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Talent (1979)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Talent (1979)
For Screenplay, Granada Television for ITV, tx. 5/8/1979
75 minutes, colour
DirectorBaz Taylor
ProducerPeter Eckersley
ScriptVictoria Wood
MusicVictoria Wood

Cast: Victoria Wood (Maureen); Julie Walters (Julie); Peter Ellis (Compere); Kevin Lloyd (Mel)

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Talent night at a Northern nightclub, and amateur singer Julie hopes to get her start in showbusiness.

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Four years on from her debut on talent show New Faces (ITV, 1973-78), Victoria Wood was still best known to television audiences for her witty songs on light-hearted consumer affairs series That's Life (BBC, 1973-94). Her aptly titled first musical drama for TV was also the first real indication of her own blossoming talent.

Wood might have been nudging her way towards showbusiness's upper reaches, but she retained a keen understanding of life further down the ladder. Talent depicts a world in which young, starry-eyed amateurs with delusions of creative ability rub shoulders with seasoned music hall performers at the twilight of their careers, while attempting to evade the clutches of lecherous promoters. For either one, the chance of being rejected by the judges of New Faces or Opportunity Knocks (ITV, 1964-1978) is a distant dream.

Julie is one of the hopefuls - a 24-year-old secretary and young mum caught between her youthful dreams of showbiz glamour and the realisation of her more likely future: soul-crushing domesticity and drudgery with upwardly mobile boyfriend Dave. With her for support is the awkward, frumpy Maureen, long in the shadow of her slimmer, better-looking friend.

But Bunters nightclub holds few prospects for Julie - just a grotty dressing room, a surprise encounter with Mel, the flash, sportscar-driving boyfriend who abandoned her as a pregnant schoolgirl eight years ago, and the unwelcome attentions of the oily compere, who precedes his seduction by telling her, "you have got a mediocre voice, a terrible Lancashire accent, no experience and no act," before enticing her with the promise of a spot on the Des O'Connor Show (moments later, he is groping a bemused Maureen and offering her twenty minutes in the back of his white Cortina).

Talent's is a poignant, rather sad tale, but it's brightened by Wood's characteristically quirky observations ("My father says you never will get tarmac laid quickly under a Labour government"), by a clutch of bittersweet, perceptive songs and by the conviction of its performances. And while Julie's dreams may be shattered, at least her evening ends well, as she and Maureen make a furtive exit via the fire escape and enjoy an impromptu night on the town.

Wood brought back Julie and Maureen for the following year's Nearly a Happy Ending (ITV, tx. 1/6/1980), which followed Maureen's ill-fated attempts to lose her virginity at a dismal salesmen's party in a Manchester hotel.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. Maureen's song (3:35)
2. Mel (4:29)
3. A resistable offer (3:19)
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Comedians (1979)
Wood and Walters (1982)
Walters, Julie (1950-)
Wood, Victoria (1953-)