GBH is Alan Bleasedale's Bafta-nominated political satire drama focussing on the fall of Michael Murray after he becomes the leader of the city council in a Northern town. His council is elected from uneducated, working class people and this makes Murray unpopular with other politicians, but very popular with the people of the city. He shows empathy with the poorer classes and also makes a point of being completely against racism. Murray, played by Robert Lindsay, has a number of flaws in his character that lead to his downfall. He has a major power complex and revels in the fact that he is now a "somebody" despite being a social outcast as a child. His desire for power makes him vulnerable to the influence of the leaders of a militant party. They promise him the fame and power he dreams of in return for pushing their militant ideas into his campaign. His self-importance makes him look down on nearly everyone else and makes him extremely unlikeable as a character. He employs his brother, Franky as his driver, but even he leaves him at the side of the road in one scene when he becomes fed up of his demanding, high-maintenance, rude attitude. By the end of the series even his mother, played by Julie Walters, deserts him. This is Murray's lowest point as he states that his mother is the only one he feels he can talk to and who truly understands him. Unfortunately it is only when she does truly understand him that she realises what a bad man he is.
We learn a lot about Murray's childhood throughout the seven-part, 10-and-a-half-hour series, which leads us to understand more about his character. Murray came from an underprivileged background. His father died before he was born and he resents that his older brother got to meet him. He blames his father for his own death, despite only hearing positive stories from his mother. It seems that Murray did not have many friends growing up as he went to an elitist school where the other pupils looked down on him. His only friend was a girl called Eileen Critchley who taunted Murray and who comes back to haunt him when he becomes famous. He also felt victimised by his head teacher, and one of the first things he does after becoming council leader is to take his revenge. Murray does have a caring side which shows itself occasionally throughout the series. When he was told that he cannot build the council houses he had promised the public, he seems genuinely upset. The viewer gets the impression that this is because he does want to help those less fortunate, rather than because he doesn't want to upset his voters. He clearly adores his mother and does his best to make sure she lives comfortably. He often seems upset that he does not see her as much as he'd like. He also falls in love during the series, and does his best to please his girlfriend. Unfortunately he also has a wife who the viewer does not meet until episode four. Although she is mentioned before this, Murray does not seem to love her or his children.
Murray's character is said to be loosely based on Derek Hatton who was a militant labour politician in the 80s. He fought against Thatcherism and was extremely controversial for his beliefs and the way he caused conflict. The programme also tells the story of Jim Nelson, the hypochondriac head teacher of a school for children with learning difficulties. Nelson, played by Michael Palin, is one of the few people who stands up to Murray. Doing so leads him to suffer anxiety and paranoia. When the series ends, Murray is arrested and Nelson is able to clear his name. At the same time, all his worries and demons disappear and he is able to have a happy ending with his family.
(Review: Suzanna Hayes-Goldfinch 2014)
Gangsters came out of a one-off TV drama in the anthology series Play For Today and was commissioned by David Rose, then BBC Head of Drama in Birmingham, after he had seen the Gene Hackman starring movie The French Connection. Wanting a similar style thriller for the midlands Rose commissioned Philip Martin to write the play and then sent him round Birmingham for three months researching for a feel of the area, and its local characters. What Martin came back with was a hard-hitting, brutal drama about racism and drugs in the West Midlands. During the drafting process for the play it was suggested that the storyline should revolve round "somebody on the run from everybody". That somebody was John Kline, an ex-SAS officer turned strip club owner who, rather than pay the local gangster protection money, simply killed the local gangster. But after serving a prison sentence for his crime he finds himself the target of the dead man's brother-who wants to extract his own punishment. Kline goes to work for DI6 agent Khan who is monitoring and manipulating events in the Birmingham underworld. "We wanted somebody between the police and the criminals" Philip Martin said in interview. "I wanted somebody tough, somebody who'd kill if he was in a fight, but not a cold bloodied killer."
Seen today, violence notwithstanding, it is quite shocking how politically incorrect the original play looks, using stereotype characters throughout the story. However, once it went to full series Martin was able to change the tone by showing how minority groups were exploited and abused on all sides. It even went so far as showing corruption at its highest level with a right-wing politician, involved in smuggling illegal immigrants in order to exploit them, whilst publicly declaring how he wants to keep immigrants out of the country. Among the newcomers to television were Saeed Jaffrey as Rafiq and Paul Barber in his first screen role. The series won acclaim for its depiction of the seedy side of life and conveying the tension in the city's underworld. However, that acclaim was not echoed in the Midlands itself with local Birmingham politicians and public figures saying it was an unfair representation on their city. "Two days after (the play was shown)", recalled Martin, "there were 50 illegal immigrants found heading for Birmingham, and there was also a two million pound package of heroin found in the services half way up the motorway."
THE GATHERING STORM (2002)
In an acclaimed performance Albert Finney recreates one of the most important icons of the 20th century. Winston Churchill in his wilderness years of the 1930s and events leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Click Here for review
1950's swashbuckling adventure (in the days when 'gay' only meant carefree, flambouyant and waggish) that took a true-life historical rogue and turned him into a romantic figure, who fought for the Stuart cause against the supposedly tyrannical dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell, in an England torn apart by civil war. In reality the Gay Cavalier (Captain Claude Duval) was a highwayman with a reputation for being something of a ladies-man. However, he was a staunch supporter of Charles ll, who was forced to live in exile in France following defeat at Worcester by Cromwell's army in 1651. Charles would eventually return triumphantly to England after Cromwell's death and his period of reign would be known as the Restoration period. The TV series was in similar vein to other popular adventure series of the day such as The Adventures of... 'Robin Hood,' 'William Tell' and 'Sir Lancelot', and it's star, Christian Marquand, was joined by Christopher Lee (episode 4), John Le Mesurier (episode 7), Conrad Phillips (episode 7), Nigel Stock (episode 8) and Sam Kydd (episode 8 and 9 -portraying different characters!). Made by Associated Rediffusion and shot on film this series is unique for one made on such a format in as much as not one single episode (shown from May to August 1957) of the 13 made has survived. Each self contained story followed Duval's exploits as he tried to retrieve a piece of treasure, save a maiden in distress or thwart a Roundhead plot, and for each of these quests he was to be seen in the company of a beautiful woman. Had the series survived the legend of the Gay Cavalier may well have fared better than it has done, especially in light of his epitaph, which can be found above his tomb in London's Covent Garden church: 'Here lies Duval: Reader- if male thou art look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.' Stirring stuff!
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Man's best friend in this series wasn't a dog but a huge bear that had been "affection-trained" by Ivan Tors at his famous animal training compound in the San Fernando Valley, California, which-just a year before this series was filmed had suffered a flood that washed away half the animal compound. In a story that could well have fit into an episode of the series it was soon discovered that the bear's cage had been swept away completely and there was no sign of the animal. A call went out for a missing American black bear with a request not to have him shot on sight! But two days later, trainers at the camp were amazed when they returned to the area where ther bear's cage used to be only to find the animal sitting there patiently. The bear certainly seemed to have a charmed life because on another occasion a train was derailed in the hills above the compound and crashed through a number of animal cages. Some of the animals were badly hurt, but Ben's cage was completely demolished. The night before he had been moved by truck to Florida to begin shooting the TV series. Ben's co-stars were Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke,McCloud), who played Tom Wedloe, a Florida game warden who travels around the Everglades on an airboat (obviously the setting was a lot warmer than author Walt Morey's original setting: Alaska). Seven-year old Clint Howard played the boy Mark - he was the brother of Ron Howard who later went on to make a name for himself as Ritchie Cunningham in Happy Days and as a celebrated film director. For extra back-up young Clint also had his real-life father in the cast, Rance Howard appeared as Henry Boomhauer, a backwoodsman who befriends the Wedloes.
In 1974 US television introduced the first female law officer in a lead role in the aptly titled Police Woman. It was 1980 before the British version arrived and it was a case of you waiting six years for a policewoman to come along and you get two together. However, LWT's The Gentle Touch first broadcast on 11th April, 1980, beat the BBC series 'Juliet Bravo' by just over four months. The Gentle Touch portrayed the professional and private life of Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes who had worked her way up through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police Service before arriving newly promoted and appointed to the CID at Seven Dials police station in London's Soho district. In the first episode Maggie's policeman husband is shot and killed in the line of duty leaving her to juggle her career with single parenthood, raising her teenage son, Steve (Nigel Rathbone), and caring for her aging father with whom she has a less than easy relationship. Against orders she assists in bringing her husband's murderer to book and immediately hands in her resignation, believing she will face disciplinary action, anyway. However, her new boss, William Marlowe (Bill Russell), a seen it, done it and been there all before veteran realises Maggie's worth and talks her into staying. Of course, there were other obstacles to overcome for Maggie. This being the 1980s the Met was still a very much male dominated institute and she had to face prejudice from within her own team not least of all from DI Bob Croft (Brian Gwaspari) a bigotted sexist who also dispalyed open signs of racism and homophobia. In fact, The Gentle Touch didn't shy away from many topics during its run and bravely tackled prostitution, pornography, anti-Semitism, animal rights, and many other issues of the day with Maggie and her team thrust into the sharp end of things. The other team members included DS Jake Barrett (Paul Moriarty), DS Peter Philips (Kevin O'Shea) and young DS Jimmy Fenton (a pre- 'Casualty' Derek Thompson).
Jill Gascoine played the central character of Maggie Forbes and it was a part that she delivered with intelligence, sensitivity and grit, making Maggie a believable and well rounded character who was there to do a job and not just to add a touch of glamour to an otherwise standard police procedural series. Unlike the American girls of Charlie's Angels Maggie didn't unbelievably tackle villians who were twice her size, she didn't jump into vehicles and speed off at a hundred miles an hour (indeed, Gascoine was only ever filmed behind the wheel of a stationary car, because in real life she couldn't drive), and she didn't wear sexy outfits for undercover work. But what she did do was win over a legion of fans both male and female who enjoyed a central character who was as intelligent as she was gutsy. Even the bigoted Bob Croft ended up showing her a reserved admiration. The Gentle Touch lasted for five seasons but Maggie Forbes lasted a bit longer. The following year she returned in the far more action oriented series, C.A.T.S. Eyes about a team of gun-totting female detectives in what can be best described as a British version of Charlie's Angels; a sad end to the career of one of the UKs best fictional female detectives. However, there is a nice story to end on: In the episode 'Something Blue' (broadcast in 1980) Gascoine had a scene with actress Lynda Marchal who was playing a prostitute. In an effort to win over the girl's confidence Maggie says "We really should talk, woman to woman - my name is Maggie". The reply, "All right, call me Juanita" reduced the two actresses into fits of laughter. Marchal felt she could write more believable dialogue and Gascoine encouraged her to do so. Eventually she did; using the pseudonym Lynda La Plante.
GEORGE AND THE DRAGON (1966)
Lecherous female chasing chauffer finally meets his match: A housekeeper he can't charm. Click Here for review
One of two successful spin-off series from Man About the House (the other was Robin's Nest), which followed some of the characters after they had moved out of their Earl's Court terraced flat. George and Mildred was arguably the more successful thanks in no small part to the wonderful chemistry between the two leads, Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce. Intent on climbing up the social ladder, Mildred Roper is determined to move into 46 Peacock Terrace, a town house in the 'well-to-do' suburb of Hampton Wick. This goes totally against the grain for self-proclaimed working class (although in reality work shy) George. To this end he raises every objection he can think of until, that is, he meets the next-door neighbour, snooty Jeffrey Fourmile. Class-conscious Jeffrey is aghast with horror at the thought of living next to the Roper's after he has seen George and Mildred arrive for their house viewing on motorbike and sidecar. When Jeffrey's young son, Tristram, lets it slip at how common his father thinks the Roper's are, George typically agrees to the purchase of the house. The relationship between the Roper's had not changed since Man About The House; he was unemployed (although he briefly took a job as a traffic warden), useless around the house and even more useless in the bedroom, having given up on sex years ago. She was sex-starved, man hungry and striving to be, but always falling short of being, upwardly mobile. Although Mildred got on famously with the likeable Ann Fourmile, George took great pleasure in constantly finding ways to wind up Jeffrey either on a one-to-one basis or by corrupting young Tristram. To complete the Roper horror show for Jeffrey, he also had to contend with George's shifty friend Jerry (Roy Kinnear), whilst Mildred was non-too keen on her materialistic sister Ethel (Avril Elgar) and brother-in-law Humphrey (Reginald Marsh).
The show was successful enough to generate an end-of-the-pier show in Bournemouth in 1977 and a feature film, of questionable quality, was made in 1980. A sixth series was planned to go into production later that year but on 24th August star Yootha Joyce died suddenly at the age of 53. Like Man About The House there was also a spin-off series in the USA (The Roper's - also spun-off from Three's Company), although that only ran for one season (1979-80). The series was often been repeated on the now defunct UK cable/satellite channel Granada +, where it stood up comfortably to the test of time (sometimes a real 'dater' when it comes to comedy) thanks to sparkling scripts from creators Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke and the charismatic performances of its lead stars.
The husband and wife comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen repeated their success in vaudeville, film and radio with a show perfectly suited to the new medium of television. The premise was very simple: The couple played themselves; husband and wife entertainers living in Southern California. George played straight man to wife Gracie, whose outlook on life was more than a bit off-centre, confusing not only George but their friends and anyone who confronted the good-meaning but scatterbrained Gracie. As George liked to explain it, Gracie "makes sense in an illogical sort of way." But like any good sitcom, a few simple explanations at the end straightened out the understandings. What made 'Burns & Allen' so fun to watch was the way Burns broke television's "fourth wall" by telling jokes to the audience and explaining what will likely happen with Gracie's latest scheme. (In later seasons, George would comment on the action by watching the television set in his den--much like home viewers were doing). The show also successfully incorporated the sponsor's product, Carnation Milk, in the plot, thanks to announcer Bill Goodwin, who was replaced by Harry Von Zell for much of the show's run. (In the middle of each episode, Goodwin/Von Zell would enter, and ever-so-subtly discuss the latest recipe using Carnation Evaporated Milk.) Also adding spice to George and Gracie's life was lively neighbour Blanche Morton (played by the versatile Bea Benaderet, who would go on to star in Petticoat Junction and provide the voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.) Her long-suffering husband Harry was portrayed by four different actors (Hal March, John Brown, Fred Clark and finally Larry Keating) during the show's run.
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show premiered in 1950 on CBS; it was done live every other week from New York. Beginning in 1952, the show aired weekly, filmed from Hollywood. While never a smash in the league of I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners, Burns & Allen drew a large and loyal audience. It was also only the seond sitcom to be imported to Great Britain from the USA following Amos 'n' Andy whilst just pipping I Love Lucy. The show ended in 1958 (although in the UK 132 episodes aired, finishing in 1961), when Gracie Allen retired from show business. She suffered a heart attack in 1961 and died three years later. Following Gracie's retirement, George Burns (born Nathan Burnbaum in January 1896) tried his own sitcom (with most of the cast from the old show); it lasted only one season. Burns did have one more television success, though not as a sitcom star: He was an investor in the show about a talking horse named Mr. Ed.
Dan and Abbie are two students who arrive at a recently restored Georgian house in Bristol in order to further their own scholarly studies whilst acting as tour guides to the public. The two of them couldn't be less alike: Dan (played by former Timeslip star Spencer Banks) has been privately educated and comes from a wealthy family, fully expecting to go straight into his father's company once his schooling is finished. Abbie on the other hand (played by Adrienne Byrne), is from a state school and is clearly unimpressed with the obvious priveleges that wealth will bring Dan. Nontheless, the two of them make plans to show the public around the house, which 200 years before, was owned by the rich Leadbetter family. It is whilst unpacking valuable ornaments for display that the two of them come across an African wood carving which begins to emit a mysterious noise. The carving begins to rotate and the room darkens and a haunting whispering fills the air calling 'boy...boy...boy...'. They find themselves transported back in time where they become involved in the affairs of the Leadbetter family, but with a significant change to their personal circumstances. Abbie is transformed into a member of the wealthy family whilst Dan finds himself dressed in the clothes of a kitchen boy. It transpires that they have both been transported back in order to save a black servant, Ngo (former 'Double Decker' child actor Brinsley Forde later the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the reggae group, Aswad) who is about to be transported back to the plantations. Not an easy task given the social circumstances of the age and the fact that Abbie has forgotten all about her 20th century origins.
GET IT TOGETHER (1977)
1970s pop show featuring the top acts of the day. Click here for review.
Inspired by the success of NBC's The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Dan Melnick, a partner in the production company Talent Associates, approached Mel Brooks to produce a series spoofing the current trend of spy thrillers and in particular the men of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. Buck Henry joined Brooks in creating the shows characters and the ABC network duly commissioned the series. However, a number of creative differences between the network chiefs and the production team, plus a scene in the pilot in which the Statue of Liberty gets blown up so incensed ABC executives that it prompted them to describe the show as "dirty and un-American", and meant that the proposed series was dropped before it even got started. Undeterred, Melnick then approached Grant Tinker at NBC who liked the concept and commissioned a series without reservation. Don Adams was chosen to play Maxwell Smart, agent 86 for CONTROL, an intelligence service that operated from headquarters ten storeys beneath Main Street, Washington DC. Entering HQ through a telephone kiosk, Smart would then get his orders from his boss, Thaddeus, who Maxwell always referred to as "Chief". Support came in the form of constant companion Agent 99, played by Barbara Feldon, a former Revlon model and winner of The $64,000 Question, and between them they managed to bumble their way through 138 episodes of blundering ineptitude, always, of course, saving the day and coming out on top.
Like James Bond and the U.N.C.L.E. organisation, Max and CONTROL had chief adversaries and these came in the form of KAOS agents led by the megalomaniac Siegfried and his sidekick Starker. And Max also had his own gadgetry, including a telephone hidden in the heal of his shoe, the Cone of Silence (a clear plastic dome that descended from the ceiling in order to stop outsiders from hearing secret conversations -unfortunately those inside couldn't hear either), and Hymie, a robot with an IQ of 200 plus, but with an unfortunate habit of taking commands too literally, (when told to 'kill the lights' he did just that-by blasting them with bullets). There was also support from Agent 13, who could be found on stakeout duty in the most unlikely of places (such as mailboxes and vending machines). The first season resulted in an Emmy award for scriptwriting followed by awards for Don Adams (series 2), Directing (series 3), and Outstanding Comedy Series (series 3 and 4). By this time Max and Agent 99 were married to each other. However, it was also at the end of series 4 that NBC decided to cancel the show, prompting Dan Melnick to contact CBS who picked up the show for a fifth and final season. Some changes were made to the format, Agent 13 was gone, to be replaced by Agent 44 (Al Malinaro, later to appear in The Odd Couple, Happy Days and Joannie Loves Chachi), and the Chief began to get out and about with Max even more due to Agent 99's pregnancy. (They had twins but we were never told their names). By this time the shows ratings were going into decline, which led to its ultimate cancellation. However, echoes of the shows enduring popularity continued with a number of reunion movies and a short-lived revival in 1995, which saw the now grown-up twins taking on the mantle of their parent's secret agent status. Also the highly popular children's cartoon series Inspector Gadget modelled its central character so heavily on the Smart persona, that the producers even went so far as to employ Adams' instantly recognisable vocal talents to provide the inspector's voice. A Warner Bros movie was released in 2008 starring Steve Carell as Max and Anne Hathaway as 99.
Written by the superior sitcom writing partnership of John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, Get Some In! was, like The Army Game years before, set in the 1950s at a time when all able-bodied men were drafted into the forces to do their National Service. The action begins in 1955 at RAF Skelton, where the motley crew of draftees include 'teddy boy' Jakey Smith (played by a pre-Citizen Smith Robert Lindsay), dim Scotsman Bruce Leckie (Brian Pettifer), vicar's son Matthew Lillie (Gerard Ryder) and posh grammar school boy Ken Richardson (David Janson). Although each man is from a different background they are united in their loathing of the Corporal assigned to take them through their basic training and thereby make their lives complete misery, Percy Marsh (Tony Selby). Similarly, Marsh hates every one of them and sets about bullying them, especially young Ken who he dubs 'poof house' Richardson, not because he is gay but simply because he is well spoken, well mannered and middle class. But ultimately it is Marsh who always comes off worse due to the fact that he's not exactly the brightest star in the sky and it doesn't take much for the new recruits to outwit him. The series ran for three years, a lot longer than basic training would take, but following their induction the group were assigned to train as nurse assistants at RAF Middleton only to discover that Marsh had been sent there with them and after a very short posting to Malta they are back again within the clutches of their old enemy at RAF Hospital Druidswater. This is a series that deserved a longer run but by the 1970s National Service was just a distant memory for many and a completely unknown element to the rest of us - and that may well have contributed to its short run. It was certainly nothing to do with Esmonde and Larbey's writing which was as sharp as ever. Oddly enough, at the time of writing Get Some In! has never been repeated in full on terrestrial TV, so a release by Network DVD is especially gratifying as it is also the first time the series has been made available in any format. The first DVD release not only includes the entire six episodes of series one but also the 1975 Christmas Special.
If the internal combustion engine had been designed to function on custard, British housewives could keep all London's buses running for two years on their annual output. If all the eggs eaten in the United Kingdom in one year were cracked into a vast bowl and whisked into an omelette, it would cover the city of Birmingham. And if two and-a-half million life-sized models of actor Harry Fowler were made of jelly, it would take 50 million pints-equal to Britain's annual jelly consumption. The real un-wobbly Harry Fowler and Kenny Lynch co-introduced Get This! from Southern Television. The series looked at the extremist world of the largest, smallest, the fastest, the funniest, the craziest, the zaniest. Fantastic? Yes-but all the fantasy was based on fact. The figures were there for anyone to work out. The rest was sheer imagination. Every week Get This! featured such imaginative use of everyday facts. The golden tones of Bob Danvers-Walker was also heard on this afternoon series aimed at teenagers. (Based on original TV Times article).