Tutti Frutti

1987 | United States

The sight of a group of bikers line-dancing is one that will never be forgotten from this successful BBC series from 1987. The six-part series tells the story of legendary Scottish rock band The Majestics. They’re about to embark on a silver-jubilee tour but their lead singer Big Jazza McGlone is killed in a car crash. The show must go on though, so his brother Danny is persuaded to join the band along with his friend Suzi Kettles.

The tour is a success but there’s plenty of back-stage arguments and Vincent Diver aka ‘The Iron Man of Scottish Rock’, played by Maurice Roëves cheating on his wife doesn’t help and it comes to a tragic end. His problems mount when a possible illegitimate daughter turns up and things go from bad to worse when Suzi’s deranged dentist husband shows up. That’s nothing compared to the events of the final concert as Vincent ends up setting himself alight.

Tutti Frutti was written by Scottish playwright John Bryne, who previously used to design jackets for Penguin Books and designed album covers for groups such as The Beatles and Gerry Rafferty. As a playwright, his best-known work was ‘The Slab Boys’ trilogy of plays which included a young Robbie Coltrane in its cast. He also played the Cat in a panto Bryne had written so it was no surprise when he became part of this series though it took a bit of persuasion on Byrne’s part.

In Tutti Frutti, Coltrane, who played both of the McGlone brothers. He’d had success in the 1980s with appearances in sketch show A Kick Up the Eighties, The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents as well as appearances in movies such as Flash Gordon and Mona Lisa. This was the role that really made his name and led to the huge success he’d had since in series such as Cracker and the highly recommended National Treasure.

His girlfriend, Suzi, is played by Emma Thompson, who had previously appeared with Coltrane in the sketch show Alfresco. She’d just appeared in Fortunes of War before really making it with her role in this series as she tries to overcome the abusive relationship she had with her husband..

1988 saw the series win six BAFTAS. This included Best Actress for Emma Thompson and Best Drama Series with the other awards coming for graphics, make-up, sound supervision and VTR editing. It’d have most likely won a Best TV screenplay award for Byrne but that hadn’t been created at that stage so the only award he got was a share of the graphic design prize as he’d been responsible for the show’s titles.

After the success of the TV series, Tutti Frutti was adapted for the stage. The series was eventually released on DVD but not until 2009 after a dispute caused by the changing of a lyric in the title song caused Little Richard to charge a huge fee.

The eventual release of the series enhanced the show’s cult status. It’s a series full of humour but so many dark moments too and of course a bit of line dancing thrown in for good measure. After all, there aren’t that many series that have an episode entitled "A Wop-Boppa Loo-Bop A Wop-Bam Boom" but this one does

Published on April 12th, 2019. Written by Steve Ashfield for Television Heaven.