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
We know 1973 was a shit Christmas because of the three day week but at least the telly was alright, whereas in 1974 it was pretty hopeless because the Beeb ran out of money and, as the BBC handbook points out, the Christmas schedule had to be “greatly modified for economic reasons”, stuffed full of films and repeats and then weakened still further with Morecambe and Wise having a year off. A suitably miserable chart topper to accompany it all, which we’ll hear in the second hour, after a skip through 1964.
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Points of View
- In '29) “That’s what I did last night, anyway, here’s Hawkwind!”', Richard16378 says: "I got a lot more of the references the 2nd & 3rd times I watched it,..."
- In '29) “That’s what I did last night, anyway, here’s Hawkwind!”', Rob Free says: "I used to watch this over and over on VHS. I loved the the little cameos from..."
- In '26) “I don’t do French, I do woodwork!”', Richard16378 says: "You are spot on about Victoria Wood being ahead of her time spoofing documentaries. The washed out..."
- In '46) “Radio 1 disc jockey Mark Goodier!”', Richard16378 says: "I really liked The Day Today, most of it has stood the test of time without becoming overly dated, certainly..."
- In '29) “That’s what I did last night, anyway, here’s Hawkwind!”', Richard16378 says: "Possibly Harry Enfield’s finest 45 minutes, a laugh out loud moment..."