Posted tagged ‘Emmerdale Farm’

Bad soap

January 13, 2010

I shall have to make a full and frank confession: I can sometimes be found watching some really appalling TV soap. Actually, that’s not really true, as I watch very little TV these days: I am a devoted follower of the TV-medic-soap House, but apart from that I just have too little time to watch television series with any regularity. But there was a time when I watched almost everything on offer.

Here’s how it all began. In 1976, when I was a student in TCD, I moved into a rented flat in Clonskeagh (oh heavens, another southside address, what an embarrassment) which had a television in it. Black and white of course, and nothing as fancy as a remote control or the like – come on, this was last century. But it was connected to what we now call cable TV – back then it was called ‘piped TV’. I think the provider was ‘RTE Relays‘. And so for the first time ever I had access to British channels other than BBC1 (which I had always had, albeit with a very fuzzy reception, at home in Westmeath). And on my first night in this new residence, I switched the thing on and got Crossroads on UTV.

I swear this was the worst TV series ever. The production values were just amazing: walls waved like paper as people passed, actors forgot their lines and stumbled along anyway, the storyline was pathetic beyond belief. I loved it. For about three years I was even known to avoid going to parties and other events if they clashed with Crossroads. And not just Crossroads: there was Emmerdale Farm (as it was then called), with such amazingly improbable people and weird narratives.

Of course I also had to watch Dallas. I was a total addict. I would have watched it just to see JR’s hats and Sue Ellen’s hairdo. I cannot remember the storyline at all – except that one whole series turned out in the end to have been just a dream of one of the key protagonists. But I do remember the concept: an extended family, complete with the farmhand who turned out to be an illegitimate son of the paterfamilias, a mad daughter-in law and a devious, scheming oldest son, all living under the same roof and having dinner together every evening. The whole thing was totally insane, and quite unmissable.

I think what attracted me to all this stuff was the total improbability of it all, the bad writing, the ham acting. Later when series arrived like Eastenders and Brookside I could not get into them, they were taking themselves too seriously. I still keep hoping that some of the old series will make a really bad return: not polished up to suit more demanding audiences, but just as they were back then.

If you are not familiar with some of these, go find some youtube clips. It’s well worth the effort.

I should refer finally to two other series. One was RTE’s Irish rural soap, The Riordans. I was addicted to this also, but would have to admit that it was very much a cut above the others I have mentioned, with some really interesting themes, and serious stage actors in the key roles. It wasn’t a bad soap, but it’s the only one of that kind I will admit to having watched. The other was the glorious comedy Soap, which recognised soap operas for what they need to be: absolute trash.