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31.12.09

Emmerdale Farm - Amos Does Himself A Mischief, Crossroads - David And Barbara Get Married, Coronation Street - Hilda And Eddie Sing Carols...

Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox) gives husband Len (Peter Adamson) a right lambasting before walking out on him in 1980.

What were UK soap operas like in the early '80s?


Well, we had Crossroads, Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm. The farming saga (as it was then) would not be networked - shown on the same day and at the same time - until January 1988. We also had a couple of new soaps - Take The High Road took us to Scotland - to the village of Glendarroch; Together was set in a block of flats in the south of England. In 1981, we gained English-speaking Welsh soap Taff Acre.

Both Taff Acre and Together were short-lived.

Those were the days before the shock of the new in the soap world - the arrivals of Brookside (1982) and EastEnders (1985). Life in soap land was a lot slower than it is today...

What were the early months of 1980 like in Beckindale, the original name of the village now called Emmerdale? Well, the start of a new decade should have brought smiles to a few of the characters.

Let's time-warp back and pop up to Home Farm to see Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons). Good old Judy's having a fag and saying: "I'm angry - and I'm enjoying it!"

Oh dear...

And Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) is at the hospital where there's bad news from the doctor: "I'm sorry, Mr Skilbeck, there's no choice. Your wife's condition is critical. We must operate now."

Oh no! But surely there's better news at The Woolpack? After all, Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) is sure to want to start the new decade on a positive note...

Oh 'eck! Steady on, Amos - you'll do yourself a mischief!

"ARRRGGHHH!!!"

Too late!

Oh, well... much better news - Clive Hornby made his first appearance as Jack Sugden on 19 February 1980 - and Joe (Frazer Hines) greeted him: "Welcome back to Emmerdale, big brother!"

And a bit later there was a new woman at Annie's Aga - just temporary of course... but, hang on, doesn't she look familiar? Good grief, it's Pam St Clement, later Pat of EastEnders, getting an early taste of soap life as Mrs Eckersley in March 1980.

And Grandad Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) caught a big smelly fish whilst on holiday in Ireland: "I'm goin' to 'ave it stuffed, and it's goin' in a glass case over't mantelpiece," said Grandad.

Yeuk!

Funny old year. Funny old start to a new decade...

However, villagers and viewers alike were delighted to meet the new Dolly Skilbeck, now played by Jean Rogers. The new Dolly made her screen debut on 1 April, 1980.

Thanks to our sister blog, the Beckindale Bugle, for our Emmerdale Farm pics and insights.

It was decreed in 1979 that the weekly number of Crossroads episodes broadcast should be cut from four to three in 1980. The IBA was unhappy with the standards of the show.

In the story-line, 1980 got off to a cracking start nonetheless with Rosemary Hunter (Janet Hargreaves) shooting her ex-husband, David (Ronald Allen) in the motel office. David survived and went on to marry his new love, novelist Barbara Brady (Sue Lloyd).

Sue Lloyd had made her debut in the show the year before and revealed in her 1998 autobiography that she had had doubts about going into Crossroads:

The first time I was offered a role in Crossroads, I must admit my initial reaction was to be a bit sniffy about it. The soap was renowned for its wobbly scenery, bizarre sory lines and regular slaughtering by the critics. Why would I, just back from filming The Pink Panther with Peter Sellers in the South of France, and about to embark on the comedy The Upchat Line with John Alderton, want to get involved in a project like that? Besides, I was too busy.

'If they want you,' advised my agent, 'they'll come back.'

He was right. About a year later they called again. They were looking for an actress to play a slightly mysterious, classy lady named Barbara Brady. She was to arrive at the Crossroads Motel, apparently to take a post as a sort of upmarket housekeeper, but in reality she was an author researching material for a new book.

David and Barbara were two of the show's most popular characters until they were axed in 1985.

The Ogdens had been Corrie favourites since the mid-1960s. In December 1981, Daily Mirror TV critic Hilary Kingsley issued a plea to the Street's writers to stop Hilda (Jean Alexander) singing!

Her carol duet with Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) had not been appreciated.

Originally a petty crook and lovable layabout, Eddie got a job as a binman in 1980 and moved in with the Ogdens at No 13.

The early '80s were the final on-screen era for a number of the Street's original characters - Annie Walker (Doris Speed), Ena Sharples (Violet Carson), Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) and Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) all made their final appearances in the first half of the decade.

By mid-1984, Ken Barlow (William Roache) was the only remaining member of the cast who had appeared in the first episode, broadcast on 9 December 1960.


24.12.09

Christmas Greetings!

Another year almost over... and the 1980s become even further away.

Next year 1980 will be thirty years ago. Yes, thirty. It doesn't seem possible. This was a very decisive year for the decade as Ronald Reagan was elected US President in November. And from America soon would come the word "yuppie" and a whole host of ripple effect changes.

From Adam and the Ants to Pump Up The Jam, from the Rubik's Cube craze to the invention of the World Wide Web, the 1980s brought many, many changes.

And now they are the increasingly distant past.

But the memories remain.

Stay tuned to '80s Actual in the New Year for much more 1980s nostalgia - and if that wondrous, turbulent decade sometimes seems so very far away, just turn on your computer, pop over here, and remember that, when it comes to the '80s:

"We'll always be together - however far it seems - we'll always be together - together in electric dreams..."

22.12.09

Joan Collins And Her UK Dynasty Debut - TV In '83...

It's New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve 1982, that is, and the telly pages of the Daily Mirror are looking forward to 1983.

So, what had we in store?

Well, firstly, there was Joanie. Our very own Joan Collins, that is. Joan had already made her debut in America on the glitzy soap Dynasty, but we'd yet to see her Alexis exploits here in blighty. New Year's Day 1983 would change all that. And the Daily Mirror on 31 December 1982 was heralding the fact:

Joan Collins was driving through Hollywood. She stopped her car at lights, and was spotted by two young girls.

"We hate you! You're a bitch," they screamed at her.

Joan says: "I was quite taken aback, then I suddenly realised it wasn't me they hated, but Alexis. And I understood just how they felt."

Alexis is the new character Joan plays in the American soap opera DYNASTY.

She takes her bow as a surprise witness for the prosecution in the trial of her ex-husband, oil tycoon Blake Carrington, who is accused of the murder of his son's ex-lover.

I watched Joan working on the TV set in Hollywood. Then, over lunch, she told me: "Alexis is a scheming, sexy, ruthless woman. The part seems to get bigger and juicer all the time.

"Viewers want to be taken out of themselves. They want to watch extremely rich people living the high life, full of emotional problems.

"I think that's why this show is doing so well. instead of cops and robbers and beating people up, the accent is on intrigue and sex.

"It's very glossy and no expense is spared. Each show, which takes us just six days to shoot, costs half a million dollars.

"A lot of money is spent in front of the cameras. We have fresh flowers on the screen - no imitation ones and fresh flowers in Hollywood cost a fortune. I also wear some very expensive gowns."

[Andy's note: Of course it was the Dynasty dress budget and outrageous costumes which set actresses in rival American soaps Dallas and Knots Landing screaming for parity!]

Joan won't talk about what she earns. But her TV contract is said to be worth £250,000.

She says: "When you're used to earning three million dollars a film, I suppose it's difficult to accept a quarter of a million dollars a film.

"I would hate to get into that situation. I think it's obscene, I really do. Some actors do get paid far too much."

Popular ITV quiz show Family Fortunes, which began in 1980, was returning on New Year's Eve 1982 for a fourth series

Presenter Bob Monkhouse said:

"So much money was invested in the first series we had to be sure the idea was a good one. But I stand by my prediction that it can only survive five years, then we'll have to think of something else."

Hmm!

1982 was the last year the UK had to make do without breakfast television, and on New Year's Eve '82, we got our first broadcast from the TV-am studios, home of the ITV breakfast service - and Joan Collins was on the billing:

FROST WARMS UP FOR BREAKFAST TV

David Frost is using a New Year's Eve party to warm up for Breakfast TV.

Tonight he hosts THE END OF THE YEAR SHOW (Channel 4, 11.00) which comes live from TV-AM's new studios in Camden Town.

This is the first time that they have been used and are scheduled to be fully operational by February.

David, who is one of the main forces behind TV-AM, says: "I thought it would be a good idea to have a practice run in the studios before we start our breakfast programmes.

"We have marvellous facilities here and I've always wanted to do an irreverent look at the year.

"We will be looking for the silliest statement, the saddest story, the funniest misprint, the most welcome comeback, the biggest scandal and the worst example of sheer incompetence.

"It will be a ninety minute frolic with such star guests as Joan Collins, Jonathan Dimbleby, Joanna Lumley, Susan George, John Wells, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Instant Sunshine and many others. Richard Harris sings a great finale. It should be great fun."

Of course, the early days of TV-am have been called a real life soap opera - maybe not quite Dynasty, but definitely very intriguing!



12.12.09

Adam And The Ants: "I'm The Dandy Highwayman..."

Adam Ant, AKA Stuart Goddard, emerged from the ashes of Punk and relaunched himself as the Dandy Highwayman of New Romantic pop. His image - hair ribbons, lip gloss, and the famous white line across the face, was stunning.

Qua qua, fa diddily qua qua, fa diddily qua qua...

An Adam Ant mirror - Adam was King of the Wild Frontier AND 1980, 1981 and 1982. The mirror, which is dated 1980, hangs in my hall to this day and brings back fond memories of youth.

In the mid-1990s, my mate Pete, bored with the "we can do a better Beatles than you can" squabble between Blur and Oasis, asked mournfully: "Andy, whatever happened to all the GOOD music? Whatever happened to Adam and the Ants?"

What indeed!

How would you feel if your son looked like this? asks this TV Times from June 1981. On the housing estate where I lived, no bloke would have DARED to look like that!

An interesting article from the Daily Mirror, June 1981:

A film scene showing pop idol Adam Ant being hanged was chopped from TV's Top of the Pops last night.

The three minute film promoting Adam's latest hit Stand And Deliver was shown on the programme a few weeks ago.

But a BBC spokesman said last night: "It was decided to cut the scene from future shows because we don't want to encourage younger viewers to copy Adam's antics."

Film maker Mike Mansfield said: "It was just a piece of fancy dress fun - and, anyway, Adam does not die."

Sensitivities were obviously very different back then - think about what today's children view!

Note the way the article's writer refers to the video as a "film". "Films" or "promo's" for songs actually stretch back many years. The "video" tag took off during the 1980s, greatly influenced by MTV.

Adam And The Ants starring on the cover of "Look-In", October 1981

IT'S DIANA THE POP CHARMER,

Daily Mirror, 10/9/1981:

There's another new girl in the life of lady killer Adam Ant. It's Diana Dors, who was a sex symbol before he even knew about such things.

The odd couple have teamed up for a TV film that will be shown on "Top of the Pops" tonight to plug Adam's new single, "Prince Charming".

Diana appears as a fairy godmother who turns Adam from a pauper into a prince.

Prince Charming is one of Adam's best-known "TV films", and his fabulous co-star was once described as "the English Marilyn Monroe".

See a slightly later 1980s star with his roots in the New Romantic era - here.