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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Friday, 19.30, 00.30, BBC4
Yes, again, though while this one doesn’t match in quality last night’s episode, it’s certainly fascinating because there’s another strike on! That means again we wheel out the videos and repeats, though it’s been intriguing to see how the links have progressed, from Peter Powell out of vision in a toilet through to Simon Bates with the Rubik’s Cube and some fake applause. This time we make use of the magic of CSO to make it look a bit more like Tommy Vance is standing in a proper studio, though it’s still quite obvious, especially when we’ve seen more or less all the clips several times before. Still, a bit of a novelty, isn’t it?
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Points of View
- In 'Potty Time, Michael Bentine’s', Scott McPhee says: "The obligatory Christmas episode. Jingle Bells parody; “Oh what fun it is to ride in a super sonic sleigh.”"
- In 'Play School', George White says: "Yes, that’s right, he is. Australia is a small world."
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Richard Davies says: "It sounds like it’s worth writing a feature on the rise of stand-up comedy over the last 20 or so years."
- In 'Play School', David Smith says: "Don Spencer is also, in one of my favourite pieces of telly trivia, Russell Crowe’s father-in-law."
- In 'Play School', George White says: "Don Spencer is “Australia’s No 1 Children’s Entertainer” A. Because he took permanent residence in Australia. B. He’s..."