Friday, 5 July 2013

Colin Jackson - Played By Paul Lowther

What the Mrs doesn't know... Colin Jackson (Paul Lowther) faces a stressful time at the Tilsleys' in 1981.

I've had a couple of enquiries about the "Once Around Weatherfield" Quiz, and so have decided to demonstrate how it should work, using the first character selected, Colin Jackson, played by the late Paul Lowther.

The idea is to identify the pictured character and the actor concerned in each instalment of the quiz, and then write a piece about the character, the story-line and the actor who played the role. It must be as accurate as you can make it, but you can include your opinions - as long as you make it plain that they ARE your opinions, and a spot of humour never goes amiss. This, to show how it's done, is my piece on Colin Jackson and actor Paul Lowther.

Colin Jackson turned up in the Street's story-line in May 1981, the husband of Sue, played by Kate Lock. Sue was a friend of Gail Tilsley's and a neighbour on the Buxton Close estate, where Gail and Brian lived with their baby son, Nicky.

Sue sat at home "staring at the walls", while Colin worked as a salesman - selling fitted kitchens. Colin had done his time as an electrician, and made it plain to Gail and Brian that he had "drive". Sue was quite a strong person herself, but seemed happy to let Colin make the decisions. For instance, there would be no baby until they had a video tape machine (very expensive in those days and very rare in the nation's living rooms!) and a larger house. Sue thought that the estate was snobbish, that people walked by your house pricing up your curtains, and was glad to have found a friend there in Gail.

Colin was of the "I Love Myself, Who Do You Love?" breed of men. He fancied himself something rotten, and thought that Gail fancied him too.

The Jacksons seemed rather more modern than the Tilsleys, and were something of a breath of fresh air. It was good to see other residents of Buxton Close, and to break away a bit from the financial worries and squabbles of Gail and Brian.

Unfortunately, the Jacksons didn't last long. Colin offered to fix Brian's record player, and when Gail said he'd be useful if the TV went wrong, Colin took it as a green light to make a pass at her. He leeringly told her that she should tell Sue he was needed to attend to the TV (or "the box" as he called it), clearly inferring that would be a cover for something quite different, if she wanted him to visit. For some reason, Gail (I would have thought she'd have had some inkling of trouble brewing after Roy Thornley - she wasn't exactly Snow White) did not pick up on Colin's double meaning, and the next thing we knew was that the Tilsleys and Jacksons were off on a riverside picnic together.

Once again, Colin made comments to Gail that most 1980's women would have seen for exactly what they were, like the fact he'd rub her sun tan lotion in if ever she wanted him to, but Gail was blissfully oblivious.

Get the feeling Gail was a bit of a plank?

Colin made his pass at Gail after the picnic, with Brian out at work for the evening. Gail was outraged and slapped his face. Colin retreated, but the next day caught up with her while she was out with Nicky, and asked her not to tell Sue. She said she wouldn't.

Colin heaved a huge sigh of relief, which made my wonder about his feelings for his wife. He clearly DID value his marriage, and I wondered about the Jacksons' relationship. It seemed fertile ground for further exploration, and I was impressed by the energy and sensitivity the actor brought to the role.

Playing a cad is not easy! Stopping the cad from becoming a stereotype, particularly with rather a thin script (the Jacksons, being brief stayers, were not very rounded characters) is even harder.

Sue wanted Gail and Brian to go away for the weekend with her and Colin. She and Colin visited them and Sue was determined to get them to say yes. Colin's expression flitted from tight smile to discomfort and on to fear as Sue made her case. The Tilsleys had conferred, and Brian had agreed not to spill the beans to Sue about Colin's unwanted attentions to his wife. But they couldn't possibly go away with the Jacksons for the weekend! They were all ready with their reasons not to: Brian couldn't get time off work. Sue told him to tell his boss his pet duck had died; Gail's mother was coming for the weekend. She could come anytime, Sue said...

Sue quickly became offended by Gail and Brian's excuses. Colin looked even more stressed (I admire actors who can subtly convey a great deal of emotion simply with facial expressions!) and the friendship was declared over. Sue flounced out, Colin made to follow and Brian grabbed hold of him by the collar and warned him never to go near his wife again. That was the end of the Jacksons.

Gail said it was a pity because she liked Sue.

But Colin was, of course, a thoroughly bad lot. She didn't need to say that!

Five years later, Gail revised her opinion about adultery and had an affair with Brian's cousin. Those TV times were changing...

RADA trained actor Paul Lowther also appeared in Dr Who and Casualty later in the 1980s, and the 1991 TV movie Prisoner of Honor.

I found his portrayal of Colin Jackson very convincing and particularly admired the way he played the scene in which Sue tried to persuade Brian and Gail to go away with her and Colin for the weekend, unaware of Colin's play for Gail. A baddie Colin may have been, but Mr Lowther's portrayal at that point almost made me feel sorry for him!

Colin couldn't keep up that tight smile as Sue tried to tempt the Tilsleys into a weekend away from it all...

I think the Street really needed some racier couples on a permanent basis back then. But it wasn't until 1989 and 1990, with the arrivals of Liz and Jim McDonald and Des and Steph Barnes that it got any.

The Jacksons were a vague hint of the shape of things to come!

I was very sorry to discover, whilst researching this article, that actor Paul Lowther died in 1992. His work as Colin Jackson - husband of Sue, former-electrician-turned-fitted-kitchen-salesman, the man who wanted a video tape machine before he wanted a baby, and the man who fixed Brian and Gail's record player, before disgracing himself with Gail - remains a fond memory of an outstanding minor character from the Street's glory days.


  1. I had a look at the episodes you mentioned this morning and Paul Lowther seemed a much better actor than Chris Quinten, who played Brian Tilsley! I didn't like the character of Sue Jackson much. No wonder Colin went after other women!

  2. I've googled and Paul Lowther played somebody called "Mike" in Casualty. Who was that?

  3. Sorry, I don't know - I wasn't a Casualty fan - I worked in hospital and care settings at the time, and didn't want to watch a high-octane fictional version on Friday or Saturday nights. Besides, Friday and Saturday nights were "Big Night Outs" for me back then, dedicated to pubs, clubs and... er... romance! And I hadn't mastered the timer on the rented VCR, even if I HAD wanted to watch it another time! The episode with Paul Lowther was called "Taking Stock" and was broadcast in 1989. Some series of Casualty have been released on DVD. I'm not sure if the series containing this episode is one of them.

  4. I think the first 3 series are out on DVD, so that doesn't include this episode. I have the UK Gold repeats on DVD of the1989 episodes, and the character of Mike, played by Paul, was a slightly uppity paramedic. Casualty was great back then, but I understand what you mean in your comment, Andrew. Watching it would have been a bit of a "bus man's holiday" if you were actually working in that kind of setting!

    1. Thanks for that, Alex. Some of my colleagues DID watch Casualty, but I wanted a break from work-type themes when I wasn't there!

      I was doing some research into 1980s Casualty the other week, and found Paul Lowther's episode, "Taking Stock", on YouTube - a very different role from Colin Jackson in The Street, but very well played.