Friday, 13 March 2009

1982: Enter The Rival!

From the "Sun", February 2, 1982. Actually the provisional title for this show, which turned out to be "Brookside", was "Meadowcroft", not "Meadowcraft" and the creator was Phil Redmond not Redmund! Still, "Coronation Street" producer Bill Podmore's confident attitude is worth noting: "I enjoy competition... especially when we are going to win."

Gordon Collins, played by Mark Burgess, was the first regular gay character in English TV soaps; Tracy Corkhill (Justine Kerrigan) got into trouble with telephone chatlines, parents, teachers - you name it; Annabelle Collins (Doreen Sloane) faced a move down in status from the leafy Wirral to rough and tumble Brookside; but for working class mum Sheila Grant, played by Sue Johnston, the Close marked a move up in the world from a grotty council estate.

Brookside is no longer with us. The socially relevant Channel 4 saga of the 1980s, which broke taboos and sought to show what life was like in modern day England, away from lovely "muriels" and cobbled streets, was compulsive viewing for the first eight years or so. However, in the 1990s, the show became increasingly sensationalised and was finally laid to rest in 2003.

For me, one of the most shocking things about Brookside was the fact that its characters actually watched soap operas! Seeing Sheila Grant doing the ironing whilst watching Coronation Street came as a great shock to me!

Brookside had quite an effect on Coronation Street and the other soaps, and without it there would probably never have been EastEnders. The soaps became grittier, more relevant, and a heavy left-wing bias often seemed evident. The trouble is, as the soaps entered the 1990s, the desire to be political and to responsibly explore controversial issues was gradually replaced by a desire to shock and sensationalise.

But the '80s era in Brookside Close really was worth watching. In my humble opinion, of course!

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