Turning The Town Red

Scully is a television programme set in inner-city Liverpool in the early 1980s. I first saw it when we, for some reason that I cannot remember, watched it at school and, although I hadn’t seen it for the best part of thirty years, I still remembered bits of it very clearly – the theme song Turning The Town Red by Elvis Costello (who also played Scully’s older train obssessed brother) being one of them.

Francis Scully is sixteen years old and is a bit of a tearaway. He is always in trouble with the police causing havoc in the streets and at school with his mates. He really is the bane of his teachers and some of the local policemen’s lives, but he isn’t really a bad lad, just bored.

The series opens with Scully seeing his probation officer who asks him what he is good at to which he says nothing. He notices that he was once good at drama and that he should audition for the school pantomime. The rest of the series concerns two of his teachers trying to get him to audition for the play. Scully however has other ideas and tries to make sure that he does everything else but be in the pantomime.

His main love is football and Liverpool FC in particular and he often sees Kenny Dalglish in the place of people he is talking too, which is often quite amusing in the series as you had never before seen Kenny Dalglish in this way before, especially dressed as a fairy godmother. Scully also keeps seeing the school caretaker as a Dracula like figure complete with blood stained fangs and if he didn’t like him at the start of the series then he really didn’t like him by the end.

This is mostly a drama series about the lives of young people in Liverpool, people that the writer Alan Bleasdale knew well after being a teacher in the same area where this is set but there are some comedic elements as well. A lot of these come from the more surreal sequences that I mentioned before and also from his best mate, Mooey, who comes out with some real great lines.

The opening titles are interesting for Liverpool FC fans like myself featuring Scully as Liverpool player running down the tunnel at Anfield and out on to the pitch and kicking the ball into the Kop with the fans chanting his name, which, is what every Liverpool fan would wish for.

This isn’t far removed from Bleasdale’s later works about the city of Liverpool Boys from the Blackstuff in its depiction of the people and the hopes and aspirations of said people, and is worth watching as a social document along with Black Stuff of eighties Liverpool as well as an entertaining comedy drama.

Profoundly In Love With Pandora

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole was pretty much business as usual with the only major difference being that Julie Walters no longer played Adrian’s mum and the part was played by Lulu instead.

Yes, that’s right, Lulu of Boom-Bang-a-Bang, Shout and The Man with the Golden Gun fame.

Now I never really noticed that she was recast when I watched it originally and even though it was a lot more obvious when I watched it again recently it wasn’t as jarring as I thought that it might have been and Lulu was actually rather good as Pauline Mole, not quite as good as Julie Walters by any means, but good enough in her own right, and had a fairly decent Midlands accent to boot.

It is really a shame that we didn’t have Julie Walters back for this series as Pauline Mole has so much to do in the series when compared to the first series but I cannot say that Lulu disappointed either.

Highlights of this second series involve Adrian running away from home and only getting as far as Hull; Pauline Mole fighting the system and getting an emergency giro cheque from the DSS (not an easy task in those days); Adrian getting suspended from school for writing a poem on the toilet walls and signing it, and then becoming a member of Barry Kent’s gang.

It continued to be rather bleak with the family sliding deeper and deeper into penury with Adrian trying to make sense of it all and try to pass his o-levels.

There were plenty of heart-wrenching elements as well such as Bert’s new wife Queenie dying of a stroke not long after their marriage.

There seemed to be some incidental music in this second series albeit the same piece of music used throughout which I don’t think that they had in the first series and am not sure that it made it any better because of that.

As a dramatised version of the second book this was another success and I am glad that I finally got to see it again after so many years!

Just my luck

I have recently watched the 1985 television adaptation of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 3/4.

I do remember watching this when it was originally broadcast and it has stayed with me ever since despite the fact that I have not seen it in almost 30 years. It probably helped that I also read the book at about the same time and have re-read it a number of times since.

The television version was just as good as I remembered it being but one thing that I noticed about it was how grim it seemed to be at times what with his mother and father arguing, and then splitting up, and his father being made redundant and how that affected him.

Of course this was set in, and made, in the 1980s when this sort of thing was happening all over the country. Not that I noticed any of this watching it at the time as it went right over my head but it was interesting to spot it this time around and also bemoan the fact that this could be set in modern days and it would be just as topical.

Of course there were some really funny moments such as Adrian getting an model plane stuck to his nose after an experimental sniff, the school trip to London that ended in anarchy and the teacher having a breakdown, and all the stuff about his relationship with Pandora, and his wall chart, which was the sort of thing all boys of a similar age would have been thinking about at the time and if you were Adrian Mole, at that age and that time, then you would fancy Pandora. I know that I did.

The casting is very strong with such stalwarts as Julie Walters, Stephen Moore, Beryl Reid, and Bill Fraser amongst it. Gian Sammarco who plays Adrian pretty much seems like he was born to play the role, and inhabits the role entirely, although it probably wasn’t a stretch for him.

The theme music composed by Chaz Jankel and Ian Dury, and performed by Dury, was also a classic and was very relevant to the series and it showed that the writers had read the book as some of the lyrics directly referenced events in the book, as do the titles that accompany the theme music.

If you have read the books and have never seen this then I would highly recommend that you find yourself a copy and watch it, you won’t be disappointed.

Men Behaving Badly Series 3

The third series of Men Behaving Badly was the first series broadcast on the BBC and due to its later time slot the show was a little bit rowdier and smuttier than it was before. This is my favourite series so far and there were some really funny episodes in this particular run.

Bed which is set over the course on one night with Deborah persuading Tony to mend the broken fence in their shared garden, which he has been ignoring all for a long time, which he does despite the weather with hilarious consequences. Dorothy falls ill and gets Gary to go to an all night chemist for her but when he gets there he realises that he has lost his wallet, and then his car keys.

Lovers is about a conversation that Tony and Gary have about the number of women that they have slept with, which causes Gary to wildly exaggerate his, after hearing about Tony’s tally. It is amusing when Dorothy asks him to prove it.

In Casualties Gary ends up causing George to have an injury at work when he has been keeping boxes in the office to save the money on the storage and ends up lying to Dorothy about what happened, despite the fact that she has already told him that if he doesn’t stop lying then she will leave him. Deborah also tells them that she is thinking of selling her flat and cue lots of entertaining ways to put off potential buyers of the flat including a young Catherine Tate.

In Weekend, Gary and Dorothy go on a romantic weekend trip and leave Tony alone in the flat, which doesn’t go well, especially for Gary’s fish.

Cleaning Lady sees the boys getting in a cleaner for the flat only for Gary to make up stories about the cleaner being horrible, when she turns out to be an attractive young woman. Tony has turned to modelling in order to impress Deborah and, when he meets the cleaner, he to tries to user her to make Deborah jealous by pretending that she is his new girlfriend.

In the final episode of the series Gary drunkenly proposes to Dorothy who accepts and lets Gary stew while he tries to make himself into a unmarriable person but who gets put out when she tells him that she doesn’t want to marry him and when he tries to persuade her that actually he is rather a good catch, she agrees to marry him.