The final episode of Brookside began, as all good soaps should, with a recap. "Previously," it announced, flashing up highlights of the penultimate show.
It was as nothing compared with the real "Previously". Had we been shown some of the highlights of the 21 years of the Liverpool-based soap, which was finally packed off by Channel 4 to the old soaps' home last night, we would have seen: rapes, murders, an armed siege, car crashes, mystery viruses, exploding nightclubs and other improbable happenings.
The mentions of those came later in a script that Brookside's deviser, Phil Redmond, had compiled as a kind of dot-to-dot history of the soap.
And those recollections reminded us how it had, in recent years, lost its way - moving from gritty stories about strikes, burglaries and domestic violence to sensationalist high drama with increasingly unlikely plots. It was all there in the final high-octane episode. From the start passions were at fever-pitch against the drama's final villain, the drug dealer Jack Michaelson (named after Michael Jackson, the former Channel 4 chief executive who was the show's nemesis).
Eventually the men of Brookside Close finished him off, with two stars from the past, Paul Usher as Barry Grant and Claire Sweeney as Lindsey Corkhill, acting as the emotional catalysts. The final episode was compelling, and in places moving. But it managed to be simultaneously gritty and yet hammy; like all soaps it was not a reflection of real life but a parody of it.
The past was played back through the drama, in part by black and white flashbacks, but mainly in tortured self-conscious dialogue.
"This is not a home, it's the place where your daughter got pregnant, from which Diane left to get killed, which the police raided, and a drug dealer assaulted..."
"I learnt a lot about how the police think from when they thought I was a paedophile," and: "I was just thinking about when I set that house on fire..."
Larded through that was homespun philosophy about how none of us are really in control of our lives, we just react as best we can. But it concluded with a diatribe of undisguised bitterness, from Jimmy, against the "people in their glass offices in London" who had taken the series off the air. "I can remember when the telly meant something," he concluded, when it was not about so-called reality TV, but "about real people who live in real houses".
His outburst would have warmed the hearts of the 500,000 fans who will mourn Brookside's passing. But it reminded the rest of us why it was time for it to go.Reuse content