It Was Alright in the 1980s, Channel 4 – review: An awkward hour of cringefully offensive TV

Every joke in the Eighties, it would appear, was made at the expense of race

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Channel 4 took us back to the Eighties on Saturday night for a “nostalgic” look at television in It Was Alright in the 1980s – an unfortunate title for a show that proved it was anything but.

From Faith Brown’s horrendously bad taste impression of Caribbean cook Rustie Lee on TV AM to Terry Nutkins’ bizarre romance with a sea lion in Animal Magic, it was an awkward hour of cringefully offensive TV. Every joke in the Eighties, it would appear, was made at the expense of race – Ronnie Corbett dressing as an Indian and speaking in broken English, Eddie Large silencing a band of Asian musicians by shouting “tandoori” and Paul Daniels telling Blankety Blank viewers “not to adjust their sets” because one of his fellow contestants was black. It was a truly shameful set of footage. The clips were also shown to a series of “celebrities” – including some who were originally involved in the programmes, some who would have watched them growing up and one very confused Geordie Shore extra who hadn’t even have been born.

Thankfully, the majority of these “talking heads” were repelled by the content and couldn’t believe racism passed for entertainment as late as the Eighties. Chris Tarrant, however, was the exception to the rule. After being shown footage of Bernard Manning “performing” on his show OTT – racism, sexism and jibes against Jewish people included – Tarrant bragged about booking him and added “it was live, it was midnight – you could take it or leave it”. Sorry, Chris, but in 2015, there is nothing “alright” about that attitude.

Comments