Nobbut laiking: Ross Brewster

Date: Wednesday 18th July 2018

DID Josh cheat on Georgia, Adam dump Kendall and snog Rosie, and what about that man-eater Megan? And just who is shacked up with a different who since last week’s programme? It’s all very confusing. But readers will be glad to know that I am trying, on their behalf to save them the trouble, to make sense of that modern-day TV sensation called Love Island.

I’m fairly sure the record 3.4 million audience for Love Island does not include a high proportion of readers of this column. You’re all far too cultured, surely.

But somebody has to do it in order to save the rest of you the necessity of delving into Love Island and its tangled web of relationship issues. Let’s say it’s my penance. On the eve of another birthday, number 71 coming up fast on the rails, it’s a token attempt to appear up there and cool with the kids.

For the uninitiated it’s Big Brother in the sunshine , only a bit more tolerable actually. Now, if you tell me you’ve never watched Big Brother either then I can’t help you any further.

Sitting up straight, are we? Right, here goes. All the females wear next to nothing while all the males have six packs and muscles built on top of muscles. It’s tacky, weird, largely incomprehensible to those of us who have forgotten what it was like when we were young 20-somethings full of hormones and the false optimism of what we thought was love.

Of course it’s trivial, silly and tawdry. The young people aren’t there to form long-lasting relationships. These self-absorbed, vacuous types are in it for the 50 grand prize one couple will win at the end of the series or the chance to take part in yet another D-list celebrity reality show somewhere down the line.

And yet I have learned things. If I have ever used the phrase “crack on” it’s been about getting my column written despite the distractions of the World Cup on the telly. However the Love Island interpretation is to flirt, to try and get someone into bed. Goodness, folk our age do have to watch what we’re saying these days.

The biggie has been “gaslighting”. A shoo-in for word of the year, they reckon. It’s a word that has been tossed around on social media by Love Island fans in relation to the dastardly moves made by some of the protagonists. Strangely enough for a Twitter buzz word, it stems from a 1930s play, Gas Light, which I remember seeing at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake, in which a husband tries to convince his wife she is going insane by changing things around her.

I don’t think Love Islanders are clever or evil enough to be truly caught gaslighting even if it’s guaranteed to end in tears for some. But at least political correctness is refreshingly abandoned while the characters banter and hold hands with a new love in each episode. And praise be, Love Island is the last Brexit-free oasis in this world, and for that I give it 10 out of 10.

Z-VICTOR 1 CALLING

BOOMING actor Brian Blessed tells a story of how, when cop series Z Cars was being filmed live by the BBC back in the 1960s, the producers removed the front windscreen from his patrol car because otherwise the reflection showed up on camera.

Forgetting for a moment that it was live, and the windscreen was missing, Blessed put his hand through the space. He reckons viewers were less vigilant in those days. No-one phoned in to complain and he got away with his faux pas.

Z Cars only just crept in at number 30 in a recent poll of Radio Times readers who voted on the best British crime drama television series of all time. Inspector Morse was a perfectly worthy winner. At its peak in the mid-1990s the programme, starring John Thaw as the lonely, boozy but brainy detective challenging the supercilious Oxford academics, attracted 18 million viewers.

The basic flaw with an “all time” vote is that the more recent programmes are bound to emerge as favourites of a generation that most probably wasn’t even born when Bert Lynch, Charlie Barlow, John Watt, Fancy Smith and the rest of the Z Cars team were patrolling the fictitious Lancashire town of Seaport.

For me there’s never been a TV cop program to beat Z Cars, although The Sweeney — it didn’t even get in the top 30 — runs it close. The latter another vehicle for the incomparable Thaw, this time playing the polar opposite of the cerebral Morse as tough guy Jack Regan of the Flying Squad.

When I interviewed Brian Blessed — in his garden shed — some while back, he perked up no end when I told him I was a big Z Cars fan from back in the day. The series debuted in 1962 and ran until 1978 — a total of 801 episodes. He was thrilled to learn that they still play the Z Cars theme when Workington Reds football team take the field, another example of the enduring nature of the programme for us oldies.

Blessed was uniformed motor patrolman Fancy Smith. Among the other cops was a character played by a former Threlkeld resident, the late Colin Welland. The not always sympathetic portrayal of officers, far removed from the cosy Dixon of Dock Green image, did not make it universally popular with the police. I know the interrogation of suspects by Chief Inspector Barlow (brilliantly played by Stratford Johns) kept me awake at nights. It was the best anti-crime message the BBC could ever have sent out.

It’s said that Z Cars creator Troy Kennedy Martin got the idea while in bed with mumps, listening to police messages on his radio. For its time it was harsh realism. And with an unforgettable theme tune. Many of the episodes were lost over the years, including oddly enough four in which John Thaw himself appeared as a detective constable.

Z Cars was TV history and it’s a travesty that it didn’t come right near the top of the Radio Times poll in which three of the top five are current shows.

BADLY SERVED BY POLITICIANS

WE are poorly served by politicians on both sides of the divide these days. But even by such ineffectual standards, I am baffled how Transport Secretary Chris Grayling hangs on to his cabinet job.

Grayling is the minister who has fiddled while the railways go to rack and ruin. Last week he was forced to deny there is a bias against the northern regions when it comes to rail spending. The evidence of our eyes seems to speak otherwise and indeed the Transport Committee’s recent report claimed the North is worse off compared to its southern neighbours.

Despite the delays and cancellations and the ancient rolling stock, Mr Grayling believes all’s well. And anyway, he maintains he is not the man who runs the railways. So he doesn’t actually drive the trains, but he is surely responsible for their failings.

With a few honourable exceptions, politicians don’t really care about the North. Witness their endless agonising over the Heathrow runway expansion plans. Most of them are London-centric. They’d sooner forget about us savages up north.

When you look at the groaning rail network, the fact that Grayling remains in post is an insult to those who live, work and run businesses in the regions. We’re becoming heartily sick of ministers arguing among themselves, Brexit dominating every agenda, and putting career ambitions before the interests of the country.

That there is a minister of such ineptitude in one of the important positions in government does not augur well, particularly for the forgotten folk of the North.

ERASING LIBRARY HISTORY

THE Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls has had her name removed from a children’s book award because of how she portrayed black people and Native Americans.

Rather than following this disturbing trend for censoring history, why not look at it this way — that was then and this is now. We’re better than that. Let young readers read and ascertain for themselves just how attitudes have changed and how much more they need to change.

Around 90 per cent of all literature from the past, Shakespeare included, would be erased if, every time we felt something might offend modern snowflakes, it had to be struck out. This is the way book burnings follow.