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More Northern English Comedies of the 70s and 80s

I was a TV writer and subeditor for British newspapers and magazines for more than a decade.

more-northern-english-comedies-of-the-70s-and-80s

Another Six Northern Comedies

The Cuckoo Waltz

Get Lost!

The Beiderbecke Affair

Rosie

Watching

Bread


The Cuckoo Waltz

Downbeat northern comedy set in Chortlon-Cum-Hardy, Manchester.

Newlywed couple Chris and Fliss Hawthorne (David Roper and Diane Keen) face financial crisis when they have twins and are forced to take in a lodger to make ends meet.

The third wheel - Gavin Rumsey (Lewis Collins) - eases their financial problems, but adds a whole new series of complications to their lives, including casting his roving eye over Fliss.

The younger people provide a view of modern living in the seventies while other characters, including next-door-neighbour Austin Tweedale and Fliss's mother Connie Whagstaff, provide a commentary on the failings of modern society.

Collins left after three series - after finding success as a heaert-throb action star in ITV series The Professionals. He was replaced by Ian Saynor as Adrian Lockett.

Get Lost!

Written by the excellent Alan Plater who had built a reputation as a good creator of Northern characters since working on Z Cars in the Sixties and creating the character Selwyn Froggett in the Seventies.

Get Lost! is a drama/comedy serial concerning the disappearance of the husband of Leeds schoolteacher Judy Threadgold (Bridget Turner). She turns to her colleague, jazz-obsessed-woodwork-teacher Neville Keaton (Alun Armstrong), to find her missing partner, Jim Threadgold (Brian Southwood)

During their adventure, the two discover a secret organisation that helps unhappy people to simply disappear from their mundane lives - leaving their lives and families behind.

The series was based on idea Plater had after reading that 20,000 people in the UK disappear every year. He based the main characters on the NIck and Nora Charles, the detective couple from Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man.

The Beiderbecke Affair

If you liked Get Lost! you will love The Beiderbecke Affair. When Alan Plater was commissioned to write a sequel to the series he was disappointed to find that Alun Armstrong wasn't available to play Neville Keaton again. In fact, he was so disappointed he decided to rewrite the whole thing, altering the characters. The result is one of the most fondly remembered feature-length comedy series of the Eighties.

The main characters are very similar to Get Lost! - but with a better sense of humour. The male lead - Trevor Chaplin (James Bolam) - is a jazz-obsessed woodwork teacher at a Leeds secondary school. The female lead - Jill Swinburne (Barbara Flynn) - is an English teacher who wants to save the world. The pair share a sardonic wit and an easy-going relationship.

This time the adventure is less serious than missing persons: mis-sold records by the jazz artist Bix Beiderbecke - whose music also provides the sound track to the series, and whimisical leitmotifs which accompany every character.

The characters, too, are whimsical and eccentric, leading the action into several amusing and often important side alleys. It's an utter inconsequential joy to watch.

Really excellent characters include their colleague Mr Carter (Dudley Sutton) who provides commentary and questions; headteacher and pompous authority figure Mr Wheeler (Keith Smith) and self-important, but incompetent police detective Sgt Hobson (Dominic Jephcott).

There are two sequel series: The Beiderbecke Tapes and The Beiderbecke Connection.

Sadly, although full episodes of Get Lost! are available on YouTube, you can only find snippets of The Beiderbecke Affair.

Rosie

In 1975 there was The Growing Pains of PC Penrose, but the series underwent a major facelift in 1977 with the central character being transplanted to a seaside town - mainly filmed around Scarbrough - and placed among more sympathetic characters.

Even the signature tune was changed from brass band music to a more appealing ballad about youthful Rosie's situation.

The best new character is PC Wilmot (Tony Haygarth) who has a jaundiced view of police work and some very peculiar habits.

Watching

This series - set in Merseyside - heart warming and deeply sarcastic in equal measure. It tells the story two mis-matched people, Malcolm Stoneway (Paul Bown) and Brenda Wilson (Emma Wray) who forge a relationship.

Malcolm is a quiet birdwatcher with a classic Norton motorcycle who lives with his battleaxe mother in Meol, a posh part of the Wirral. When thrill-seeker Brenda sees him in his leathers, she arranges for him to pick her up the next day - thinking they were heading to meet up with the rest of his Hell's Angels chapter in Rhyl.

She is horrified when Malcolm takes her to a birdwatching sanctuary in his sidecar. The story of their arguments and reconciliations lasted for seven series from 1987 to 1993.

Other major characters include Malcolm's mother (Patsy Byrne from Blackadder II) and Brenda's sister Pamela (Liza Tarbuck from Upstart Crow).

Bread

Another classic from Liverpool, Bread is a legendary sitcom in the UK. Written by Carla Lane (Butterflies and The Liver Birds) it tells the story of working-class, Liverpudlian family The Boswells making ends meet in any way they can, legal or not.

The five children Joey (Peter Howitt who went on to be the director of Sliding Doors and Johnny English), Jack (Victor McGuire of Goodnight Sweetheart), Adrian (Jonathon Morris), Aveline (Gilly Coman) and Billy (Nick Conway) lived on their wits - buying and selling, making claims from the social security, modelling and even - for a while - by working for a wage.

Meanwhile, their mother Nellie (Jean Boht) dominates them, keeps them in line and keeps them together, while Grandad (Kenneth Waller) occasionally abuses them and leads comic situations. In some episodes, there ne'er-do-well father Freddie (Ronald Forfar) returns to further confuse their moral compass.

THis series was really popular in the UK, reaching audiences of over 20 million - but was criticised for perpetuating unpleasant myths about people from Liverpool.