Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime
1983, ITV/LWT © Granada Ventures
Based on Agatha Christie's short stories, this charming but effete series brings to life the exploits of newlyweds Prudence and Tommy Beresford, (Francesca Annis and James Warwick) who set up a private detective agency in London. Together they tackle everything from stolen jewels to poltergeists and, in this episode (30/10/1983), poisoned chocolates... The second clip dates from 1983; a promo for the series theme tune available on a 45rpm single, voiced by LWT announcer Ruth Anders.
All Creatures Great and Small
One of British TV's most popular family dramas was adpated from the books of James Herriot, a pseudonym used by Yorkshire vet and author Alf Wight (1916-1995). Initially the series was set in 1937, when James (Christopher Timothy) arrived in Darrowby to start his career, working for the well-established practice of Siegfried Farnon (Robert Hardy). Their aims of modernising the treatment of sick animals were viewed with suspicion by the old-fashioned, local farmers. Eventually James established himself and was made a partner in the practice, joined by Siegfried's fun-loving younger brother Tristan (Peter Davison). The series followed James over twenty years as he settled into his rural family life. Big Steps and Little 'Uns (05/04/1980) closed series three and the original series run, as the vets made their poignant departure for the war. After two specials in 1983 & 1985, the series returned from 1988 to 1990. Our clips feature the opening and closing titles for Big Steps, repeated on BBC1 in February 1995 as a tribute to James Herriot; the third clip features Robert Hardy's introduction to the episode.
The Barchester Chronicles
Dramatised by Alan Plater from Anthony Trollope's novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers, the series was completed in 1982, the centenary of Trollope's death. It is a gorgeous production, made entirely on OB videotape, starring Donald Pleasence as the Reverend Septimus Harding. Among his co-stars Clive Swift, Geraldine McEwan, Nigel Hawthorne and Susan Hampshire, Alan Rickman is excellent as the odious Mr Slope.
Blott on the Landscape
Another corking series, which transformed the bawdy Tom Sharpe novel into a televisual romp: witness Geraldine James baring her breasts, George Cole stripped and tied to a bed for a spanking by Julia McKenzie and Simon Cadell streaking through the woods! The title sequence gives a brilliant animated précis of the story, accompanied by David Mackay and Vivian Fisher's memorable theme tune. The six episodes ran on BBC2 on Saturday nights, during February & March 1985.
Boys from the Black Stuff
Work in Liverpool was scarce during the early Eighties. In this bleak and pessimistic setting, Alan Bleasdale created his iconic, darkly humorous five-part drama, spun out of his earlier play The Black Stuff (BBC2, 02/01/1980; not a Play for Today as is often stated). The "black stuff" in question is asphalt, as used by the main characters to tarmac roads, and each episode centres on a different character: Yosser Hughes (Bernard Hill), Chrissie Todd (Michael Angelis), Dixie Dean (Tom Georgeson), Loggo Lomond (Alan Igbon) and George Malone (Peter Kerrigan). Julie Walters, Ricky Tomlinson and Bread-stars-to-be Jean Boht and Gilly Coman also featured in the series, directed by Philip Savile. Initially shown on BBC2 from 10/10/82 - 7/11/1982, it was repeated on BBC1 in January 1983 and went on to win that year's Best Drama BAFTA Award.
A controversial four-part drama by Howard Brenton, in which the British secret service frames a petty crook (Denis Lawson) for murders committed by a member of the royal family. Eddy goes on the run when he discovers a severed head, wrapped up in the hatbox he has been entrusted with. At various points he is intercepted by the army and anarchic coke-snorting aristos, and seduced and tortured by a naked woman in Wellington boots. The top-notch cast includes Lindsay Duncan, George Baker, Simon Callow and James Warwick. Never repeated, but never forgotten - never miss an opportunity to see it!
Dr. Finlay's Casebook
Adaptated from the short stories of A. J. Cronin, the gentle dramas of this 1920s practice unfolded in the anaesthetic fictional setting of Tannochbrae, in reality Callandar in Perthshire. Bill Simpson starred as Dr Finlay, with Andrew Cruickshank as his senior partner and mentor Dr Cameron, and Barbara Mullen as their trusty housekeeper Janet. The stars became very popular with viewers, in 191 episodes on TV and a further 104 on BBC Radio 4 (1970-75). Also memorable was the theme tune, the march from A Little Suite composed by Trevor Duncan. The titles shown are from series 4's opener, The Phantom Piper of Tannochbrae (21/11/1965) and, from series 8, Comin' Thro' The Rye (27/09/1970).