Boys From The Blackstuff: The Complete Series
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All five episodes of Alan Bleasdale's gritty Eighties drama. 'Jobs for the Boys', tells the story of an unofficial building gang being watched by the Department of Employment. Their raid ends in tragedy. In 'Moonlighter', Dixie uncovers things he does not want to know about while he is working illegally at the docks, and his wife is frightened of opening the door because of the Department of Employment. In 'Shop Thy Neighbour', Chrissie has his dole stopped after the moonlighting affair, and times become harder and harder. 'Yosser's Story' features Yosser's struggle to find work and retain custody of his three children, set against his slide into depression and instability. And finally, in 'George's Last Ride' George, the one character left unbroken by adversity, dies, but his legacy is discovered by Chrissie.
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This is a tale of the horror and misery of life in the 1980's for those unfortunate enough to be unemployed (of which there were many millions) in Thatcher's Britain.
The story focuses on several men who are desperate to find work, based in Liverpool. Things rarely go well for these men, and they - and their families - constantly suffer from poverty and deprivation.
Liverpool in the 1980's was a destitute place, largely abandoned by the government. And this TV series conveys the hellish state of affairs that existed.
Each episode focuses on a particular character. It's amazing that, for most (not all), these characters still retain some joy in their lives.
This DVD set contains the full series. It also has the one-shot TV movie that preceded the series - called "The Blackstuff". This one-shot had most of the same characters in it, as they worked laying roads ('blackstuff'). Hence the TV series is about "the boys" from "The Blackstuff".
Excellent stuff. If you want to know what the 1980's was like for millions of working class people, watch this.
Very relevant as then now as with the food bank crisis sadly we have slipped back down the well
But the 5 remaining parts (ranging from 43 to 68 minutes) are often powerful stuff indeed. A
rueful, depressing and cutting look at unemployment and personal and economic depression
in the Thatcher years. The opening film isn't really needed, as one could pick up much of what
happened from the 5 part mini-series, but it does serve as a good basic set up for the characters
and their relationships, as a group of workers on the dole take an off-the- books job laying down
tarmac (the black stuff) at a new apartment complex. But in the original film the characters stay
frustratingly close to caricatures, and the story twists are largely unsurprising.
But in the 5 part mini-series, made 2 years later, that all changes. Each hour investigates one of
the character's lives in great depth and detail, The performances are very strong, and the stories
are almost all heartbreaking as we see what being unemployed and unwanted by society does to
these men; their families, their self-esteem, even their sanity. There are occasional darkly funny
moments, but this is grim, uncompromising stuff, with one episode in particular "Yosser's story"
as harrowing and disturbing and honest a piece of film- making as I've seen in a long while. It's
interesting (if depressing) to see how much of what was going on in England in 1982, could just
as well be America in 2013.
TBFTBS starts as the story (originally written by Alan Bleasdale as a BBC play for today) of a gang of scouse tarmac layers on a job in Middlesbourough. The job goes wrong and they're all sacked!
Bleasdale then made a further five episodes for tv dedicated more or less to each character and how their lives changed from that day. This dvd doesn't include the muscle market which stared Pete Postlethwaite as a building site contractor who employs cheap labourers who are also collecting social security on the side.
The five episodes are. . .
Jobs for the boys.
Shop thy neighbour.
Georges last ride.
The boys from the Blackstuff introduces us to the characters therefore setting the scene for the following episodes. I found it interesting in that some of the rants/social statements made by the characters throughout the episodes are relavant to today's economic climate (in my opinion of course) Especially the mini lecture given by Snowy Malone in the back of the transit van on the way to a job where he subsequently dies and as he's laying there dead, a social security officer or snoop as they were known, reads an arresting statement out to the other lads. No matter what, they'll get their man!
This is a brilliant insight into the working class early eighties economy. It's desperate, funny, powerful, sad and tragic all rolled into one. It's a downward spiral with no happy ending in sight. Much like today? :)
It's one of those things I think all teenagers should watch and discuss in school or at home maybe to frighten them into studying harder. Mind you, I know people with good degrees who can't find jobs today!
Filmed in Liverpool the backdrops of the derelict dock and surrounding areas are a stark contrast to how the rejuvinated Liverpool looks today.
Anybody who has read Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, I would imagine would like this.