The 80s



There are clips and playlists for this series on the BBC website: click here.

The 80s is effectively the sequel to my earlier series The 70s. The obvious challenge was to get away from the Punch-and-Judy Thatcher-versus-the miners view of the decade that has become such a constant theme of most documentaries about the era.

I had a very clear idea of what I didn't want - by which I mean a voiceover intoning "Britain was more divided than ever", while Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes" plays over footage of policemen and pickets at Orgreave.

Too often, I think, discussions of Britain in the 1980s simply turn into extended biographies of Margaret Thatcher. Indeed, when I first discussed the series with Steve Condie, who had made The 70s, I even suggested writing a treatment in which Mrs Thatcher wasn't mentioned at all.

In the end, of course, we put her back in. Whatever you think of her, she's such a strong and compelling character that it would be bonkers to leave her out. But we alway tried to keep the emphasis very firmly on the lives of ordinary people who often weren't particularly interested in politics at all. Hence all the stuff about cookery, snooker, television, shopping centres, home computers, and so on.

As before, I was ridiculously lucky to work with a clever, talented and dedicated team. They would, I'm sure, be very keen to tell you that I never complained once, not even when doing my 523rd walking shot, freezing to death outside a disused colliery or eating multiple plates of IKEA meatballs for a sequence that they never even used.

The series producer was Alex Leith, a glutton for punishment if ever there was one. Alex also directed the first episode, and the other directors were Jacqui Farnham and Kate Misrahi. Louis Caulfield returned to work his magic behind the camera, and Adam Scourfield was in charge of sound and art-detection. The executive producer was Chris Granlund, while Alec Webb, Hassan Ali, Tracey Li and Kathryn Jein kept everybody else sane and on schedule. Meanwhile, from her bunker in W1A, Fatima Salaria regularly reminded the presenter of his many failings.

"In The 80s, Dominic Sandbrook continued his thoughtful search through the rags and bones of popular culture on the still warm rubbish heap of history ... Sandbrook’s thesis is that history is made by unorchestrated mass movements, serendipity, technology and fashion ... He made a good argument that I wanted to engage in. He is a winning and smartly agreeable presenter." AA Gill, Sunday Times

"I enjoy history with Sandbrook. There’s something of Breakfast TV about it: it’s not worthy, furrowed-browed analysis. It’s bold, cheerful ... Maybe there is something of a Delia recipe about it too – clear and easy to follow, aspirational and domestic ... history of the 80s, in the style of the 80s." Sam Wollaston, Guardian

"***** Sandbrook achieved the coup of making us chuckle at his provocative idea, while supplying new perspectives. This was entertainment that made us think, a rare combination ... Sandbrook flung these teasing, witty theories at us like a circus performer juggling knives ... The soundtrack was masterful. Every song illustrated a moment ... And the hour-long playlist provided an expert guide to the musical explosion that followed punk, from heavy metal to synthpop and then stadium rock." Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail

"Sandbrook’s whistle-stop retrospective is stuffed with evocative clips and lively analysis." Daily Telegraph

"Sandbrook chooses with his typical care and panache the right mix of the big and the small to make his history extremely watchable." Independent

"Mr Sandbrook is one of those TV historians who seems to have lived through the eras he talks about. Not just lived through them but taken part in them – watching the TV shows, wearing the fashion disasters and listening to the pop horrors, in a way other experts often seem not to have. True to form, last night’s programme did not go for sweeping theories but moved, from point to point with clear, memorable examples ... You couldn’t fail to engage with his argument." Matt Bayliss, Daily Express

"Irrepressibly lively and evocative." Metro

"A refreshingly commonsensical approach and an outright antipathy to the lazily unquestioned received version of the past ... the very opposite of a snooze-fest." The Lady

Image put together by Alex Leith, the series producer. Louis Caulfield took the original photo. In the real world, this magazine would obviously be a massive hit.

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