15 February 2009

Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV

Most people I knew took it for granted that Acorn Antiques' Mrs Overall was based on Crossroads' Mavis Hooper in the 1980s. The resemblance immediately had us laughing. 

1985 gave us Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and I woz very happy indeed. Victoria's way of highlighting the daft things people come out with ("my Yale's under my Wincey Willis"), the quirkiness of life, the humdrumness of life, and on one memorable occasion (The Swimmer) the sadness of life, went down an absolute treat with me.

Do you remember I'm Gonna Knock Knock Knock On Your Knocker? To those of us who recall technical breakdowns on telly years back and hastily inserted fill-in footage, this was a rare treat.

I sniggered at the tofu cafe, bellowed along to Shopping and roared with laughter at the spoof documentaries and Acorn Antiques. This last was a spoof soap opera, based largely on Crossroads, and its characters and situations held appeal for Crossroads fans past and present.

I well remembered Tish Hope (Joy Andrews) and Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) larding it up behind the motel reception desk (Tish first joined Meg there in the late 1960s, and last appeared in 1980. Poor Meg, of course, was finally smoked out in November 1981). Miss Babs and Miss Berta, the proprietors of Acorn Antiques, contained echoes of these characters - well, at least in their managerial roles and dress sense!

Mr Clifford was David Hunter; Trixie was a mixture of peril-stricken Jill Richardson and devious Iris Scott.

In a recent BBC interview, Victoria Wood was asked:

"So, was Mrs Overall based on Noele Gordon from Crossroads?"

She replied:
"No, if it was based on anyone, it was based on Amy Turtle or Mrs Mack from Take The High Road. It was a homage to Crossroads but also to a terrible radio series called Waggoners' Walk which was on then."
But back in the 1980s I heard no comparisons being made between Mrs O and Mrs Turtle or Mrs O and Mrs Mack. Mrs Overall's position as char at the antiques shop may have been based on Amy's old job at the motel, and her name, like Mrs Mack's, was certainly suggestive of an item of clothing, but the character's physical appearance, voice and mannerisms were immediately evocative of Charmian Eyre's Mavis Hooper, the miserable King's Oak boarding house keeper from 1981 to 1985.

She even wore the same type of overall!

As Crossroads moved upmarket in real life, so did Acorn Antiques. As with the motel saga, verticle blinds appeared in the Acorn Antiques opening sequence (they didn't work) and a new health and leisure centre (with sun beds) was built at the shop.

Acorn Antiques also drew inspiration from EastEnders, with Miss Babs apparently warbling a song called Anyone Can Break A Vase, which was (in fiction) released on vinyl. Unfortunately, we never got to hear it!
As Seen on TV was great. Victoria Wood, aided by Celia Imrie, Julie Walters and a host of others, lit up the telly screen for me.

Stars, the lot of 'em.

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