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Gissa job la? Go on, I can do that. Gissa job?
December 14, 2007 1:27 AM   Subscribe

During the latter half of the twentieth century, Liverpool writers made an enormous contribution to television drama. Writers like Willy Russell and Jimmy McGovern have been hugely influential. But the daddy of them all was unarguably Alan Bleasdale, whose television dramas dominated our screens during the latter half of the 20th century in a manner that was unmatched by anybody besides the late Dennis Potter.

Though many of his television dramas were to win praise and awards, it was his two series, Boys from the Blackstuff, an examination of the lot of the Liverpudlian working class under Thatcherism, and GBH, which turned his gaze onto the local political scene -- then dominated by the Trotskyite Militant Tendency -- that really cemented his reputation as one of the top three British television dramatists of the second half of the twentieth century.

Now you can find large parts of both Boys from the Blackstuff and GBH on YouTube.

Quality viewing for Telly Friday.
posted by PeterMcDermott (30 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
And yes, I am aware that the plural of drama is drama. Begone, vile typo!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:54 AM on December 14, 2007


Thanks for this - I got Blackstuff out on DVD not too long ago, and watching it again took me way back. Great cast, and some of the best dialogue in British TV ever. GBH I never saw all of, something I must rectify soon...

Shake hands... another pint of bitter boss...
posted by El Brendano at 2:00 AM on December 14, 2007


Carla Lane wrote comedies (amongst others, the Liver Birds and Bread) set in the same era and dealing with the same issues.
posted by patricio at 2:14 AM on December 14, 2007


I agree. Bleasdale is a masterful playwrite, but why are we looking at him now?
posted by MrMerlot at 2:25 AM on December 14, 2007


Excellent. I've been hunting out torrents of these and never found a working one of GBH.
One thing that came up while searching was this website where the 47 councillors who were surcharged make their case (the real events GBH was based on). Not really dug into it yet, but there's a Hatton, Fields and Mulhearn justifying the redundancies and explaining what a great victory for socialism it all was.
I never had a good impression of Militant from later things I was involved in but I'm not pretending to know all the facts of that period in Liverpool.
posted by Abiezer at 2:30 AM on December 14, 2007


Ah, sod it. Now I open the wikipedia article I see that link's there already. Don't mind me.
posted by Abiezer at 2:32 AM on December 14, 2007


This is wonderful. Thanks you. Boys from the black stuff is probably the best TV drama I've ever seen. When it was first shown I remember weeping uncontrollably after some episodes. I'm scared to go back and watch it again in case it's not as brilliant as I remember.
posted by silence at 2:52 AM on December 14, 2007


Wow, patricio - I have hugely fond memories of Carla Lane's Butterflies for some reason, but The Liver Birds always makes me think of Prometheus chained to a rock...and it's close to lunchtime, which isn't very comedic.
posted by Sparx at 3:05 AM on December 14, 2007


I bloody loved GBH when I was a kid. Me and a mate used to go round our primary school chanting "Scab! Scab! Scab!".

Happy days.
posted by flashboy at 3:33 AM on December 14, 2007


Dominated your screens, you mean. I guess now I know how you Brits feel when Americans use "us" or "we" in their FPPs.

Also, I'm also fairly sure that 'dramas' is correct in the context you used it. There, 'dramas' is sort of shorthand for 'drama shows' or something like that, right?

I agree. Bleasdale is a masterful playwrite, but why are we looking at him now?

Because it's TV Friday, apparently.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:51 AM on December 14, 2007


Deathalicious: Sitcoms, gameshows, soaps, dramas.

Fornicate! Did enjoy GBH at the time, though it was maybe more because of Robert Lindsay's gloriously over-the-top acting. I'll be interested to know how well it stands up today.

The first couple of episodes of Jimmy McGovern's Cracker were absolutely jaw-dropping. Again, very much about the screen presence of the lead, IMO. Later on... not so much. It got tedious.
posted by Leon at 4:06 AM on December 14, 2007


Interestingly, Dr. Who Producer Verity Lambert, who we talked about following her death a few weeks ago, executive produced G.B.H.

From Wikipedia:

Lambert's relationship with Bleasdale was not entirely smooth, however — the writer has admitted in subsequent interviews that he "wanted to kill Verity Lambert" after she insisted on the cutting of large portions of his first draft script before production began. However, Bleasdale subsequently admitted that she was right about the majority of the cut material, and when the production was finished he only missed one small scene from those she had demanded be excised.

I remember being vaguely annoyed at all the advance hype around GBH before it aired, but it did turn out to be great.
posted by teleskiving at 4:24 AM on December 14, 2007


What has happened to British TV?

Besides a few notable exceptions the current output of UK TV drama has been thoroughly outclassed by the colonial competition.
posted by fullerine at 4:30 AM on December 14, 2007


What has happened to British TV?

Everyone writes comedies now perhaps?
posted by patricio at 4:39 AM on December 14, 2007


Reading this thread I found out (by accident) that the BBC lost many episodes of these great dramas and comedy shows due to of policy of wiping video tapes clean up to and including the 70's (presumably so the cheap bastards could re-use the tapes).

Some of the shows they have lost forever are true classics of BBC drama and comedy from the 60's and 70's. They are actively seeking copies of these episodes, but from where or who would have them, I have no idea
posted by worker_bee at 5:07 AM on December 14, 2007


Dang, it's not about George Booth.
posted by bovious at 6:17 AM on December 14, 2007


Amazing stuff. One of my few remaining childhood memories is of Snowy dying in Boys From The Black Stuff, after being chased by the men from the social. (Another one is feeling there was something a bit off about my parents' University lecturer friend drinking out of a 'Gis a job' novelty mug!)

Carla Lane wrote comedies (amongst others, the Liver Birds and Bread) set in the same era and dealing with the same issues.

Which were absolute shite.
posted by jack_mo at 6:22 AM on December 14, 2007


Thanks for this. I love Dennis Potter's work so very much, but I hadn't seen that site before.
posted by zebra3 at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2007


Gis' a job.
posted by Artw at 7:30 AM on December 14, 2007


Given the writers' strike in the US, I wonder how long before the US networks start syndicating shows from UK.
posted by pax digita at 7:58 AM on December 14, 2007


Given the writers' strike in the US, I wonder how long before the US networks start syndicating shows from UK.

They might as well try. I dunno why they have to make shitty American versions (Cracker, Coupling) or pretty good American versions (The Office). Do they think we hate the sound of Brit voices?
posted by Bookhouse at 8:13 AM on December 14, 2007


Watched them both earlier this year.

Blackstuff was mostly for the first time as I'd missed a lot of it the first time around. Very grim for the most part but it still holds up. Especially the original play.
And it's amazing that the (I think I'm right in thinking) that the powers that be were so against it the had to borrow the camera men from the sports department?

I saw GBH first time around but it is still brilliant
Lindsey and Palin put in some of their best performances ever. Though perhaps it could probably have been slightly tighter edited (the family holiday sub-plot is mostly pointless).
It's also totally hilarious... esp the scenes at the Doctor Who convention (yes really).

If you want to understand what was going on in Britain during that time and understand why in some parts Thatcher is still actively hated you could not do worse than watching them both.

Yosser harder than Oz? No contest...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2007


Oh and about the only thing of equal statue that's come out since is Our Friends In The North... and that was ten years ago. Sad state of affairs.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:26 AM on December 14, 2007


Which were absolute shite.

You take that back! Ok - I've never seen Liver Birds and Bread was tedious dross - but Carla Lane had Felicity Kendall in two sit-coms which validates her oevre right there. And I liked Butterflies.

Full disclosure: I was eight and had, perhaps, undeveloped snark organs..
posted by Sparx at 9:38 AM on December 14, 2007


Someone should put together a "Is Thatcher dead" site.

The Thatcher death thread will be a sight to behold. Sorry Thatcher fans and "."ists.
posted by Artw at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2007


Which were absolute shite.

Fair comment, the only reason I have a soft spot for Bread is that I met Ronald Forfar (who played the dad) when I was little and he had the most amazing mad white hair.
posted by patricio at 10:05 AM on December 14, 2007


Yosser harder than Oz? No contest...

Yosser's daughter (actually played by Alan Bleasdale's daughter) is harder than Oz. That scene where she headbutts the social worker right between the eyes is classic TV.

Speaking of Carla Lane: there was a period in my life when every woman I ever had sex with had just finished sleeping with Carla Lane's son. He'd take them for rides on his boat or in his private plane, and so in economically depressed Liverpool in the late 70's, this was wealth beyond imagining.

To add insult to injury, all of these women reported him as having the largest penis that they'd ever witnessed. Apparently, some people really do have it all.

His mum's comedy was shit though.

Also: Liverpool being a village, I was at college with Bleasdale's wife, so I got to know him a little. I ran into him on the train to London when he was in the process of editing GBH. The Michael Palin character was definitely based on his own alter ego. When they found out that he was writing GBH, he received regular death threats and other significant attempts at intimidation, and was clearly rattled. It was interesting to watch the characterisation of Michael Palin's character a few weeks later, and compare it with the man I'd travelled to London with.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


That scene where she headbutts the social worker right between the eyes is classic TV.

Okay, now I'm interested.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:44 AM on December 14, 2007


That is a great moment. Another thing I recalled from BfTBS's first airing that still worked on recent re-viewing was Yosser's "Desperate Dan" moment in the confessional.
posted by Abiezer at 10:04 PM on December 14, 2007


Fair comment, the only reason I have a soft spot for Bread is that I met Ronald Forfar (who played the dad) when I was little and he had the most amazing mad white hair.

Aveline Mk II used to drink in the pub down the road from my Mom and Dad's house. And I once saw Ian Rush and John Aldridge having a pint together there, too (comparing moustaches, I assume). Honestly, the Wirral is the place for star-spotting.
posted by jack_mo at 6:58 AM on December 17, 2007


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