb of Melbourne. Led by the thrusting, unscrupulous, double-dealing tycoon Paul Robinson, it had frequent dealings with mysterious Japanese businessman Mr Udagawa. They used to go on about him a lot. It seemed that, with a crucial deal hanging in the balance, Mr Udagawa prized family values and favoured doing business with married men. Enter Gail Lewis, secretary and old flame of Paul, who married him in a shock ceremony that amazed their unsuspecting friends and family, not least Gail’s dad Rob Lewis, Erinsborough’s leading jalopy-racing mechanic. Impressed by Paul and Gail’s charade, Mr Udagawa signed on the dotted line and inevitably Paul and Gail’s marriage of convenience became the real thing. Perhaps the couple’s finest moment came during the cast’s ensemble performance at the 1988 ROYAL VARIETY SHOW, where Paul greeted Gail’s entrance with the immortal line, “I didn’t hear a Gail warning!” Oh, and Fiona Corke’s wardrobe was by Kamizole. That’s very important, that.
7) THE FAMILIES FEUD OVER THE STREET’S NAME
The eternal jousting between the ancestral houses of Robinson and Ramsay fuelled plenty of storylines in the early years of Neighbours, the infuriatingly righteous Jim Robinson clashing frequently with the laidback Max Ramsay and his clan. The feud ignited once more when Scott discovered that it wasn’t Erinsborough pioneer “Black” Jack Ramsay after whom the street should have been named, but Jim’s grandfather, who had been cheated out of the honour in a card game. Todd and Katie escalated the hostilities by changing the street sign to Robinson Street. Scott and Henry resolved to settle the dispute in another game of cards, Henry upholding the Ramsay family’s honour by winning, thanks mainly to Charlene fiddling the cards.
8) MRS MANGEL MURDERS LEN
Mrs Mangel’s husband Len was one of the great unseen characters of soap, until Neighbours ruined everything and he turned up during the nineties. But on one occasion, a bizarre chain of events led to the Erinsborough super snoop mistakenly believing that he had died, resulting in her attempting to commune with him via a rosebush, as a rumour swept Ramsay Street that she had killed him. Mrs Mangel had fallen off a ladder and lost her memory, forgetting that she had been divorced from Len. Jane tried to avoid upsetting her nan and told her he had gone away on business, but things got out of hand when Mrs Mangel noticed all of Len’s clothes had gone and insisted he must have died. Meanwhile, Bouncer had unearthed a bone at Lassiters, prompting the residents to suspect her of murder. Mrs Mangel then said she had to see Len’s grave, so Jane continued to play along and told her that he’d been cremated and his ashes scattered under the rosebush in the garden. Inevitably, Mrs Mangel started chatting to the plant, to the bemusement of her suspicious neighbours.
9) BOUNCER HAS A DREAM
Neighbours has a rich tradition of dream sequences. The first was the surreal Christmas fantasy that Clive envisaged after he was accidentally knocked unconscious while refereeing a boxing match between Mike and Shane, in which Charlene became some kind of clockwork doll, Paul was an evil moustache-twirling baddie and Mike and Shane became Tweedledum and Tweedledee, while Clive himself was Santa Claus. But nothing before or since could quite match the genius of the episode when the screen gradually dissolved into Bouncer’s dream, in which Ramsay Street’s super intelligent mascot hound imagined himself in a bow-tie marrying Rosie, the dog owned by Dorothy Burke’s alcoholic father, before the happy couple were depicted in a kennel surrounded by lots of little Bouncers.
10) CHRIS LOWE ASKS FOR DIRECTIONS
The tradition of pop star cameos in soaps is not a glorious one. Robbie Williams in EASTENDERS. Noddy Holder in CORONATION STREET. It’s a story littered with embarrassment and discomfort for everyone involved. The omens then were not auspicious when Sir Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys agreed to appear in Neighbours in 1995. Essaying the natural brand of acting he’d exhibited in It Couldn’t Happen Here, Chris screeched into Ramsay Street in a white Porsche convertible, perhaps in homage to the BBC video for I Should Be So Lucky he’d enthusiastically endorsed years before. “I’m a little lost,” he informed Helen Daniels and Marlene Kratz, “I’m looking for a recording studio which is round here somewhere.” Exactly why Neil hadn’t told him where it was isn’t clear, but Marlene soon put him right, not before Helen had perceptively deduced he was from England and in a band. “Yeah, the Pet Shop Boys.” “I’m sure you’re destined for big things one of these days,” replied Marlene. Chris drove off in search of the studio, as Annalise scampered into the street to discover the identity of their star visitor. “Some band from England, er, the Pet People,” replied Marlene, obeying the law of soap which decrees that anyone over the age of about 30 must be totally confused by pop culture to “humorous” effect.Read More
YOU’RE OFF school – again – with an upset tummy. You’ve seen that episode of HOW WE USED TO LIVE at least three times. YOU AND ME no longer excites. And Channel 4 doesn’t even kick off until after lunch. Where else to seek solace but in the ever-welcoming portals of BBC Manchester’s Palace Of Glittering Delights, thrown open to all and sundry for an hour every morning to let the green-biro brigade sound off about last night’s telly. At the helm, the thinking man’s Pat Butcher PATTIE COLDWELL, BOB WELLINGS and an early incarnation of EAMONN HOLMES. Guaranteed regulars: MICHAEL GRADE or BILL COTTON jovially brushing aside complaints about THE LIVES AND LOVES OF A SHE-DEVIL; “big name stars” from the latest all-action blockbuster drama hitting BBC1 screens tonight, usually RAY BROOKS; behind-the-scenes “exclusives” from the set of NO PLACE LIKE HOME; and someone moaning about too much swearing before 9pm.Read More
WILLY FOG might have been testing the limits of literary credibility somewhat, but reworking seminal age-old Musketeer myth as rotten roustabout involving dogs, cats, pigs and bears was taking the fucking piss. The same culprits (BRB INTERNATIONAL) wreaked the same havoc here, to wit: dopey American-esque catchphrases (Dogtanian: “Huh?”); shitty animation (Dogtanian “jogging” up and down endlessly during the credits, codpiece waggling in the breeze like a windsock); stupid sidekicks written in for non-comic purpose (a mouse); more shitty animation (slicing an apple into segments mid-air); cats wearing lipstick (Dogtanian’s bit on the side, M’Lady); dogs wearing lipstick (Juliet); dogs dropping flowerpots on other dogs heads as punishment for sleeping around; dastardly villain with sparkling eyes to remind dim-witted viewer of baddie credentials (Cardinal Richelieu); badly dubbed English voiceovers which had to speak in double quick time to fit words into original Spanish mouths; and deeply deeply deeply fucking irritating theme song which seemingly went on for fucking hours. About 450 episodes long. And still they kept on coming: see THE MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD.Read More
T! T! V! Teatime Television! Crappy puppet cat SCRAG helmed a time-honoured “it’s our own television channel” type affair from some kind of backyard. Only two memorable aspects: 1) T!T!V! Quizzicals! which was basically a rip-off of the far superior Giddy Game Show and 2) Mr Hiccup, a terrible Czechoslovakian cartoon about a bloke who had, yup, hiccups. You could send off for a Scrag Tag, if you could be arsed. Fuck knows what it was.Read More
SCHMALTZY, SICKLY-SWEET, totally-80s lifecom with NICHOLAS LYNDHURST and JANET DIBLEY as proto-yuppie couple making their first steps into the big bad world of, er, living together. Much wise-crack comments and arguments about the cornflakes. “Uncle Perce” (PATRICK TROUGHTON then TENNIEL EVANS) often popped round, causing miniscule mayhem and ensuring non-hilarity. One-frame-a-second opening titles featured 2CV approaching camera. Every episode had teeth-grinding moment of “serious reflection”, a la CARLA BLOODY LANE.Read More
UP IN ARMS bastardisation of the Gerry Anderson stringathon which was actually an in-name-only bog standard cartoon with a nifty computer title sequence which quickly gave way to the usual cack.Read More
DOWN-ON-LUCK MODEL (CYBILL SHEPHERD) “discovers” she owns a detective agency run by bigmouth BRUCE WILLIS and decides to join in the sleuthing. “And how!” Hmm. First episodes of this enduring BBC2 import were fantastic, not overplaying the self-indulgent “are they doing it in real life too?” angle and chucking in some decent scripts for good measure. Later things went awry, not helped by troubles on and off camera, with episodes not being finished, making no sense, forgetting to have an ending or just resorting to – yikes – singing. The arrival of Agnes Dipesto and Bert Viola, twatty ‘assistant’ sub-couple, spelt trouble, as did episodes like the one where a kid has to study The Taming of the Shrew instead of watch Moonlighting, but falls asleep and dreams all the cast acting out a version of the play. Still, the LOVEJOY-esque talking to camera bits were always ace.Read More
DAILY MAIL-BOTHERING armchair general-alarming Beeb-bashing yarn “based on true events” but spun into a rabblesome fantasy by ALAN BLEASDALE, much to the horror of apparently every soldier who ever served in the army ever, and to the discomfort of Michael Grade and Bill Cotton who’d spent ages saying it was fact when it wasn’t and consequently had to go on OPEN AIR every week to apologise to PATTY COLDWELL. PAUL MCGANN was Percy Toplis, archetypal reluctant tommy who decides to stir up a bit of World War One mutiny on the eve of the most important battle in the history of human conflict since the last one. TIMOTHY WEST, PENELOPE WILTON and CHERIE LUNGHI were in on it.Read More
“PAPER! NEWS, NEWS! Paper! News, News!” screamed the blustering, bombastically-obvious signature tune, so as to avoid anyone tuning in expecting a meditation on sizzling metallurgy. And 28 minutes of blustering, bombastically-obvious journo-satire ensued, but of defiantly broadsheet-bristing quality thanks to a) Andrew Marshall and David Renwick (WHOOPS APOCALYPSE, END OF PART ONE) on script duties b) the likes of ROBERT HARDY, GEOFFREY PALMER, RICHARD WILSON and JOHN GORDON-SINCLAIR peddling their wares and c) infamous “moving breast” glasses gimmick of playground legend. The Daily Crucible was where it all went down, ditto circulation, governments trousers, generous helpings of whisky and super soaraway punchlinery.Read More
“AS I SAT at my small kitchen table this morning, a thought formed in my mind: what price the peace of one man’s soul?” Infamous Epilogue-esque pontifications that popped up just after mid-morning BBC1 kids programmes delivered by out-of-work thespian types, usually JOSS ACKLAND. Poems, short stories and so forth of an ecclesiastical bent. Taken over by obnoxious stage school kids during summer holidays. Small screen equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses rattling at your front door. Go away!Read More
BRIAN “IT’S IN THERE!” MOORE fronted this self-explanatory yet ultimately disposable celebrity-endorsed battle of the sporting greats. For instance, PARKY would extol the virtues of (naturally) George Best, then Tom O’Connor would come on and say why Kevin Keegan was better. Then a 12-man jury would cast their vote (11-1 to Keegan, which was worth it just to see Parky’s miserable face).Read More
SLIGHTLY SURREAL yet totally unfunny sitcom starring ROBIN DRISCOLL and DAVID SIBLEY as two losers who spent all their time in a seedy flat and a seedier pub. GARY “2.4 CHILDREN” OLSEN was also in it as a local villain.Read More
“TIME CAME to grow a bit, grow a bit, grow a bit.” Oh, for the love of. Awful, awful kid’s chromakey whimsicality, masterminded by, of all people, PAUL “COUNTERWEIGHTED DOOR” DANIELS. Title thing was a three-foot cone that “did” magic, aided a giant mute rabbit. Collectively they battled some evil bastard or other, who lived inside a giant floating fist, guarded by VICKY LIQUORISH. There was also a “squidgy bog”. “His daddy then told him, told him, told him…” Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off.Read More
UNSYMPATHETICALLY SLOW sitcom from the light channel, aired in the Monday 8pm slot and starring SAM “‘TLER!” KELLY as mid-life doleite Les Brooks, desperately trying to come up with money-making schemes rather than getting a job and, you’re way ahead, always failing. Archetypal ‘put-upon’ wife Maureen (MARCIA WARREN) ended up becoming a barmaid to get real cash in. Because back then women only ever worked when their men were unemployed and useless, of course. Commercial break always came as a boon. Title of show mentioned, YES MINISTER-stylee, in every edition, though never as end-of-episode punchline in a show distinctly lacking in jokes. Six episodes and out.Read More
NOTHING LIKE the above by dint of boasting a) far more money and b) far less bafflement. Yes, it’s the bog standard (the operative word there being “yes”) Tough Dirty Harry Cop Partners Female Cop routine. Cue Rick Hunter and ex-Vice Entrapment officer Dee Dee McCall: a warm hand on her entrance, please! . Every week the crime would be solved by running around shooting a large automatic pistol. FRED DRYER was ver Hunter (ex-US Football player), STEFANIE KRAMER the equally badly spelt Dee Dee McCall. “Works for me” was the catchphrase.Read More