Eighties TV Season: The Fear Episode 1

Continuing a series of posts introducing 1980s TV shows which haven't appeared here before. Obviously I think they're worth watching, although I don't think I'm likely to blog again about many of them for various reasons. The Fear might be the exception to that, though, because I like it hugely.

You all know the arduous research I put in on a post before losing interest and posting something completely chaotic with whacking speeling mistooks, and of course while reading up this show I immediately hit my current bugbear of giving a show a short, catchy name which will confuse bloggers in 2023. I should stress that this post is about the 1988 show The Fear made by Euston Films for Thames TV, not the 2012 TV show of literally the same name. I am also not talking about the films of the identical name made in 1995 nor 2023. Nor any of the other films and TV shows involving subtle variations on the word fear which come up when you try to find this one. There is vanishingly little about this show on the internet and I suspect the name might be one of the reasons, but production companies keep doing it.

The show does, however definitely have a friend on the internet who is responsible for the episode synopses and no fewer than 227 pictures from the show on IMDB. I am grateful to this person because the pirated versions of the show I managed to track down had the episodes in the wrong order and they helped me put them in the right order. The show is commercially available from Network, but I caught a bit of it and was gagging to see it.

The Fear is a show about a 1980s gangster, is what you will read in all the blurbs. I personally don't think that is necessarily the case, and I'm going to opine that the show is about a guy who is actually a yuppie. You may question that gangsters make their money from protection rackets and other crimes like Carl Galton does in The Fear, and 1980s yuppies made their money on the stock exchange, and I will of course point to Boris Johnson and the Haunted Victorian Pencil. What we really have here is the world of 1980s yuppiedom meeting traditional London crime, and I can't understand why nobody is commenting on the similarity, and the parallel the show also draws with the thorough unpleasantness of yuppies. 'Most of the nice people couldn't afford suits like this,' says Carl, and this is of course true. He goes on to say that he's not working class. Of course he isn't, he's got a job - as a criminal.

I am perhaps saying this because I'm rather focusing on the appearance of the show rather than the plot. The appearance here is of a show about a yuppie, with all the appearances of prosperity (this is a symbol, and therefore may need explanation), but the plot is a crime drama (this is the sign here, which immediately communicates its meaning to the viewer). So in this show we have two separate meanings but the blurb on the box has difficulty reconciling them. Obviously the way shows are portrayed are becoming an obsession for me. So the difference between the sign of the crime drama and the symbol of 1980s yuppie prosperity can make this a difficult show to hold together.

Perhaps this is another reason this show isn't apparently popular: it takes work and short descriptions don't adequately describe the complexity of it. Perhaps this series of posts is going to morph into Misunderstood Television.

The other area in which this show needs work is in the plot (even after I'd realized I was watching the show in the wrong order). It's a lengthy, leisurely-told and complex plot, and this isn't a show you can watch with one eye while doing something else. I have now seen it four times and am still having some difficulty understanding who everyone is. Of course this is partly deliberate because the whole point of all this corruption is that we shouldn't know who everyone is.

The multi-layered complexity of this show is even further added to by having a gay subplot, which for the most part isn't apparent. THere are acres of male nudity on this show, and absolutely no female nudity at all. Now you might say that this is also true of this blog, but I don't think anyone is going to have me as a pin-up. There is also the significantly gay image of a gay skinhead - in many ways Galton is gay-coded, and this is far from being clear that this is the case. I see from the IMDB images that 'The boys from The Fear' managed to make it into the teenage girls' magazine Just Seventeen as a pin-up, but haven't found any evidence any of the female characters got a similar accolage. This adds yet another layer to this complex show.

It is, however, possible to miss all this complexity (always a good sign in TV which can be watched on all sorts of levels) and just revel in the glorious 1980s setting of this show. We have glorious gritty London settings which are definitely ungentrified. And most of all, we have so many 1980s style icons - square cut suits, hair, cars, and so on. In fact, in many ways this show is the 1980s distilled into one TV programme.

The first episode introduces us to the characters and doesn't pull any punches in dropping us staight into the violence and, er, the fear. 

My only criticism would be, as I said, that the plot is a bit confusing and multi-layered: this show requires hard work from the viewer and that, with the difficulty briefly describing it online, may explain its lack of attention in the cult blogosphere.

Very highly recommended, even if you just to drink in the atmos and not do the work to follow it.

Proud to be a member of the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati and the anti-growth coalition. wesayenough.co.uk - tactical.vote 

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