23 May 2011

EastEnders: From The Albertine Wine Bar To Albert Square - Well Heeled Left Wing Preaching To The Masses

1980s EastEnders could be wonderful - the picture above reflects some of the show's triumphs. But it could also be patronising propaganda straight from a bunch of well-heeled left wing scriptwriters.

As we know, Julia Smith and Tony Holland were determined that EastEnders was to be set in the 1980s, uncompromisingly (their word) in Thatcher's Britain.

Uncompromisingly? Implies disapproval, doesn't it?

Much as I loved early EastEnders, having just watched a slab of episodes from 1985, I ended up wanting to smash the TV screen.

I mean, bloody hell!

As Julia Smith and Tony Holland made plain in their book, EastEnders - The Inside Story (1987), the Albertine Wine Bar was an important hang-out for them during the show's early stages. And they cleared orf to Lanzarote to write up the EastEnders characters.

I couldn't afford to go there, but I did manage to rent a video recorder and liked the flash side of '80s life (the C&A and Tracey's Nite Spot version, that was!).

The trouble with 1980s EastEnders is a tendency to preach which occasionally comes through to sledge hammer effect. Anti-Thatcher comments sparkle like diamonds, but it's the tendency of the well-heeled (in comparison to the real life Arthur Fowlers and Sue Osmans) production team to clumsily deliver patronising propaganda story-lines that really gets up my nose on watching 1985 episodes again after all these years.

And when one follows hard on another, I really want to be very ill indeed.

Take Andy and Debs - she upwardly mobile bank clerk, he children's nurse. After a burglary, they were deprived of their TV set, record player, newly acquired video recorder and other household sundries.

So devastated were they, they went all limp and pathetic, before before being told off by Tony Carpenter - they were two young people with their health, jobs and a whole house to themselves. They should be thankful!

Meanwhile, another victim of the "consumerist society" was Punk Mary, fed up with living in one room (her treatment was so unlike any single mother I knew in the '80s), and seeing adverts for nice things, things she was apparently supposed to want, she went shop lifting and got "had up" in court. £50 fine and the story vanished - point made. The consumerist society was BAD.

Meanwhile (again), the Square was suddenly afflicted by a power cut. Fault of the government, someone suggested? Eh, we were in 1985, weren't we, not the 1970s?

Meanwhile (yet again!), nurse Andy suggested to Debs that he brought a little boy - a patient - home from the hospital. Debs was horrified, but Andy pointed out it was always happening because of the cut-backs and nursing staff turning a blind eye.

As somebody involved in care/nursing work during the same era, I never saw it. Cut backs, yes, but things were never so bad we took patients home.

What on earth was that little story-line based on?

Reality from Planet Zog?

EastEnders was of the '80s - every bit of it. But unfortunately it represented a very prevalent and highly biased view of working class life as seen by those who hung out in wine bars and got inspiration in places like Lanzarote. As, unfortunately, did a lot of BBC left wing propaganda back then.

At the time, I applauded every second of it, but now it makes me angry.

That's not to say that all early EastEnders was bad. Far from it. It was - and is - in the main - wonderful to view. In my humble opinion, of course.

But the views of leftie BBC "haves" being foisted on to licence paying "have nots" is not an attractive scenario in retrospect.

It was so bloody patronising - and often so grim as to be totally unlike life as thoroughly working class me and my friends lived it back then!

And yet it's taken my years to get things into perspective enough to be able to see it.


Maria said...

There's a lot in what you say. All the same, it was very good telly.

Drew said...

I agree - it's absolutely great in most respects. But the issue outlined above is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

The BBC was seethingly anti-Thatcher and Reagan, too. Anti-Thatcher propaganda even infiltrated Dr Who in the 1980s I've read! I think it actually broke its charter, which was to be impartial, many times back then. There was even controversy over the BBC's stance on the Falkland's War, when the organisation seemed to be taking up cudgels AGAINST Britain! The British Broadcasting Corporation has long been run by champagne socialists.