Boys From the Black Stuff

Starring: Bernard Hill, Michael Angelis, Tom Georgeson and Julie Walters
BBC Worldwide
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available now

Liverpool, 1982, and five former members of a tarmac gang are struggling to find work in a city hit hard by mounting unemployment and depression...

Boys From the Black Stuff was Liverpool playwright Alan Bleasdale's first television series. It chronicled the lives of a group of tarmac layers - Chrissie, Loggo, Dixie, George and Yosser - and bitterly dramatised the frustrations suffered by a fruitless search for work and an antagonistic social security system under a Thatcherite government.

Surprisingly it was Bernard Hill's self-destructive Yosser Hughes that emerged from the series as the nation's hero. Even those who have never seen Boys From the Black Stuff will recognise the name Yosser Hughes, or recall his line: "gizza job" from the media attention that the character received.

The series has many familiar faces including Jean Boht (Bread), David Ross (who played the original Kryten and Talkie Toaster in Red Dwarf as well as Mr Weller in Bleasdale's later work G.B.H.) and Ricky Tomlinson (Cracker and The Royle Family).

This DVD also includes the original Play For Today, The Black Stuff, which introduces the main characters as they set out to make a profit from a freelance contract. This also has a commentary by writer Alan Bleasdale and director Jim Goddard.

The series is not as strong as the original The Black Stuff, which saw the characters bonding. In fact, the series itself is a lot bleaker and each episode looks at a different characters life - just a shame that Loggo's story wasn't told as he was certainly one of the more colourful characters.

While the series has aged gracefully, there are enough out of date styles to make you cringe on more than a few occasions. However, this is still one of the greatest British dramas ever made.

Pete Boomer

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