Howards’ Way – Series Introduction


Having recently been watching The Brothers (my posts about series three and four can be found here and here) I’ve had a hankering to rewatch the other soapy series co-created by Gerald Glaister, Howards’ Way.

Given how popular The Brothers had been, it wasn’t surprising that Glaister would eventually try his hand again at something similar (this time with Allan Prior as his co-creator).  There are clear parallels between the shows – the way that personal and business matters continually clash, for example – but there are also some notable differences.

Since Howards’ Way was a creature of the mid eighties, it’s not surprising that it has a strong air of conspicuous consumption – after all we’re deep in the heart of the Thatcher era, where a self-made entrepreneur was a most desirable thing to be.  And that’s one of the major differences between Howards’ Way and The Brothers – both Tom and Jan Howard start their business adventures pretty much from scratch, meaning that we’re with them as they try to make something happen (in Jan’s case she has a remarkable transformation from housewife to successful fashion designer, which is more a little hard to swallow.  This is something I’m sure to come back to …)

Contrast this to the Hammonds in The Brothers, who are the complete opposite of self-made.  They inherited the business from their late father, so all of the initial groundwork has been done for them – the drama comes from the conflicting dynamic between the three brothers as they squabble for supremacy.

Howard’s Way also has a glossier feel.  As it arrived in the wake of both Dallas and Dynasty, it’s easy to imagine this was the BBC’s attempt to mount something similar – so power-dressing, complete with shoulder pads and (worst of all) jackets with rolled up sleeves are to the fore.  The yachts and marinas of Tarrant provide the series with a visually pleasing gloss, a far cry from the grimy lorry depot where much of The Brothers was set.

Mmm.  Co-creator Allan Prior had worked on Blakes 7, I wonder if that could have provided the inspiration for naming the town Tarrant?

Before we get into the series posts, let’s take a look at the main characters.

Tom Howard (Maurice Colbourne).  He starts the series at a crossroads in his life – recently redundant, he’s pondering what to do with the rest of his life.  When he makes his decision it’s not one that pleases …

Jan Howard (Jan Harvey), Tom’s wife.  Tom’s decision to put all his redundancy money into a venture which Jan regards as risky in the extreme increases the pressure on their already rocky marriage.  Jan decides that she needs to find a job for herself, which moves her into the welcoming arms of ….

Ken Masters (Stephen Yardley).  You’ve got to love Ken.  As we’ll see, he gets kicked around by everyone else, but still manages to cling on, just.

Tom’s redundancy money is burning a hole in his pocket.  He decides to invest it in the Mermaid Yard, run by the bluff alcoholic Jack Rolfe (Glyn Owen).  Jack, like Ken, provides a great deal of the entertainment throughout the series.  The parameters of Jack’s character are set up right from the start – he’s a traditionalist at heart, to him boats should be made of wood (anything else just isn’t right).  Tom’s injection of funds comes at just the right time, as the Mermaid Yard is in dire financial straits, something which is apparent to Jack’s daughter ….

Avril Rolfe (Susan Gilmore).  It doesn’t take long before she and Tom are making eyes at each other.  This causes concern for his children ….

Leo (Edward Highmore) and Lynne (Tracey Childs).  Bless them, neither are particularly well-written parts (although Highmore stuck it out for all seventy eight episodes, Childs for about half that).  Leo is keen on the environment and Lynne is keen on the Flying Fish (all will become clear as the series progresses).

Charles Frere (Tony Anholt) doesn’t make an appearance until a few episodes in, but once he does the series shifts up a gear.  He’s Howards’ Way’s JR, a ruthless and successful businessman who thinks nothing of crushing the less fortunate under his feet.  Essentially, Charles is everything that Ken Masters wishes he was but so obviously isn’t – which means that any time Charles and Ken attempt to do business it’s a treat.

Charles’s right-hand man is Gerald Urquhart (Ivor Danvers), locked into a loveless marriage with the self-obsessed Polly (Patricia Shakesby).  Polly and Jan are best friends, whilst Leo would clearly like to be more than best friends with Gerald and Polly’s daughter ….

Abby (Cindy Shelly).  By the end of the final series her character had totally changed, but here she’s in her initial setting – sullen, withdrawn and deeply unhappy.

So join me next time as we take a look at episode one, which sees Tom drops a bombshell ….


Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode One

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Tom’s boat – the Flying Fish – wins the Commodores Cup. The whole family are delighted but their joy is pretty short-lived as Tom drops a bombshell. He’s been made redundant ….

The extent of the Howard’s victory feast (including lashings of champagne) is an obvious pointer that they’re well off – but for how much longer?  It’s hard to feel too sorry for them though (Boys from the Blackstuff this isn’t). Perhaps they could sell a few paintings (unless they’re all reproductions) or even the house and then downsize.

It’s interesting to see how the others process this news. Jan feels betrayed that Tom didn’t tell her earlier and then reacts with horror when he raises the possibility of a job overseas. How could she leave Tarrant and her friends and family? Jan doesn’t come over very well here I’m afraid, as she appears to be completely self-centered.

Maybe it runs in the family as Lynne is quite similar. Although she finds the news upsetting, as long as she can sail the Flying Fish she’ll be quite happy. Uh oh …

Meanwhile Leo decides that he doesn’t want to go to university and would much sooner get a job instead. Edward Highmore’s performance is often as wooden as Jack Rolfe’s beloved boats, but since Leo was initally written as somewhat gauche, it’s not entirely his fault.

We also meet Jack and Avril. Jack’s aware that the Mermaid Yard is in deep financial trouble, but Miwcawber-like simply assumes that something will turn up. Avril, desperately trying to dig her father out of his financial mess, finds it hard to be so calm.

Jack needs a hundred thousand pounds to keep the yard afloat, Tom has his redundancy money. It’s a perfect solution, at least to Jack. Avril’s appalled – how can they ask him to risk all his money in a business that still may go bust?

Our first sight of Ken Masters is a hoot. Jan rings him up to arrange a meeting (she already works for him two days a week and hopes he’ll agree to her going full time). He’s in bed (bare-chested, medallion on display) with a shapely blonde by his side. He tells his blonde companion not to worry, Jan Howard’s no competion – she’s just a housewife. How wrong can one man be.

We learn that Avril has a broken heart (she cuts a folorn figure, lying all alone in her bed in a rather attractive pair of pyjamas) but perks up when she runs into Tom for the first time in years. Meanwhile, Ken is clearly interested in Jan. It’s not hard to guess the direction the series will go in, but there’s still some unexpected twists and turns ahead ….

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).

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Three

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After storming out of the house, Tom comes back and briefly – for a matter of seconds – there seems to be some possibility of rapprochement between him and Jan.  But when he tells her that he’s gone ahead and sunk all his savings into the Mermaid Yard they sail back into choppy waters …..

If Jan’s upset, then Lynne’s devastated to hear that the Flying Fish will have to be sold.  Cue tears and smudged mascara – for Lynne it seems that the world has ended.  She continues to pout away later after Tom learns that she’s got herself a job at the yacht club bar (he’s not pleased).

Leo is persuaded by Polly to escort an unwilling Abby to a glittering (for Tarrant anyway) society party.  I like the way that Polly is pathetically grateful to Leo for taking on this difficult task.  It’s also notable that despite the fact it only appears to be late afternoon, Polly has a drink in her hand.  Howards’ Way, like The Brothers, runs on alcohol.

Jack Rolfe practically lives in the pub, although most of the other characters also tend to have a drink close by most of the time.  For example, when Jan and Tom are going at each other hammer and tongs, Leo attempts to diffuse the situation by asking his mother if she’d like another drink.

Abby doesn’t want to go the party, so she and Leo have a quiet drink instead (see what I mean?!).  Leo is the first person we’ve seen so far who takes the time to listen to her, even though she remains withdrawn and guarded.

Tom arrives at the Mermaid Yard but isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms.  Apart from Jack’s ever-loyal factotum Bill Sayers (Robert Vahey), the workers at the yard tended to be fairly anonymous, although occasionally – beginning here – there was an effort made to turn some of them into characters.

Most notable amongst them is Davy Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), who has to face an inevitable trickle of racial abuse from his fellow workers.  Ghir was right at the start of his career (only a couple of appearances in Tucker’s Luck pre-dated his turn as Davy).  Later he’d be a regular in Goodness Gracious Me and would rack up a score of other credits, most recently appearing as Cyril in Still Open All Hours.

You have to love Jack’s optimism (expressed later to Bill) that it’s going to be easy to manipulate and sideline Tom.  Surely he’s realised by now that Tom’s not going to be a pushover?  Bill’s worried that he’ll want to change everything, bringing in new fangled computers and the like.

Jack and Bill are traditionalists – but we’re not invited to view this as necessarily a good thing.  Jack mutters that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to do a job (quality is all important) but it’s plain that Bill is shiftily aware that there’s long been a culture of inefficiency at the yard.  So in some ways Tom, with his crusading zeal, is a Thatcherite new-man, keen to start operating more effectively and efficiently.  But he’s not being totally unreasonable, since his plans are obviously in the interests of Jack, Bill and all the rest (otherwise the yard will go under and everyone will be out of a job).

It’s been touched upon before that Jack married his wife in order to gain control of the yard, but it’s restated here by Avril – and with the bleak caveat that she died possibly because Jack was such a terrible husband or possibly because of cancer.  It follows that Avril should despise him, but that’s not the case.  If Jack loathed his wife then he loves his daughter and when he loves something, he commits totally.

We meet Jan’s mother, the always sensible Kate Harvey (Dulcie Gray), for the first time.  Unlike Mary Hammond, the matriarch of The Brothers, Kate is much more down to earth and approachable.  From now until the end of series six she can often be guaranteed to pop up in order to dispense a dose of good old-fashioned common sense (her close encounter with Jack in a few episodes time is a treat).

There might have been a hint in the previous episode that Abby was contemplating suicide.  When she steps off the train with Polly, there’s a second or two where she lingers – just staring at the railway tracks.  Was this intended to signify an unconscious (or otherwise) urge to throw herself underneath an oncoming train?  It’s a subtle touch if so, but even if it wasn’t intentional, her hesitancy still suggests that she’s a deeply troubled young woman.

The end of episode cliffhanger, as she plunges into the sea, amply demonstrates this.


Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Four


Episode four opens where the previous one left off, with Abby floundering in the sea.  Luckily Leo is at hand and fishes her out.  When he mutters to the coughing and spluttering girl that her misadventure “was a bit stupid, wasn’t it?” you have to admire his powers of understatement.

Although Abby is grateful to Leo, she still won’t tell him what’s troubling her – which is reasonable enough as it’s the sort of plotline that should (and will) run across multiple episodes.  But we do learn a little more about her wretched homelife and how she feels totally unloved by both her parents (as well as the fact that given Polly’s generosity in spreading her favours, Abby isn’t even sure whether her father is actually her father).

Abby tells Leo that when she was young she kept a diary and logged all the time she spent with her father.  When she added it up it came to seventeen hours over the course of two years.  She’s spent much more time in her mother’s company, but that’s probably more of a curse than a blessing.  Abby is convinced that her mother doesn’t love her (something which Polly is happy to admit to others later).  Abby tells her mother that “you don’t even like me. You can’t show me off, you can’t wear me, so I’m useless to you.”

Tensions continue to simmer away in the Howard household.  Tom demonstrates quite clearly that he’s an unreconstructed male after he’s more than a little put out to find out that Jan’s been too busy working to get the evening meal ready.  Luckily Kate comes to the rescue, but no-one ever stops to ask if possibly Tom could have lent a hand.  Given this stifling pressure, it’s a wonder Jan hasn’t reacted against being a housewife and mother before.

Whilst I love Maurice Colbourne, he sometimes feels a little out of place in the series.  Possibly it’s got something to do with the fact that his voice had considerable power and gravitas, so when he’s arguing about relatively trivial matters (such as who should cook dinner) it feels a little jarring.  As Tom and Jan launch into yet another argument, Leo pops his head round the kitchen door.  Leo’s supposed to register dismay and disgust, but Edward Highmore doesn’t quite manage this (although he does pull a strange face and exits).  Perhaps another take would have been advisable.

Lynn’s looking for another boat to crew on, now that the Flying Fish has been sold.  The ultra smooth Phil Norton (Anthony Head) could be the answer to all her problems, but by the way he’s eyeing her up and down it’s plain that it’s not her sailing ability he’s interested in.  Elsewhere, you have to admire Tracey Childs’ hardy nature – wearing a bikini in a scene that was doubtless scripted as the height of summer, but instead looks rather chilly.

It’s always fun when Jack’s on the warpath.  He and Bill continue to grouse about Tom poking his nose into every aspect of the yard’s business but that’s merely a prelude – Tom, backed by Avril, explains that he wants to design a fast cruising, ultra light displacement boat.  Jack’s baffled – how can you build a boat like that out of timber?  Tom agrees and tells him that it’ll be a high-tech cord-structured hull.

The blue touchpaper is ignited and you can stand back and watch the fireworks.  Build a boat that’s not made out of wood in the Mermaid yard?  Over Jack’s dead body. “I’ll see this yard in hell and me with it before I have anything at all to do with them”.  Colbourne and Owen are on fine form here and whilst it seems inevitable that Jack will have to bow to common sense eventually, there’s the promise of more fun and games to come.


Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Five

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Jack’s still stomping about the yard in a right strop.  Avril attempts to talk some sense into him but has no more joy than Tom did (both Susan Gilmore and Glyn Owen play this short scene at full throttle).  And then Jack disappears ….

Avril knows what will happen next, whenever her father is upset he goes on a drinking spree (last time he ended up in a police cell).  This time he doesn’t fall into the hands of the police, instead Kate’s the (un)lucky one who runs into him.

Not literally though, although it’s a close run thing.  Jack’s staggering down the middle of the road whilst Kate is driving home.  After avoiding crashing into him, she forthrightly berates his stupidity (blind drunk, he earlier dumped his car into a ditch) and his lack of manners.  Glyn Owen and Dulcie Gray are wonderful here with Owen giving us some magnificent drunk acting (telling Kate slowly and deliberately that he had to swerve to avoid a hedgehog in the road, Kate acidly wonders if it was actually a pink elephant!).

She takes pity on him and gives him a bed for the night.  He pours out his troubles to her (he’s unable to pour himself any more drinks though, Kate puts a stop to that) although Kate is unaware that the hated partner he describes in such loving detail is actually her son-in-law.  Tarrant’s a small place ….

If you want more evidence of this, then earlier we saw Jack nearly collide with Leo’s bike.  Later, Leo tells Avril about his close encounter and he volunteers to help her try and find him.  Just seconds before, Leo confides to his chum Nick (Tim Faulkner) that he tends to obsess over unobtainable women.  And then Avril turns up.

We’ve seen Leo make googly eyes at Avril in an earlier episode, so his continuing unrequited passion is pretty obvious.  Poor Avril remains oblivious though, simply treating young Leo with kindness (he listens to her troubles and she gives him a peck on the cheek for being a good listener).  But it’s plain that if Leo expects anything more he’s going to be disappointed.

More sexual frustration is on show later after Nick walks Lynne home and forces himself on her (unlike Leo he’s not content with a goodnight kiss).  Poor Lynne, she does have to fend off more than her fair share of lusty admirers although some, like Nick, bitterly know that they’ve little chance of making any headway with her since they don’t own a boat.

This leads into one of the series’ most famous lines (or infamous, depending on your point of view).  Lynne tells her father about Nick and she agrees about being boat-obsessed.  “I don’t think I could ever love a man as much as I love the Flying Fish”.  Well done to Tracy Childs for keeping a straight face.

Our next port of call for sexual frustration sees us over at Ken’s place, where Dawn is more than a little miffed to learn that Ken’s taking Jan out to dinner (Tom’s none too pleased about it either).  Both Ken and Jan are togged up to the nines, Ken in a white dinner jacket and Jan in a backless dress.  Dawn wonders what she’s going to do all evening by herself, Ken tells her that he’s bought her some new videos.  Dawn responds that she doesn’t fancy watching blue movies on her own, but Ken counters that it might get her in the mood for later.  The dirty dog!

Ken and Jan’s meal goes swimmingly.  Jan tells him that rather than expanding into general marine goods they should specialise – designer yachting clothes for the well-off.  Ken is a little dismissive (muttering that Jan might read Vogue, but she’s no fashion expert) but the seeds have been sown.  And later they dance a tango for good measure.

Finally there’s a release of sexual frustration as Jan returns home, changes into a most becoming negligée and manages rapprochement with Tom.  Although the fact she later tells him that it wasn’t the meal with Ken which put her in the mood somewhat puts a damper on things. Any mention of Ken grates on Tom since he’s no lover of medallion men.

Away from this thriving hotbed of repressed and not-so repressed feelings, Abby continues to feel isolated.  She does manage a fairly decent conversation with her mother, but it doesn’t seem to be enough and the episode ends with Abby slipping out the house, bag in hand ….

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Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Six

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Ken’s had enough of Dawn.  “This is my pad and I want it to myself”.  I didn’t know that anyone in the eighties still called their flat a “pad”, or maybe it’s just more evidence that Ken is trapped in the seventies.  He’s no new man that’s for sure – handling Dawn roughly and making it certain she knows that after six weeks of cohabiting he’s had enough of her.

He treats Jan differently of course, but then she’s still of more use to him (certainly professionally and maybe personally).  His relationship with Dawn shows how beneath his affable exterior something nastier lurks, although he doesn’t feel he has anything to reproach himself for.  “Well I play ball with them. Show them a good time, plenty of laughs, treat them like royalty, and bingo, after a couple of weeks they think they’re home and dry and running the show.”  I love Ken, he’s so delightfully horrible.

Jack’s all-day drinking binge concerns Avril.  “The whole day, the whole night’s just one long drink to you”.  Can he change? Does he even want to change? Kate’s certainly keen to see him dry out but it’ll be no easy task.

Gerald Urquhart makes his first appearance, meeting with Ken to discuss a possible business venture.  The fact that Ken’s never met him before ties into Abby’s earlier comment that she hardly spent any time with her father as a child.  Of course from now on things change somewhat as both Gerald (and shortly Charles) take up permanent residence.  This early fencing between Ken and Gerald is just a taste of what’s to come.  Ken has some real estate which Gerald and Charles would like to acquire, but Ken knows that if he hangs onto it then he might be able to make himself a player.

Abby’s run away to become a social worker.  And that’s not a sentence you type every day.  It seems a little far-fetched that she could just roll up to the office and start work shortly afterwards, surely a few checks would have been sensible?  Or possibly the fact that Abby had been to a posh Swiss finishing school was deemed to be good enough.

Phil Norton continues to lust after Lynne.  Since Phil made his first appearance it’s been plain that he has only one thing on his mind and it’s not how good Lynne is as a sailor.  Antony Head’s performance can’t really be described as subtle – cartoon wolf sort of sums it up.  Luckily Lynne is more than capable of resisting his oily charms.

Leo continues to follow Avril around like a puppy dog, devotion shining in his eyes (I love Edward Highmore’s goofy grin after he pops into to see her at the yard).

Tom and Jan seem a little closer, although you can always rely on Ken to put a spoke in the works.  He’s discovered that Avril, via an intermediary, bought the Flying Fish and delights in sharing this news with Jan.  Jan, already feeling a little threatened by Tom’s close working relationship with Avril isn’t impressed …. cue dramatic cliffhanger as Jan confronts a puzzled Tom.

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Seven

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Polly tells Jan the truth about her sham marriage to Gerald – Abby isn’t his child and his numerous affairs aren’t conducted with women.  It’s something of a storytelling weakness that best-friends Polly and Jan have never discussed this before, but it does make dramatic sense for the viewers to learn about it at the same time that Jan does.  These revelations help to chip away at Polly’s self confidence, giving us a glimpse of a lonely person lurking underneath her bravura exterior.

As regards character interactions, something similar happens when Lynne finally realises that Phil is a male chauvinist pig who only wants her for her body and would never have considered her as crew for his FastNet team because, well, she’s just a woman.  Both have lived in Tarrant for some time, so it stretches credibility that she wouldn’t have realised exactly how he operates by now (and lets be honest, the viewers probably twigged some ten seconds after he first appeared).  Leo sums him up perfectly.  “Self satisfied berk.”

One of my favourite comedy moments occurs with Jack and Kate.  Jack’s two days into his month long pledge of sobriety (he’s got a fifty pound bet with her) but is clearly weakening.  A his hand slowly stretches towards a bottle, the phone rings.  He picks up the receiver – it’s Kate.  Shamefacedly he then hides the bottle behind his back!  It’s a lovely bit of business, which is developed further when Kate tells him that even over the phone she’ll be able to tell if he was lying about his drinking.

One technical observation is that the difference between the film exteriors and videotape interiors is glaringly obvious, mainly because of the weather.  For example, Tom calls on Avril (on film) and it’s a gloomy day but once they enter her living room (on videotape) the sun is streaming through the windows.  Normally, the film element of the episode would have been done first – if this was the case, I wonder why they didn’t attempt to replicate the weather a little more accurately?  If they’d shot the studio scenes first, then fair enough – nothing could be done – but if it was the other way around then it’s something of a missed opportunity.

The main interest in this episode though is the introduction of Charles Frere.  When we first meet him he’s nattily dressed in a tuxedo, like a cut-price James Bond.  He bumps into Polly and views Jan, from a distance, with interest – but he’s really in Tarrant to speak to Avril.  Yes, Charles is the mystery man who broke Avril’s heart and now he’s back.

He’s only interested in business, or so he says, but the mere sight of him is enough to send Avril into mild hysterics.  So when Tom later calls at her cottage and finds her in a distressed state, the inevitable happens ….

They both comfort each other and as the credits roll it’s fairly obvious what’s going to happen next.  Indeed, the only surprise is that it’s taken them seven episodes to make a move on each other.

Jan and Ken have yet to advance beyond their professional relationship (despite what a poison-pen letter delivered to Tom might say).  Although Ken doesn’t have a great deal to do in this episode, his character is nicely developed – although it happens when he’s off-screen.  Jan and Lynne discuss him, with Jan nailing him as something of a social climber – he may have money, but he really wants to be accepted amongst the upper classes.  But his barrow-boy persona seems doomed to ensure he’ll always be an outsider.

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Eight

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This one opens with Charles steering his yacht en route to a business meeting with Ken.  Size, of course, isn’t everything, but it’s fair to say that Charles’ craft dwarfs most of the others in the marina.   His yacht serves several purposes – not only does it tell us that he’s a man of substance but it’s also a handy device to impress others.

And Ken is very impressed.  Dressed in a gleaming all-white outfit, he’s obviously a little overawed.  A breakfast meeting with champagne?  It’s a small taste of the high life that he’s incredibly anxious to sample more regularly (and no doubt Charles would have been well aware of this, so the location would have been no accident).  Charles suggests a joint venture – Ken builds the new marina, Charles runs it.  Ken asks for time to consider, but still seems confident that if he refuses then Charles will be stuck – since Ken owns a prime piece of property bang in the middle of the proposed location.

Charles isn’t bothered though, in true Thatcherite spirit he declares that “we live in a commercial world, Ken. Everything’s for sale.”

Time has clearly passed off-screen, as Jan and Ken are practically ready to open the boutique, whilst Tom’s prototype boat has passed its tests with flying colours.  We saw a brief moment of testing in the previous episode, but Tom’s boat has still sailed off the drawing board with unseemly haste.

As for Jan, she’s suddenly turned into a hard-headed businesswoman, easily able to gain very favourable terms from tailor Bernie Rosen (Harry Landis).  Bernie’s Jewish of course (this scores a full ten on the cliché ratometer).

Tom’s delighted to hear that his prototype is developing well and, in a moment of sheer joy, embraces Avril in the office.  Alas, Leo walks in at precisely that moment and if looks could kill no doubt both his father and Avril would have disintegrated on the spot.  I’m not sure whether Leo’s more annoyed that his father’s in the arms of anther woman of if he’s simply miffed not to be the one enjoying the embrace!  Edward Highmore continues to essay a performance which is low on subtlety, but perhaps that suits Leo’s character.  Whereas most of the other characters are capable of hiding their true feelings from time to time, Leo is very much a WYSIWYG type.

Leo tracks Abby down in Southampton, which is the cue for another burst of Abby’s theme (the plaintive guitar melody which, along with the theme, must be the most familiar part of the incidentals) and a somewhat surprising revelation – she’s pregnant.  Charles formally meets Jan for the first time, Lynne is offered a place in an all-women crew in the FastNet, whilst the other main point of interest concerns the continuing travails at the yard.

With the loss of the German contract, the bank are ready to foreclose but Tom is able to persuade them that his prototype will turn their fortunes around (but he needs Jan to agree to use their house as collateral).  Jack is still insistent that plastic toy boats have no place in his yard, but is shocked and stunned to realise that he no longer owns fifty percent of the company (and therefore is unable exercise a casting vote).  Tom has 25%, Avril had 25% but then bought an additional 5%, so she and Tom are able to outvote Jack.  The look on Glyn Owen’s face is priceless.  Presumably Jack must have been pretty drink-addled in recent months not to realise that Avril’s increased her shareholding.

Jack later articulates his feelings to Kate.  “I’ve fought for that yard, Kate. Lost sleep, sweated blood for it. And what’s it all been in aid of? Nothing. Everything I’ve specialised in over the years is gone.”  In her own way, Kate is as much of a traditionalist as Jack is – but she can see that everything has to change, nothing can stay the same forever.

Later Charles plays Avril another visit.  She’s still not interest in his proposals, this time he tells her he’s interested in buying the yard.  Whilst he claims he’s prepared to do it in order to help her father, she’s far from convinced.  “The only person you’re willing to help is yourself”.  This helps to ramp up the tension surrounding the Mermaid (plus Charles’ recent arrival also continues to shake things up nicely).

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Ten

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Tom and Avril have spent the night together aboard the Flying Fish.  For all that Jan’s been shrill and accusatory this year, it’s Tom who turns out to be the one who irreparably destroys their marriage.  Pledging all their money (including using the house as collateral) for his dreams of boat building started the cracks but when it’s revealed that he’s been conducting an affair with Avril there’s no way back.

As Tom and Avril lie in each others arms in dawn’s early light, a young chap is making his way over to another boat.  Presumably he must be a little hard of hearing as he doesn’t seem to notice the red beeping danger signal on the dashboard.  He attempts to turn the ignition switch and whoosh, there’s a rather large explosion.

Tom plays the hero and rescues the boy but it means that neither Tom or Avril have time to return home before Leo’s up and about.  And Leo can’t help but notice that neither his father or Avril seem to have spent the night in their respective beds (he’s still doing a spot of paining and decorating at Avril’s).  Quite how he worked out that Avril wasn’t in her bed isn’t explained ….

There’s also a journalist sniffing about and he speaks to both Leo and Ken.  You can just imagine Ken’s delight when he learns that Tom and Avril spent the night together, whilst Leo is understandably perplexed and troubled.  With immaculate timing, matters come to a head just as Lynne returns home in triumph (her boat won their class in the FastNet).

Ken, of course, is on hand to stoke up the fire.  Meeting Jan off the train from London, he can’t wait to tell her the news whilst elsewhere Leo confronts Avril.  “You may have all the looks, Avril, but that’s all you’ve got. Any woman who goes after a man knowing he’s got a wife and family is damn well nothing.”  Edward Highmore doesn’t quite spark into life, but maybe he’s a little less wooden than usual.

Jan confronts Tom who tells her that it could have easily have been her with Ken.  This is an astonishing statement as there’s been no evidence – the odd tango apart – to suggest that Jan’s even considered breaking her vows.

Perhaps it would have worked a little better had this storyline dripped out over a few episodes, with the rumours about Tom and Avril slowly gaining momentum.  As it is, it feels rather rushed.

If you need a little light relief from the strife at the Howards, then Jack’s still ensconced at the clinic, playing gin rummy with Kate and reluctant to join in any group therapy.  Fair to say he’s not the easiest patient.  Jack finally makes an appearance at group therapy, although he doesn’t take it terribly seriously (“I don’t drink a lot, I spill most of it”) leaving the therapist – Louise Silverton (Christine Kavanagh) – mildly irritated.

Elsewhere, Ken and Charles have a business lunch at the yacht club.  Lynne waits upon them and is introduced to Charles for the first time.  Once again there’s the wonderful contrast between Ken – anxious to appear cultured and intelligent – and Charles – who breezes through any social or business occasion with ease.  The business of the wine is a good example.  Ken suggests a bottle of Mouton Cadet but Charles wonders if the Chateau Montrose might not be preferable.  It’s a subtle example of one-upmanship which sees Charles emerge victorious yet again.

But Ken’s convinced that he’s won the war, telling Jan later that he’s got Charles “just where I want him. If he doesn’t go along with me, there’s nowhere else to go.”.  I’ve got a feeling that Ken’s counting his chickens rather too early.

After spying Lynne for the first time, Charles clearly likes what he sees, so he sends her hand-picked flowers and arranges a dinner-date with her aboard his yacht at 8:30.  He’s a smooth operator, that’s for sure.

We finally learn that Shellet is Jack’s brother-in-law.  When Jack receives a letter from him, he’s perplexed.  Kate can’t understand why, after all it seems perfectly natural that he should want to get in touch.  Jack has the perfect riposte.  “He’s been dead twenty five years, that’s what’s wrong.”

And now he’s made a claim for ownership of the Mermaid Yard.  But the end of episode twist (Charles is the one who’s put him up to it) is a great moment which adds yet another layer to the plot.  Ten episodes in and everything’s ticking along nicely.

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Eleven

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Shellet comes calling on the Urqhuarts.  Polly doesn’t exactly take to him, telling Gerald that “there’s a sort of person” to see him.  Shellet needs money for expenses and he also seems deprived in other areas (mentioning to Polly that it gets very lonely when he’s all alone in his hotel room).  Polly might have an eye for just about anything in trousers, but I’ve a feeling that Shellet is a bridge too far, even for her.

Lynne’s glammed up for her evening meal with Charles whilst Ken calls on Jan.  He plainly feels threatened by Claude (or “that froggy dressmaker” as he calls him) and seems to be fretting about the business trip to Cannes that Jan and Claude will shortly be taking.  Far away from home, he no doubt envisages that Claude will take advantage of her in just the sort of way he’s not been able to do so far!

It’s a sunny day in Tarrant, something of a rarity.  This makes Charles and Lynne’s champagne and caviar seem even more intoxicating.  He learns that Lynne’s father is conducting an affair with Avril (uh oh) and then outlines his philosophy of living, which revolves around power and freedom.  “Power to act and freedom to choose.” They’ve hardly finished the meal when he casually mentions that he’d like to sleep with her – which is as good an example of power and freedom as you can get.

Abby decides she wants to keep the baby.  This seems to have cheered her up – for pretty much the first time ever she seems almost happy.

And then we go to Cannes, well sort of.  In later years the budget would actually stretch to foreign filming, but that wasn’t the case here.  So we have a brief montage of stock footage (people lounging on the beach, etc) before cutting to a pool obviously somewhere in England.  But they made a bit of an effort to suggest exotic climes by having two topless women walk past Claude and Jan’s table in a casual manner.  That was a tad unexpected I have to say, especially considering that the episode originally went out just before 8.00 pm on a Sunday evening.

Ken might be right to be wary of Claude, but at present it’s her business acumen he wants (Claude’s attempting to woo her away from Ken – suggesting instead that they set up business together).  I’m afraid his silly French accent is beginning to get on my nerves ….

And then Ken pops up in Cannes, casually offering to take Jan out to dinner.  And of course being Ken he appears at her hotel door with a rose in his teeth and a bottle of champagne in his hand.  After a decent meal (off-screen, which saved a bit more money) they return to Jan’s hotel room and you can probably guess what happened next.

When they meet up for breakfast the next morning, Ken demonstrates that he’s an unreconstructed Englishman abroad since he’s not willing to try any funny food (bacon and eggs is what he wants).  The arrival of Claude sets Ken’s antenna twitching, but he acts casually in only the way that Ken Masters can.

The highly recognisable Hubert Rees pops up as racehorse trainer Stephen Bettins.  Kate’s part of a racehorse syndicate (each owning a leg) but it seems clear that she’s going to struggle to pay her share.  It might have been these scenes which inspired Glaister to later develop Trainer, which unfortunately wasn’t the same sort of success that both The Brothers and Howards’ Way had been.

Polly’s made it quite plain to Abby (before she ran away from home of course) that she viewed her daughter as an extreme disappointment.  But not any more.  After opening her mail(!), Polly’s delighted to read a letter from an American student called Orin Hudson.  He and Abby were obviously close for a while (as Polly so charmingly puts it – “God knows what this boy sees in Abby but it all sounds very lovey-dovey”).  And since he’s a member of an incredibly wealthy American family, Polly sees it as her duty to reunite the two lovebirds.  This is mercenary Polly at her best.

Jack’s solicitor lays on the line exactly how serious things are.  If Shellet’s claim is successful then not only will Jack lose the yard, he’ll also forfeit his house.  Tom will lose everything too, as all the yard’s assets (including the new boat) will be Shellet’s.  That’s a suitably dramatic way to bring the episode to an end.


Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Twelve

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Charles – a vision in white – is out for an early morning jog.  By the way that Tony Anholt labours his way across the marina, I’d guess he wasn’t a regular jogger in real life.  Once he’s puffed his way back to the yacht, Charles tells Lynne that he’s keen to spend the day with her – the fact she’s agreed to help her mother (it’s the grand opening of the boutique) doesn’t bother him.

If it hasn’t already been made obvious then here it’s explicit – Charles expects his own wants and needs to come first.  It’s what’s made him a successful businessman, although with one (failed?) marriage, the floundering relationship with Avril and (as we’ll soon see) the odd illegitimate child lurking about, possibly his controlling nature is the reason why his personal life is chaotic.

Shellet is also looking for female company.  His mild overture to Polly came to nothing (whilst the mind boggles at the pair of them together, a house-sharing comedy with Shellet as Polly and Gerald’s lodger would have been fab.  That’s one spin-off show we were sadly denied).  Anyway, he’s seeking solace elsewhere – eyeing the escort adverts in the local paper.  He doesn’t seem interested in either Adam and Eve Escorts or Madame’s Escort Agency, instead he circles the Pussy Cats advert.  I don’t know why, but this is a little detail that’s always amused.  We then have further evidence of Shellet’s uncouth and unstable nature – he slops his tea in his saucer.  Mind you, the strong hint later on that his relationship with his sister (Jack’s late wife) crossed familial bounds puts his tea slopping crime into perspective.

Avril and Tom are at Napier Marine, hopeful that the board will invest in Tom’s boat.  They can count on some support, but David Lloyd (Bruce Bould) is the one they really need to convince.  Bould was best known for playing the fawning David Harris-Jones (“great, super”) in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.  It’s very hard not to think of Harris-Jones whenever Lloyd’s on the screen – the fact that we meet him in a boardroom environment doesn’t help.

Avril’s in her element dealing with the board, which makes it plain that she’s somewhat wasted at the Mermaid, just trying to make the books balance.  Clearly the programme-makers thought so too, as in later years she’s shunted over to Relton Marine, where she became a high-flying executive.

Ken’s pushing to be an equal partner with Charles in the Marina development.  Will Ken really be able to raise the capital needed?  Time will tell, but at the moment all seems rosy.  I like the way that when Ken extends his arm for a handshake to seal the deal, Charles imperceptivity pauses, looks down at Ken’s hand, looks up again with the faintest ghost of a smile and only then shakes.  It’s subtle, but reiterates that Charles is still the dominant force.

Having packed in his job at the garage, Leo is looking for alternative employment.  He wants to change the world, but first is considering a factory job on the Isle of Wight.  Abby’s bump has expanded greatly (and she’s still happy, which is slightly unnerving).

Jack finally tells Avril about Shellet’s claim on the yard, which spells trouble for Tom’s boat (the Barracuda).  The scene is also notable for showing a rare reflective side to Jack.  Possibly it’s because he’s worried he’s going to lose everything, but there appears to be genuine regret from him about his disastrous marriage.  “She never forgave me for the way I treated her. I could see it in her eyes the night she died.  Sometimes I do feel guilty. I can’t help it. I can’t change the past, can I? God knows, sometimes I wish I could.”  Glyn Owen is often called upon to act as comic relief, but occasionally – as here – he gets an opportunity to play something a little deeper.

Jan doesn’t approve of Lynne’s relationship with Charles.  Mind you, as Lynne says, Jan can hardly talk – Ken Masters is surely nobody’s vision of a perfect partner.  There’s another classic Ken moment in this episode – he pops Sade on the hi-fi and, all by himself, smooches around the room.

Orin’s sent Abby another letter which, in her continuing absence, Polly unashamedly opens and reads.  Amusingly, Gerald initially registers irritation at Polly’s violation of their daughter’s secrecy, but a moment later can’t help but ask her what’s in it!

Polly agrees with Gerald that she’ll forward the letter on (although he doesn’t catch that she adds the word “personally”).  Thanks to the efforts of a private detective, Polly’s tracked her daughter down.  It’s not exactly a joyful reunion, since their brief squabble is followed by Abby falling down the stairs ….

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Thirteen

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For the first time we see Polly shaken out of her usual amused self-control.  The sight of Abby being carted off in an ambulance is more than enough to finally bring her long-repressed maternal feelings to the surface.

They aren’t reciprocated though, as Abby screams when her mother attempts to join her in the ambulance.  And Leo offers no comfort either – looking blankly at Polly when she insists that Abby’s tumble down the stairs was an accident.  Since it clearly was (there’s not even a hint that she was pushed) why does Leo seems incapable of offering even a crumb of comfort?

The baby – a boy – is born, although Abby still refuses to have anything to do with her mother.  This results in a tear-streaked Polly leaving her daughter’s bedside, convinced that Leo’s the one who’s turned her daughter against her.  “I hold you responsible for this, Leo Howard. And you’ll regret it, I promise you. I’m going to make you pay.”

After a brief moment of self-insight last time, Jack’s back to his normal, bluff persona.  Telling Avril that, in the words of Aristotle, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and plonking his shoes into the filing cabinet are two early signs of that.

He later refuses to be kowtowed when David Lloyd and the others visit the yard to inspect the prototype.  Jack’s at his best here, refusing to stand on ceremony and inordinately proud of the craftsmanship of the Mermaid.  The fact that the prototype is made out of wood is something that’s mollified him – it makes him content that although the Barracuda will be mass-produced, at least the original was hand-crafted in wood.

Jan asks Tom for a divorce (which rather oddly happens off screen).  Ken’s delighted to hear this of course, although he has to ratchet down his joy when he realises that Jan’s more than a little traumatised.  Bless Ken, his social skills tend to be somewhat limited.

Sir John invites Ken to lunch at the golf club.  Once again there’s some lovely class-based comedy – Ken orders a gin and tonic (no doubt seeing it as the perfect drink for such an exclusive environment) whilst Sir John asks for a pint.  Once again, this a small moment which illustrates the difference between them – since Ken is anxious to fit in, he attempts to modify his behaviour accordingly whilst Sir John is secure with his place in the world and sees no need to change.

Kate aptly sums Ken up later as “a wolf in wolf’s clothing” and is baffled why her daughter should prefer him over Tom.  Minutes later they meet – briefly – for the first time.  Kate flashes him an incredibly filthy look and refuses his outstretched hand, so they’re plainly not going to be friends anytime soon!

Relationship traumas in the Howard household continue with Lynne.  She’s still besotted with Charles, even though he’s proving to be somewhat elusive (breaking their appointments).   Poor Lynne spends her time moping by the phone and staring into the distance, waiting for him to call.  Charles doesn’t seem at all bothered though.

There’s another example that Charles is a winner – we see him bouncing around the tennis court, playing a range of athletic shots, which eventually ends up with him emerging victorious.

Claude pops up again, much to Ken’s disgust.  Ken does a nice impression of Claude’s accent though!  Claude wants to purchase a fashion house.  Jan’s keen, Ken’s not.

Howards’ Way, like The Brothers, always understood the importance of carrying forward certain plotlines to the next series as well as closing each run of episodes with a strong cliffhanger.  The disputed ownership of the Mermaid Yard is something that’ll be settled early in series two (we see Jack enter the hearing, but aren’t told what happened).

As for the cliffhanger, an increasingly irate Lynne make her way to Charles’ yacht, only to find him in bed with another woman.  He introduces her as “Honey Gardner, my wife” which rather takes the wind out of Lynne’s sails.  She exits, sobbing, and in her haste to get away loses her balance on the jetty and falls into the water.

It might not be the best stunt ever mounted – rather than a simple stumble and fall, the stuntwoman falls to the ground and then seems to deliberately roll over into the water – but no matter, it’s still a strong way to conclude the first series.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode One

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We open with a nice aerial view of the Tarrant marina.  And of course it’s another gloomy day (Tarrant – a place where the sun rarely shines).

Initially it seems that this shot was simply an impressive visual flourish, but it then becomes clear that Charles, in a helicopter, is hovering above the Mermaid Yard.

This is typical Charles Frere.  Most people would be content to lurk in the background in order to keep tabs on their rivals (the Mermaid are celebrating launching the Barracuda) but not Charles, he has to think bigger.

We then switch to the courtroom where the tug of love for ownership of the Mermaid Yard between Jack and Shellet is continuing.  But within a matter of minutes it’s all over as Shellet doesn’t exactly cover himself with glory in the witness box.  It’s a little odd to see this plotline wrapped up with such unseemly haste, although the aftershock rumbles on for a few more episodes.

The big unresolved question from the series one cliffhanger concerns Lynn.  We saw her tumbling into the water after reeling from the shock of finding Charles in bed with his wife.  It’s now the day after and there’s no sign of her, which concerns Jan.  Frankly, given that Lynne was stunned unconcious when she entered the water (and there was no-one about to help her) it’s hard to see how she couldn’t have drowned. Let’s wait and see though …

Jan asks Leo to stop at home in case Lynne calls, but Leo says he can’t – he’s got something important to do.

Ken (nattilly attired in a suit) shows his caring side to Jan, telling her that if they lived together he could share all her problems. When she mentions that she hasn’t heard from Claude for a while he’s not surprised or concerned. “What else can you expect from a Frog?” I love Ken, he’s a source of endless entertainment.

The hunt for Lynne brings Tom and Jan back together, although it’s an uneasy alliance. He’s as concerned as she is, but Tom (with no evidence) believes that the Jan/Ken axis has driven their daughter away. Given Tom’s dalliance with Avril this seems rather unfair. Jan Harvey is called upon to do a good deal of anguished staring into the distance acting during this episode.

We later find out what Leo’s important job was (of course it concerns Abby). Abby and her baby are leaving the hospital and Leo is on hand to play the devoted father. It’s a role he seems perfectly suited for (although since Orrin, the baby’s real father, is due to arrive shortly, it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing it for much longer). Despite being preoccupied, Leo does manage to provide a lead on Lynne, which sends Tom off on a collision course with Charles.

He’s not at his boat, but Charles’ secretary Samantha (Maria Eldridge) is. Samantha probably gets more lines in this one scene than she does in the rest of her appearances put together. Eldridge’s other credits aren’t extensive (a couple of Goodies episodes and a few roles elsewhere, playing challenging parts such as “Girl in Car” and “Girl with Gun”) which is a little surprising as she’s very watchable here.

With Tom not available to take the Barracuda out, Jack steps into the breach. He’s delighted (cue shots of the boat slicing through the waves with the Howards’ Way theme blasting out) whilst Avril’s not at all pleased that Tom’s left them in the lurch. Cue more anguished staring into the distance acting, this time from Susan Gilmore.

The tension concerning Lynne continues to ratchet up, although any eagle-eyed viewer would have spotted that Tracey Childs wasn’t listed in the opening credits – meaning that (unless it was a double-bluff) she wouldn’t be making an appearance. The final lines of the episode (Tom: “The police have just telephoned. They think they’ve found Lynne”) offers up a number of possibilities, although the mood is rather sabotaged by the fact that they dive straight into the end-credits – which this year features the dreaded vocal version of the theme. I’m not a fan …..

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Two

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Lynne’s safe, but is far from well.  Jan and Tom rush to the hospital to find her dazed and confused – she’s suffering from complete amnesia.  We learn that she was fished out of the water after about ten minutes (although it’s not explained who rescued her).  It’s also not clear why it took so long for Lynne’s next of kin to be contacted.

Jan Harvey is the one who’s given the lines when they encounter her for the first time (as well a nice two-shot of Jan and an oxygen-masked Lynne) but Maurice Colbourne almost manages to steal the scene with a cutaway shot of Tom wearily closing his eyes.  Sometimes, less is more.

There’s another example of Tarrant’s bizarre eco-system, where it always seems to be sunny indoors (studio) and gloomy outside (film).  We switch from the inside of the Urquhart’s house, with Polly and Gerald discussing the imminent arrival of Orrin (Michael Ryan), to outside Charles’ abode, where he’s surprised to be set upon by Shellet (who’s been lurking in the shrubbery).

This is a great little scene.  Shellet’s now a desperate man (“I’m broke, I’ve got no money”) although Charles responds in exactly the way you’d expect him to.  “You’re trespassing, get off my property or I’ll set the dogs on you.”  The way that Charles looks him up and down with a sense of revulsion is another nice touch.

The party at Abby’s flat provides ample evidence that Leo and rhythm don’t really go together (however, Davy does cut some impressive moves).  The scene’s more of interest due to the way it highlights the current status of the Abby/Leo relationship – they’re more at ease with each other than ever before (she kisses him briefly on the lips and then tells him that “I’ve never been as close to anyone as I am to you”) but with the spectre of Orrin on the horizon, things will change.

Tom sets out with Henderson (Andrew Hilton) for another testing run in the Barracuda.  Henderson’s the possessor of a certain oily charm – when he learns that Avril isn’t joining them he decides that it’s “probably just as well. We don’t want too many distractions, do we?”  Avril wisely makes no response.

Last time, we saw how Avril was upset at the way Tom bailed on the yard’s business in order to search for Lynne.  Positions are reversed here, as Henderson forces him to stay out a lot longer than he’d expected – meaning that he’s unable to meet Jan as planned (the pair had arranged to travel up to the hospital together).

Tom could have told Henderson that his daughter was ill in hospital and there’s every possibility he would have been sympathetic, but instead he grimly carries on with the testing.  But on the plus side, it gives us a charged encounter between Jan and Avril, after Jan rushes to the yard, looking for Tom.

From the moment Jan enters the office you can sense the chill.  Avril is polite, but it doesn’t take too long before some home truths are spelled out.  She tells Jan that “when there was doubt about Lynne’s safety, Tom abandoned this yard when its future hung in the balance, knowing he was jeopardising his business’s survival and ours.  I criticised him, but I now realise his feelings for his family gave him no option.  Today out there he’s trying to make up for it and knowing Tom, I bet he’s sweating blood he’s not here to meet you.  Don’t you understand your husband at all?”  If looks could kill, then Jan’s stare would have finished Avril off once and for all …

The initial meeting between Orrin and Polly is an exercise in awkwardness.  Although given the fact that Abby and her parents are currently estranged, I’m not sure why Orrin came to Polly first – why didn’t he simply go direct to Abby’s lodgings?  The upshot is that Abby agrees to return home, where Orrin will also be, whilst Leo (lurking in the background) looks a little discomforted.

There’s another lovely example of Polly’s monumental lack of tact, after she decides that it would be nice for her, Abby and Orrin to go out for tea.  After all, Leo’s on hand to look after the baby.  It doesn’t occur to her that it might be courteous to ask Leo if he’d mind (something which he rather pointedly mentions) although the fact that he then tells him it’s no trouble is a characteristic Leo moment.

Jack dispenses some more of his words of wisdom after he and Tom visit the production line where the Barracuda is now being mass produced.  “Wood is a living material. A boat is a living thing.  I’m not being sentimental.  By that, I mean she’s the sum total of all the men who worked on her, sawed and steamed her planks and shaved her timbers. When she’s running before the wind, that’s what you feel beneath your feet.”

Later, Jack heads off to the races with Kate, where Aztec Boy (the horse she owns 25% of) is running.  The production team clearly went on a real race day, as the hundreds of race-goers demonstrate, it’s just a pity that they couldn’t afford to shoot footage of an actual race  This means we switch from footage of Jack and Kate (on film) to the horses (on videotape) and back to Jack and Kate (on film) which is a little distracting.  But there’s a nice comic compensation – as the race goes into its final stages, Jack is closely following it through his binoculars, which Kate then snatches off him (nearly strangling him in the process!).

This week’s cliffhanger – Jan learns that Claude has married a key figure in the French fashion world – falls a little flat.  Jan’s concerned that his marriage will impact the boutique, which isn’t something I confess to being too concerned about.  Although Ken’s on hand to soften the blow.  “Not jealous are you? Lucky for you, you’ve got good old reliable Ken. Here in every emergency.”  God bless Ken, he never disappoints.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Three

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Ken’s attempting to interest Charles in a new business venture – the purchase of a large stretch of land, currently in use as a nature reserve, to be transformed into a marina.  The difference between them is again thrown into sharp relief after Ken tells him that they could build some chalets as well.  Charles, on the other hand, believes a five-star hotel would be better.

It would be a difficult sell to the locals, but Charles decides that the job creation angle (a very Thatcherite concept) would work well on that score whilst Ken declares that it would still be good for the wildlife (all those masts that the birds could perch on).  This line is delivered straight (presumably Ken actually believes what he’s saying) although Charles’ expression speaks volumes.

When Leo finds out about Ken’s plan for the nature reserve he’s not at all happy …

Charles jaunts over to France for a meeting with Viscount Cunningham (Richard Wilson).  Naturally enough, Cunningham arrives by helicopter (the only way to travel, clearly).  Charles’ meeting with Cunningham is designed to try and head off any protests from the environmental lobby, re the proposed purchase of the nature reserve.

Charles pays lip service to the idea that the views of the nature lobby should be taken seriously, but he’s also concerned that whoever makes the final decision should be “objective, someone who has the best interests of the county at heart and who is totally, totally impartial.”  Or in other words, someone who knows what the right decision is.  And in this case, that means what’s right for Charles Frere.

David Lloyd (great, super) wants Avril to join Relton Marine full time.  At present, the members of the Mermaid all take turns to attend Relton’s board meetings – and today it’s Jack’s turn.  The prospect of Jack mingling with the suits obviously gives plenty of scope for both drama and comedy and although we don’t actually see what transpired, Jack returns to the yard to tell them what’s been decided.

A solo crossing of the Atlantic by the Barracuda will give them just the publicity push they need … and Jack’s offered to sail her.  Avril looks appalled, Tom looks pleased, whilst Jack begins to have second thoughts.

Tom and Ken run into each other at the Jolly Sailor.  As with the recent meeting between Avril and Jan there’s a distinct lack of warmth.  Ken tells him that Tarrant’s a small place, so he can’t spend the rest of his life avoiding him.  Tom counters that “I’d appreciate your trying.”  Maurice Colbourne shines during this scene, his intensity plain to see.

Lynne’s back at home but she’s still yet to regain her memory.  Tom offers to take her out in the Flying Fish – and thanks to a spot of psychology from Tom it does the trick.  Before that we see Jack (nice bobble hat, sir) set out for a quick sail, but he comes back in a bad temper, unhappy with the rigging on the boat (and therefore the standards of the yard).  Glyn Owen’s on his usual fine form as Jack annoys Avril (placing his boots in the filing cabinet was the final straw).

Shellet keeps on popping up – at Jack’s house and then round at the Urquharts.  Gerald, whilst not as cutting as Charles in the previous episode, still sends him away with a flea in his ear.  We do see a spark of anger from Gerald when he deals with him though, which continues when Polly wonders why her husband let such a repellent creature like Shellet through the door again.  “It’s part of my job. This house, the clothes you wear, the trips you make, your expenses, extravagance. Where do you think it all come from, eh? Sometimes I have to get my hands dirty.”  This brief outburst is all the more noteworthy as up until now Gerald has been a fairly neutral character.  It’s the first sign that there’s more to him than his public façade would suggest.

With Orrin keen to marry Abby, Jan fretting that Ken won’t commit to her new business venture and Kate concerned that her racehorse trainer is overcharging her for oats (!), there’s certainly plenty going on in this one.

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Four

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Shellet continues to lurk about, this time he’s casting his disturbing shadow down at the Mermaid.  The incidental music takes a sudden turn for the sinister as Shellet looks over the boat that Jack’s due to take out shortly, which gives us a clue as to what might happen ….

Polly, glass in hand, demands an apology from Gerald over his accusations of her extravagance.  Patricia Shakesby and Ivor Danvers sparkle here – Polly declaims that she provides good value for money as a hostess whilst Gerald counters that it’s all she does do (once again highlighting their marriage of convenience).  It’s slightly odd that Gerald raises the point about tightening their belts though, since this wasn’t really the reason for his outburst last time and – as a trusted lieutenant of Charles Frere – it’s doubtful Gerald will be on the breadline anytime soon.

Charles pays another visit to Avril, once again entering her house without her permission, in a scene which highlights their differences.  Charles offers her a seat on his board, which she refuses outright.  For Charles, it’s purely business (they may have been lovers in the past, but that’s over) whilst Avril can’t see past their failed relationship.   And when Tom walks in, the tension level rises a little more.  Tom and Charles have another brief, but entertaining, face-off.

Shellet may have no money but he’s obviously a man of resourcefulness, as he’s able to knock up a quick homemade bomb and pop it into Jack’s boat.  As Jack (once again nattily attired with a bobble hat) takes the boat out, the incidental music helpfully provides the right mood (eerie and faintly disturbing, rather than the more usual blast of the Howards’ Way theme that normally accompanies sailing scenes).

When the explosion comes, it’s a nicely shot sequence – with Jack being flung overboard following the aftershock.  If one were being picky, then a freeze-frame shows that he’s already got a bruise on his forehead before he’s struck by the sail, but not many viewers would have been watching this frame-by-frame back in 1986.  Kudos to Glyn Owen for taking a dip in the cold and unfriendly-looking water – the scenes of an unconscious Jack slowly sinking deeper and deeper are striking.  Luckily, Jack’s rescued by a passing boat but the fact that his rescuers can’t find a pulse is a worrying sign.

Jack obviously makes a recovery off-screen as he’s later ensconced in the hospital.  He’s quizzed by a police officer called Gray (Albert Welling).  Decades later, Welling would pop on a moustache to play Adolf Hitler in Doctor Who.  Avril is a concerned visitor, but Kate’s a more entertaining one.  “Are you all in one piece or are there some parts missing?”

Having made a speedy recovery of her own, Lynne’s now rediscovered her love for all things nautical.   She offers to sleep aboard the Barracuda in order to safeguard the expensive equipment aboard.  This naturally brings her closer to Tom at the expense of Jan, who’s not very pleased at all.  Jan claims that she’s concerned about Lynne’s welfare so soon after coming out of hospital, but since Kate tells her that she’s fine now, it seems more likely that Jan’s dismayed to find Lynne taking Tom’s side once more.  Jan then mutters that “it’s all so bloody unfair” which is a very telling moment.

But the arrival of Claude soon cheers her up.  Claude (or “Clod” as Ken usually refers to him) still has the silly ponytail and the even sillier accent.  Oh well, he won’t be around for ever.  Claude’s later revelation that his marriage is now off is a strange bit of plotting – it seemed to have existed in the first place purely to provide a not terribly involving cliffhanger, meaning that it’s now reversed with alacrity.   Ken’s continuing dislike of Claude means that he won’t support the business proposal forwarded by him and Jan – meaning that Jan’s prepared to strike out by herself.

Leo’s getting more involved in the campaign to save the nature reserve.  Abby’s as keen as he is, whilst Orrin is much more reserved (no pun intended).  Is fighting this cause Leo’s way of filling his time now that Abby and Orrin are a sort of item, or would he have done so anyway?  A little of both maybe.

Charles is thinking big with the marina development.  He doesn’t just want a hotel (part of an international chain preferably) but also an office block.  Even Gerald looks slightly askance at his ever-developing plans – as if it all goes ahead then it would change the look of the local community for ever.  With great zeal, Charles continues.  “I’m thinking of small to medium-sized businesses who wouldn’t be able to afford or who wouldn’t have the requirement to run the whole range of communications and computer equipment.  Secretarial pool, digital and off-peak transatlantic telephone connections.  Boardrooms and conference rooms for hire. Word processing and computer rental. Post offices and banks. The possibilities are endless.”  Oh, then he decides a Casino would be good too ….

With Jack out of action, discussion turns to who could take the Barracuda on its solo Atlantic crossing.  In a not terribly surprising end of episode revelation, we see that Lynne has snuck out aboard the Barracuda and appears to be well on her way.  I can just picture Jan’s face.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Five

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Lynne, making good headway in the Barracuda, refuses to heed Tom’s request to turn back.  When he understands how resolute she is, Tom doesn’t seem too unhappy.  Of course it’s plain that Jan’s not going to take it quite so calmly ….

And she doesn’t.  When the news about Lynne comes over the car radio she does a screeching turn and heads back for Tarrant for a typically awkward conversation with Tom.  He’s bursting with paternal pride (“she’s as good a sailor as I’ve ever met”) whilst she’s only seeing negatives (“you’d risk your daughter’s life for a publicity gimmick?”).  But it does generate good publicity, with a brace of favourable newspaper headlines (my favourite being “storm tossed beauty”).

As the weeks pass by, we’re treated to a series of monologues from Lynne.  “I’ve never seen my own weaknesses so clearly before. All the things I shouldn’t have done or said. I can’t change them know. But I suppose I’m learning my strengths too, now that I’m responsible for everything that happens to me.”  She spent S1 as a fairly feckless and self-obsessed character, but it’s clear that she’s recently undergone a considerable change for the better.

Charles still wants the Mermaid Yard and decides his way in will be to buy Relton Marine.  Once he has Relton, then he’ll have a stake in the Mermaid.  Given that he transfers three million for Gerald to start to buy shares in Relton, it’s plain that money in no object.

There’s another entertaining encounter between Charles and Ken.  Ken is starting to get a little anxious about the marina development (he’s pledged over a million, which is a considerable undertaking for him) whilst Charles is coolness personified (he’s obviously delighted to twist the knife a little).   Ken later decides that a little bribery will help to oil the wheels.

We get our first sight of the protest lobby.  They all seem rather worthy.  On the other side is Steven Moffat (John Ronane), Ken’s tame councillor (and the recipient of a hefty bribe from him).  Nice to see Ronane pop up in this one, although he doesn’t do a great deal except look a little twitchy.

Leo organises a protest meeting at home, with a couple of dozen people attending, which doesn’t please Jan.  Poor Jan Harvey, her default expression always seems to be set to disapproving.  Ken, who comes in with Jan, is condescendingly amused by their efforts (no doubt he believes they’re no threat at all).  Delightfully, Kate then arrives and announces she’s going to attend the meeting, shooting Ken a filthy look en-route.  As ever, Kate makes her feelings about Ken crystal clear.

I love Ken’s attempt to buy Claude off (“how much would you take not to come back at all?”).  Our Mr Masters is not terribly subtle!  Claude’s open-mouthed shock is somewhat amusing as is his stern response (“you can’t buy me off”).  Quite why Ken should continue to obsess over Claude when it’s been made clear that he’s got no personal interest in Jan is a slight mystery – presumably it’s an attempt to highlight Ken’s general paranoia (one of his many character flaws).

Richard Shellet makes his final bow.  A pity, but it would have stretched credibility for him to keep on popping up from time to time, vowing revenge and lobbing the odd bomb around.  His face-off with Jack is short but sweet – with Jack playing an interesting psychological game (luckily he guessed right).

Tom loses radio contact with Barracuda.  And with Lynne now entering stormy waters in the North Atlantic it’s the cue for a good deal of anxious acting from Maurice Colbourne and Jan Harvey.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Six

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The spectre of potential tragedy has brought the Howards together – with predictable results (Jan stares into the distance, misty eyed and with a drink in her hand, blaming Tom for everything).

Charles continues to play with Ken rather like a cat toys with a mouse.  Construction on the marina is due to begin, but Charles tells Gerald to cancel it (and pretend that the furore from the protestors has made them pause).  Charles is smoothness personified when he explains to Ken, but Ken smells a rat ….

The fact that the Baraccuda is missing begins to cast a little doubt on Tom’s design.  This mainly comes from Jan of course, but when Bill queries the specifications of Tom’s catamaran there’s a definite sense of tension in the air.  The sensible course, as suggested by Bill, Avril and Jack, would be for Tom to recheck his figures but he’s unwilling to do so.  His concern for Lynne is clearly influencing his decision making (witness the way he erupts after Jack tactfully suggests they take a look at the design again).

Crusading local reporter Steve Windom (Bill Thomas) isn’t happy with the way that planning permission was pushed through without a protest and decides that Ken’s been indulging in corrupt practices.  To be honest, Steve isn’t exactly a Woodward or a Bernstein, but there’s still an effort made to ramp up the tension – such as late night meetings in shady rendezvous as Steve begins to build his case.

It’s interesting that Leo is under no illusion that their protest will fail, but he tells his mother that it’s more important that Charles and Ken realise they “can’t just buy any piece of land and build on it.”  Jan doesn’t come out of this conversation terribly well since she then asks Leo to call off the protest – that would ease Ken’s cashflow problem, meaning he might then be able to invest in Jan’s boutique.  Jan’s being incredibly selfish here, but I guess it was the “me, me, me” eighties.

Lyne pops up about midway through the episode, looking somewhat green around the gills and desperately attempting to get someone to acknowledge her radio calls.  Eventually she does (is it just me, or is there a whiff of Tony Hancock’s The Radio Ham here?).  Lynne’s travails was one of those plotlines which you could sense would have a happy ending.  Had they killed her off it would have created an even bigger fault-line between Tom and Jan (but since it probably would have meant that Jan would never be able to crack a smile ever again, it’s just as well they didn’t).

Down at the protest site, things are hotting up.  Morgan Griffiths (Mark Crowdy), a member of Earthguard, pledges his support – which begins with hot meals and fresh placards.  He zooms in on his motorbike and then out again almost immediately, like a leather-clad guardian angel.

Later, Ken sends in the heavy mob.  Although they’re big and ugly, their language doesn’t quite match their appearance (“why don’t you naff off?”).  Pre-watershed, of course.  And it’s poor Leo who’s first to receive a knuckle sandwich.

Lynne arrives in America, which looks suspiciously like the English coast. Still, it’s amazing what a few American flags, a sprinkling of stock footage and some fake accents can do.  Neither Jan or Tom can make it over, so Claude deputises for them.  The beginning of a beautiful friendship maybe?

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Seven

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Howards’ Way seemed to spend a great deal of time in one hospital or another.  This episode opens with Leo propped up in a hospital bed (looking much the worse for wear) with Jan and Tom by his bedside.  Leo looks to have been the only person to have been beaten up by Ken’s thugs, which seems to prove he was born under a bad sign.

Jan’s still in a state of denial over Ken’s involvement in the tussle.  She tells Leo that it was obviously Charles who paid for the bullyboys, apparently not even considering that Ken might have been responsible.  At first I wondered if her voracious capitalistic streak had taken hold (not willing to rock the boat with Ken, since she still needs finance for her and Claude’s business venture) but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

When Polly later off-handily confirms that Ken was the guilty party, there’s genuine shock on Jan’s face – so maybe she was simply a little gullible.  Ken’s contrite (telling her that he’s never done anything like this before) but it’s somewhat difficult to believe him – is he just sorry he’s been found out?

Ken goes through the wringer in this episode.  With Abby, Leo and (presumably) others receiving court summons, they have to decide whether to go to the Magistrates or Crown Court.  Crown Court would generate a great deal of publicity, which is precisely what they want (and Ken is anxious to avoid).  Charles is wonderfully laid back throughout – maintaining that since he’s done nothing wrong he’s not bothered either way.

But Ken – increasingly stuck in a vice-like grip – sees disaster ahead, so sells his marina shares to Charles for the knock down price of £250,000.  This means he’s taken a considerable financial hit and now has to count the cost of his bruising encounter with Charles.  It’s been obvious from the start, but this simply confirms that Ken is a complete novice in business terms compared to Charles.

Jan has another brief, but very telling, moment later on.  She’s looking to use the house as collateral in order to finance her business.  Remember that last year she was less than impressed when Tom did the same thing.  Since the divorce hasn’t gone through yet, it’s strange that she hasn’t discussed what she’s doing with Tom (who presumably still owns half of the house, unless he’s signed it over to her).

It’s unconvincing stock footage ahoy again as we join Lynne and Claude on their cruise home.  Claude is his usual annoyingly smooth self, telling Lynne that he’s had awful trouble in keeping the deck lounger next to him free (because, no doubt, hundreds of women were panting to get at him).  Meanwhile Lynne cheerfully tells him that initially she thought he was a frog pursuing her mother, but now she’s of the opinion that he’s just a frog with some redeeming features.  Lynne’s looking particularly attractive during the scenes when they trip the light fantastic on the ballroom floor.

Ken’s former girlfriend, Dawn, turns up behind the bar at the Jolly Sailor.  Jack’s immediately taken with her.  “If you need someone to show you around the place, I’m your man. So how about it? I could take you to the village duck pond. Morris dancing, marbles match, conker-bashing. We could really live it up”.  This is a different side to Jack.  Although we’ve seen him enjoying Kate’s company, they were – as the phrase goes – just good friends.  Jack’s never shown an interest in the opposite sex before, certainly not one as young as Dawn.

This doesn’t go down well with everyone.  Avril looks slightly askance at the fact her father’s been entertaining someone as young as she is, whilst there’s another pressure point later on – the launch of Tom’s catamaran.  Jack’s invited Dawn to do the honours, whilst Avril has also asked someone – Kate, in fact.  No-one could do well-bred disdain like Dulcie Gray.  Her comment upon meeting Dawn is priceless.  “Your niece, is it, Jack?”

One of my favourite scenes in this episode occurs when Abby visits Leo in hospital and explains the reason for her present of nuts  “Grapes are bourgeois.  Men don’t appreciate flowers and chocolates are bad for your teeth.”

It’s a brief moment of levity for Abby, as elsewhere there’s not many laughs for her.  It’s the arrival of Orrin’s father, Robert (Bruce Boa), which is the problem.  Canadian-born Boa had a lengthy career playing Americans, often of the very stroppy type (he doesn’t order a Waldolf Salad in this one, but it’s easy to imagine him doing so and being less than impressed).

The appearance of Robert Hudson helps to define Orrin’s character a little more. Up until now it’s been difficult to decide exactly what Orrin’s motivations were.  Did he want to marry Abby because he loved her? Was he more interested in ensuring that the rich and powerful Hudson family didn’t have the scandal of an illegitimate child? Or was he simply designed as a character to come between Abby and Leo?

The influence of his father over him is plain to see (in sharp contrast to Abby, who rarely listens to her parents).  Left to his own devices Orrin’s been somewhat relaxed, but Robert’s dominant (indeed overbearing) personality eventually seems to subsume his own, meaning that by the end they are both of one mind – if Abby doesn’t want to get married then baby William will return with them to America.

This then leads into one of the most intriguing moments in the whole series.  Everything is set up for Abby to declare that she’d sooner die than see her son taken away from her, but instead she somewhat meekly accedes.  It’s just so unexpected (it would have been easy to see this becoming a major storyline) but it’s good that the show doesn’t always do the obvious.

The episode ends with a revelation that wasn’t completely unexpected (hints were laid during the first series) but it’s nice to have it out in the open anyway.   Charles is Abby’s father ….

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