Now no longer in production, although available via the Internet, Brookside is a British soap opera set in Liverpool, England.
In the Stone Age when Britain only had three television channels and the launch of a fourth was a matter of national celebration, the series began on the launch night of Channel 4 on November 2, 1982 as one of its flagship programmes. It ran for 21 years until 4 November 2003. Its major innovation in terms of production is the use of real houses wired up for TV equipment rather than studio sets.
Originally intended to be called Meadowcroft, the series was produced by Mersey Television and it was originated by Phil Redmond. His other TV successes included the gritty kid's drama set in a sink London comprehensive school Grange Hill, and Channel Four's successor soap to Brookside, Hollyoaks.
Brookside was very successful for some time and is notable for its tackling of realistic and socially challenging storylines, as seen in the lives of a disparate group of people residing in a suburban cul-de-sac named Brookside Close. It was at its most popular in the 1980's and the early 1990's.
From the mid-1990's it began raising more controversial subjects under the guidance of new producers such as Mal Young and Paul Marquess. It is especially well-known for broadcasting the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss on British television, as well as a powerful domestic abuse storyline resulting in murder.
The series caused an uproar from its fist night - conservative newspapers such as the Daily Mail denounced it for its use of demotic language and Liverpool street slang, citing this as evidence of the coarsening of British TV and the pernicious left-wing influences that were dragging this once-great nation down. The show featured a storyline about a consensual incestuous sexual relationship between two sibling characters during 1996. Brookside was also the first British soap to feature an openly gay character when (Gordon Collins) came out in 1985 (some years before EastEnders did the same), and it was also a pioneer in that it showed the results of serious drug addiction with a number of different characters.
The show also depicted mental illness in a character whose life had been blighted by the ruin of Liverpool under the Conservative government of the early eighties, and did not shy away from attributing Liverpool's decline and mass unemployment to deliberate government policy, another thing which endeared the show to the rabidly Thatcherite Daily Mail. (The show did come from a genuinely left-wing social perspective, and as such was not an example of unbiased TV, much to the disgust of perfectly unbiased British newspapers).
Although the series had a long and successful run, by 2000 its viewing figures were in terminal decline and low ratings eventually led to its cancellation in July 2003. The final episode was broadcast on 4 November 2003 and was watched by around 2 million viewers.
Tropes featured include:
- Abusive Parents: Not only was Trevor Jordache a wife-beating bully, but he sexually abused his daughter Beth.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Josh McLoughlin, who was suggested to be on the autistic spectrum; but the show was cancelled before the storyline could progress further.
- Author Filibuster: When the show was canceled, the show's creator Phil Redmond had his final say in a rebellious scripted rant about how 'TV and society's not like it was' voiced by its longest-running character, Jimmy Corkhill.
- Book Ends: The final episode started exactly the same way episode one had begun 21 years previously, with a milkman delivering provisions to the residents of the Close. This time, however, he was greeted with the sight of Jack's dead body hanging from his bedroom window.
- Bourgeois Bohemian: Annabel Collins, intended to represent the educated, liberal middle class (while her husband represented the conservative middle class.)
- Breakout Character:
- Jimmy Corkhill was originally supposed to appear in just six episodes. He became the show's longest serving character and one of the most popular.
- Sinbad rose from the ranks of bit-part comedy relief character to a popular member of the cast and his part continued to grow as time went on.
- Brother–Sister Incest: Nat and Georgia Simpson who engage in consensual incest and later split up without any direct or karmic punishment. They later get back together and are written out of the show by establishing that they'd moved to where no-one knew them and were living as a married couple.
- Bus Crash: Happened a few times, notably to Beth Jordache, who dies off-screen from a heart condition.
- Bury Your Gays: The abovementioned Beth Jordache.
- Catchphrase: Mick Johnson's "God Almighty."
- Celebrity Paradox: A double instance in 2000, when chat show host Graham Norton and family pop group The Nolans are booked as celebrity guests to reopen Brookside Parade. Bev Mc Loughlin fails to recognise Norton and, when told he’s on Channel 4 (the network that produced Brookside), she dismissively states “I never watch it”. She does, however, recognise the Nolan sisters, even asking after an absent Bernie Nolan - who begins playing regular character Diane Murray just a week later.
- Death of a Child: Noted in its day for happening many times, often horribly. Examples include the Farnham children (who die graphically in a car crash) and Sue Sullivan's baby son (killed along with his mother when she was pushed off scaffolding while holding him.)
- Delusions of Eloquence: Julia Brogan was known for this.
- Disney Villain Death:
- Emily Shadwick, who died falling out of a window.
- Played with in Laura Gordon-Davies's death; she had a fall down the stairs this way, and spent months in a coma before finally dying.
- Disposing of a Body: Having killed the abusive Trevor, his wife and daughter wrapped him in bin liners and Beth buried him under the patio. Two years later however, an underground leak forced the area to be dug up and Trevor's body was found by Eddie Banks. and Jimmy Corkhill.
- Drugs Are Bad: In November 1985, Heather Huntington met and quickly married Nicholas Black, unaware that he was a secret heroin addict. Although Nick (as he was generally known) attempted to keep to his promise to his wife to give up heroin, the pull of the drug became stronger. After weeks of deceiving his wife to raise money for drugs (including stealing and selling her jewellery) he disappeared, subsequently dying of exposure in Sefton Park after overdosing on uncut heroin. The storyline was intentionally shocking, and made this the first British soap opera to tackle the issue of heroin addiction candidly - indeed the series would re-visit the issue of drug addiction several times during the rest of its long run.
- Elder Abuse: One storyline saw Annabelle Collins having to rescue her elderly mother, Mona (Margaret Clifton), from a corrupt care-home where she was being badly treated.
- Face–Heel Turn: Lindsey Corkhill's overnight transformation into a violent, gun-toting criminal.
- Freudian Excuse: Thoroughly averted when the Simpsons go to family therapy after Nat and Georgia's incestuous relationship is exposed. The therapist tries to find something in their childhood to explain why this has happened, but has to admit defeat - there truly isn't anything. All that happens is that their father becomes dangerously enraged and smashes up the place, thinking that he's being accused of having molested his own kids.
- Intercontinuity Crossover: The character of Matt Musgrove migrated from Brookside to Hollyoaks (also created by producer Phil Redmond.)
- Kafka Komedy: Anthony Murray, a kind and polite boy, is viciously bullied for months by his classmates, to whom he's never done anything. He always comes out of this getting hurt worse, and/or being made to look like he is the bully. Finally, when he tries to stand up to Imelda (who had been violent towards him, tried to rob him, threatened him with sexual assault, and he almost got hit by a car while crossing a road to avoid her) he pushes her just once - and she hits her head on a rock and dies. This leads him to a nervous breakdown and increasingly worse consequences, especially when his father is suspected of Imelda's murder (and later targeted during a hostage situation because of it.)
- Lipstick Lesbian:
- After her coming-out storyline, Beth was labeled as such by the British media, receiving equal attention from young women and young men.
- Lindsey Corkhill was also labelled as such after coming out.
- Murder by Mistake: Ron Dixon killed Katie's boyfriend after mistaking him for a burglar.
- Nobody Poops: Averted in a whole storyline based around Sinbad passing blood and subsequently thinking he may have colon cancer. He didn't.
- No Escape but Down: Emily Shadwick dies jumping out of a window to escape armed robbers who had cornered her.
- One-Steve Limit: Averted by Jackie Corkhill and Jacqui Dixon - although a plot point was made of Dixon changing the spelling of her name after Corkhill was introduced (having been established off-screen some years before).
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Thomas "Sinbad" Sweeney, Tim "Tinhead" O'Leary
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Part of the joy of listening to the Dublin-born actress (Barbara Dreman) who played Niamh Musgrove, was the way, like an Irish traveller on the road, her accent moved and wavered between the six counties of northern Ireland without once settling on any one, often in the same line of dialogue.
- Oop North: It's both set and filmed in Liverpool.
- Pædo Hunt: Sinbad's exit storyline involved him being falsely accused of molesting a child and ostracised by everyone in town.
- Settle for Sibling: Mike Dixon's girlfriend Beth is jailed for her father's murder and later dies in prison, so he ends up marrying her sister Rachel.
- Show Within a Show: The residents would often watch The Magic Rabbits.
- Stereo Fibbing: After Mandy and Beth murder Trevor, Rachel comes home unexpectedly and wants to know where he is. Both answer at once, but Mandy says "Asleep" and Beth says "Out." Beth covers by pretending she said "out of it" and that Trevor's sleeping off a drinking binge.
- Survivor Guilt: Susannah Farnham was hit hard with this after surviving the car crash that killed her two children; not least because the last thing she'd said to them was threatening to "kill the pair of you." (She'd been distracted from the road by them arguing in the back seat.)
- There Are No Therapists: Averted when the Simpsons go to family therapy after the parents discover their (fully blood-related siblings) children are in a sexual relationship. To say it doesn't end well would be a huge understatement.
- Tuckerization: In the final few episodes a drug dealer named "Jack Michaelson" moved into Brookside Close. This is a play on the name Michael Jackson, the Channel 4 controller who had canceled the soap.
- Violent Glaswegian: Callum Finnegan.
- Yandere: Jenny Dixon, who became obsessed with Mick Johnson, eventually stalking him and holding him at gunpoint.