The Street Series One, BBC1

by | May 18, 2006 | All, Reviews

Debut:Thursday 13 April 2006

Did we like it?

Jimmy McGovern has created another brilliant, compelling drama. Kitchen sink dramas set in the north of England have been done countless times before, but this is a fantastic spin on it and boasts a talented all-star cast.

What was good about it?

• Jane Horrocks – looking gorgeous and proving what a fantastic actress she is as central character Angela. She should be on TV more often, not just wheeled out at Christmas to do Absolutely Fabulous.

• In fact, the whole cast is brilliant. In this episode, Horrocks, Daniel Ryan, Shaun Dooley, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, Christine Bottomley and Lee Ingleby all got moments to shine in this episode alone.

• The decision to devote each episode to a different house seems a good one already. We see a lot of hints at what other residents get up to – a good incentive to keep watching. It also suggests that repeated viewings of this show could be very rewarding.

• No time was wasted in kicking off this episode with a heated domestic argument over money and the kids, and this realism continued throughout.

• Peter and Angela’s fun. They enjoyed sex after work – even once having sex while Angela was talking to her husband Arthur on the phone – finished off with post-coital éclairs, Mars Bars and Flakes.

• Peter running over Angela’s daughter Katie in his car came as a genuine shock. There was no ominous background music and the scenes leading up to the event were at a rather gentle pace with everyone going about their day-to-day business when, without warning, the tragic accident happened, which is as close as how it would seem in real life as you’re likely to get.

• With Katie in a coma, the anger, guilt and pain of all those involved was conveyed very well. The awkwardness between Angela and Peter afterwards, Angela’s grief for her daughter and resentment towards everyone else, Arthur’s distress and frustration at what happened to his daughter, Peter’s anguish for for what he had done and eagerness to shed the blame.

• The scenes where one of Angela’s sons beat up one of Peter’s son and when Arthur beat up Peter were suitably graphic.

• Katie survived her coma, but ended up paralysed. Plotwise, this was a much better choice than having Katie either die or make a full recovery. Although it was a relief, it also showed that permanent damage had resulted.

What was bad about it?

• The name, the shoddy title sequence and the setting draw obvious comparisons to Coronation Street. This seems deliberate, and we’re not sure why they think this is a good idea.

• The leap from Peter helping Angela out with a burst pipe to them having an affair happened a little too quickly.

• The all-too-realistic karaoke in the local pub. We were treated to terrible versions of Downtown, Delilah and Spanish Eyes.

• It probably could have done with some more laughs. Obviously after the accident, any of the light hearted elements of the episode were gone, so it made for quite gloomy viewing.

• Angela was pretty unlikable. After the accident she blamed Peter for running Katie over, Arthur for not watching Katie, and even blamed God for punishing her for ‘having a bit of fun’ by cheating on her husband. In other words, she felt it was everybody’s fault except hers. Her pot/kettle/black accusations to Arthur and Peter for being selfish got irritating as well. She berated Peter for trying to soothe his guilty conscience, but at least he seemed to have one.

• In a similar way, Peter’s self-pity and threatening behaviour towards people he thought were responsible for his troubles after the accident reduced any sympathy we had for him when his wife Eileen threw him out after Angela told her about their affair. If anything it was a little unsatisfying that he was let off the hook at the trial for dangerous driving. We ended reserving most of our sympathy for Arthur, Eileen and Katie.

• The use of the ancient ‘all the laundry has turned pink in the wash’ sight gag.

• The ferocity of the pipe burst in Angela’s kitchen suggested that water pressure in The Street was a little too high and the water board should investigate.

The Street, BBC1 Thursday 20 April 2006

Did we like it?

This episode was even better than the first one. The story of 65-year-old Stanley James McDermott was excellent, and despite being about old age, suicide and depression, very enjoyable.

What was good about it?

• The brilliant Jim Broadbent bringing just the right amount of pathos and humour to the role of Stan.

• Sue Johnston was marvellous as his devoted wife Brenda, who took most of Stan’s antics in her stride having been married to him for 46 years.

• The protagonists this week were much more likable than last week. Stan and Brenda came across as a lovely, decent people who had been cheated by life. As a result we cared a great deal about what happened to them and hoped that everything would work out for them.

• Stan’s late-life crisis about turning “sixty-bloody-five” feeling it was the beginning of the end for him, that physically ‘everything’s bloody going” and society had put him on the scrapheap and viewed him as a useless burden with nothing more to offer. He had lived a good, if routine, life and “did what he was supposed to do”, saving for his old age and had very little to show for it. His anger at the injustice of it all rang true.

• Stan rightly being angry that the £36,000 he put into his pension fund would only get him and Brenda £34 a week to live on, meaning he’d have to live to be 112 to get all his money back. When told that getting all the money in one go instead of taking the pension was illegal he replied “So’s robbery”.

• Stan learns that financially he’d be better off dead as Brenda would get the full £36,000 if he died early in retirement. He visits the doctor who tells him he’s perfectly healthy, then decided to take up smoking again and have sugar in his tea.

• The librarian who asked Stan who’d return the book about suicide he was borrowing.

• Stan’s first suicide attempt – getting drunk on counterfeit whiskey and trying to hang himself – goes wrong when the ceiling crashes down.

• Brenda couldn’t understand what Stan was going through, but deeply loved him. She also seemed to have her priorities right, telling Stan how foolish he was being trying to kill himself to prove a point when he had a good family who cared for him.

• Brenda stating that it would have been better for her for Stan to kill himself when they were younger. “A widow of 63 doesn’t get a man of your age, Stan, she gets some old codger in his 70s. He’ll give me a few years but then I’ll have to bury him and look for another old codger!”

• Stan made some great deadpan comments throughout:

“When you’re 20 a year is one twentieth of what you’ve already lived, which is a fair bit, but when you’re 65 a year is one sixty-fifth of what you’ve already lived, and that’s nothing. It’ll race by.”

“I can’t remember the last time I had a good shit. I can’t remember the last time I pissed without pain. I remember exactly the last time I had an erection – four years and 49 weeks ago – my 60th birthday, the lads got me a stippergram. I’ve got pain in my knees, pain in my back, my ears are going, my eyes are going, everything’s bloody going and you tell me there’s nothing wrong with me”.

Stan read up on suicide. “I became an expert. Apparently when men hang they can get an erection. They can even ejaculate. Pointless of course”.

Stan having a go at some Manchester United fans. “I hate your team! Everyone’s so bloody ugly!”

• The underrated Charles Dale had a good cameo as Stan’s officious boss Steve, who did have a bit of a heart but kept it well hidden beneath his concerns about the company’s profitability.

• Seeing the events of last week’s episode – Katy Quinn being hit by a car – in a different context. We saw another side of the story – the effect on witness Stan – and it made the programme seem like fitting more pieces into a jigsaw and this will probably get better as the series goes on.

• This also made us look for more clues of what’s to come in future episodes This week we saw more of general nasty piece of work Sean when his selling of stolen whiskey landed him in trouble with the law, and there seems to be an affair developing between two workers called Colin and Barbara.

• Despite what he’d said earlier in the episode, Stan lived to see his 65th birthday and enjoyed champagne.

• Katy saving Stan’s life by dropping by with a picture she painted of him as thanks for giving evidence on her behalf just as he was about to shoot himself with the National Service gun her kept in the attic.

What was bad about it?

• The pathos of Stan saying “I’ll work for nothing… please” when coming into work a day after retiring, and his admission that “I’m a man that’s easily ignored.” At his retirement party, his announcement that he was going to commit suicide fell on deaf ears and, after giving evidence on their behalf, the entire Quinn family except Katy ignored him afterwards.

• Stan displayed a good mathematical brain, which seemed wasted on the menial job he’d had for more than 40 years.

• The way something conveniently foiled Stan’s attempts at suicide started to look silly when the lights fused. We were half expecting him to say “Oh, bugger!” like Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show.

• Stan being sectioned wasn’t very convincing, and neither were the daft One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest stereotypes of mental health patients. The scene featuring them all in the sauna room where they all sounded off at once about their problems was disturbing and irritating to watch, especially that man who quite literally thought he was God.

• The tacky horror film style jump shock when Brenda and the audience think Stan may have committed suicide when they hear a bang that we’ve lead to believe was from a gunshot but was actually a champagne bottle.

• More terrible karaoke, this time Stan treating us to an awful version of Blue Moon.

• Barbara’s orange fake tan which matched her stripy jumper.

The Street, BBC1, Thursday 27 April 2006

Did we like it?

This was a brilliant episode. A teacher takes his regular jog in the park. He pauses to urinate in the woods. A six-year-old girl screams. Her father thinks the teacher was flashing or masturbating. The teacher’s life falls apart. Very hard-hitting and well performed.

What was good about it?

• The first rate performances. Neil Dudgeon was incredible as wrongfully accused teacher Brian Peterson, and Lindsey Coulson did a convincing job as his wife Ann. Special mention must also go to the excellent acting of the relative newcomers who played his children: Connor (Lee Battle), Shannon (Sacha Parkinson) and Amy (Anya Simpson), and to Jessica Baglow as Jenna Doran, the sister of the girl who saw him in the park.

• This episode showed how mud sticks. Even before the girl’s father had launched an official complaint, parents had began pulling their children out the school play Brian was directing because of rumours.

• It was brilliant at showing how the accusation affected his family, who were sadly seen as guilty by association. The whole family were treated as pariahs. Youngest daughter Amy missed out on being a bridesmaid, Connor took sides with his father while tearful Shannon did her best trying to keep everybody together.

• Ann began to distrust her husband after discovering he concealed from her an indecent exposure conviction (for mooning in Blackpool) and she began to get just as ridiculously paranoid as the rest of the town, fearing that Brian could harm their own children.

• It was brave to question society’s current witch-hunt style paranoia over paedophilia. A couple of stupid mistakes, bad luck and human nature’s desire to bring others down almost destroyed an innocent man and, even though the truth eventually came out, it probably still damaged his life irreparably. Writer Jimmy McGovern resisted the temptation to show a soap opera-style torch and pitchfork reaction. Instead, the family were largely ignored – even by long-time friends.

• The huge relief when the little girl Carly finally made it clear that she had seen him having a wee in the park rather than doing anything unsavoury.

• Brian breaking down in tears once he was in the clear – similar to Angela sobbing in episode one when it seemed her daughter would wake from her coma. McGovern shows that people often try to stay strong in face of the adversity and tears can come as a catharsis when the worst is over.

• Eddie the taxi driver trying to be casual and chatty when Brian was thrown out but eventually being brave enough to explain why Ann lost trust in her husband. “Women would kill for their kids, Brian. The slightest whiff of a threat.”

• Neil rushing through his marking of schoolwork so he could enjoy sex with his wife while she dressed up as Britney Spears dancing to Baby One More Time. Harmless fun when we saw it; rather disturbing when we reflected back on it.

• Some lovely directing and cinematography, especially the scenes showing the snowy park in winter and the misty, almost ghostlike, shots of the street.

• The use of Gary Numan’s Cars and the theme from American Beauty on the soundtrack – and a realistic portrait of a Goth kid in Connor (“You look like a panda, you dickhead!” complained his sister when he used her make-up).

• The first appearance of Billy Roberts played by Shameless’ Jody Latham. He’s next week’s protagonist.

What was bad about it?

• This episode had a depressing feel to it, as it showed how false accusations of paedophilia can easily ruin people’s lives, and there was a distinct feeling that it probably happens fairly often in real life.

• The way the police started accusing Brian because he gave bright pupil Jenna a John Keats poem which could be interpreted as being about ‘a girl’s budding breasts”. When Jenna tried to stick up for him, they only paid attention to twisting her “he spends time with you, not just lessons, his own time” comment, even though she’d stated immediately before “he’s not like that, he’s a nice man, a good teacher”.

• The two horrible chav kids who, for money and for fun, gave the police false statements about Brian abusing or perving over them.

• It was shame there wasn’t any real link to past episodes like there have been previously, although characters such as Stan, Eddie, Sean and Yvonne popped up, as well as the first appearance of Billy Roberts and his father.

The Street, BBC1, Thursday 4 May 2006

Did we like it?

Although the links with the previous episodes were frayed, this was still an entertaining, yet sad, one-off tale of a promising footballer who made one stupid mistake (stealing a pair of trainers) and paid a heavy price (the sack, the loss of friends, an iron bar wrapped round his head).

What was good about it?

• Jody Latham’s acting ability managed to convince us that footballer Billy Roberts was not the same guy as Lip Gallagher, his character in Shameless.

• David Schofield as Billy’s blind dad John. A great performance including his impassioned speech that Billy deserved a second chance after being sacked from his football club and his acknowledgment that he had pushed Billy too hard in his football career and not allowed him to have a life outside of football.

• Ciaran Griffiths (looking even better than he did as Gary Best in The Bill) also shone as Billy’s mate who led him astray, into the world of drug dealing. “The footie’s gone, so what are you going to do? Work in that dairy, up for the crack of dawn working your bollocks off, two weeks off if you’re lucky, get to 65 and you’ve got nothing to show for it. Well, not me mate, I’m going to be sorted while there’s still time to enjoy it.”

• Liam Boyle (looking cute, too) also shone as Billy’s mate Mick, who had such a crush that he kept newspaper cuttings of Billy’s football career and happily allowed himself to be taken advantage of. Until he got some cocaine up his nose when he turned on Billy, with devastating consequences.

• The reunion of Billy and fellow pupil Laura. “What happened to the brace? We used to call you Jaws!”. “What happened to the spots? We used to call you Billy The Boil”.

• John sussing out that Bill was E’d up when he came home and gushed: “I love you to bits, dad. Proper love you, really really love you”.

• As cautionary/morality tales go, this wasn’t patronising. While the message was clear – crime leads you to dangerous places and it’s a good idea to make something of your life – it didn’t come across as cheesy or forced.

• The final scene with Billy in hospital, fading in and out of consciousness, with images of him as a football hero. We liked the ambiguity in this scene – was it a fantasy or a glimpse of things to come?

• Michael Starke as Billy’s colleague at the dairy – a loudmouth who constantly cracked jokes about his wife’s massive weight gain.

• The use of The Chemical Brothers’ Believe on the soundtrack.

What was bad about it?

• The characters were more noticeably black and white than usual – Terry was obviously bad, Mick was a pathetic victim and Billy was inherently good, although he did occasionally take his anger out on people who didn’t deserve it.

• It is a pity that one promising element of the series – links to previous stories – has so far only happened in episode two. All we got were glimpses of characters we’d met before, including Timothy Spall’s taxi driver Eddie who was again on hand to offer wise words of comfort.

• The revelation that John lost his sight through drinking too much and not through an accident was followed by an unbelievable claim that going blind was “the best thing that ever happened”.

• The clubbing scenes were down to the usual low TV standards: thumping dance music, flashing purple/pink/blue lights, gyrating bodies, jerky camerawork, shot in slow motion etc.

• Although we quite like the track, Billy didn’t strike us as the sort of lad who’d have Madonna’s Hung Up as his ‘getting ready to go out’ music.

• Surely a drama involving football should be obliged to have a shower scene! Especially when Jody Latham’s in the cast.

The Street, BBC1, Thursday 11 May 2006

Did we like it?

The Street yet again takes a controversial topic – asylum seekers in this case – and delivers another excellent episode, making subtle points to allow the audience to think for themselves

What was good about it?

• Timothy Spall was great as always, playing Eddie the taxi driver, who is too nice for his own good and is always ready to help anyone (and even a homeless Doberman dog ) at the expense of himself, much to the annoyance of his wife.

• Jamiu Adebiyu was fantastic playing Ojo, the Nigerian asylum seeker who spoke very little English, had only a few pennies and was terrified of being sent back to his own country where his wife and children had been murdered. Adebiyu was especially good at the scenes where Ojo woke up screaming in the middle of the night, and at making Ojo a likeable character who could have fun.

• Eddie helped Ojo far above and beyond the call of duty, from trying to help the confused man to get into the asylum accommodation building instead of just driving off to allowing Ojo to stay at his house and lending him his hideous old gaudy yellow shirt.

• Eddie’s daughter Leanne trying to communicate with Ojo by saying Hakuna Matata, a Swahili phrase she got from the Disney film The Lion King.

• Eddie asks his mate Wayne, the only other black person he knows, if he knows any Africans who would be able to speak Ojo’s language. “I can see why you thought that seeing as I were born in deepest, darkest Salford,” Wayne replied.

• The programme was very sympathetic towards asylum seekers – pointing out that many are forced to leave their homes because they are desperate to escape death – and exposing the hysteria of prejudiced people such as the bigoted loudmouth reactionary who said, “I’d throw the lot of them out” and the smug, whiney hypocrite who claimed the UK had an ‘obligation’ to help asylum seekers but was unwilling to let Ojo stay at his house.

• Sean and Yvonne O’Neil featured heavily in this episode. They are the only characters to feature in every episode of this series and we’re definitely looking forward to next week’s episode focusing on them.

What was bad about it?

• The anger and sadness felt we felt for Ojo and Eddie when nobody would help them. The Asylum Accommodation, the YMCA, the hostel and the Catholic priest didn’t want to know.

• It’s a shame this episode didn’t focus much on Eddie because he’s been a good character, although we did get a sense that Eddie was becoming sick of being everyone’s doormat.

• Eddie’s harridan of a wife Margie was incredibly annoying with her constant nagging and complaining.

• It was never made clear what Ojo had said to make the people in the pub in the largely African populated area so angry they chased him out.

• The cod-African background music throughout.

The Street, BBC1, Thursday 18 May 2006

Did we like it?

This final episode of this brilliant drama series was mostly excellent, but was badly let down by a rushed, and rather ludicrous, ending.

What was good about it?

• Christine Bottomley as unhappy, abused wife Yvonne O’Neil, conveying the character’s feelings of hopelessness and sorrow very well

• Lee Ingleby as Sean O’Neil. All series he has been great as the bully who threatens everyone who crosses his path, and Ingleby excelled himself in this episode showing Sean’s horrible nature and cruel treatment of his wife.

• Fresh from a fantastic performance in See No Evil: The Moors Murderers, Joanna Froggatt once again was impressive here as Yvonne’s older sister Kerry, trying to rescue her sister.

• One of the best scenes was when the two sisters argued. Kerry shouted at her sister she had to do something about her situation while Yvonne shouted back with excuses and resentment towards her sister, while their mother Mary tried to hold back tears, get her grandchildren out of the way of the arguments and unsuccessfully defuse the situation by offering biscuits.

• The portrayal of domestic abuse was very well handled. Yvonne uttered a lot of desperate phrases as “everything’s going to be fine” and “he’s alright sometimes” to explain why she stayed with him. When she plucked up the courage to leave Sean, he threatened and then manipulated her by turning on the charm saying he loved her, made her feel guilty for making him feel trapped and promised he would never hit her again.

• The moments when it seemed Yvonne might get everything sorted. She got wise to Sean’s behaviour, locked him out and didn’t pay attention to his usual tricks, while reaching a reasonable arrangement for him to see the children. She even felt confident enough to go and see pick the kids up from Sean’s bedsit by herself. This wasn’t to last though.

• Yvonne having a go at Kelly for calling her mother ‘mum’ instead of ‘mam’. At her funeral they had two separate wreaths spelling ‘mum’ and ‘mam’.

• A soundtrack including Tony Christie’s …Amarillo and Goldfrapp’s Strict Machine, plus a distorted guitar sound.

• The first rate make-up to show Yvonne’s bruises.

What was bad about it?

• The ending had the distinct feel of ‘a little unrealistic but we have to end it somehow’. After so much realism in this show, it didn’t make much sense that Yvonne and Kerry managed to batter Sean to death, get his body into the car and bury him in their mother’s burial plot all without anyone noticing or leaving any incriminating evidence behind.

• A general nit-pick, but as good as Lee Ingleby was as Sean, his slightly built body made it a little unbelievable that Sean would be able to beat people to a pulp and come away unscathed himself. It was especially apparent in this episode when he beat up Alex, a man at least twice his size.

• Considering Sean was on a suspended sentence, how did he get away with all the threatening behaviour and beating up Alex anyway?

• It seemed completely out of character for Sean to just walk away from a neighbour’s insult to him. (“You’re crap in bed. That’s why a man smacks his wife around”).

• Some of the Mission Impossible style moments with Yvonne, Kerry and Alex changing the locks and sneaking the children out from behind Sean’s back looked a little silly.

• The unsubtle fairytale metaphors quickly got irritating. The parallel of Cinderella’s ‘life of toil and pain’ with Yvonne’s, her daughter Leah being described as a ‘little princess’, Kerry being called a ‘fairy godmother’ who rescued Yvonne – almost as forced was the scene when Sean’s pigeons flew free after his death in the same way Yvonne was free of him.

• There were a lot of disturbing violent scenes in this episode, the worst being Sean getting his head splattered on the pavement and the earlier scene where he beat Yvonne up in bed with her cowering and crying, while their daughter cried as she overheard it all in her room.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

18/05/2006

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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