Robert Banks Stewart on Charles Endell, Esquire

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It’s been a rough week in the entertainment world, the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman filling news channels, while in the last few days we also heard of the passing of veteran TV screenwriter/producer, Robert Banks Stewart.

Born here in Edinburgh in 1931, Banks Stewart’s lengthy career included work in newspapers and magazines before he moved in screenwriting for series such as Danger Man, Lovejoy and Doctor Whothere’s an obituary over on The Guardian that goes into more detail.

Although I own many of Banks Stewart’s work on DVD, it was a series of his that isn’t currently available to buy that I contacted him about back in 2010, the 1979 STV production of Charles Endell, Esquire.

I was working with STV at the time on a project to bring various archive series back to life via YouTube. They were in the process of uploading shows such as Take the High Road, Dramarama and some top-notch Hogmanay specials, and I got in touch to offer my services as a freelance…well, freelance archive TV fan, if such a thing exists.

During our first chat I mentioned a series I’d read about in dusty corners of the internet, a spin-off from 1970s ITV drama Budgie, which starred Adam Faith as small-time crook Ronald ‘Budgie’ Bird, and Iain Cuthbertson as dodgy Soho businessman, Charlie Endell.

Seven years after Budgie‘s last episode, Charles Endell, Esquire arrived on STV screens, a comedy-drama that took Endell out of Soho and sent him back to Glasgow to try and rebuild his empire that had fallen while he was in jail. Robert Banks Stewart was a key part in its creation, setting the tone for the scripts.

As part of my role at STV I was building up some additional material for the website, a kind of DVD extra for when Endell arrived on YouTube. I contacted Banks Stewart for an interview and he was happy to discuss his time working on the show. I also spoke to series star, Tony Osoba, and filmed an interview with director David Andrews about the series.

Sadly, six years on, STV has seen fit to remove all traces of Charles Endell, Esquire (and almost all of the shows they uploaded) from YouTube and their website, so the Banks Stewart interview was gone when I went to find it earlier today. Thankfully, some traces of it remain on the internet if you know where to look, and I’ve retrieved the following for anyone interested in the development of a six episode Scottish TV series that few seem to remember.

I still have hopes Endell appears on DVD one day as I think it’s a terrific piece of TV that deserves a place on our shelves. STV has repeated the show on its STV Glasgow channel in recent years, but it needs a wider audience. You can read more on the show on this blog, over on Cathode Ray Tube and on Lady Don’t Fall Backwards.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Bob Banks Stewart – I feel privileged to have spoken to him and can heartily recommend checking out his recently published autobiography if you want to know more about his life and work.

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STV celebrates its Hogmanay legacy on YouTube

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As the last few hours of 2010 ebb away and revellers around the globe prepare to enjoy New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as it’s known officially here in Scotland (it’s against the law to call it anything else – do so and you’re force-fed battered Mars Bars and cans of Irn Bru for the first week of the new year), I thought I’d share with you some examples of past celebrations from Scottish broadcaster, STV.

I’ve mentioned here before that for the past few months I’ve been working with the channel to bring some archive series to YouTube, and a few weeks ago I was able to witness some scenes of revelry from bygone eras as Hogmanay specials were liberated from the vaults and digitised.

The first programme available to watch in full comes from STV’s first year of service in 1957, as producer Rai Purdy and presenter Gordon Arnold give viewers “a wee peek” of the live broadcast from Glasgow Cross in A Guid New Year from Glasgow. Purdy, a newcomer to Scotland, offers an insight into what Hogmanay is all about while seemingly directing proceedings from the STV nerve centre in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal.

With a look back at news footage from 1957, music from the Phoenix Choir, interviews with members of the public, an appearance from comedy due Mike and Bernie Winters and a glimpse of a Glasgow tram, this is a fascinating glimpse of the past which it’s hard to believe still exists.

From 1957 we jump forward to 1978 for Out With the Old in With the New, a frankly astonishing disco-infused concoction hosted by former-Saint, Ian Ogilvy, who introduces us to some “wonderful Scottish girls” in the shape of Janet Brown, Beryl Reid, Amy MacDonald, Una McLean, Marie Gordon Price, Annie Ross, Molly Weir and the lovely Lulu. There are also appearances from Rikki Fulton and Johnny Vivian, the latter introduced in a rather unique way.

With a few comedy sketches (look out for Rikki Fulton at 23.45) and some song and dance routines which are so OTT that they make Strictly Come Dancing look like a dull weekend in Bognor, this is the sort of programme you knew probably existed but didn’t quite believe ever did.

It all ends with a mass dance number headed up by Molly Weir, with Ogilvy given a ribbing by a few of “the girls” for not being Roger Moore. Brilliant. No, really it is.

Moving onwards to 1983 and we’ve got a The New Year Show hosted by comedian Andy Cameron in front of a bemused audience. Kenneth McKellar, The Alexander Brothers and The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra are on hand for musical entertainment, all held together by Cameron’s jokes.

We’re on the set of STV show Thingummyjig for The New Year Show 1985 as Russ Abbott makes an appearance with a song which screams 1985 from every syllable. Allan Stewart tells a few gags while Lena Zavaroni and Sydney Devine are on hand for a few more songs. Abbott returns to close the show with a rendition of You Cannae Push Your Granny Off A Bus (yes, really) before the whole thing implodes and a nation weeps.

The three most interesting Hogmanay shows come in the shape of the 1990, 1991 and 1992 programmes. Clearly tired of the perception of Hogmanay as an excuse for fiddle music, STV took a new approach by creating mini dramas around the festivities, recruiting actor and writer Alex Norton for script duties.

Norton decided to go a bit meta for these, with 1990’s A Guid New Year opening on a traditional scene of wee Stewart Anderson performing from the Cowcaddens studios, before pulling back into the flat of old Granny McFaddyn where she’s enduring Hogmanay on her own.

Granny is then awoken by the arrival of actor James Macpherson (Taggart’s Mike Jardine) at her door, who invites her downstairs to a party attended by various STV celebrities of the day, including Mark McManus, Elaine C Smith, Forbes Masson, Johnny Beattie and The Corries. And Sydney Devine.

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Charles Endell, Esquire episode four on YouTube

As an addendum to my post on the return of Charles Endell, Esquire to YouTube, I thought I’d highlight the fact that episode four, The Moon Shines Bright on Charlie Endell, is now online.

It’s huge fun from start to finish, with some classic Charlie one-liners – “that isn’t a drink, it’s a dirty glass!” – and a plot that, as Frank Collins recently noted, wouldn’t look out-of-place in an old Ealing comedy.

I’m also pleased to see it finally arrive online as I interviewed its director, David Andrews, a few months ago and I know he’s pleased to be able to watch it for the first time since 1980. Here are the two videos currently on the STV YouTube page, firstly with his thoughts on the cast:

Next is Andrews’ take on the 1979 strike which took the programme of the air: