1 9 9 7 – 1 9 9 9 (UK)
14 x 50 minute episodes
Broke and with a gambling addiction, unemployed Scouse youngster Danny Kavanagh (John Simm) leaves Liverpool and a life dictated by Giro payments and moves to the Lake District to become a kitchen porter in a Lakeland hotel. But his merry-go-round of casual sex, drink and drugs is stopped when he gets local girl Emma (Emma Cunliffe) pregnant and marries her.
Danny has poetic leanings and is presented as an essentially good man, but one hounded by a dark destiny (symbolised by the sonic boom of a military jet that periodically casts its shadow over the landscape in times of trouble).
His fatal flaw is his gambling compulsion and it becomes central to series one’s narrative when a call to his bookie distracts him in his new job in a boathouse as three schoolgirls row out on the lake unsupervised, with tragic consequences.
He becomes the scapegoat for the villagers’ grief and guilt, but Danny is not the only one marginalised by family or the village community. Bernie (Mary Jo Randle), Emma’s pious and devout mother, is thrust into emotional turmoil when she falls in love with Father Matthew (Robert Pugh) and is made pregnant by him.
Storylines eventually emphasised the soap opera elements with coincidences and family entanglements often stretching credulity to breaking point. A subplot in which a schoolteacher murders his wife and then dithers over disposing of the body is over-extended and treated mostly as farce.
The show courted controversy from the outset with its coarse language, earthy humour and explicit sex scenes (mainly involving the insanely libidinous chef). Although sometimes unconvincingly ratcheted up for the second season (new plot strands included lesbianism, gang rape and castration), this approach did also pay dividends, as in the extraordinary scene in which the Bishop (Anthony Newley, in one of his final performances) tries to convince Bernie to have an abortion.
Mary Jo Randle