02/07/12 Top Tv of my Adolescence

02 Jul

Well i aint been around much online and i thought i`d remember the good old days of tv i fondly remember. So here goes.

03 – Threads by by Barry Hines and directed by Mick Jackson – transmitted in 1984 on BBC1

Young lovers Ruth Beckett (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy Kemp (Reece Dinsdale) decide to marry due to an unplanned pregnancy. As they and their families are introduced into the plot, news reports over the course of several weeks indicate that the Soviet Union has invaded Iran following a coup, and that the United States military, with British support, has intervened. As the situation escalates and events transpire, Sheffield City Council is directed by the Home Office to assemble an emergency operations team, which establishes itself in a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of the Town Hall.

The crisis deepens as the Soviets use a nuclear warhead, delivered by a surface-to-air missile, to destroy incoming American B-52 bombers attacking a Soviet-occupied airbase in Mashhad. The Americans respond by detonating a battlefield nuclear weapon at the airbase. Hostilities temporarily cease. Britain is gripped by fear: as supplies and food run low, some retailers resort to profiteering, with looting and rioting erupting. “Known subversives” (including peace activists and some trade unionists) are arrested and interned under the Emergency Powers Act.

At 8:30am (3:30am in Washington, D.C.) on 26 May, Attack Warning Red is transmitted, sending the emergency operations team into frantic action. The city’s air raid sirens sound, and Sheffield erupts into panic, prompting Jimmy and his workmate Bob to take cover under their van. A warhead detonates over the North Sea, creating an electromagnetic pulse that disrupts power and communications over the region. Minutes later the first salvo of Soviet nuclear weapon strikes NATO targets in Western Europe, including RAF Finningley 20 miles (32 km) from Sheffield. The flash and mushroom cloud cause panic. In shock, one woman wets herself as she sees the mushroom cloud grow. People caught in the open are injured by flying debris as the blast blows out windows across the city. As the blast wave passes, Jimmy and Bob clamber out and Jimmy runs to his car, shouting that he is going to try and reach Ruth. The car will not start so he sets off on foot through the chaos. He is never seen again. The Becketts hurry to their basement while the Kemps (Jimmy’s parents) desperately rush to finish a shelter they were preparing out of mattresses, bags and doors. Jimmy’s younger sister, Alison, was sent to the shops minutes before the attack Mrs. Kemp is seen shielding her youngest son, Michael, as a blast blows in the front windows of the house. Minutes later, Michael is seen crying in the aviary. He is still there when a larger nuclear warhead detonates directly over Sheffield.

As the exchange escalates, strategic targets including steel and chemical factories in the Midlands are attacked with nuclear weapons, instantly vaporising thousands of people and ravaging everything with fire. The worldwide nuclear exchange is 3000 megatons, with 210 megatons falling on the United Kingdom. Two thirds of all homes are destroyed by blast or fire and immediate deaths are between 17 and 30 million. Nuclear fallout keeps rescuers from fighting fires or rescuing those trapped in the debris. A montage shows milk bottles melting, animals writhing amid the flames and human corpses burning. The staff in Sheffield emergency operations team are alive (except one member killed by falling debris) but they are trapped beneath the rubble of the Town Hall. Initially, they are able to contact what remains of local fire and police services by radio. It is not possible for rescue teams to reach them, since radiation levels are too high and all approaches are blocked.

Within hours, fallout from a groundburst at Crewe begins descending upon Sheffield. As their severely damaged home offers little protection, the Kemps suffer from radiation sickness, and Mrs. Kemp is also severely burned (the narrator points out: “the symptoms of radiation sickness and panic are identical”). A day after the attack, they stumble outside to search for Michael, looking in horror at the devastation and fires around them. They find Michael, dead, under a pile of wreckage in the front garden. The Becketts are better protected in their cellar, but Ruth’s grandmother (who had been sent to live with them as hospitals were cleared for expected casualties) dies. After helping to move her body to the front room, Ruth leaves the cellar and wanders through the devastated city. Little has been left standing. Bodies are everywhere along with dazed, traumatised and injured survivors. Eventually, she arrives at a hospital in Buxton, twenty miles from Sheffield. There is no electricity, no running water and no sanitation. Drugs and medical supplies have long since run out. Crowds of people await treatment. Floors are covered with blood, pillowcases are being torn up into makeshift bandages and injured limbs are being amputated without anaesthetic. The narrator points out that the entire peacetime resources of the National Health Service, had they survived, would be unable to cope with the casualties from just the one bomb that hit Sheffield. In the aftermath of a full-scale nuclear attack, “as a source of help or comfort he [a doctor] is little better equipped than the nearest survivor.”

When Ruth returns to Sheffield, she goes first to the Kemps’ house and finds Mrs. Kemp’s body in their shelter. Mr. Kemp has left and dies some time later from radiation sickness. She then returns to her own home, where her grandmother’s body is decaying under a blanket. The cellar is full of flies and vermin and she realises her parents, if they are there, must be dead. In fact, as a previous scene has shown, they have been murdered by looters, one of whom is himself shot by soldiers who chance upon the gang leaving the house. By this time order has dissolved and “starving mobs” are seeking food in many places around the city. Looters, including Alison Kemp, are shown being held behind wire. Mr. Kemp is among a rioting crowd at a food storage depot who are dispersed by tear gas. One month after the attack, soldiers force their way into the town hall basement and find the bodies of the emergency operations staff, who have all died of suffocation.

No efforts are made to bury the dead as the surviving population is too weak for manual labour. Burning the bodies is considered a waste of what little fuel remains. Millions are left unburied, which leads to the outbreak of diseases such as cholera andtyphoid. The government authorises the use of capital punishment and special courts are given wide-ranging powers to shoot prisoners. As money no longer has any value the only viable currency is food, given as a reward for work or withheld as punishment. Workers who die slightly increase the average daily food rations to the survivors.

Due to the millions of tons of soot, smoke and dust that have been blown into the upper atmosphere by the explosions, a nuclear winter develops. Ruth is later working on a farm, having defied official advice and fled the city, eventually giving birth alone in a farm out-building to her daughter, Jane. With nobody to help, Ruth is forced to cut the umbilical cord with her teeth.

A year after the war, sunlight begins to return but food production is poor due to the lack of proper equipment, fertilisers and fuel. Damage to the ozone layer also means this sunlight is heavy with ultraviolet radiation. Cataracts and cancer are much more common. The remaining survivors are weakened from illness and hunger.

A few years on, Britain’s population falls to medieval levels, around 4 to 11 million people. The country has managed only very little recovery. Survivors, including Ruth and her daughter, work in the fields. Children born since the attacks are educationally stunted and speak a broken form of English. Due to the effects of radiation, children born after the attack suffer from mental retardation and/or physical deformities. Prematurely aged and blind with cataracts, Ruth dies, survived by her 10-year-old daughter Jane (Victoria O’Keefe).

The country gradually starts to rebuild with limited amounts of coal mining and some mechanisation from traction engines. Three years after Ruth’s death, Jane and two boys her age are caught stealing food. When they try to escape, one boy is shot dead as they flee. She and the other boy wrestle for the food and they end up having what the script describes as “crude intercourse”.[1] Months later, she is seen stumbling through the rubble of a city, pregnant and at full-term. She finds a makeshift hospital which has electricity. The final scene shows Jane giving birth and the play ends just as she is about to scream in horror as she looks upon her baby.

02 – One Summer by Willy Russell and Gordon Flemyng – transmitted on 7th Aug 1983 on Channel 4

16 year old Billy Rizley (Morrissey) comes from a broken home. His father is absent, his mother suffers from mental health problems and is unable (or unwilling) to care for him, and his older sister hates him. Billy and his friend Icky (Leigh) have truanted from school for some time and have fallen into a life of deliquency, constantly getting into trouble with local gangs and the police. When the pair decide to go back into school in order to go on a school camping trip to Wales, they are refused by their teacher. With no direction or prospects in life, the pair decide to run away to Wales by themselves, the last place Billy had any happy memories when he went away on a previous school trip some years earlier. Upon their arrival, they almost immediately get into trouble with the local police but escape arrest. They stay the night in a barn at a secluded farm, but are caught by the farmer and his wife, though they take pity on the two boys and let them spend the night. In the morning, Billy and Icky make a quick getaway from the farm house when the police arrive.

Wandering through the Welsh countryside, they come across an old cottage that they believe is deserted. Hoping to find shelter inside, they come face to face with Kidder (Hazeldine), the man who lives there. Kidder lives the life of a hermit, preferring to keep himself to himself. Completely self-sufficient, he works as an artist, selling his paintings at a local market, and grows his own food. He reluctantly allows the boys to stay for a night but tells them they have to leave after that. Hoping to change Kidder’s mind, the boys begin to do chores around the house and the grounds outside, but Icky breaks all of Kidder’s plates by skimming them off the stream when he is supposed to be washing them. The boys set out to find replacement plates but have no money, and so they steal them from a nearby house. When they return they find a group of locals youths vandalising Kidder’s house. They chase them off, and eventually Kidder agrees to let them stay, but Billy is later beaten up by the local gang. Meanwhile, Kidder discovers Icky is illiterate and (being a former schoolteacher) begins teaching him.

While Billy and Kidder are away at the local market, Icky goes out on his own and finds the boys from his school at the camp site that he and Billy had come to Wales to find. However, when he brings the boys back to Kidder’s house, they get drunk and wreck the house, while one of the boys, Rabbit (Hart), steals Kidder’s money from a drawer. Meanwhile at the market, Billy meets Jo, a pretty local girl from a middle class family. When Billy gets back to the house, he finds Icky sleeping off a hangover and Kidder’s money gone. They go to the camp site and get the money back, threatening Rabbit not to reveal to anyone where they are living. Kidder gives the boys handmade books about their adventures, and the three go to a local dance, where Billy sees Jo again. As they begin a romantic relationship, Icky grows restless and returns to Liverpool alone.

Back in Liverpool, Icky and the gang from school steal a car and drive to Southport. There, they find themselves caught in an ambush by a rival gang, and Rabbit accidentally stabs one of the boys. Icky abandons the gang at the Southport fair and tries to drive back to Wales, but he is chased by a police car and is killed when he crashes the stolen car. Back in Wales, the local police come looking for Billy at Kidder’s house. As Billy is hiding from them, he overhears their conversation and learns that Kidder is gay and once had an affair with one of the 18 year old pupils (at that time, an offence) at the school where he worked and served a prison sentence for it. Billy runs out away from Kidder’s house and finds Jo, and the two make love near a lake. When he later returns to the house, he sees two police officers from Liverpool who have come to take him back. They begin assaulting Kidder to make him tell them where Billy is. Rather than run away, Billy comes to Kidder’s defence and stops the police from hurting him further. Billy is then taken back to his grim life in Liverpool with the police officers, his summer in Wales over.

01 – Boys From The Blackstuff by Alan Bleasdale – transmitted from 10th Oct 1982 on BBC2

The series Boys from the Blackstuff follows the stories of the five now unemployed men who lost their jobs due to the events of the original play The Blackstuff. Set in Bleasdale‘s home city of Liverpool, and reflecting many of his own experiences of life in the city, each episode focuses on a different member of the group. The series was highly acclaimed for its powerful and emotional depiction of the desperation wrought by high unemployment and a subsequent lack of social support. Although the series is and was noted by many reviewers as a critique of the Margaret Thatcher era, which was seen as being responsible for the fate of many of the unemployed lower and working classes, particularly in the North of England (and in fact fuelling the North-South divide), most of the series had actually been written in 1978 during Labour’s James Callaghan‘s prime ministership, therefore preceding Thatcher’s Britain by a year.

Indeed the most memorable and poignant of the characters was Yosser Hughes, a man driven to the edge of his sanity by the loss of his job, his wife, the authorities’ continued attempts to take his children away from him and his constant attempts at salvaging his male pride (often the main give-away of his insecurity). His catchphrases, “Gizza’ job!” (“give us a job”) and “I can do that!” became part of the popular consciousness of the Eighties, summing up the mood of many who sought desperately for work during the era. Hughes was played by Bernard Hill, who uses his obvious Mancunian accent, with slight Scouse vocal mannerisms.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Top Tens


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