Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode Two

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Tom, out in the Flying Fish, is looking a little down in the dumps. You know what he needs? A chortling Jack to turn up alongside, offering to cheer him up. “You look bloody awful” is Jack’s opening gambit. I love Jack ….

Tom’s rejoinder (“Jack, will you belt up?”) is delivered by Maurice Colbourne with a chuckle. Was this as scripted, or was some of Colbourne’s real character breaking through? It doesn’t really matter either way, as it works very well.

Charles and Gerald’s lawyer, Thornton (Andrew Burt), seems confident that they have no case to answer. It’s a sunny day in Tarrant when the three have their breakfast meeting (which makes the scene an attractive one). It’s rather disconcerting that the brief exterior shot of the court is on videotape (virtually all of HW‘s location work was done on film) but this makes sense when we see that the court interiors were also shot on videotape at the location and not in the studio.

Gerald continues to twitch whilst Charles is gloriously unconcerned. Will they ramp up the tension and keep us hanging on for a verdict? No, not really. Thirteen minutes in and the case in thrown out. We don’t see inside the courtroom, so once again a dramatic moment is missed (but on the plus side, it saved the production some money). The dogged Inspector Daniel Morris (Kenneth Lodge) vows to continue the fight, but as this is Lodge’s final episode he’d better hurry up.

This plotline is mainly interesting for exposing the cracks in the professional relationship between Charles and Gerald. Once, Gerald would have trusted Charles without a second thought, but not any more. The way that Gerald firmly tells Charles that he can’t work tonight (he’s arranged a dinner with Abby and Leo) is striking. The worm has turned.

Gerald is very merry when he, Abby and Leo return home. This is good to see, as it’s been a while since Gerald’s been able to relax. His melancholy is never far from the surface though. He tells Abby that he’s really sorry that Polly isn’t here (Abby tells him to thank his lucky stars she isn’t!).

James Brooke (Andrew Bicknell) is a major rival of Jan’s (with a string of boutiques) but Jan seems drawn towards him. Mind you, he’s a bit slow on the uptake – at first he doesn’t have a clue who she is! Or does he actually know more than he’s letting on? Time will tell ….

He also doesn’t seem aware that Jan – like a predatory fish – is eyeing up his business hungrily. She wants to expand, he’s got financial problems, so a merger might be in both their interests. That Jan’s considering this mere minutes after meeting him is slightly hard to take – at present, HW seems to be rattling through various storylines.

The convivial lunch between Jan and James comes to an abrupt end when Tom pops by. Tom doesn’t express any overt jealousy, but James seems to be able to sense straight away that Tom and Jan still have a very strong connection. Tom’s not convinced that this merger is wise (or maybe he’s slightly disconcerted by James’ good looks).

Avril continues to look rather foxy (today, in a red dress) as she and a sharply-suited Leo settle down to discuss their powerboat racing strategy (now that Leo’s retired from racing he’s moved up to an executive level). Their meeting is cut short when Charles comes calling though. Personal and professional bitterness causes this short scene to crackle. This is one plotline that looks to have some legs.

Charles wants to regain Relton, Avril isn’t prepared to give an inch, so I think we should settle back and enjoy the battles to come. “If I have to break you in the process, believe me I will” he tells her.

Glyn Owen’s marvously expressive face is put to good use during a scene when Vanessa ponders on the road not taken (in another life, someone like Avril could have been her daughter). Jack, of course, doesn’t have a great deal of time for this sort of talk, it’s just not in his nature.

Today’s random observation. Somebody coughs very audibly at 43:46, at the start of the scene with Charles. Was it the off-camera Gerald or a member of the camera crew?

We end this episode with the unforgettable sight of a topless Ken and the equally impressive visage of Laura squeezed into a teeny-tiny leopardskin bathing costume. Crickey, that’s something you don’t see every day. Moored on a yacht at sea with (of course) plenty of champagne, they have a bit of a smooch. Laura’s still not selling her company though (even though Ken’s turning on the charm) but she wouldn’t be adverse to a merger.

She then elects to leave Ken, who’s gone for a swim, all alone, whilst she toddles off in the yacht for a while. Poor Ken, it’s not his day ….


Howards’ Way. Series Five – Episode One

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Oh, I say! HW has ventured abroad in the past, but those jaunts were always something of a cheat – a quick flash of stock footage and then we’d cut to a chilly part of England dressed with a few palm trees in order to create an exotic illusion.

But not today. We open in Malta with Charles exiting the airport whilst a bearded stranger follows his every move (his face a study in concentration). The incidental music is turned up to the max as well, just to hammer the point home that this is a significant moment. And if you needed a reminder that we’re in 1989, then the ginormous brick-like mobile phone that the beardy man pulls out of his pocket should give you a clue.

Malta will feature in a number of episodes this year, so it’s obvious that the production team took the opportunity to shoot material for several episodes at the same time. This does give the slightly unfortunate impression that the inhabitants of Tarrant only visit Malta when they venture abroad, but I’m not one to carp ….

You might remember that we left Leo at the end of series four in something of a bad way. Badly mangled after his speedboat crash, it wasn’t clear how serious his injuries were. Would he ever walk again? His opening scene here (jogging furiously on a treadmill) answers that question, so clearly it was decided not to spin his incapacity out for any length of time.

But it’s also plain that not all’s well with the lad. Chided for running on the treadmill when he should have been walking, this exercise is then revealed to be part of his rehabilitation. And when it’s suggested that he should then take a dip in the pool, he snarls “stuff the swimming pool” before storming off. Whatever happened to the nice young Leo we used to know and love?

Possibly he’s a little irritated that he’s still not 100% (his dramatic limp makes that clear, although he doesn’t keep up the limping for long). When Abby comes to pick him up, he complains that he’s not recovering as quickly as he’d like. But the real reason for his angst seems to be that Avril’s told him he won’t be racing speedboats again. By the expression on Abby’s face it seems that he’s been giving her a rough time recently.

If these few opening scenes are a little disconcerting, then we’re on firmer ground when we check in at the Mermaid. Jack’s just strolled in (for him it’s still early – around noon) and he begins to cross swords with Emma. He then berates Bill quite forcibly before exiting. Jack’s looking very dapper today, it has to be said. Clearly he’s not dressed for the office ….

We then get our first sight of Jan and Ken this year. They’re having a bite to eat in Tarrant’s ever popular restaurant (I wonder how many times it’ll turn up this year?) with Ken – white jacket, rolled-up sleeves – still attempting to woo Jan (in a business sense anyway). Does Jan – nice purple jacket – want to pump a great deal of money into Ken’s business? Hmm, no, not really.

Avril – looking rather lovely today in a shortish skirt – and Gerald have a frank exchange of views. He knows where Charles is, but isn’t prepared to pass that information on. Gerald – who earlier had clucked down the phone to Charles – is a little frantic that his employer is swanning around in Malta whilst he’s back in the UK, fending off numerous interested parties (all interested in the continuing fraud case). When Charles suggests he hops on a plane to Malta he’s only slightly mollified.

With Polly absent (she’s still in America attempting to get William back) Gerald is even more isolated than usual. He cuts a rather forlorn figure and although Abby attempts to bolster his flagging confidence, she doesn’t have any success. It seems that he’s already picturing life behind bars.

I love the fact that when Gerald later clambers aboard Charles’ yacht he’s wearing his suit and tie and clutching his briefcase! His tie is slightly askew though, which seems to be his sole concession to the fact he’s in sunny Malta. Charles, cool as a cucumber, tells him to drink his drink and not worry, everything’s going to be fine. You do get the feeling though that Charles is in for a nasty shock later.

It seems to be business as usual with Tom and Emma – he’s unable to make their dinner date because he has to see Jan (although it’s more about providing Leo with moral support). But it turns out that their relationship is very much on borrowed time. By the end of this episode she’ll be gone forever ….

But for every departure, there’s usually a new arrival. Victoria Burgoyne makes her debut as Vicki Rockwell. With Sarah having left at the end of S4, Vicki (as Ken’s assistant) operates as his new business confidant – although since she’s got a boyfriend, she’s not interested in anything else. Which slightly takes the wind out of his sails.

The next new arrival is rather more significant. Kate O’Mara had previously appeared in another Gerard Glaister series, The Brothers, back in the 1970’s, but it was her 1980’s American adventure in Dynasty which really cemented her soap credentials (there was also Triangle, but funnily enough nobody ever talks about that now). Laura Wilde, owner of the impressively named Wilde Mouldings, is an old friend of Avril’s, but it’s plain from their first meeting that her destiny is going to be intertwined with Ken’s.

There’s an early highlight of the joys to come when Laura comes sniffing around Leisure Cruise. Ken approaches her from behind, but without turning round she senses that he’s there. When he wonders whether she’s got eyes in the back of her head, she tells him that “no, I just happened to be downwind of your aftershave”. Kate O’Mara’s also sporting the most wonderful pair of sunglasses during this scene.

Laura later demonstrates that she’s no pushover, easily being able to see through Ken’s transparent desire to buy her company. Random observation – Ken obviously likes the colour red. In his office, his chair, in-tray, desk phone, mobile phone and desk lamp are all red. It makes the scene at his desk rather striking.

Strictly speaking, Vanessa Andenberg (Lana Morris), isn’t a new character (she’d appeared in a couple of series three episodes) but she’s now back as a regular. Recently widowed, it seems that finally she and Jack will be able to get together. Their initial meeting, in her new Tarrant home overlooking the marina, is nicely shot – it’s just a pity that the day was so overcast (had the sun had come out it would have looked spectacular). Jack’s downcast face when Vanessa, toying with him, doesn’t instantly accept his dinner invitation suggests that there will be some scope in this plotline – Jack in Love – as a way to show a radically different side to the blustering man we know and love.

I wonder where have Jack and Vanessa go to eat? Hmm, three guesses …..

It’s slightly odd that we never actually see Jan and Tom’s uncomfortable dinner with Leo. Instead, we have to learn second-hand from Tom that Leo (still operating in full headstrong mode) wasn’t prepared to listen to their advice. A dramatic possibility missed.

Tom and Jan, post divorce, continue to enjoy a very cordial relationship. Tom’s now become her sounding board, the one person she knows will give her honest advice. Had Maurice Colbourne lived, would Tom and Jan have remarried? Many believe so, but it’s interesting to ponder how that would have affected the dramatic impetus of the series.

But if Tom’s managed to rebuild bridges with his ex-wife, then his other relationship seems to be built on rockier foundations. As has been seen time and again, tact is something that Tom Howard has never really possessed. His opening gambit to Emma (“I suppose you realise how ridiculous you’re being?”) probably wasn’t his wisest move.

Tom’s closeness to Jan is the reason why Emma’s upset but his next offering (“if you can’t accept that, then tough”) is another example of Tom’s incredible stubbornness. It’s Tom’s way or no way (as per the series’ title maybe). But it’s possible that this side of his character was ramped up here in order to provide a good reason for Emma to depart.

Although she’d been with the series for a while, had Emma not returned for series five I don’t think too many people would have particularly noticed or been too concerned. No slight intended to Sian Webber, but Emma was never really anything more than an Avril substitute (both at the Mermaid and in Tom’s life).

Leo continues to be a concern to everybody. Despite not being fit, he elects to take a speedboat out in order to prove that he hasn’t lost his nerve. Whilst Tom, Jan and Avril look on, the soundtrack steps up a gear as Leo begins to have flashbacks about the last time he tangled with a marker buoy. This time he manages to make it though (“I’ve cracked it!”) but since it wasn’t under race conditions (or with a pack of other boats in the water) it seems – at best – a hollow victory.

Charles and Gerald touch down in Tarrant, only for them to then be carted off to the local police station. For Charles, earlier so confident that his lawyers had found all the answers, it’s something of a rude awakening. He lowers his sunglasses to look at the officer, then raises them again as the pair are escorted away ….

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H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – Death Cell

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Ellen Summers (Lana Morris) approaches Brady on his train journey home with a very strange story.  She’s just escaped from a sanatorium, where she claims that she’s been kept prisoner for months.  Ellen insists she’s not mad and tells Brady that she’s the only one who can prove that her boyfriend George Wilson (William Lucas) is innocent of murder ….

Brady’s a touch tardy when he gets off the train.  He heads off to speak to Dee, not noticing that Ellen isn’t by his side.  Still if Ellen had stayed with him then I guess the story would have been much more straightforward!

Death Cell is another episode which doesn’t have a great deal of mystery.  If George is innocent then Dr Trevor (Ian Wallace), the sanatorium’s director (as well as the chief prosecution witness during George’s trial) is clearly guilty.  When Brady meets him, Dr Trevor claims that Ellen is suffering from persecution mania, but it’s not a terribly convincing performance.  Dr Trevor I mean, not Ian Wallace, who’s perfectly fine.

The later sight of a recaptured Ellen, bound in a straightjacket, gagged and about to receive a hefty injection of something which will no doubt quieten her down is a somewhat disturbing one (and serves as a very effective cliffhanger into the episode break).  Luckily Brady’s lurking about and dishes out some invisible justice (striking Dr Trevor with a chair!)

William Lucas (probably best known for The Adventures of Black Beauty amongst many other credits) nicely underplays as the innocent George.  The news that he’s due to be hanged the following day serves as a reminder that this was a very different time as well as providing the story with considerable dramatic impetus – a race against the clock to save a man’s life.

Lana Morris started her career as a supporting actress in a number of British films during the 1940’s and 1950’s.  However she never seemed to find the major role that would have catapulted her to stardom and so like many others later pursued a successful television career.  She appeared as Helene in the classic 1967 adaptation of The Forsythe Saga whilst her last role was as Vanessa in Howards’ Way.  Since that’s a series that’s on my rewatch pile, I look forward to making her acquaintance again shortly.

Ellen has proof of George’s innocence – a photograph hidden behind the wallpaper in her old flat.  Luckily it’s still there, even though a new tenant has moved in, and Brady is the one who scrapes the wallpaper away to find it (a blatant excuse for a touch of invisible shenanigans, but why not).

To misplace Ellen once is unfortunate, but to lose her a second time smacks of carelessness.  Brady sends Ellen out of the flat whilst he tidies up, but wouldn’t you guess it – Dr Trevor and his devoted assistant Nurse Beck (Bettina Dickson) are waiting outside, complete with a fast car and knock out drops.

The action comes thick and fast as Ellen escapes from Dr Trevor yet again, only to be knocked down by another car.  Luckily there’s a policeman close at hand, who isn’t happy for her to be whisked off yet again by Dr Trevor (the officer is concerned that she was running away from him).  Dr Trevor’s reply is succinct.  “She’s a mental case”.

If some of the plotting is rather convenient – Dr Trevor is a murderer who just happens to own a sanatorium (all the better for confining the likes of Ellen) – then there’s a good level of suspense which is maintained until the closing minutes.  With Ellen injured in hospital and Dr Trevor now in possession of the photograph, all seems lost for George.

True, it’s a tad convenient that Brady turns up just in the nick of time.  Dr Trevor’s about to burn the negative, but Brady pulls it out of his hand (“oh no you don’t!”)  The following scene, with George about to set off for the scaffold, is chilling in it’s own curtailed way, but once again Brady pops up at just the right moment.  A few quibbles about the story apart, Death Cell packs a lot into its twenty five minutes.

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