Press Gang


Press Gang

:"This article is about the British television series" Press Gang. "For the old military practice of 'pressing' men into service, see Impressment."Infobox television
show_name = Press Gang


caption = Opening titles
genre = Comedy-Drama
camera = Single camera
runtime = 25mins
creator = Bill Moffat
Steven Moffat
producer = Sandra C. Hastie
executive_producer = Lewis Rudd
starring = Julia Sawalha
Dexter Fletcher
Lee Ross
Kelda Holmes
Paul Reynolds
Lucy Benjamin
Gabrielle Anwar
Mmoloki Chrystie
Joanna Dukes
Charlie Creed-Miles
theme_music_composer = Peter Davis, John Mealing, John G. Perry
network = ITV
country=United Kingdom
first_aired = 16 January 1989
last_aired = 21 May 1993
num_series = 5
num_episodes = 43
list_episodes = List of Press Gang episodes
imdb_id = 0096679
tv_com_id = 6053

"Press Gang" is a British children's television comedy-drama consisting of forty-three episodes across five series that were broadcast from 1989 to 1993. It was produced by Richmond Film & Television for Central, and screened on the ITV network in its regular weekday afternoon children's strand, "Children's ITV".cite web |first=Matthew |last=Newton|title=Press Gang - An episode guide by Matthew Newton |url=http://www.mjnewton.demon.co.uk/tv/pgmain.htm |accessdate=2006-12-28]

Aimed at older children and teenagers, the programme was based around the activities of a children's newspaper, the "Junior Gazette", produced by pupils from the local comprehensive school. In later series it was depicted as a commercial venture. The show interspersed comedic elements with the dramatic. As well as addressing interpersonal relationships (particularly in the Lynda-Spike story arc), the show tackled issues such as solvent abuse, child abuse and firearms control. [Paul Cornell (1993) "Press Gang" In: cite book |last= Cornell |first= Paul. |coauthors= Martin Day, Keith Topping |title= The Guinness Book of Classic British TV |publisher=Guinness |year= 1993 |pages=215-8 |id=ISBN 0-85112-543-3]

Written by ex-teacher Steven Moffat, over half of the episodes were directed by Bob Spiers, a noted British comedy director who had previously worked on classics such as "Fawlty Towers". Critical reception was very positive, particularly for the quality of its writing, and has attracted a cult following with a wide age range.

toryline

Famous journalist Matt Kerr (Clive Wood) arrives from Fleet Street to edit the local newspaper. He sets up a junior version of the paper, "The Junior Gazette", to be produced by pupils from the local comprehensive school before and after school hours.cite web|first=Matthew|last=Newton|title=Press Gang: Series One|work=Newton's Laws of TV |url=http://www.mjnewton.demon.co.uk/tv/pgang1.htm|accessdate=2006-12-19]

Some of the team are "star pupils". However, some members have reputations of delinquency. One such pupil, Spike Thompson (Dexter Fletcher) is forced to work on the paper rather than being expelled from school. He is immediately attracted to editor Lynda Day (Julia Sawalha), but they bicker, throwing one-liners at each other. Their relationship develops and they have an on-off relationship.cite web |first=Matthew |last=Newton |title=Press Gang: Series Two |work=Newton's Laws of TV |url=http://www.mjnewton.demon.co.uk/tv/pgang2.htm |accessdate=2006-12-19] They regularly discuss their feelings, especially in the concluding episodes of each series. In the final episode for the third series, "Holding On", Spike unwittingly expresses his strong feelings to Lynda whilst being taped.cite episode |title=Holding On |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1991-06-11 |season=3 |number=6] Jealous of his American girlfriend, Zoe, Lynda puts the cassette on Zoe's personal stereo, ruining their relationship. The on-screen chemistry between the two leads was reflected off-screen as they became an item for several years.Steven Moffat & Julia Sawalha, "Press Gang: Series 2" DVD audio commentary] [cite news |first=Jon |last=Wise |title=Booze, drugs and women frenzy left me broke and homeless. Now I'm living it up at the Hotel Babylon|work=The People |url=http://www.people.co.uk/news/tm_headline=booze--drugs-and-women-frenzy-left-me-broke-and-homeless--now-i-m-living-it-up-at-the-hotel-babylon--&method=full&objectid=18639024&siteid=93463-name_page.html |date=2007-02-18 |accessdate=2007-02-21]

Although the Lynda and Spike story arc runs throughout the series, most episodes feature self-contained stories and sub-plots. Amongst lighter stories, such as one about Colin accidentally attending a funeral dressed as a pink rabbit, the show tackled many serious issues. Jeff Evans, writing in the "Guinness Television Encyclopedia", writes that the series adopts a "far more adult approach" than "previous efforts in the same vein" such as "A Bunch of Fives." Some critics also compared it with "Hill Street Blues", "Lou Grant" "and other thoughtful US dramas, thanks to its realism and its level headed treatment of touchy subjects."cite book |first=Jeff |last=Evans |title=The Guinness Television Encyclopedia |publisher=Guinness |year=1995 |pages =423 |isbn= 0851127444] The first series approached solvent abuse in "How To Make A Killing", and the NSPCC assisted in the production of the "Something Terrible" episodes about child abuse. [cite episode |title=Something Terrible: Part 2 |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1990-03-08 |season=2 |number=8] The team were held hostage by a gun enthusiast in series three's "The Last Word",cite episode |title=The Last Word |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Lorne Magory |network=ITV |airdate=1990-03-28 |season=3 |number=4] while the final episode approaches drug abuse.cite episode |title=There Are Crocodiles |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Lorne Magory |network=ITV |airdate=1993-02-22 |season=5 |number=6] cite web |first=Matthew |last=Newton |title=Press Gang: Series Five |work=Newton's Laws of TV |url=http://www.mjnewton.demon.co.uk/tv/pgang5.htm |accessdate=2006-12-20] The issue-led episodes served to develop the main characters, so that "Something Terrible" is more "about Colin's redemption [from selfish capitalist] , rather than Cindy's abuse."

According to the British Film Institute, "Press Gang" managed to be perhaps the funniest children's series ever made and at the same time the most painfully raw and emotionally honest. The tone could change effortlessly and sensitively from farce to tragedy in the space of an episode."cite web |first=Alistair |last=McGown |title=Press Gang (1989-93) |work=BFI Screenonline |url=http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/571944/index.html |accessdate=2006-12-21] Although the series is sometimes referred to as a comedy, Moffat insists that it is a drama with jokes in it. The writer recalls "a long running argument with Geoff Hogg (film editor on "Press Gang") about whether "Press Gang" was comedy. He insisted that it was and I said it wasn't - it was just funny." [cite web |title="POSITIVE COMEDY" Graham Kibble-White talks to Steven Moffat |url=http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/interviews/stevenmoffat.htm |work=Off the Telly |month=March | year=2001 |accessdate=2007-05-11] Some innuendo leads Moffat to claim that it "had the dirtiest jokes in history, we got away with tons of stuff ... We nearly got away with a joke about anal sex, but they spotted it at the last minute." In one episode Lynda says she's going to "butter him up", and, when asked whilst on a date in a restaurant if he was staying at the hotel, Colin replies "I shouldn't think so: it's only the first date."cite episode |title=Chance Is a Fine Thing |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat |network=ITV |airdate=1991-03-21 |season=3 |number=3]

Jeff Evans also comments that the series was filmed cinematically, dabbling "in dream sequences, flashbacks, fantasies and, on one-occasion, a "Moonlighting"-esque parody of the film "It's a Wonderful Life"."cite episode |title=Day Dreams |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1992-02-11 |season=4 |number=6] The show had a strong awareness of continuity, with some stories, incidents and minor characters referred to throughout the series. Actors who played short-term characters in the first two series were invited back to reprise their roles in future episodes. David Jefford (Alex Crockett) was resurrected from 1989's "Monday - Tuesday" to appear in the final episode "There Are Crocodiles", while the same actress (Aisling Flitton) who played a wrong number in "Love and the Junior Gazette" was invited to reprise her character for the third series episode "Chance is a Fine Thing." "Attention to detail" such as this is, according to Paul Cornell, "one of the numerous ways that the series respects the intelligence of its viewers." [Cornell, p. 217]

After the team leaves school, the paper gains financial independence and runs commercially. Assistant editor Kenny (Lee Ross), leaves at the end of series three to be replaced by Julie (Lucy Benjamin), who was the head of the graphics team in series one.

Production

Inception

Bill Moffat, a headmaster from Glasgow, had an idea for a children's television programme called "The Norbridge Files". [Stephen O'Brien and Jim Sangster cite web|title=The Norbridge Files|work=Off the Telly|url=http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/childrens/pressgang.htm|month=February | year=2000|accessdate=2006-12-19] He showed it to a producer who came to his school when it was used as the location for Harry Secombe's "Highway".cite web |title=Interview With Steven Moffat for the Guardian Guide |work=richardherring.com |url=http://www.richardherring.com/press/press.php?id=10 |year=1997 |accessdate=2007-05-11] Producer Sandra C. Hastie liked the idea and showed it to her future husband Bill Ward, co-owner of her company Richmond Films and Television. When she requested a script, Moffat suggested that his 25-year old son, Steven, an English teacher, should write it. Hastie said that it was "the best ever first script" that she had read. [Cornell, p 215]

All 43 episodes were written by Steven Moffat. During production of series two, he was having an unhappy personal life after the break-up of his first marriage. His wife's new lover was represented in the episode "The Big Finish?" by the character Brian Magboy (Simon Schatzberger), a name inspired by Brian: Maggie's boy. Moffat brought in the character so that all sorts of unfortunate things would happen to him, such as having a typewriter dropped on his foot.Steven Moffat & Julia Sawalha, "The Big Finish?" "Press Gang: Series 2" DVD audio commentary] This period in Moffat's life would also be reflected in his sitcom "Joking Apart". ["Joking Apart: Series 1" DVD audio commentary, and featurette]

Central had confidence in the project, so rather than the show being shot at their studios in Nottingham as planned, they granted Richmond a £2 million budget. This enabled it to be shot on 16mm film, rather than the regular, less expensive videotape, and on location, making it very expensive compared with most children's television.O'Brien, Stephen. "Picking up the Pieces" "Breakfast at Czar's" Issue 1. [Available as a PDF file on the "Press Gang" Series 2 DVD] ] These high production costs almost lead to its cancellation at the end of the second series, by which time Central executive Lewis Rudd was unable to commission programmes by himself.

Directors

Over half of the episodes were directed by Bob Spiers, a noted British comedy director who had previously worked on "Fawlty Towers" amongst many other programmes. He would work again with Moffat on his sitcom "Joking Apart" and "Murder Most Horrid", and with Sawalha on "Absolutely Fabulous". According to Moffat, Spiers was the "principal director" taking an interest in the other episodes and setting the visual style of the show. Spiers particularly used tracking shots, sometimes requiring more dialogue to be written to accommodate the length of the shot. The other directors would come in and "do a Spiers". All of the directors were encouraged to attend the others' shoots so that the visual style would be consistent."Interface: Sandra Hastie, part 2" "Breakfast at Czar's" Issue 2. [Available as a PDF file on the "Press Gang" Series 5 DVD] ]

The first two episodes were directed by Colin Nutley. However, he was unhappy with the final edit and requested that his name be removed from the credits.cite web |first=Adrian |last=Petford |title=Press Gang - The Complete Series Guide |url=http://www.yoyo.org/pressgang/pgguide.txt |date=1995-12-16 |accessdate=2006-12-19] Lorne Magory directed many episodes, notably the two-part stories "How To Make A Killing"cite episode |title=How to Make a Killing |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Lorne Magory |network=ITV |airdate=1989-02-27 |season=1 |number=7] and "The Last Word." One of the founders of Richmond Films and Television, Bill Ward, directed three episodes, [cite web |first=Matthew |last=Newton |title=Press Gang: Series Four |work=Newton's Laws of TV |url=http://www.mjnewton.demon.co.uk/tv/pgang4.htm |accessdate=2006-12-19] and Bren Simson directed some of series two. The show's cinematographer James Devis took the directorial reigns for "Windfall", the penultimate episode. [cite web |title=James Devis |work=IMDb |url=http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0222695/ |accessdate=2006-12-19]

Location

Whilst the show was set in the fictional town of Norbridge, it was mostly filmed in Uxbridge, a suburb of London. The first series was filmed entirely on location, but after the demolition of the building used as the original newspaper office, interior shots were filmed in Pinewood Studios for the second series, and the exterior of the building wasn't seen beyond that series. Subsequent series were filmed at Lee International Studios at Shepperton (series three and four) and Twickenham Studios (series five).

Music and title sequences

The theme music was composed by Peter Davis (who after the second series composed the rest of the series alone as principal composer), John Mealing and John G. Perry. The opening titles show the main characters striking a pose, with the name of the respective actor in a typewriter style typeface. Moffat says that if the credits look "cheesy" now, they also did back in 1989. They were re-recorded for series three, in the same style, to address the actors' ages and alterations to the set.

Many of the closing titles in the first two series were accompanied by dialogue from two characters. Episodes that ended on a particularly sombre tone, such as "Monday-Tuesday"cite episode |title=Monday-Tuesday |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1989-04-03 |season=1 |number=11] and "Yesterday's News", [cite episode |title=Yesterday's News |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Lorne Magory |network=ITV |airdate=1990-03-29 |season=2 |number=11] used only appropriately sombre music to accompany the end credits. After an emphatic climax, "At Last a Dragon" used an enhanced version of the main theme with more extravagant use of electric guitar. Moffat felt that the voiceovers worked well in the first series, but that they were not as good in the second. Hastie recalls that Moffat was "extremely angry" that "Drop the Dead Donkey" had adopted the style. They were dropped after the second series. The cast, according to Moffat, were "grumpy with having to turn up to a recording studio to record them." [Steven Moffat & Julia Sawalha "At Last a Dragon" "Press Gang: Series 2" DVD audio commentary]

Characters

Main characters

Lynda Day (Julia Sawalha) is the editor of the "Junior Gazette". She is strong and opinionated, and is feared by many of her team. Moffat has said that the character was partly based on the show's "ball-breaking" producer, Sandra C. Hastie.cite web|title=Review: Press Gang DVD |work=BBC - Cult Television |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/news/cult/2004/07/08/12781.shtml |date=2004-07-08 |accessdate=2006-12-22] In the 2007 BBC Four series "Children's TV on Trial", journalist Johann Hari says that Lynda is "very much a product of the 1980s ... a woman in charge who's brittle, very fierce, has no power of empathy, is very cruel to the people around her."Johann Hair cite episode | title=1980s |series =Children's TV on Trial | credits = | network=BBC Four |airdate=2007-07-14]

The consequences of Lynda's complete lack of compassion and her cruelty, how it effects the people around her, and how it eventually leads to her own destruction and death ... anyone who knows anything about Britain in the 1980s can see some pretty clear parallels with our own Prime Minister.

Although she appears very tough, she occasionally exposes her feelings. She quits the paper at the end of "Monday-Tuesday", and in "Day Dreams" laments "Why do I get everything in my whole stupid life wrong?" Intimidated by socialising, she hiccups at the idea. She is so nervous at a cocktail party, in "At Last a Dragon", [cite episode |title=At Last a Dragon |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1990-02-22 |season=2 |number=6] that she attempts to leave on several occasions. The mixture of Lynda's sensitive side and her self-sufficient attitude is illustrated in the series' final episode "There Are Crocodiles." Reprimanding the ghost of Gary (Mark Sayers), who died after taking a drug overdose, she says:

Look, I'm sorry you're dead OK? I "do" care. But to be perfectly honest with you, I don't care a lot. You had a choice, you took the drugs, you died. Are you seriously claiming no one told you it was dangerous? ... I mean, have you had a look at the world lately? ... There's plenty of stuff going on that kills you and you don't get warned at all. So sticking your head in a crocodile you were told about is not calculated to get my sympathy.

Having the protagonist repent in hell is, according to Moffat, "always a novel way to end a teen-romance series." Whether or not Lynda dies is ambiguous.James "Spike" Thomson (Dexter Fletcher) is an American delinquent, forced to work on the paper rather than being excluded from school. He is immediately attracted to Lynda, and he establishes himself as an important member of the reporting team having been responsible for getting their first lead story. He usually has a range of one-liners, though is often criticised, particularly by Lynda, for excessive joking. However, Spike often consciously uses humour to lighten the tone, such as in "Monday-Tuesday" when he tries to cheer up Lynda after she feels responsible for David's suicide.

The character was originally written as English, until producer Hastie felt that an American character would enhance the chance of overseas sales. This meant that English-born Fletcher had to act in an American accent for all five years. Moffat says that he isn't "sure [that] lumbering Dexter with that accent was a smart move."cite web |title=Interview: Steven Moffat |work=BBC - Cult Television |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/news/cult/2004/07/20/13052.shtml |date=2004-07-20 |accessdate=2006-12-21] His accent, however, was so convincing that many are surprised to learn that Fletcher is English.cite news |title=Dexter Fletcher answers your questions |work=The Times |format=reprint on unofficial fansite |url=http://dexteronline.ms11.net/times130704.html|date=2004-07-13 |accessdate=2006-12-22]

Kenny Phillips (Lee Ross) is one of Lynda's (few) long-term friends and is her assistant editor in the first three series. Kenny is much calmer than Lynda, though is still dominated by her. Despite this, he is one of the few people able to stand up to Lynda, in his own quiet way. Although he identifies himself as "sweet", he is unlucky in love: Jenny (Sadie Frost), the girlfriend he meets in "How to Make a Killing", dumps him because he is too understanding.cite episode |title=Love and the Junior Gazette |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1990-02-15 |season=2 |number=5] His secret passion for writing music is revealed at the end of series two, which was influenced by Ross' interests. Colin organizes and markets a concert for him, and series two ends with Kenny performing "You Don't Feel For Me" (written by Ross himself). Lee Ross was only able to commit to the first six episodes of the 12-episode series three and four filming block because he was expecting a film role. Thus, by series four, Kenny has left for Australia.

Colin Mathews (Paul Reynolds) is the Thatcherite in charge of the paper's finances and advertising. He often wears loud shirts, and his various schemes have included marketing defective half-ping-pong balls (as 'pings'), exam revision kits and soda that leaves facial stains. Rosie Marcel and Claire Hearnden appear throughout the second series as Sophie and Laura, Colin's mischievous young helpers.

Julie Craig (Lucy Benjamin) is the head of the graphics team in series one. Moffat was impressed with Benjamin's performance, and expanded her character for the second series. However she had committed herself to roles in the LWT sitcom "Close to Home" and "Jupiter Moon", so the character was replaced by Sam. The character returns in the opening episode of series four as researcher on the Saturday morning show "Crazy Stuff". She arranges for Lynda and Spike to be reunited on live television, but the subsequent complaints about the violence (face slapping) results in Julie's firing. [cite episode |title=Bad News |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1992-01-07 |season=4 |number=1] After giving Lynda some home truths, Julie replaces Kenny as the assistant editor for the final two series. She is a flirt, and, according to Lynda, was the "official pin-up at the last prison riot." Sarah Jackson (Kelda Holmes) is the paper's lead writer. Although she is intelligent she gets stressed, such as during her interview for editorship of the "Junior Gazette". Her final episode, "Friendly Fire", shows the development of her friendship with Lynda, and how the latter saw her as a challenge when she first arrived to Norbridge High. Together they had established the underground school magazine: "Damn Magazine". [cite episode |title=Friendly Fire |series=Press Gang |credits = wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=ITV |airdate=1993-04-23 |season=5 |number=2] Her first attempt to leave the newspaper to attend a writing course at the local college is thwarted by Lynda, [cite episode |title=Friends Like These |series=Press Gang |credits = wr. Steven Moffat, dir. John Hall |network=ITV |airdate=1990-03-15 |season=2 |number=9] but she eventually leaves in series five to attend university (mirroring the reason for Holmes' departure).

Frazer "Frazz" Davis (Mmoloki Chrystie) is one of Spike's co-delinquents forced into working on the paper, his initial main task writing the horoscopes. Frazz is initially portrayed as unintelligent, such as not understanding the synonymous relationship between "the astrology column" and the horoscopes. [cite episode |title=Page One |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Colin Nutley |network=ITV |airdate=1989-01-16 |season=1 |number=1] Later episodes, however, show him to be devious, such as in "The Last Word: Part 2" when he stuns the gunman using a large array of flashguns. [cite episode |title=The Last Word: Part 2 |series=Press Gang |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Lorne Magory |network=ITV |airdate=1991-06-06 |season=3 |number=4]

Other recurring characters

Sam Black (Gabrielle Anwar) replaced Julie as the head of the graphics team in the second series. Sam is very fashion conscious and a flirt, and is surprised when an actor rejects her advances in favour of Sarah. Anwar had auditioned for the role of Lynda. (Many actors who unsuccessfully auditioned for main characters were invited back later for guest roles.) Moffat had expanded the role of Julie after the first series, but Lucy Benjamin was unavailable for series two. Sam, therefore, was basically the character of Julie under a different name, especially in her earlier episodes. [Steven Moffat & Julia Sawalha "Breakfast at Czar's" "Press Gang: Season 2" DVD audio commentary] Charlie Creed-Miles, who played Danny McColl, the paper's photographer, became disenchanted with his minor role and left after the first series.

"Tiddler" Tildesley (Joanna Dukes) is the junior member of the team, responsible for the junior section, "Junior Junior Gazette". Billy Homer (Andy Crowe) was also a recurring character. A tetraplegic, he is very competent with computer networks, sometimes hacking in to the school's database. His storylines are some of the first representations of the Internet in British television. Moffat felt that he was unable to sustain the character, and he appears only sporadically after the first series. The main adults are deputy headmaster Bill Sullivan (Nick Stringer), maverick editor Matt Kerr (Clive Wood) and experienced "Gazette" reporter Chrissie Stewart (Angela Bruce).

Reaction

Critical reception

Critical reaction was good, the show being particularly praised for the high quality and sophistication of the writing. [cite web|title=The Junior Gazette's back for a 3rd season on DVD |work=cult.tv |url=http://www.cult.tv/index.php?cm_id=717&cm_type=article |accessdate=2006-12-21] The BBC's William Gallagher called it "pretty flawless." [cite news |first=William |last=Gallagher |title=The week's TV: Seen it all before? |date=2001-08-30 |work=BBC News |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1516439.stm |accessdate=2007-11-07] The first episode was highly rated by "The Daily Telegraph", "The Guardian" and the "Times Educational Supplement". In his emphatic review, Paul Cornell writes that:

"Press Gang" has proved to be a series that can transport you back to how you felt as a teenager, sharper that the world but with as much angst as acute wit ... Never again can a show get away with talking down to children or writing sloppily for them. "Press Gang", possibly the best show in the world.Cornell, 218]

"Time Out" said that "this is quality entertainment: the kids are sharp, the scripts are clever and the jokes are good." [cite web |title=Press Gang: 43xhalf hour|work=Press Gang [Unofficial fansite] |url=http://www.geocities.com/davinci5157/ |accessdate=2006-12-21] Others have also commented upon how "the show is renowned ... for doing something kid television at the time didn't do (and, arguably, still doesn't): it refused to treat its audience like children." [cite web |first=Nikki |last=Tranter |title=Press Gang: Series 1 |work=PopMatters |url=http://www.popmatters.com/tv/reviews/p/press-gang-1.shtml |date2004-03-01 |accessdate=2006-12-22] Comedian Richard Herring recalls watching the show as a recent graduate, commenting that it "was subtle, sophisticated and much too good for kids." According to Moffat, "Press Gang" had gone over very, very well in the industry and I was being touted and romanced all the time." "Press Gang"'s complicated plots and structure would become a hallmark of Moffat's work, such as "Joking Apart" and "Coupling". [cite web |first=Graham |last=Kibble-White |title="Fool If You Think It's Over"|work=Off the Telly |url=http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/comedy/jokingapart.htm|month=May | year=2006 |accessdate=2006-12-22]

The series received a Royal Television Society award and a BAFTA in 1991 for "Best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama)". It was also nominated for two Writers' Guild of Great Britain awards, one "Prix Jeunesse" [cite web |title=Biographies: Steven Moffat - Writer |work=Hartswood Films |url=http://www.hartswoodfilms.co.uk/programmes/steven.html |accessdate=2006-12-23] and the 1992 BAFTA for "Best Children's Programme (Fiction)". [cite web |url=http://www.bafta.org/awards/childrens/nominations/?year=1991 |title=Children's Nominations 1991 |work=BAFTA |accessdate=2007-11-16] Julia Sawalha won the Royal Television Society Television Award for "Best Actor - Female" in 1993. [cite web |url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096679/awards |title=Awards for "Press Gang" (1989) |work=IMDb |accessdate=2006-12-24]

Repeat showings

The show gained an adult audience in an early evening slot when repeated on Sundays on Channel 4. This crossover is reflected in the BBC's review for one of the DVDs when they say that "Press Gang" is one of the best series ever made for kids. Or adults." [cite web |title=Press Gang 4 DVD |work=BBC - Cult Television |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/news/cult/2005/06/04/19813.shtml |date=2005-06-04 |accessdate=2006-12-22]

Nickelodeon showed nearly all of the episodes in a weekday slot in 1997. The final three episodes of the third series, however, were not repeated on the children's channel because of their content: "The Last Word" double episode with the gun siege, and "Holding On" with the repetition of the phrase "divorce the bitch". On the first transmission of the latter on 11 June 1991, continuity announcer Tommy Boyd warned viewers that it contained stronger than usual language. In 2007, itv.com made the first series, with the exception of "Page One", available to be viewed on its website free of charge. [cite web |title=Press Gang |work=itv.com |url=http://www.itv.com/BestofITV/kids/pressgang/ |accessdate=2007-11-19]

Fan following

"Press Gang" has attracted a cult following. A fanzine, "Breakfast at Czars", was produced in the 1990s. Edited by Stephen O'Brien, it contained a range of interviews with the cast and crew (notably with producer Hastie), theatre reviews and fanfiction. The first edition was included as a PDF file on the series two DVD, while the next three were on the series five disc. An e-mail discussion list has been operational since February 1997. [cite web|title=Press Gang: The Mailing List |url=http://www.yoyo.org/pressgang/mailinglist/ |accessdate=2006-12-23]

Two conventions were held in the mid 1990s in Liverpool. The events, in aid of the NSPCC, were each titled "Both Sides of the Paper" and were attended by Steven Moffat, Sandra Hastie, Dexter Fletcher, Paul Reynolds, Kelda Holmes and Nick Stringer. There were screenings of extended rough cuts of "A Quarter to Midnight" and "There Are Crocodiles", along with auctions of wardrobe and props. The "Press Gang Programme Guide", edited by Jim Sangster, was published by Leomac Publishing in 1995. [cite book |editor=Jim Sangster |title=Press Gang Programme Guide |year=1995 |publisher= Leomac Publishing |id=0952695502] Sangster, O'Brien and Adrian Petford collaborated with Network DVD on the extra features for the DVD releases.

Big Finish Productions, which produces audio plays based on sci-fi properties, particularly "Doctor Who", was named after the title of the final episode of the second series. Moffat himself is an ardent "Doctor Who" fan and has written several short stories and six episodes of the revival. ["The Empty Child"; "The Doctor Dances"; "The Girl in the Fireplace"; "Blink"; "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead"] He will take over from Russell T Davies as lead writer and executive producer of "Doctor Who" for the fifth series in 2010. [cite news |title=Doctor Who guru Davies steps down |publisher=BBC News |date=2008-05-20 |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7411177.stm |accessdate=2008-05-20]

Moffat has integrated many references to secondary characters and locations in "Press Gang" in his later work. His 1997 sitcom "Chalk" refers to a neighbouring school as Norbridge High, run by Mr Sullivan, and to the characters Dr Clipstone ("UneXpected"), Malcolm Bullivant ("Something Terrible") and David Jefford ("Monday-Tuesday"/"There are Crocodiles"), a pupil who Mr Slatt (David Bamber) reprimands for masturbating. [cite episode |title=Mother |series=Chalk |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Juliet May |network=BBC 1 |airdate=1997-03-27 |season=1 |number=6] The name "Talwinning" appears as the name of streets in "A Quarter to Midnight" and "Joking Apart", [cite episode |title= |series=Joking Apart |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Bob Spiers |network=BBC 2 |airdate=1995-01-17 |season=2 |number=3] and as the surname of the protagonist in "Dying Live", an episode of "Murder Most Horrid" written by Moffat. [cite episode |title=Dying Live |series=Murder Most Horrid |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Dewi Humphreys |network=BBC 2 |airdate=1996-05-25 |season=3 |number=3] The name "Inspector Hibbert", from "The Last Word", is given to the character played by Nick Stringer in "Elvis, Jesus and Jack", Moffat's final "Murder Most Horrid" contribution. [cite episode |title=Elvis, Jesus and Jack |series=Murder Most Horrid |credits=wr. Steven Moffat, dir. Tony Dow |network=BBC 2 |airdate=1999-05-26 |season=4 |number=5] Most recently, in the first episode of Moffat's "Jekyll", Mr Hyde (James Nesbitt) whistled the same tune as Lynda in "Going Back to Jasper Street".

Proposed television movie

A television film called "Deadline" was planned. It was set a few years after the series and aimed at a more adult audience. At one stage in 1992, series 4 was intended to be the last, and the movie was proposed as a follow up. However, making of the film fell through when a fifth series was commissioned instead. The idea of the follow up film was reconsidered several times during the 1990s, but every time fell through for various reasons.

In June 2007, "The Stage" reported that Moffat and Sawalha are interested in reviving "Press Gang". He said: "I would revive that like a shot. I would love to do a reunion episode — a grown-up version. I know Julia Sawalha is interested — every time I see her she asks me when we are going to do it. Maybe it will happen — I would like it to." [cite web |title=Steven Moffat wants to bring back ‘Press Gang’ |work=The Stage |url=http://www.thestage.co.uk/tvtoday/2007/06/steven_moffat_wants_to_bring_back_press_gang.php |date=2007-06-13 |accessdate=2007-06-15]

At the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August 2008, Moffat told how he got drunk after the wrap party for "Jekyll" and pitched the idea of a "Press Gang" reunion special to the Head of Drama at the BBC, John Yorke. Despite Yorke's approval, the writer said that he was too busy with his work on "Doctor Who" to pursue the idea. [cite news |title=Off Cuts goes to Edinburgh |url=http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/news/2008/08/off_cuts_goes_to_edinburgh.html;jsessionid=A33CE4A4634AC26D50D1371FEB85FC0D |work=Broadcast |date=2008-08-26 |accessdate=2008-08-27] [cite news |title=Press Gang movie in the pipeline? |work=Leicester Mercury |date=2008-08-26 |url=http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=196789&command=displayContent&sourceNode=196788&contentPK=21348360&folderPk=112383&pNodeId=196828&returnNodeId=196828 |accessdate=2008-08-27] [cite news |first=Colin |last=Robertson |work=The Sun |date=2008-08-26 |url=http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article1604922.ece|title=School and the Gang return |accessdate=2008-08-26]

Merchandise

Several products have been released, specifically four novelisations, a video and the complete collection on DVD.

Four novelisations were written by Bill Moffat and published by Hippo Books/Scholastic in 1989 and 1990 based on the first two series. "First Edition" was based on the first three episodes, [cite book |last=Moffat |first=Bill |title=Press Gang: First Edition |year=1989 |publisher=Scholastic Publications Ltd |location= London|id= ISBN 0-590-79162-5] with "Public Exposure" covering "Interface" and "How to Make a Killing." [cite book |last=Moffat |first=Bill |title=Press Gang: Public Exposure |year=1989 |publisher=Scholastic Publications Ltd |location= London |id= ISBN 0-590-79163-3] The third book, "Checkmate", covered "Breakfast at Czar's", "Picking Up the Pieces" and "Going Back to Jasper Street", and reveals that Julie left the graphics department to go to art college. [cite book |last=Moffat |first=Bill |title=Press Gang: Checkmate |year=1990 |publisher=Scholastic Publications Ltd |location= London |id= ISBN 0-590-79299-0] The fourth and final book, "The Date", is a novelisation of "Money, Love and Birdseed", "Love and the Junior Gazette" and "At Last a Dragon." [cite book |last=Moffat |first=Bill |title=Press Gang: The Date |year=1990 |publisher=Scholastic Publications Ltd |location= London |id= ISBN 0-590-76300-8] cite web |last=Newton |first=Matthew |url=http://www.mjnewton.demon.co.uk/tv/pginfo.htm |title=Press Gang Additional Information |work=Newton's Laws of TV |accessdate=2006-12-19] Each book featured an eight-page photographic insert.

VCI Home Video, with Central Video, released one volume on VHS in 1990 featuring the first four episodes: "Page One", "Photo Finish", "One Easy Lesson" and "Deadline." [cite video |date2=1989 |title=Press Gang |format=VHS |medium=Video |publisher=VCI |id=VC1112] The complete series of "Press Gang" is available on DVD (Region 2, UK) from Network DVD and in Australia (Region 4) from Force Entertainment. Four episodes of the second series DVD features an audio commentary by Julia Sawalha and Steven Moffat, in which the actress claims to remember very little about the show. Shooting scripts and extracts from Jim Sangster's programme guides are included in PDF format from series two onwards. The second series DVD set also contains the only existing copy, in offline edit form, of an unaired documentary filmed during production of series two. [cite web |url=http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?products_id=50 |title=Press Gang The Complete Series 2 |work=Network DVD |accessdate=2007-11-16]

References

External links

* [http://www.itv.com/BestofITV/kids/pressgang/default.html "Press Gang"] at itv.com
* [http://www.yoyo.org/pressgang/ Unofficial site] – programme guide, mailing list, FAQ


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • press-gang — press gangs, press ganging, press ganged 1) VERB: usu passive If you are press ganged into doing something, you are made or persuaded to do it, even though you do not really want to. [mainly BRIT] [be V ed into ing/n] I was press ganged into… …   English dictionary

  • press-gang — press gang1 v [T] 1.) press gang sb into doing sth informal to force someone to do something ▪ I don t want to press gang you into doing something you re not happy with. 2.) to force men to work on a ship, by taking them from the streets done in… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Press gang — Press Press, n. [For prest, confused with press.] A commission to force men into public service, particularly into the navy. [1913 Webster] I have misused the king s press. Shak. [1913 Webster] {Press gang}, or {Pressgang}, a detachment of seamen …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • press-gang — press′ gang n. a body of persons under the command of an officer, formerly employed to impress others for service, esp. in the military • Etymology: 1685–95 press′ gang , v.t …   From formal English to slang

  • press gang — ► NOUN historical ▪ a body of men employed to enlist men forcibly into service in the army or navy. ► VERB (press gang) ▪ force into service …   English terms dictionary

  • press-gang — [pres′gaŋ΄] vt. 1. Historical to force (someone) into naval or military service by means of a press gang 2. to force (someone) to do something …   English World dictionary

  • press gang — n. [for prest gang: see PRESS2] Historical a group of men who round up other men and force them into naval or military service: also pressgang …   English World dictionary

  • press gang — press ,gang noun count in the past, a group of men whose job was to force other men to join the military …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • press-gang — UK / US verb [transitive] Word forms press gang : present tense I/you/we/they press gang he/she/it press gangs present participle press ganging past tense press ganged past participle press ganged 1) informal to force someone into doing something …   English dictionary

  • press gang — Impress Im press, n.; pl. {Impresses}. 1. The act of impressing or making. [1913 Webster] 2. A mark made by pressure; an indentation; imprint; the image or figure of anything, formed by pressure or as if by pressure; result produced by pressure… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English