Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The 1980s: What The Emmerdale Farm Producers Did - Part 1...

Producer Anne W Gibbons with Arthur Pentelow (Henry Wilks) and Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly) in 1980.

This is Part 1 of a brief look at the changing face of Beckindale in the 1980s - how the various producers of the show guided and moulded Emmerdale Farm/Emmerdale through a decade of tremendous change...

Maurice (Edward Dentith) and Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons) left the show in 1980 - and the workforce at NY Estates was featured as Joe Sugden (Frazer Hines) went to work there as farm manager.

Anne W Gibbons took the chair as Emmerdale Farm's producer in June 1979 and departed in 1983. Ms Gibbons began stamping her mark on the show in 1980, recasting the characters of Jack Sugden and Dolly Skilbeck - Clive Hornby and Jean Rogers debuted in the roles in February and April 1980.

1980 - new Jack, new Dolly.

In the summer of 1980, Ms Gibbons oversaw the completion of the transition of Seth Armstrong from peripheral to central character as he became a regular at The Woolpack. She also oversaw the recasting and rewriting of the Merrick family. Out went Ruth Merrick, mother of three, to be replaced by Pat Merrick (Helen Weir), mother of two - Jackie (Ian Sharrock) and Sandie (Jane Hutcheson). Edward Peel made a fiercesome Tom Merrick.

In September 1980, Ms Gibbons' reign saw the arrival of Al Dixon as Walter of The Woolpack.

Say nowt - the fabulous Walter, played by Al Dixon, from 1980-1985.

Other notable characters introduced by Ms Gibbons included Police Sergeant Ian MacArthur (Martin Dale) in 1980 and Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) in 1982.

1980 was the year that Woolpack premier Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) gained an allotment and became rather more animated and odd-ball in character!

The Amos '80s were a memorable era - in 1980 he gained an allotment and Seth Armstrong as a Woolpack regular. By 1981, he was gloriously mad.

Alan Turner was originally simply a bit of a slippery customer, selfish and lazy. But in early 1983, the character became rather more unpleasant. The days of the comic partnership between Alan and Seth, and Alan as a character we could at times sympathise with, were yet to come.

Don't trust him, Joe! New Beckindale NY boss Alan Turner arrived at Home Farm in 1982.

The Anne W Gibbons era confronted problems with the architecture of Lindley Farm, in use as Emmerdale Farm house since the show began. The real-life exterior did not match the fictional Emmerdale Farm interior. The Sugdens were often seen to be pushed for space, and yet Lindley Farm house appeared to be very spacious indeed - with what appeared to be good-sized rooms on either side of the front door, and a side door with bedroom windows above.

In 1982, the Emmerdale Farm production team disguised the Lindley Farm side door and windows as a barn and initiated a story-line in which Jack Sugden and Pat Merrick decided to turn the barn into an extension cottage for when they married. Of course, Matt and Dolly Skilbeck finally moved into the extension cottage when it was completed, and the exterior of Lindley Farm house then corresponded far better to the fictional interior layout of Emmerdale Farm - the only remaining mystery being the window to the left of the front door. The window to the right was supposedly the parlour. But no other room was ever mentioned in the story-line as far as I'm aware.

Perhaps the most controversial story-line of the Anne W Gibbons era was the teenage pregnancy of Sandie Merrick in 1983. The whole Merrick storyline was actually quite daring back in those days - with Tom and Pat splitting up (Pat endured a beating from Tom in 1981) and Jackie torching the caravan the family had lived in before Pat's marriage to Jack in 1982.

Tempestuous Beckindale teens of the 1980s - Jackie burns the caravan and Sandie confides in Annie Sugden about her pregnancy.

By the end of the Anne W Gibbons era in 1983, Emmerdale Farm had undergone many changes. With the highly subversive and influential Brookside serial underway on Channel 4 from November 1982, and with the opening years of the 1980s being a time of turbulence and great change (as indeed was the rest of the decade), many more changes would be seen in Beckindale as Richard Handford took the producer's chair from 1983-1986.

Anne W Gibbons went on to produce the Beiderbecke Affair.

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