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TV timewarp.

Byline: By Graham Partt

Programme of the Week: When The Boat Comes In.

First episode transmitted: January 8, 1976.

Last episode transmitted: April 21, 1981.

FEW TV shows are remembered most for their theme tune, but this Geordie drama was one of them. It could be heard in the street, shops and schools throughout 1976, became part of North-East culture and a song often sung at us ( badly it must be said ( when we meet people from other areas.

Dance t'Thi Daddy with its phrases of `Thoo shall have a fishy on a little dishy, thoo shall have a bloater, when the boat comes in', is not a song that can be easily performed by anyone other than a generic North-Easterner, as Cilla Black fatefully proved one Saturday night on her live show.

When she came to do one of her live drop-ins on folk sitting quietly at home, she was on a hiding to nothing when the cameras dropped in on a house in Sunderland (the Match of the Day team had been in town that day for a game, hence the outside broadcast). Half the street turned out and mocked Cilla for her appalling rendition with pseudo Geordie accent.

The show itself proved one of the most popular in the late seventies. Created by Tyneside writer James Mitchell, who had also come up with Callan, it turned James Bolam, the likeable layabout Likely Lad Terry Collier, into a hard-nosed union man.

Mitchell was the son of a South Shields shipyard fitter who was a self-taught intellectual, union activist and Mayor. Mitchell junior used the hardships he witnessed in childhood and turned it into a social history lesson-cum-entertainment.

As Jack Ford, Bolam played a man returning from the Great War to a land supposedly "fit for heroes". He became involved in union politics, helped with a strike and ended up in prison.

The North-East audience is unforgiving if accents are incorrect, as Mitchell knew all too well. So, some of the finest actors the region has produced took starring roles, including Alan Browning, John Woodvine, comedian Bobby Pattison and Kevin Whately. Jean Heywood played Ford's mother-in-law Bella Seaton while his love interest was Bolam's real-life wife Susan Jameson as Jessie. To add to the complication on-screen and off-screen, Ford became involved in a love triangle with Dolly, Jessie's sister, played by Whately's wife Madeleine Newton!

After three hard-hitting series spanning two years, the show took a four-year break as our hero headed for America.

Ford returned, on the run from the FBI and slap-bang in the middle of the Jarrow March. It ended with Ford dying in the arms of a Spanish rebel in the country's civil war.

On TV 20 years ago (May 4-10 1985):

Norway broke their duck and won the Eurovision Song Contest with Bobbysocks singing La Det Swinge. The UK finished 4th.

The BBC marked the 40th anniversary of VE Day by broadcasting a special service from Westminster Abbey. ITV broadcast an entertainment extravaganza from London's Palace Theatre.

Lee Horsley returned as the Texan tycoon-turned-detective Matt Houston.

Jimmy Nail talked to Richard Skinner about his favourite discs in Off the Record.

On TV 15 years ago (May 5-11 1990):

Italy won the 35th Eurovision Song Contest from Zagreb in Yugoslavia.

Jason Donovan, Paula Abdul and Jimmy Cricket kept the kids entertained in the Children's Royal Variety Performance.

Richard O'Brien's gameshow The Crystal Maze came to the end of its run on C4.

Tyne Tees traced the history of the North-East's most enduring band, Lindisfarne.

On TV 10 years ago (May 6-12 1995):

Matthew Kelly had a new series of Stars in Their Eyes.

Helen Mirren was back as DCI Tennison in Prime Suspect.

The nation observed two minutes' silence at 8.38pm to mark the 50th anniversary of VE Day. The BBC broadcast a day of commemorative shows. ITV had an entertainment extravaganza.

Due South, an American series about a Canadian Mountie tackling crime in Chicago began on BBC1.

Arsenal took on Real Zaragoza in the European Cup Winners Cup final.

On TV 5 years ago (May 6-12 2000):

Dale Winton paid tribute to Barbara Windsor in Hall of Fame.

Fergal Keane embarked on a journey to tell us of Forgotten Britain, the rundown parts of the nation we have tried to ignore.

C4 began a four-part adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

Jerry Springer came to Britain to present four late-night versions of his American problem show.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 5, 2005
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