Sunday, 26 July 2009

1980: Who Shot JR? In Dallas And An Outbreak Of Flu In Coronation Street...

Here's a certain Mr Ewing, alone in his office. But IS he alone?

Eee, 1980. Seems like yesterday! But a real dinosaur year this one - three TV channels, computers were a mystery to most people, Space Invaders were just cementing their hold on us, and Pac-Man (or Puckman as it was originally called) was wheeled out in Japan in May. But the world was a much bigger place without the World Wide Web (invented in 1989 and not up-and-running until the 1990s), and I don't recall hearing of the little muncher at all in 1980.

It's funny how the real past often differs from modern day telly programmes, web sites and books on the subject... you may have watched I Love The 1970s on the BBC, but face it, the series actually spanned the late 1960s to the early 1980s (by the time we reached I Love The 1980s, several '80s crazes had wrongly fallen into the '70s). You may have watched Margaret and Life On Mars, but even the snazzy red trimphones featured in those programmes were not actually available in reality until 1982.

In the pop world of the real 1980, we bopped to DISCO, sat down on the floor for Oops Upside Your Head, goggled at Buster Bloodvessel and his waggly tongue, loved Baggy Trousers, and saw Adam And The Ants flounce in. David Bowie's Ashes To Ashes video was groundbreaking.

The personal stereo, invented in Japan in 1979, reached the UK in 1980 as the "Sony Stowaway" - they cost a packet! In 1981, the Walkman name was patented here.

1980 was hugely important in shaping the decade. Ronald Reagan was elected President of the USA in November. The '80s would have turned out very differently had it not been for that event.

No yuppies in 1980 (the acronym was coined in the USA a little later in the decade). We were in a recession. Brighton gained England's (and I believe the UK's) first nudist beach, and a young woman called Lady Diana Spencer burst into the headlines.

The Rubik's Cube, a re-manufactured version of the obscure Hungarian Magic Cube, was released. America got it in May 1980. Although the trade name was also registered in the UK that May, we had to wait until just before Christmas for its arrival. And then it was in short supply.

Life was so different. 1980 was... well, prehistoric.

But 1980 did have something great - 1980 had "WHO SHOT JR?"

And we obsessed over it all that summer after the episode was shown in May. The scenario is now a TV legend, but only came about through a last minute decision of the show's producers to change that season's cliff hanger.

Daily Mirror, May 26, 1980: JR got shot, of course, but what was happening in Corrie? Well, Stan and Hilda Ogden both had flu, and Hilda was making a gallant effort to turn up for her cleaning job at the Rovers. Corrie was moved from its traditional 7.30pm slot and screened half-an-hour earlier so that a thrilling film about killer bees could be shown. ITV bosses hoped (in vain) that this might distract people from switching to the BBC at 8.10pm for the big moment in Dallas.

I don't actually have the Stan and Hilda flu episode, but here's a screen cap of our Hilda being poorly on another occasion.

Other Corrie events of 1980 included Eddie Yeats landing a job as a binman and moving in with the Ogdens, Renee Bradshaw meeting her untimely end in a road accident, Elsie Tanner accidentally setting her armchair on fire, Annie Walker arguing with the binmen, and Emily Bishop marrying bigamist Arnold Swain.

But nobody in Weatherfield got shot.

Thank goodness!


  1. The episode from 28th May 1980 is on the 1980S DVD Boxset.

    Stand and Hilda are in bed, being looked after by Eddie Yeats.

    Tracy gets a hamster.

    Annie Walker pays the Ogdens a visit.