Back to Christmas 1985 (22nd December 1985)

There’s plenty of Tom & Jerry on over the festive period, and today’s (The Night Before Christmas) is a topical one, so I’ll try to catch that. Later also on BBC1 there’s Classic Serial fare with the penultimate episode of Olivier Twist. The days of the Classic Serial as a cheapish Sunday afternoon treat are coming to an end, so I think it’s worth tuning in (Eric Porter heads the cast as Fagin).

This episode features the dramatic moment when Bill Sikes (Michael Attwell) murders Nancy (Amanda Harris). It doesn’t have the same vicious punch as the 1960’s adaptation with Peter Vaughan and Carmel McSharry, but it’s still quite a jolting moment. Although we don’t see the blows inflicted (the camera remains focused on Sikes) the fury of his actions is obvious. That was always a problem with the Sunday teatime serial (it couldn’t show anything too disturbing) although maybe implied violence lingers longer in the memory than anything more overt. 

Thanks to Billy Smart for drawing my attention to the Arena documentary on Orson Welles and Shadowlands, both on BBC2. They’re certainly worthy of attention – Shadowlands would later be remade for the big screen, but this television version looks just as absorbing (Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom head a very strong cast).

Later I’ll switch over to ITV for Me and My Girl at 7.55 pm. It always impressed me that, in the title sequence, Richard O’Sullivan could shed ten years by simply wearing a Man About The House wig.

As for this episode (Nothing Like a Quiet Sunday) it revolves around Simon’s desire to play the good Samaritan – rescuing a drunk woman and taking her home – which later backfires when the object of his charity declares that she and Simon are to be married (much to the annoyance of her fiancé).

If you hadn’t guessed that Simon’s fallen woman was from the upper classes, then her name (Winnifred Whitsun-Burnish) would have been a bit of a giveaway. She was played by Harriet Reynolds, who popped up in many popular series between the late seventies and early nineties. Sadly, she passed away at the early age of 47 in 1992.

Events take their predictable turn as they always did in this sitcom, but the presence of O’Sullivan, Joan Sanderson and Tim Brooke-Taylor (although he’s sadly absent from this one) always helped to make the series more than watchable.

6 thoughts on “Back to Christmas 1985 (22nd December 1985)

  1. You’re skimping on television today! The Arena Orson Welles documentary (repeated as a posthumous tribute) is enormously long, but probably worth having on in the afternoon.

    The focal point of the day, though, is choosing which of the three heavyweight drama adaptations (two of theatrical origin, one literary), frustratingly scheduled against each other, to watch in the evening… ‘The Death of the Heart’ is really long for a TV drama, and may possibly have been conceived as a two-parter. As a prestige production of a West End hit made as an Everyman spin-off, ‘Shadowlands’ is the most likely to be repeated. So, because it’s the most seasonally appropriate, I’d watch Bill Bryden’s famous National Theatre production of ‘The Nativity’ – just look at the cast! – and video ‘The Death of the Heart’ (not though I actually had a video in 1985).

    Looking at my late father’s Diary, I can see which option my parents took that evening: “TV play on C.S. Lewis’ marriage – Shadowlands. Good.”

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    • I had a quick skim for Shadowlands on YT but couldn’t see it. Clearly I didn’t look hard enough as it’s there, so I’ll add it to the list. Don’t know why I missed the Orson Welles, but that’s another good call.

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  2. One thing I definitely watched that day was Oliver Twist. It was a good adaptation. Was the version with Peter Vaughan the one with Melvin Hayes as the Artful Dodger? In 2012 I said that instead of showing the umpteenth repeat of Dad’s Army the BBC should dig out some of their old Dickens serials to mark his bicentenary.

    Dickens is better suited to tv than film because he originally published the books in serial form. I even found David Lean’s version of Oliver Twist rather rushed, although his Dickens films did have the right Dickensian atmosphere.

    Tome And Jerry: The Night Before Christmas is a classic. There was a discussion on the Guardian film website about favourite Christmas films. The Night Before Christmas was only the third Tom and Jerry cartoon (and only the second where the cat is called Tom). I’ve never seen a Tom and Jerry cartoon at the cinema. One of the curators of Picturehouse Cinemas’ cult screenings said that prints of short cartoons are hard to get hold of.

    I was surprised at how little there was on BBC2 on Sunday mornings at the time. A year later they started showing the Blue Peter omnibus editions on Sunday mornings. And actually it developed into a good children’s slot.

    And there was Albion Market. The NME once described The Roxy, ITV’s short-lived carbon copy of Top of the Pops, “The Albion Market of pop shows”. Which sums up Albion Market. And The Roxy.

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  3. A forget programme from the ITV listings this year was Albion Market. Does anyone remember this? It used to be televised on Fridays & Sundays.

    It was launched in August 1985 as a potential ‘sister’ show to Coronation Street and was Granada’s way of trying to draw battle with the BBC who had stormed the ratings with their new flagship show Eastenders.

    Albion Market was filmed in a purpose built on Quay Street in Manchester. If I remember, it was quite bland – with dull storylines played by equally dull characters.

    Granada & ITV saw fit to put it out of it’s misery in 1986 as it bombed in the ratings. The only decent thing about it was it had a rather catchy theme tune.

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