Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Two

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Tom is keen to go into partnership with Jack, but needs more capital – he has fifty thousand pounds, but needs another fifty thousand. Avril suggests he sells the Flying Fish.  Lynne’s not going to be pleased ….

Ken’s girlfriend, Dawn (Sally Farmiloe), feels a little threatened by Jan.  It’s always a little jarring to check out the status of less well-known actors who you don’t consider to be that old and find, like Sally, that they’ve passed away (back in 2014, aged sixty).

Ken’s sniffing around the Mermaid Yard, keen to snap it up if Jack goes bankrupt. This is the cue for another scene featuring a topless Ken lounging in bed, this time as he merrily plots away. At least Tom wears a pyjama top, much more restrained.

In many ways Jack is a horrible, selfish person but Glyn Owen’s ebullient performance means that you can’t help but side with him more often than not. He’s not keen to show Tom the company accounts, but Avril overrides him (“female Judas” he mutters).

So Tom is well aware how bad things are, but believes that his design skills and contacts will help to turn things round. As Jack is used to doing things his way, it’s plain that he’s not going to react well when someone else starts to tell him what to do. Since Avril is also a shareholder, her casting vote could prove be crucial in the future ….

The return of Abby from a posh Swiss finishing school is an episode highlight.  If I was Polly and Gerald I’d ask for my money back, as poor Abby isn’t really the finished article.  Possibly it’s not surprising, since Polly is as far from a nurturing mother as you could possibly expect whilst Gerald (when he finally makes an appearance) is clearly fond of Abby, but treats her with an air of absent-minded kindness, rather like one would deal with a family pet.  So Abby’s down in the dumps and will remain so for some considerable time.

Mother and daughter exist in self-contained vacuums. Polly wants Abby to make an effort and fit in with the glittering Tarrant social set, whilst Abby can’t think of anything she’d like less.

Lynne learns that her father and Avril have been taking quiet walks together.  She displays her disapproval by having a good pout (Lynne is a champion pouter, it must be said).

The first episode had seeded the notion that Avril’s heart had been broken by a relationship which ended badly.  No more information was supplied at that time, but a further piece of the puzzle is put into place here, as she contacts “someone” to see if they can help to sell the Flying Fish.  Keep an eye on this plotline.

Leo’s something of a contradiction.  He wants to save the environment, but has no qualms in taking a job at a petrol station.  If Tom (and later on Jan) are positioned as ideals of the Thatcherite Eighties – thrusting entrepreneurs – then maybe we can take Leo to be a warning about what might happen to those who leave school with poor qualifications (they end up in a dead-end job).  Or I may be seeing patterns that don’t exist, which is probably more likely.

Tom breaks the news that he wants to buy into the Mermaid yard. Jan’s not pleased but Tom, as always, goes his own way (cue an overdose of honking saxphones on the soundtrack, an odd musical choice).

9 thoughts on “Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Two

  1. Having rewatched the serial – yet again! – I find that a closer analysis of some central characters is also a good illustration of how – occasionally? – botched scripting made the series less than perfect. For example, why is Leo “a contradiction”?

    Leo is a contradiction presumably because the way the character was initially written does not reflect an average 18-24-year old male of our times. Or any times, for that matter. Leo is calm, thoughtful, chivalrous, honest, usually well behaved, does not do drugs, drinks moderately and even if occasionally gets intoxicated (who in their late teens doesn’t?), he immediately falls asleep and never causes any disturbance. His mother describes him as lovely and gentle. His gran urges him to always remain dependable. He is kind, helpful and totally selfless (in a later series even Abby, who loves him dearly – or does she? – snaps at him for always putting others before himself). He is keen to offer everyone a shoulder to cry on, but apart from his mum, no one really listens to his own concerns. In the three fiction books accompanying the series Leo’s character is also described as having a taste in classical music – a characteristic which did not make it from the pages to the screen and which he coincidentally shares with the young Endeavour Morse, although it only became clear some 30 years later.

    To stop female viewers from excessively salivating over this shining paragon of male virtue, the television scripts gave him a sprinkling of imperfections: as an environmentalist he wears leather, rides a huge motorbike, has no opinion on air pollution and probably is not a vegetarian (that would be too nauseating). Oh, and he does not cook, but the concept of men getting routinely busy in the kitchen was not that fashionable in the eighties. Still, he does hold some pretty advanced views on male and female equality, although on entering his twenties, he gradually drops this silly notion. Perhaps it is a sign of approaching maturity.

    Although on the whole Leo seems quite endearing (after all, who wouldn’t wish for such a son, brother, boyfriend, partner?), as a protagonist in a television drama he needs more special effects in the macho department to prove that he is no pushover. Propelled only by his A-levels, he becomes a power boat racing driver, boat designer and a manager of a boat building establishment – all without so much as a hint of anything like vocational qualifications or at least a correspondence course of sorts. In the end he also becomes disillusioned with being everyone’s agony aunt, lands a few well aimed punches on his real or imagined rivals, and engages in demeaning shouting matches with the supposed love of his life. So much for a character who, together with Abby, was supposed to head a storyline more or less parallel to that of his parents. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances – namely Maurice Colbourne’s untimely demise – the scriptwriters sadly lost the plot.

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  2. Thanks for that, plenty of good points there. Leo’s journey across the six series was an unexpected one in many ways – although I wonder if this was due to later scriptwriters spinning the character off into different directions from where the early writers had intended.

    One thing’s fairly clear in soapland – nice boys (and girls) don’t last for long. Everybody needs some sort of character flaw in order to make them interesting. To be fair, Leo had that from the start – he’s someone who claims to be an environmentalist but has no qualms in working at a petrol station, for example.

    But at least he’s a more interesting character than the default sulky teen, unwilling to do anythng. Leo has plenty of hopes and dreams, but they seem to be half-formed or (in the case of his infatuation with Avril) totally out of his reach.

    That he manages to become a sucess with no training, experience or seemingly picking up too many life skills is slightly hard to swallow (I’m looking forward to revising his unlikely career path shortly, should br an interesting journey).


    • Obviously inconsistent scripts and unlikely plots made HW more flawed than it could have been. Quite clearly there was panic when Tom Howard had to be unexpectedly and hurriedly written out.Series 6 takes some odd and often improbable turns resulting a deeply unsatisfactory ending and Series 7 – which could or even should have been – never materialized. I am guessing that the aim was to leave viewers gasping for more – personally I gasped in disbelief. I saw HW primarily as the saga of the nice Howard family who stumbled on some relatively rough times and did some naughty and thoughtless things to one another – all for the sake of intrigue. I further believed that the producers’ aim would be to show the paths of both Howard the elder and Howard the younger leading back to a reconciliation with their respective life partners. There were some signs of that throughout the best part of the serial, but that was not to be for Jan and poor Tom. Nevertheless there still was an opportunity to continue with Leo developing from a teenager into a wiser young man without losing his better qualities. Instead he was shown as apparently growing more insecure, clueless, increasingly throwing wobblies and nearly as unworthy of Abby as she was of him. I wonder how they could have been brought back together had the serial continued.

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      • Yes, it would have been logical for Tom and Jan to get back together – although such a happy ending possibly might have seemed a little too pat.

        Although it’s been a while since I’ve watched the series through from beginning to end, I’ve a feeling that as time goes on the focus shifts from the Howards and onto the Freres, especially when Frere Snr turns up.

        Possibly it’s not too surprising that Charles became a key figure, since there was plenty of scope for character development (at first glance a ruthless businessman, but with layers which could be peeled away).

        The same sort of character development also occurred with Polly and Gerald, whose function during S1 was mainly to stand in opposition to Abby. Over time though they would emerge as characters in their own right.

        I wonder if the foregrounding of their characters had something to do with the fact that the writers for the later series would have seen them in action during S1 and could spot the potential. It’s possible that the scripts for S1 had been written, or at least storylined, before the actors had been cast – so it took a little time before it become obvious which actors could handle major storylines and which ones couldn’t.

        All this did tend to margarine the Howards, especially Tom, so whilst Maurice Colbourne’s death was a major shock for the cast and crew (and seemingly a large factor in curtailing production after S6) Tom’s story had pretty much run its course.

        Had Colbourne lived, it’s intriguing to wonder how things would have developed for Tom though.


      • Nevertheless Tom and Jan’s (and/or Leo and Abby’s) reunion of sorts would have made for a heartwarming feel-good finale and that sort of thing is usually received favourably by the general public.

        If the focus was shifting from the Howards to other major characters it must have been because the Howards themselves were too bourgeois to offer enough fireworks to amuse or awe for more than a season or two.
        The Freres became important exponents of the powerful Dallas-Dynasty type of rivalries. With Sir Edward out of the way, Charles was showing signs of softening around the edges, while his unexpectedly evil daughter suddenly seemed hell-bent on taking her grandfather’s place.

        Gerald’s journey was from mildly sympathetic to decidedly protective towards Abby and Polly changed her attitude in answer to the potential of her daughter’s connection with the Freres and the Hudsons.

        As far as I recall, the person in charge of the ideas for the storylines was mainly Gerard Glaister and I doubt whether the scriptwriters had much freedom to offer personal input. The storylines for S1 must have been ready prior to casting to enable casting directors to do their work properly. I can’t find my copy of Glaister’s book on creating of the serial, but I seem to remember that much of the casting was done to fit his ideas of how the characters should look. By the time the production was in full swing it would have been too late and impractical to change much and I cannot imagine that subsequent storylines could be shaped to suit the actors’ abilities. Once a decision was made, they had to carry on regardless. The rest was in the hands of the directors, some evidently less capable or caring than others – not forgetting that ultimately everyone had to stick to very strict timetables and second takes were not always possible.

        Finally ending the serial at S6 may have been for financial and not necessarily practical reasons.


      • Yes, presumably Glaister would have been key to producing the storylines, although the fact that the pool of writers was fairly small across the six series might indicate that some of them (especially the more prolific ones) might have also been pitching story ideas and directions.

        Some plotlines were obviously dictated by some actors leaving and new ones joining, but given that it’s fairly common to hear across various series that writers over time would tailor scripts to suit the personalities of the actors, I don’t think it’s too unlikely that it could have happened here.

        Mmm, this chat’s making me keen to make a start of series two sooner rather than later.


  3. I’ve only just found your blog after starting to watch HW from the start (I saw some of the later episodes as a kid). It’s a great read!

    I remember Maurice Colbourne dying, and remember the scene of Jan crying on the stairs after the christening at the start of series 6. So it was with Tom Howard in mind that really made me remember the series and bring me back to watching it from the start.
    What strikes me most is that (as you have yourself mentioned) the Howards become less the focus of the series as time goes on. I’ve been trying to wrack my brains to think of other shows, dramas, comedies etc. where this happens to the titular characters. I’m sure there are examples, but I can’t think of any. And I think this is a problem right away. Okay, maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe the other characters do enough to makeup for this development, but I think it was a mistake nonetheless.
    Of course the Howards continue with big storylines across the series, especially Jan and Leo, but I think the move to split up Tom and Jan so early on in the show weakened Tom’s role, which is a pity.
    Afterall, Tom had been introduced as this commanding, yes wealthy, but more, shall we say, rugged masculine leader type personality at the start of series 1. Successful, thoughtful, strong. But through the split in his marriage, his role was to become ever more periphery and two dimensional, focused on his work in the yard, instead of what could have been the focus as was promised in episode 1. Charles’ entry is also disadvantageous to the notion thst the show is based around the Howards. Ken is a great character to have, the wealthy playboy type who comes between Jan and Tom, but Charles’ wealth and place in the story jar with any connection to Tom, certainly once he and Jan separate.
    And so whilst I understand the feeling that the actors didn’t want to dwell to much on the death of Maurice Colbourne within the show, the death of Tom as a character didn’t make too much of a difference to the show on the screen, even if it made a big difference off it and was sited as a reason for the show ending in 1990.

    Finally, Leo. I remember the cold, wooden and unlikeable Leo from the last couple of series, and so was surprised to find this very likeable, nice and innocent teen in series 1. Of course events change us all, but I didn’t like the cold hearted yuppy type he turned into.

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    • Thanks for that, many good points to chew over.

      Tom’s gradual sidelining was a shame (by series five he did very little of note). Maybe this was partly because he was an upright, honest sort of chap – the sort of character that this type of soapy drama struggles with. So it’s not surprising that Charles Frere and Ken Masters received the bulk of the character development ….

      Thinking of series where the lead characters were supplanted, another Glaister show- The Brothers – comes to mind. The early years centered around the Hammond brothers but towards the end Paul Merroney had become a key player.

      No doubt this was partly because it was recognised that Merroney was a strong character, but Merroney also had to step up to fill the gap left by Brian (Richard Easton took a break from the series for a while, which changed the series’ dynamic).


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