I’ve been dipping into the anthology releases from Network recently, which collate a number of related programmes together in what might be described as ‘samples’ of full series.
This series of posts will look at seven such releases:
- Soap Box Volume 1
- Look-Back on 70s Telly (4 volumes)
Soap Box (2011)
Despite being badged ‘volume 1’ it seems unlikely that there will be a further set after five years has elapsed; still, this is a reasonable collection of both daytime and evening soaps produced across ITV.
Over four discs we move from the sole surviving episode of hospital drama ‘Call Oxbridge 2000’ from 1961, through to a 2006 ‘disaster’ episode of ‘Emmerdale’, which, when compared to an episode from thirty years before – when the series was still ‘Emmerdale Farm’ – shows clearly the decline of both focus and writing of one of Yorkshire TV’s most enduring soaps; although it is good to see both Ken Farringdon and Jenny Tomasin in the cast.
From the 1960s we have episodes of ‘Parkin’s Patch’, a police drama; ‘Weaver’s Green’, about a vet; an atypical episode of ‘Emergency: Ward 10’; and ‘Market in Honey Lane’, which makes an interesting comparison to ‘Albion Market’ which also appears here.
Although ‘Coronation Street’ started in the 1960s, the two episodes featured here are both from 1977 – one where Tracy is in peril, and the famous one about Annie Walker and the new carpet. Well-written, these are an interesting contrast to episodes which can be found on the ‘ITV60’ and ‘Jack Rosenthal at ITV’ sets. ‘Rooms’, about lodgers and bedsitters, is a bit disappointing; but both ‘The Cedar Tree’ and ‘Marked Personal’ are well worth watching. The aforementioned episode of ‘Emmerdale Farm’ is something of an odd choice, dealing with a family tragedy right at the end; while from 1972 ‘General Hospital’ and ‘Harriet’s Back in Town’ were worth revisiting.
Into the 1980s there is an episode of ‘Crossroads’, which hasn’t aged well; the opener of ‘From Maddie With Love’, which is well overdue a full release; ‘The Practice’, yet another medical drama, has good production values but is largely forgettable; ‘Gems’ has a bit of sparkle; and the short-lived ‘Albion Market’ shows it might have had legs if allowed to grow.
The 1990s episodes are from ‘Families’, ‘London Bridge’, and ‘Revelations’, all now largely forgotten, and the set is rounded off by the 25th anniversary edition of ‘The Bill’, a live episode which I last saw at the BFI Southbank with cast members including the late Bernie Nolan sitting behind us. It’s bordering on the hysterical and compares weakly to earlier episodes which can be found elsewhere.
If you like the genre of ‘soap opera’ in its loosest sense you will find much to enjoy here, and it is a varied collection of titles from the various ITV companies, with six examples from Granada, seven from ATV; five from Thames; three from Yorkshire; and one each from Anglia and Carlton.
Network have released ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Emmerdale Farm’ and ‘Crossroads’ extensively, and there are also some releases of available of ‘Emergency: Ward 10’, ‘General Hospital’, ‘Parkin’s Patch’, ‘Market in Honey Lane’, ‘The Cedar Tree’, ‘London Bridge’, ‘The Bill’ and ‘Revelations’.