1 9 8 3 (UK)
5 x 60 minute episodes
David Morrissey, Spencer Leigh and Ian Hart (here credited under his real surname of Davies) all made impressive television debuts in One Summer, one of Channel 4’s first serials.
Morrissey plays Billy, a tough but unhappy 15-year-old Liverpool schoolboy who runs away from his troubles with his mother’s bingo winnings, chasing the dream of a happy school holiday he once spent in Wales when he was twelve years old. He takes the weak-willed and clearly doomed Icky (Leigh) with him.
Contrasting urban despair with a regenerative view of the countryside, in Wales the duo are befriended by Kidder (James Hazeldine), an ex-teacher with a murky past and one of the few truly sympathetic adults the boys encounter.
Kidder is also starting a new life, expressing himself through art as a means to deal with his inner demons. In one of the most tender moments, he gives the boys a book he has made, entitled One Summer, which narrates in words and pictures their time together in Wales.
Icky’s fundamental weakness and lack of forethought signal the inevitable end to their bucolic idyll. Billy’s sweet moments with his newfound girlfriend Jo (Jane West) are invariably intercut with disruptive scenes featuring Icky either trashing Kidder’s house or joyriding.
In a cruel juxtaposition towards the end, we see Icky die in a horrible car crash while Jo and Billy make love by a riverbank.
The fine performances and adroit direction by Gordon Flemying help paper over some unlikely plot contrivances, such as when Icky meets up with Rabbit (Hart) and his gang in Wales.
Writer Willy Russell had his name removed from the credits as he thought the lead actors were too old to play 16-year olds and that Kidder’s Welsh retreat was overly glamorous.
The violent and abrupt ending is bleak, highly melodramatic and certainly cruel, though it also shows Billy taking his life in his hands and finally becoming responsible for it.
This five-part miniseries was produced by Yorkshire Television.
Michael J Jackson
Sion Tudor Owen