Archive for the '1980s' Category


Remembering Jim Henson

Today is the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw The Muppet Show, but it started on ITV in the same year I was born. As that was July 1976 and it started in September, then there’s a good chance I was around when the first episode was on.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but if everyone who claims to have watched the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 had actually done so then the ratings should have broken all records for the time.

The show was loud and colourful, the characters all had unique personalities, the audience seemed to love it (though Statler and Waldorf weren’t too happy about it all) and Pigs in Space was…well, in space, so therefore brilliant. Some of the jokes went over my head, but it was half an hour of insanity and made everyone laugh.

Somewhere around the same time I watched Sesame Street, which, though aimed at a younger audience than me (and I was about 4 at the time so obviously gaining great critical faculties) was still worth it for Oscar the Grouch.

A few years later came Fraggle Rock. With a glorious theme tune, great songs and another bonkers cast of characters alongside the late, great Fulton Mackay, this was another weekly fix of Muppet madness that I never missed after school.

The last great Henson series I remember was The Storyteller. Visually stunning, this combined mystery and magic like few other series had done, with ‘The Soldier and Death’ a particular favourite.

Jim Henson’s vision and ideas saw me right through my childhood and set sky-high standards for everything I’ve watched since. Henson’s characters never seemed to take themselves too seriously while, at the same time, their own universe was as real to them as ours is to us.

Whether the messages of understanding, friendship and talking vegetables had a major impact on my psyche is difficult to tell, though if I ever see a cauliflower I still have to check to make sure it’s not about to launch into song with that tomato next to it… cheers Jim.


Children’s TV on Trial

Following tonight’s episode of Smiley’s People (an oasis in the desert of dross on offer, though how I avoided ITV1′s Teen Boob Jobs: Too Much Too Young I don’t know) there was a lovely little trail for an upcoming week of programming from BBC4, Children’s TV on Trial.

As it says on the website:

“…a nightly look at each decade of the genre from the 50s to the present day – today’s youngsters will be delivering their verdict on the shows their parents or grandparents used to watch. There’ll be programmes about Blue Peter, Grange Hill, Jackanory and Saturday morning TV, and other highlights include When the Stranglers Met Roland Rat, an eye-popping look at some of the incongruously adult pop stars who have strutted their stuff on shows supposedly made for children.”

Sounds like a great week for vintage telly then. Unless ITV come up with something original that is…


Barbara Rafferty Interview Part One

A few of these first blog entries mention the film journalism course I’ve enrolled on at the University of Edinburgh.

It’s a whistlestop tour of the profession, and ties together my two main interests/passions: film and writing. After 11 weeks it’ll be over, but hopefully one of the areas I can do more with is the interviewing. To kick it off I had the privilege to interview Barbara Rafferty.

As a star of Rab C Nesbitt, Hamish Macbeth, River City and the Oscar nominated The Last King of Scotland, there was a lot to ask her about in a short space of time. Hopefully it gives a flavour of her work for the uninitiated…

Interview (Part One)

For Barbara Rafferty, one of Scotland’s most respected stage and screen actors, the desire to entertain started early. “My mother tells the story that I was at a wedding, aged 2 and a half, and there was a Soprano singing,” she says, smiling at the memory, “I joined in and got a laugh”.

Born in Glasgow and raised in Clydebank, early roles in series such as BBC Scotland’s ‘This Man Craig’ led to a part in one of the most fondly remembered British Horror films, The Wicker Man.

“I think I got the job because I’d had a baby and was breastfeeding, and that was the character – right place, right time!” says Barbara, “I was on location for over a month, living in a fabulous hotel with a wee baby”. Star Edward Woodward was “charming, absolutely lovely” and played a mean pretend trumpet, while around them chaos ensued.

“It was a mess. One of the actors punched the director then the director left. Things weren’t getting done on time…”she pauses for a second, “I remember Brit Ekland stayed in a trailer on-set and she looked beautiful, really stunning, first thing in the morning”.

After a few years off to raise her children, and appearances in seminal Scottish series such as Tutti Frutti and Taggart alongside theatre work, her first major TV role came in 1989 with the arrival of Rab C Nesbitt on BBC2. “Iconoclastic” is how Barbara refers to the show.

It was Mary Doll herself, Elaine C Smith, who recommended Barbara for the role of Ella Cotter. “I’d seen it first as a sketch on Naked Video and though it was fabulous, and Gregor [Fisher] is a fabulous actor. I walked in, read the script and thought ‘I know her, I know this type of woman’. I did a readthrough with Tony Roper, and Colin [Gilbert, the director] said ‘book her’!”.

Asked to explain the reason for the series success, she thinks for a moment before answering: “Rab is the story of Everyman, this downtrodden guy. It’s just so funny.” Would she play the part again in the rumoured revival? “Yes,” she says, without hesitation “as long as the scripts are as good as they were. I wouldn’t want to spoil the memory”.

In Barbara Rafferty Interview Part Two, we discuss her role in BBC Scotland’s Hamish Macbeth and the Oscar-winning Last King of Scotland.

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