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Settle back on the sofa as we take a look at the TV shows which brought the city into our homes, with instant classics, award-winning drama, world-famous actors, acclaimed writers, unforgettable characters and timeless stories that put Liverpool in front of the camera.
Read on for nearly 60 years of TV classics with an unmistakeable Liverpool accent.
The Everton FC anthem was taken from title track of BBC Police drama, Z-Cars. The show
was based in Kirkby, bringing a much grittier, northern alternative to the popular, but comparatively twee, Dixon of Dock Green. As Everton won the 1963 league, the song from TV’s boys in blue was loyally adopted by supporters, becoming synonymous with this historic season for EFC’s boys in blue.
Set in a flat on Huskisson Street where single girls, Dawn and Beryl, enjoyed the fun and freedom of the city. The show introduced us to the genius of Liverpool writer, Carla Lane. During later seasons, the Boswell family were introduced – forming the inspiration for Carla’s later work, Bread. The show was so popular, The Liver Birds reunited in 1996 for a one-off season.
Whiston-born writer, Willy Russell’s TV play was commissioned by the BBC and became an instant classic. The film centres around a class of underprivileged children who go on a school trip to Conwy Castle. During the day, they try to smuggle zoo animals back onto the coach, raid a local café, but most of all, reveal a softer side to strict teacher, Mr Briggs.
Liverpool’s Alan Bleasdale wrote the BAFTA-winning series which explored the despair of mass unemployment for working-class people. Yosser Hughes, one of a group of fictional tarmac-layers, coined the catch-phrase which would become synonymous with the devastation of the Thatcher years, “Gizza job!”
There’s no introduction needed to Brookie, the soap devised by Phil Redmond, filmed in a cul-de-sac in West Derby, and part of the new Channel 4’s edgier approach to TV. Brookside became one of the UK’s most popular soaps, introducing Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, who went onto The Royal Family, and writers including Jimmy McGovern, with storylines that kept us talking, from Trevor Jordache under the patio, to the famous, pre-watershed Margaret and Beth kiss.
Desperate to escape their unhappy home lives, two neglected 16-year old Scouse lads, Billy and Icky, decide to run away to spend one idyllic summer in Wales. The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey, from Kensington, made his TV debut with co-star Spencer Leigh in this heart-breaking Willy Russell masterpiece.
Beginning on BBC Radio Merseyside, and continuing on Radio City with The Franny Scully Show in the late-70s, this was Alan Beasdale’s teenage scally’s TV show. The Royal Court’s Andrew Schofield, played every young LFC fan’s dream role as a fifteen year-old who lived in a world of his imagination, having regular chats with co-stars Kenny Dalglish and the Liverpool squad. The theme, Turning The Town Red, came from Wirral’s Elvis Costello, who played Scully’s brother.
It was all about the close-knit Boswell family in Carla Lane’s hit TV show. To give you some idea how big Bread was, in the late-80s it held Nº3 in the ratings, behind huge soaps, Eastenders and Neighbours. Headed up by matriarch, Nellie, hindered by husband, Freddie, the loveable rogue who went off with Lilo Lil, the series focused on four brothers, led by Joey, daughter, Aveline, and followed their daily contributions to the chicken-shaped, china egg basket where family funds were donated!
A drama workshop at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre gave writer, Jim Hitchmough, the idea for Granada TV’s Watching. The show followed the on-off romance between birdwatching geek, Malcolm from Wirral, whose mum disapproved of his girlfriend, mouthy Scouser, Brenda. Her posh sister, Pamela, was played by Lisa Tarbuck, and the pair finally made it down the aisle six years later.
When Brookie’s Damon Grant, played by Simon O’Brien, fell in love with Debbie, played by Gillian Kearney, the couple ran off to York (as you do) to escape disapproving parents. The three-parter was written by award-winning writer, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, and ended in tears with Brookie regular, Damon, killed in a random attack.
This cult Sci-Fi Sit-Com was brought to us by Manchester writers, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, who gave the role of the last living human to Scouse character, Dave Lister, played by Craig Charles. Loveable Lister is the lowest ranking technician on-board, a self-confessed slob with a love of vindaloo and lager, who enjoys collecting space junk – including robot goldfish named Lennon and McCartney, and winding-up his uptight, holographic bunk-buddy, Rimmer.
Gary, Barry and Terry were The Scousers, played by Joe McGann, Gary Bleasdale and Harry Enfield in this regular sketch on the hit BBC comedy series. The three brothers dressed in the stereotypical Liverpool trackies with perms and muzzies, and their regular family spats led to Scousers everywhere being told, ‘Alright! Alright! Calm down, calm down!’
Coronation Street writer, Jonathan Harvey, brings a hilarious Scouse take to work including recent play, Our Lady of Blundellsands – and this cult 90’s sitcom is definitely a highlight. Starring Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus as flatmates both searching for a hot man and their big break, the show threw together sex-starved, party animal, Linda La Hughes, and wanna-be thespian, Tom Farrell, to full effect, loaded with delusions of grandeur and outrageous innuendo!
The writer who brought us acclaimed 90s drama including Robbie Coltrane as Cracker, The Lakes, and 1999’s Dockers, Jimmy McGovern, devised this acclaimed docudrama based on the events of the 1989 stadium disaster, which was credited as a factor in the establishing of the 1997 inquiry. The cast included Ricky Tomlinson, Mark Womack and Christopher Eccleston, who also appeared in McGovern’s 1995 teaching drama, Hearts and Minds, and named this one-off drama as the most important work of his career.
Welcome to The Britannia Adelphi Hotel with this eight-part, BBC behind-the-scenes series. Over 11 million viewers were introduced to battle-axe hotel manager, Eileen, and as an argument between head chef, David, and deputy manager, Brian, broke out, the city coined a new catchphrase with, “Juss cook will yer?”
He might have been sat in front of a TV in Manchester, but Jim Royale was the Scouse dad of the Royale family who made Ricky Tomlinson even more famous than Brookie. Reunited with on-screen wife, Liverpool girl Sue Johnston, as Barbara, Jim even had his own doll and catchphrase, ‘My arse!’
Following in the footsteps of the less memorable Waterfront Beat (1990-1991), this ITV crime drama and a Liverpool Vice Squad brought Samantha Janus, Mark Womack and Paul Usher (That’s Barry Grant to us) together, but despite viewing figures of over 6 million per episode, we didn’t get a season three – but it did lead to marriage and two children for Mark and Sam.
Brian Potter and The Phoenix Club were based in Bolton, but Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights was co-written by Liverpool’s Neil Fitzmaurice who as well as appearing in Channel 4’s Peep Show and Ricky Gervais’ The Office, starred as club handyman, brilliantly-named DJ, Ray Von. Also keeping Liverpool in the line-up was Ted Robbins, also known as Den Perry, owner of the rival, Banana Grove.
Paul O’Grady played Ray Temple, manager of The Rio, who despises everything about his job in Liverpool bingo hall, The Rio, including his staff, played by Sheridan Smith, Tony Maudsley and Neil Fitzmaurice this comedy series was written by Angela Clarke, sister of Margi and Frank, and ran for two seasons.
Call the Midwife creator, Heidi Thomas, brought us Lillies, which took us to Liverpool during the 1920s. The series, which was also filmed in the city, followed the fate and fortunes of sisters, Iris, May and Ruby Moss, who lived with their widowed father, as each begins to make her way in life. Despite robust viewing figures and five star reviews, Lillies failed to secure a second season.
This series of standalone dramas is the longest BBC Daytime Drama series after Doctors – and it’s from Liverpool. Created by Jimmy McGovern and brought to our screens by Brookside co-creator, Colin McKeown MBE at LA Productions, the show has featured a host of British acting talent including Sheila Hancock, Ian Hart, Dervla Kirwan, Neil Morrissey and Sally Lindsay, with a new series for 2020 on the way.
We went behind the rollers and Rolex’s of a host of Scouse characters including model, Amanda Harrington, former Miss Liverpool, Debbie O’Toole, DJ Danny Latimer and hotel heir, George Panayiotou as E4 gave us Liverpool’s answer to The Only Way Is Essex and Made in Chelsea with this scripted-reality show which ran for one season.
Sheridan Smith gave a stand-out performance in this three-part series which told the story and captured the sound of Cilla Black, from her early days as a receptionist, to girlfriend of Bobby, and after a failed audition, finally making it as one of Brian Epstein’s rising stars of the 1960s.
The aftermath of the murder of eleven year-old Croxteth school boy, Rhys Jones, the ordeal of his parents, Melanie and Steve, and how Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, played by Stephen Graham, headed up the investigation brought us this four-part ITV drama.
The huge BBC America hit, based on the novels by Luke Jennings, and written and produced by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, made Jodie Comer a contemporary Liverpool screen icon. Following on from her appearance in Doctor Foster opposite Suranne Jones, and ahead of a Hollywood film career, Jodie’s internationally award-winning depiction of Villanelle has placed home-grown Liverpool talent firmly on the world stage.
This Netflix production from Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes, retraced the origins of football, with filming taking place in the Georgian Quarter, Commercial District and Croxteth Hall & Country Park.
The internationally acclaimed period drama depicts Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, with the area outside Liverpool’s Three Graces playing the part of 1960s Washington, D.C.
BBC 2 gave us this four-part documentary which invited us through the doors of a terraced house on Falkner Street, sharing the secret lives of residents since 1842, up to present day.
The BAFTA award-winning series follows The Shelby family of 1920s Birmingham, but the notorious Peaky Blinders made Liverpool their home to recreate the Victorian gangland.
The multi-award winning BBC and HBO drama brought us the life of industrialist and land owner Anne Lister, played by Suranne Jones, with filming in Toxteth and Liverpool Town Hall.
The third and final instalment of the Sky Atlantic drama starring Tim Roth was set and filmed in Liverpool, with cast and crew spotted around North John Street, look out for a release this year.
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