16 August 2013

Brookside - Groundbreaking Soap - Real Houses, Soap Bubbles And Lots More!

The Collins family faced the trauma of Paul's redundancy and a downwardly mobile route to Brookside Close; Jimmy Corkhill was up to no good; Barry Grant wanted dosh and fell into bad ways; Pat, Sandra and Kate faced a mentally disturbed gunman; Sheila Grant faced a late-in-life pregnancy and endless problems from her kids and hubby; Marie Jackson took her "FREE GEORGE JACKSON" campaign to Downing Street; Harry Cross and Ralph Hardwick bickered at the bungalow; and nice yuppie Heather Haversham had a hell of a time...

"From the outset one of my main aims was to reflect Britain in the 1980s..." - Phil Redmond, 1987.

In 1981, Phil Redmond, frustrated that his ideas were failing to reach their potential because of decisions made by others, formed his own TV company - Mersey Television - and put forward the idea to the soon-to-be happening Channel 4 that the company might like a twice weekly soap. The idea was accepted. The soap was originally to be called Meadowcroft, but was later renamed Brookside.

From the "Sun", February 2, 1982. Actually the provisional title for this show, which turned out to be "Brookside", was "Meadowcroft", not "Meadowcraft" and the creator was Phil Redmond not Redmund! Still, "Coronation Street" producer Bill Podmore's confident attitude is worth noting: "I enjoy competition... especially when we are going to win."
Phil Redmond was determined that Brookside would be a show reflecting life in the 1980s, and the technology and setting was also cutting edge. Redmond bought some houses which were still in the process of being built to form the setting for his show and made full use of the lighter, smaller cameras available in the early '80s to film in them. The use of real houses was an absolute first for soap - truly revolutionary.

Most of the houses would provide homes for his characters, others would house the various departments needed to produce a popular drama - technical, wardrobe, canteen, etc. 

The trouble was, the houses used for other things were empty as far as the plot was concerned in the early years - which rather dented the 'reality' of the show. Why had some houses simply remained unsold?

The first episode was shown on Channel 4's opening night in November 1982.

TV Times, 1988 - "South" was a Brookside "soap bubble", shown as part of the schools series "The English Programme". What was a soap bubble? A short series of programmes featuring characters from Brookside in a different scenario. The first, Damon & Debbie, was shown in 1987.

Brookside was so non-cosy, it shocked many viewers. And left wing. I was left wing (nowadays I don't trust any politicians), but none of the people round my way went on and on about being poor or social issues as much as the folk in Brookside. In fact, many got rather upwardly mobile as the decade went on.

But Brookside gave UK soap a much-needed boot up the backside, and the effects can still be felt to this day. If only the soaps hadn't become so sensationalised in more recent years, Brookside included! But nowadays everybody's obsessed with serial killers and explosions. 

Without Brookside, I'm sure BBC bosses would not have turned their attentions to producing their own all-year-round soap - and then EastEnders would never have been created!

 Brookside ended in 2003.

We'll be returning to the Close soon.

Annabelle Collins with husband Paul. Love his '80s jumper! The Collinses faced many traumas: son Gordon was UK soap's first regular gay character; daughter Lucy dallied with bad lad Barry; and whilst Annabelle initially wanted to be friends with her lower class neighbours in the Close and Paul despised them, the trend was reversed in later years, with Paul becoming more of a "people person" and Annabelle succumbing to snobbish impulses. When Paul, training for a charity fun run with "commoner" Matty Nolan, allowed Matty to use the Collinses' shower, Annabelle was disgusted!

1 comment:

Co Patrick Rogers said...

I remember watching Brookside in the late 90's as a 6/7 yr old.

Infact, I'd rather they got rid of today's soaps and just repeated the old ones which I feel (thanks to watching on YT) are far superior!