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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Creamguide's Pick of the Day
Not been much of interest on Challenge in recent months, as lots of the really old shows seem to have been dropped and they don’t seem particularly interested in buying any more, which is entirely their fault for buying the wrong ones in the first place. We want the Generation Game, not 3-2-1! One old show that does continue apace is Bullseye, however, because it’s such a hit with all the hipsters, and here’s a rare original commission for this channel – and repeated on its sister channel – which pays tribute to this rather bizarre series and the cult that surrounds it. It definitely isn’t coming back, though.
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Points of View
- In 'Horses Galore', Droogie says: "I remember Susan King well. As a kid I had a horse-obsessed cousin called Joanne, and always had to sit through this show if it was on whenever I was..."
- In 'Victor Lewis-Smith', THX 1139 says: "The editing on these shows was quite brilliant, maybe the best thing about it because though it was very funny in places, you couldn’t..."
- In 'Picture Box', Graham Pearson says: "Picture Box was the most memorable ITV schools programme particularly at the time Alan Rothwell presented. He became available for presenting..."
- In 'Wattoo Wattoo: Superbird', Applemask says: "Who’s she marrying? Haven’t you heard?"
- In 'Naked Video', David Smith says: "The end credits for the latter series replaced the roaring Thatcher with John Major as a buck toothed mouse, I recall…"