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  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    English - Hearing Impaired
  • Audio commentary

Boys from the Blackstuff

BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 306 mins . M15+ . PAL


Boys From the Blackstuff is a multi award winning BBC series created in 1982 that tackled the rather depressing subject of unemployment. It is based on the Play For Today feature The Blackstuff which is also included with this release as an extra. It's all set in Liverpool and, although the subject matter may be depressing, it really is how life was at the time of Margaret Thatcher's rule as Prime Minister of England. The series is drama at its finest and really captures the feel of a large portion of the country at the time, particularly the city of Liverpool which suffered more than most.

The best way to watch this series is to view the Play For Today first to get a good basis of the characters. The characters are quickly established and the standard of quality is set up straight away. The main characters are a gang of road workers consisting of Dixie (Tom Georgeson), the foreman, Chrissie (Michael Angelis), Loggo (Alan Igbon), George (Peter Kerrigan) and the rather strange Yosser (Bernard Hill). They are all a hard working bunch but due to the Thatcher government's rule, they all end up unemployed, which is where the series proper begins.

"Gizza job!"

There are only five episodes in the series entitled Jobs For the Boys, Moonlighters, Shop Thy Neighbour, Yosser’s Story and George’s Last Ride, each running for a length varying from 54 minutes to 68 minutes, so even though the number of episodes may be small, the actual running time is lengthy. The episodes are depressing generally but don’t let that put you off, this is wonderfully acted and a tale that will tug at the heart strings of most viewers. There is a terrific supporting cast on show, but the wonderful Julie Walters must get a mention. To see her at the beginning of her career in such a role will demonstrate to viewers that this wonderful actress was not only a comedic actor, but that she could also play a dramatic role with equal conviction.

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Look at what that guy over there is wearing!

Writer Alan Bleasdale created a terrific series all those years ago that was not only gripping drama but also contained some unexpected humour. The series was made 20 years ago and the subject matter may be a depressing one, but this fine series is well worth seeing again after all these years. And for those that have never seen it, rest assured it is a top quality British drama.


Being an older television series, this transfer is presented in full frame. After stating earlier that the viewer should watch the Play For Today pilot first, you should also be warned that this transfer is of much poorer quality than the series itself. It is riddled with artefacts and truly looks older than it actually is. The series itself is much better though, still looking aged, it has held up much better than its predecessor. Colours are washed out and not very bright, however no doubt this is intentional to add to the dreary feel. There is quite a bit of grain and aliasing, but black levels and detailing are quite strong. Overall, this is not a great transfer but taking into account its age, it isn’t too bad.

Disc one is a single layered disc and therefore has no layer change. Discs two and three are dual layered discs, with the only noticeable layer change occurring at 33:00 on disc two. Subtitles are supplied in English for the hearing impaired and these are accurate to the script.


Audio is supplied in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and is adequate for this type of feature. Dialogue is always clear and although there is a definite dated feel, giving it a slightly muffled sound, it is still acceptable. There is no problem with synch and the supporting musical score is quite unremarkable. The cover does state that due to contractual reasons, certain music edits have been made and one can only assume that this was perhaps the inclusion of pop songs from the time.


Only two extras accompany this release, the first being rather crucial. These are both welcome additions though.

The Blackstuff
This Play For Today pilot can be found on disc one and is the best way to introduce viewers to the series. It runs for 102:25 and developes the characters well. The quality is not the best, showing serious signs of age, but the story is great and shows why this led to a series being created.

Audio Commentary
This commentary with writer Alan Bleasdale and director Jim Goddard can be found on the Play For Today The Blackstuff. Fans of this series will enjoy this and it does offer some interesting facts, but it is filled with pauses and does become hard to listen to.


This is a depressing series, yet at the same time it's a powerful view of early ‘80s Britain. The performances of the cast are outstanding and well worth seeing. The script is also impressive and writer Alan Bleasdale has done a terrific job capturing this time in history, showing great compassion for these victims. The video and audio are adequate and the extras are minimal. If you watched this series during its television airing in the ‘80s, you will enjoy reliving the experience. If you have never seen it and enjoy drama that is not only entertainment but will make you think, this is well worth viewing.

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      And I quote...
    "Liverpool in the early ‘80s was a depressing place."
    - Adrian Turvey
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