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Brookside was a British soap opera set in Liverpoolmarker, England. The series began on the first night of the then-new network Channel 4 on 2 November 1982, and ran for 21 years until 4 November 2003. Produced by Mersey Television, it was conceived by Phil Redmond who also devised Grange Hill (1978-2008) and Hollyoaks (1995-present).

Brookside became notable for its tackling of realistic and socially challenging storylines and was most popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the mid-1990s it began raising more controversial issues under the guidance of new producers such as Mal Young and Paul Marquess. It is especially well-known for broadcasting the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss on British television in December 1993, as well as a storyline featuring a consensual incestuous sexual relationship between two sibling characters during 1996. Although the series had a long and successful run, by 2000 its viewing figures were in decline and low ratings eventually led to its cancellation in 2003. The final episode was broadcast on 4 November 2003 and was watched by around 2 million viewers.

The first ever episode of Brookside was repeated as part of Channel 4 at 25 on 1 October 2007 on More4 as part of a season of celebratory Channel 4 programmes to mark the channel's first quarter century.

Development

Brookside differed from other serials because it was filmed in real, brand-new houses, in a real cul-de-sac, in the North West city of Liverpoolmarker. Built by Broseley Homes,(broseley estates limited) the houses were custom built in an attempt by the producers to add to the show's realism. In early 1982, Mersey Television, with Phil Redmond at the helm, bought 13 houses altogether, 6 of which would be seen on-screen as sets. The remaining 7 properties would house Administration, Post Production and Canteen facilities for the cast and crew. Phil Redmond was particularly enthusiastic about purchasing an entire 'close' of houses, partly as a means of achieving the desired realism of Brookside, but also in order to maintain total control of his creation.

Narrative

Beginning

The first episodes concentrated on the development of the anchor Grant family, with Sheila (Sue Johnston) and Bobby (Ricky Tomlinson) who had moved up the social ladder to a big, four-bedroomed house on the 'middle-class' Brookside Close from a run-down council estate. They were the first family to have moved onto the Close and lived at Number 5. Initially, only three of the six new-builds were occupied by characters. Episode 1 saw the arrival of the Collins family. In contrast to the Grants, these were on their way down the social ladder, downsizing from their lavish home on the upmarket Wirral, to the smaller Number 8, Brookside Close. Other characters included Heather (Amanda Burton in her TV debut) and Roger Huntingdon (Rob Spendlove), two young professionals residing at semi-detached Number 9. Low class Gavin (Daniel Webb) and Petra Taylor (Alexandra Pigg) moved into Number 10 during very early episodes, selling stolen cookers from the front lawn, infuriating their new neighbours.

Initial reaction to the serial was far from positive, and critics were quick to point out various technical problems as well as the profanity now being screened before the watershed. Viewing figures stabilised at around 1 million as the production team and writers started to iron out Brookside's teething troubles. Soundproof panels were placed on the ceilings of the houses to contain sound and eliminate echoing, and the scriptwriters toned down the language. The show was initially seen by some as having a turgid, humourless and contentious feel, but its atmosphere changed with the arrival of new characters such as Harry (Bill Dean) and Edna (Betty Alberge) Cross, who finally bought Number 7. In April, Alan Partridge (a character played by Dicken Ashworth and unrelated to the later comedy character of the same name) moved into the bungalow, Number 6. These new characters helped bring humour and balance to the existing cast during 1983.

Further cast changes during 1983 saw the arrival of the Jackson family. Both Gavin and Petra Taylor departed Brookside early in the year. Gavin was the first casualty of the soap, dying from a brain haemorrhage, and Petra committed suicide a few months later, having disappeared from the Close in mysterious circumstances. Petra's sister, Marie Jackson (Anna Keaveney), her husband George (Cliff Howells) and their twin boys (Gary and 'little' George) moved into Number 10. They became central to Brookside's highest profile storyline yet, when George was wrongly convicted of a warehouse robbery. In a bold move, the plotline was leaked to the tabloid press, and as Marie Jackson began the Free George Jackson campaign on-screen, the press followed, creating huge levels of media hype similar to those seen when US soap Dallasmarker featured the 'Who shot J.R.?' plot of 1980, and Crossroads leaked the Motel fire storyline of November 1981. Viewing figures rose as the hype continued; a record called "Free George Jackson" by Blazing Saddles was released (and flopped), merchandise was produced, including T-shirts and posters. However, even though the storyline ultimately had a low-key conclusion (Cliff Howells who played George resigned and George Jackson stayed in prison), the plot largely helped Brookside on the pathway to success, particularly when the Corkhills arrived to replace the departed Jackson family in September 1985. These campaigns would later be evoked by Coronation Streetmarker with the 'Free Deirdre Rachid' campaign of 1998, and later, in EastEnders with the 'Who Shot Phil Mitchell?' plot of 2001.

1980s

Many storylines were geared around Bobby and Sheila's turbulent marriage in the 1980s. Bobby's short-temper and frequent visits to Union picket lines opposite Sheila's staunch catholic faith and family values made compelling viewing for many viewers, as did the antics of their children Barry (Paul Usher), Karen (Shelagh O'Hara), and Damon (Simon O'Brien). They were joined by Clare later in the mid-1980s in a storyline where Sheila and Bobby dealt with parenthood later on in life.

1985 was a pivotal year for Brookside with the arrival of its longest-serving family, the Corkhills. The first generation of Corkhills to arrive in the Close were Billy (John McArdle) and Doreen (Kate Fitzgerald) who moved into Number 10 with their children Rod (Jason Hope) and Tracy (Justine Kerrigan). Stories involving the Corkhills were concerned with marital problems and debt. In 1987 Doreen and Billy's crumbling marriage reached breaking point after Doreen admitted to Billy she had been sexually propositioned in return to pay off the family's spiralling debts. The furious Billy jumped into his brown Nissan and drove over all his neighbours' gardens - partly as revenge to the rest of the residents of the Close who had driven over his garden to avoid a huge hole that had appeared in the middle of the Brookside Close access road.

Viewing figures began to grow in mid-1985 with the 'Number 7 Siege', which was watched by 7.5 million people. At this point Britain's newest TV channel was still only in its third year. Number 7 Brookside Close was home to two young nurses - Sandra Maghie (Sheila Greer) and Kate Moses (Sharon Rosita), and former hospital porter Pat Hancock (David Easter) who rented the property from Harry Cross. Through their nursing, they encountered John Clarke (Robert Pugh), whose elderly mother eventually died (of natural causes) in hospital, while under their care. Gradually, John's instability grew into insanity and he was unable to cope with the death of his mother. He forced his way into Number 7, armed with a revolver and ready to avenge his mother's death. He held the three nurses hostage for several days in a three-episode run with Brookside Close sealed off and surrounded by armed police. The siege culminated in three shots resulting in the death of Kate followed by John's suicide. Some critics took issue with the unlikely plot-premise; for example, former Daily Mail critic Hilary Kingsley described it as "ludicrous" in her book Soap Box. The storyline put Brookside in a prominent position and made other soaps, such as ITV's Coronation Streetmarker and the revamped Crossroads take notice. The BBC, which had previously avoided the soap opera genre, launched the equally hard-hitting EastEnders the same year. Brookside was now seen as a quality soap opera, a cult hit within the core of its target demographic, earning it the reputation as being "The Rolls Royce of Soaps" among devoted fans.

In 1986 storylines featured a controversial attack on Sheila Grant. Sue Johnston's portrayal of the scenes showing Sheila coming to terms with her rape experience led to this being named the second most popular Brookside storyline ever, as featured in the documentary Brookside: 10 of the Best (See below). This year also saw the introduction of the soap's longest-running character Jimmy Corkhill, played by Dean Sullivan. Initially a bit-part player, Jimmy was the brother of Billy. His early appearances usually saw the character in many money-making schemes, along with characters such as Barry Grant, Terry Sullivan (Brian Regan) and Thomas 'Sinbad' Sweeney (Michael Starke). Barry, Terry and Sinbad would all go on to have storylines of their own in future episodes of Brookside.

The second ground-breaking storyline in 1986 was the death of Nicholas Black (Alan Rothwell). Having divorced her first husband Roger in 1983, Heather Huntingdon reverted to her maiden name, Haversham, and returned to her career. Heather married Nicholas Black after a 'whirlwind romance' , but she was unaware that he was a heroin addict. Although Nicholas attempted to keep to his promise to his wife to give up the drug, the pull of the drug became stronger. After weeks of deceiving his wife to raise money for drugs (including stealing and selling her jewellery) he disppeared, subsequently dying of exposure in Sefton Parkmarker after taking heroin. As a result, Heather left Brookside Close for good (in reality, Amanda Burton quit because she strongly disagreed with the plot ). The storyline was intentionally shocking, and made Brookside the first British soap opera to tackle the issue of heroin addiction candidly. It would return to the destructive effects of drug abuse frequently throughout its 21 year run, particularly with the Jimmy Corkhill character.

Peak of popularity

The late 80s saw the gradual disintegration of the central Grant family. Damon was fatally stabbed whilst on the run with his girlfriend Debbie (Gillian Kearney) in 1987 (and contained in a Brookside spin-off, see below). Karen left for London to study in early 1988 and never returned. Bobby departed in April after he discovered he was not Barry's biological father. As the marriage crumbled, Sheila and her youngest child Claire moved into the spare room at Billy Corkhill's (Number 10). Number 5 was sold to the Rogers family in 1989. The Rogers were a similarly large family who had moved into Number 7 in 1987, renting it from Harry Cross. However, when Number 5 went up for auction, truck driver Frank (Peter Christian) and left wing Chrissie (Eithne Browne) decided they wanted to buy their own home, so bought the former Grant house on their way up the property ladder, a very right wing approach to home ownership in the eighties.

The Collins had also had a relatively eventful time on the Close. Nearing retirement, Paul (Jim Wiggins) suffered humiliation at his redundancy and subsequent unemployment, resulting in the family having to move to Brookside Close. Meanwhile, in another British soap opera first, a ground-breaking storyline saw their son Gordon (Nigel Crowley/Mark Burgess) coming out as homosexual. At the same time, their daughter Lucy (Katrin Cartlidge/Maggie Saunders) embarked on a controversial affair with a married man. Mother and family matriarch Annabelle (Doreen Sloane), had to rescue her elderly and abused mother, Mona, from a corrupt care-home and this was followed by her affair with Brian Lawrence, a magistrate. By 1990, however, the entire family had to be written out of Brookside following Doreen Sloane's death from cancer in early 1990.

The Corkhills' marriage had also ended in divorce and Doreen left the family in late 1987. Rod became a police officer and Tracey a hairdresser. Jimmy created a spare room at Number 10 by knocking a door way through to the garage. This room was eventually occupied by Sheila and Claire Grant. Sheila and Billy's path to love and marriage also proved to be a popular storyline with viewers.

During 1987, Brookside saw the arrival of 'yuppies' Jonathan Gordon-Davies (Stephen Pinner) and Laura Wright (Jane Cunliffe) into Number 9. A popular union was cut short when Laura received an electric shock from a faulty light switch, sending her tumbling down the stairs. She was comatose for 3 months, dying in January 1988.the Choi family (widower Michael and his young daughter Jessica, accompanied by Michael's sister Caroline) moved into the vacated Number 7 for a short period, providing storylines for the increasingly popular window-cleaner Sinbad, who was briefly attracted to Caroline Choi (Sarah Lam). The soap was averaging around 4 to 5 million viewers as the 1980s drew to a close.

Off-screen, Mersey Television had bought a defunct Technical College in the district of Childwallmarker, around 15 minutes away from the set of Brookside Close and on-screen, part of this new premises became a row of shops called Brookside Parade. The introduction of a shop, bar, chip-shop and other businesses saw Brookside's main focus shift from the Close to this new set, and many storylines went with it. To launch the Parade in 1991, coinciding with the soap's 1000th episode, the writers developed the storyline of Terry Sullivan's wife Sue (Annie Miles) and baby Danny being pushed to their deaths off scaffolding. This again gave the soap extremely high viewing figures. When Barry Grant was revealed as Sue's murderer, his character became more sinister, but he was no less popular with the ever-growing audience. However he was not as popular as serial philanderer Ricki Mann(Ged McKenna).

In the early 1990s, the plots of Brookside became increasingly sensationalised. Most of the original cast had left, with Billy and Sheila, the entire Collins family, the Chois and Harry Cross all departing by the end of 1990. They were replaced by the Dixon family, the Farnhams and the Johnsons. Also, Barry Grant (Paul Usher) became increasingly involved in dubious plots. Mick Johnson (Louis Emerick) had been a lodger with Harry Cross in 1989. By early 1990, he had been joined by his wife Josie (Suzanne Packer) and children Leo and Gemma. Max and Patricia Farnham (Steven Pinder and Gabrielle Glaister) moved into Number 7 in April 1990 and became the soap's new yuppie couple. Ron and DD Dixon (Vince Earl and Irene Marot) drove onto Brookside Close during October in the 'Moby', a huge mobile shop, to move into Number 8.

Following the departure of Billy Corkhill, his children, Rod and Tracey, were both gradually written out of the soap and Billy's brother, Jimmy (Dean Sullivan), became a regular and central player in Brookside. He was joined by his estranged wife Jackie (Sue Jenkins, well known for her role as Gloria Todd in Coronation Streetmarker), and his elder children Little Jimmy Corkhill (George Christopher) and Lindsey (Claire Sweeney) were initially seen as recurring characters. However, Jimmy descended into intense drug abuse, his addiction climaxing in a cocaine-induced car crash which killed off long-running character Frank Rogers (Peter Christian) in 1993. Teenager Tony Dixon (Mark Lennock) was also involved in the crash and eventually died of his injuries in February 1994.

Between 1991 and 1993, the establishment of Brookside Parade occurred; Ron Dixon opened a convenience store, Barry Grant launched a bar and nightclub establishment, and eventually the entire Parade was occupied by businesses owned by residents of Brookside Close. Flats above the shops also provided new homes to various characters, such as Mick Johnson, who would later be held at gun-point in his flat by obsessed stalker Jenny Swift (Kate Beckett). Mersey Television made full use of their former Technical College buildings in Childwall and introduced Head Mistress Barbara Harrison (Angela Morant), who moved into Number 9 Brookside Close with recently retired husband John (Geoffrey Leesley). Many scenes saw Barbara at Brookside Comprehensive (in reality derelict Childwall Technical College buildings) in charge of pupils such as teenagers Jacqui (Alexandra Fletcher) and Mike Dixon (Paul Byatt) from Number 8, and Katie Rogers (Diane Burke) from Number 5. The Harrisons' storylines, including John's asthma and shoplifting, and later, son Peter (Robert Beck) who became involved in a lengthy date-rape plot with Rod Corkhill's wife Diana, were not particularly popular with viewers. The Harrisons were replaced by the Banks family in early 1994.

Brookside's most famous storyline happened in 1993, with the story of wife beater and child abuser Trevor Jordache (Brian Murray). Late in the year, his wife, Mandy (Sandra Maitland) and daughters Beth (Anna Friel) and Rachel (Tiffany Chapman) moved into Number 10. The house had been vacated by the remaining Corkhill clan, and unbeknown to anyone, had been sold off to become a safe house for abused families. After the Jordache family moved in some dirsturbing facts began to emerge. It transpired that Beth and her young sister Rachel had been sexually abused by their father, and before long, Trevor had found them in Brookside Close and bullied his way back into the family. As the abuse and torture got worse, Mandy and Beth stabbed him in the Kitchen of Number 10 and, with the help of Sinbad, buried him underneath their patio, where his body remained for well over a year. The finding of his remains in January 1995 gave Brookside its highest ever viewing figures of 10 million - and earned it the Number One most popular storyline in the Brookside: 10 of the Best documentary to celebrate the soap's 21st Anniversary. (The Top Ten is shown below). The Jordache family, particularly the character Beth (Anna Friel), were among the most popular in Brookside and contributed to the soap opera's overall popularity, especially when Beth shared British Television's first pre-watershed lesbian kiss with the Farnhams' Nanny Margaret Clemence (Nicola Stephenson) in January 1994.

Brookside attempted to hold on to its largely cult audience, but years of sensationalist storylines, a far-fetched sense of realism, and a range of unpopular characters, resulted in falling ratings.

Decline

Following the success of the 'body under the patio' and lesbian kiss plots, the writers of the show continued to deal with controversial subjects that other British soaps did not. A religious cult headed by Simon Howe (Lee Hartney) blew up Number 5 in a suicide pact during 1994, and a mysterious killer virus saw the death of two guest characters in 1995. The incestuous relationship between brother and sister, Nat (John Sandford) and Georgia Simpson (Helen Grace) in 1996 drew substantial criticism. Other characters such as Lindsey Corkhill were used in many similarly contentious plots and viewers' dwindling interest has been blamed on the overuse of these. The character of Lindsey was played by Claire Sweeney, and due to the popularity of the actress at the time, many storylines involved her. These included being stalked by her ex husband, Gary Stanlow (Andrew Fillis), an on-off relationship with Barry Grant (Paul Usher), a very short marriage to Peter Phelan (Samuel Kane), a stint being terrorised by gang-land boss Callum Finnegan (Gerard Kelly) and eventually falling in love with a new character, Shelly Bower (Alexandra Wescourt). Many of these plots were met with limited success, however, and a 'lesbian love triangle' involving Shelly, Lindsey and Lindsey's mother Jackie (Sue Jenkins), required a huge suspension of disbelief.

In 1998 the Musgrove family was introduced at Number 8. This was met with further criticism, not least due to the strange range of accents spoken by the sprawling and unpopular brood. The Shadwicks, who had moved into Number 6, were perhaps a more successful cast addition. Greg (Mark Moraghan) and Margi Shadwick (Bernadette Foley) and their family marked an attempt to return Brookside 'back-to-basics' with storylines again revolving around families and their dynamics within the close-knit community. The introduction of these families heralded one of Brookside's longest-running story arcs, the date rape of Nikki Shadwick (Suzanne Collins) at a party held at Number 5. For an entire year, Nikki accused neighbour Luke Musgrove (Jason Kavannah) of the attack, however, following a lengthy courtcase, he was found not guilty. After consistently denying the allegations, Luke eventually confessed to Nikki that he had in fact raped her, and in January 2000 the entire Musgrove family fled Liverpool overnight. But, in another British soap opera first, the character of teenage cannabis smoker Matt Musgrove, played by Kristian Ealey, immediately transferred to Brookside's sister-soap Hollyoaks where the character stayed until 2004.

Despite the attempts at a more grounded approach to the long-running soap opera again, Brookside had ultimately become synonymous with plots involving guns and explosions, with no fewer than 6 catastrophic fires and explosions taking place during the soap's final 5 years. A gas-cooker destroyed much of the Brookside Parade and a bomb detonated in the Millennium Club killed both Jason and Greg Shadwick. Separate fires at Number 6 and Number 8 almost killed several characters. Susannah (Karen Drury) and Max Farnham's (Steven Pinder) children both perished in a car crash. Radio Times TV listings Editor, Alison Graham, remarked in 1998: "Brookside loves a good disaster" She also jokingly renamed Claire Sweeney's character: Lindsey "Get Your Gun" Corkhill. This was shortly before the soap was dropped from Graham's satirical page reviewing weekly soap opera plots, with Brookside's column handed over to BBC Radio 4 rural-soap The Archers. The latter was now getting a higher audience than Brookside was achieving.

The long-running character Max Farnham was written out of the soap in 1998 after Steven Pinder decided to leave Brookside after almost nine years. The character's exit was extremely unpopular and involved a retconned storyline where Max had supposedly had a 10 year-long affair with a woman never mentioned before in the script. Max abruptly departed, and Susannah returned to her maiden name, Morrisey, going on to have affairs with Greg Shadwick (Mark Moraghan) and Mick Johnson (Louis Emerick). The Dixon family fell apart when Ron (Vince Earl) had an affair with the much-younger Bev McLoughlin (Sarah White), which ended his marriage to first wife Deborah "D.D" O'Farrell (Irene Marot). He also almost had an affair with Jackie Corkhill (Sue Jenkins) too. Later, Ron then remarried his old flame Anthea Brindley (Barbara Hatwell), the mother of his long-lost (and quickly forgotten) daughter, in 1999. The marriage soon ended in divorce when Anthea refused to lie in court after Ron shot dead Clint Moffat (Greg Petaras) in the kitchen of Number 8. This was alleged to be an act of 'self defence', and resulted in him spending six months in prison. Bev (Sarah White) had a one-night stand with Ron's elder son Mike (Paul Byatt), resulting in the birth of Josh. Years of animosity followed, but after Mike's marriage to Rachel Jordache (Tiffany Chapman), Ron reconciled with Bev and began to see Josh as one of his own.

In 2000, the Murrays, a new family, were introduced. They were the creation of the soap's penultimate producer, Paul Marquess. They became an important part of further rejuvenation of Brookside and featured singer Bernie Nolan as Diane in her first acting role, and Neil Caple as Marty. Many fans noticed a similarity between the Murrays and the Freeman family in the 1996 supernatural soap Springhill, and many actors from Springhill crossed over to Brookside when that serial was cancelled in 1997. The Murrays succeeded in sparking new viewer interest in Brookside and the family became central various to plots, such as Diane's lengthy IVF treatment, daughter Adele's (Katy Lamont) under-age pregnancy and abortion, and young Anthony's (Raymond Quinn) bullying storyline, where he accidentally killed Imelda Clough. The Liverpool 'scally' aspect of the soap was still strong at this time with eldest son Steve (Stephen Fletcher) teaming up with Tim 'Tinhead' O'Leary (Philip Olivier), who had married Emily Shadwick (Jennifer Ellison). Tim and Emily lived with the increasingly isolated Jimmy at Number 10, providing storylines for the character following the exit of daughter Lindsey and his wife Jackie. But the departure of the soap's original scally, the hugely popular 'Sinbad' (Michael Starke) in an on-screen child abuse scandal, was badly received, with the formerly upbeat and jolly character departing Brookside Close under a cloud.

The accident prone Susannah Morrisey fell down the stairs of Number 7 in a 2000 'Whodunnit' plotline involving jilted former-lover Mick Johnson (Louis Emerick), vengeful Emily Shadwick (Jennifer Ellison) and returned ex-husband Max Farnham all in the frame when it was eventually discovered Susannah may have been pushed to her death. Max was revealed to be the culprit, although as shown in flashback, Susannah had actually tripped over a toy as she argued with Max at the top of the stairs. All charges were dropped, leaving Max free to marry previous next-door neighbour, Jacqui Dixon (Alexandra Fletcher), who became his third wife in 2001. They continued to live in Number 7, before swapping houses with Ron Dixon (Vince Earl) next door at Number 8.

The end

By 2002, the show had become a less important part of Channel 4's programming. Ratings dropped to less than 1 million, because it was constantly being moved around the schedules to accommodate Channel 4's new programme, Big Brother.

Early in the year, Phil Redmond resumed total control of Brookside and he pledged to return the ailing programme back to its former glory. In came Ben Hull, a well-known face from sister-soap Hollyoaks as a more mature character, Doctor Gary Parr with his demanding wife Gabby (Stephanie Chambers). Furthermore, after years of broken homes and waifs-and-strays making up the core-cast of Brookside, a rock-solid family unit was introduced and the hard-working, middle class Gordon clan moved into Number 5 which had recently been vacated by the long-running Johnson family. But, as Alan (John Burton), Debbie (Annette Ekblom) and their four teenage children settled into the Close, also running the Petrol Station on Brookside Parade, the comparisons to the earlier and popular Grant family were obvious, but their arrival did nothing to halt the rapid ratings decline.

The Gordons were considered miscast and generally unlikeable; furthermore, the abrupt death of Alan in the 2002 siege aftermath, followed shortly after by Debbie dying in a car crash, gave the remaining family a depressive on-screen presence as their children dealt with becoming orphans. Gary Parr's affair with Nisha Batra (Sunetra Sarker) was also considered a low point of Brookside's penultimate year; however, Anthony Murray's (Raymond Quinn) bullying plot was a highly praised storyline which earned Brookside recognition at the British Soap Awards in 2002.

Ratings failed to pick up, dipping to 700,000, and Brookside would now be regularly shunted around the schedule to make place for other shows, particularly cricket matches, or broadcast late at night. Constant changes to the schedule made it very difficult for viewers to watch the programme regularly, thereby losing the plot, and ultimately, this led to a rapid ratings slide from which Brookside would never recover.

Consequently, it was announced that Brookside would no longer be aired during its weeknight prime-time slots, but would continue in its traditional Saturday evening omnibus edition. This news coincided with the 20th Anniversary of Brookside, and it was something of a blow considering the programme was celebrating its birthday on-screen with a new look (a post-production film-effect was added): a new title sequence, updated theme tune and a multi-episode story arc that began with drug-laden armed robbers speeding onto the Close, hotly pursued by Police. They ended up cornered in the cul-de-sac and took many residents hostage in their homes in highly dramatic scenes which led to a number of complaints from viewers. The scenes of three teenagers being violently terrorised, Steve Murray getting shot and dumped outside the front door of Number 9, Nikki Shadwick almost being raped for a second time, Emily Shadwick falling to her death from an upstairs window, Kirsty Gordon being raped, blatant drug abuse, strong language and a realistic portrayal of a deranged, drug addicted bank robber called 'Psycho' Gibson by Greg Milburn, all garnered complaints. Many scenes were considered unsuitable for pre-watershed viewing and, in particular, during the Saturday evening omnibus, broadcast from 4.30pm.

The siege culminated the following week in a dramatic stunt involving a police helicopter being gunned down by Psycho Gibson and crashing onto the Brookside Parade car park, killing Diane Murray (Bernie Nolan). The soap transferred to the 'graveyard' Saturday afternoon slot 4.30pm, and the programme was once again retooled to fit the new 90 minute slot. Storylines now revolved around only a handful of characters, often in just one location, giving the programme a slower pace.

Due to contractual obligations, Channel 4 was committed to Brookside until November 2003, its 21st anniversary. During the final 12 months, there was an eerie, deserted feel to the previously high-octane soap. Characters slowly drifted away, often with little or no explanation, Brookside Parade was virtually forgotten, many experimental storylines fell flat and only die-hard fans were still watching.

A final storyline, introduced 8 weeks before the last episode, saw Brookside Close being emptied before demolition for the construction of a waste incinerator. Channel 4 then moved Brookside to what would become its final timeslot, on Tuesdays in a 90 minute format, usually at 11pm. Taking full advantage of the late-night slot, the foul language frequented in early episodes was back; "fuck" was now scripted regularly, as was unmotivated violence, and drug abuse could now be seen in abundance. This did nothing to improve ratings, having now fallen well below 500,000. During the final 6 weeks, a rawness and energy previously captured in the early years made a surprising return with a new character, the despised drug-dealer Jack Michaelson (Paul Duckworth) who played a previous character in Brookside), who moved into Number 8, becoming the focus of the end of Brookside as all the remaining residents found themselves affected by his destructive presence. The character itself was a play on the name of the Channel 4 controller, Michael Jackson , who had wielded the axe on the show,

The final episode

In the extended final episode, screened from 10.30pm and divided into three distinctive parts, Brookside shocked the audience one last time with the remaining residents of Brookside Close taking a stand against Michaelson, lynching him from Number 8's bedroom window. The orphaned Gordon children left and the remaining Murrays followed soon after. Bev and Ron Dixon said their goodbyes to long-time neighbour and enemy Jimmy Corkhill, with Ron remarking; "I hope I never see you again!".

Phil Redmond had his final say in a rebellious scripted rant about how ‘TV and society's not like it was’, voiced by Brookside's longest-running character, Jimmy, who was also the last resident of Brookside Close to leave their house. As a last act of defiance, he broke into the houses and left all the taps running and then painted Game Over on the boarded-up windows of several houses and drew an extra D on the Brookside Close sign, to spell Brookside Closed at the end of the episode. He then went to live with his daughter Lindsey, who had married Barry Grant off-screen, the two popular characters having returned especially for the final episode, watched by a peak of 1.9 million viewers.

In the narrative, Jimmy and Lindsey went to live in Newcastle in Barry's mansion. Tim moved in with Steve Murray, sharing an apartment in Liverpool City Centre, as shown in the Unfinished Business feature. The Murrays finally packed up and departed Number 9 and refused to tell anyone where they were going. The final shot of any of the characters is a close-up of Jimmy Corkhill winking to the audience.

Theme music and opening titles

The synthesised theme to Brookside was written by Dave Roylance, a local composer from Wirralmarker, who died in October 2006. This version was used on the programme from 1982 until 1990. With the advent of Dolby Stereo Surround Sound, the theme was updated and modernised in December 1990, and although the theme sounded much fresher, the new version was kept faithful to the original and became the longest running version of the theme tune.

The third version of the Brookside theme launched in November 2002, a year before the programme was cancelled. A new arrangement at the start of this theme makes this version of the theme distinctive, although the mid-section and close remained similar to the previous versions.

The opening titles changed many times over 21 years, particularly as the residents of Brookside Close came and went. The beginning of the sequence contained sweeping high shots of Liverpool landmarks, before showing a bird's-eye view of the Close. Several other views of the various residents homes were shown before the camera settled by the Brookside Close sign. In the early episodes, Bobby Grant's blue Austin Princess was always predominantly parked outside Number 5, and in 1990, this became Frank Rogers' purple Ford Cortina when the Rogers replaced the Grants as the family occupying Number 5.

The closing credits on omnibus editions at Christmas time often featured the cast of actors stood waving at the camera for the entire duration of the credits.

In 1999, the titles were completely changed, and new shots were composed to fit into a split-screen box effect. Early versions of this sequence followed a cyclist through the Close to Brookside parade in one box, while the other box contained steadicam shots approaching each door to the houses on Brookside Close. At the end of each episode until the end of the series, There would be a "Next time on Brookside" continuity announcement with a preview of scenes from the next episode.

The final set of opening titles launched in 2002. Again following a split screen affect, one half of the (same) shot is presented in daylight, and the other half during nighttime. Totally new shots were filmed for this title-sequence and it lasted until the final episode in 2003. These credits were often preceded with the strains of theme song and a "Previously on Brookside..." comment by various actors during a recap of previous episodes. The series finale's end credits music was cut off at the last portion by the closing of the original Grange Hill theme.

Soap bubbles

Two 'soap bubble' were produced in the late 80s. Damon and Debbie (1987) followed the two characters, Damon Grant and Debbie McGrath absconding to Yorkmarker, concluding in Damon's death. The second, 1988's South, saw Tracy Corkhill and Jamie Henderson seeking a better life in London; this was part of an ITV For Schools English programme and was notable for featuring a guest appearance by Morrissey playing himself.

Merchandise

Video releases

Brookside was one of the first British soap operas to have classic episodes released on video. In 1990, Channel 4 and Mersey Television released a series of videos showcasing some of Brookside's most memorable episodes and characters of the 1980s:

Brookside Classics Volume One:The Siege. Re-live these that week on Brookside Close in the summer of 1985 when Pat, Sandra and Kate are held hostage at gunpoint in their own home by the distressed and menacing John Clarke, who they had recently met at the Hospital Garden Fete.This video contained three episodes and brought together the gripping 'Number 7 Siege' as an extended omnibus edition of 70 minutes. These episodes originally aired in 1985.

Brookside Classics Volume Two:The Sheila Grant Years. The much-loved character Sheila Grant, played by Sue Johnston, was the subject of the second video release in 1990. Sheila's rape ordeal was featured.

Brookside Classics Volume Three:That Man Harry Cross. Three classic episodes featuring that mean, nosey, argumentative, self-opinionated and moody pensioner, Harry Cross. Harry Buys a Turkey, Harry's Holiday in Torquay and Commonwealth Day Chaos.The hugely popular, cranky and nosy old Harry Cross was played by Bill Dean and this video contained memories of his legendary time in Brookside Close with his wife Edna (Betty Alberge) and, later, his old friend Ralph Hardwick (Ray Dunbobbin).

Brookside:The Teenagers. A unique look at the real-life characters of the actors and actresses in Brookside.A later release, from 1995, documents the Teenage characters in Brookside including Beth Jordache (Anna Friel), Margaret Clemence (Nicola Stephenson), Damon Grant (Simon O'Brien) and Katie Rogers (Diane Burke).

Brookside:The Women. The women from Phil Redmond's Brookside and what they really think about the behaviour of their characters.Also released in 1995, this video brought together the most popular female characters in the soap, including Mandy Jordache (Sandra Maitland), Sue Sullivan (Annie Miles) and DD Dixon (Irene Marot).

Brookside:The Men. The men from TV's 'Brookside' reflect on the development of their characters over the past fourteen years.Released two years after The Women video, similarly, The Men contained previously unseen footage and interviews with actors documenting the long-suffering male characters of Brookside Close.

In the late 1990s, there were several videos that contained extensions of plots that began in Brookside on-screen, or gave viewers a chance to see their favourite Brookside actors behind-the-scenes or outside their usual roles in the soap:

Brookside:The Lost Weekend. A feature length episode of the television soap reuniting characters old and new.This feature-length episode from 1997 detailed the reunion of Sheila and Barry Grant in an action-packed continuation of a storyline which began in the regular editions of the soap on Channel 4.

Brookside:The Backstage Tour. A look behind the scenes at how Brookside is brought into the nation's homes three times a week, plus clips and features and the different version of the conclusion to the Jordache murder trial.A behind-the-scenes documentary released in 1997, plus a rare opportunity to view an 'alternative' ending to the infamous 'Body Under The Patio' Trial from 1995, where Beth and Mandy are proven not guilty of murdering Trevor.

Brookside:Friday the 13th. A dramatic story line for selected characters of the television soap. Here, we are able to view Lindsey Corkhill's (Claire Sweeney) 'missing' journey to her wedding to Peter Phelan (Samuel Kane) and also another appearance of Shiela Grant, Sue Johnston having reprised her role for a second time, especially for this one-off feature. It was released in 1998.

Brookside:Double Take. The cast of Brookside get together with the cast from Hollyoaks for a tongue-in-cheek stand alone comedy about the making of Brookside. Jimmy Corkhill becomes a novice director, Jackie Corkhill a soap queen, Lindsey Corkhill a cardigan wearing 'Bonney Wild' and Mick Johnson a smooth talking charmer.In 1999, this unusual video saw members of the Brookside and Hollyoaks casts playing alternative characters in a spoof-documentary style feature.

DVD releases

When it was announced that the show would be finishing as a continuing series in 2003, on Brookside's official website, there was a suggestion by Phil Redmond that Brookside would continue with a succession of DVD releases. In fact, as early as 1988, Hilary Kingsley interviewed Redmond for her book, Soap Box, and even then, he confidently suggested that if Brookside were to end on Channel 4, he would attempt to continue the show off-screen:
"Redmond has even suggested the end of Brookside in that way - fittingly inspired and unusual.
"Perhaps we will watch a character leave and follow him or her.
Brookside will continue with its daily life, but not on-screen any more", he mused."


The first DVD after the final episode featured the climax to a long-running storyline involving Tim "Tinhead" O'Leary and Steve Murray finally getting revenge on Psycho Gibson in an 85 minute feature called Unfinished Business. Psycho killed Tim's wife Emily during the November 2002 siege, and Steve's step-Mother, Diane (Bernie Nolan), died in the subsequent helicopter crash on Brookside Parade. The DVD was released in November 2003, and there was meant to be a follow-up release involving a storyline with Barry Grant tracking down his brother Damon's killers, another story arc that began during Brookside's final episode on Channel 4. A trailer for the DVD called Settlin' Up was filmed and included on the Unfinished Business DVD, along with a promo for an Anniversary documentary called Brookside: 100 Greatest Moments. Simon O'Brien was also slated to appear as Damon's ghost and It is believed that although scenes were shot for the Settlin' Up promotional trailer, the actual feature did not make the production stages and whilst recognising the existence of the 100 Greatest Moments documentary, Channel 4 say they have no plans to screen it in the future. Some Brookside episodes are available via the 4 on Demand service.

Brookside Close

Brookside Close set, photographed September 2007.
When Brookside was removed from prime-time Channel 4, Mersey TV immediately started using some of the houses on Brookside Close in its other soaps Hollyoaks and Grange Hill. In Hollyoaks, the Dean family moved into what was Number 7, and the Burton-Taylor family moved into what was Number 8 Brookside Close. On-screen, the two identical houses had their exteriors clad in a mock-Tudor wood effect, net curtains covered the windows, and there were rarely exterior long-shots, but eagle-eyed viewers frequently spotted familiar sights and props that gave the game away.

Brookside Close was eventually sold off in 2005 to a developer who then stripped, gutted and effectively rebuilt the entire interior of each of the 13 houses before making them available for sale to the public in January 2007. Of the houses on Brookside Close (that were used as sets), Numbers 7 and 8 were the cheapest at £199,000, while the famous Number 10 was for sale at £295,000 according to the Off Plan Investments particulars, who are selling the houses.

In 2008, the former Brookside Close was used as the set for a horror film called Salvage.

In February 2008, it was revealed by the auctioneers SHM Smith Hodgkinson that the previous developer had gone into receivership and that they would be taking offers for the 13 houses, considering bids in the region of £2 million.

However, that venture seems not to have borne fruit since the owner of the houses went bankrupt while doing them up to make quick money, as it was reported in November 2008 that the 13 properties were to be auctioned off collectively, with a guide price of £550,000-£600,000.

An unnamed Liverpool-based buyer purchased all 13 properties of Brookside Close on 17 December 2008 for £735,000.

The Return of Brookside

As of December 2008, speculation regarding the return of the show began to mount. This started when Dean Sullivan (Jimmy Corkhill) mentioned on his daily radio show at City Talk 105.9 that he was aware of plans to revive the classic serial. It later emerged that Sullivan himself was eager to buy the Close and resurrect it. However on 17 December it was confirmed that he was unsuccessful in his bid and the properties had been bought by another party.

See also



References

General

  • Brookside: Ten of the Best, 30-minute documentary included on the DVD release Brookside: Unfinished Business. FHED1759.


Specific

  1. Kingsley, pg 47
  2. Kingsley, pg. 49
  3. GVA Grimley steps into soapland for its latest project
  4. icLiverpool - Brookside up for sale as all 13 houses set for auction
  5. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/soaps/article2024775.ece


External links




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