Saturday, 31 May 2008

The 1980s - Did Emmerdale Farm REALLY Become "Dallas With Dung" Or The "Dynasty Of The Dales"?

Thanks to Anonymous for a very interesting e-mail.

Anoymous is interested in the idea that Emmerdale Farm may have become rather "Dallas/Dynastified" in the 1980s. Surely, he/she asks, if Les Dawson was dubbing it "Dallas with dung" in 1984 and the Sunday People "The Dynasty of the Dales" in 1985, this is an indication that the show had gone '80s era American soap style glitzy/sensationalist?

Er, no, not really. You must remember that Les Dawson was a comedian - a champion of the witty remark! Story lines of 1984 included a water shortage, Mrs Bates beginning work at NY Estates and the shooting of her dog for sheep worrying, Amos being annoyed by Ernie Shuttleworth's attempts to put The Woolpack in the shade, and the death of Grandad Sam Pearson

Dallas and Dynasty did make their mark on the English soaps in the 1980s - and, indeed, the Scots soap Take The High Road: Alan Turner, Eric Pollard, Dirty Den and Davie Sneddon, amongst others, were all "bad guy" characters - clearly created on the back of the public's fascination with JR Ewing of Dallas.

But Emmerdale Farm stayed down-to-earth and was, in fact, at times very gritty in the 1980s.

That's not to say that glitzy 1980s fashions were not featured - of course they were. You didn't need to be able to afford "designer" gear as Dolly Miami Vice Skilbeck shows in the 1989 photograph above. Shoulder pads were available at C & A! And then there was Nick's mullet, Archie's clobber and many other clues to the era to be found around Beckindale.
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In 1980, the country was flooded with "Who Shot JR?" mania. The soap "bad guy" character concept, featured on a permanent basis, then went wide - and was leapt on by our home grown soaps, including Emmerdale Farm. Alan Turner turned up as boss at NY Estates' Beckindale outfit in 1982, and was supposed to be a real swine. But he ended up a wally and a bit of a sweety. Whilst newspapers of the era still dubbed him the "JR of Beckindale", by about 1986 Alan was actually Beckindale's adored twit. A bit selfish, an occasional git, but basically a darling. Inadequate more than anything else.

In 1986, Eric Pollard entered the fray and proved to be a long-staying swine. Perhaps he wasn't just a swine, but he was certainly more of one than Alan had ever been and became Emmerdale Farm's enjoyable pantomime villain - deliciously camp, narrowing his eyes (one could almost imagine him twirling his moustache) and going after whatever he wanted, blackmailing, stealing and cheating along the way. Other 1980s villains included the terrifying Harry Mowlam and his sidekick (and later murderer) Derek Warner - far too gritty to be Dallas influenced, and hard hearted businessman Denis Rigg, who perhaps was a little.

So, whilst Emmerdale Farm was certainly influenced by the American soaps, it was actually simply fun to declare it "Dallas with dung" or "The Dynasty of the Dales". Tongues were firmly in cheeks. And when Hilary Kingsley described the character of Angela Channing in Falcon Crest as looking like an "upmarket Annie Sugden - but without the ironing board" I roared with laughter.

Hilary Kingsley also wrote about the "growing wealth and influence" of the Sugden family in 1988, but I'm not sure that this was actually reflected on screen at all. True, Joe worked for NY Estates for a time, but the financial situation at Emmerdale Farm never seemed that brilliant - and in 1989 Joe was talking to his mother about the difficulties of having Jack back living and working at the farm, and the fact that it must be regarded as a business if it was to continue to support the family. The place was undergoing some much needed refurbishment in 1989, after apparently "making do" since the start of the series!

So, no real glitz and gloss - just a few chain store shoulder pads, dodgy hairstyles and other 1980s fashion horrors, a certain JR influence, but no Alexis, and what about the story lines?

The American soaps tended to have outrageously silly story lines. Remember Blake Carrington and the poisoned paint? Alexis posing as a nun? Pam's dream? The Moldavian Massacre? There were murders, plane crashes, fires and explosions galore.

Emmerdale Farm wasn't like that in the 1980s.

The English farming soap became grittier, the stories a little more explicit, but adultery, a security van robbery, a car accident, an accidental shooting, a couple of burglaries, a murder and a house fire (at Crossgill) can hardly be called OTT when spread over a period of ten years. The infamous badger baiting episodes were a fascinating glimpse into the underbelly of country life.

The soap also took on the issue of nuclear waste - a controversial modern day issue, and dealt with it admirably.

If anything, Emmerdale Farm was far more influenced by the new English soaps of the 1980s - Brookside and EastEnders - than the glossy American fantasy sagas.

We tuned in to see Archie the layabout and activist; Jackie the lovable clot with the disastrous love-life; Annie at her Aga; Matt and Dolly and lots of sheep; Amos, Mr Wilks and Walter at the Woolpack; Mrs Bates and Alan Turner; Seth (and occasionally Meg) Armstrong; and, later, Beckindale's very own Dick Dastardly, Eric Pollard.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Emmerdale has become more influenced by the 1980s era American soaps. Remember the plane crash of 1993? Kim Tate testing to see if her husband Frank was dead with her compact mirror in 1997 - and then pausing to repair her make up before leaving? So camp. Alexis would have been proud! There have been so many disasters - explosions, murders, shootings, rapes, a highly dramatic storm...

And a very bizarre (and ugly) story line about a coffin and a garbage crusher.

Was Emmerdale Farm in the 1980s the "Dynasty of the Dales"? I think this was said in response to some of the increasingly gritty story lines (although it was hardly appropriate to compare Dallas and Dynasty with grittier goings-on in Beckindale!) and mainly in fun. It was very amusing to compare Amos and co to Alexis and co! Certainly, Les Dawson made his "Dallas with dung" statement to make his audience laugh. Creating laughter was his trade.

Was/is Emmerdale in the 1990s and 21st Century the "Dynasty of the Dales"? I would say Definitely - and a whole more! And these days there isn't much dung, either!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Happy Birthday From Amos

Amos, hoping for a best-loved landlord award in 1985 - "Nay, Nay, Mr Wilks - 'Loveability' is my middle name."

Some years ago I received a birthday card from Mr Amos Brearly, proprietor of the Woolpack Inn, Beckindale. Well, actually, I received a birthday card from Mr Ronald Magill, the actor behind the Mr Brearly character but, as was his habit, he also signed it as Amos!

My wife organised the card with Mr Magill as a surprise - and it made that birthday particularly special. It remains a treasured souvenir of one of the all-time soap greats.

As Beckindale correspondent for the Hotten Courier, Amos was probably quite used to replying to fan mail!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

1982 - Matt And Dolly On The Move (But Not Far!)

1982 was a happy time for Matt and Dolly Skilbeck - with the news that Dolly was pregnant, their move into the newly-built barn conversion cottage at Emmerdale Farm and, finally, the arrival of young Sam. Here we see the couple taking a break in preparing the cottage for occupation.

The Sun, October 26 1982: Matt and Dolly Skilbeck spend their first night in their new home.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

New Poll - What's Your Favourite 1980s Emmerdale Farm Year?

1980 - the return of Jack Sugden (now played by Clive Hornby).

What was your favourite 1980s year of Emmerdale Farm action? Was it 1980, when Jack arrived back from Italy - and Pat Merrick brought Jackie and Sandie to the village?
Perhaps it was 1982 - a good year for Matt and Dolly - with the birth of their son, Sam.

1983 - Walter broke Seth's glasses...

And then there's 1984, when Jack was a bad lad with Karen Moore, Mrs Bates formed a fun working relationship with Alan Turner and dear old Grandad Pearson died...

Perhaps the gritty drama of 1986, with Harry Mowlam wreaking havoc before being brutally murdered, Eric Pollard first appearing at Hotten Market and Meg Armstrong imposing a strict regime at the Woolpack floats your boat?

1986: "I'm Eric Pollard!" - the devious one introduces himself; "That's quite enough out of you, poppet!" says Meg Armstrong; "I'm gonna break your bloody back!" says Harry Mowlam...

How about the struggle against a nuclear waste dump in 1987 - hailed as a major step forward in the politicisation of soap, or 1989 when Jackie died and the Tates arrived at Home Farm?

Lots of memories from a pivotal decade of Emmerdale history, which saw changes in pace, characters and name. The 1980s saw the serial celebrate ten years and was also the first full decade of the serial. Whichever 1980s year you choose, there was Emmerdale!

1987 - Say NO To The Beckindale Nuclear Dump!

1988 - Jackie and Kathy marry.

Eyes left for our Poll - hover your mouse over each year and you'll see a brief list of some of the events contained therein.

And then vote, vote, vote.

Talking of voting, remember when Amos wanted to become Member of Parliament for Halifax in 1982? Poor Halifax!

But what a great storyline...

1989 - the shock of the new - the Tates arrive at Home Farm...

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Lindley Farm

A 1980s view of Lindley Farm, Yorkshire - the real life location for Emmerdale Farm from 1972-1993. Farmed by a man always known to Emmerdale fans as "Farmer Bell", the house seemed as solid as could be and had, in the storyline, been home to several generations of Sugdens.

Throughout the 1980s, Annie Sugden tended her Aga here. Jack came home in 1980, and soon brought a new bride to the house, Pat, in 1982.

Their son, Jackie, and Pat's daughter, Sandie, moved in and, in 1986, Pat gave birth to another child - Robert. The much-loved Grandad Pearson died peacefully here in November 1984, and his grandson, Joe, brought a new bride, Kate, and her two children, Rachel and Mark, to live here in 1989.

The house knew terrible tragedy in the 1980s, with the sudden deaths of Pat and Jackie.

A barn at the back of the house was converted into a cottage for Matt and Dolly Skilbeck in 1982 and the house showed every sign of outlasting several more generations of Sugdens.

But the 1990s put paid to that idea. Do you know what happened to the original Emmerdale farmhouse?

The Tates In 1989

Tibbles has been in touch again to ask if I have a piccy of the Tates in 1989? This is one of the original publicity shots from that year.

From left to right they are: Frank Tate (Norman Bowler), Kim Tate (Claire King), Chris Tate (Peter Amory) and Zoe Tate (Leah Bracknell).

Note Kim's incredibly 1980s cardigan!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Hot From The Courier, 1984!

Information on Emmerdale Farm creator Kevin Laffan, from the September 1984 press publicity leaflet from Yorkshire Television - The Hotten Courier.