Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Thirteen

hw s05e13-01

It’s dramatic music to the fore as Jan follows the ambulance to the hospital. Clearly she’s feeling the pressure as her car wobbles on the road a little. Steady on Jan, you don’t want to have an accident as well. With immaculate timing, as she pulls up they’re just taking him out of the ambulance (what are the chances, eh?).

He looks in a pretty bad way but there’s no attempt to eke out the tension as a few minutes later a remarkably unsympathetic doctor tells Jan that James will be right as rain once they’ve pumped out his stomach. “Why do they do it?” the doctor muses. When Jan learns that he’d taken an overdose of sleeping pills this gives her the opportunity for some decent close-up anguished acting. And she doesn’t disappoint.

Later, when James has been pumped out and wheeled home, there’s an extraordinary little scene between him and Jan. She begins by being furious with him and then they both go at each other hammer and tongs (extreme emotions – and extreme acting – are the order of the day). Complete with ominous piano chords in the background it’s a scene you can’t forget, though I’m not entirely sure it’s for the right reasons. It seem a bit rich that Jan seems to be more upset at the anguish he’s caused her than pondering about what drove him to take such a drastic step. Or was it just a cry for help? Either or I’d say – you can put your own interpretation on events.

After shouting at Jan, James then rushes out to give Ken a bit of a slap. This is great fun as he manages to land several punches whilst Ken flails around (one of James’ blows looked a little like a martial arts move). Possibly expending this energy does the trick as afterwards he seems to quieten down a little.

James fulfilled a duel role this year – Jan’s love interest and designer – but he didn’t quite convince in either role. Every year Jan happens to stumble upon a world class designer and then later that year she loses her (or him). Fair to say that this is beginning to stretch credibility just a little. His wild mood swings didn’t exactly make him the easiest character to identify or emphasise with, so I can’t say I’m too unhappy that he didn’t return for series six. A little of his moping face goes a long way with me.

I’m a little sorrier that Vicki didn’t continue past this episode. It was a fairly undeveloped part for most of the year, but during the last few episodes – as Vicki began to exert her authority – she’s started to emerge as a much more interesting character. She and Laura make for an intimidating duo – both giggling behind their hands as the hapless Ken swans about, mistakingly under the impression that he’s still the boss.

Jack’s cool as a cucumber when Charles offers him a cool three and a half million for the Mermaid. He says nothing, just continues to blow out his cigar smoke ….

It’s remarkable how everybody, apart from Jack, seems to think that selling the Mermaid is a bad idea. Only last year Tom was debating the possibility of buying another yard – offering more space – so I’m not entirely sure why there’s such a sudden reversal. Jack makes the very good point that with the money Charles is offering they could afford to buy the best, but Avril isn’t swayed by this (for her, tradition is everything). As touched upon before, this is an ironic about turn – normally Jack is the one chuntering on about tradition.

Jack pops the question again to Vanessa, but she’s disinclined to give him an answer until she knows if he plans to sell the yard. Maybe that influenced his decision not to sell? But given that we’ve previously established that Tom, Avril and Jan are able to outvote him, this seems to be a slightly unsatisfactory plotline (attempting to generate tension where none exists). After all, if the others are united (which they are) then there’s no crisis. Was this a sign that the tangled plotthreads from the past five years were beginning to fox the writers?

It’s like deva vu all over again as Ken and Leo face each other in a powerboat race. But first of all Leo needs to get permission from his mother ….

Well not quite, but Avril’s not at all happy at the thought of Leo back racing and tells him that if Jan forbids it then it’s not going to happen. Leo, tired of being treated like a stroppy child, doesn’t take this terribly well. We don’t actually see or hear Jan’s thoughts on Leo risking life and limb – can we take this as another example of Jan’s self-centeredness? Is she so obsessed with her next fashion show that she doesn’t really care about her son?

Another fashion show? But we had one only the other week. To the delicate strains of the Fine Young Cannibals and Enya the models strut their stuff down the catwalk. You know the sort of thing. Earlier, James had been a little frantic. You know the sort of thing. Of course it’s all a fantastic success and Jan is showered with kisses and flowers at the end. Hurrah!

It’s odd that James was backstage at the time and so didn’t join in with the celebration. There also seems to something of a hard cut during the scene when he meets with Jan backstage, as it ends rather abruptly.

I want a plane like Charles’. That’s the ultimate executive toy.

Abby’s been rather in the background today. We’re about forty minute in before she has her first decent scene – meeting with Orrin’s lawyer to talk about a divorce settlement. Surprise, surprise, the Hudsons aren’t willing to give up custody of William – something which causes Abby to react with anger. Clearly she’s been keeping her feelings repressed for some time (once she knows for sure what the position is, then there’s a furious release).

It’s possibly not too hard to guess what happens next. Overcome, she rushes out of the house and straight into the path of two motorcyclists. We’re denied a sight of the accident (cheapskate producers) so have to make do with the sight of a prone Abby lying in the road with an anxious Gerald close by. Just as round two of Leo verses Ken is familiar, so is the fact that Abby – following an accident – is forced to give birth prematurely.

Oh, and Leo beats Ken, but when news of Abby’s accident comes through it obviously doesn’t seem so important. But that’s only the beginning of Ken’s troubles as Laura breaks the happy news that he’s lost control of Leisure Cruise. Thanks to Vicki and Sir Alan, Laura’s now gained a majority shareholding and wants Ken out of the office straight away. “You double dealing little bitch” he snarls. Lovely stuff!

The final shot of a champagne drenched Ken echoes the similar scene from the end of series four. But then Ken was celebrating, now he’s tasting only defeat (Laura mockingly showered him with champagne this time round).

This would have been a decent way to close series five, but there was obviously a more dramatic beat to end on. The sight of an unconscious Abby – who may or may not wake up – surrounded by Leo, Charles and Gerald (with news that the hospital were able to save the child – a boy) ensures that we finish on a very sombre note.

hw s05e13-02

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Twelve

hw s05e12-01.jpg

Whilst Gerald tries to keep Frere Holdings together, Charles is out sailing. Sir John takes a dim view of this. “Nero only fiddled”. It’s unusual to see Charles crewing such a small boat (and in a race as well) as in the past he’s tended to restrict his water-based activities to lounging about on his yacht.

It’s a pretty filthy day. Well in some shots. The curse of filming means that one moment the sky is overcast and the next the sun’s out. Oh and I like Charles’ hat. No really.

This is a major location shoot with many of the regulars close at hand – Jack, Vanessa and Laura are observing proceedings from the comfort of a speedboat whilst Ken and Vicki are also part of the race. Charles wins. Hurrah! Jack’s delighted too as even though Charlie Frere was the winner, at least he won it in a Jack Rolfe designed boat.

Kate, Abby and a number of fellow campaigners have started their protest. In practice this means that they’re walking round and round the main gate of the Mermaid (in eerie silence) carrying their placards. Kate does make the very good point that they really should be chanting something, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that had they done so then all the extras would have had to have been paid more money. So they remain silent and menacing (or silent and silly, depending on your point of view).

And where is the boy Leo? Out racing powerboats, that’s where. Although he was supposed to have retired, he’s clearly happy to be back in the saddle. Later we see Abby standing on the headland (her bump getting more pronounced by the minute) looking far from happy at the risks he’s taking.

We haven’t heard the “M” word for a while, but seventeen minutes in Charles utters it. “I shall have to fly out to Malta” he says. Yes, of course. Charles’ sailing win has generated some good publicity but Frere Holdings needs to press ahead with the Marina development in order to regain the confidence of the city. And this will only happen if they can buy up the Mermaid Yard.

Jack’s surprisingly keen to listen to Charles’ proposal (you’d have expected him to dismiss it out of hand). Although Jack is an arch traditionalist, he claims to be puzzled as to why everybody’s getting into a tizzy. He declares that the Mermaid is simply a patch of land with some huts on it. This statement – and his later comment of “too many memories” – tends to tie into Jack’s running theme this year (the way he’s been haunted by the ghosts of his past).

Ken and Laura are – delightfully – each scheming away. Laura’s popped over to see Charles whilst Ken’s planning to entertain Sir Alan. Laura finds that Charles gives her a friendly welcome (Gerald is much frostier of course). Later Laura and Charles enjoy a convivial dinner – he’s tuxedo’d up, she’s dressed to kill – where she drops the bombshell that Ken’s joined forces with Sir Edward and Hudson in order to beat Charles at his own game and snatch the Malta prize from under his nose.

This rendezvous also gives us the more than interesting sight of Laura attempting to seduce Charles. The next day we find that Gerald’s incredibly jealous at the thought of Charles and Laura coupled together, but Charles tells him that he’s built of sterner stuff. “Oh it was tempting … for a moment”. In other words, Gerald’s judgement was lacking when he got involved with Laura but Charles is much more streetwise. Gerald seems to accept this with reasonably good grace.

Charles then prepares to revenge himself against Ken – if he pulls out of the Malta venture then Sir Edward will lose interest in backing Ken (since his only reason for doing so is Charles’ involvement). Since this rehashes an identical plotline from last year you’d have thought Ken might have foreseen this. Ken agrees to hand over his Relton shares to Charles and once he’s done that Charles will withdraw from the Malta bid and Ken’ s path will be clear. Are you keeping track of all this? Things are beginning to get a bit complicated.

Sir Alan’s keen to invest in Ken’s latest business venture, but only if Vicki becomes a shareholder at Leisure Cruise. The later revelation that Sir Alan and Laura are friendly suggests that Ken’s troubles are only increasing ….

Jan and James are very merry. After moping around for most of this year, James eventually seems to have turned a corner – joshing Jan that she’s eventually going to turn into her mother! And if Sir John can arrange for the bank to repay James’ loan to Ken then he’d be happier still. Later, James pops round to Leisure Cruise for a face-off with Ken. James has got the cheque which releases him from his obligation to Ken, although Ken’s not at all chuffed (“you’re going to regret this”). Ken’s then on the phone to someone called Jeremy. “I’ve got a little job for you”.

Is Jeremy a hit man? Not really, at least, not in that sense (he obviously works for the Southern Independent). James isn’t quite the main headline (that belongs to “Airliners get FBI gun guard”) but he’s still been granted a prominent spot on the front page (“Howard Brooke Designer in model’s death mystery”). James doesn’t take it well. Ensconced in a Weymouth hotel, we see him lying spark out on his bed with an empty bottle of pills close by. Jan leaps into her car and sets off for the hotel – clearly she’s quite an upwardly mobile sort of person as her car has a phone (an unusual sight in 1989).

But when she pulls up to the hotel, she sees an ambulance heading out ….

hw s05e12-02

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Eleven

hw s05e11-01.jpg

Jack’s gone under the radar again, which is the cue for Bill and Vanessa to exchange worried looks. During the last few series five episodes, I often wonder which characters were given the dialogue which had been scripted for Tom. Here, it’s easy to imagine that the original conversation would have been between Tom and Vanessa.

I’ve mentioned before how HW often seems to eschew obvious dramatic setpieces. The opening of this episode is a prime example – we learn that Charles and Gerald have been found not guilty in a very low key way (Leo and Kate discuss it over the breakfast table). Given that the cliffhanger of episode ten had Ken triumphantly giving the pair a good kicking, it seems odd that the tension wasn’t ramped up by having the verdict read out in court.

Now that Charles and Gerald are in the clear, they can turn their attention to business matters once again. With the share price of Frere Holdings continuing to tumble, Charles is keen to restablish himself – and if that means taking down both Avril at Relton and Ken at Leisure Cruise then so much the better. Fair to say that Charles is out for revenge – both Avril and Ken crossed him in the witness box, so now they have to pay …

Sir John’s testimony was key in clearing them, and this favour has enabled him to restablish a strong working relationship with Charles. A pity that Sir Edward isn’t around at present, as that would have made this new alliance (especially considering the way that Sir Edward threw Sir John to the wolves last year) especially juicy.

Charles wastes no time in seeking Avril out. There’s a fascinating little exchange where he spells out his business credo. “All I’ve ever done is to try and secure the highest possible return for my shareholders. Now if that’s a crime then yes, I’m guilty”. Yes, he probably was. This is a very Thatcherite statement of intent – making money is the only thing that matters, legally or illegally.

Jan and James’ big fashion show is nearly here (it’s in Malta remember, the hub of the fashion and boating world). James is having kittens, since he’s convinced that the audience is set to rip him to shreds (although they look like rather innofensive extras to me). To the delicate strains of Terence Trent D’Arby, the models strut their stuff (primary colours are to the fore to begin with). Given that the scene’s quite a short one, there wasn’t a great deal of benefit to shooting out in Malta. It probably would have looked just as good in the UK ….

When they’re back home, Jan’s delighted with the glowing newspaper reviews – which rate Howard Brooke as one of the top European fashion houses. Unfortutely some of the other press clippings – digging out James’ American misadventures – aren’t quite so welcome.

This year has certainly been a streamlined one in terms of Jan’s fashion business. Previously she’s had to deal with production and distribution headaches, but there’s been no such problems this time round. The result is that her irristable rise and rise is more than a little unbelivable (but when there’s so many competing storylines this is possibly inevitable).

Jack continues to mope about, torturing himself about Eileen, but there’s a sense that this storyline is coming to a conclusion. For the first time, Avril speaks to him about his current despressed state and realises that her father is interested in developing his relationship with Vanessa, but the guilt he feels over his treatment of Eileen is holding him back.

Kate’s organising a one-woman campaign to save the Mermaid Yard. Once upon a time this would have been the sort of thing that Leo would have got involved in readily, but these days he’s more interested in pushing his new powerboat design. Later, Leo wryly tells Abby that Kate’s bound to corral them both – but whilst Abby’s happy to take a stand (the embers of her previous campaigning still burns) Leo’s much more ambivalent. He’ll do it because he doesn’t want to disappoint his grandmother, but despite the fact that he says he admires her fighting spirit it seems that he, left to his own devices, would be happy for the Mermaid to be levelled to the ground.

I have to say that Kate’s banners (“Hands off the Mermaid”, etc) are very professionally designed. Clearly she’s got an artistic eye.

Abby’s now decided that she wants to fight for William’s custody after all. Like her on/off/on relationship with Leo, this has been a plotline which has ebbed and flowed over the last few years. And who does she ask for help? Charles.

This is slighly surprising as when her pregnancy became public knowledge she could barely bring herself to be in the same room as him. But as so often with Abby, pragmatism seems to have won out over personal feelings. With Sir Edward no longer around, Charles is clearly the next best choice. Mind you, she could have gone to Gerald and no doubt he would have done everything he could to help her (she does give a reason why she decided not to approach him, but it doesn’t quite convinced). Abby and Gerald working together to fight for William’s custody would have worked, but there’s much more of a dramatic frisson if it’s Abby and Charles.

Ken and Laura are heading abroad (bet you can’t guess where they’re going). This leaves Gerald in the lurch, as he’d arranged to meet Laura for drinks. Gerald, pretty astute businessman that he is, finally begins to realise that Laura’s decidedly untrustworthy. But he seems to have got off lightly. I feel sorry for Ken who, completely unsuspecting, is being subtly manipulted by her, each and every step of the way ….

hw s05e11-02.jpg

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Ten

hw s05e10-01.jpg

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 ….

hw s05e10-02

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Nine

hw s05e09-01

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.

hw s05e09-02

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Seven

hw s05e07-01.jpg

Jack’s suddenly enthused with a whole new work ethic – which causes raised eyebrows from Tom and Bill. But this is only a small skirmish compared to the fireworks ahead – Tom learns that Jack’s decided to employ Vanessa as the Mermaid’s PR agent. “It’ll put us on the map” says a confident Jack. Maybe it’s the mark of a good PR woman that although Jack and Tom were at complete loggerheads, after Tom exchanged a few words with Vanessa he backed down …

Gerald seems convinced that his relationship with Polly is over. He tells Charles that after twenty five years of marriage he’s going to miss her. “Mm hmm” says Charles. Well, not much else he could have said really. As touched upon before, it’s slightly odd they didn’t make a little more of this – Gerald mentions that Polly should be boarding her flight for America about now, but we don’t actually see it.

The main point of this scene comes a little later, after Gerald inadvertanly lets it slip that Abby’s pregnant. Given that they’ve had no (on-screen) contact this series, it’s not too surprsing that – as yet – she hasn’t confided the news to her natural father. Plus she’s yet to tell Leo either.

It’s full steam ahead in the fashion world, although James continues to fret about his new designs. I can’t take my eye of the model he’s using though (just before the twelve minute mark for those who want to check it out). This extra certainly knows how to steal a scene – just marvel at her wide range of facial expressions – so much so that I found it hard to concentrate on what Jan and James were talking about.

Orrin – sporting the yellow sweater draped around the shoulders look – is in a concilliatory mood. But Abby (not for the first time) isn’t having any of it. Do you get the feeling we’ve been here before? This is one of those plotlines that seems to have been going round and around for ages without any resolution. For now though, Orrin’s reached the end of the road (he disappears for the rest of series five, but features heavily throughout the sixth and final series).

So how long do you think it will take Leo to realise what Abby’s news is? She drops an early hint (ordering a bottle of champagne, but telling him that she shouldn’t drink any) but the penny doesn’t drop. He then has a guess (“you’ve got a new job?”) which falls slightly wide of the mark. His next guess (“you’re pregnant”) hits the bullesye, but it was clear that he was joking. Poor Leo, for all his recent sophisticated upward-mobility, at heart it seems he’s still something of a naive young lad. Or that’s how he’s being written at present.

Gerald – once again – is homing in on Laura. She’s sporting big hair today and seems very pleased to see him. Whilst Gerald and Laura are chuckling away like nobody’s business, Charles is ensonsed with Julian Burridge (John Line) – all part of his scheme to oust Avril from Relton.

Once Laura and Gerald have stopped chuckling, they discuss Charles. Gerald admits that he’s “demanding, exhausting and I wouldn’t be content working with anybody else”. Following their early series wobble, Gerald and Charles seem back on firmer ground (but nothing lasts forever). Charles meets Laura for the first time and then hotfoots over to see Abby.

I love how Charles tells her that he made extra sure the flowers he selected turned up on time (by asking with his secretary to confirm with the florist). It’s an unconcious thing no doubt, but clearly he would never think of soiling his hands by going into a florist and actually buying the flowers himself.

It’s not the most convivial of chats though – Abby’s still bitter about William and the fact that Charles hasn’t been able to help. This seems a little unfair to Charles though. From the point of view of showing a vunerable and human side to Charles’ nature, this is a good scene. So far this year, Charles has been cast in his more familar ruthless tycoon persona (so a change of pace, even for just a moment, is welcome).

Charles and Orrin later have another brief, but unappy meeting. “You’re going to regret this” mutters Orrin after Charles tells him that unless he hands over all copies of the secret recordng of their previous meeting he’ll destroy him. Quite how Charles would do this isn’t made clear, but he sounds confident. But Orrin – later sharing a beer with Ken – sounds equally confident that he’s going to squash Charles like a grape. They both can’t be right, hmm ….

Gerald (complete with flowers – you can bet he actually bought them himself) pops round to see Laura. She’s still sporting the big hair and has now squeezed herself into a little black number. It’s a gloriously sunny day in Tarrant (the sun is shining, the birds are singing). How can this be? We’re in the studio of course. This is rather apparent when Laura opens her front door and we see Gerald standing by some very fake-looking greenery.

Gerald hasn’t discussed his sexuality (or indeed been seen to have any sort of relationship other than with Polly) for some time. There seems to be something of a retcon of his character here, after he tells Laura that he used to think he was gay but he actually isn’t (he loved a man he tells her, but not in the physical way that the other man wanted).

Ivor Danvers is remarkably good in this scene, managing to make Gerald touching, tender and vunerable all at the same time. Danvers is possibly one of HW‘s less celebrated stars, but given the material he never fails to deliver.

hw s05e07-02.jpg

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Six

hw s06e06.jpg

Tom’s out for an early morning jog – doing his best Steve Austin impression. This isn’t a regular occurance, so something must be about to happen. And it does. He spies a mysterious balaclaved man (all dressed in black of course) mucking about with Spring. Tom rushes over to remonstrate, but alas he’s felled with a single punch as the masked man makes a speedy escape.

If this isn’t exciting enough (interesting that – for once – there was no incidental music during this mild action scene) then there’s better to come. A topless Leo (well, better for some people I guess) and a disheveled Abby emerge from Spring‘s cabin. The plot thickens when it’s revealed that the thief had left behind plans of Sir Edward Frere’s design for the America’s Cup.

Gerald and Charles continue to glance at their teeny-tiny monitor, worrying about their share price (the VDU display looks a little Ceefax-like. Possibly it could be Prestel, wich was still active in the late 80’s). Charles is keen to buy Ken’s Relton shares but Ken isn’t inclined to sell. Meanwhile Laura continues to scheme away – as Gerald notes, Ms Wilde is only interested in one person (herself).

Jan and James (she’s dressed stylishly in black, he’s wearing a pair of braces) clash yet again. Given what James is wearing today, I’m not entirely sure I’d trust his judgement as a fashion designer ….

Jan – fretting about Leo’s problems – finds that James is a sympathetic listener. A little more backstory about his characer is shaded in when we learn that he has, or rather had, children. It’s left dangling for the moment as to exactly what this means.

They’ve been arguing so much recently, it surely must mean that love is in the air. Our first inkling of this comes when Jan invites him to dinner. He agrees (and comes armed with a bunch of roses). Mind you, he seems surprised that Leo’s not there, so presumably he was expecting a family meal. Possibly he hasn’t dated too much recently.

He finally explains what happened to his family. His wife left him, took his children, and moved in with an estate agent from Guildford. Thank goodness! I was expecting much bleaker news – a car crash, say. Jan has a little chuckle at this, which seems a bit mean. Is it the estate agent part or the Guildford part which tickles her fancy?

And then they lock lips, only for Jan to break away to tell him that “I fired Mark this afternoon”. I’m not sure whether this was a tongue in cheek moment or if Christopher Green (today’s writer) was being serious. We know that Jan is an obsessive businesswoman, but surely even she can stop thinking about business for a few minutes?

Still, the way that they embrace again and slowly sink down out of sight whilst the camera coyly moves over to the stereo (which is pumping out a selection of light classics) makes it plain what’s going to happen next. I also love the notion that a night with passion with Jan fires James’ creative juices so much that the first thing he does next morning is to sketch out a new design. And shortly afterwards he’s created a whole new portfolio. Wow!

Following the departure of Davy a while back we haven’t, apart from Bill, had any regulars in the yard. Kelly George (as Ted) has lurked about in the background for a few episodes this year and today gets a few lines. But this is the last we’ll see of him (a year or two later he’ll pop up in Grange Hill as Ray).

Jack’s disappeared, annoyed that Vanessa’s been buying up Relton shares in order to shore up Avril’s position. “I could cheerfully strangle him” mutters Tom, after Vanessa tells him all. There are various HW‘s staples and Jack going walkabout is one. Cue several scenes of Tom and Bill anxiously standing around, waiting for news.

Given the number of times he’s done this before, it’s difficult to be too concerned about this latest vanishing act though. And so it proves as Jack’s eventually tracked down (to a boat, obviously). He looks rather good in full-on stubbly mode. Glyn Owen and Lana Morris share another nicely written two-handed scene.

Leo’s clearly not himself, as a trainee under his supervision badly injures himself lifting an engine. It’s another odd moment, since we don’t actually see the accident, only hear about it later when it’s discussed by Leo and Avril. Budget saving or an attempt to streamline the storytelling?

Last episode’s cliffhanger (will Abby stay or will she go?) is answered in an oblique way. She tells Leo that she gave him her answer the other night on Spring. His self-satisifed smirk should be all the information we need to fill in the blanks. Abby has been on the verge of confiding something important to Leo on more than one occassion this year, but just before she’s about to speak each time something distracts her. Today it’s the sight of Gerald and Laura having a meal. It’s suggested that Gerald has his eye on Laura, or is it purely business?

The thick plottens when it’s revealed that Orrin(!) was the masked man who planted the America’s Cup designs on Leo. You’d have assumed he would have been able to delegate this sort of thing to a minion, but clearly not. The killer blow is delivered when Orrin (off-screen, annoyingly) tells Tom that it was all Polly’s idea.

Gerald and Polly confront each other. He tells her that “you suck the marrow out of people’s bones and spit it out when it’s no further use to you”. Abby – stuck in the middle of their bickering – then delivers her bombshell … she’s pregnant. That Gerald immediately embraces her whilst Polly keeps her distance is highly characteristic (although Abby does make it plain that she doesn’t want her mother to touch her).

No doubt this is the important news she’s attempted to tell Leo on several occassions. Polly has a lovely deadpan comment. “Well done. Another baby to give away”.

This is easily her best line from what turns out to be her final episode. Given the way that characters tend to come and go, viewers at the time might have expected her to reappear later on, but it wasn’t to be. So it’s a slightly low-key way for Polly to exit, especially since most of the dramatic lines are coming from Gerald (he picks up a phone, rings for a taxi and tells her she has to leave the house within an hour).

Was this always intended to be her final appearance or did they hope that Patricia Shakesby would return? It feels pretty open-ended – and the fact that Polly barely featured in this episode does lead me to suppose that it wasn’t suposed to be the final end. After all, had this been planned as her last hurrah you’d have expected they would have given her something more dramatic to work with.

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Five

hw s05e05a.jpg

Leo’s come up in the world since he was a motorbike riding, petrol pump attendant during series one. Now (as a thrusting young executive at Relton, with a seat on the board beckoning) he owns an open top sports car. But his leisurely drive through a series of winding country lanes is interrupted by a honking Range Rover behind him.

This then develops into a moderately exciting action scene as the pair pull up at a crossroads and Orrin – for it is he – smirks at Leo from the opposing drivers seat. They then set off again and a (fairly) high speed chase ensues, with the incidental music being set to “exciting”. All the clichés you’d expect to see are present and correct – a lorry blocking the road (check), a rural type observing proceedings with bucolic indifference (check).

This brief game of chicken only serves to splatter Leo’s car with mud. “Orrin Bloody Hudson” he mutters. Although it’s slightly hard to reconcile this new, ultra-cocky Orrin to the more pliant man we’ve previously seen, it’s not totally unbelievable. A few years back he was something of a blank canvas who seemed to be easily manipulated by his father. Today we could be seeing the result of that manipulation.
Leo loses several credibility points for listening to Chris De Burgh on his car stereo, but at least it was the slightly rocky Don’t Pay The Ferryman rather than The Lady In Red.

Ken doesn’t change. Vicki, dressed in a tight skirt, is on the hunt for a file. Ken, delighted at eyeing up her shapely form, is keen to suggest that the file may be in various places (which are all locations designed to make her stretch just a little bit more).

Although Jack was initially sceptical of Vanessa’s suggestion that they should assemble a photofile of the Mermaid Yard, now he’s warming to the idea. He confides to Tom that he could have been a male model! Lovely stuff, as is Jack’s continuing laissez faire attitude to the Mermaid – he’d much sooner be swanning off, buying flowers, than be stuck at the yard worrying about boats. Tom, facing an ever mounting list of problems, isn’t too chuffed at this, but surprisingly he doesn’t protest too much.

Fair to say that Jan and James aren’t getting along (he’s annoyed that she’s been rifling through his private papers – although it was an accident). Jan’s astonished to discover that James was a designer, but his one and only collection was savaged by the critics and now he’s given up on the possibility of ever designing again. Jan thinks his designs are wonderful (although since all the critics disagreed, this casts some doubt on her judgement).

Interesting that Vanessa’s living room was shot on film and on location rather than at the studio. It’s unusual, but possibly it was intended as a once off location – hence it would have been cheaper to shoot it this way, rather than go to the expense of creating a studio set. But it works out for the best in a visual sense, as their fireside chat – Jack musing over Charles and Avril – looks very good on film.

Vanessa is keen for Jack to spend the night but he – due to an early start tomorrow – isn’t interested. Or is it more to do with his commitment issues? Even though he treated his late wife abominably, he still shows a tremendous degree of loyalty towards her.

This episode confirms for the first time that Vanessa’s house is next door to Relton. Makes sense in one way, since Relton had previously been in Vanessa’s family (at one point it looked as if she might have inherited it). Although given this, it seems slightly odd that she’d decide to pitch up so close and run the risk of stirring up bitter memories.

Polly had arranged a dinner with her, Gerald, Abby and Orrin but Abby throws a spoke into this by deciding to go out with Leo instead. But Polly doesn’t give up easily, so she and Orrin hotfoot it to the restaurant where Abby and Leo are eating (easy to do remember, Tarrant’s not overflowing with restaurants). There then follows a tense scene where Orrin tells Leo to butt out as “this is none of your business”. But Leo takes charge, leaving Orrin frustrated.

There are plenty of late night heart to hearts in this episode. Jack, after leaving Vanessa, visits Avril at Relton whilst Polly and Gerald have a straightforward conversation for the first time in a long while. Polly’s insistent on returning to America and Sir Edward (but is her relationship with him purely business?) and would like Gerald to join her. He doesn’t wish to do so, which pretty much brings their tottering relationship to an end.

Leo and Jan also have a late night chit chat, but theirs is brief and to the point. She does ask about Abby, which for Jan (often self obsessed) is a point in her favour, but the scene’s much more about Leo declaring that whilst James’ designs might not have been fashionable fifteen years ago, they could be now. This triggers off a lightbulb moment in Jan (or possibly a poundsign moment!) as she mulls the concept over. It’s another good example of Leo’s perceptive nature, although it’s slightly hard to believe that a bunch of designs laughed at in 1974 would be a hit in 1989. Still, stranger things have happened.

The next day, Avril and Tom have a heart to heart about Jack and Vanessa. They’re clearly so engrossed that they don’t notice Jack lurking by the door.

After acting incredibly arrogantly for the last few episodes, Orrin’s now in a conciliatory mood – asking Abby to come home for William’s sake. But it’s more for the sake of his political career of course. And then things liven up nicely when Orrin and Leo plunge into the dock. In a way, this is a re-enactment of Leo and Abby from the start of the first series – only this time, Leo’s rescuing Orrin from the water rather than Abby.

Everything really kicks off when Abby jumps into a small boat and rows across to them. All the time this has been happening nobody else seems to have noticed (well that’s not strictly true, people do point fingers and talk into walkie-talkies, but that’s about all they do).

We close on a rather decent cliffhanger as a very damp Leo and Abby confront each other over Orrin’s water filled and insensible body. “He’ll live” mutters Leo with the minimum of concern. Leo’s much more concerned about the fact that he didn’t hear Abby’s response to Orrin’s offer that they should try again as a family ….

hw s05e05b.jpg

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Four

hw s05e04a.jpg

This episode opens on a sombre note as Laura’s father, Jimmy, is laid to rest. It’s an impressively mounted crane shot – beginning high up before zooming into the graveside, where, one by one, the other mourners leave until just Laura – dressed in purple with a black headscarf – remains. No words are spoken until Laura has left the churchyard (and then, Laura only briefly pauses to thank Jack and Avril for coming) but the expression of pain on Laura’s face tells its own story.

The unusual camera angles continue in the next scene, as we cross to Gerald and Polly’s house. The initial shot is taken from the first floor, as a silent Polly observes her daughter. The soundtrack (and Polly’s expression) helps to give this brief moment a sense of menace. Although when Polly comes down to talk to Abby, she seems more like her old self.

Polly wants Abby to come to America with her and start a new life (interestingly, Polly also claims that she has no plans to divorce Gerald – but unless he moves out to Americs as well it’s hard to reconcile this). Long-term Leo and Abby watchers will no doubt have picked up on Abby’s comment to her mother about Leo, as she refers to him as “the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. He doesn’t know that, but that’s how it’s going to be”.

This is a fascinating little moment. Abby may appear on the surface to be a more relaxed character than her mother, but this autocratic statement suggests otherwise. What Abby wants, Abby tends to get.

To date, James has been a very passive character, content to let Jan lead the way, but today he makes his first stab for independence. He introduces her to Sophie Westbrook (Fran Lima). Sophie is a talented designer and Howard Brooke need a new designer, so a meeting seems logical. But since it wasn’t Jan’s idea, she’s very resistant. This is a good example of Jan’s control-freakery. If she’s the one giving the orders then all is fine, but when somebody else dares to suggest anything, things don’t run so smoothly ….

Jan’s not keen on her designs. Is this because she really didn’t like them or was it more to do with the fact that she didn’t choose her? True, Sophie’s portfolio contained a few topless dresses(!) but the rest of the (unseen) designs seemed to be decent. Jan complains that James is attempting to steamroller her, only for James (at last) to snap back that Jan’s already done more than a little steamrollering of her own. After the last few episodes I was beginning to wonder if James would ever spark into life – happily, it’s eventually happened.

Charles and Avril clash again. Returning from the funeral, Avril is more than a little put out to find Charles lounging in her office.

Orrin (Jeff Harding) arrives back in Tarrant. He’s colder and more arrogant than before (no doubt in part due to the fact that he’s now being played by a different actor). Whatever else he’s here for, a tearful reunion with Abby doesn’t seem to be on the cards.

More unusual camera angles are on display when Orrin and his entourage pull up at Leisure Cruise. With the camera placed very low on the ground, shooting upwards as Orrin gets out of his car, it helps to give him a sense of stature. Orrin’s meeting with Ken is something of a treat (with Ken on the one side gently mocking Orrin and Orrin on the other, implacable and cold) even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

The Hudsons are keen to bring down Charles (fair enough) but have decided that Ken is the only one who can help them (by passing on Eckhardt Sahnn’s name to the police). Are we really to suppose that they couldn’t have tipped off the police themselves?

Polly and Jan meet. It starts off in an extremely chilly fashion, before suddenly they have a good giggle and become much more convivial. A slight contrivance maybe, but a necessary one, since Polly needed somebody to explain the ins and outs of of the plot to.

Ken and Laura are now partners. Whilst you should never underestimate Ken’s underhand dealing, at present it seems that Laura holds the upper hand. She’s quickly able to connect the earlier presence of the Fraud Squad at Leisure Cruise with their investigation into Charles. Of course, Charles has been chomping at the bit to find out who shopped him – Laura doesn’t intend to do so (or so she says) it’s simply that she wants Ken to know that she knows. Fifteen love to Laura.

Avril’s gone on a little foreign jaunt, to meet a smooth type called Sabio Fernandez (Franco Rey). Funnily enough, it looks a lot like Malta ….

This episode has a bit of racing action, but it’s so intercut with the other plot threads that it tends to get lost. Good news though, Tom wins his class in Barracuda as does Leo in Spring. But the main point of interest during these scenes is that Abby, crewing with Leo, felt suddenly sick and had to return to shore. Hmm, since she never gets seasick, I wonder what this could be. I wonder.

Charles and Gerald are slightly irked to be called to a meeting with Orrin, but they go anyway. This is a good indication that Charles’ position isn’t quite as secure as it used to be. Gerald is once again uncharacteristically forceful – telling Orrin in no uncertain terms that he wants her out of Abby’s life once and for all. Gerald’s come a long way from S1, when it appeared that he only ever saw Abby on a handful of occasions each year.

Later, Charles and Orrin face off in secret as Sahnn’s murky dealings with Charles are brought to the surface. We close the scene with Charles looking slightly perturbed – something which we rarely see. And since Orrin was secretly recording the meeting it appears that he, at present, is in the driving seat ….

hw s05e04b

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Three

hw s05e03-a

Jack’s in a reflective mood. “My daughter. The worse Charlie Frere treats her, the better she likes it”. This doesn’t seem like an accurate reading of the situation (I’ve never really thought that Avril’s Relton struggles with Charles were some sort of elaborate foreplay) but then Jack has often mused on the unpredictability of women, so he’d probably agree that he may not have read the situation correctly.

As if to hammer this point home (re Jack and his inability to read the moods of the opposite sex) he offers to take Vanessa out for a sail on her new purchase The Proud Lady (one of Jack’s old boats) but she recoils with terror on her face. This is something of an overplayed moment (the very dramatic music doesn’t help) although it does suggest, none too subtly, that something’s troubling her.

Later they do go out, but when the weather gets a bit choppy Vanessa goes very wonky. It’s not really Lana Morris’ fault (this sort of scene is very hard to play) but she doesn’t really convince during this scene. She’s much better later on when Vanessa confides to Jack that ever since her husband, Klaus, was killed in a boating accident she’s been somewhat apprehensive about taking to the water. This is a nicely played two-hander between Owen and Morris.

Vanessa later has a chance to beat her fear of the water after a dinghy overturns in a small lake and a youngster pitifully screams for “help, help”. Several points spring to mind here – firstly that the submerged mariner seems to be pretty close to the bank (and if they can’t swim that short distance to safety, surely they shouldn’t have been out on the water in the first place). The extra in front of Vanessa (an old boy with a cap and binoculars) slightly amuses me. Presumably he rushes off in a panic as Vanessa seems to be the only one left to help – as she eyes a small sailboat and sets off on a rescue mission.

This isn’t the most dynamically directed of scenes it has to be said. We cut away before Vanessa actually ventures out, which seems to be a bit of a cheat. And if this one action has cured her fear of the water then we can chalk it down as yet another instance of the series setting up an interesting plot point, only to resolve it almost straightaway. Which is a little odd.

Leo seems to have clicked back into being the dutiful son (we see him doing the wiping up at home). He’s curious about his mother’s new business partner, James Brooke, which is understandable since some of Jan’s previous liaisons have mixed business with pleasure. “Is he married?” he enquires. And then James pops up and Leo exits. One in, one out.

I wonder what Jan and James will call their new, merged business. Oh, what about Howard Brooke. That’s quite snappy. James doesn’t seem to query this (Brooke Howard would sound just as good) and he also doesn’t seem too concerned when Jan steamrollers ahead with her plans for redecoration, branding, etc. At the moment, Jan seems to be very much the dominant partner.

The dramatic music makes a return when Tom tells Laura that Ken might use her the health of her ailing father, Jimmy (Walter Sparrow), in order to gain a business advantage. Once again, it’s a pity that the incidentals are rather strident at the moment.

Avril’s looking lovely again today, dressed in a tight skirt which seems to be designed purely to show off her slim waist. Her meeting with Leo (it’s almost as if he’s the only other person who works for Relton) is interrupted by a phone call from Ken. Feet up on the desk, his casual manner belies the fact that he clearly feels he has a trump card to play.  He’s able to convince Avril that a meeting is in her best interests. With Avril’s position at Relton somewhat shaky thanks to Charles, this possibly isn’t too surprising.

Lord Runswick (Harry Beety) is the sort of blunt Northern salt of the earth type made good who is so much of a cliché that it’s impossible to take him seriously. His parting comment to Charles (he declines to join his crusade to oust Avril) deserves quoting. “But you start playing this sort of game for revenge, you’ll wind up searching for tanners in your turn-ups”. Happen as maybe he’s right, by gum.

Ken continues to be haunted by Laura. The ever-loyal Vicki attempts to cover for him, pretending to Laura (who’s on the phone) that he’s not in the office. But as she’s sat outside in her car and can see his car, this isn’t a very convincing lie. Poor Ken. A minute later we see him looking plaintively out of the Leisure Cruise office window at Ms Wilde.

Sir John Stevens doesn’t appear in person until episode nine, but even offscreen his presence is still felt. Here, he’s the buffer between Ken and Laura. She’s miffed that Ken’s already told Sir John that the purchase of Wilde Mouldings is a done deal when that’s not the case at all. Even if Laura agrees, the ultimate decision will have to come from her father (although he does seem keen to sell).  But since he doesn’t seem long for this world, it might end up as her decision after all.

Jack, back at the Mermaid, chats to Tom about Vanessa. What begins as a two-handed scene quickly focuses on Jack, as he begins to look backwards – at how he decided to “marry the yard” when he married his late wife Eileen. The way that the camera slowly closes in on Glyn Owen’s face as he delivers his monologue is such a simple trick, but it’s so effective. Owen, whenever he’s given a dramatic scene, never fails to deliver.

Do you know, sometimes I walk through that yard, I turn … expecting her to be there, looking at me. And asking the same old question, why I let her down. And I did, you know.

Apart from taking a few snaps, we don’t see Abby until we’re thirty minutes in. She and Leo are in a very affectionate mood (their on/off/on/off/on relationship is somewhat confusing to keep track of) but after a minute the real reason for their sofa canoodling becomes obvious – it’s so Polly (yes she’s back) can stroll into the living room and shake her head in dismay. “I hope I’m not disturbing you” she mutters icily ….

Abby and Polly have regressed to their S1 relationship (in other words, not good). Their brief moments of rapprochement from more recent times seem to have vanished as Abby (Cindy Shelley looking rather lovely when she’s angry) rails against her mother for apparently leaving her father. But Polly’s gloriously unrepentant.

Given that the major reason for Polly going to America was in order to try and intercede with the Hudson family over William, it’s slightly surprising that Abby doesn’t bring this up. But there is a possible explanation –  after she declines to view a series of new photographs of her son (dashing them out of her mother’s hand) it might be that her disdain for Polly’s actions are stronger than her maternal instincts. Or has she finally accepted that William is out of reach? That’s a moot point at the moment, but two and a half episodes in it’s noticeable that Abby’s hardly mentioned William.

Polly’s gleeful, mocking expression after Abby leaves the room is slightly disturbing. In the past, Polly has been thoughtless, snobbish and self-obsessed but this is something new. Evil Polly seems to have arrived ….

The reunion between Polly and Gerald is just as dramatic. At present it seems that Gerald has recovered his faith in Charles and lost his faith in his wife. The way that Gerald shouts at Polly – demanding to know whether she’s having an affair with Sir Edward – is a notable moment. Sadly, we’re now into the endgame with Polly (after episode six she’ll be gone for good).

Another year, another Marina development for Charles to obsess about. This necessitates more meetings with humourless foreign types, today it’s the impressively named Eckhardt Sahnn (Carl Rigg). And fancy that, they’ve gone all the way to Malta just for this meeting.  HW clearly had a decent budget this year.  This Marina development has a bonus for Mr Frere, since it will enable Sahnn to force Avril out of Relton.

hw s05e03-b.jpg

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Two

hw s05-02a.jpg

Tom, out in the Flying Fish, is looking a little down in the dumps. You know what he needs? A chortling Jack to turn up alongside, offering to cheer him up. “You look bloody awful” is Jack’s opening gambit. I love Jack ….

Tom’s rejoinder (“Jack, will you belt up?”) is delivered by Maurice Colbourne with a chuckle. Was this as scripted, or was some of Colbourne’s real character breaking through? It doesn’t really matter either way, as it works very well.

Charles and Gerald’s lawyer, Thornton (Andrew Burt), seems confident that they have no case to answer. It’s a sunny day in Tarrant when the three have their breakfast meeting (which makes the scene an attractive one). It’s rather disconcerting that the brief exterior shot of the court is on videotape (virtually all of HW‘s location work was done on film) but this makes sense when we see that the court interiors were also shot on videotape at the location and not in the studio.

Gerald continues to twitch whilst Charles is gloriously unconcerned. Will they ramp up the tension and keep us hanging on for a verdict? No, not really. Thirteen minutes in and the case in thrown out. We don’t see inside the courtroom, so once again a dramatic moment is missed (but on the plus side, it saved the production some money). The dogged Inspector Daniel Morris (Kenneth Lodge) vows to continue the fight, but as this is Lodge’s final episode he’d better hurry up.

This plotline is mainly interesting for exposing the cracks in the professional relationship between Charles and Gerald. Once, Gerald would have trusted Charles without a second thought, but not any more. The way that Gerald firmly tells Charles that he can’t work tonight (he’s arranged a dinner with Abby and Leo) is striking. The worm has turned.

Gerald is very merry when he, Abby and Leo return home. This is good to see, as it’s been a while since Gerald’s been able to relax. His melancholy is never far from the surface though. He tells Abby that he’s really sorry that Polly isn’t here (Abby tells him to thank his lucky stars she isn’t!).

James Brooke (Andrew Bicknell) is a major rival of Jan’s (with a string of boutiques) but Jan seems drawn towards him. Mind you, he’s a bit slow on the uptake – at first he doesn’t have a clue who she is! Or does he actually know more than he’s letting on? Time will tell ….

He also doesn’t seem aware that Jan – like a predatory fish – is eyeing up his business hungrily. She wants to expand, he’s got financial problems, so a merger might be in both their interests. That Jan’s considering this mere minutes after meeting him is slightly hard to take – at present, HW seems to be rattling through various storylines.

The convivial lunch between Jan and James comes to an abrupt end when Tom pops by. Tom doesn’t express any overt jealousy, but James seems to be able to sense straight away that Tom and Jan still have a very strong connection. Tom’s not convinced that this merger is wise (or maybe he’s slightly disconcerted by James’ good looks).

Avril continues to look rather foxy (today, in a red dress) as she and a sharply-suited Leo settle down to discuss their powerboat racing strategy (now that Leo’s retired from racing he’s moved up to an executive level). Their meeting is cut short when Charles comes calling though. Personal and professional bitterness causes this short scene to crackle. This is one plotline that looks to have some legs.

Charles wants to regain Relton, Avril isn’t prepared to give an inch, so I think we should settle back and enjoy the battles to come. “If I have to break you in the process, believe me I will” he tells her.

Glyn Owen’s marvously expressive face is put to good use during a scene when Vanessa ponders on the road not taken (in another life, someone like Avril could have been her daughter). Jack, of course, doesn’t have a great deal of time for this sort of talk, it’s just not in his nature.

Today’s random observation. Somebody coughs very audibly at 43:46, at the start of the scene with Charles. Was it the off-camera Gerald or a member of the camera crew?

We end this episode with the unforgettable sight of a topless Ken and the equally impressive visage of Laura squeezed into a teeny-tiny leopardskin bathing costume. Crickey, that’s something you don’t see every day. Moored on a yacht at sea with (of course) plenty of champagne, they have a bit of a smooch. Laura’s still not selling her company though (even though Ken’s turning on the charm) but she wouldn’t be adverse to a merger.

She then elects to leave Ken, who’s gone for a swim, all alone, whilst she toddles off in the yacht for a while. Poor Ken, it’s not his day ….

Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode One

hw 05-01a

Oh, I say! HW has ventured abroad in the past, but those jaunts were always something of a cheat – a quick flash of stock footage and then we’d cut to a chilly part of England dressed with a few palm trees in order to create an exotic illusion.

But not today. We open in Malta with Charles exiting the airport whilst a bearded stranger follows his every move (his face a study in concentration). The incidental music is turned up to the max as well, just to hammer the point home that this is a significant moment. And if you needed a reminder that we’re in 1989, then the ginormous brick-like mobile phone that the beardy man pulls out of his pocket should give you a clue.

Malta will feature in a number of episodes this year, so it’s obvious that the production team took the opportunity to shoot material for several episodes at the same time. This does give the slightly unfortunate impression that the inhabitants of Tarrant only visit Malta when they venture abroad, but I’m not one to carp ….

You might remember that we left Leo at the end of series four in something of a bad way. Badly mangled after his speedboat crash, it wasn’t clear how serious his injuries were. Would he ever walk again? His opening scene here (jogging furiously on a treadmill) answers that question, so clearly it was decided not to spin his incapacity out for any length of time.

But it’s also plain that not all’s well with the lad. Chided for running on the treadmill when he should have been walking, this exercise is then revealed to be part of his rehabilitation. And when it’s suggested that he should then take a dip in the pool, he snarls “stuff the swimming pool” before storming off. Whatever happened to the nice young Leo we used to know and love?

Possibly he’s a little irritated that he’s still not 100% (his dramatic limp makes that clear, although he doesn’t keep up the limping for long). When Abby comes to pick him up, he complains that he’s not recovering as quickly as he’d like. But the real reason for his angst seems to be that Avril’s told him he won’t be racing speedboats again. By the expression on Abby’s face it seems that he’s been giving her a rough time recently.

If these few opening scenes are a little disconcerting, then we’re on firmer ground when we check in at the Mermaid. Jack’s just strolled in (for him it’s still early – around noon) and he begins to cross swords with Emma. He then berates Bill quite forcibly before exiting. Jack’s looking very dapper today, it has to be said. Clearly he’s not dressed for the office ….

We then get our first sight of Jan and Ken this year. They’re having a bite to eat in Tarrant’s ever popular restaurant (I wonder how many times it’ll turn up this year?) with Ken – white jacket, rolled-up sleeves – still attempting to woo Jan (in a business sense anyway). Does Jan – nice purple jacket – want to pump a great deal of money into Ken’s business? Hmm, no, not really.

Avril – looking rather lovely today in a shortish skirt – and Gerald have a frank exchange of views. He knows where Charles is, but isn’t prepared to pass that information on. Gerald – who earlier had clucked down the phone to Charles – is a little frantic that his employer is swanning around in Malta whilst he’s back in the UK, fending off numerous interested parties (all interested in the continuing fraud case). When Charles suggests he hops on a plane to Malta he’s only slightly mollified.

With Polly absent (she’s still in America attempting to get William back) Gerald is even more isolated than usual. He cuts a rather forlorn figure and although Abby attempts to bolster his flagging confidence, she doesn’t have any success. It seems that he’s already picturing life behind bars.

I love the fact that when Gerald later clambers aboard Charles’ yacht he’s wearing his suit and tie and clutching his briefcase! His tie is slightly askew though, which seems to be his sole concession to the fact he’s in sunny Malta. Charles, cool as a cucumber, tells him to drink his drink and not worry, everything’s going to be fine. You do get the feeling though that Charles is in for a nasty shock later.

It seems to be business as usual with Tom and Emma – he’s unable to make their dinner date because he has to see Jan (although it’s more about providing Leo with moral support). But it turns out that their relationship is very much on borrowed time. By the end of this episode she’ll be gone forever ….

But for every departure, there’s usually a new arrival. Victoria Burgoyne makes her debut as Vicki Rockwell. With Sarah having left at the end of S4, Vicki (as Ken’s assistant) operates as his new business confidant – although since she’s got a boyfriend, she’s not interested in anything else. Which slightly takes the wind out of his sails.

The next new arrival is rather more significant. Kate O’Mara had previously appeared in another Gerard Glaister series, The Brothers, back in the 1970’s, but it was her 1980’s American adventure in Dynasty which really cemented her soap credentials (there was also Triangle, but funnily enough nobody ever talks about that now). Laura Wilde, owner of the impressively named Wilde Mouldings, is an old friend of Avril’s, but it’s plain from their first meeting that her destiny is going to be intertwined with Ken’s.

There’s an early highlight of the joys to come when Laura comes sniffing around Leisure Cruise. Ken approaches her from behind, but without turning round she senses that he’s there. When he wonders whether she’s got eyes in the back of her head, she tells him that “no, I just happened to be downwind of your aftershave”. Kate O’Mara’s also sporting the most wonderful pair of sunglasses during this scene.

Laura later demonstrates that she’s no pushover, easily being able to see through Ken’s transparent desire to buy her company. Random observation – Ken obviously likes the colour red. In his office, his chair, in-tray, desk phone, mobile phone and desk lamp are all red. It makes the scene at his desk rather striking.

Strictly speaking, Vanessa Andenberg (Lana Morris), isn’t a new character (she’d appeared in a couple of series three episodes) but she’s now back as a regular. Recently widowed, it seems that finally she and Jack will be able to get together. Their initial meeting, in her new Tarrant home overlooking the marina, is nicely shot – it’s just a pity that the day was so overcast (had the sun had come out it would have looked spectacular). Jack’s downcast face when Vanessa, toying with him, doesn’t instantly accept his dinner invitation suggests that there will be some scope in this plotline – Jack in Love – as a way to show a radically different side to the blustering man we know and love.

I wonder where have Jack and Vanessa go to eat? Hmm, three guesses …..

It’s slightly odd that we never actually see Jan and Tom’s uncomfortable dinner with Leo. Instead, we have to learn second-hand from Tom that Leo (still operating in full headstrong mode) wasn’t prepared to listen to their advice. A dramatic possibility missed.

Tom and Jan, post divorce, continue to enjoy a very cordial relationship. Tom’s now become her sounding board, the one person she knows will give her honest advice. Had Maurice Colbourne lived, would Tom and Jan have remarried? Many believe so, but it’s interesting to ponder how that would have affected the dramatic impetus of the series.

But if Tom’s managed to rebuild bridges with his ex-wife, then his other relationship seems to be built on rockier foundations. As has been seen time and again, tact is something that Tom Howard has never really possessed. His opening gambit to Emma (“I suppose you realise how ridiculous you’re being?”) probably wasn’t his wisest move.

Tom’s closeness to Jan is the reason why Emma’s upset but his next offering (“if you can’t accept that, then tough”) is another example of Tom’s incredible stubbornness. It’s Tom’s way or no way (as per the series’ title maybe). But it’s possible that this side of his character was ramped up here in order to provide a good reason for Emma to depart.

Although she’d been with the series for a while, had Emma not returned for series five I don’t think too many people would have particularly noticed or been too concerned. No slight intended to Sian Webber, but Emma was never really anything more than an Avril substitute (both at the Mermaid and in Tom’s life).

Leo continues to be a concern to everybody. Despite not being fit, he elects to take a speedboat out in order to prove that he hasn’t lost his nerve. Whilst Tom, Jan and Avril look on, the soundtrack steps up a gear as Leo begins to have flashbacks about the last time he tangled with a marker buoy. This time he manages to make it though (“I’ve cracked it!”) but since it wasn’t under race conditions (or with a pack of other boats in the water) it seems – at best – a hollow victory.

Charles and Gerald touch down in Tarrant, only for them to then be carted off to the local police station. For Charles, earlier so confident that his lawyers had found all the answers, it’s something of a rude awakening. He lowers his sunglasses to look at the officer, then raises them again as the pair are escorted away ….

hw 05-01b.jpg