Our writers are (lovingly) foisting pop-culture favourites on their unsuspecting nippers. Here, Gabby Hutchinson Crouch ushers her eight year-old into a distant world of ink and denim.
Press Gang started running in 1989, when I was nine – just one year older than my daughter is now. It’s written by Doctor Who man Steven Moffat, it’s about friendship and kids outsmarting grown-ups and has at its centre Lynda Day (Julia Sawalha), a flawed, well-rounded female protagonist. Yes, a well-rounded female protagonist. Yes, that Steven Moffat. Yes, I know.
I thought my daughter would find it interesting to see what sort of tech kids had to hand when I was her age. In Press Gang there are no computers and the only mobile phone is a ridiculous brick approximately twice the size of its owner (wheeler dealer Colin). I honestly thought she’d find these things fascinating. Or at least be able to laugh at what passed for fashion in the late ‘80s.
I was wrong. My favourite piece of Youth Telly from my childhood has been pooh-poohed by my own flesh and blood. The very person who resided in my womb as I wrote Press Gang fanfiction on LiveJournal back in 2006. I feel so betrayed.
I decided to show her the first ever episode and then follow up with Breakfast at Czar’s, in my mind a classic episode where the whole team has to pull an all-nighter to save the paper after they get shafted by an evil councillor.
Unfortunately, it was only while watching it with an eight year-old that I realised just how much talking there is in the first episode of Press Gang. There’s walking and talking. There’s standing and talking. Typing while talking. Standing and talking again. Exposition, exposition, telling and not showing. For half an hour. In the first act, the only real bit of action is Spike (Dexter Fletcher) putting on his sunglasses, indoors. My daughter doesn’t understand why he’s doing this. She doesn’t think he looks cool. Lynda does get an excursion into the main newspaper office to try to steal one of their stories, but this is mainly the lengthy set-up to a joke based around the US’ “Star Wars” missile defence system of the 80s. While not every reference from my childhood is necessarily inaccessible to an eight year-old in 2015, I think Cold War international military projects might be a bit obscure.
On to Breakfast at Czar’s, which she liked slightly better, even though she struggles with the concept of the cast being school age. They look like adults to her. I’m sure that the wax jackets, denim on denim and Lee Ross’s Sensible Haircut don’t help with this. When a couple of naughty girls about her age sneak in and start messing about with people’s hair, she’s much more interested in them.
One thing that she finds both baffling and annoying is Spike dragging his date Charlotte into the office – especially when he then asks Lynda for a kiss and Lynda very nearly obliges.
“Why would he bring another girl if he wanted to kiss her?” she asks, indignantly. “Well… to try to make Lynda jealous,” I reply. “But also because he thinks he’s really great and good looking, and so if he goes to a party he should have a pretty girl with him as his date.”
“I don’t think he’s good looking at all,” she announces.
I’m sorry, Dexter Fletcher. You simply don’t have the same allure to tween girls now as you did in 1989. I’m sure that, as a 48 year-old man, this must be utterly devastating for you.
Gabby Hutchinson Crouch is a comedy writer, mum & nerd. She writes for BBC Radio Comedy and Huffington Post UK, and once saw Dawn French coming out of a toilet.