- Boys from the Blackstuff
show_name = Boys from The Blackstuff
caption = The opening of the first episode of the series.
runtime = 65 mins approx
Bernard Hill(as Yosser Hughes)
Michael Angelis(as Chrissie Todd)
Alan Igbon(as Loggo Logmond)
Peter Kerrigan (as George Malone)
Tom Georgeson(as Dixie Dean)
channel = BBC2
first_aired = 1980
last_aired = 1982
num_episodes = 6 (including original "
Play for Today" episode)|
The serial was written by Liverpudlian playwright
Alan Bleasdale, as a sequel to a television play, " The Black Stuff", which he had originally written for BBC1's " Play for Today" anthology series in 1978, although it had languished untransmitted for two years before eventually being screened in 1980. The acclaim that the play received on its eventual transmission led to the commissioning of the sequel serial, of which Bleasdale had already written a considerable amount. It is described on the website of the British Film Instituteas: " [A] seminal drama series... a warm, humorous but ultimately tragic look at the way economics affect ordinary people... TV's most complete dramatic response to the Thatcher era and as a lament to the end of a male, working class British culture." [cite web|url=http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/tv/100/list/prog.php?id=7|title=BFI TV 100 - 7: Boys from the Blackstuff|first=Phil|last=Wickham|publisher= British Film Institute|date= 2006-09-04|accessdate=2006-10-02]
"Boys from The Blackstuff" follows the stories of five unemployed
tarmaclayers (hence 'the black stuff') after they have lost their jobs due to the events of the original play. Set in Bleasdale's home city of Liverpool and reflecting many of his own experiences of life in the city, each episode focused on a different member of the group. The series was highly acclaimed for its powerful and emotional depiction of the desperation wreaked by high unemployment, and was noted by many reviewers as a critique of the Margaret Thatcheradministration, which was seen as being responsible for the fate of many of the working class unemployed, although most of the series had actually been written in 1978.
By far the most memorable of the characters was
Yosser Hughes, a man driven to the edge of his sanity by the loss of his job, his wife and the authorities' continued attempts to take his children away from him. His catchphrases, "gissa' job!" and "I can do that!" became part of the popular consciousness of the eighties, summing up the mood of many who sought desperately for work during the era.
Hughes was played by
Bernard Hill, who uses his obvious Mancunian accent, with slight Scouse vocal mannerisms. He subsequently went on to find fame acting in various films and television series, such as a lead role in the 1988 film " Drowning By Numbers" and including appearances in the blockbuster movies "Titanic" (1997) and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001-03). The serial also helped to establish the career of Julie Walters, who played the most prominent female role as Angie, the wife of Chrissie, played by Michael Angelis
The serial was notable for being a high-profile production made not by the BBC's central drama department in
London, but by the English Regions Drama department based at BBC Birmingham, although it was shot on location in Liverpool. The producer was Michael Wearing, who was based at Birmingham with a specific remit to make 'regional drama', and who would late be instrumental in bringing the equally influential BBC drama serials " Edge of Darkness" (1985) and " Our Friends in the North" (1996) to the screens. The writer Alan Bleasdalewent on to pen many more acclaimed television dramas, of particular note being " The Monocled Mutineer" (BBC1, 1986) and "G.B.H." ( Channel 4, 1991)
The series was so successful upon its original broadcast that only nine weeks after it had finished transmission, it was re-shown on the higher-profile BBC1. It was also transmitted again on BBC2 as part of that station's twenty-fifth anniversary season in 1989. In 1983 it won the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Serial, and in the year 2000 was placed seventh in a
British Film Institutepoll of industry professionals to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmesof the 20th century. It was also named as one of the forty greatest television shows in a 2003 list compiled by the " Radio Times" magazine's chief television writer Alison Graham. In March 2007, Channel 4broadcast a "Top 50 Dramas", based on input from industry professionals rather than the public, which had "Boys from the Blackstuff" at number two.Fact|date=March 2007
The complete series, including the original play "The Black Stuff", was released on
DVDas a three-disc set by BBC Worldwidein 2003.A popular counterpart for the series is the book "Boys from the Black Stuff", the making of TV drama, by Bob Millington and Robin Nelson.
*"The Muscle Market"
**Shown in 1981 as a standalone between the initial drama and the subsequent series, it centres on Malloy played by
Pete Postlethwaite, the building boss who employs people cheaply by being complicit in the social security fraudof his employees and therefore guilty of a crime himself.
***This episode does not appear on the DVD collection.
* "Jobs for the Boys"
** Featuring most of the characters from the initial drama. They take a cash-in-hand job on a building site whilst still claiming unemployment benefit. Typical of the show's humour, it is later revealed that the building being renovated is going to be used by the Department of Employment. They are followed by the authorities and Snowy Malone falls to his death trying to flee during a subsequent raid by the "sniffers" (social security officers working undercover).
** Follows Dixie Dean (Tom Georgeson) in his new position as a security guard, where he is strongarmed into accepting bribes for allowing the removal of goods under his charge in a docked ship.Apart from Dixie's son Kevin this episode also features Chrissie, Loggo and George, the other members of the original gang, during a scene prior to Snowy Malone's funeral.
* "Shop Thy Neighbour"
** Concentrates on Chrissie (Michael Angelis) and the domestic pressure unemployment and the attentions of the benefit fraud officers place on him and his wife (Julie Walters). At the end of the episode Chrissie is driven to strangle and shoot his geese. He also worries about his children's rabbits which may be an ironic reference back to Angelis's breakthrough TV role as Lucien in
The Liver Birdswho was excessively sentimental about them.
* "Yosser's Story"
** As previously mentioned this is the most often cited of the series, following Yosser's struggle to prevent losing his children (who are played by Alan Bleasdale's own children) to the authorities as his mental health disintegrates. It is also notable for being the only one of the series shot on
16mm film, as opposed to videotape, although the original play was also shot on this format. Graeme Souness and Sammy Lee of Liverpool FC make cameo appearances in this episode. The episode also contains the often repeated scene in which Yosser goes to confession looking for help, and tells the priest he is desperate. The priest, trying to comfort Yosser, tells him "My name's Dan- call me Dan"; to which Yosser replies "I'm desperate, Dan".
* "George's Last Ride"
** In this episode we find out something of George's politically active past. His trip (Chrissie wheeling him in his chair through the docks) leads him to reminisce about his younger days, the contrast between his recalled hopeful youth with the abandoned industrial infrastructure around him is marked. The death of George causes the main characters to be reunited if, in some cases, only briefly.
* [http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/boysfromthe/boysfromthe.htm Encyclopedia of Television]
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/730110/index.html British Film Institute Screen Online]
* [http://www.kamera.co.uk/reviews_extra/boys_from_the_blackstuff.php "Kamera"]
**Review of the DVD release.
* [http://tv.cream.org/lookin/playfortoday/playtoday4.htm#black TV Cream review of The Black Stuff]
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