Since starting as a scriptwriter for kids’ television, Brno/(side creator Phil Redmond has always had his ﬁnger on the pulse of youth drama. So what went wrong with his new teen serial Hollyoaks, asks Eddie Gibb.
In 1976 Phil Redmond was just 27 years old and his school days were a recent enough memory to give his lirst major television commission. Grange Hill. a ring of authenticity. The classroom pranks and after- school angst of a gang of East London comprehensive kids with names like Tucker and Trisha and Bomber gave a generation of children an excuse to put their homework on hold to catch their twice-weekly lix.
Nineteen years on. Redmond is a fortysomcthing television executive with his own production company which had grown big enough to mount a serious challenge to Granada‘s ITV franchise in the north-east of England. The bid was unsuccessful but his Liverpool soap [iron/mile. which launched with Channel 4 in l982. is still consistently the station's highest rated show.
So sure is Redmond‘s soap touch in fact. he was called in to rescue the flagging farmer saga [Smitten/ale. where he came up with a Lockerbie-
style plane crash storyline which sent viewing figures
soan'ng. However. .lordache home improvements aside. the underlying secret of [iron/(side’s success. and something Redmond helped inject into Emmerdule. is strong young characters. Anna Friel who played Beth Jordache in Bron/tie owes her new career as a sex kitten to this attention to the younger generation of viewers.
So. given his track record. you'd imagine that Redmond would bejust the guy to devise a new
youth drama aimed at capturing the after-school viewers that Aussie imports Neig/ilmurs and Home and Away have made their own. The theory is good. but in practice something has gone badly wrong with the 26-pan serial Holly-mks. ‘What is Hollyvmks about?‘ Redmond asks rhetorically. ‘lt's about the two biggest issues in life — who I am and where I'm going. It is also about going out. enjoying yourself. listening to music. getting on and/or off with the opposite sex.‘ And here it comes. the key to the whole enterprise. ‘lt is not aboutsocial angst.‘
For someone whose ITV franchise bid was about local programming which would have reﬂected life in the densely populated Liverpool-Manchester conurbalion. he sure has been watching a lot of frothy American television. Hal/yanks (oak. tree.
wood. Hollywood. geddit‘.’) is cult US teen drama My
So Cal/ed Life translated to the affluent commuter- belt town of Chester.
Instead of the ultra-cute Angela Chase. whose so- called life revolves around parents whojust don‘t understand her. Hal/yanks is viewed mainly through the eyes of Kurt (yo!) Benson. Kurt has it all — personal computer. motorbike. original Fender Stratocaster, hot-rod (no you didn’t miss something —
Hollyoaks: pre-packed teenage lifestyles we're still in Chester). square jaw and perfect hair. What he lacks. ho vever. is a personality.
All the Hui/yanks characters are a bit lacking in that department and Redmond. who scripted the first six episodes. seems to have completely lost his ear for believable dialogue. How about this touching soliloquy: ‘l loveloe.‘ says the jilted Louise. ‘He meant everything to me: we were the same birth signs and everything. That‘s why I gave myselro
him . . . completely.‘ It may sound like irony. but
believe me that‘s not the way the lines were delivered.
Hal/yanks is like a televised adaptation of a photo- love story from .lllt'lx‘lt’.- Maybe Redmond has spent too long talking the TV executive talk. but llu/lymrks is all about concept at the expense of decent storylines or interesting characters.
It‘s hard to imagine kids buying into this transparent attempt to sell them a pie-packaged lifestyle. but there is one good reason for watching -— the surreal sight of Alvin ‘My Coo-(‘a-Choo' Stardust pulling pints in the local boozer. For this inspirational piece of casting alone. Phil Redmond may be forgiven. HUI/yanks starts on Monday 23 ()(‘Iu/n'r (1! 6.30pm on Channel 4.
ART HISTORY ,
Occult of personality
Strange, very strange. Almost creepy, in tact. The title music tor a new Channel 4 documentary is the perfect introduction to this expose ot the occult’s intluence on some of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists. The tour-part series Hidden Hands: A Different View of Modernism begins at the end of the Victorian era, as old certainties were disappearing and, into the breach, came theosophy, a religion based on divine inspiration which ushered in a new age of spiritual knowledge.
Painters flocked to this ‘new church’ including notables of early abstract
Hidden Handsz‘splrltuallst’ Madame Blavatsky cast a spell over the early modernists
the art history books.
expressionism like Kandinsky and Mondrian, but behind the clean lines of the century’s most important art movement, Modernism, its pioneers were messing around with ouiia boards (Modiligiani) and tarot cards (Picasso). The artists’ motives were often less than worthy and sometimes plain cranky, with several falling under the bizarre intluence ot ‘spiritualist’ Madame Blavatsky, later exposed as a phoney. Hidden Hands aims to give an alternative perspective on the Modernist movement, by looking at this darker side which tends to be missed out of
‘lt’s just amazing that so many historians did not want to explore occultism,’ says art expert Bose Long in Hidden Hands. ‘I think that had to with the tact that they were very worried that abstract expressionism
was so hard to understand, it you associated it with tringe groups like occultisrn — that would somehow denigrate the great experiments that painters had made in the early years of the 20th century.’
A later programme argues ‘hygenic’ modernism (a post World War I development) was a precursor ot the ‘tinal solution’. All straight lines and primary colours, Hitler was a big tan of this movement; he always liked things neat and tidy, remember. Later, the BIA apparently sponsored the spread of American modern art, presumably as an attempt at cultural as well military domination.
However Hidden Hands does more than simply debunk the myths ot modernism - it seeks to intorm in a constructive way. (Paul Welsh) Hidden Hands starts on Sun 23 act at 8pm on Channel 4. J
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