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Archive for July 2nd, 2017

By Adam Ferenz

Yosser Hughes needs a job. That is what one remembers most about this series, and with good reason, as Bernard Hill gives one of the single most powerful performances in television history, and likely the very best ever seen on British television. Writer Alan Bleasdale, himself a native of northern England, where this is set, has a track record of very knowing and intelligent stories about social and political structures. Here, he takes his focus and turns it on a group of day-workers, a collection of men who mainly work laying down blacktop on roads, the “blackstuff” of the title. Yosser is the crux of the story, indeed, perhaps, the entire point.

While each character gets an episode focused on them, it is Yosser one remembers, being followed by his children, like little ducks, behind a great big, ugly and increasingly crazed-or desperate-father. “Giz a job” he repeats to any and all. David Simon, co-creator of The Wire, once said that the second season of that series was about the death of work, but he was beaten to the punch by Bleasdale. While Bleasdale claims he never intended a direct parallel or comment on Thatcherite politics, it is hard to imagine such things were not in the back of his mind.

Here, we see the group go for a job, get conned by a pair of Travelers, and as a result, lose their regular employment. It is at this point that Yosser, especially, begins his descent into madness and despair. The others drift through life, trying to get by as best they can, some of them gaming the system, most taking what work they can where they can. It is bleak drama but it is not entirely devoid of hope, because it reflects life. For some, there is nothing, and for others, there is at least an existence. Times are tough and ultimately, so what? (more…)

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