Saturday, 26 May 2012

Classic Brookside - Remembering Damon Grant (1982 - 1987)


Damon Grant was the first heart throb in the now defunct British soap opera Brookside and was played by Simon O'Brien. The character was part of the initial cast,appearing from episode one in 1982 until 1987. At the time of the soap'sinception, Damon was the youngest son of Bobby and SheilasGrant, with an older brother, Barry and older sister, Karen.

Damon was introduced after having broken into the Collins' house in the first episode on 2 November 1982, aged 14. When ques tioned about the theft of a lavatory and vandalism that occurs by Paul Collins, Bobby lashes out at Damon. Barry defends Damon after the occurrence, pointing out that he did not have the tools to remove the lavatory in the way it had been done and that the graffiti could not have been Damon either as "he only spells 'bollocks' with one 'l'".
The Brookside soap opera wasregarded as tackling social issues, andthis was no less true when dealing with the Grant family, and Damon. One of the first of the show's manyteenage characters to capture the viewing public's imagination, the role saw O'Brien catapulted tofame as a teen heart throb, andhis adoption of the "mullet" hairstyle proved to be in keeping withthe zeitgeist of the times,and saw the character further entrenched as a cultural reference point.
Storylines saw Grant presented initially as a cheeky, lovablecharacter, with a close group of friends. The manner of Grant'scharacterisation, both by the writers, directors and by O'Brien, led Jane Root, writing in Open the Box: About Television,to cite the character as evidence of "complex male characters andmasculine storylines". Root saw this focus as different from establishedsoap operas.
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As the character grew olderand left school, the writers used storylines to comment on life in Thatcher's Britain. Unemployment was a serioussocial issue, especially in a dock citysuch as Liverpool, andGrant's character struggled to find work. Eventually he took a position as a painter & decorator throughthe recently introduced YTS scheme,the writers depicting the excitement and later despair when Grant'sparticipation failed to lead to a full-time job to great effect.

The character was then shown todevelop a relationship with DebbieMcGrath, played by GillianKearney. McGrath was an underage school girl, and the relationshipcaught the heart of viewers. WhenO'Brien decided to leave the show, the producers of Brookside decided to spinthis plotline into a separate show, Damon& Debbie, broadcast in a later timeslot than that in which Brooksidewas shown.
This three part series, credited as the first 'soap bubble'. moves the character out from Liverpoolin search of work. In the first episode the couple squat on a boat on theRiverOuse in York, in the second episode they moveto Morecambe and then Bradford, where Damon gets a job as agroundsman at Valley (thestadium of Bradford City footballclub) before they finally return to York in the third episode. Ultimately, thecharacter is stabbed by Crosby actor Jonathan Comer, and dies at the end of theseries at O'Brien's request, amove which sparked upset and outrage amongst fans of the show, and added toboth Brookside's fame and notoriety.
Within the Brookside show thecharacter's death was used as a catalyst for again exploring a number ofissues, including the grief of the character's mother, played by Sue Johnston, and that of the character's father, Bobby Grant, played by RickyTomlinson, who was shown as blaming the death upon his unemployment. Ultimately, Damon's death led to thesplintering of the Grant family within Brookside.
The character's funeral was watched by 7 million viewers,against Channel 4’s record ratingof 8.4 million set in 2005, andin The Daily Mirror,critic Clare Raymond claimed it to be one of the "most touching soapscenes". In 2001, JimShelley, writing for TheObserver, claimed the character's death to be one of two contenders for themoment where it all went wrong for Brookside, whilein 2002, with the announcement that Brookside was to end, the funeral scene waslisted as the fourth greatest episode in the soap's history by The Daily Mirror. In 2003, producer Phil Redmond discussed plans tocontinue the show through a series of DVD's,with one planned storyline involving '"Brookside's greatest untoldstory" -what would happen if Barry caught up with Damon's killers
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Coronation Street - the 1970s


The 1970s saw Coronation Street's production team dealing with problems routinely besetting long-running soaps - how to write and structure the show when a favourite character leaves or dies, and how to manage audience reaction. When, in 1970, Arthur Leslie (who played the genial Rovers landlord, Jack Walker) died suddenly, his character was laid to rest too. Anne Reid determined to leave the show in 1971, and was written out, electrocuting herself with a faulty hairdryer. Granada's strategy to cope with these losses was to introduce new residents and allow established but smaller characters to step into the limelight. The characters of Bet Lynch, Deirdre Hunt and Mavis Riley were developed between 1972 and '73, while Gail Potter, Jack and Vera Duckworth and Rovers pot man Fred Gee all made their debuts during the decade.

In June 1970 the show celebrated its 1000th episode, and was being sold to ten countries including Sierra Leone, Hong Kong, Holland and Greece (with sometimes dubious subtitling). Colour came to the Street in mid-1972, and sets were expanded to allow viewers to see the houses' roofs and back gardens. In 1976 Bill Podmore, the Street's longest serving producer, joined the team, replacing Susi Hush. He immediately sought out the areas "crying out for a facelift or even a face change". Podmoreinherited such experienced writers as Adele Rose, Leslie Duxbury andHarry Kershaw, and his production background in television comedies ensured that humour became a stronger ingredient of the show.

Legendary couples Stan and Hilda Ogden and Jack and Vera Duckworth's marital spats frequently bordered on music hall turns, while other comic characters - including brassy and brittle Ivy Tilsley, with her background in cabaret, and Eddie Yeats, the ex-con turned bin man with a heart of gold - were brought to the fore.
The staple diet of births, ill-fated marriages and violent deaths continued. Storylines included the birth, in 1977, of Tracy Langton, the marriage of Brian Tilsley and Gail Potter in 1979, and the murder of Ernie Bishop during a robbery at the factory in 1978.
Despite the growing popularity of the daytime soap Crossroads (ITV, 1964-88; 2001-03), the Street had little competition, retaining its primetime slot and increasing its ratings. Novelist John Braine, writing inTV Times in 1970, accounted for the show's longevity: "the most important character in the Street is the Street itself. No matter who comes and goes, the Street remains".

Doing his Porridge - Remembering Lennie Godber


Leonard Arthur "Lennie" Godber was played by the late, great Richard Beckinsale in the classic BBC sit-com Porridge.
Godber is from Birmingham and supports Aston Villa F.C., has an O Level in Geography, and studies for a History O Level while in prison. Before he was arrested he shared a flat with his girlfriend Denise in nearby Cheswick in the West Midslands. In an effort to get her a gift, Godber broke into a neighbour's flat. He was caught, and it was for this that he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Denise later broke up with Godber through a Dear John Letter.
In the first episode, Lennie arrives at Slade Prison, along with Fletch. However, unlike Fletch, who has spent several five-year spells in prison, this is Godber's first stretch of 'porridge'. Fletcher felt strongly about someone of Godber's age being in prison. However, when Godber announces that upon his release he plans to 'go straight', Fletch is perplexed, announcing:
"Twenty-three and you want to go straight? What kind of talk is that? You've got your whole life before you!"

Fletch and Godber later become cell-mates, and Fletch is quick to take the naïve Godber under his wing, who learns much from him, and by the end of the series has inherited much of his cunning.
Godber also often came into conflict with the ever suspicious Mr Mackay, who appeared to find it very hard to believe that Lennie was not up to something. Even when he was, MacKay found it very hard to pin anything on him, thanks to Godber's penchant for dramatics, and occasionally to the cover-up efforts of Fletch and the sympathetic Mr Barrowclough.
Godber works in the prison kitchen where he has ample opportunities to steal valuable commodities such as butter and pineapple chunks for Fletcher. Godber also briefly took up a career as a Boxer in the prison, although this was short-lived when he got involved in match fixing.
Doe-eyed, optimistic Godber was the perfect sidekick for grouchy, world-weary Fletcher, and the banter between the two became one of the main attractions of the series. This was arguably best illustrated in the ambitious episode "A Night In", a bottle episode set entirely in relative darkness within the confines of their cell, with only the pair's conversation for entertainment.
This concept has been imitated by many other sitcoms, such as Friends ("The One Where No One's Ready") and Bottom ("Hole"). However, few, if any of these have managed to recreate the minimalistic feel of the original, falling back on other comedy devices (the former had several characters, each with their own storyline, and the latter was set atop a Ferris Wheel, and much of the comedy derived from this setting).
In the follow-up series Going Straight, Godber is a long-distance lorry driver, engaged to Fletch's daughter Ingrid (whom he began writing to shortly after Denise broke up with him). They were married in the final episode.
Due to Richard Beckinsale's premature death, Godber does not appear in the 2003 mocumentary Life Beyond the Box Norman Stanley Fletcher, although Ingrid receives a phone call from him, saying he's stuck on a motorway. They have one son, named Norman after his grandfather.
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America's Finest - The Saturday Evening Post

Saturday Evening Post 1902-01-18
The Saturday Evening Post is a bimonthly American magazine. It was published weekly under this title from 1897 until 1969, and quarterly and then bimonthly from 1971.
While the publication traces its historical roots to Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Gazette was first published in 1728 by Samuel Keimer. The following year (1729), Franklin acquired the Gazette from Keimer for a small sum and turned it into the largest circulation newspaper in all the colonies. It continued publication until 1815. The Saturday Evening Post was founded in 1821 and grew to become the most widely circulated weekly magazine in America. The magazine gained prominent status under the leadership of its longtime editor George Horace Lorimer (1899–1937)
The Saturday Evening Post published current event articles, editorials, human interest pieces, humor, illustrations, a letter column, poetry (with contributions submitted by readers), single-panel gag cartoons (including Hazel by Ted Key) and stories by the leading writers of the time. It was known for commissioning lavish illustrations and original works of fiction. Illustrations were featured on the cover and embedded in stories and advertising. Some Post illustrations became popular and continue to be reproduced as posters or prints, especially those by Norman Rockwell.
Curtis Publishing Co. stopped publishing the Post in 1969 after the company lostlandmark defamation suit and was ordered to pay over $3 million in damages. The Postwas revived in 1971 as a quarterly publication. As of the late 2000s, the Saturday Evening Post magazine is published six times a year by the "Saturday Evening Post Society", which purchased the magazine in 1982.
Saturday Evening Post 1902-02-22
In 1916, Saturday Evening Post editor George Horace Lorimer discovered Norman Rockwelll, then an unknown 22-year-old New York artist. Lorimer promptly purchased two illustrations from Rockwell, using them as covers, and commissioned three more drawings. Rockwell's illustrations of the American family and rural life of a bygone era became icons. During his 50-year career with the Post, Rockwell painted more than 300 covers.
The Post also employed Nebraska artist John Philip Falter, who became known "as a painter of Americana with an accent of the Middle West," who "brought out some of the homeliness and humor of Middle Western town life and home life." He produced 120 covers for the Postbetween 1943 and 1968, ceasing only when the magazine began displaying photographs on its covers. Other popular cover illustrators include the artists John Clymer, W.HD. Koerner, J.C Leyendecker, Charles Archibald Maclellan, John. E. Sheridan, and N.C Wyeth
The magazine's line-up of cartoonists included Bob Barnes, Irwin Caplan Tom Henderson, Al Johns, Clyde Lamb, Jerry Marcus, Frank O'Neal, B. Tobey, Pete Wyma and Bill Yates. The magazine ran Ted Key's cartoon panel series Hazell from 1943 to 1969.
Saturday Evening Post 1903-12-05
Each issue featured several original short stories and often included an installment of a serial appearing in successive issues. Most of the fiction was written for mainstream tastes by popular writers, but some literary writers were featured. The opening pages of stories featured paintings by the leading magazine illustrators. The Post published stories and essays by H.E. Bates, Ray Bradbury, Kay Boyle, Agatha Christie, Brian Cleese, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, C.O. Forester, Ernest Haycox & Robert. A Heinlein. ,
Saturday Evening Post 1926-03-20
The Post readership began to decline in the late 1950s and 1960s. In general, the decline of general interest magazines was blamed on television, which competed for advertisers and readers' attention. The Post had problems retaining readers: The public's taste in fiction was changing, and the Post 's conservative politics and values remained controversial. Content by popular writers became harder to obtain. Prominent authors drifted away to newer magazines offering more money and status. As a result, the Post published more articles on current events and cut costs by replacing illustrations with photographs for covers and advertisements.
At a March 1969 postmortem on the magazine's closing, Emerson stated that The Post "was a damn good vehicle for advertising" with competitive renewal rates and readership reports and expressed what The New York Times called "understandable bitterness" in wishing "that all the one-eyed critics will lose their other eye". Otto Friedrich, the magazine's last managing editor, blamed the death of The Post on Curtis. In his Decline and Fall (Harper & Row, 1970), an account of the magazine's final years (1962–69), he argued that corporate management was unimaginative and incompetent. Friedrich acknowledges that The Post faced challenges as the tastes of American readers changed over the course of the 1960s, but he insisted that the magazine maintained a standard of good quality and was appreciated by readers.