1 9 8 2 – 2 0 0 3 (UK)
Brookside exploded onto British TV screens on 2 November 1982 – the day that the new network, Channel 4, began transmission. The resulting blast changed British soap opera forever.
Phil Redmond (pictured below) was the man behind Brookside (he had also created Grange Hill). Shunning Coronation Street techniques, forgetting studios and plywood houses Redmond bought a set of newly built houses in a cul-de-sac in the Croxteth area of Liverpool, installing the latest TV equipment in them.
He wanted realism and got it. Real people also lived in Brookside Close (divided from the soap opera people by a barrier and security men). Only the post box was fake.
But Redmond’s fictional characters were too real for comfort. They spoke unashamedly in thick Liverpool accents. The kids were obsessed with sex and had respect for nothing. and they swore. They said everything you’ve ever heard and more. Viewers turned off in droves.
Shortly after launch, Brookside faced its smallest audience with just 250,000 viewers. Redmond changed direction. The swearing stopped (sort of), in came a few comic characters and ‘Brookie’ became a bona fide soap opera. Brookside was here. It was a Monday, Tuesday and Saturday Omnibus institution. Ratings rose.
Every sort of despair seemed to be there. Unemployment was its constant backdrop. Contraception, AIDS, loss of virginity, rape, homosexuality, drug addiction, prostitution – all were subjects discussed over breakfast in Brookside Close.
And yes, it did feel more realistic for being shot through a hand-held camera on real driveways and through the windows of proper homes with lavatories, dustbins and cornflakes packets on the table.
The writing style was low-key but the action was often fast and furious. Only once did they resort to absurd melodrama, with a ludicrous siege complete with gunman and double death. It put ratings up over 8 million.
There were plenty of other deaths. Gavin, Petra, Harry’s wife Edna, Matt’s wife Teresa, drug addict Nick, Laura and Damon. Viewers accepted it all.
The cast were local heroes, mobbed and feted in Liverpool wherever they went. And at Mersey Television in England, it was widely believed that if the soap was to be shown on the main ITV network rather than Channel 4, it would near the top of the ratings and be a serious challenge to Coronation Street and even to EastEnders (the soap they claim to have inspired).
After a long and successful run, Brookside was eventually axed due to dwindling ratings and the last episode was broadcast on 4 November 2003 after 21 years on the air.
In 2005 the cul-de-sac was sold off to developers who gutted all 13 houses and rebuilt each interior, putting them on the market in January 2007.
The cheapest were numbers 7 and 8 which sold for a remarkably low £199,000. The most expensive was No 10 – also the most famous of the houses – which sold for £295,000.
Antwacky : Old-fashioned (“them kecks are dead antwacky”)
Bevvied : Drunk
Bizzies : The police
Cabbaged : Confused
Divvy : Idiot
Jacks : Detectives
Jangling : Gossipping
Kecks : Trousers
Minted : Rich, well-off
Off your cake : Mad
Scran : Food
Wooly Backs : Northerners who do not live in Liverpool