The path out of the grim 1970s into the turbulent 1980s was not easy for Emmerdale Farm. Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) bridged the gap with a voice-over.
Beginning the 1980s was not exactly straightforward for Emmerdale Farm.
The ITV strike of 1979 had disrupted episode broadcasts and recordings. The show had last aired on 5 July 1979 (Emmerdale Farm was not shown all year round in those days) and several episodes for the next 1979 season, due to begin around early September, were in preparation, when the strike knocked ITV off our screens.
The strike severely disrupted Emmerdale Farm, and the show was off-air until the 8th, 9th or 10th of January 1980 (depending on which ITV region you viewed it in!).
The publicity blurb for the first 1980 episode revealed the ITV regions' differing schedules:
FULL ITV NETWORK (except STV/WTV/CHA) Tuesday, JANUARY 8, 1980.
STV Wednesday, JANUARY 9, 1980
WTV/CHA Thursday, January 10, 1980 } times vary
The production team was able to adapt, complete and use six episodes originally intended for the 1979 late summer/early autumn season to begin 1980.
The problem was that story-lines and exterior scenes clearly reflected the fact that it was summer. And the production team could not pretend that the late summer-themed shows intended for 1979 were actually set in the winter of 1980.
So, a little ingenuity was needed.
At the start of the January 1980 season, Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) introduced the first episode in a voice-over, reflecting on the events of the previous summer, and over the next few weeks we saw six episodes which filled us in on some of the Beckindale events of 1979 that we'd missed courtesy of the ITV strike.
The synopsis for that first episode shown in 1980 read:
It's winter at Emmerdale, but Annie finds herself thinking back to last Summer. It was a busy time at the farm with new land to work and prospects looked bright for the Sugdens. But there was a shock in store for all of them - especially Matt.
On 29 January 1980, the Emmerdale Farm story-line suddenly moved into 1980, with Annie, again in voice-over, informing us of relevant events of the missing months.
The synopsis for the first episode actually set in 1980 read:
It is winter at Emmerdale and Sam Pearson is causing disruption with his renewed interest in wine making. But N.Y Estates shepherd Jesse Gillin discovers another kind of disruption - and it's a threat to the whole landscape of Beckindale.
All-in-all, the "what we did last summer" strand worked very well indeed, cheering up most of January 1980 (Emmerdale Farm closely reflected the seasons and winter episodes could seem grim), filling us in on some missed stories, and giving the production team time to work on fresh episodes for the new decade.