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Brookside (1982-2003)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of Brookside (1982-2003)
Brookside Productions for Channel 4, 2/11/1982-4/11/2003
2915 x 30 min eps, colour
Executive ProducerPhil Redmond
Producers includeNick Prosser
 Mal Young
Writers includeBarry Woodward
 Maurice Bessman
 Peter Cox
 Andy Lynch
 Jimmy McGovern

Cast: Ricky Tomlinson (Bobby Grant); Sue Johnston (Sheila Grant/Corkhill); Paul Usher (Barry Grant); Simon O'Brien (Damon Grant); Shelagh O'Hara (Karen Grant); Brian Regan (Terry Sullivan); Amanda Burton (Heather Huntington/Haversham); Doreen Sloane (Annabelle Collins); Jim Wiggins (Paul Collins); John McArdle (Billy Corkhill); Kate Fitzgerald (Doreen Corkhill); Dean Sullivan (Jimmy Corkhill); Sue Jenkins (Jackie Corkhill); Eithne Browne (Chrissy Rogers); Peter Christian (Frank Rogers); Bill Dean (Harold Cross); Louis Emerick (Mick Johnson); Michael Starke (Sinbad); Sandra Maitland (Mandy Jordache); Anna Friel (Beth Jordache); Vince Earl (Ron Dixon); Sarah White (Bev McLoughlin/Dixon); Steven Pinder (Max Farnham); Gabrielle Glaister (Patricia Farnham); Karen Drury (Susannah Farnham/Morrissey); John Burgess (David 'Bing' Crosbie); Claire Sweeney (Lindsey Stanlow/Phelan); Suzanne Collins (Nikki Shadwick); Jennifer Ellison (Emily Shadwick); Philip Olivier (Tim 'Tinhead' O'Leary)

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The day-to-day ups and downs of life in and around Brookside Close, Liverpool.

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Brookside was conceived by producer and Grange Hill (BBC, 1978-) creator Phil Redmond as a twice-weekly window on to reality. Set on a new housing estate on the outskirts of Liverpool (purpose-built at a cost of £1 million), the soap aimed for a level of realism long since abandoned by Coronation Street (ITV, 1960-): 1980s storylines confronted such contentious issues as unemployment, poverty, industrial disputes and rape. Redmond's simple concept provided the fledging Channel 4 with its first real hit, and its success undoubtedly helped ease the way for EastEnders (BBC, 1985-).

Redmond's original plan for the programme included 'naturalistic' dialogue, but this was soon dropped because of audience complaints about bad language. However, a group of largely unknown and inexperienced actors helped breath a freshness in to Brookside's everyday characters. At the centre of the original cast were Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, later reunited in the BBC sitcom The Royle Family (1998-), as husband and wife Bobby and Sheila Grant. Amanda Burton and Katrin Cartlidge also went on to greater fame, while Jimmy McGovern, Frank Clarke and Frank Cottrell Boyce were among the writers who can thank the soap for their career breaks.

The emphasis on realism suffered in the pursuit of ratings, and before long Brookside Close had become one of the most dangerous places to live in the UK. Rapes, a seige, fatal car accidents, several explosions, incest, a religious cult, euthanasia, violent murders, child abuse, mental illness, drug abuse and even a plague were all visited on the unlucky residents of this tiny community.

The soap scored a massive hit with a 1994-5 storyline featuring the Jordache family: Beth and her mother Mandy kill the violent and unbalanced Trevor, whose regular beatings of his wife and the sexual abuse of his daughter finally drive them to murder. The discovery of his body - buried under a new patio - and the ensuing trial were both exceptionally given five nightly episodes, culminating in Beth and Mandy's prison sentences, which drew protests in the press. Further tabloid outrage greeted Beth's lesbian affair with Margaret Clemence, but Channel 4's decision to cut their notorious first kiss from the weekend omnibus edition infuriated gay campaigners.

Critical and ratings decline set in from the late 1990s, with increasingly desperate storylines featuring drug dealing and gangsterism failing to stem the tide, and the soap was cancelled in late 2003.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Title sequence (0:34)
2. The Huntingtons (1:53)
3. The Grants (2:57)
4. The Collinses (1:57)
5. Damon and friends (0:55)
Complete first episode part 1 (13:26)
Part 2 (10:35)
Brookside - The 1980s
McGovern, Jimmy (1949-)
Redmond, Phil (1949-)
Rose, David (1924-)
Channel 4 Drama
Soap Opera
Liverpool: Made in Liverpool