Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Thirteen

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It’s something I’ve touched on before, but Howards’ Way – despite the fact it was sometimes labelled as a show which embraced Thatcherite ideals – often took pains to spell out that business success counted for nothing without personal happiness. And that’s very much a theme of this final episode as three characters – Jan, Abby and Charles – discover.

Jan’s not had the most interesting things to do this year, but finally things pick up. For the first time in ages there’s a fashion show, which means there’s plenty of attractive models flouncing about whilst Jan (armed with a walkie talkie) prowls around looking stressed. Her single-minded focus on ensuring that the show goes off without a hitch means that she has no time to speak to Lynne, which is spelled out by the way she shuts her down on more than one occasion.

The fact that Lynne had important news – her pregnancy – to impart is a weapon later used by Kate. She tells Jan that it’s no use being a successful businesswoman if you neglect your family. With Leo suffering traumas over the custody of Thomas and Lynne sobbing in her room it’s fair to say that Jan’s not been offering a great deal of support to either of them. But in previous years her business focus (and the way it was detrimental to her family) was more explicitly stated – in series six it’s remained undiscussed until this final episode. That’s slightly disappointing, had it been raised earlier it would have given Jan something dramatically satisfying to play with – certainly more than the endless scenes of her looking stressed in the office (which has been her main contribution to the series this year).

Has Jan learnt her lesson? Things seem to end optimistically when she touches base with Leo, but only the unmade seventh series would have revealed whether she could reconnect with those she’d neglected.

Abby’s story is by far the most intriguing and certainly the one with the darkest ending. Again, a seventh series might have reversed this episode’s conclusion, but at this point it’s hard to see how a reconciliation between her and Leo could have been on the cards.

A rare meeting between Ken and Gerald enables Ken to air some unpalatable home truths – he believes that Abby, as the child of Polly and Charles, is now showing her true colours. Gerald reacts angrily to this, but since he later repeats it to Abby’s face it does seem that, on reflection, he’s come to the same conclusion. Abby’s manoeuvring – albeit with Orrin’s assistance – has removed Charles from the chairmanship of Frere Holdings, with Gerald neatly slotted in as his replacement.

For a successful businessman, Gerald does have some scruples – he reacts strongly when Abby tells him the news – but he’s plainly also a realist as he does later accept the position. The father/child relationship (with both her natural and adopted fathers) has reversed totally, with Abby now in a very dominant position. That would have set up a number of possibilities had the series continued.

Abby’s exit – taking Thomas to America (ignoring the joint custody agreement arranged with Leo) – leaves us with an unresolved cliffhanger. Would she have returned or made a new life for herself in America with Orrin, William and Thomas? I’d favour the latter, but others may disagree.

How does Charles take the news that Frere Holdings is no longer his? Not very well. Drinking heavily and raising his glass to the portrait of his father that for some reason he’s not taken down, it’s the darkest we’ve ever see him. Bitterly applauding his father for triumphing from beyond the grave, Charles seems set on a downward spiral (angrily telling Lynne to leave him alone). But as with Jan, there’s hope for the future since we later see Charles negotiating a reconciliation with Lynne. Easy to see how his story would have continued – plotting to regain control of Frere Holdings, whilst juggling a possible wife and child – but would he have been able to maintain the correct balance in his life which had (up until now) proved impossible? Another of those imponderables.

I have to confess that keeping track of the various businesses and their share holdings has become a little confusing over time. It seems unlikely that Charles could have been levered out of the chairman’s seat so easily, especially when all previous attempts had failed. True, Abby and Orrin now have access to Sir Edward’s shares in Frere Holdings (plus Pierre Challon’s minor holding also played a part) but it’s hard to imagine that would have been enough. Just how did Sir Edward manage to gain control of such a large block of shares, and if he did have them why didn’t he attempt to force Charles out in the past?

Equally perplexing is the way that Ken regains control of Leisurecruise. Orrin’s shares were enough to tip the balance, but again this seems a little too convenient to be true. Ah well, it least it gives us one final Ken/Laura confrontation, this time with Ken gloatingly telling Laura to clear her desk. Ken might be the only one who seems content with business success alone, but even he’s given a small personal beat of regret (at the end of the episode he looks longingly at Jan – strengthening my suspicion that they might have got back together sometime in the future).

Even by HW‘s own standards, the resolution of Brigette Dupont’s claim on Lynne’s perfume was dealt with in a very half-hearted way (Admiral Redfern dropped by to casually let Jan know that Ms Dupont didn’t have a leg to stand on). Goodness knows why they raised this plot-thread in the first place if they were going to dismiss it pretty much straightaway.

Jack’s decision to leave the Mermaid for another yard where he can work in wood (he likes wood you know) is also rushed through at breakneck speed. But this does allow the series a sense of closure as well as an air of new beginnings – Jack exits the yard for the final time and Leo takes over. Leo’s story is also at a crossroads – following in his father’s footsteps at the yard, he sees his design for the America’s Cup accepted by Admiral Redfern’s consortium. That’s a remarkable (if not to say totally improbable) development for a novice designer. And when Jenny came home from her round the world trip, would it be into Leo’s arms or would Abby have returned to stake a claim on him? Alas, we’ll never know.

And that’s that. Seventy eight episodes which were sometimes confusing, sometimes infuriating but almost always highly entertaining and never dull. If Howards’ Way lacked the tight scripting of Glaister’s previous soapy drama – The Brothers – then the performances of the regulars always helped to paper over most of the cracks. It’s certainly a series I’ve revisited a number of times and I know I’ll come back to it again in the future. The world of Tarrant is always an enjoyable place to visit.

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Twelve

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Charles and Lynne’s relationship continues to blossom – mind you, being in Bermuda (even if it’s largely on business) probably doesn’t hurt. Although Lynne is doing her best to try and distract Charles from paperwork – taking a dip in the ocean whilst Charles rifles through papers aboard his yacht, she does the old “give me a hand up” trick and then pulls him into the water. An astute man like Charles should have spotted that one coming ….

Ken continues to taunt Laura. Now he’s back in the ascendant again he’s merciless about putting the screws on although later we’ll see that Laura is hatching schemes of her own. It’s always good to see these two cross swords, but even more interesting is Ken’s later dinner date with Jan. Fair to say that these two have had a chequered history but despite all they’ve been through, crafty Ken is still able to make Jan laugh. Clearly she’s got a short memory and has totally forgotten that Ken attempted to ruin her last year.

Another of those “what ifs”. Had HW gone to a seventh series, could Ken and Jan have finally got together? It might have happened, and if so would have been rather interesting.

Kate’s on the prowl – attempting to chivvy up Leo (his mind is understandably elsewhere these days). There’s more fun with Kate later as a stuttering Admiral Redfern attempts to express his feelings for her. The fact that Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison were a real life couple adds a little extra spark to this nicely played scene.

There are a few points of interest elsewhere – such as Jack and Vanessa winning a boat race (although it’s only a fairly fleeting plot point) and Jan’s attempts to stabilise the fluctuating fortunes of the House of Howard – but the meat of this episode takes place in Bermuda where the question of William and Thomas rumbles on.

Previously I’d marvelled at Gerald’s attire, this time it’s Orrin who impresses – his golfing clothes includes long shorts and white knee socks. Abby’s also wearing some eye-catching togs, but I need to be strong and pull myself away from this trifling fashion talk in order to concentrate on the plot. Robert Hudson (Bruce Boa) is back and we also see the often-talked about but rarely glimpsed William (Daniel Bortolli).

William’s a lad of a few, if any, words. But given his upbringing it’s no surprise that he’s not exactly a voluble, friendly child. In clothing he’s thoroughly Americanised and although he’s happy for Orrin to give him a piggy-back ride there’s no such happy reunion with Abby. She later tearfully tells Gerald that he didn’t even recognise her, which floats the possibility that even if Abby did regain William, he may not match up to her idealised dreams.

Last time Hudson was on the scene he was very much running the show, but now the power dynamic has shifted with Abby and Orrin (especially Abby) firmly in the driving seat. Abby is the one who offers Charles a settlement of fifty million dollars whilst Orrin symbolically stands directly behind her, rather than by her side. Once again she’s icy and controlled – is this something of an act to intimidate Hudson and Charles or has Abby really crossed over to the dark side? That’s something else that might have been explained and explored in a seventh series.

A few late items of interest. Lynne reveals that she’s pregnant to an overjoyed Charles. Either they’re quick workers or their relationship has been developing off-screen, since it only seems like a few episodes ago when they re-met. And Claude’s mother, Brigette (Carina Barone), pops up. It’s pleasing to know that Claude’s silly accent runs in the family, although since Barone seems to be French, I’m not quite sure why she sounds as if she’s putting the accent on. Maybe HW had employed too many faux foreigners over the years and by now I’m programmed to regard all foreign accents as false?

Brigette has come to stake a claim in Claude’s perfume line, but the matter gets more intriguing when it’s revealed that she’s being bankrolled by Laura. Eek! So there’s just one more episode to go – will all these plot-threads be neatly tied up? We shall see.

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Eleven

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The great and good of Tarrant are on the waves today, competing in a race organised by Charles. Leo and Jenny make for a very attractive team (maybe the lad should forget all about Abby and hook up with young Jenny instead). The equally comely Charles and Lynne are crewing another boat – and whilst it’s maybe a little odd to see Charles enjoying himself rather than sitting at his desk fretting about share prices, since he’s keen to beat the Relton boat it’s not just a pleasure cruise for him.

Jan and Robert make for the oddest combination. Way back in series one, Jan had a cordial dislike for mucking about on the water, but now she appears to be an old hand as she takes the wheel with a nonchalant air. Given that she spends all her time running an international fashion business (including designing all the clothes herself) I’m not sure where Jan’s found the time to become a first class sailor as well. Does she never sleep?

Who wins? Leo and Jenny, whilst Charles is a man overboard. Luckily there’s no damage done, indeed as Lynne hauls him back onto the boat he has a little chuckle. Certainly this is a much more relaxed Charles than we’ve seen for a long time. Has he finally escaped from the imposing shadow of his father?

If Jan and Robert also share a few laughs on the water, then it’s not long before she’s wearing her more usual expression (pained). This is after she learns that Robert has also been handling Charles’ affairs, although there seems to be nothing in this (Robert tells her that he only deals with Charles’ personal affairs, meaning that there’s no conflict of interest). We learn a little more about Robert – he’s divorced with several children – and indeed the rush to humanise him continues at a rate of knots. We later see the pair of them share a smoochy dance (to The Lady In Red, the slushy song of choice from this era) which suggests that they’re slowing falling in love. They’d better hurry up though, only two episodes after this one.

Jack’s been on a bit of a roll recently. After his entertaining antics last time, there’s more fun today – first when he comes clean to Vanessa and tells her that Tony could be his son. This is topped by the arrival of Bill who admits that Tony might actually be his son ….

Clearly Tony’s mother was a generous hearted woman (although, possibly thankfully, no further suspects step forward). This sort of material was like gold to Glyn Owen, who doesn’t disappoint after Bill drops his bombshell. The pair then decide to break the news to Tony, who confides that he’s no longer interested in the identity of his father. So this plotline rather staggers to a conclusion with no resolution.

It’s not all fun for Charles today. It’s revealed that he was behind the break-in at the Mermaid (sponsoring Hector Burrage to dislodge Admiral Redfern from the chairmanship at the bank). It’s a mildly interesting nugget of information, although you have to wonder why Charles – if he finds Redfern so disagreeable – doesn’t simply move his business to another bank.

The saga of William rumbles on. Abby and Orrin are in Bermuda (certainly makes a change from the south coast of England). They seem close – holding hands for example (plus there’s a non-explicit bedroom scene) – and are very much of one mind. Gerald, having headed out to Bermuda to advise, finds himself surplus to requirements. But his presence is worthwhile for the sight of Ivor Danvers in shorts. Not something I’d thought that I’d ever see.

Laura is making a bid to muscle in on the House of Howard by attempting to snaffle some shares. This late development feels a little odd – so close to the end of the series it probably would have been wiser to try and tie up all the existing loose ends rather than create new ones. Unless there had originally been some thought to carrying on with a seventh series.

Leo and Jenny kiss. And why not. Since Abby and Orrin seem to be coupling, you can’t blame the lad for seeking succour elsewhere.

Jack exploding for no good reason is a HW staple. This episode has a humdinger of an example – unhappy at Leo being given more control over the yard, Jack tells Avril that she’s “devious” and on exiting her office, informs Pierre Challon (James Coombes) that he’s a “frog”! Hovering around the periphery of the series for a while, Pierre slightly moves more into focus today – sharing a meal with Avril, there’s just the hint of a spark between them. In 2017 Coombes provided the voices of the Kraags in the BD/DVD reconstruction of the Doctor Who story Shada – a nugget of information which probably isn’t of interest to many people, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

Back to Jack, he’s still fuming that anybody – not least his daughter – could boss him about in his yard (his mood wasn’t improved after Avril told him that it’s not his yard anymore – Relton own it) and so he decides to quit. We’ve seen Jack threatening to leave the Mermaid Yard before, but this time could he really mean it?

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Ten

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We left the previous episode with Charles and Lynne in a tentative clinch (he seemed keen, she was very conflicted). In true Howards’ Way fashion their relationship has now accelerated at a rate of knots as today they’re remarkably pally and tactile. Quite why and how this sudden sea change occurred isn’t made clear – as ever, you just have to grin and bear it.

Jan’s not really been well served by the plotlines this year. Most of the time she’s been stuck in the office, complaining as Robert pours cold water on yet another business idea. There’s plenty of that today as well – enabling Jan Harvey to once again unleash her trademark irritated stare – but there are other developments too ….

Given that Leo no longer lives at home (allied to the fact that Jan’s remained unattached for a while) it’s easy to understand why her character has been work, work, work orientated – it’s just puzzling that it hasn’t been addressed before. But who invites her out for a spot of dinner? Why Robert of course. This does take a minute of processing, but it appears that Robert is actually a human being with a sense of humour and both have an enjoyable evening. Nice to see Jan laugh for a change, although there may very well be a twist in the tail at a later date.

This is a good Jack episode. Many of his well established traits are given another airing – together with Bill he berates the fact that working in wood is becoming a lost art, he tells Leo in no uncertain terms that he’ll do what he likes in his yard, etc – whilst (glory be!) Tony’s plotline begins to move. You might have seen this coming, but Tony finally confesses that he’s looking to trace his father, who might have worked at the Mermaid Yard.

When Jack learns the identity of Tony’s mother he goes a little white. Could Tony be his son? Hmm, it seems possible. Although we have to wait until the next episode for the ultimate punchline – when Bill admits that he could be the father too! Jack and Bill squabbling for parental supremacy would have made a decent spin-off sitcom.

Whilst the scenes between Jack and Tony (the lad still coasting along in blissful ignorance) are entertaining enough, there’s even better to come. Kate turns up – with a face like thunder – seeking an audience with Jack. We haven’t had a good Kate/Jack face-off for a while and whilst this one isn’t an all-time classic there are still some fine moments (Jack’s delight at learning Kate may become a councillor, for example).

But most of the entertainment is saved for later, when a reluctant Jack is forced to meet with Hector Burrage (Michael Lees). Burrage was the recipient of the incriminating document apparently stolen from the Mermaid (which implicated Admiral Redfern and Kate). Jack – in splendid form – is able to laugh the whole thing off, thanks to a few dodgy memos of his own. Lovely stuff from Glyn Owen as always.

Vanessa offers Avril a cheque for £250,000 to cover the fraud perpetrated by her brother. I do like the way that Avril half-heartedly murmurs that she couldn’t possibly accept it – within seconds she’s grabbed it and passed it over to Gerald for safe keeping! That solves that problem you would think, but since Vanessa had to sell some of her Relton shares to raise the money it’s put the company in danger of a takeover bid from Charles. A touch convenient the way this happens (also, given Vanessa’s links to Relton I can’t believe she’d sell her shares so willingly).

Abby and Orrin are now in America. Not surprising that the series didn’t have the budget to make the trip over, so a little suspension of disbelief is required when we see both of them in a brief street scene. To be fair, the location does look a little like the US (the yellow cab helps as well). Abby’s still in her power-dressing mode and now seems to be the dominant partner – for the moment, Orrin is content to defer.

Once again, you have to question whether Abby’s actions are motivated purely by her desire to do the best for William or if it’s more to do with personal gain. Or even a little of both. And indeed, even if her actions are selflessly directed towards William’s future, how will this single-minded stand affect her personal relationships? Time will tell, but we’ve only got three episodes to find out. Although she’s only onscreen for a few minutes, Abby certainly makes an impression (and it’s a chilling one when she tells Orrin that Ken is now under her control).

Avril and Gerald and Charles and Laura are independently called to a meeting in Malta, where the future of the Poelma Corporation will be revealed. This has to be one of my favourite end-of-episode moments – as Ken strolls in to drop the bombshell that he’s now the chairman of Poelma! Not a twist I was expecting, but delicious nonetheless.

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Nine

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There’s another example of “tell not show” at the beginning of today’s episode. Kate, indulging in a spot of pruning, sees two police officers approaching. The scene ends before we learn what they want and indeed we don’t hear a peep out of Kate for the next fifteen minutes – not until a horrified Jan answers the phone (although we’re not privy to the other side of the conversation).

A brief moment of tension is therefore created, but it’s instantly dissipated as the next scene shows Jan and Kate leaving the police station. A recent burglary at the Mermaid Yard has implicated Kate (connected to the documents she assembled last year when launching her abortive attempt to save the yard). It’s not really anything to worry about then – Kate isn’t set for a diet of bread and water – but you do feel that a little more could have been made out of this moment.

The burglary seems to be linked to the new chairman of the bank, Admiral Francis Redfern (Michael Denison), who – as we’ve previously seen – is an old friend of Kate’s (was the break-in an attempt to smear his name?). The urbane Francis (like so many before him) is forced to feel the rough end of Kate’s tongue for a few moments – although she’s mollified to learn that his position at the bank might mean a smoother ride for Jan in the future.

It’s highly characteristic that Kate automatically assumes they’ve now got a friend at court, although Francis is quick to point out that any support he can offer is dependent on Jan’s business proposals ….

Leo and Abby have a short, unhappy conversation which ends with Abby giving him a hard slap (this occurs after a taunting jibe that her only values are now monetary ones). Gerald also shares this disquiet, but he remains publicly supportive. It does seem now that she’ll meet with anybody – Orrin or even Ken – who will be able to help her achieve her ultimate goal. Mind you, given that HW was often said to embrace the Thatcherite ideal (even though 1990 were the dying days of Thatcher’s premiership) she’s not doing anything that many others – such as Jan – haven’t previously done. But is it about the money or is it about regaining William? Others have their opinion, but only Abby knows for sure.

Charles and Gerald arrange their parting. As with all of their business dealings, it’s handled in a straightforward and correct manner – although it’s notable that Charles seems to be the one with the most regrets. He once again states that his decision to contest his father’s will was in Abby’s interests and there’s something in his pleading tone which makes me inclined to believe him. You possibly won’t be shocked to hear that Gerald later takes up a position at Relton. With Gerald and Avril now on the same side, this sets up intriguing possibilities for the future (or would have done, if the series wasn’t hurtling to a conclusion).

Jack and Vanessa’s honeymoon hits a little bump when she learns the truth about her brother, but things soon get back on an even keel. The fact that Vanessa is keen to reimburse both Laura and Avril the money they’ve lost (well over half a million pounds) clearly suggests that she’s a woman of considerable financial means – but if she did so it would close off another area which could be mined for drama.

Although Laura puts a brave face on her loss (telling a gloating Ken that losing £300,000 is inconvenient but not disastrous) it may be that she’s not being entirely truthful. Hitting the reset button thanks to Vanessa would put us back to square one and negate the whole David Relton plot-thread. Let’s keep an eye on this one.

The mysterious Tony continues to mooch around the Mermaid, throwing knowing looks at regular intervals. This is a plot-thread which has been given time to breathe, but I think by now it’s been as stretched about as far as it can go. But alas, we still don’t know the truth about him, so it’ll rumble on for at least another episode.

Lynne’s not had a great deal to do so far this series. Most of her scenes have been with Jan and Robert and have played out in the same way (Jan and Lynne attempt to push their business ideas forward, the ever cautious Robert hums and haws). This episode does do something more with her though – first, she and Leo venture out on the water as she attempts to heal the breach between him and Abby.

A later encounter with Charles is even more intriguing. That the flame still burns between them is suggested when they kiss (although she pulls back after a moment). Given that their previous fling was brief and ended rather unhappily (with Lynne taking an acrobatic plunge into the water) it seems a little improbable that they would simply pick up where they left off after a gap of several years.

But this is Howards’ Way, where the improbable often becomes probable, so never say never ….

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Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Ten

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Maurice Colbourne’s name is no longer on the opening credits. This makes me feel very sad ….

Still, onwards with the story. Now this is more like it. Last time I was a little dismayed at the lack of media attention surrounding Charles and Gerald – but today we get the full works (cameramen, cameras, people with big boom microphones) as the beleaguered pair enter the Courts of Justice.

Jack’s banging on about Charlie Frere again. “Insider dealing, defrauding shareholders”. I’ve got the feeling that he doesn’t like him very much. He also takes the opportunity to tell Avril yet again that she should never have got involved with him. This may be stating the blindingly obvious but Jack’s also perceptive enough to realise that in order to save his own skin, Charles may very well decide to throw Avril to the wolves. This seems to be a thought that hasn’t crossed Avril’s mind though.

The boat’s been pushed out for the courtroom scenes. We’re on film and a crane is used in order to give pleasing sweeping camera moves across the court – from Charles and Gerald, sitting in the dock looking anxious, over to the Judge and then back again.

Jan storms into Leisure Cruise, hands on hips, demanding answers from Ken. She’s got a face like fury whilst Ken affects an air of puzzled innocence. With Vicki hovering in the background everything looks set for a decent showdown – although due to the way that the scenes chop and change between locations we have to wait a few minutes following her arrival for the meat of the scene.

Ken (wearing a nice green jacket) attempts to convince Jan she should be grateful for the fact that he steered James Brooke her way. True, if James defaults on his loans then his Howard Brooke shares will find their way to Ken, but he tells her that’s the last thing he wants. Mmm, yes that’s very convincing. Jan is having none of this and with her voice shaking with emotion she tells him to keep clear of her and her business. It’s slightly odd that she’s now dripping with venom towards Ken considering that at the end of series four and the start of series five they seemed on reasonable terms – but that’s the world of HW for you.

Abby, because she’s presumably the only photographer in Tarrant, has been given the job of photographing the Mermaid Yard. Her photographs, together with Jack’s text (if he ever finishes it, that is) will form a decent package to celebrate 200 years of the Mermaid. Last time she had to tell Bill to act naturally (he stopped and posed for a photo). Today sh’s decided to pose another of the workers (which does seem to be an about turn on her behalf). Wonderfully, Jack ambles up and attempts to muscle his way into the picture. Abby has to gently tell him that his beaming countenance is rather spoiling the naturalism of her composition.

Leo’s journey from the idealistic and impetuous teenager of series one to the smooth-talking businessman of series five has possibly been one of HW‘s more interesting character arcs. Today we find him sitting opposite Sir Alan Rockwell (Roger Hume) and chatting about the possibility of Sir Alan sponsoring Relton’s new powerboat.

That Sir Alan (Vicki’s uncle, remember) makes a point of praising Leo’s business acumen drives the point home that he’s come a long way. It’s quite a coincidence that just one episode after being mentioned, Sir Alan pops up in the flesh. But then Tarrant is a very small world. One of the story wrinkles about Sir Alan’s involvement is that he can they blab about Relton’s plans to Vicki who can then pass on the information to a very interested Ken. It’s all about interconnectivity.

Although Leo says that he’s been designing the powerboat, we’ve seen little evidence of this so far. He also later confides to Kate than although Avril’s keen on it, the Relton board are blocking its progress. I’ve commented before on how Relton seems to have shrunk to just two people (Avril and Leo) and this mention of the (never seen) board just highlights this fact. There would have been dramatic capital in a few decent boardroom squabbles, showing Avril coming under pressure, but it sadly wasn’t a direction that was taken up.

Back to the courthouse, both Charles and Gerald have fairly rough rides in the witness box. The human drama of Charles and Gerald’s squirming keeps these scenes ticking along nicely, since the ins and outs of who bought shares and when does tend to make my eyes glaze over after a while ….

Avril’s next up and finds herself grilled by Charles and Gerald’s defence lawyer, Lee Simons. Charles looks slightly sheepish at the way Avril’s put under pressure, but he can’t do anything to stop it. Mind you, later he’s forced to admit that Avril gave as good as she got (“unfortunately” he adds).

Kate’s still fretting about the fate of the Mermaid and erupts when she learns that Jack hasn’t told Vanessa the news. Or erupts as much as a well-bred English lady ever could. Another lovely scene for Dulcie Gray. “My god, when I get my hands on that devious so and so I’ll break his neck!”. Ah, wonderful, wonderful Dulcie Gray.

Gerald continues to find solace with Laura. Considering that she’s been behaving like a smiling monster with everybody else recently, I find their relationship a little suspicious – but at the moment it does seem that her feelings for him are genuine.

Jack’s turned maudlin again. Over a pint or three at the Jolly Sailor he once again laments the way he treated his late wife, Eileen. The ever-sensible Bill attempts to talk some sense into him, but Jack continues to torture himself. He admits that he hasn’t visited her grave since the day they buried her (“I just can’t bring myself to do it”).

Katherina Freiin Schell von Bauschlott, better known as Catherine Schell, turns up in today’s episode as Yvette Studer. She’s a contact of Jan and James and the pair have travelled abroad to meet her and discuss their next fashion show. Can you guess which part of the world? Might it just possibly be …. Malta? Yes, that’s right. Malta, the hub of the world.

The Mermaid Yard is all set to celebrate it’s two hundredth anniversary. They’ve got a marquee, plenty of alcohol and a brass band but the only thing they’re missing is Jack. As the brass band parp their way though A Life On The Ocean Wave, Jack’s finally plucked up the courage to visit the grave of his late wife. It’s only a short, dialogue-free, scene but it’s also a significant one. Now that Jack has dealt with the ghost from his past he can look to the future with renewed optimism.

Ken’s next to take his turn in the witness box and he wastes no time in putting the boot into Charles and Gerald with the maximum amount of relish ….

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Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Nine

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Avril’s gone back abroad for another business meeting. Where she could be …. I wonder if it might just be Malta? I wasn’t expecting to see a topless Tom sipping an orange juice though. Whilst it’s nice that the actors weren’t stuck in England, pretending that it was a lovely sunny day, from the fluttering umbrellas it’s clear that the weather in Malta wasn’t terribly balmy either. But Colbourne and Gilmore – troopers that they are – do their best to convince us that it’s not at all cold.

Leo’s a bit touchy at present, snapping at Kate when she discusses the forthcoming baby. As for Kate herself, it seems that romance might just be in the air, although Jan is baffled as to who her suitor might be. Regular HW watchers are probably better informed – which means that the reappearance of Admiral Francis Redfern (Michael Denison) shouldn’t really come as a surprise to many.

If Kate’s back than that means we go back to the races. But Kate’s got more than horsey business on her mind as she wants Francis to photocopy (or photostat as she says) several documents from the Planning Comittee he sits on. The upright Admiral Redfern doesn’t seem too put out by this, so clearly he’s deeply smitten by Kate. What’s it all about? All will be revealed later (although how Kate got to learn about it in the first place I’m not entirely sure).

Charles has to fend off a gaggle of reporters, well three to be precise. Either they’d blown the budget on the Malta filming or the continuing travails of Frere Holdings wasn’t really a big story (although this seems unlikely as it’s front page news in the Southern Indepdent – with a banner headline reading Frere Holding’s Prosecuted on Fraud Charges). Mmm, isn’t that apostrophe in the wrong place?

Anyway, back to Charles. Wearing a pair of dark glasses, despite the total lack of sunshine, he offers brief replies to the hyperactive barrage of questions lobbed his way from the two, dictaphone waving, reporters. With a photographer hovering in the background, it’s quite nicely shot although a few film cameramen would have ramped up the pressure a little.

Jack, a two-fingered typist if ever there was one, is preparing a history of a Mermaid Yard. Vanessa asks him how far he’s got amd after a minute he sheepishly has to admit that he’s sorted out the title!

Laura comes calling on James. It’s not a convivvial meeting though, as she continues to turn the screws. And with the death of someone called Nicola still preying on his concisence, it seems that Laura has plenty of material to torture him with. Cue James looking very down in the mouth. And after making James’ day, Laura then moves over to the Mermaid to give Jack an equally hard time. Her initial seemingly sweet nature seems to have evaporated totally.

Angela Down makes the first of two appearances as Charles’ defence counsel, Lee Simons. She’s a tough cookie that’s for sure, speaking sharply to Charles in a way that few people previously have. And due to his current situation he has no option but to listen carefully. Interesting for 1989 that they decided to go with a female character rather than a male one. HW does have a few female regulars (Avril, etc) in executive positions, but most of the other executive characters who pop in and out tend to be male.

After Ms Simons begins to chip away at some of the more suspect areas of Frere Holdings, it’s clear that Charles and Gerald are facing challenging times. There’s a lovely moment when she asks them quite boldy if they’re guilty! A wonderful way to close the scene.

Ken’s a little discomforted to have been called as a witness to Charles and Gerald’s upcoming hearing. Vicki offers him the benefit of her advice – initially he’s not terribly interested in anything she has to say but he perks up when he learns that she’s discussed it with her uncle, Sir Alan Rockwell, chairman of Confederated Industries. Slightly hard to believe that Ken – a man who likes to cover all the angles – didn’t realise that Vicki had such poweful connections. But it’s lovely how his expression changes from contempteous to calculating after he realises that she has relatives in high places ….

Avril and Tom are in Malta to meet the smooth-talking Sabio Fernandez. Well I say smooth-talking but the actor, Franco Rey, is the victim of a rather slipshod spot of dubbing. Rey doesn’t have that many credits to his name but they’re mostly English language roles, so I wouldn’t have thought his real accent was that strong.

Sir John’s back! He has a convivvial business lunch with Jan, who’s always keen to expand her empire. Jan’s already been giving the increasingly flaky James some hard stares in the office, but when she learns that Sir John appears to remember doing businees with him in the past, she gets rather concerned (the incidental music hammers the point home with a menacing note). I’m not quite sure why this should worry Jan though – it’s not as if Sir John remembered anything bad about him.

Ken and Laura later have an entertaining, if all too brief, argument. This leads on to Ken asking Vicki if she has any plans for the evening. She does, a drink with her boyfriend, but he asks her if she can cancel it and go out to dinner with him instead. By the expression on her face it seems that she’s quite pleased to be asked. And how was it telegraphed that Ken was interested in Vicki? Why, by the way the camera kept tight focus on her shapely backside of course. Not subtle, but it made the point.

Ken and Vicki run into Jack and Kate at the Jolly Sailor. Jack’s delighted to shake the hand of the mini-skirted Vicki whilst Kate looks on with a face like fury. Partly this is because she believes Vicki is (ahem) something more than a secretary but mainly it’s because she loathes Ken Masters with a passion. It’s nice that eventually Jan and Kate have come to agree on this. Also, nobody does a scowl like Dulcie Gray. It’s simply wonderful.

Kate then drops the bombshell to Jack that a proposed Marina development (not another Marina development?) intends to bulldoze the Mermaid. Crickey, this is what they call a packed episode.

James is becoming increasingly torturted. He tells Ken that “Jan has become very important to me and I do not want to anything that will hurt her”. Hmm, he probably should have thought about that before, shouldn’t he. As you might expect, Ken offers him not a shred of sympathy.

Later, James confesses all to Jan. His wife didn’t leave him for an estate agent, instead it was his affair with a model called Nicola Hind which caused the break-up. But the main problem was a late-night jaunt on the water with Nicola (which resulted in her death). And then he tells her that he owes an awful lot of money to Ken, who’s been blackmailing him ever since. Cue tinkling piano incidental music and a wobbly lip from Jan as she realises that Ken’s been pulling everyone’s strings.

The whole of series five, but especially this episode, has a tangible air of melancholy. Maurice Colbourne died on the 4th of August 1989 aged just 49. He’d completed work on nine of the thirteen episodes from this series, which meant that his sudden and unexpected death caused a flurry of frantic rewriting to explain his absence from the remainder of the run. The Malta footage might not have been the last material he shot for the programme (filming tended to be done at the start of the production block, prior to the studio work) but it serves as a decent, if wholly unintentional, coda to Tom’s story. Walking around Malta in the sunshine with Avril as they pick out a toy for Abby and Leo’s baby is a touching, if bittersweet, moment.

Although Tom hadn’t really featured terribly heavily in any of the main series five plotlines, the mere fact of his presence was still key. Whilst he’s been shown to be obessive and blinkered down the years, Tom Howard was also the voice and conscience of the programme. Whether he would have moved more into the forefront during series six is a moot point, but now he’s gone there will be a tangible air of loss.

Nearly thirty years later his absence from now on is still something which I find affects me, but on a positive note that can be put down to Maurice Colbourne’s sheer skill as an actor. Making Tom Howard such a compelling character is a type of immortality and it’s pleasing to think that the performances of Colbourne and his colleagues are still entertaining us, three or more decades later.

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