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R.I.P Carla Lane

One of my friends told me last week that not only was it tragic that we’ve lost some big name stars before we’ve even reached the first half of 2016, but we’ve lost those who made up our generation; people who we grew up with, so even though we never met them, it feels as though we know them which makes us feel that loss so much more.

Today TV writer, Carla Lane, the lady responsible for Bless This House, Butterflies, and one I still remember, The Mistress, has gone on to join a very talented bunch in the sky. I grew up watching Bread, while my mother loved The Liver Birds.

I very much doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t watched something written by Carla Lane. She will be missed…

TV writer Carla Lane

TV writer Carla Lane

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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Streets Apart is Streets Ahead.

Ever recalled something so fleeting from your childhood that years later you wondered if you had imagined it?

Well for a while I did wonder if I had dreamt up Streets Apart before realising that it did in fact exist! This  BBC sitcom, written by Adrienne Conway,  was first shown in 1988, starring the late James Hazeldine and a virtually unrecogniseable Amanda Redman, as childhood sweethearts, Bernie and Sylvia, who reunite twenty years later only to discover that their lives have taken completely different paths: Bernie is now a black cab driver and widowed father of two, while Sylvia, having worked hard to escape her East End roots, works as a successful literary agent and has a plush central London home. So I set about watching all twelve episodes of Streets Apart again – and I’m so glad I did.

Th show's writer, the lovely Adrienne Conway

The show’s writer, the lovely Adrienne Conway

Only two series of this superb comedy were made and I don’t believe they were ever repeated again on BBC1 (who says the Beeb are famous for a never ending string of repeats?) despite, from what I understand, the show pulling in between ten to twelve million viewers per week. Streets Apart used to be shown on Wednesday nights (I think!) and although my memories of the show were quite hazy, I’m amazed now by how many OMG!-I remember-that moments I encountered while watching the show again. I even had flashbacks to my mum and aunt commenting on Sylvia’s hair and wardrobe virtually every episode. Oh the eighties!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Streets Apart again twenty five years later and laughed out loud at some extremely hilarious moments: Bernie picking up a fare who wanted to go to Torquay but pronounced it ‘Turkey’; Sylvia talking seductively over the phone to her bewildered assistant Tiffany in an attempt to make Bernie jealous; Cliff’s sister making a play for Bernie – who only had eyes for Sylvia. The first time i watched the show, I felt quite  sympathetic towards Bernie’s daughter, Mandy, even thought she came across as quite bratty. Watching for the second time as Mandy conspired to keep Bernie away from a-far-from-maternal and seemingly stuck -up Sylvia, I still sympathised with Mandy as I watched her determination to hang on to family life as she knew it.

Spoilt and snooty some of the characters may have appeared but all the characters are likeable in their own way and there is something quite touching in the close bonds that are formed between Bernie and Sylvia and their respective best friends Cliff and Jenny as the latter two provide the necessary support and encouragement that their friends need in order to resume their relationship.

Watching Streets Apart again and feeling that connection to my childhood and the 1980s struck such a chord with me. I could also relate to Sylvia’s desire to make something of herself and of her love of the literary world. There was so much that was familiar to me that I actually wanted to climb inside my TV set and be transported back to the 1980s. If only it were that simple.

It’s such as shame that only two series of Streets Apart were made before the show was cancelled. There was so much that could have been done in in terms of storyline and character development. Viewers were left hanging after watching the penultimate show; deliberately intended, I’m sure, just in case a third series should be commissioned. However, I’m optimistic enough to think that Bernie and Sylvia did make it work despite their differences. It would have been worth commissioning another series if only to hear that bittersweet theme tune sung beautifully by Neil Lockwood.

Despite being moving, funny and very well written by the very talented Conway, with stars Hazeldine, Redman and Desmond MacNamara all achieving a great level of fame, Streets Apart never reached the same iconic comedy status as Only Fools and Horses or the equally short lived but extremely popular Fawlty Towers and I cannot understand why as more than two decades later it’s still very watchable and nowhere near as dated as you may think. I’d like to think that it’s streets ahead of a lot of the drivel that passes for comedy today. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Conway

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Comedy Shows

 

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Return to Walton’s Mountain

The never changing penultimate signature scene gets me every time because I know another fantastic episode has come to an end and I will have to wait an entire week to get my fix: through the branches of the trees in rural Virginia, the two storey family home, complete with porch emerges, enveloped by the night sky. Voices can be heard coming from inside the house as the family muse over recent happenings. There is total darkness except for the lights in a couple of the bedrooms, which are all eventually turned off as the family bid each good night before the soft strains of the feel-good theme tune can be heard.

 

“Goodnight Mama.”

“Goodnight John Boy.”

“Goodnight Mary Ellen.”

That’s right; it could only be the formidable Walton family. If that glorious theme tune could be on the soundtrack to my childhood, then the show itself must be part of the footage. When I was a kid it was compelling Sunday afternoon viewing that my family and I used to watch after Sunday mass. Back then I didn’t know anyone who didn’t watch The Waltons. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like The Waltons. Sadly, at the time, I was too young to appreciate what fine quality viewing the show was and probably thought that television would always be that way. It was sensitively written; beautifully acted, and contained scenes of the breathtaking Virginian countryside. There was usually a moral in every episode, along with depictions of hard work; family values; helping the community and genuine religious reverence.  However, I am now old enough to realise that they don’t make them like that any more. The constant stream of mindless drivel on television these days (Dear Lord, not another daft reality TV show) explains why I hardly ever watch television nowadays. I’m almost certain that the world would be a better place if we had more shows like this. Writers and producers, take note!

And of course, a TV series based on nostalgic reminiscings – from the narrations of a middle aged John-Boy Walton during the opening and closing scenes of every episode – can only be a good thing for a sentimental old fool like myself. Incidentally, John-Boy was a character I could identify with as, like me, he was the eldest; he took care of his younger siblings, and he had a deep desire to write. He ended up achieving his goal. Good for you John -Boy!

Clearly, I’m not the only one for whom the show brings back fond memories. The recent reunion of  the cast of The Waltons brought hoardes of the shows fans to the streets of Los Angeles proving that Walton-mania is still very much alive and kicking thirty one years after the last episode was broadcast. The reunion was to celebrate the show’s fortieth anniversary – although many of the cast do not look old enough to be celebrating such a milestone! Unfortunately Richard Thomas (the well loved John Boy) and Michael Learned were notably absent due to prior commitments but fans were ecstatic to see the rest of the cast.

 

Oh how I would love to return to Walton’s Mountain; a world where children looked and behaved like children; elders were respected and cared for; family members looked out for each other; people in the community helped each other out; kindness was shown to strangers and religion was not a dirty word. And not a bare bum in sight! Who said you shouldn’t pay attention to everything you see on TV?

Goodnight everybody.

 

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in TV Shows

 

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