I was discussing 70's TV over lunch yesterday and the subject of favourite characters from the 1970's TV came up. A fine subject for a Saturday list, don't you think? On making the list, I realised that all the characters who made the list are what we may call "interesting". I don't really like the one dimensional hero characters. These aren't characters I necessarily like. They are characters who I think make great TV.
1. Jack Regan - The Sweeney. I think we all believed that policemen were like Jack Regan in the 1970's. Regan's life revolved around "booze, birds and motors". At the time he seemd to me to be a heroic figure, but watching reruns, with more life experience, he's quite a tragic character. Having said that, if I wanted any copper in the country to catch the nasty characters who burgled my studio I'd want Regan to!
2. Fletcher - Porridge - Fletch was the other end of the scale. He was the unreformed old lag. He was the one who was always trying to beat the system. He was someone who, if he'd come from a different background, may have been a philiospher or a politician. Completely amoral in some ways, but totally moral in other ways. I don't think anyone really wanted to be Fletcher, but we all hoped that if we found ourselves in prison, we'd have Fletcher as a room mate.
3. Rigsby - Rising Damp - Rigsby - a tragic figure, in truth I probably didn't get him at the time and found his obsession with Frances De La Tour a bit creepy. In the early episodes, his clumsy attempts to belittle Phillip, a student who claimed to be son of an African chief backfired in the heat of Phillips superior intelligence. Rigsby is pretty much what most of us expected small time landlords to be like. Seedy, penny pinching and devious. Sadly, my experience of the rental sector as a tenant didn't overturn this opinion. The series would have just been so boring without Rigsby.
4. Alf Garnett- Till Death Us Do Part - A figure who straddlled the 60's and 70's. Garnett was a charicature of a East End working class bigot, struggling to cope with the massive changes in our society. Racist, sexist and ignorant. His wife was the "silly moo". Black people were derided, his son in law was a scouse git. The genius of the writing was that it was able to show just how ridiculous such views were. What Johnny Speight perhaps didn't anticipate when he wrote it was how many people would empathise with Garnett and his hatred of how Britain was changing. Alf Garnett was in many ways UKIP before UKIP existed. Anthing that takes the mickey out of such views and such people is fine by me.
5. Col Paul Foster - UFO - Interceptor pilot, part time moonbase commander, skydiver pilot, investigator. If ever there was a character on TV I felt empathy with, it was Paul Foster. He starts as a military test pilot, getting accidently shot down by SHADO (the anti Alien organisation), sets out to investigate and expose them. He is then recruited and becomes a senior figure. In one episode, he befriends an alien, but cannot prevent SHADO killing him. This makes him become rather cynical. As a teenager, I was obsesed with aliens and conspiracies. I believed that there were organisations such as SHADO, operating secretly. As I grew up, like Foster I've become more cynical. I now believe that as a race, we are far too greedy and stupid to pull off such conspiracies.
6. Stan Ogden - Coronation Street - Stan was and remains a real hero of mine. Serially unlucky, lazy, uncommunicative, and the script often hinted at his infidelity. He was a serial disappointment to Hilda, his wife. But she loved him. Perhaps the best period was when Eddie Yeats, a scouse binman became the Ogdens lodger. The dialog was witty and gritty. In many ways Yeats was a surrogate son. As Ogden grew old, Yeats stepped up and looked after him. What I loved about Stan was he was a very believable figure and for all his failings, he had a lot of love. He just had demons as well. These days, it seems there is no warmth in soap stars and few are truly believable working class characters, surviving on the edge.
7. Bet Lynch - Coronation Street - Another epic character from Coronation Street. Bet Lynch was what we all wanted our barmaids to be like in the 1970's bold and brassy and not prepared to take any nonsense from anyone. It seemed that every pub had a Bet Lynch. In those days, you'd walk in the pub and your pint would be on the bar by the time you got there. That is how it should be.
8. Mrs Slocombe - Are You Being Served? - She was the archetypal batty auntie character. (I won't say which of my aunties!). She is the pivot around the humour. You never quite new if she was serious or not. The victim of much sexist innudendo and resentment. It seemed to me that she was a bit of a victim of bullying, but very resilient, in many ways having created her own parallel universe. One of the things which most amused me (given that my mums family origniated from Oldham) was how she'd affect a posh accent that gave way to the northern twang when she got cross. As such I felt great affection for her. I once told my mum that Mrs Slocombe reminded me of her, she went absolutley nuts.
9. Frank Spencer - Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - A true comedic genius character. Michael Crawford was immense in this role. This was absolute must see TV. Some of the stunts were awesome, most notably the scene on the roller skates. Truly brilliant.
10. Huggy Bear - Starsky and Hutch - Although a supporting character in the main premise, I loved Huggy Bear. His whole way of talking was just different. His lifestyle seemed to hint at a whole different side of America that we never saw in US shows. Starsky and Hutch was probably the biggest show of the 1970's, but for me Huggy Bear was the only interesting character. He is described in wikipedia as "street-wise, ethically ambiguous, "jive-talking" Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas), who often dressed in a flashy manner and operated his own bar". In other words a far more interesting character than the fairly one dimensional stars