I Love 1983

Saturday, February 10, 2001 by

Unlike other reviewers, I singularly failed to recall any significant memories from 1983. So it was with empty head that I sat down to be entertained by I Love 1983.

Hosted this week by Roland Rat, this was one of the poorer efforts of the series so far, with some interesting segments, but not nearly enough highs to make up for the overwhelming lows I experienced. Here was a programme too bitty, too generic … too padded. Cabbage Patch dolls, smoochy love songs, snogging, love bites, legwarmers and aerobics; the whole thing descended too often into unlovable trivia, with few redeeming qualities, and made for faintly depressing viewing. This feeling is of course compounded by the fact that various “spoiler” programmes (Sky’s TV Years and the BBC’s own Young Guns) had ploughed many of these furrows already; albeit often not to the same depth. But for me anyway, a lot of the clips tonight were overly familiar and too recently recycled. Nostalgia telly is fast turning into one great amorphous blob.

One of the strengths of the I Loves thus far has been the variety of interviewees. Tonight, David Hasselhof was clearly happy to reminisce at length about Knight Rider, and to regurgitate his own PR – after all “people need heroes”. However it was the comments of Glen A Larson (trash US TV supremo) that were the most interesting, as he revealed that plans to market replica KITTs were shelved after reports of one being used in an attempt to jump a train. From the “American James Bond” (Hasslehof again, now thankfully pursuing a pop career in Germany), we moved swiftly through Cabbage Patch dolls, to Flashdance; a film I’ve never seen, and would defy anyone to claim they’ve watched from start to finish. It was therefore with some bemusement that I witnessed a parade of “admiration” and fond remembrance for this acknowledged turkey. Although this segment of the programme was far too long, it was partly redeemed with the revelation that not only did Jennifer Beales have a dance double (fair enough), but that during the break dancing sequence, the double was a bloke. Am I to believe that in 1983 there were no women at all who could break dance? History was made here, however, with the first worthwhile contribution from Greg Proops (his summation and devastation of the film’s plot was superb).

A sequence on smoochy songs followed; being generally tasteless it was saved only by Stuart Maconie’s observations on Tony Hadley’s megaphone-style delivery of True. The whole thing developed into a really pointless section on snogging and lovebites, which apart from Wayne Hemingway’s naïveté (“do people use tongues in kissing?!”) was just distasteful.

The only real musical contribution to the programme was the section on Wham! (exclamation-mark required). Inevitably this felt lacking when compared to the Young Guns treatment on the same subject, and here it was overlong too. Upon establishing Wham! were middle-class, suburban and tanned, there seemed little else to say. Except that Wham! was “of its time” – thanks, Gary Crowley, for that one.

Moving on, and was The Sloane Ranger Handbook really important enough to be included? OK, so it was pertinent to its time, and a piss-take unwittingly embraced by those it ridiculed, but … who cares? This London-centric “phenomenon” was really of little relevance outside those limited parameters it documented. But He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, now here was a real phenomenon – with a far-reaching effect. Contributions from creators, voice-over artists (great to hear the nasal Skeletor again) and another look at those bizarre Tom Baker-voiced adverts (“Stinkor! He really stinks!”) really lent themselves to a worthwhile discussion on the exploitation of children’s programming for merchandising return. A given today, it all started here. Great stuff. Alas the segue into the Green Goddess and Mad Lizzie trotted out much aired footage of Diana Moran cajoling commuters into stretches, whilst Ken Livingstone bobbed up and down alongside Lizzie Webb. This little section, however, was almost redeemed by Moran’s comment in ’83 to all the “ladies” that it was time for them to make breakfast for the family.

Then it was break dancing. Again, this meant little to me personally however it proved to be quite an interesting segment. And it confirmed that – yes – there were actually female break dancers in ’83. It was at this stage that I expected Michelle Gayle’s presence to be justified by reference to her Grange Hill hip-hopping character Fiona Wilson, half of the programme’s Salt ‘n’ Peppa-esque rappas Fresh ‘n’ Fly (Ronnie Birtles making up the duo). Or perhaps we could be uncharitable and conclude that the production team of I Love 1983 erroneously had Gayle down as “Ro-land” Browning’s unwanted Jiminy Cricket, Janet St Clair. Surely not. Similarly, the section on Just Seventeen had little personal resonance for me; I was 15 in 1983, and as acknowledged in the programme, already outside the readership bracket for the magazine. But again, there was some interest therein, with agony aunt, Melanie McFadyean providing a candid and funny account of the Problem Page, reminding us all of how young girls defined themselves in ’83 – signed “a Kajagoogoo fan”.

After a bit of a sideswipe at Blockbusters (did everybody really hate it that much?) we had some predictable clips – “Can I have a P please Bob?”, and the “orgasm” – and it was swiftly onto Thriller, without even a mention of the hideous Lopi jumper we had just witnessed. So, a standard run through of the Michael Jackson epic brought proceedings to a close.

Overall this was a ropey effort, with few highlights and a lot of lows. Ultimately this all felt rather rushed, and very often by-numbers with little new or inspirational at best, and huge gaps and inaccuracies at worse. Where have they been getting their information from?


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