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Films: F is for...

Film on Four: First Love

Channel Four’s Play for Today-surmounting cinema-on-the-telly franchise began its wayward career on the first ever day of the Channel’s own life, with the ‘make up your own Smith and Jones-style gag about willfully “difficult” drama’ icon Walter). Next day, fortunately, things got rather better with P’Tang, Yang Kipperbang, the wonderful Jack Rosenthal inter-war fumbling pubescence/down on girls’ arms/imaginary John Arlott cricket commentary confection. This in turn heralded the beginning of the occasional First Love series-within-a-series (keep up!), masterminded by David Puttnam and slagged off something chronic at the time for being ‘nostalgic’, ‘conservative’ and not ‘challenging’ enough, by punters who would doubtless nevertheless have run a mile from a diet of constant hot Walter and endless Twenty-Twenty Vision documentaries about the Zircon affair. Perhaps we’re mellowing in our old age, but we’re increasingly of the opinion that using eighty-odd minutes of screentime to metaphorically bugger Sir Keith Joseph with a rolled-up copy of his 1974 Edgbaston speech, admirable fun though it is, needn’t be the only signifier of dramatic worth, even up the militant end of the ’80s. But back to the films. Next up was Experience Preferred But Not Essential, with a gauche teenage girl meeting a bunch of oddballs in a Welsh seaside cafe, including a bolshy Miss Broom off of Jonny Briggs and Mr Price off of Troubles and Strife walking about in the nip. It was rather fun, in an innocent sort of ‘every lottery-funded British comedy isn’t yet strip-mining the exact same seam of eccentric whimsy for all it’s worth’ way. Secrets was a more subdued affair about Freemasons and rubber johnnies, and Those Glory, Glory Days was a top Rosenthal/Philip Saville romp about two girls hunting down the cup-winning 1961 Spurs side, with Julia McKenzie, Dudley Sutton and Danny Blanchflower as himself. Sharma and Beyond was something a bit dry and uninvolving about a teacher falling for the daughter of his favourite writer, but things picked up for final episode Arthur’s Hallowed Ground, a really lovely tale of the gradual softening up of dedicated but immensely grumpy old cricket groundsman Jimmy Jewel when new assistant Vas Blackwood turns up to help him stop nasty businessmen selling the pitch, which had bugger all to do with ‘love’ in the sense the others did, but was ace all the same. At the risk of exploding the sitting-on-the-fence-o-meter, we have to say it was, ahem, a bit of a mixed bag, all told – nothing in it reached the heights of other Film on Four classics like the impeccable Good and Bad at Games, but then again it didn’t spawn anything as dire as Ladder of Swords, either. In all, it was just about worth all that Godcrestian turmoil for that first little gem. What our point is exactly, we’ve no idea, but here’s to Jack. And of course P’Tang’s sainted female lead Abigail Cruttenden, last seen on that iffy BBC2 sitcom where Martin Freeman has posh parents and is sad.

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  1. David Pascoe

    August 6, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    The only one of these I remember is Good and Bad at Games, which I watched on a telly in my bedroom that had the unfortunate fault of suddenly going very loud and staying that way until you banged it and/or turned the telly off.

    I stuck with Good and Bad at Games until the midway point when it all started getting a bit much for me (I was only ten at the time). Would be curious to know how it finished. Did Anton Lesser get his revenge?

  2. David Pascoe

    August 7, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Did a bit of rooting around on the net and now I know. Ending wasn’t really a surprise but very well done.

  3. greg ashworth

    December 19, 2010 at 4:34 am

    where can i find a full list of the films in the film on four first love series

  4. pemory

    December 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm


    It’s been three years since you posted your question, but I too have been looking for the titles of all of the First Love films and, so far, haven’t really uncovered an extensive list via the Web. This page has just about the best that I’ve seen, however I believe that “Winter Flight” should be added to it.

  5. Pemory

    January 26, 2014 at 6:08 am

    Hi again:

    All of the 1st Love titles are designated as such in the Goldcrest Films catalog available via

  6. HardcorePrawn

    January 20, 2015 at 5:42 am

    Most of the extras in Good & Bad at Games came from my school, so the entire school was urged by the headmaster to watch the film when Channel 4 broadcast.
    Needless to say, there were quite a few disgruntled parents outside the head’s office the next day…

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