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
Very soon on BBC4 we’ll be hearing two of the best singles of 1979 courtesy of Sparks, and wonderfully Ron and Russell are still going strong to this day, forty years after their first hit. They’re another act who were far more popular here in the UK than in their home country, as we took the pair to our hearts and made them proper pop stars even though they were one of the oddest acts you’ll ever see. Given they’ve just released a new greatest hits album which we think is the first time all their best stuff across all their albums has been on one record (though it doesn’t have Now That I Own The BBC on it, alas), it’s the perfect occasion for Stuart Maconie to pay tribute with a host of celebrity fans.
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Points of View
- In 'Dimbleby’s exit poll: what’s behind the BBC’s election selection?', Applemask says: "To be fair, Pebble Mill literally had cancer."
- In 'Tiswas', Paul Hughes says: "Great article about a great show, but it’s a shame there’s no mention of Matthew Butler, the little lad who used to sing Bright Eyes dressed..."
- In 'Pages from Ceefax', Mick says: "BBC Micro graphics ordered to resemble mid-70s resolutions and typeset for in-computer compatibility using bolt-on tuner. Interesting case of..."
- In 'Paddington', Mick says: "When Mr. Curry barges into the family’s new ‘shedna’ to hog its maiden voyage, Paddington pours snow down the chimney in well-deserved..."
- In 'Five to Eleven', Mick says: "Well, come on, it made me think. Titles came on, I’d say ‘Right, nearly lunchtime’."