:u f" <
for a rainy
Manchester. so much to answer for
. . . like three and a halfdecades of quality programming from Granada Television. Even the BBC think it‘s
great as they testify in a four-hour . tribute Granada/and. Tom Lappin
dons flat cap and clogs.
Halfway down ()uay Street. an IRA bomb-blast
. away from the centre of Manchester. is the headquarters ofprobably the best commercial TV
station in the world. The Granada Television
T office block is an unprepossessing edifice. topped
by the giant corporate logo in a typeface rarely seen outside the more backward Eastern European nations. From these humble premises
have emerged some of the finest productions in British television history. Nowadays it might be
acumen soon made it the most distinguished ofall the ITV companies.‘
Jeremy Beadle putting together another batch of video clips for You We Been Framed in the basement studio. but the greats have walked these corridors and the name Granada still conjures up deep respect in the London-dominated television industry.
So much so that BBC‘Z have seen fit to devote a whole evening’s schedule to a tribute to the station in the form of four hours of Granada/and. a compilation ofclassic programmes and documentaries looking at the legacy ofthe Manchester-based company. Granada/and represents a favour returned after 36 years. as executive producer John Whiston explains. 'lt dates back to the opening night ofGranada in 1956. when. as part oftheir first evening‘s programming. they screened a tribute to the BBC. In a way they were setting out their stall. making a commitment to quality broadcasting. What we‘re doing here in a way is returning the Valentine.
Looking back. a lot of people at the BBC realise
that the advent of lTV gave the BBC a much-needed challenge and made it examine what it was doing.‘
BBCZ controller Alan Yentob puts it in specific
x terms. ‘The story ofGranada TV is a story ofhow a ' family business became a national institution.‘ he
says. ‘Granada‘s sense of purpose. its recognition of public service coupled with strong commercial
Granada was the child of London entertainment
; entrepreneur Sidney Bernstein who bid for the
ON FOLLOWING PAGES:
Bamher ‘not Gaua' Gascoigne hosts a special University Challenge.
franchise after studying annual rainfall figures and population densities and deciding that he was onto a winner in North-West England. ‘Bernstein really began the sort ofclose-knit fatnin firm atmosphere that pervaded Granada for so long.‘ says Whiston. ‘He‘d go round people‘s offices early in the morning and leave them messages saying “I was here at 7.30am. where were you. and get your bin tidied." ' Brash though he might have been. Bernstein desperately wanted to run a respected station. to the extent that he issued caveats at the end ofan evening's programmes warning viewers that they were under no obligation to buy the products advertised unless they absolutely needed them.
‘Sidney Bernstein bid forthe franchise afterstudying annual rainfall figures and population densities and deciding that he
was onto a winner in North-West England.’
Bernstein began the Granada management system of benevolent dictatorship. continued under Sir Denis Forman and David Plowright. Granada was a company very much suited to individual and idiosyncratic talents. ofthe likes of Jack Rosenthal. Jeremy lsaacs and Gus MacDonald. ‘lt was a very male atmosphere as well.‘ admits Whiston. "I’o our shame we were unable to find any female representative to talk about those days at Granada. It was very much a testosterone-dominated place to work.‘
The disparate nature of Granada's successful programmes is reflected in the Granada/and
selections (Granada helped out by charging a token £1 for use oftheir footage). Opening with a classic episode of ('oronation Street in which Elsie 'I’anner confronts the formidable Ena Sharples. other programmes include an investigation of Granada‘s fine reputation for one-offdramas. and .N'ort/zern Songs. archive pop clips from the Beatles to Happy Mondays via Bay City Rollers. Joy Division and the Sex Pistols.
Whiston admits the emphasis is on nostalgia but there are questions raised about the future ofthe company. When the last of the ‘benevolent dictators'. David Plowright. left in acrimonious circumstances earlier this year it seemed that an era had come to an end. John (‘leese made his feelings clear by faxing the commercially-minded Granada management with a curt message: ‘Fuck off you caterers.‘
"I‘hat was something Granada were quite prepared to face up to.‘ says Whiston. ‘Researching the story. we discovered it was a much more complicated business than Plowright being the white knight riding into the sunset.‘ 'l'hat‘s the crux ofcourse. In the new climate facing commmercial television will Granada be able to maintain its reputation for quality and integrity“? ln Quay Street all is far from gloom and doom. Beadle may be lurking in the basement but the
Street still provides popular and powerful drama.
and the award-winning Prime Suspect has just started a new run. You get the impression Sidney Bernstein wouldn't be hanging his head in shame just yet.
(1' ranada/and is on B B ( ‘2 from 8pm on Monday 28 December.
JOHN SESSIONS O DOUG ANTHONY ALLSTARS O SIO JAMES
Elie-List Iii—Decemberwl992 — 14 January 1993 77