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Family Affairs (Channel 5 1997-2005, David Easter, Ken Farrington)

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Family Affairs Channel 5

Family Affairs was Channel Five’s first attempt at soap opera. It was shown every week night and premiered on Channel Five’s opening night (31 March 1997).

The series was initially concerned with the typically soapian lives of the Hart family who lived in a suburb called Charnham which was on the outskirts of London. Lead characters were Chris and Annie Hart and their four grown up kids, twins Duncan and Holly, Melanie and the younger Jamie. Another key character was Pete Callan who ended up buying the pub The Lock which was one of the main focal points of the show. Nick Trip was Chris’s business partner and Claire Toomey was Annie’s best friend.

The show never really took off in the ratings and the format was constantly being jiggled with – the first time was in 1998 when new producer Brian Park was brought in to shake things up (he recently done a similar job on Coronation Street, getting rid of several iconic characters in the process). His first move was to get rid of the Harts (in a dramatic boat explosion no less) and change the theme tune and titles. Pamela Hargreaves, a lawyer who had defended Nick’s son Liam on a robbery charge, became a key player, Pete Callan stayed as did Claire who Pete had by now married. The dodgy Matthews family (dad Dave, wife Cat and son Josh) also became regulars.

New characters came and went with increasingly regularity, if you missed a couple of episodes you were likely to to be lost. 2000 saw more changes when the Warrington family were introduced and we learned that the setting for the show was Stanley Street in West London. Pete bought a new pub, also on Stanley Street, called The Black Swan and The Lock and other key locations faded away. Stanley Street was in fact a purpose built outdoor set.

2003 saw more major change again coinciding with the arrival of a new producer, Alison Davis. More characters came and went and by this stage Pete was the only character that had been around since the shows early days. Storylines got ever more outlandish with Pete being killed by cops in a shoot-out being the high point (or low point). In 2005 another new producer arrived Sean O’Connor but before he could make more changes (he was even considering renaming the show) Channel 5 decided to cancel. Viewing figures were seldom above the million mark and the carousel of changing characters meant viewer loyalty was all but zero so it was no surprise. The bigger surprise being that it had lasted as long as it did.

TRIVIA
Idris Elba was a semi-regular during the first year or so of the show. Tessa Wyatt also had a semi regular role as Samantha Cockerill, the wife of nosy neighbour Bill (a typecast Roger Sloman).

Before the construction of the Stanley Street set the series would share some locations with ITV show The Bill. Both series were made by Thames.

production details
UK / Channel 5 – Thames / x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 31 March 1997 – 30 December 2005

Theme Music: Kath Gotts, Michael Walton / Producers: Morag Bain, Elizabeth Lake / Executive Producers: Ann McManus, Brian Park

important cast members included:-
IAN CULLEN as Angus Hart
IAN SHPITAL as Chris Hart
KEN FARRINGTON as Jack Gates
CORDELIA BUGEJA as Melanie Hart
ROCKY MARSHALL as Duncan Hart
DELENA KIDD as Elsa Gates
ANNIE MILES as Maria Simmons
LIZ CROWTHER as Annie Hart
SANDRA HUGGETT as Holly Hart
MICHAEL COLE as Jamie Hart
DAVID EASTER as Pete Callan
MILES PETIT as Roy Farmer
SANDRA HENDRICKSE as Pamela Hargreaves
TINA RUSSELL as Claire Toomey
ROBYN MOORE as Maggie Roswell
PAUL LACOUX as Geoff Roswell
RICHARD HAWLEY as Dave Matthews
NICOLA DUFFETT as Cat Matthews