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31.12.09

Emmerdale Farm - Amos Does Himself A Mischief, Crossroads - David And Barbara Get Married, Coronation Street - Hilda And Eddie Sing Carols...

Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox) gives husband Len (Peter Adamson) a right lambasting before walking out on him in 1980.

What were UK soap operas like in the early '80s?


Well, we had Crossroads, Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm. The farming saga (as it was then) would not be networked - shown on the same day and at the same time - until January 1988. We also had a couple of new soaps - Take The High Road took us to Scotland - to the village of Glendarroch; Together was set in a block of flats in the south of England. In 1981, we gained English-speaking Welsh soap Taff Acre.

Both Taff Acre and Together were short-lived.

Those were the days before the shock of the new in the soap world - the arrivals of Brookside (1982) and EastEnders (1985). Life in soap land was a lot slower than it is today...

What were the early months of 1980 like in Beckindale, the original name of the village now called Emmerdale? Well, the start of a new decade should have brought smiles to a few of the characters.

Let's time-warp back and pop up to Home Farm to see Judy Westrop (Jane Cussons). Good old Judy's having a fag and saying: "I'm angry - and I'm enjoying it!"

Oh dear...

And Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) is at the hospital where there's bad news from the doctor: "I'm sorry, Mr Skilbeck, there's no choice. Your wife's condition is critical. We must operate now."

Oh no! But surely there's better news at The Woolpack? After all, Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill) is sure to want to start the new decade on a positive note...

Oh 'eck! Steady on, Amos - you'll do yourself a mischief!

"ARRRGGHHH!!!"

Too late!

Oh, well... much better news - Clive Hornby made his first appearance as Jack Sugden on 19 February 1980 - and Joe (Frazer Hines) greeted him: "Welcome back to Emmerdale, big brother!"

And a bit later there was a new woman at Annie's Aga - just temporary of course... but, hang on, doesn't she look familiar? Good grief, it's Pam St Clement, later Pat of EastEnders, getting an early taste of soap life as Mrs Eckersley in March 1980.

And Grandad Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) caught a big smelly fish whilst on holiday in Ireland: "I'm goin' to 'ave it stuffed, and it's goin' in a glass case over't mantelpiece," said Grandad.

Yeuk!

Funny old year. Funny old start to a new decade...

However, villagers and viewers alike were delighted to meet the new Dolly Skilbeck, now played by Jean Rogers. The new Dolly made her screen debut on 1 April, 1980.

Thanks to our sister blog, the Beckindale Bugle, for our Emmerdale Farm pics and insights.

It was decreed in 1979 that the weekly number of Crossroads episodes broadcast should be cut from four to three in 1980. The IBA was unhappy with the standards of the show.

In the story-line, 1980 got off to a cracking start nonetheless with Rosemary Hunter (Janet Hargreaves) shooting her ex-husband, David (Ronald Allen) in the motel office. David survived and went on to marry his new love, novelist Barbara Brady (Sue Lloyd).

Sue Lloyd had made her debut in the show the year before and revealed in her 1998 autobiography that she had had doubts about going into Crossroads:

The first time I was offered a role in Crossroads, I must admit my initial reaction was to be a bit sniffy about it. The soap was renowned for its wobbly scenery, bizarre sory lines and regular slaughtering by the critics. Why would I, just back from filming The Pink Panther with Peter Sellers in the South of France, and about to embark on the comedy The Upchat Line with John Alderton, want to get involved in a project like that? Besides, I was too busy.

'If they want you,' advised my agent, 'they'll come back.'

He was right. About a year later they called again. They were looking for an actress to play a slightly mysterious, classy lady named Barbara Brady. She was to arrive at the Crossroads Motel, apparently to take a post as a sort of upmarket housekeeper, but in reality she was an author researching material for a new book.

David and Barbara were two of the show's most popular characters until they were axed in 1985.

The Ogdens had been Corrie favourites since the mid-1960s. In December 1981, Daily Mirror TV critic Hilary Kingsley issued a plea to the Street's writers to stop Hilda (Jean Alexander) singing!

Her carol duet with Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) had not been appreciated.

Originally a petty crook and lovable layabout, Eddie got a job as a binman in 1980 and moved in with the Ogdens at No 13.

The early '80s were the final on-screen era for a number of the Street's original characters - Annie Walker (Doris Speed), Ena Sharples (Violet Carson), Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) and Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) all made their final appearances in the first half of the decade.

By mid-1984, Ken Barlow (William Roache) was the only remaining member of the cast who had appeared in the first episode, broadcast on 9 December 1960.


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