Take the tried and tested lead-slinging, two-fisted, appeal of the western genre and mix it with the potently powerful and enduring values of family loyalty, honour, square dealing and unswerving respect for what's right -and what do you get? You get a phenomenally successful television series of legendary status named: Bonanza. Running for 14 years on it's native NBC network, Bonanza was set on the vast Ponderosa timber and cattle ranch in Nevada in the 1860's. The ranch was inhabited by three times widowed Ben Cartwright (Canadian actor Lorne Greene) and his three sons, all from different deceased mothers. Adam, Hoss (Norwegian for 'good luck' in tribute to his Scandinavian mother), and the youngest of the trio, Little Joe. A number of other characters to feature regularly included Virginia City Sheriff Roy Coffee, and the Cartwright's Chinese chef Hop Sing. There were few cast changes over the series run, but the most notable was Pernell Roberts, eldest son Adam, who left the series after six years.
The show was notable for being the first TV western to be shot in colour and was filmed in the Lake Tahoe area. A major success on both sides of the Atlantic and sold to over fifty other countries, Bonanza was finally bought down by the untimely death of the immensely popular Dan Blocker, the last show, the 430th in the series, aired on 23rd January 1973. Re-runs can still be seen today and a British Cable network recently began running the series starting with the first episode from 1959. Several misguided attempts have been made to revive the format; there was a TVM in 1988 (Bonanza: The Next Generation), which featured an entirely new cast including the son of the now deceased Michael Landon (Michael Landon Jnr), and a short series a few years later. Along with Gunsmoke, Bonanza stands as the quintessential embodiment of US television's long-standing affair with America's most enduringly romanticised historical period.
Finally demobbed from The Army Game, Private 'Excused Boots' Bisley and his bullying Sergeant, Claude Snudge, return to civvy life where they find employment in a Pall Mall gentleman's club called The Imperial. The characters stayed true to their original Army Game personalities with the eternal dreamer Bootsie (here being employed-appropriately-as the boot boy) and Snudge as the stuttering apoplectic, (employed as the Major Domo) who tries to keep Bisley on the straight and narrow path. The series explored the relationship of two men thrown together by circumstances, who, whilst not relishing each other's company, are resigned to the fact that they are equally reliant on the other. It was a sitcom premise that was returned to with great success in later shows such as Steptoe and Son and Porridge. And like those classic shows it wouldn't have worked as well without the sparkling interplay between the co-stars, in this case Alfie Bass as Bootsie and Bill Fraser as Snudge. Whatever the two stars were doing they were sure to fall foul of the blustering, shouting and stamping Robert Dorning, who played Hon. Sec of the club, Hesketh Pendleton. Also joining them was 38-year old character actor Clive Dunn who specialised in playing older men. Here he was the bespectacled doddery octogenarian waiter Henry Beerbohm Johnson, an employee of The Imperial for some forty years whose addled mind convinced him that Snudge was Lord Kitchener and who often reminisced of his soldiering days when he faced the 'fuzzy-wuzzies'. It was a theme that Dunn would return to before the end of the decade as Corporal Jones in Dad's Army.
The scripts were written, in the early days, by the team of Barry Took and Marty Feldman but later on other writers such as John Antrobus, Jack Rosenthal, ventriloquist Ray Alan and Harry Driver created the situations for the un-dynamic duo. And a number of stars passed through The Imperial on their way to lasting television stardom and these included Warren Mitchell, Mollie Sugden and Honor Blackman. The series was hugely popular with the British public and ran successfully for 98 half hours between 1960 and 1963. In 1964 Bootsie and Snudge were briefly moved into the diplomatic service for a series called Foreign Affairs although that only lasted for 8 weeks. Then in 1974 the two stars were reunited for 6 more episodes of Bootsie and Snudge where, in a reversal of fortunes, Bootsie wins a million pounds and 27 pence on the football pools and Snudge, as his financial advisor becomes the subservient partner.
THE BORGIAS (1981)
BBC costume drama set in Italy during the 15th century. Click Here for review
BOSTON LEGAL (2004)
Following the personal and professional exploits of a group of attorneys working at a law firm. Click Here for review
Infidelity, lust and incest came to British television screens in 1976 by way of Andrea Newman's adaptation of her own 1969 novel which starred Frank Finlay as Peter Manson, a well-off middle-class publisher who dotes just a little too much on his daughter, Prue (played by Susan Penhaligon). Together they live in domestic harmony with wife and mother Cassie (Sheila Allen) until one hot summer Prue returns from University pregnant and married to American, Gavin Sorensen (James Aubrey). Peter can hardly contain his jealousy and his obsessive love for his pouting manipulative daughter soon tears the family apart. For his part, Gavin has no qualms about seducing Prue's mother, who is more than happy to find a distraction from her husband. Viewers had never quite seen anything like it before and were totally gripped by the smouldering forbidden antics of all involved with the tabloid press having a field day describing in detail each steamy scene. The critic Clive James wrote of the first series "by the end, everybody had been to bed with everybody else except the baby." Although Prue dies in childbirth that didn't stop the other characters from returning for a second series, Another Bouquet written for television before being novelised, LWT Controller Cyril Bennett having asked Andrea Newman to come up with a sequel to what had been a phenomenal hit for ITV. When we catch up with them again Peter is involved in a long term affair with his secretary Sarah (Deborah Grant) whilst his wife Cassie is struggling with her feelings for son in law Gavin. It seems nobody has learned their lesson!
Stanley Bowler has a finger in every profitable pie, and his money can buy everything but the thing he wants most: class. His unstoppable ambition to move in higher social circles sees him embarking on a series of ill-fated schemes - including opening his very own gentlemen's club, conspicuously embracing high culture, and even trying to set himself up as a laird. Sadly, while Bowler stumbles from one faux pas to another, the doors of Society remain very firmly closed...Written as a spin-off from The Fenn Street Gang (itself a sequel to Please Sir!) but presented as a 'prequel', Bowler chronicles the early life of former Fenn Street pupil Peter Craven's shady boss, Stanley Bowler (George Baker), an East End villain whose social aspirations fail consitently due to his lack of ability to grasp the qualities he needs such as refinement and elegance of manner. The series was written by veteran sitcom writers John Esmonde and Bob Larbey and co-starred Renny Lister as Stanley's estranged wife Doreen, Fred Beauman as his valet, Reg, and future EastEnders star Gretchen Franklin as his cockney mum. Soap stars Wendy Richard and Johnny Briggs are also among the guest stars. (Network DVD).
Written in 1935 as a sequel to his earlier novel, The Midnight Folk (1927), John Masefield's enchanting children's fantasy The Box of Delights, tells the story of a young boy whose chance meeting with a Punch-and-Judy man leads him to a world where almost anything is possible. In 1984 the BBC brought the series to life on the small screen with a (for then) massive budget of one million pounds. Described by some critics as capturing the true spirit of Christmas better than any other children's drama and surpassing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the ultimate winter's tale, The Box of Delights begins with Kay Harker's train journey to Seekings near Tatchester, where he will spend his Christmas holiday from school. On the journey he meets Cole Hawlings (Patrick Troughton), an old Punch-and-Judy man who tells Kay (Devin Stanfield) that 'the wolves are running' - a warning that evil is close at hand.
Hawlings is the keeper of the elixir of life as well as the custodian of a magic box that has the ability to make the owner 'go small' and 'go swift'. But in order to keep his secret and to stop the box falling into the hands of wrongdoers he has been on the run for 700 years - occasionally requiring the help of a human ally. With the wolves closing in Kay agrees to take the box home with him. And so begins an adventure that takes the young boy back into the past "when the wolves ran wild across England" and to ancient Greece where he meets the inventor of the box.
Producer Paul Stone had come across Masefield's book some ten years before he managed to bring it to television. The BBC then managed to sell it to 215 American PBS stations where it was shown at prime-time viewing hours, the six 30-minute episodes being shown as three 60-minute broadcasts. Most of the budget was spent on special effects which today look very dated but at the time were the best and most ambitious attempted for a British TV series. The stars of the series also manage to keep the series going when at times the plot seems to be plodding along. Although Patrick Troughton is absent for three of the six episodes, young Devin Stanfield rises to the challenge of carrying the series in parts and there is more than enough villiany to maintain the intrigue.
Superior children's drama series with a distinguished cast of adult actors telling a tale of riches to rags of the Bulman family and in particular young Dominic, played by Murray Dale, the son of Carry On stalwart Jim Dale, in only his second professional engagement. The setting is Yorkshire in the year 1820 and the realisation that the well-to-do Bullman family are about to have their world torn apart when the head of their family, Charles Bulman (Richard Todd) loses his ship -The Bright Star, off the north coast of Africa. With no word of the fate of his father and no income, Dominic and his mother, Emma (Hildegard Neil) are forced to sell their Greenwich home. Together they travel to Yorkshire and throw themselves on the mercy of Lady Bulman (Mary Morris), who turns them away as money grabbers. With nowhere else to go, they throw in their lot with an old seafaring friend of Charles', a drunken old salt by the name of William Woodcock (Brian Blessed). Together they open a guesthouse catering for patrons from all walks of life and of varying notoriety. Events take a turn when Charles Bulman suddenly returns to England having survived shipwreck, slavery and prison, and seeking revenge on those that sabotaged his vessel. All's well that ends well and the family are reunited at the end of the first series. However, there was worse awaiting the Bulman lad in series two. The saga begins with the murder of his parents and sets the course for his revenge. Dominic (the 'Boy' part of the title was dropped for the second series), set about finding the reason for the double murder. Guest stars in series two included John Hallam, Thorley Waters and Louise Jameson.
Beginning life in January 1980 as a single drama entitled The Black Stuff, writer Alan Bleasedale's hard hitting black comedy, set against the harsh backdrop of struggle and hopelessly bleak unemployment in the Liverpool of Thatcher's Britain, chronicled the lives of a group of tarmac layers as they sought to find work, whilst suffering the despair and indignity of life on the scrapheap. Encouraged by the enthusiastic audience and critical reception to the stand-alone play, the BBC approached former English teacher Bleasedale with a request to expand upon the original by creating a linked series of plays focusing on each of the central characters in turn. Bleasedale agreed, and upon the completion of the six scripts, BBC executives were so impressed that they ordered the first to be reworked into a one-off drama entitled The Muscle Market, whilst the remaining five were melded into a cohesive whole to form the series proper. Screened over the period of 10th October to 7th November 1982, Boys From The Blackstuff had an immediate and startling impact, thanks to the sheer heartfelt emotional power of Bleasedale's uncompromising writing and an extraordinarily gifted ensemble cast, which embraced and embodied the twin underpinnings of human misery and harshly critical social comment with such authenticity and depth of conviction, that the demoralising events they endured over the course of the series took on a near documentary air of grim realism. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Bernard Hill's breathtaking and totally convincing BAFTA winning depiction of the tragic decline of Yosser Hughes, who after being systematically stripped of job, pride and ultimately, his family, is reduced to a shattered shell of the proud and self-confident man he had once been. (Mancunian Hill had originally come to fame on the West End stage in playing another, real life, iconic Liverpudlian, John Lennon, in the 1976 award winning musical 'John, Paul, George, Ringo...and Bert', which was written by Liverpool playwright Willy Russell). The plight of the Yosser character, which all too painfully mirrored the real life distress of millions of the nations unemployed, was summed up in the hauntingly simple catch phrase, which would almost immediately find a lasting place within the vocabulary of the national consciousness. "Gizza job..I can do that."
Although the series is best remembered for Hill's character there was a moving performance from Michael Angelis as Chrissy Todd, a man reduced to looking down the back of the sofa for money, whilst being constantly nagged by his wife (Julie Walters), until finally, at the end of his tether he cracked up and slaughtered his pet geese. Like Cathy Come Home before it, Boys From The Blackstuff had an impact on British society at large, which illustrated once again the genuine power possessed by the best television drama to extend far beyond the borders of pure entertainment, and influence the thinking of an entire nation in an area which until then had belonged almost solely to the political arena. Aware, uncompromising, harsh but leavened by a constantly pleasing undercurrent of genuinely authentic Liverpool wit and humour, 'Boys From The Blackstuff' painted an uncomfortable but nevertheless warranted portrait of a city and a country teetering precariously on the brink of social and economic disaster, where the only real victims were those who were prevented by circumstances beyond their control from leading their accustomed fulfilling and productive lives. The city of Liverpool and its people were never so faithfully represented by television drama as they were in this series. Sadly, up to and including the present day, they never have been again. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)
Often cited, incorrectly, as the first consumer programme on British television, On The Braden Beat was by far the most popular and best remembered TV series of the 1960s to champion the cause of the unwary purchaser against the unscrupulous seller. A forerunner of many of today's various 'watchdog' programmes, On The Braden Beat, hosted by Canadian frontman Bernard Braden won several prestigious television awards in its first few years. The first consumer programme in the UK was hosted by Richard Dimbleby and was made in co-operation with the Consumer's Association and the Consumer Advisory Council. Beginning on Friday 16 February 1962 and appearing once a month it was called Choice. Seven months later (Saturday September 29), ITV began its own version which was a unique mixture of entertainment and investigation into viewers complaints. The show was interspersed with lighthearted, topical sketches and music and gave early television exposure to Peter Cook, Jake Thackray and Tim Brooke-Taylor. Braden himself was no newcomer to British viewers. The former announcer-cum-engineer had come from the relative obscurity of a radio station on the West Coast of Canada to pursue a career in acting. He married Barbara Kelly in Vancouver in 1942 and after acting together for a time they moved to Toronto, scoring a triumph on the CBC Radio Network in their serial John and Judy, in which they played brother and sister. It was for CBC that Bernard crossed the Atlantic in 1947 to interview people in different walks of life about Britain's post-war recovery plans. Two years later Bernard and Barbara came over to England together to study British film and radio methods. They decided to stay.
After a couple of radio broadcasts, they made their TV debut together in 1950 in First Date. This was followed in 1951 by a short-lived sitcom for the BBC called An Evening at Home, which, if the Television Annual for 1952 is anything to go by, was not terribly well received: Called An Evening At Home, this was a set of inconsequential programmes with the Bradens joined by no more than George Benson and Heston Paton-Brown, and an occasional small-part character player or guest artist. Intended to take the camera informally inside the Braden home (alleged), the series caused violent argument among viewers as to its effectiveness. Despite some neat production work by a new television producer, T. Leslie Jackson, the feature barely succeeded, probably owing to its dependence on the quaint idea of Canadian women that husbands are schoolboys with adult earning power. In spite of the above article's dissmissiveness, the Bradens enjoyed a growing reputation on British television which also included 'straight' roles in at least one television drama, and while he went on to present a number of schools' programmes on BBC, as well as becoming chairman of The Brains Trust (BBC 1955-61) and hosting the sports magazine Let's Go (1959), she became a star in her own right as a regular panelist on What's My Line (BBC 1951-63) and host of Criss Cross Quiz (ITV 1957-67). Bernard left the BBC in 1962 to host the late night consumer show On The Braden Beat which was produced by Jock Watson (and later by Francis Coleman). The series ran for five years winning Braden a Guild of Television Producers and Directors (now BAFTA) Award in 1963 and in 1965 he became ITV Personality of the Year awarded by the Variety Club of Great Britain.
In 1968 Bernard returned to the BBC with a similar format to the Braden Beat series but with more concentration on consumer championing. Braden's Week employed a team of reporting researchers who included John Pitman, Harold Williamson and Esther Rantzen. The series came to an end in 1972 in controversial circumstances. Braden had made an ITV television commercial for Stork margarine and the BBC, not unreasonably, felt this was inconsistent with his role as the consumers' spokesperson. Esther Rantzen and producer John Lloyd headed off and created That's Life - essentially Braden's Weekly without Braden - which ran for the next 21 years. Braden returned to Canadian television for a while before returning to Britain to appear on such shows as Afternoon Plus and a revamped version of All Our Yesterdays. He passed away in 1993 aged 76 years.
US Comedy about two families who come together as one. Click Here for review
This Western series starring Chuck Connors as ex-West Point graduate, Captain Jason McCord, who is cashiered out of the US Army for cowardice, was in fact created by Larry Cohen as an allegory of the McCarthy political black listings of the 1950's. McCord had lost consciousness and somehow survived as the only survivor of the Indian massacre at the Battle of Bitter Creek in Wyoming. However, the top brass believed that he had fled the scene of conflict and kicked him out of the force, leaving him forever branded. The series followed his exploits as he tried to prove his innocence, wandering through the country with a broken sabre, the symbol of his shame. He managed to find work as an engineer and mapmaker in a variety of jobs and occasionally unearthed evidence in his favour, although the end of the series left his ultimate fate unresolved. Connors, already famous on US television in The Rifleman (1958-63), was the only regular in the series -although his father, General Joshua McCord (John Carradine), did appear in several episodes. Creator Cohen went on to devise another never-ending series, The Invaders. Most of season one's 16 episodes (early 1965) were in black & white (save for a three-part episode that was filmed in colour). The entire second season's run of 32 episodes (1965-1966) were filmed in colour. The entire series has been released in the US on DVD by a small DVD releasing company, Timeless Media Group (http://www.timelessvideo.com). Unfortunately, the episodes released on DVD are all syndicated versions running just over 22 minutes per episode.
Bradley Hardacre has risen from poverty to become the wealthy owner of mine, mill, shipyard, aircraft factory and munitions works in the Lancashire town of Utterly in the 1930s. The Fairchild family live in a poor home, so what is their connection to Bradley and why does he wants to destroy the Cottage Hospital? A splendid, barbed and witty pastiche of American dramas such as Dallas and Dynasty and the gritty realism of period Northern dramas, Brass stars Timothy West as Bradley Hardacre - a self-made man who is ruthless, cunning, rampantly sexual and as blunt as can possibly be. His plans for expansion and domination are hampered by his gin-sodden wife (Caroline Blakiston) and the rest of his dysfunctional family, as well as local firebrand Agnes Fairchild (Barbara Ewing) and her dense husband George (Geoffrey Hinsliff), who is grateful to Hardacre for providing gainful employment whilst blissfully ignorant of his desires towards his wife. There was a six-year gap between series 2 and 3, the latter picking up the story on 1st September 1939 - the day before War breaks out. Hardacre, still the owner of both an aircraft factory and a munitions works can't wait for the start of hostilities. "Where there's muck, there's brass." (Network DVD)
Filmed on location (mainly) in the New Forest and around the Hampshire town of Porchester, Brendon Chase ran for 13 episodes between December 1980 and March 1981. It was a typical example of the high quality and high output of children's drama that commercial television excelled in for many years. The story takes place around 1925 and centres round the Hensman boys, Robin (Craig McFarlane), John (Howard Taylor) and Harold (Paul Erangey), who are spending their summer holiday away from their boarding school and living in the country house of their aunt Ellen (Rosalie Crutchley). With romantic notions of living life in the forest as outlaws they take off for the woods of Brendon Chase where they must fend for themselves, fighting off the natural dangers of living life rough and occasionally foraging into town for food whilst avoiding the local villagers who have by now formed a search party for the errant adolescents. Also helping the search is the local vicar (played by Christopher Biggins), the local policeman PS Bunting (Michael Robbins) and intrepid reporter Monica Hurling (Liza Goddard). The boys are not entirely alone the whole time and occasionally encounter some of the forests other residents such as Smokoe Joe (Paul Curran), who shares his secrets of the forest with them enabling the children to survive through the summer until (by the last episode) the autumn, when they are finally reunited with their spinster aunt. The production staff went to great lengths to get a period feel for the drama and even altered road markings, removed roof aerials and repainted front doors, in Porchester, in order to recreate the 1920s. The original story was written by writer and artist, 'BB' (Denys Watkins-Pitchford who decided that his proper name was too long and unwieldy), and first published in 1944 and was adapted for television by James Andrew Hall. A paperback version was published at the same time as the series was televised but the TV version has never been made available on video or DVD.
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (1981)
An Oxford Graduate stays with a loveless aristocratic family in the 1920s. Click Here for review.
Bitter-sweet sitcom starring Paula Wilcox as Cynthia Bright, a young wife who is learning to cope with life while her husband, Lionel, played by Paul Copley, is locked up in an open prison. Geoffrey Hughes played a mild mannered prison warden who is driven to distraction by the scatty Mrs Bright. Viewers were seemingly unimpressed and the series was sent to solitary confinement and just six episodes.
Children's comedy series about a group of scientists who work in a rambling long-forgotten Government establishment called Halfwitt House. It receives no official help other than a grant barely sufficient to cover the gas bill. So in order to keep the place operative, Bertram Bright (Alexander Dore), the commanding officer, will lie, cheat, bribe or blackmail-probably all at once. Other staff includes the wild professor Farthing (Bartlett Mullins), his daughter, Julie (Belinda Sinclair) and two unlikely security men who also double as astronauts (George Moon and Denis Shaw). Looking after all of them is Molly McCrandle (Avril Angers) - a sort of scientific aunt who is also their cook. Southern television used Rhinefield House, a stately home in the New Forest, for location scenes.
Airing on the launch night of Channel 4 on 2nd November 1982 Brookside changed the face of soap opera in England by tackling realistic and socially challenging storylines. However, it was initially panned by critics and big changes were made. The changes worked and by the mid 80s the series was enjoying a viewership of around 8 million. By 2002 that audience had dwindled to less than 1 million and 'Brookie', as it had become known, was cancelled.
Produced by Mersey Television and conceived by Phil Redmond, who also devised Grange Hill (1978-2008) and Hollyoaks the series working title was 'Meadowcroft' until Redmond stumbled across the real Brookside Close, a cul-de-sac in the North-West City of Liverpool. Redmond bought 13 of the Broseley Homes built structures in an attempt to add to the show's realism. 6 of the houses were used for filming whilst the rest were put aside for administration, post production and canteen facilities for the cast and crew. However, when filming started the lack of any soundproof panels added a slight echo to the dialogue and the actors natural flat Scouse tones, as well as the unsavoury language being screened before the watershed, meant that the critics gave the early shows poor reviews and as a result the audiences stayed away. Those early episodes introduced the middle-class Collins family who move into the Close on their way down the social ladder. In contrast the Grant family, with Sheila (Sue Johnston) and her trade union husband Bobby (Ricky Tomlinson) had moved up in the world to a big, four-bedroomed house from a run-down council estate. Many of the juvenile leads in the series were recruited from the Liverpool youth theatres while Tomlinson had been a real union activist who had served a two-year prison sentence for organising flying pickets during a national strike in 1972.
The producers soon tackled Brookside's teething problems, bringing in soundproofing and cleaning up the dialogue and out went some of the grimmer characters to be replaced by some comic creations. However, the show lost none of its bite and continued to tackle subjects that had long been taboo in soap-opera land. Gordon Collins (Mark Burgess) became soap's first openly gay character while later on actresses Anna Friel and Nicola Stephenson shared British Television's first pre-watershed lesbian kiss. Apart from the sensational, 'Brookside' also tackled the problems of unemployment and how living on the poverty line lead two characters into drug dealing and one female character to be sexually propositioned in return to pay off the family's spiralling debts. The first AIDS storyline on British TV was addressed here, too. When one character was wrongly convicted for a warehouse robbery the plotline was leaked to the tabloid press, and as the Free George Jackson campaign began on-screen, the press followed suit, creating levels of media hype never seen before in the UK. All this increased 'Brookside's' profile and bought in huge audiences. However, there were some stories even Brookside wouldn't touch. Both Ricky Tomlinson and writer Jimmy McGovern quit the series over its refusal to tackle the miners strike or the Hillsborough tragedy; two major and controversial real-life events at that time. (In fact, McGovern, who went on to create Cracker, later wrote Hillsborough a heart-wrenching single drama that was instrumental in forcing the authorities to reopen the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters).
The 1990s saw Brookside peak in terms of its audience and, in the opinion of many, in its quality of storylines. 'Brookside's' most infamous plot surely happened in 1993 with the storyline of wife beater and child abuser Trevor Jordache (Bryan Murray). His wife Mandy (Sandra Maitland) and daughters Beth (Anna Friel) and Rachel (Tiffany Chapman) moved into Number 10, which had been purchased by social services as a 'safe' house for abused families. As their tale unfolded viewers discovered the disturbing facts about Beth and Rachel's sexual abuse by their father. But before long Trevor managed to track them down and bully his way back into the family home. Driven to the edge of despair, Mandy and Beth stabbed him in the kitchen of Number 10 and, with the help of Sinbad (Michael Starke), buried him underneath their patio, where his body remained for over a year. The discovery of his remains in January 1995 gave Brookside its highest ever viewing figures of 9 million. But following this the storylines on became increasingly more sensational as the soap opted to create controversy for controversy sake. Topics covered included an incestuous relationship between a brother and sister, terrorism at the hands of a gangland boss, and no fewer than 6 catastrophic fires and explosions taking place during the soap's final 5 years. By 2002 the show had fallen way behind in C4's schedules having to endure the humiliation of being constantly moved in order to accommodate the channel's new programme, Big Brother. The audience dropped to less than 1 million and the show would surely have been dropped earlier had it not been for Channel 4's contractual obligation to it until November 2003. But before all the lights went out on the Close for one last time there was one final shock in store. Having been terrorised by despised drug-dealer Jack Michaelson (Paul Duckworth) for six weeks, the remaining residents of Brookside Close (there weren't too many left as the Close was already being emptied for demolition) decided to take the law into their own hands, and lynched Michaelson from Number 8's bedroom window. As the last resident left the Close he scrawled an extra D on the Brookside Close sign, to spell Brookside Closed.
(Review: Marc Saul)
Future Hollywood actor Robert Shaw (The Sting, Jaws) made his small screen debut as ex-pirate Dan Tempest, the leader of a small band of freebooters who roamed the Caribbean Seas in the 1720's on their ship The Sultana. The Deputy Governor of New Province persuaded Tempest and his men to fight on behalf of the Crown against the advancing Spanish, and so began 39 episodes of swashbuckling adventures and the first pirate series for the small screen. Made by Sapphire Films and ITC the series was filmed at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-On-Thames with sea sequences shot just off the coast of Falmouth. The ship itself was already a well-established star having been used as the Hispaniola in Disney's Treasure Island, and the Peaquod in John Huston's Moby Dick. Unusually, the regular cast (amongst who was Roger Delgado, later to star as Doctor Who villain The Master), did not actually appear until episode three, the first two being used to set the scene. Guest stars included future Carry On star Joan Sims and a very young Jane Asher. Shaw was not the first choice to play the lead; the producers cast Alec Clunes (father of modern day TV star Martin) but prospective US buyers CBS thought he was 'too British' for American viewers, and so Shaw, who at that time was struggling and broke, was given the role (Clunes was recast as Governor Woodes Rogers). The series made him but he didn't take long to become disenchanted with the scripts as well as the gruelling schedule that demanded 39 episodes in seven months. By the end of the first series America had lost interest in the swashbuckler (showing a preference for Western's) and without the promise of overseas sales the series was cancelled. Shaw found himself hopelessly typecast and his career didn't pick up until 1963 when he appeared as a cold-blooded Russian killer in the James Bond film From Russia With Love. In 1976 he reprised his pirate image for the big screen in The Scarlet Buccaneer...but it was a critical and box office flop.
Adam Faith had over twenty top-forty records to his name when he turned his back on the music industry in the late 1960s, deciding to branch off full time into acting, which he'd already experienced both in the movies and on stage. It was a move that led to him landing one of the best remembered roles on British television in the early 1970s -that of cheeky cockney and loveable rogue Ronald 'Budgie' Bird. Budgie was a small time crook, a petty thief, a chancer who always dreamed of getting rich but mainly had to content himself with the slimmest of pickings. Even his most ambitious schemes wouldn't have put him on Scotland Yard's 'most wanted' list and they all-without exception, had an unerring habit of going completely wrong. His ill-fated schemes included him buying 24,000 stolen ball-point pens, hoping to turn a quick profit - only to find that they had "Government Property" stamped on them; trying to arrange a pornographic film show in a hotel only to discover he had been sold a Laurel and Hardy movie, and being paid to house some smuggled illegal immigrants, whose upkeep ended up costing him more than he was ever going to make out of the deal...and even then the immigrants fled before he got paid!
The location for many of these doomed schemes was London's Soho area surrounded by seedy strip joints and dirty book shops-hardly a place for a small time crook to build an empire, especially when the area already had an emperor in office. Local gangster Charlie Endell (Iain Cuthbertson) seemed to rule the roost here and Budgie would invariably end up running Endell's errands. Endell seemed to be the only person who was willing to give Budgie any work safe in the knowledge that he had, in Budgie, a ready made sap to take the rap. Budgie was, what you would call a born looser. He couldn't even be faithful to his own girlfriend, Hazel (Lynn Dalby), who had patiently and loyally waited for him to finish his prison sentence-only to find that whenever the chance presented itself Budgie would rush off to be with his estranged wife Jean (Georgina Hale) the Soho tart without a heart.
Yet in spite of his apparent lack of worthy qualities Budgie had a certain charm about him and his naturally optimistic disposition won him a legion of fans. This was due, in no small part to the irresistible performance of Adam Faith and the knowledge the viewer had that Budgie would never willingly hurt anyone, because beneath the surface here was a crook who retained a few morals...even when it ended up costing him. Faith's portrayal of the irrepressible modern day Artful Dodger made Budgie the first TV criminal with the audience on his side.
Created by Keith Waterhouse, and written by Waterhouse, Willis Hall and Douglas Livingstone, the series was produced by Rex Firkin and Verity Lambert and ran for two series before a serious accident to Adam Faith precluded any chance of a third. Seven years after the series finished Cuthbertson re-created his role in Charles Endell Esquire, however, after only two episodes were shown an ITV strike put it off the air never to return. Budgie was intended to be made fully in colour but yet another strike by technicians at London Weekend Television meant that the first four episodes were only made in monochrome. Viewers last saw Budgie going back to prison-this time for an offence that he didn't commit. Ever the loser...we still loved him.
A somewhat belated television reincarnation of the box-office flop of the same name, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (originally intended as a vehicle for Beverly Hills 90210's Luke Perry), was given a complete make-over by screenwriter/executive producer Joss Whedon to become a hip, smart, slick and razor-sharp series for Warner Bros' fledgling TV network. Indeed the show takes the teenage angst of series' such as Beverly Hills 90210 and deftly interweaves it with the wonderfully unlikely concept that beautiful all-American teenaged high school girl, Buffy Summers is 'The Slayer', the latest in an ages old line sworn to protect humanity from the forces of darkness which lurk unsuspected under our very noses. (Quite literally in the case of Sunnydale, Buffy's home town which is built over the Hell Mouth, an active portal between earth and other, much darker realities). Leading a talented ensemble cast, Sarah Michelle Geller as Buffy is a winsomely engaging actress who's performance perfectly treads the delicate line between emerging young woman facing all the problems of the onset of maturity and a dynamically dangerous killing machine with a style and aplomb that's a pleasure to behold. Her teacher in all things 'Scully' (Slayerspeak for the paranormal), is Giles the school librarian, also known as 'The Watcher.' But the real strength of the series lies in the way that it deals with serious emotional issues of personal growth, friendship, loyalty and most crucially, love, with an assuredness which is never at odds with the more overtly action/adventure elements that form the basic bedrock of the premise. The love interest for our heroine comes in the form of reformed vampire, Angel, who after bedding the Slayer loses his soul to the forces of darkness. (The character proved so popular that a 1999 spin-off series, Angel, continued to follow his adventures as he relocated to LA, and hooked up with Buffy's old rival-cum-sidekick, Cordelia Chase as a broodingly cool and hip vampiric private detective). Meanwhile as each season progressed, the senior series continued to extend and explore the rich tapestry of its own established mythology in ever more unexpected and adventurous ways, and as always it was in the area of character growth that the richest rewards were to be found. Buffy herself continued her sometimes turbulent and painfully emotional development towards the maturity of true adulthood, while a totally unexpected, but impressive and sensitively handled growing lesbian love affair for the gentle Willow, and the return of old adversary Spike, assured the show was in seemingly fine shape to carry forward for a total of 7 seasons. Buffy The Vampire Slayer went for the emotional jugular then finished the viewer off with an adrenaline-powered stake to the heart. It was hot, sassy and sexy. It's was also a hellmouth full of fun. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)
A single series of seven comedies starring Donald Churchill as Tom Bowler, an engaging young man with a gift for creating havoc, was created by former Coronation Street producer Derek Grainger and the first episode was written by Peter Eckersley. But for the rest of the series Grainger employed the services of experienced 'Street' writers Harry Driver and Jack Rosenthal. Driver supplied the storylines and Rosenthal put the words in the mouths of Bowler and the rest who included Peter Butterworth, Betty Huntley-Wright, Geoffrey Whitehead and Geoffrey Palmer, all of whom suffer the consequences of Tom, the perennial optimist, as he wanders through life leaving chaos in his wake totally oblivious to the problems he causes for everyone. His girlfriend Sandra somehow manages to find ways of coping with his attitude to life. The Coronation Street link was completed by giving the co-starring role (that of girlfriend Sandra), for the first time to young Amanda Barrie, later to become 'The Streets' Alma Sedgwick/Baldwin.
Amos Burke was the mega wealthy boss of LAPD's murder squad who was driven around in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce by Henry (Leon Lontoc). Originally intended as a series for Dick Powell who played the character in one of his Dick Powell Theatre presentations called 'Who killed Julia Greer', the part fell to former Bat Masterson star Gene Barry (real name Eugene Klass). All of Burke's cases were called "Who Killed..." with the name of that week's unlucky victim tagged on to the end, and all of the cases revolved around the world of high society and millionaires to which Burke fitted into seamlessly. He was assisted by detectives Tim Tilson (Gary Conway) and Lester Hart (Regis Toomey), with Sgt Amis (Eileen O'Neill) joining later. The series also boasted the highest head count in guest stars, 63 in the first eight episodes alone. Burke eventually quit the police force to become an undercover agent as US television tried to cash in on the James Bond craze with a series entitled Secret Agent, but returned to the police force in a 1994 revival of the original series.
From the prolifically successful creative comedy pen of Liverpool born scriptwriter, and co-creator of the 70's sitcom classic The Liver Birds, Carla Lane, Butterflies was a gently thoughtful, amusing and well observed eighties situation comedy sensation for the BBC. BBC2's highest rated show throughout most of its run, the series starred accomplished and versatile comedy actress, Wendy Craig as Ria Parkinson, a seemingly ordinary, contented, middle class suburban housewife who had been married for 19 years to dentist and manic depressive Ben (the excellently droll Geoffrey Palmer), only to suddenly find herself plunged into the middle of a disorienting, emotionally tumultuous, mid-life crisis. At that sensitively vulnerable point in her life, Ria found herself embarking on a touchingly platonic, but still guilt-laden affair with the rich, urbane, recently divorced businessman, Leonard Dunn. The series title was derived from Ben's near-obsessional hobby of Butterfly collecting, and it was the fact that he was so enwrapped, so taken with it, almost to the point of oblivion to the goings on with the rest of the family, that provided the catalyst for the series main narrative thrust. An interesting aspect which set the series apart from the more traditional sitcoms of the time was the inclusion of an edge-of-surrealism, achieved by the use of dream sequences and voice-overs, a then still very much experimental narrative device, which had previously only been employed by the earlier ITV sitcom adaptation of Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall's classic, Billy Liar, and years later exploited to its fullest by the top rated US show, Ally McBeal. The title theme was a re-arrangement of Dolly Parton's "Love is Like a Butterfly", and the series, which had begun in 1978, eventually reached its end in 1982. However, eighteen years on, on the evening of Friday November 17th 2000, writer and cast were triumphantly reunited for a special one-off reunion episode produced especially for the BBC charity telethon, Children In Need. The short 15-minute episode, which revisited the Parkinson family on the occasion of Ria's 60th birthday, was so well received by the public, and so enjoyed by its cast, that it was briefly suggested that a new series could follow. Sadly, it never transpired.
Originally conceived by Ian Allen as a stage show in 1978, Allen adapted it into a TV series for Thames two years later. The first series of 13 programmes was transmitted in 1980. A further 6 series of 13 programmes followed, making a total of ninety-one different Button Moon adventures. The series featured the adventures of Mr. Spoon who would travel to Button Moon in his homemade rocket-ship. All of the characters were based on kitchen utensils, as were many of the props. Once on Button Moon they would have an adventure, and look through Mr. Spoon's telescope before heading back to their home on 'Junk Planet'. The theme tune was written and performed by then husband-and-wife Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson. Narration was by Robin Parkinson. A live stage show was produced in the 1980s.