Press Gang (CITV, 1989-1993)
As you should know by now, drama isn’t my favourite TV genre, but I felt that I had to review this one because it was definitely one of the most successful CITV shows of its era. All of the episodes were written by Steven Moffat, who went on to work on some more acclaimed shows, while most of the main cast had further success too.
Press Gang was based around a school newspaper called Junior Gazette (“a voice for today’s youth“, priced at a very reasonable 20p), that was put together by a group of teenagers who soon became friends. Lynda (a pre-Second Thoughts and Absolutely Fabulous Julia Sawalha) was the editor, and also on the team was American Spike (Dexter Fletcher, but I, like most people it seems, didn’t realise that he was actually English until he hosted Gamesmaster). And they’re doing this weekly?
As the episodes progress we see how the team work together, in their aim to become award-winning journalists despite only being about 16, trying to bend the rules their way, and always being on the search for the next scoop. Well unsurprisingly Junior Gazette soon flew off the shelves like hot shoes. There were also some guest appearances including Ade Edmondson, Patrick “Baps” Barlow, and Suggs from the Nutty Boys of Madness.
Early episodes concentrated on things like what the banner headline should be, or whether they had enough pencils and the like, before the situation began to change to concentrate more on the love lives of the characters, and some difficult subjects were tackled. Although for me the biggest scandal in the show was when the price of Junior Gazette went up to 30p in series three, how could they.
In the early series, the characters also spoke over the credits reflecting on what happened in a similar style to sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey, but Press Gang did it first. The high standard of the show was maintained all the way through the run, with plenty of impressive moments. Although the show was aimed at teenagers, it was sharp enough to be enjoyed by an older audience, and this was proved when there was a repeat run in the evening on Channel 4 in the early-90s, and it was also shown during CITV’s Old Skool Weekend.
There were 43 episodes of Press Gang in five series, with much anticipation for every new series, and Tommy Boyd said that it was the best show on CITV when he was a presenter, there really is no better endorsement than that. The show has also been served well by DVD, with all the episodes released in a seven-disc boxset by Network, that also contains plenty of extras including a look behind the scenes and PDFs of various things including Junior Gazette front pages.