9. Soap-On-A-Tape

Jim Shelley lathers himself with soap-on-a-tape

Tapehead no 9

Besides the perils of RSI (Remote-control Seizure Injury), Tapehead’s lifestyle does, of course, have its penalties. The outside world is a mystery; human contact is kept to a minimum. Tapehead’s only friends are strung across the country, scattered forlornly across the wilds of Yorkshire, Merseyside and Coronation Street. Continuity and stability are essential ingredients in Tapehead’s meagre existence, so every week he likes to fill at least one tape with soap. So this is reel life. You’re telling me.

Traditionally, of course, the storylines on Take The High Road would revolve around exciting incidents such as someone called Dougall or Morag buying a Dundee cake or losing their front door key. But like The Archers, Take The High Road’s latter-day forays into the modern world have exposed the viewing grannies and Tapeheads across the highlands to things like AIDS and heroin, which if nothing else, gives new meaning to the concept of just which high road we should all be taking.

Maybe this will become street slang. You know, like chasing the dragon. “It’s not a habit. I just like taking the high road now and again.”

Take The High Road is fine as an occasional fix, but, hey kids, never forget you’re only one episode away from an O.D.

Bizarrely, Emmerdale Farm has also betrayed the traditions that made it great (grate). True, Seth Armstrong still boasts the finest ‘tache on television, but Emmerdale has committed the cardinal soap sin: not content with changing its name, some idiot has changed the music.

The once wonderful, legendary strains of Emmerdale’s theme tune have been subjected to some sort of hideous raving remix. That’s not to say that the characters still don’t walk in to Ma Sugden’s kitchen, wipe their feet and greet everyone with immortal words, “Ee bah gum, it’s parky”.

Mercifully the great cockerknee traditions endure in Eastenders this week: Fat Pat Cabs squeezes the word “Janine” out of her pursed and lipsticked lips; Rusk-heads Phil and Grant mess up Tricky Dicky’s hair gel; Mike Reid shouts “You’re getting right up my bugle my old son,” before tipping his hat and exiting doing his Follow The Bear impersonation.

When it comes to soaps, Tapehead is fanatically conservative. Nothing must change; no one must leave, unless it’s due to dramatic and unexpected death.

Brookside has always favoured the occasional bout of culling and after Trevor Jordache, the killing of Frank Rodgers was a family-feuding, cocaine-fuelled classic worthy of The Long Good Friday. This week’s omnibus is quintessential Brookside: Our Tony is on a life support having had a Nintendo controller surgically removed from both hands. After several months in the series, Tony’s big mistake was: he spoke. He is now in danger of becoming a vegetable. How will they tell ?

Major barnies reign this week. Bev and Didi argue about who gets rid of Ron first, causing Ron’s painted-on hairdo to get a bit ruffled. Chrissy Rodgers returns to slag it out with the widow Lynn for the house. “Our Katie” gets to be even more miserable than usual. Alarmingly, Mark Hughes look-alike, Barry Grant persists in his hopes for a kid. Expect Anna to reply in the only way she knows how:
“Haf you got forty quid?” a motto Tapehead has adopted with fervour. We await the return of Beth, the horniest creature on TV, with anticipation – not to mention her imminent sexual awakening, the thought of which keeps Tapehead awake at night.

Like Brookie and Emmie (but tragically not EastEnders), Corry is suddenly packed with more babes than a Baywatch beach barbecue; lovely, lusty women of different shapes and ages: Vicky, Maureen, Tanya, Denise, Liz, Mavis – though they are of course, all ravaged by pathos.

Denise the hairdresser may be particularly worth forming a relationship with; an Elsie Tanner in the making, no less. Besides the legendary Reg Holdsworth and Jack Duckworh, the best comic character on telly is currently Raquel (played by the estimable Sarah Lancashire), the sister Tapehead never had. Raquel has stopped doing French lessons (just the way she nervously uttered “Bonjour” was a delight) but still drifts around in a soft, anxious world of her own.

This Wednesday, Raquel gets her first modelling job and the Beer Mat Poetry Competition is announced.
Post-modern music hall for all ages and a great taping tradition.

Collector’s Tape 11
• Brookside (Sat 5.05pm – 6.30pm, C4)
• Coronation Street (Wed 7.30pm-8.00pm, repeated Friday 12.55pm-1.25pm, ITV)
• EastEnders (Thu 7.30pm-8.000pm BBC1)
• Take The High Road (Fri 2.50pm-3.20pm ITV)