Tameside on Television #2.1: A Beginners’ Guide to Making Out

Franc Roddam’s drama set largely in the Tameside and Stockport areas

Tower Mill, Dukinfield
Tower Mill, Dukinfield: the focus of Lyme Electronics’ activities.

In the 1980s, Franc Roddam gained a reputation for his honest portrayal of working class life. For many, his most celebrated work is Quadrophenia (1979), loosely based on The Who’s rock opera. Others may consider Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983 – 88 and 2002) his finest hour. Few would have thought one of his next moves was the long-running Masterchef (1990 – to date). Continue reading “Tameside on Television #2.1: A Beginners’ Guide to Making Out”

Dogs in Soapland: A Septet of Fictitious Canines

A random selection of canine characters from Soapland

The anorak behind East of the M60 is also a Coronation Street fan, though blogging interests and the like have got in the way of catching up with his five times a week Corrie fix. Schmeichel is one of a few dogs to have graced the cobbles of Coronation Street. As an opportunist way of grabbing more traffic on the back of this storyline, he hastily constructed this cheap and cheerful rundown of other canine characters besides the excellent Schmeichel. Barking? Yes, if you refer to our intrepid popular culture fiend, dog lover and part-owner of a Jack Russell Terrier (who sometimes adds the odd bit of creative output to this blog).

Continue reading “Dogs in Soapland: A Septet of Fictitious Canines”

Crimes Against Soap Operas: The Not So Perfect Ten

Serial misdemeanours in Soapland

“First rule of comedy: you’ve got to have reality…”

– Edward ‘Ted’ Bovis (played by Paul Shane, Hi-de-Hi!, 1980 – 1988)

Regular readers of East of the M60 may well note the amount of coverage which this year’s General Election is getting with the little articles on each constituency east of the oft-mentioned motorway. For anyone thinking that East of the M60 is turning into a political blog, think again.
Continue reading “Crimes Against Soap Operas: The Not So Perfect Ten”

The (Not So) Mysterious Death of a Provincial Theatre

With 13,000 plus friends on Facebook favouring its retention, support from beyond the Tameside boundaries and celebrities, Tameside Hippodrome must have had a fighting chance of being saved. Continue reading “The (Not So) Mysterious Death of a Provincial Theatre”

Sunday Night Terrors: The Not So Perfect Ten

“…Heartbeat, why do you miss when my baby kisses me…” – Buddy Holly

The strains of ITV’s much loved period drama may no longer haunt the screens in a few years time due to falling ad revenues, which may well be a blow for the North Yorkshire village of Goathland. Viewing figures have halved since the programme made its debut in 1992. I reckon it could down to the fact the programme may have ran its course, but that’s another story best left to another topic.

On the whole, has anybody else realised how Sunday night programmes tend to be more sombre? I don’t think it leaves any of us in a sunny disposition for Monday mornings. It is this concept which has led me to a new Not So Perfect Ten. Today’s subject, ‘Sunday Night Terrors’ is a rundown of the most sombre programmes ever to have graced the Sunday night schedules. They merit inclusion on the grounds of its mawkish nature, sheer crapness, apocalyptic doom and an unedifying blandness which screams ‘Monday is on the way’.

  1. Little House on the Prairie (ITV/Channel 4, 1979 – 1994);
  2. The Love Boat (ITV, 1978 – 1987);
  3. Antiques Roadshow (BBC, 1979 – to date);
  4. Duck Patrol (ITV 1996);
  5. Surprise Surprise (LWT/ITV, 1983 – 1996);
  6. Beat The Star (ITV, 2007);
  7. Dancing on Ice (ITV, 2007 – to date);
  8. Where the Heart Is (Anglia/ITV, 1998 – 2004);
  9. Threads (BBC 2, 23/09/1984);
  10. Hart to Hart (ITV, 1981 – 1986);

There are probably several more to list which may form a follow-up to this subject. Please note that the transmission dates within this list above refer to the UK transmission dates.

Before I discovered the joys of real ale, Sky Sports, and Sunday bus services, Monday was almost on its way when Channel 4 reverberated to the strains of Little House on the Prairie. Though the sets were lavish, I couldn’t get into the programme, unlike my mother.

There must be an unwritten rule that Sundays had to be a schmaltz-fest. There was the awful ‘Small Wonder’ which included the non-adventures of a girl and her robot. Then ‘Highway to Heaven’ would come on after ‘Weekend World’ or ‘Aap Kaa Ark’. Coinciding neatly with Sunday pub closing times (before 1994, you couldn’t get a pint between 1500 and 2000 hours) was The Love Boat. The premise was that romantic and funny adventures took place on cruise ships around the world. Interesting. Could we have some football on instead? Thankfully, Bullseye used to start shortly after, which neatly finished for the UK Top 40 Countdown.

For me, the weekend finished as soon as the UK No. 1 chart single was announced. Now that I no longer listen to the music charts, Antiques Roadshow will suffice instead. Though I find this programme mildly interesting, it doesn’t quite stir my senses the same way as a rare home win for Stalybridge Celtic. Now that Fiona Bruce presents this programme, I have started watching it more, so I’ll leave this to your imagination…

Sometime in 1996, Richard Wilson returned to ITV for the sitcom Duck Patrol. After doing the successful One Foot in the Grave on ‘the other side’, ITV thought this would be their equivalent to ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. My family and several other viewers thought otherwise as we tried to force a titter.

Around about the same timeslot as Antiques Roadshow was Surprise Surprise, a televisual equivalent of the ‘missing persons’ column with ‘our Cilla’ at the helm. I found it rather schmaltzy, making at the Anne Nightingale’s request show on Radio 1 a more inviting proposition. When I was young, I hated the programme and thought ‘Ho hum, school is on the way’. Now if there was a quiz show element to it…

In a bid to make Sunday night the new Saturday, ITV decided to give its Sunday night schedule an overhaul. Spurred on the success of Dancing on Ice, ITV thought Beat The Star would become another. Alas it wasn’t. The Vernon Kay fronted programme [Beat The Star] encouraged the general public to take on celebrities at challenges akin to ‘You Bet’. The biggest challenge was sitting through 90 minutes of this programme, despite not fulfilling the ‘depressing’ nature of Sunday programme.

If trying to impress us with ice dancers weren’t enough, trying to create a similar programme to an already successful one was bad enough. Enter Where The Heart Is, produced by Anglia Television, yet set in West Yorkshire. I found the storylines maudlin and unadventurous. Where was the suspense laden plots, or the fear factor?

The fear factor was something Threads did have – in buckets – one Sunday night in 1984. Ticking all boxes for a Sunday night doomfest, the docudrama was set in Sheffield before, during and after a nuclear attack. It is also something of a cult classic (and rightly so), not least for a social history of 1980s Sheffield, its shoestring budget, and ability to scare anyone into joining CND. Even on repeated viewing, I cannot fail to be stirred by the anti nuclear weapons demo scenes, and the first nuclear strike which occurs 55 minutes into the programme (nicely timed before Spitting Image when shown on the 23rd September 1984).

For the terrified feared of the nuclear reality approaching them at the time, they could have chickened out and watched something more asinine, like Tales of the Unexpected or Hart to Hart.  Featuring Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner, the titles were, in my opinion were as good as the programme got.  Then again, I was sent to bed well before that programme started, and it is only through anecdotal evidence I was told that Freeway was the best actor (and he was their dog).

Now I know why we get this ‘OMG, I’ve got to go to work/school/college feeling’.  It is almost as if the programmes are selected to numb us into work.  Unless of course it happens to be a decent horror film or the excellent Threads.

Bring on the trumpets!

S.V. 05 March 2009.