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Just Before Gorbachev...
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I was terrified of the prospect of nuclear war. The long Cold War years stretched on, and as a young teen, circa 1978, I decided I had to get on with living - or go nuts. This I did and so was largely unmoved by Threads. Which sounds dreadful, but that's the way it was. Ever since Ronald Reagan had been elected as American President in 1980, the left wing press and the dear old leftie BBC (which has never obeyed the impartiality clause of its charter) had been bigging up the terror even more. And Threads was another example of that. Fortunately, Gorbachev arrived in 1985, and the Cold War ice melted rapidly. The second half of the 1980s was nothing like the fearful 70s or early 80s. Of course, being a leftie myself, I had my doubts when Thatcher declared Gorbachev was a man we could do business with, but capitalism was certainly better than incineration. Threads is a dreadful drama that all lefties profess to remember and to say summed up the fears of the entire decade. Nonsense. Remember Gorbachev. Read the newspapers of 1985-1989. Remember reality. The Cold War was over well before the Soviet Union crumbled. In fact, Gorbachev himself stated that it formally ended in late 1989. And the four years leading up to that were certainly nothing like what had gone before.
Back in Time for the Weekend (2016)
Inaccurate And Biased
Why is the BBC always so middle classed when it comes to shows like this? Why does it always set up the 1970s to be a wonderland that news and media of the time reveal to be completely untrue? In this show, we apparently experienced family leisure time in five different decades.
OK. In the 1950s, women didn't work (they did in my family and had for generations), the 1960s, well, they were OK but not perfect, the 1970s - well, they were marvellous - no rampant inflation, no three day week, no million-and-a-half unemployed, no Winter of Discontent - or if they did exist they didn't bother anybody - no, we had roller discos (a 1980s UK fad), space hopper races (um...), played crazy golf during power cuts (who did that? the majority of people, worn down by the times, did not) and it was all funky, darling. We were perfectly balanced. Enough technology, enough family time. Um, why did everybody round my way spend so much family time staring at the telly then? Why were the elders of the neighbourhood saying the "ome-eyed monster" had killed conversation?
The 1980s were baddies. Ooh, technology! Ooh, we all watched TV! Um.. surely TV really took a grip in the 1960s? And in that mass-ratings decade of so called "Golden Age" TV - the 1970s - we were all apparently glued to our screens? But no, no, it was the 1980s when TV viewing rose substantially! Um... Ooh, and we all went shopping! Ooh, and we were all scared of nuclear war (despite the fact that the Cold War ice melted rapidly after the arrival of Gorbachev in 1985). And, whilst the other decade houses were all decorated in modern, cutting edge styles, the '80s house was "chintzy". Well, there were plenty of "chintzy" houses around before the 1980s, but Wall to Wall, the production company, did not want to portray the 1980s as being too funky. In contrast, I've never seen a house like the 1990s house (a decade in which decor differed tremendously) as that "funky" house in the 90s show! But then New Labour arrived in the 1990s, so it was OK to portray the 1990s as funky in "Back In Time...". I'm sorry. But I'm really tired of the BBC doing things like this. A political agenda, questionable statistics, and a middle class setting. Fortunately, I don't have a TV set and don't have to pay the licence fee. I would begrudge every penny if I had to do so.
You're Only Young Twice (1977)
Dated When It Debuted in 1977... But Wonderful!
You're Only Young Twice is kind of timeless. In a way, it was dated when it debuted in 1977. It's the kind of sitcom that had been around since the late 1950s. Unoffensive (apart from attitudes towards an off-screen gay character which were, unfortunately, very much part of the 1970s, and vanquished at the start of the 1980s), character-led and funny.
I recall revelling in this show back in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of the sheer acting talent of the veteran cast, and the fabulous writing. There are occasional flights of fancy (a certain Mrs Petty being hypnotised for one), and these do not sit easily with me, but the vast majority of episodes are wonderful, and it retains its tremendous quality right to the final series, with stand-out episodes there including "Breakfast At Peabody's", "Flora's Big Mistake" and "The Gypsy's Curse". I have re-watched "You're Only Young Twice" many times since its DVD release. It always stirs fond teenage memories. And the cast continue to weave their magic and bring Paradise Lodge to life for me at each sitting.
Watch and enjoy.
Weak Episode - Silly Story-Line
It is rare for me to vote this series anything but excellent, however this episode, despite some great moments and the cast, as usual, being terrific, left me unconvinced. It's Flora's birthday, and, of course, she's moaning. But when she becomes convinced that Cissie has bought her an extra special present, she determines to find out exactly what it is. To cut a long story short, Flora sets out to hypnotise Cissie, but Cissie ends up hypnotising Flora. It all steps well beyond the bounds of credibility - well, this is a sit-com after all, but there has to be something to identify with in reality-based comedy, and this scenario simply doesn't provide it for me at all. It hurts me to write this because I love "You're Only Young Twice", but this is one episode I would not particularly recommend to anybody as a taster for the rest of the series.
Flora Cares For Cissie
This ranks as one of my favourite episodes of the entire series as Flora gets the wrong end of the stick about Cissie's health - and sets out to look after her old friend during her last days! Cissie milks the situation for all it is worth, and Flora runs herself ragged over a period of several days. Until the truth finally dawns! Inspired moments here - including Flora easily convincing Cissie that Farrah Fawcett Majors considers Cissie to be a style icon, and Miss Milton revealing a concerned and caring side to her nature where Mrs Petty is concerned by offering her a rest cure in bed, with herself bringing meals on a tray. It also reveals the fact that Flora genuinely cares for Cissie behind all that bullying. The cast, as always, are perfect.
"... And Cissie Lupin!"
"... And Cissie Lupin!" The final line of dialogue from this series as Flora introduces her friends to her dreadful niece-in-law. And what a glower she bestows on poor Cissie! Having offended the local hairdresser, Louigi (not Italian at all as it hilariously turns out), Flora is driven to accept Cissie's help in obtaining a perm ready for Mr Petty's niece's forthcoming visit. And she should have known better! However, with Mildred and Dolly coming to her aid, perhaps all is not lost. But what will Mr Petty's niece's reaction be to four geriatric New Romantics? This is a lovely end to the series. Periodically, the series had flights of fancy (the late 1970s episode when Cissie hypnotised Flora for instance), and maybe the ladies' solution to Flora's problem is a little unrealistic - but who cares? This is comedy - and excellent comedy at that, with a veteran cast of main characters who can never be replaced. Wonderful!
I adore this classic American animation. The Peanuts characters have deservedly found fame well beyond American shores, indeed they are legendary, and this animation is, to my mind, the very best. Who could fail to be touched by Linus's faith as he waits in the pumpkin patch? What a character he is - sensitive, kind, wise beyond his years, long suffering (Lucy sees to that!), blanket hugging... and a believer in the Great Pumpkin.
Charlie Brown's experiences of trick or treating (how bitter sweet childhood is!), Snoopy's fantasy life, Sally's devotion to Linus, the wonderful 'Lucy and Linus' theme, all add up to a tremendous show - every bit as excellent as the famous comic strip. Highly recommended.
Willo the Wisp (1981)
Early '80s Magic At Teatimes...
I was sixteen when the series originally aired in the autumn of 1981, but it was one of those shows, although apparently aimed at young children, which held wide appeal. I particularly liked the characters of the Wisp, Mavis, Carwash and Evil Edna. In fact, even at my somewhat advanced age, I was a bit scared of Edna! The events in Doyley Woods were avidly followed by many of my friends and family - age range from about six to eighty-three! Kenneth Williams was excellent - his range of voices revealed a side to his talents I never knew existed - each one made the individual characters live.
Willo The Wisp is a show which now evokes powerful memories of its debut year for me - 1981, the year when Rubik's Cube was king, CB radio was made legal (in the UK), and Space Invaders were everywhere. Happy memories - wonderful show! If only Mavis Cruet could wave her magic wand and make me sixteen again!
Chance in a Million (1984)
Great 1980s Telly!
One of the quirkiest and funniest sitcoms of the 1980s, this series captivates me. The very English middle class awkwardness of the relationship between the two central characters, the array of coincidences which dog poor Tom's life, Tom's bizarre way of speaking,the acting, the music - it's absolute perfection. How I wish they made TV like this nowadays! Captivating telly programmes - including the Beiderbecke Trilogy, Edge Of Darkness, Spitting Image and, of course, Chance In A Million - seemed far more prevalent back in the decade of shoulder pads and brick phones. So glad this is now on DVD, I waited for years!
Get Lost! (1981)
This show helped set us on the road to the excellent Beiderbecke Trilogy, and there are signs of the brilliance to come! Get Lost! is rich in quirky dialogue, and hilarious moments - a car chase whilst keeping to the speed limit is one that is simply unforgettable. The mystery throughout is "Where's Jim?" - husband of teacher Judy Threadgold. He's disappeared. But there's no intense drama. The story is beautifully low-key and intelligent. This show was intended to have a sequel after its successful broadcast in the summer of 1981, but the fact that Alun Armstrong, one of the two lead actors, was unavailable, led to a reworking of the idea and the creation of Jill Swinburne and Trevor Chaplin, schoolteachers like Judy and Neville of Get Lost, for the 1985-1988 Beiderbecke Trilogy. Like Judy Threadgold, Jill, played by Barbara Flynn, was a keen environmentalist, but she was a somewhat better humoured, less astringent character. James Bolam, of course, brought his own acting style to the character of Trevor Chaplin. Get Lost! is not Beiderbecke, nor are the events of Get Lost! pertinent to the trilogy, but it's a fascinating precursor and well worth viewing.