I Love 1980

Saturday, January 13, 2001 by

Almost with indecent haste Saturday nights on BBC2 have resorted again to nostalgia. After the summer success of I Love the Seventies, it somehow feels appropriate that the altogether murkier ’80s are relived on cold, winter nights. Despite the seasonal change (and the increase to 90 minutes per episode) bedding in for a night of archive footage and talking heads felt rather familiar. In fact, rather too familiar thanks to Sky One’s spoiler series TV Years (focusing on a scatter-gun of years from the ’80s) which covered a lot of the same ground. One of the points of interest here, then, will be to see exactly where I Love the Eighties dovetails and where it diverts from TV Years.

The common denominator tonight between the BBC’s effort and Sky’s was The Common Denominator in TV punditing of course, Stuart Maconie (who’d narrated TV Years). And prompted by the mention of Maconie, perhaps at this stage we should address that hoariest of issues and rate the pundits. Patently the most missed talking head this time around was Peter Kay (although Louis Theroux is an adequate stand-in when it comes to singing the theme tunes). Emma B stated the bleeding obvious, whilst Jamie Theakston’s comedic riff on the theme from Fame (“I’m gonna learn how to fly – what sort of school is that?”) was pretty charmless, but thankfully grumpy old Phil Oakey was happy to take the opportunity to yet again slag off some of his contemporaries (on Sky One it was Boy George, this time OMD got his ire). All in all, however, the contributed commentary was pretty good, although it has to be said that asking in a perplexed fashion “I mean what was that about?!” is becoming a bit of a cliché.

So a faintly regal Larry Hagman presided over events with a rather bemused twinkle, introducing items he patently had no affinity for (Barbara Woodhouse, for one) – but that just added to the fun. As did the superb amount of detritus in the actual archive clips themselves. A snippet fromFame was introduced via a snatch of Mike Reid on Saturday Superstore segueing into the song, whilst much painful inter-DJ banter framed the pop clips. It’s really this sort of stuff that stirs the memories: Metal Mickey is certainly of its time but it does in some way transcend its years too, so that it doesn’t feel truly representative of 1980. An excited Tommy Boyd introducing the robot on Saturday Starship, however, positively aches of 1980.

Probably as a result of the extended running time, I Love 1980 only really varied from its precursor when it ambled into more general reminiscence of early-teen years, rather than nostalgia based around the year in question. Thus discussion of swimming classes in school and fairgrounds slightly smacked of an attempt at commonality between disparate parties (the sort of forced conversation you may have with strangers at a party before finally lapsing into a discussion about Bagpuss). That said, it kept things sufficiently buoyant and any lags at bay (which did affect the Christmas episode).

Bruno Martelli’s belief that the orchestra was to be made obsolescent by a keyboard chucking out fat sounds (as revealed in the Fame section) was returned to later in the programme with a section on synth music that really seemed to encapsulate 1980 for me. Serious-minded young men slavishly working away at looking ridiculous and producing clunky electronic music confirmed my memories of the early ’80s as absurd, but deadly earnest.

But actually, it’s this sort of glib summation that the programme itself commendably avoided. As with the ’70s series, this look-back was good humoured but not demeaning. I Love 1980had the feel of community, a shared, affectionate recollection of times gone by. And if Iain Lee does insist on sneering at the un-twisty turns at the climax of a Tales of the Unexpected then let him. It takes diff’rent strokes…


Comments are closed.