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.
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We know he’s bloody useless at it, but actually quite a lot of the shows from 1982 we’re looking forward to seeing are presented by Simon Bates. It’s not for him, obviously, but he just happened to be hosting episodes featuring cracking line-ups or hugely memorable performances. His first edition of the year isn’t perhaps one of them, especially as a number of performances you’ll already have seen on the clip show, though that does emphasise there are lots of famous songs about.
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Points of View
- In 'Bonny', David Smith says: "Looks like this was the post-modern, self-referential episode in question: http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/986dcad6012f4a1cbde12d3 e64d3de95"
- In 'Bonny', David Smith says: "I have a vague memory of an episode with a big chase through Television Centre (or Queen Margaret Drive mocked up to look like it?) where they ran through..."
- In 'Your Local Station – Across The Nation!', Glenn Aylett says: "BBC Radio Newcastle in the eighties was everything Metro wasn’t: pop records would be grudgingly played..."
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Richard16378 says: "It’s been almost a month now!"
- In 'Raising of the Mary Rose, The', Applemask says: "I daresay I still would have preferred it to actual school work."