Send in the Girls was a short-lived female-led series which ran for seven episodes between March and April 1978. It follows the adventures of the Personality Promotions team, a group of ‘girls for hire’ at live sporting events or sales promotions, to add a bit of glamour to proceedings. Led by Velma Hardy (Annie Ross), a former musician with a touring big band, who knows all about being on the road and the pitfalls it entails. She is the only constant throughout the series as the promotion girls come and go, many of them seeking adventure, hoping to make a break into showbiz or find romance. Each story focuses on a different or new member of the sales team.
The series boasted a number of well-known and experienced writers including Alma Cullen (who wrote a number of Inspector Morse episodes) Brian Glover, David Nobbs and Fay Weldon and featured a number of familiar actors which included Andrew Sachs, June Barry, Derek Fowlds, Michael Elphick, Gwen Taylor, Floella Benjamin, Elisabeth Sladen (billed In TV Times as Elizabeth Sladen), Anna Carteret , Sharon Duce, Lynda Marchal (later known more famously as award winning writer Lynda La Plante) and Clive Swift.
The series was made by Granada but has not had a release on DVD. One episode can be found on YouTube and it’s a real knockout.
The promotion team heads up north to Belle Vue for a top-class professional wrestling bill. Their job is to promote Wild cigarettes. The authorities would go wild if that happened these days. Not back in the 70s though when cigarette advertising was here, there, and everywhere in sport.
There’s plenty going on backstage and this makes for an interesting night. It’s not so much a case of who will win the fights but who is going to be taking each other home after the show. Conveniently the wrestlers have a dressing room next to where the girls are changing. Plenty of use is made of the peep hole but the girls know just what is going on.
Pro wrestler Jim Breaks gets one of the best lines, “they’re not Bristols, they’re Manchesters.” He’s one of several pro wrestlers who appear in this programme. Tony Walsh, referee Brian Maxine and Brian Crabtree also appear but the main stars are Giant Haystacks and legendary masked wrestler Kendo Nagasaki.
Top of the bill sees Dark Angel take on Juggernaut, not a bout for the faint hearted. Juggernaut is played by Giant Haystacks and he makes a great villain. We’re supposed to be cheering for Dark Angel but he’s not that pleasant outside the ring.
He’s the wrestler played by Kendo and his fans are in for a surprise here. Nagasaki wasn’t one for talking, there have been famous interviews where he just doesn’t say a word. That’s not the case here and we even get to see a glimpse of him without the mask. It’s a bit shadowy but it’s definitely him, though looking rather different than when he voluntarily unmasked three years before this programme.
What is clear is that there is no love lost between Dark Angel and Juggernaut. That hatred carries itself into the ring as he re-injures a longstanding knee injury that Juggernaut has. Jimmy (Michael Elphick) is watching with wrestler Ernest and makes a terrible mistake. The ‘fixed’ word gets a mention, and he lives to regret it. Saying the F-word to a pro wrestler just isn’t done.
Jimmy is representing Wild cigarettes and it’s not an easy night for him. He’s keen to see Sara (Anna Carteret) after the show. However, he spends most the night in a phone box trying to deal with his troublesome wife.
Then there’s the unnecessary problem with Melody (Floella Benjamin) as racism rears its ugly head. Melody is told she must not ‘handle the product’ simply because of her colour. It’s a subject that could have been discussed a bit more. Why don’t the other girls refuse to work if she can’t do what they can?
It works out well for Melody though. She gets chatted up by Dark Angel and even ends up in the ring with him. At the start of the night she didn’t quite imagine herself being picked up in the ring by Juggernaut or going home with one of the wrestlers.
This is written by the excellent Brian Glover, who also plays the promoter. Glover is known for his role as a footballing mad teacher in the film ‘Kes.’ However, he was also a professional wrestler under the name of Leon Arass. He therefore knew what antics the wrestlers could get up to before and after their matches.
We get to see a bit of in-ring action but it’s the crowd that is most entertaining. It’s an electric atmosphere with the usual cast of angry men and women (lots of women) cheering their heads off and having a great time. Oh, and there’s the elderly St John’s Ambulance man who tries to woo the girls with his medical knowledge but puts them off with what he hopes that chat will lead to. This is worth a watch whether you are a wrestling fan or not, mainly from an historical point of view, to see how far female-led drama has come since the 1970s.
Review: Steve Ashfield
Steve was probably born watching television. Great fan of everything from comedy to Christmas shows. Loves writing about the great shows of the past.
Published on May 21st, 2021. Written by Steve Ashfield for Television Heaven.