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  One Summer A House For Scouse
Year: 1983
Director: Gordon Flemyng
Stars: David Morrissey, Spencer Leigh, James Hazeldine, Ian Hart, Matthew Gray, Michael Lannigan, Jane West Bakerink, John Cording, Susie Johns, Peter Doran, Ken Sharrock, Sion Tudor Owen, Tommy Ryan, Con O'Neil, Sheila Fay, Gil Brailey, Victor McGuire
Genre: Drama, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Fifteen-year-old best friends Billy (David Morrissey) and Icky (Spencer Leigh) have not been to school in three months, and they don't really care, preferring to loaf and skive on the streets of Liverpool, stealing what they can to keep themselves entertained. But a chance meeting with a teacher plants an idea in Billy's mind: if they return to a particular class, they can go on a holiday organised for the schoolkids in his year, and that sounds like the kind of thing they should be signing up for. A chance to get away from the dire home life and his utterly uncaring, bingo-obsessed mother and sister, away from the gang violence, away from the police - it would be great, wouldn't it?

In 1978, writer Willy Russell penned a one-off play called Our Day Out for the BBC, about a school trip to the countryside and the adventures for the kids that resulted. It was the talk of many a playground, and still fondly recalled today by those of a certain age, but it had obviously resonated with Russell for in 1983 when he decided to write a series for the then-new Channel 4, he went back to that earlier material and served up One Summer, another prosaically-titled drama about schoolkids that, like its predecessor, was the talk of playgrounds up and down the land, and yes, is still recalled now.

You can see why watching it these days. It depicted teenagers but was not necessarily a kids programme, in light of the events that happen to Billy and Icky, as it was one of those stories where you found yourself waiting for the encroaching doom to envelop the two young leads. This is thanks to their decision to head off on their own to North Wales and all the perils that are thrown up along the way: will they get killed jumping from the train? How about an accident with that tractor they steal? Maybe they will get on the wrong side of that local trio of toughs who try to intimidate them and end up on a slab in the morgue. The dangers are manifold.

What actually transpires after a couple of episodes of mayhem (there were five in all, each lasting an hour with adverts) where the pair make mischief in a clueless but oddly desperate way, they meet Kidder (James Hazeldine, a much-respected television actor who died too soon), who lives in a cottage in the hills. We suspect he is in this life of isolation for a reason, though Russell was oblique about why until the final scenes, but here he is, a Yorkshireman in the middle of nowhere who actually seems to be willing to be nice to Billy and Icky, which makes a change from the people they usually meet. Despite trying to rob everyone in the region, the boys begin to settle down and respond to his kindness and patience, though the slower-witted Icky is also suffering from a jealousy of his pal he cannot admit to.

Not that Icky is an idiot, he just hasn't had the chances in life that someone from a better off area would have, and neither has Billy, and one theme of the piece was that the formative years are important for meeting people who will accept you for who you are, but try to point the way to improving you so you can reach your potential. We note that Kidder says he used to be a schoolteacher, and contrast his benevolence with the intolerant teacher who refuses to let the boys go on the trip - no wonder they didn't want to stay in school, but also, no wonder they didn't want to stay with their family or peers, the latter living an existence of pointless violence and empty bravado seemingly without end. By the final episode, Billy is beginning to blossom in his personality, with a girlfriend and a more positive outlook... but the police are looking for him, and that will be his undoing as his recent past comes back to haunt him. If anything, the ending was far too bleak in a very eighties Channel 4 manner, but if you could take it, you'd find a superlatively acted, engrossing drama that just stumbled at the last. Music by Alan Parker (not the director).

[Network's Blu-ray of this TV series has alternate scenes as an extra.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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