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For a region blessed with a peculiarly attractive and coiouriul accent and argot, Tyneslde has never had the same degree oi attention irorn TV producers as Merseyside or Yorkshire. With rare exceptions (the sublime When The Boat Comes In) gritty drama has always tended to ieature wily Scousers or honest-to-dullness Dales iolk.
Which is why BBCZ’s iiight On The Tyne special devoted to Geordie TV looks so thin. Get Carter is a decent enough iilm, but Michael Caine as a Newcastle lad? Do me a iavour. Dii The Wall is an interesting enough documentary about bringing art to the Byker housing estate but hardly riveting stuii.
Which leaves Whatever Happened To The likely Lads?, ior which all is forgiven. Whatever . . . was arguath the best sitcom oi the 70s, a crisply comic evocation oi middle-aged blokes who wanted to be young again. From that catchy theme tune through to the closing credits, this was elegiac wistiulness incarnate, Proust with gags.
Dick Clement and Ian la Frenals (who also did their hit ior Geordie TV with Jimmy iiail’s Spender) created the
‘ likely lads in the iirst instance as an
unexceptional wide-boy 60s sitcom that was essentially Saturday iiight Sunday Morning without the grlmness. Revisiting them in the 70s was a stroke oi genius and the later series was a much richer, more complex aiiair. liodney Dewes brought the periect note oi suburban iatalism to the role oi the hen-pecked Bob, while James Bolam’s philosophical loser Terry brought Geordie vernacular into the popular consciousness long beiore Viz was even conceived.
TV purists still talk in awed tones oi the classic episode where Bob and Terry try to avoid ilnding out the result oi a soccer game to be screened that evening, but the episode to be shown as part oi light On The Tyne, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ is another gem. Bob and his appalling wiie Thelma are having one oi their arriviste dinner parties and Terry is an unexpected iiith at the table. The result is as painiully iunny as Abigail’s Party. let’s have the whole series repeated and I don’t mean on UK Gold. (Tom tannin)
A light On The Tyne is on BBC2 on Sunday July 18. Whatever iiappened To The likely lads begins at 9.40pm.
:— Saur points
Chances are, by the time Spielberg’s blockbuster eventually reaches your local ileaplt’s screen, you’ll be all Jurassic Parked-out. Dinosaurs might be extinct but many a iadlng celeb would pay dearly ior their press coverage. ilever slow to spot a trend, Channel 4 add to the increasingly irenzled hype with a whole weekend oi programmes devoted to the overgrown lizards, under the heading Dlnornania. These ‘speclais’ do tend to be a case oi dragging everything vaguely related to the subject matter not oi the archive boxes and mixing it all up to coniuslng eiiect. That said, the highlight promises to be an Equinox special exploring the sclentlilc validity oi Spielberg’s plot: re-creatlng living dinosaurs irom preserved Dill. Michael Crichton talks about the book on which the iilnt was based, and paiaeontoioglst .lack llorner, whom Crichton used as the basis ior one oi the iilnt’s characters, is tunong the scientists investigating the practical possibilities oi DIA copying. less seriously, Dlnornanla also gives Channel 4 an excuse to delve once more into their well-stocked cupboard oi schlock movies. Treats unearthed include the bizarre Dlnosaurus irorn
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n prehistoric dentist’s uranium 1960 where dlnos run amok on a Caribbean island, and The land That Time Forgot irom 1974, ieaturing Doug hiclure and assorted British character actors righting oii rampaging prehistoric beasts.
And it all that roaring and stampeding is a bit too much, the schedulers have thoughtiully included iootage oi rock’s dinosaurs inserted into the itinerary at appropriate moments. Bob Dylan, Status Duo and, oi course, T iiex provide the aural equivalent oi an apatosaurus lumbering through dense vegetation. Bring back the veloclraptors, all is iorglven.
Dlnornanla begins on Channel 4 on Friday 19 July at 1.50pm and continues through to Sunday 18.
V TV REVIEW
It was doomed from the start. Lousy storylines, laughably stilted acting, unattractive, nay repulsive. characters. and the whole sorry shambles set in an area completely alien to most British viewers. Yet, amazingly. Take The High Road has been reprieved.
Safely departed though is Eldorado (BBCl). The £15 million folly picked up bigger audiences than High Road’s Jock-schlock, but fortunately they didn’t include the vociferous bunch "of wrinklies, discernment dulled by decades spent consuming scones and Scottish Blend tea, who saved their soap (north of the border at least). Eldorado suffered from all the same complaints, compounded by its choice of role-models. To become a successful soap it doesn‘t pay to believe that Eastﬁnders (BBCl) is the be-all and end-all of popular drama.
Anybody who’s paid a visit to Albert Square lately could have put them straight. Male characters divide into two types: brooding tough guys with romantic streaks that make them vulnerable, or easy-going wimps with romantic streaks that make them vulnerable. Females are tough old birds with romantic streaks that make them vulnerable, or brassy young types with . . . well you get the picture.
‘What I want to know is, It Michelle’s so clever, how come she’s in her mid- twenties and still hasn’t iound a remedy ior that acne oi hers?
This is characterisation at its sloppiest, and taken to its worst extreme in the case of Michelle Fowler (played with gauche crudeness by Susan Tully). Some years back Eaernders matriarch Julie Smith decided that our ’Chelle was the most interesting character in the series (which gives you some idea of the depths to which it had sunk) and subsequently every storyline had to revolve around her less-than-animated countenance. Marginal charaCters’ problems were sorted out by ’Chelle, she provided the (round) shoulder to
cry on, the platitudinous East End wisdom in times ofcrisis. In a ﬂight of preposterous fancy to rival her Dad Arthur’s ‘ﬂing‘. an upmarket college student even developed a romantic obsession with the decidedly lumpy single mum. a situation she dealt with as only Walford‘s answer to the Oracle at Delphi could. What I want to know is, if she's so clever, how come she’s in her mid—twenties and still hasn‘t found a remedy for that acne of hers?
Talking of plug-uglies, I was looking forward to Timothy Spall's new series, Frank Stubbs Promotes (Scottish). as he‘s second only to fellow-gargoyle Warren Clarke at portraying slobbish salt-of—the-earth types. We made the mistake of putting Tim‘s mug on the cover once and readership plummeted overnight. Newsagents stuck it on the top shelf because it scared the children, that sort ofthing.
‘Tlmothy Spall is second only to ieilow-gargoyie Warren Clarke at portraying slobbish salt-oi-the-earth types.’
As heart-of-gold wide-boy Frank he's a disappointment, a sort of Arthur Daley without the no-holds-barred venality. Wn'ter Simon Nye gave us the laddish sitcom Men Behaving Badly but with Frank Srubbs Promotes he‘s gone all soft-centred on us. When starry- eyed Frank ﬁnds the venue for his ﬁrst promotion has been sabotaged by an errant crane crashing through the roof. he dashes down the road to the local indie club, where he talks the ballsy manageress into letting him ‘do the show right here’ — a strangely old- fashioned upbeat ending in these days of gn'tty urban reality. And as a comedy drama it was woefully short on funny lines, the one memorable exception being when Frank’s sidekick said, ‘so what ifthey beat you up, it‘s not as if they're going to spoil your looks.‘
Line in Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s new Commitments-inﬂuenced sitcom Over The iialnbow (Scottish): ‘You, artistic? Do me a favour. Your favourite ﬁlm of 1992 was Buffy The Vampire Slayer!’ My favourite ﬁlm of 1992 was Buffy The Vampire Slayer. What does it all mean? (Tom Lappin).
80 The List 16—29 July 1993