Back to Christmas 1982 (6th January 1983)

It’s time for the first TOTP of the new year. Tonight’s show offers a pretty decent line-up with Joe Jackson (Stepping Out), Ultravox (Hymn), Wah! (The Story of the Blues) and The Stranglers (European Female) all standing out.

There’s not a great deal more on BBC1 or BBC2 that’s appealing (or accessible) but I might put The Land That Time Forgot on my virtual VHS for later.

Like BBC1, ITV is filling out their early evening schedule with a movie (but Superman is a slightly higher budget effort than The Land That Time Forgot …).

C4 offers Treasure Hunt (stop the clock!) and the first episode of The Irish R.M, starring Peter Bowles.

 

Back to Christmas 1982 (2nd January 1983)

633 Squadron is an ideal Sunday afternoon film. Although it’s not perfect (you have to suspend your disbelief with some of the modelwork used for the climatic attack sequences) it’s still a stirring watch (Ron Goodwin’s score helps enormously). Although money (the film mirroring WW2) meant than an American – Cliff Robertson – had to take centre stage, there’s enough plucky Brits (Harry Andrews, Donald Houston, Angus Lennie, Michael Goodliffe) in supporting roles to cushion this blow.

A repeat run of The Good Life begins with the first episode, Plough Your Own Furrow (which I’ve previously written about here).

The Society Entertainer (S04E04) is today’s episode of Hi-De-Hi! Spike falls in love whilst Gladys clashes with her nemesis, Sylvia, who temporarily wrests control of Radio Maplin. Another quality episode, with all the original key cast members present and correct.

Switching over to ITV, if I’ve time for a second film I’ll go with The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Later there’s Tales of the Unexpected, a series that’s often more miss than hit (but today’s cast – John Duttine, Peter Jeffrey – makes it an appealing pick).

Back to Christmas 1982 (1st January 1983)

Happy New Year!

BBC1 and BBC2 are offering two hardy Christmas perennial films – The Magnificent Seven and It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m going to plump for Jimmy Stewart on BBC2 ….

I’ll stay on BBC2 for some comic strip (ahem) action with Jane. An omnibus edition assembled from the first series broadcast in 1982, it’s all good clean politically incorrect fun. I’ve always had a soft spot for programmes which overdose on CSO and another soft spot for Glynis Barber, so this is win/win for me.

Then it’ll be over to ITV for Whicker’s World Aboard the Orient Express. Alan does his thing, although I don’t think there’s any murders to look forward to.

Back to Christmas 1982 (31st December 1982)

First up today will be Ghost in the Water. It comes from the producing/directing team of Paul Stone and Renny Rye (who were later responsible for that hardy Christmas perennial The Box of Delights). Although broadcast during children’s hour it’s not childish in tone – which means that, as I stated in my review a few years back, it could have easily slotted into the evening schedule. Something of a forgotten spooky classic.

The feature film version of Porridge receives its television premiere tonight. Once upon a time, a gaggle of television sitcoms (and the odd drama as well) made their way to the big screen. Some were better than others (to put it mildly) but it can’t be coincidence that two of the best (The Likely Lads, Porridge) came from the pens of Clement and La Frenais.

Before the New Year dawns, there will just be time to catch your own, your very own, Leonard Sachs introducing some familiar faces (Doddy’s topping the bill) in tonight’s The Good Old Days.

It’s another quiet day on ITV and C4, but I’ll make time for Kim Wilde – First Time Out (available here on Youtube).

Back to Christmas 1982 (30th December 1982)

It’s time to almost see out the old year with TOTP and a gaggle of R1 presenters (one of whom we’ll say no more about). Today’s show offers another look back at some of the hits of the year – beginning with ABC and The Look of Love (Martin Fry eschewing the gold lamé suit in favour of something more sober). Other highlights include the Fun Boy Three (R.I.P. Terry Hall) and Bananarama with T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) and The Stranglers (Golden Brown).

We’re back in the period when an Only Fools and Horses Christmas special was a post-Xmas treat. That would all change next year, when Thicker Than Water would become the series’ first episode to debut on Christmas day (and two years later, the series would hit the big-time with the first of many feature length episodes – To Hull and Back). Back in 1982 though, things were more modest with just a half-hour slot available, although the episode (Diamonds are for Heather) is still a good one.

Ramping up the pathos (something which the series would also do in the future again and again) it’s a Christmas gift for David Jason, as Del’s relationship with single parent Heather (Rosalind Lloyd) and her young son Darren (Daniel Jones) deepens and he gets the chance to play both drama and comedy. It might get somewhat overlooked in favour of the later, longer specials – but if you’re able, then it’s worth digging this one out again for another watch.

‘Allo! ‘Allo! makes its debut immediately after Only Fools. The series proper wouldn’t begin until 1984 but all the building blocks of the show are already present and correct. Time for a complete rewatch? Maybe …

To round the evening off, I’ll take Force 10 From Navarone and A Voyage Round My Father on ITV.

Back to Christmas 1982 (29th December 1982)

There’s another chance to see Arena‘s typically idiosyncratic celebration of Desert Island Discs on BBC1 this afternoon. Roy Plomley gets to dress up, whilst the likes of Frankie Howerd, Russell Harty, Trevor Brooking and Paul McCartney all make appearances. If you’re able to access it, then you can watch the programme via the iPlayer.

There’s an episode of Sink or Swim at 9:15 pm on BBC1. It’s a repeat of S01E04 (original tx ,1st January 1981) which will serve as a curtain raiser for the new series of Doctor Who, that kicks off next Monday.

ITV offers Coronation Street (where,  according to the TV Times, there’s not a lot of sweetness and light at the Rovers). In addition to the bickering at the Rovers, the relationship between Mike and Deirdre has just begun to simmer (although it won’t come to the boil until the new year).

And that’s about it for today. I’ll have to dig out a book I think ….

Back to December 1982 (28th December 1982)

There’s a silver Christmas tree behind Mike Read, so it must be the Pop Quiz festive special. Team captain David Essex is joined by Mari Wilson and Leo Sayer who face down opposing team captain Hank Marvin as well as Captain Sensible and Duran Duran’s John Taylor (cue deafening screams from the female audience when he’s introduced and any time he gets a question right).

After this febrile Pop Quiz atmosphere, it’s good to relax with something a little more sedate – namely highlights of the 1982 Snooker World Championship. Although Alex Higgins (no stranger to bad behaviour) was involved, for once he kept his emotions in check until after the final ball was potted to claim an improbable second world title (ten years after his first). Rather delightfully, today’s programme is available in full on YouTube.

Next up it’ll be The Kenny Everett Television Show. Geoffrey Palmer, Janet Street Porter, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Terry Wogan, Lulu, Billy Connolly, Barry Cryer, Russell Harty and Pamela Stephenson all pop up – which is good going for a 30 minute show.

From ITV, I’ll take Way out West (I always tend to associate Laurel & Hardy from this era with the BBC, so it’s a slight surprise to see them on ITV).  The other ITV pick today will be John Wells’ Anyone for Denis? at 8:45 pm.

Treasure Hunt debuts on C4. They didn’t take the easy way out with this first episode – deciding on an O.B. from Bali. But (unless they were all cut out) technical glitches were minimal. Stop the clock!

Back To Christmas 1982 (27th December 1982)

It’s a quiet day for me on BBC1 and BBC2, but The Funny Side of Christmas will be a must watch. Had it aired on the 25th then they could have revived the Christmas Night With The Stars name (indeed, given the talent involved it’s slightly remarkable that it didn’t take pole position on the big day).

Hosted by the incredibly avuncular Frank Muir, it features newly recorded bite-sized treats from many of the BBC’s comedy favourites. Most were still in production at the time, the one major exception being The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin which had finished in 1979. That the whole cast were happy to reassemble for this five minute skit says a great deal about their positive feelings for the show.

Some (Yes Minister) are short but sweet, lasting for less than two minutes whilst Smith & Jones are given a generous eight minutes (in their first post NTNOCN sketch appearance). All this plus the likes of Butterflies, Last of the Summer Wine, Open All Hours, Only Fools and Horses, Cissie and Ada ….

Luckily it doesn’t clash with The Morecambe & Wise Show on ITV. It’s slightly sad that, post BBC, the show’s no longer a Christmas night fixture but the formula remains the same. Tonight, amongst other treats, Robert Hardy will demonstrate his dancing skills. Given how familiar some of the BBC festive specials are, these days I do enjoy sampling the less well known treats of the Thames era – some of the rehashes don’t work as well as they did first time round, but overall the series deserves a little more love than it receives.

Earlier on ITV, there’s the big Bond movie premiere – Moonraker. Some people dislike Moonraker, but we don’t need to worry about them. Yes, it’s got very little to do with Ian Fleming but if I want to enjoy Ian Fleming’s James Bond then I’ll pick up one of his books. This is just the sort of entertainment you want at this time of year – plenty of action, bad jokes and Roger Moore being Roger Moore. Perfect.

Back to Christmas 1982 (26th December 1982)

Post Christmas over-indulgence, what does today has to offer? Well, there’s Two-Way Stretch on BBC2 for starters. Another entry in the Sellers over Christmas season, this brisk early sixties film saw Peter Sellers joined by Bernard Cribbins, Lionel Jeffries, Wilfrid Hyde White and David Lodge (not to mention a supporting cast full of familiar faces). Good stuff, and just the sort of thing to while away a quiet afternoon.

He-De-Hi!‘s Christmas special (Eruptions) didn’t quite make the grade for Christmas Day, but it’s been given a plum spot on the 26th. Highlight of the episode has to be Jeff and Gladys’ enforced night spent in the Three Bears’ Cottage. As I’ve said before, nobody could squirm quite like Simon Cadell and both he and the recently departed Ruth Madoc are on fine form here.

Over on ITV there’s Pop Goes Christmas to enjoy (rather oddly given an early timeslot of 4:45 pm).  It has a mixture of oh-so 1982 acts (Mari Wilson, Toto Coelo, Musical Youth) and others (Dexys Midnight Runners, David Essex) who’ve managed to last slightly younger. Some tackle Christmas classics (Dexys’ version of Merry Christmas Everyone and Toyah’s I Believe In Father Christmas are two standouts) whilst others perform their hits from earlier in the the year (although Mari Wilson indulges in a spot of lyric re-writing to give her hit a more festive tinge).

David Essex, with A Winter’s Tale, has a current Christmas song, of course, and it gets another airing today (having already enjoyed a prime slot yesterday with The Two Ronnies).

Back to Christmas 1982 (25th December 1982)

Merry Christmas!

First stop today will be the festive Top of the Pops. A gaggle of R1 jocks are on hand to introduce some of this year’s top tunes. Highlights include a pantomimic Land of Make Believe by Bucks Fizz that has to be seen to be believed, Dexys Midnight Runners with Come on Eileen (although they didn’t dress up, alas) and Soft Cell with Torch.

BBC1 continues to offer solid entertainment later with The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Last of the Summer Wine and The Two Ronnies Christmas Show. Paul Daniels welcomes a gaggle of stars onto his show, most of whom (apart from Rolf Harris) would still be welcome guests today. Kenneth Williams is given the opportunity to shine with a very dramatic monologue (he seems to have enjoyed himself, although his diaries might tell a different story) and Patrick Moore (plus Barry Took) are on hand to assist the final illusion which sees a rather wobbly space rocket, containing the lovely Debbie McGee, venturing a few feet off the ground.

Today’s Last of the Summer Wine (All Mod Conned) is only a half hour effort, but on the plus side that means it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Foggy attempts to organise a holiday trip which (as you might expect) doesn’t run that smoothly ….

The Two Ronnies are on traditional form, although the show lacks the customary opening and closing links, which is a little jarring. Elsewhere it’s business as usual though, with an entertaining Chas & Dave skit (mind you, some of the extras seem more enthused than others).  The Sid & George sketch always delivers, thanks to John Sullivan’s writing, and the final film sketch has a festive tinge (and a guest appearance from Brigit Forsyth). All this, plus David Essex singing A Winter’s Tale.

There might be time to squeeze in the Agatha Christie film Death on the Nile, although as it’s a pretty busy day it might have to be taped on the VCR for later viewing.

BBC1’s offering so many delights today, that there won’t be much time for ITV or C4, but Chas & Dave’s Christmas Knees-up will go on the list as will Olivier’s Richard III (although like Death on the Nile I might defer the viewing for another, quieter, day).

Back to Christmas 1982 (24th December 1982)

There’s a short season of Peter Sellers films to enjoy this Christmas, beginning today with I’m Alright Jack on BBC2. That’ll certainly go on the list as it’s an evergreen favourite that still has a satirical bite today (and the cast – including Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser and John Le Mesurier – aren’t too shabby either).

I’ll stick with BBC2 for a repeat of K9 & Company. I don’t really approve of ‘guilty pleasures’ – something’s either a pleasure or not – but I have to admit that I’ve rewatched this many more times than is really sensible. Ignoring (or indeed cherishing) its many faults is all part of the fun.

At 8:40 on BBC1 there’s Christmas With Terry & June, which will be my last pick today on the BBC.

ITV’s offering a repeat of The GoodiesSnow White 2. By this point, The Goodies’ brief association with Thames had already come to an end – a shame as the run of episodes had been pretty strong. Next up is The Stanley Baxter Hour. Like The Goodies, Baxter would eventually fall foul of ITV (also for cost reasons – his shows simply became too expensive for them) but for now he’s one of the jewels in their crown. Never as high profile as Morecambe & Wise or Benny Hill, Baxter always delivered though – and if the scripts weren’t always that sharp, his performances were.

I’ll round off today with a real oddity on C4 – The Curious Case of Santa Claus. Starring James Coco and Jon Pertwee and written by Bob Larbey it’s well worth a look.

Back to November 1982 (25th November 1982)

I’ll be kicking off the evening with TOTP. Not a classic edition but studio performances by Talk Talk (Talk Talk) and A Flock of Seagulls (Wishing If I Had a Photograph of You) ensure that it’s not a total write-off.

From then on, it’s sitcoms all the way. There’s an embarrassment of riches tonight, beginning with Only When I Laugh and Shelley on ITV. Then it’ll be over to BBC1 for Only Fools and Horses before the highlight of the evening (both mine and Stan’s) which is Yes Minister on BBC2.

Tonight’s episode is The Skeleton in the Cupboard and offers Jim the satisfaction of gaining the upper hand over Sir Humphrey. The episode has two plotlines which are only tenuously connected (either could have worked just as well in another episode without the other) but when there’s so many quotable lines flying about, I’m not too concerned about plotting. To give just two examples ….

Sir Humphrey Appleby: If local authorities don’t send us the statistics that we ask for, then government figures will be a nonsense.
Jim Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: They will be incomplete.
Jim Hacker: But government figures are a nonsense anyway.
Bernard Woolley: I think Sir Humphrey want to ensure they are a complete nonsense.

Jim Hacker: Bernard, how did Sir Humphrey know I was with Dr. Cartwright?
Bernard Woolley: God moves in a mysterious way.
Jim Hacker: Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Humphrey is not God, OK?
Bernard Woolley: Will you tell him or shall I?

The first storyline concerns a local council which has attracted Sir Humphrey’s ire (because they never send their paperwork back to the DAA). This hasn’t stopped them from becoming the most efficient council in the country though, but that’s something which cuts no ice with a bureaucratic mandarin like Sir Humphrey.

Jim is reluctant to censure the council simply because they can’t fill in forms, but he’s pressured by Sir Humphrey to do so. Jim seems to have no choice, but then a gift (evidence of Sir Humphrey’s incompetence from thirty years ago) is dropped into his lap. This is the cue for some exquisite squirming from Nigel Hawthorne as he reluctantly confesses all (equally good as ever, of course, is Paul Eddington as we see Jim delight in twisting the knife).

It’s difficult to say that Hawthorne didn’t deserve the four BAFTAs he won for Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, but it’s a bitter irony that Paul Eddington had to lose out to his colleague on each occasion (in the years that Hawthorne won, Eddington was always also nominated). If Jim and Sir Humphrey were a double act, then you could say that Eddington tended to play the feed at times (but though he had the less showy role, he was always excellent value). Indeed, one of the pleasures of rewatching the series is simply to appreciate just how good they both were.

Back to November 1982 (24th November 1982)

Tonight I’ll be catching To The Manor Born and Dallas on BBC1. To The Manor Born was incredibly popular at the time (the final episode in 1981 pulled in a staggering 27 million viewers) but it hasn’t retained the same profile today. The fact it doesn’t get re-run has something to do with this, of course. The performances are the thing which still engage the interest – especially Penelope Keith as the horrendous and self-centered Audrey fforbes-Hamilton. It’s Keith’s skill (not to mention the more sympathetic characters played by Peter Bowles and Angela Thorne) which ensures that Audrey is more than a one-dimensional snob. Although there are times when I have to confess I find her very irritating ….

I’ve been meaning to make a real dent in my Dallas boxset for some time, so maybe dipping into this episode will provide the spark to get me going. Possibly yet another programme to add to the 2023 pending rewatch pile.

I’ll set the VHS to record M*A*S*H on BBC2 whilst I switch over to ITV for The Morecambe & Wise Show and Minder. It’s noticeable how peak time repeats (today it’s To The Manor Born and Minder) are quite common in this era. Patricia Brake and Ruth Madoc are Eric and Ernie’s guests today. As I’ve said before, I think the Thames era deserves a little more love than it generally receives – yes, the rehashes of old scripts do become very noticeable at times (as in this episode) but the BBC series also did this from time to time (hello, Greig’s piano concerto).

All Mod Cons (S02E08, original tx 30th October 1980) is today’s Minder repeat. Toyah Wilcox guests as Kate, with Michael Robbins, Simon Cadell, Tony Osoba and Harry Towb also featuring. My thoughts on this one can be found here.

Back to November 1982 (22nd November 1982)

Up first this evening is Angels, and an episode from the series’ penultimate run. I’ve yet to find Angels‘ reformat into the ‘soap’ format (2 x 25 minute episodes each week) that engrossing, although maybe I’ve yet to give it a fair chance. It’s another of those series that I need to really find the time to watch consistently in sequence. Maybe it’ll be another one to attempt next year. I’ll add it to the list ….

BBC2 offers a Grange Hill repeat from series five, originally broadcast earlier in the year. It’s this one, which continues the harsher tone that’s quite noticeable this year. I’ve no doubt touched upon this before, but it’s interesting to wonder just how much input GH‘s producer (this year was Susi Hush’s sole year in charge) had in the direction of the series. Possibly the scripts had already been locked down before she arrived, but the emergence of Gripper as Roland’s nemesis throughout series five was something new for the series (previously, bullies had tended to restrict their reign of terror for only a few episodes).

The Further Adventures of Lucky Jim is on at 9.00 pm. Given that it was written by Clement and Le Frenais it’s a curiously forgotten sitcom, although it’s true that the pair do have a number of equally obscure entries in their back catalogue. It’s certainly worth checking out, even if it’s easy to initially miss that the series was set in the late sixties. Today’s episode can be found here.

Over on ITV, it’ll just be Coronation Street for me.

 

Back to 1982 – 12th August 1982

Pick of the evening (especially as it’s not a repeat) is Top of the Pops. What were the top pop tunes forty years ago today? Let’s see ….

We’re into the Michael Hurll era, which means it’s almost non-stop party time in the TOTP studio. Well, there’s one little ray of gloom – John Peel, who’s on solo presenting duty today and is his usual phlegmatic self.

Toto Coelo with I Eat Cannibals kick off proceedings. Dressed in shockingly bright colours it’s certainly an energetic start. Thankfully things get a little more moody when the lights go down and the dry ice begins to seep in as Yazoo with Don’t Go take to the stage. Top tune, it has to be said.

It’s now time for a spot of footage of the Boys Town Gang taken from the Dutch TOTP imitator, Top Pop. If you like camp, you’ll love this. Then it’s back to the TOTP studio for The Associates and 18 Carat Love Affair.

A packed show today, as Sheena Easton is next up with Machinery (a song I have no memory of, but since it only peaked at no 38 that’s quite understandable). She’s looking very stylish in a 1982 way.

Time to ramp up the party atmosphere once again with Haysi Fantayzee and John Wayne Is Big Leggy. The lyrics are slightly saucy, but presumably nobody cared (or realised). The Wikipedia page about the song leaves nothing to the imagination though.

Wavelength with Hurry Home. Another one of those songs I have no memory of at all but you have to admit they’re very smartly dressed.

After that slow song, Zoo and a group of Moroccan tumblers (“I never drink from anything else” says JP) are on hand to fling themselves around to Kool and the Gang. Then it’s the Fun Boy Three with their unique take on Summertime

One of the stars of Minder had already had his own taste of TOTP glory. Dennis Waterman, fronting the Dennis Waterman Band (good name), hit the heights with I Could Be So Good For You. Not content with that, in 1983 Waterman would join forces with George Cole for the unforgettable What Are We Gonna Get for ‘Er Indoors?

But 1982, in terms of Minder records, belonged to The Film with their (presumably) unofficial but nonetheless heartfelt Arthur Daley (E’s Alright). Sounding very Chas and Dave-ish, it’s one of those novelty songs I loved at the time and I still love now.

And that just leaves the No 1 – which remains Dexys Midnight Runners and Come On Eileen. A nice performance (dungarees and fiddles to the fore of course) although it’s a shame that the end titles run over it.

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Elsewhere today there’s another Laurel & Hardy (Chickens Come Home) on BBC2 and a couple of ITV repeats – Robin’s Nest and Thriller – that’ll go on the list. The Thriller episode (I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill – original tx 18th March 1974) features a menacing performance from Robert Lang as a silent killer with Julie Sommars as his potential next victim (Tony Selby, Ken Jones and Anthony Steel also feature).

(David Soul is today’s eye puzzler).

Back to 1982 – 10th August 1982

The repeats continue to come thick and fast. First I’ll be tuning in for Hi-De-Hi! (Lift up Your Minds) in which Jeffrey Fairbrother decides to expand the camper’s minds with a selection of classical music. This, as you might expect, doesn’t go down well ….

Simon Cadell always gave exquisite squirm, and today’s episode is a prime example. I’ve no doubt said this before, but most Croft/Perry and Croft/Lloyd sitcoms tended to run on too long, with their later years weakened by a number of departures/recastings. Hi-De-Hi! was never the same post-Fairbrother, even though Clive Dempster was a decent character (and thankfully wasn’t designed as a Fairbrother clone).

Next is the final episode of Private Shultz. Jack Pulman’s script is a delight as are the central performances of Michael Elphick and Ian Richardson (this episode also features Billie Whitelaw and Cyril Shaps amongst others). Next job is to track down the novelization.

There’s another Laurel and Hardy (Hog Wild) on BBC2, so that’ll go on the list as well. Not too much else I can access (Streets of San Francisco, maybe). If I could choose anything, then Turns with Jimmy Perry on BBC2 and Playhouse: The Glory Hole on ITV both look intriguing.

(Today’s mystery eyes belong to Arthur Negus – bit of an easy one that).

Back to 1982 – 9th August 1982

Not a lot that’s sourceable on BBC1 today. I might watch tune into Doctor Who and the Monsters for nostalgia’s sake – even though Earthshock is one of those stories that really grates on me these days (the plot, such as it is, is full of holes that I find hard to ignore).

BBC2 is a happier hunting ground. There’s tea-time Laurel and Hardy whilst later a repeat of The Paul Daniels Magic Show will definitely go on the list. Today Paul welcomes Reveen the Impossiblist with his Chess Magic, Mr Electric (the magician who beat the Energy Crisis) and Ray Dondy with his crazy diving skills. If that’s not entertainment then I don’t know what is.

Moving to ITV, an afternoon Van Der Valk repeat is a possible. VDV is a series I’m always surprised to find that I don’t enjoy more – all the building blocks are there (good central performance from Barry Foster, the usual roster of familiar faces guesting) but often the stories are just a little humdrum. Maybe today’s effort will surprise me though.

The blurb for this evening’s Coronation Street (courtesy of Stan Sayer) sounds intriguing. Alf Roberts off to watch a blue film? I’m in.

I’ll round off the evening with Arthur Lowe in A.J. Wentworth B.A. Broadcast after Arthur Lowe’s death in April 1982, the series always had a melancholy feel for that reason. It’s certainly not Lowe at his best, but I felt obligated to watch it forty years ago out of respect, so I think I’ll honour that feeling again today.

(And for those wondering, the eyes belong to John Alderton).

Back to May 1986 (22nd May 1986)

It doesn’t look like a classic Top of the Pops line-up tonight, but it’ll give me a good snapshot of musical tastes from mid 1986, so it’s going on the list.

The Clairvoyant on BBC2 will also be worth a look. The combination of the two Roys (Clarke and Kinnear) promised much and whilst you didn’t have to be a mind reader (sorry) to have predicted that this sitcom wouldn’t have a long run, it’s still amusing enough.

ITV offers Never the Twain. It’s a sitcom which ran for an incredibly long time and was sustained throughout its life almost entirely by the larger than life performances of Windsor Davies and Donald Sinden. They could always be guaranteed to make something out of the most predictable situations.

I’ll round the evening off with the 1983 American TV movie version of A Caribbean Mystery.  I’m rather fond of all the 1980’s US Agatha Christie TVMs and whilst it’s obvious that Helen Hayes was no Joan Hickson, on her own terms she makes for an appealing Miss Marple.

Most of the US Christie TVMs of this era feature impressive supporting casts (for example, the other Helen Hayes Marple mystery has Bette Davis, Leo McKern, Dorothy Tutin and John Mills amongst others) but A Caribbean Mystery is a bit bereft in this respect, although the likes of Bernard Hughes, Brock Peters and George Innes do feature.

Back to May 1986 (20th May 1986)

Once again, the number of prime time repeats rather surprises me. My recollection of this era tended to confine re-runs mostly to July and August (a dead couple of months,  which saw the impatient viewer counting down the days before the exciting new season launched in September).

One Arabian Night is the Terry and June episode on offer. Written by Colin Bostock-Smith, it’s a politically incorrect half hour – Derek Griffiths guests as an Arab Prince who takes a shine to June and offers to buy her for fifty camels.

We’re on firmer ground with Juliet Bravo (The Day The Circus Left Town). The Kenny Everett Show is also worth a look – it’s a re-run from the third series, so the strike rate is still pretty high (the show tended to tail off somewhat during the next few years).

Over on ITV there’s Duty Free – a series that was incredibly popular at the time (even displacing Coronation Street at the top of the ratings) although didn’t seem to generate an equal amount of love. Even today, it’s seen as a lesser part of the Eric Chappell canon – but I’ve always loved it. Very studio-bound, it has the feel of a stage farce which is one of the reasons why I’ve always found it appealing. When the Christmas Special went to Spain for location filming it seemed to kill the comedy stone dead, which suggests that the artificiality of studio VT work can sometimes be a positive.

And if there’s time I’ll catch a bit more of Edward and Mrs Simpson.

Back to May 1986 (16th May 1986)

The randomiser has taken me back to 1986, to sample a week’s television. What does Friday the 16th of May offer? Let’s take a look ….

BBC1 offers a repeat of Home and Dry, the final episode from Big Deal’s first series (watching this might spur me into attempting a complete rewatch). There’s more repeats on ITV – Me and My Girl and Home to Roost. Me and My Girl isn’t greeted with much enthusiasm by the Daily Mirror blurb writer, Tony Pratt (who also seems unaware that the show had already clocked up three series by this point) but you can’t argue with the combined talents of O’Sullivan, Brooke-Taylor and Sanderson.

Home to Roost isn’t a sitcom that’s ever really clicked with me (which is surprising, since I’ve always enjoyed most of Eric Chappell’s output). Maybe time to give it another go and see if it’s more engaging this time round.

The undoubted pick of the evening is Quo Vadis, Pet, the final episode of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet‘s second series. At the time this seemed to be the final end (although it’s slightly disturbing to realise that the first comeback series aired twenty years ago. Where has that time gone?)

The second series, of course, was overshadowed by the death of Gary Horton – especially towards the end of the run when his absence had to be explained away by a double passing through shot or amended dialogue. Despite this, all of the series’ remaining story threads are neatly tied up and even if the second half of series two did sag a little, I’d have to say it slightly edges the first run as my favourite.