Monday, 27 July 2009

Some Thoughts On Watching 1980s Emmerdale...

1980 - the new Jack; 1986 - watch out, watch out - Eric's about! 1989 - the Tate family, new owners of Home Farm.

I've recently watched hundreds of episodes of '80s Emmerdale Farm, and I've hundreds more to watch. Here are a few impressions I've gained. Sorry if they seem a bit jumbled in places.

1980: Producer Anne W Gibbons made Seth Armstrong a full-time character in the summer. She introduced Al Dixon as Walter in September - and he was very different from the previous character of that name. Amos became more animated and altogether quirkier than the character of 1972-1979 (although Amos was always brilliant!), and the heightened 1980 "oddballness" was maintained throughout the decade.

Ms Gibbons's decision to introduce full-time teenage characters was also a huge change. The Merrick kids were not actually totally natural '80s teenagers in my humble opinion (and I was a late '70s/early-to-mid '80s teen myself), but went some way towards it, and the atmosphere in the show was greatly altered by their presence. Sending Joe Sugden to NY Estates in late 1980 brought the organisation into a relationship with the Sugden family.

1980 also saw Clive Hornby step into the role of Jack Sugden - who became a very different character to the previous incarnation. It was very much the same with Dolly Skilbeck, as Jean Rogers stepped into the role.

1983/1984: Richard Handford took over as producer around June and the series changed quite radically. The scenes became shorter. The show became grittier. Harry Mowlam was a terror. New technology was featured as NY Estates went computerised. The emergence of microwave ovens into our homes was also featured in 1984 as Amos got one for The Woolpack. The new breakfast TV service hit Beckindale as Alan Turner watched Mad Lizzie on TV-am. More teens arrived - oddball Archie and Mike. Mrs Bates and Alan Turner brought fresh stability and a new comic scenario.

1986: Michael Russell took the Producer's chair. The death of Pat Sugden heralded a series of episodes which dealt with grieving in a challenging and remarkable way. A bad guy arrived - Eric Pollard.

1987: Heavy politics here - and environmental issues. Joe Sugden was not totally set against the idea of a nuclear dump near Beckindale; Jack Sugden WAS. "This is 1987!" said Joe. "So that means we want radiation, does it?!" replied Jack. The scenes in which the villagers were roused by the sound of the church bell tolling to attend the protest at the site is, in my opinion, deeply moving.

1988/1989: In January 1988, the show was finally networked and shown across the country at the same time and on the same day! 1988 also saw screenings continue over the festive season for the first time. Stuart Doughty, "the man from Brookside", became Producer. 1989 was a tempestuous year which saw Annie Sugden on tranquillisers, Pete Whiteley committing adultery with teenager Rachel Hughes, and Jackie Merrick accidentally shooting himself dead.

And, finally, 1989 saw the arrival of the Tate family at Home Farm.

The turbulent aspects of the show were balanced by various stability points throughout the 1980s - Annie Sugden; Grandad Sam Pearson (for almost half the decade until Toke Townley's death in 1984); Matt and Dolly (until late in the decade when their marriage collapsed); Alan Turner and Mrs Bates; Amos, Mr Wilks, Seth and Walter; and the Reverend Donald Hinton.

It all added up to a heady, contrasting and fascinating brew.

I'll write more when I've watched more.


  1. Anonymous8.7.11

    Is the village called Esholt or Eshott? My brother David says it's Esholt - but I think it's Eshott.