Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy 10th birthday River City!

10 years may not be a long time in TV soap when you consider that Coronation Street's been on the air for 50 years and Emmerdale is getting ready to celebrate its 40th birthday. 

But when we're talking about a small-scale soap produced and screened only in Scotland, with a cult audience on BBC iPlayer across the UK, then that is a major milestone. 

Above: the original cast of River City, 2002.  Only Malcolm, Eileen, Gina and Raymond are still in the cast 10 years on. (picture courtesy of the Daily Record)

Yes, River City is 10 years old this week.  The first episode was broadcast on 24th September 2002 and the show is still going strong despite rumours over the years that it was going to be axed.  River City was previously shown in two half hour segments per week, but over the last few years it became an hour long show, broadcast at 8.00pm on Tuesdays on BBC1 and repeated on Sundays.

For the uninitiated, River City is set in Shieldinch, a fictional area of Glasgow.  Like all other soaps, the pub - in this case The Tall Ship - is the focal point for a lot of the action.  The show has mainly centred around the Hamilton/Rossi/Henderson family since the beginning, however the show really got going with the introduction of the Adams family (yes!). 

Above: Stevie, Scarlett, Bob and Kelly-Marie Adams, 2003. Scarlett looking more glam than usual!  (Picture courtesy of the BBC) 

But to stop local life becoming too mundane, bring on the gangsters!  Lenny Murdoch is the gangster we love to love.  Such is his on-screen presence that the show suffers when he's not in it.  (By the way, a couple of years ago I saw the actor who plays Lenny standing outside WH Smith in Argyle Street, but I was far too starstruck.  Oh and I saw the actor who plays Raymond Henderson on a train once.)

Above: Lenny Murdoch, the 'Godfather' of Shieldinch.  (Picture courtesy of the BBC)

As well as Lenny, River City has had its share of iconic characters over the years.  Especially Scarlett Adams (now Mullen) and her son 'Shellsuit' Bob - although we cringe every time Scarlett shouts "ma wee Bubba!".  Of course in soap style it turned out that Scarlett wasn't really Bob's mum after all, but several episodes later all was forgiven.  We all miss Roisin too, who was an absolute legend!

Some familiar faces have also passed through River City. Lorraine McIntosh from Deacon Blue played Deek's mum Alice.  Remember Stefan Dennis from Neighbours? He was in River City for a while, and was also in Dream Team too. In another spooky coincidence, the actors who played Liam Mackay and Tommy Valentine in that much-missed Sky 1 soap were also in River City, the latter as Lenny's son Ewan Murdoch.  Then there was the bloke from the "Call On Me" video who played Jo's 'brother' who in soap style of course turned out not to be her brother after all!

For all the good characters there have been some absolute stinkers past and present: Daniel McKee, Marianne McKee, Fraser Crozier, Jennifer Bowie, Tatiana 'Tattie' O'Hara, Leyla Brodie, Lee ? (Amber's 'half-brother'). The problem with River City though is that they tend to axe characters on a more frequent basis than most other soaps for whatever reason (costs?) leaving little time to develop new characters sufficiently over a period of time.  This is a good thing if you don't particularly like a character though. 

I read somewhere that River City currently attracts ratings of around half a million.  That may not sound much but when you consider that the population of Scotland is just over five million people, then that's pretty good.  The ratings have recovered well from a previous slump, a few years back, when the show was facing the axe. 

By the way, for some strange inexplicable reason I always seem to have a backlog of River City episodes going back 3 or 4 weeks; so I must get up to date with them!  I do know what's been happening though....

Above: R.I.P. to the guy he used to be.  Farewell Deek Henderson.  (Picture courtesy of Digital Spy)

So happy 10th birthday River City, and may there be many more of them!!  

Above: the cast of River City, 2012.  Christina, Tatiana, Kelly-Marie, Lenny, Jimmy, Robbie, DI Donald, Zinnie, Will, Gabe, Murray, Dr Stubbs, Leyla, Stevie, Big Bob, Molly, Stella, Iona, Scarlett, Eileen, Raymond, Gina, Bob, Deek, Malcolm, Liz, Nicole, Adeeb and Conor.  (Picture courtesy of the Daily Record).

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