Tuesday 31 January 2023


Ephemeral television, as is its nature, comes and goes without causing much of a fuss. Indeed, it only takes a quick perusal of the Curious British Telly archives to understand just how much of our cultural output falls in between the cracks of our groaning, much put upon memories. But, as I've been saying for well over a decade, thanks to the written word and permanence (we hope) of the internet, these brief dalliances with broadcasting can be cemented into the digital consciousness. And that's why I'm cock a hoop to finally breathe life into a true forgotten oddity: Bradley.

Bradley (Paul Bradley) is a peculiar, but upbeat chat. How peculiar is he? Well, how about the fact that his bedroom (aka a hammock in front of some curtains) descends into his living room thanks to a remote control and his kitchen extends out of a wall at the press of a button? No? You want the oddness heightened? Okay, how does this sound: he's got a giant windmill and tractor in his tiny front garden for no discernible reason. Still not absurd enough? Well, don't worry, even this is topped by one final element of absolute curiosity. You see, Bradley lives with his reflection, but not like you or I do. Instead, his reflection Yeldard (Paul Bradley) is a freethinking individual, one who is determined to get Bradley to make something of himself.

Bradley's adventures, although not located in the realms of the avant-garde, are equally curious. Seemingly mundane on the surface, episodes can, for example, find Bradley heading out to get a haircut and a paintbrush, but accidentally becoming a hairdresser in a salon. Naturally, chaos ensues as Bradley's lack of experience leads to hair removal cream being mistaken for Brylcreem and cutting one gentleman's moustache off. And chaos is a recurring theme where Bradley is concerned, evidenced by his short dalliance as a clumsy waiter in a French restaurant and when Bradley's presence leads to three people getting their heads stuck in a set of railings.

Six episodes of Bradley were produced by Granada for Children's ITV, with the 25 minute episodes going out in 4.20pm slot over Spring 1989. Paul Bradley, along with Michael Fenton Stevens, wrote one of the episodes (Teacher for a Day which also starred Sheila Hancock) whilst the rest were written by Bernard Kelly and David Till. But how did the series come about? Luckily, I was able to get in touch with Paul Bradley to find out more about the series' origin:

"I'd done two shows with Granada: a children's sketch show directed by Tim Sullivan and produced by James Maw called Stop That Laughing at the Back and then an adult sketch show The Kate Robbins Show. The executive producer asked me to come up with an idea for a children's show. So, myself and Michael Fenton Stevens came up with the idea of an odd character who has a different adventure every week. The brief was sent to five young writers that the channel wanted to give a start to - one of whom was David Renwick who went on to write One Foot In The Grave"

is a strange little show, but rather than be tragically strange like that man at the bus stop shouting about otters, it's a charming brand of peculiarity. Yeldarb is perhaps the most pleasing foray into surrealism the series takes, one episode finds Yeldarb heading off on holiday and being replaced in the mirror by Jim (Peter MacQueen) and the final episode sees Yeldarb resigning in protest at Bradley's disastrous life. But there are plenty of other quirky moments such as Bradley getting changed by walking in and out of his wardrobe in seconds whilst the opening titles find a claymation Bradley bursting out of a newspaper and stumbling disastrously across a breakfast table.

Farce, of course, is an important part of comedy, and Bradley takes farce by the hand and runs headfirst into a particularly farcical wall. The fourth episode Bradley Wrecks a Casualty Ward takes this to extremes with the aforementioned head/railings debacle quickly followed by a disastrous trip to the casualty ward (which features Heap and Wall from Dizzy Heights) and ending with Bradley ejected out of a laundry chute in a runaway laundry bin. Another episode finds our protagonist blowing up a French bistro after lighting brandy drenched crepe suzettes before, in a cruel twist, Bradley wins a pair of tickets to said bistro.

But what of the man that the series is named after? Well, Bradley - who introduces himself to people as "Bradley! Buh-ruh-adley!" -is a bumbling everyman with a quip for all occasions. And it's a persona which fits the mildly anarchic universe of Bradley perfectly. Much like the character of Nigel Bates in EastEnders, Bradley benefits from the comedic grace and affable charm of Paul Bradley. Carrying the majority of the narrative, he ensures that there's a jolly atmsosphere throughout and it's difficult to hold any grudges against the series. It was, as he explains, an exciting opportunity, but not necessarily the easiest job of his career:

"It was quite a responsibility to front the show but I didn’t interfere with any ideas the producer or director had. I left that to them and behaved as if it wasn’t my idea and that I was just an actor playing a part. We never clashed about style or anything. The director was young and I sometimes felt that he didn’t have the comedy chops. It is a very specific technique shooting comedy and perhaps someone with more experience would have shot it differently!

At the time, I was in a co-operative agency and the fee they negotiated wasn’t good. When I said to the  director that we had a brilliant cast - including Sheila Hancock, a bear, the footballer Mark Hughes, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Nicol, Sheila Hancock, and Hetty Baynes - he said 'that’s because you asked for so little, we could afford them!' It was tough doing it, I was in almost every scene! But fun, and I was happy with the series"

Bradley is, as mentioned at the start of this article, a highly obscure programme of the era and, sure, it does have shortcomings such as plots tending to plod at times, but there's a gentle joy at the heart of the series (think Chucklevision without the conniving of Paul Chuckle). And, along with programmes such as News at Twelve and Erasmus Microman, it's further evidence that the Children's ITV schedules in the late 1980s were bubbling away with a creativity and quirkiness which marked them out as an entertaining alternative to Children's BBC. Bradley may be forgotten by most, but at least its curious ways have finally made it to the internet.

1 comment:

  1. Love Paul Bradley! An absolute legend ❤️