FROM AN IDEA BY Tony Warren. And what an idea: backstreet Shakespeare with brown ale; a cobblestoned Greek tragedy in curlers. Despite the fact that they’re hymned to the heavens by Parkinson and Hattersley, those early shaky, grimy episodes remain the benchmark for earthy popular drama, crushing the likes of COMPACT and THE NEWCOMERS under the heel of Elsie Tanner’s stiletto. They had everything and the kitchen sink: not least a gallery of recognisable yet larger-than-life characters: regal pub matriarch Annie Walker, hairnetted harridan Ena Sharples, the jaded sexpot Elsie Tanner, the slightly menacing roguishness of Len Fairclough and the tedious, bookish, middlebrow Guardianista Ken Barlow, who’s been there ever since. Into the seventies, the emphasis on wayward youth was taken up a notch, with more emphasis on the likes of loveable Scouse petty crim and hare-brained scheme merchant Eddie Yeats and saucy peroxided “good time girl” Suzie Birchall to offset the pensionable perfidiousness of Fred Gee. Further up the family tree there was Hilda Ogden (complete with ludicrous prole-taste “muriel”, obtained from dubious sources by one E. Yeats), gaudy pub siren Bet Lynch and slippery cigar-toting rag trade wideboy Mike Baldwin stepping into a frequently genuinely dramatic world – the lorry smashing into the Rovers Return, and Deirdre’s search for her baby in the rubble; the gunpoint murder of Ernie Bishop and the car-smash death of Alf Roberts’ wife Renee. As the eighties wore on, Eddie copped off via a CB radio to humorous effect, many of the Street’s mainstays took their final bows, and the Newton and Ridley brew was watered down, with more episodes and more tedious longeurs (the courtship of Derek and Mavis for instance) breaking up the drama, such as the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle: “Ken’s a good man, he deserves better”, proffered no less an authority than John Betjeman.
TVC on Twitter
Creamguide's Pick of the Day
We don’t know if it’s Barry’s rather diffident personality that means the Gibbs still don’t get the respect their nearest contemporaries ABBA receive despite their clearly obvious talents and huge success over the years. Not that they were ever bothered with credibility, though, when they were coining it in and those irresistible pop tunes get lodged in your brain whether you like it or not. Professional contrarian John Lydon is among those paying tribute and then there’s a new compilation which as well as raiding the Beeb archives also promises some rare bits and pieces from all over the place.
Subscribe to Creamguide
Points of View
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Applemask says: "When Blue Peter dies, a part of Britain dies with it. Talking of Advent Crowns, you didn’t even put any snow on the logo this year. What is..."
- In '1990', Applemask says: "The Only Fools and Horses episode is also notable for being “Rodney Come Home”, one of the most relentlessly bleak programmes ever to be broadcast..."
- In 'The six worst Christmas Radio Times covers', FishyFish says: "I hate the ‘Legendary’ tag. It’s not the lost city of Atlantis, King Arthur, or Jason and the..."
- In '1979', Applemask says: "Literally no-one really thinks the Richard Lester/GM Fraser Musketeers was terrible. The 1989 sequel that killed Roy Kinnear wasn’t very good, but the..."
- In 'The six worst TV Times Christmas covers', TV Cream says: "Des, you’re right! Fixed the date."