Boys from the Blackstuff – 80s drama about the dole

At the time, this drama series from the BBC caused a major stir revealing the bleak horror of life on the dole for the long-term unemployed of Liverpool. Yozzer Hughes was the character who stood out as a man driven mad by his inability to find a job. Here’s a trailer from the Beeb at the time.

General election night coverage in 1983

The general election of 1983 saw Labour badly divided. The 1974-79 Labour government of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan had been seen by the left as a betrayal of socialist values and capitulation to the International Monetary Fund. These had been years of incomes policies to curb pay and the first major cuts in public spending since the war.

Many of the policies Thatcher would implement in her first term were already in play in the last years of the Labour administration – though with less of the monetarist ideology that Thatcher espoused.

1979 to 1983 saw a horrific recession and the collapse of large swathes of manufacturing industry. This wiped out Tory support in the north and Midlands and there was initially strong hopes that Labour might be returned to office. But the party was ripping itself apart over what direction to take. Right-wingers like Shirley Williams and David Owen left to form the Social Democrat party (SDP). While Dennis Healey and Roy Hattersley remained within Labour to fight a bitter rearguard action against the Left led by Tony Benn.

Benn wanted mandatory re-selection of MPs, exit from the Common Market (European Union) and nuclear disarmament. To the left of him were groups like Tribune and the Militant advocating large scale nationalisation and a wholesale transformation of society. I often joked that you could walk into some Labour meetings and the Tribunites would be on one side of the room calling for the top 25 monopolies to be taken into public ownership. While the other side, Militant supporters, put a zero on that number and called for 250 nationalisations. That ‘zero’ separated reformists from Marxist-Leninists.

The 1983 manifesto was referred to be right-wingers as a ‘suicide note’ though, as with Corbyn’s policy platform, I’m not sure the demands were as unpopular as claimed. The bigger problems on the doorstep were a leader seen as ineffective (Michael Foot), Thatcher’s leadership in the Falklands War against Argentina and the overall impression of disunity.  It often seemed that there were many in the party more interested in the internal civil war and winning that – than taking power.

It would be another 14 years until Labour entered Downing Street again.

Jangles – ITV drama in a rock club

ITV decided it needed to get down with the kids in early 1982 and launched a drama series called ‘Jangles’ set in a fictional night club.  The main actor was an eighteen year old Jesse Birdsall – good looking cockney geezer who would go to play Marcus Tandy in Eldorado and Ron Gregory in The Bill.  Thirty years ago, he was the force behind Jangles.

The resident act at the club was none other than Hazel O’Connor but each episode – I think seven went out in the end – had a guest band that included Fun Boy Three and Haircut 100.  The ethos behind Jangles was to show that under-employed youth of the time could have fun while having no money.  Well, that was the idea anyway.


Happy Days – political divisions between the actors

Happy Days – for some

Here’s a piece of complete trivia about those involved in the TV series Happy Days.  In case you’re too young to remember, Happy Days was a sitcom set in 1950s America. It was shamelessly nostalgic, bubblegum entertainment.

Since then, the cast have led very different lives and held markedly different political views. And the moral is: Being a liberal/Democrat in California ensures you a happy and productive media career whereas being a red in tooth and claw registered Republican, may not work out so well.

Scott Baio is definitely the latter.  He has posted some pretty horrible stuff on his Twitter including a misogynist cheap shot at Michelle Obama that even our very own Daily Mail picked up on last year.  Click here to read the story.  Baio’s anti-Obama comment led to him claiming that he was receiving death threats and needed FBI protection.

This wasn’t the only Twitter meltdown that Baio inflicted on himself in 2010 – he then penned this anti-tax tweet that was picked up and led to an online feud between him and a website called Jezebel dot com.

In complete contrast, Henry Winkler and Ron Howard took up their old roles as the Fonz and Richie Cunningham to encourage people to vote for Obama during the last presidential election.  Whereas Baio’s career can hardly be described as stellar since he stopped playing Chachi, Ron Howard has become a globally renowned director.  Winkler hasn’t done too badly either.

Lorimar Productions – the force behind 70s TV

Lorimar is to blame for a big part of your youthful TV viewing if you were growing up in the 1970s.  It was eventually swallowed up in to Time Warner where its logo lived on for a while longer till it eventually disappeared completely.

This production company, born in 1969 and bought by Warner in the mid-80s, brought you The Waltons, Dallas, Knots Landing and the controversial movie Cruising (1980) and Being There (1979).  Lorimar’s logo always popped up at the end of your regular viewing but changed over time till eventually Time Warner made it very slick and charmless.

Here’s the history of a logo:

Saturday morning TV in the 1970s

School was over for another week. In the 1970s, you would have woken up on a Saturday morning, showered with Lifebuoy soap, put on your flared jeans and Harlem Globetrotters T-shirt (yes, I did own such things) and go downstairs to watch the telly.

PlanetAside from the BBC and ITV’s kids’ programmes – like Swap Shop and Tiswas – there was a slew of American TV series. For example, an adaptation of the movie Planet of the Apes, of Little House on the Prairie and if that wasn’t saccharine enough for you, then there was The Waltons.

And do we all remember the mawkish nonsense that was Mork and Mindy.  What I love about the opening credits of M and M and other similar series was that they rushed to tell an establishing story in under a minute.  So you see Mork waving goodbye to his fellow aliens, heading in an egg shaped spacecraft to Earth and then going to live in Boulder – Mork and Mindy put that town firmly on the map.

There’s some terrible US shows that have been completely forgotten.  Makin’ It was a disco based series that cashed in on the Saturday Night Fever craze and starred Ellen Travolta, older sister of the man with the same surname who was the star of SNF.

Pam Dawber and Robin WilliamsEllen also played the mother of Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) in Happy Days – which turned out to the be the happiest days of Scott Baio’s life – can’t say he made a huge impact afterwards with such turkey spin-offs as Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge.

Many of these shows were made – churned out – by Lorimar Productions, founded by Irwin Molasky.  It’s interesting to me to see how many Italian American and Jewish characters there were – but hardly a black face and certain no hispanics to be seen.

In all honesty, I didn’t  notice this at the time but a black friend of mine who is the same age as me said he found it pretty dispiriting back in 1979 to have no role models on mainstream TV to look up to.