The Paper Lads

The Paper Lads

1977 - United Kingdom

For the two series, the kids are essentially a grittier version of the Famous Five

The Paper Lads review by Brian Slade

In the days of only three channels, children’s TV was often seen as a battle between the warmer, cosy image of the BBC and the more rebellious, rough-edged offerings of ITV. Multicoloured Swap-Shop battled Tiswas, Blue Peter battled Magpie and in 1977 Tyne Tees released a popular series shortly before the advent of Grange Hill following the adventures of the newspaper delivery teenagers of a local newsagent – The Paper Lads.

The Paper Lads tv series

Set in Newcastle Upon Tyne, The Paper Lads centres around the lives of the employees of Crawford’s newsagent. Jack Crawford (Glynn Edwards) is the central father figure of the show, relying on his initial trio of delivery boys but needing to expand his rounds to accommodate the routes inherited from the closure of one his rival stores, Arthur Turner’s. Alongside him is his wife Jinny (Anne Jameson), quick with words of advice and encouragement for the boys who need it – as long as they keep delivering their papers on time.

The Paper Lads tv series

The trio of lads taking the paper routes are Ian, Gog and Baz. Baz (Gavin Kitchen) takes on the majority of the extra work when the additional routes are absorbed, but it comes at a cost as the former paper boys at Turners steal his extra load and sell them, and to make matters worse are then involved in a punch-up at the local social when they are challenged, taking down the Crawford’s son Davie (John Bowler).

The Paper Lads tv series

The curiously nicknamed Gog (Peter Younger) is a rapscallion, cheekily jumping fences to cut his round’s time. He is best friends with Ian (Andrew Edwards), the last of the original Crawford’s trio. He is a more pensive sort and a skilful artist: ‘as good as them French Impressionists’ according to his future stepmother.

The Paper Lads tv series

With the new routes too much to pile onto the lads, Mr Crawford is looking for additional paper boys. One initial source of help is local football prospect JG (Tony Neilson). He’s looked up to by the others, particularly Baz, and in return JG and best mate Davie are quite protective. After disagreeing with his family over his career prospects, JG eventually disappears to Sunderland to follow his footballing dreams leaving an opening in the Crawford delivery team once again. This time, Baz’s sister Sam (Judith Pyle) steps up. She wasn’t considered first time round due to being a girl, this being 1977, but she was quick to admonish Mr Crawford for sexual discrimination and eventually convinces him to let her join the team.

The Paper Lads tv series

For the two series, the kids are essentially a grittier version of the Famous Five, right down to Sam and Baz’s pet whippet, Paddy. Their rounds allow them to notice any strange goings on, including kidnappings, thieving and smuggling. They’re also not above suspicion themselves when the occasional things go missing from the shop. Intermingled with their adventures are their own personal lives, none more awkward than Ian dealing with the new love of his Dad’s life after the death of his mother.

The Paper Lads tv series

The Paper Lads was a nice bit of drama for the two seasons that it ran. No lashings of ginger beer for these kids – there were fights and tantrums and fallouts aplenty in a more realistic world than the Famous Five inhabited. But the performances from all the youngsters, given the age of the programme, were sufficient to keep its viewers interested. The backdrop of the neighbourhood doesn’t present a bleak ‘grim up North’ stereotype…the complete opposite in fact. The charm of a time when kids did their paper routes to earn some money shines through nicely even now. There’s a lot to like from the nostalgic angle - hitching a lift on the back of a milk float to ease the walk on the morning paper route, the desire to get down to the local football pitch to see tomorrow’s stars in action and the recycling of newspaper to house your portion of chips. And of course, this being ITV, there were no black bars over the brand names in the background. The bottles of Corona (pop, not the beer!) and various chocolate bars are clear for all to see, as is of course the obligatory copy of Look-in magazine…how else did children keep up to date with their film, television and sporting heroes in 1977.

The Paper Lads tv series

With Jameson and Edwards playing the likable Crawfords, the latter better known for his years behind the bar on Minder, the adult contribution is solid and the scripts were good enough to win writer William Corlett a Writer’s Guild Award. Couple that with the gentle charm of the theme song, Back Home Once Again by Renaissance, which talks of the story of people who live by the Tyne, The Paper Lads is a nostalgic journey today and a very enjoyable memory for those who were brave enough to stray from the BBC for their children’s drama in the late 1970s.

Published on August 8th, 2022. Written by Brian Slade for Television Heaven.

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