Why Do We Do What Our Parents Forbid Us to Do?

Yes, even when we’re quite grown up, have children and and grandchildren, and our parents have long been deceased.

1960s television

My parents weren’t great television-watchers.  There were numerous programmes I wasn’t allowed to watch, including The Man from UNCLE and Z Cars.  My grandparents watched television even less;  my grandmother would talk loudly, in a broad Leicester accent, meduck, through any programmes you attempted to watch in her presence.   Occasionally, however, even my parents went out and my grandparents babysat me.  “Oh, I always watch The Man From UNCLE,” I’d say breezily.  “We always watch Z-Cars.”  To be honest, I never figured out what was going on in The Man from UNCLE, only that my friends (who really were too young for such things) ALWAYS watched it and thought Illya Kuryakin was good looking.  I wasn’t much better understanding Z-Cars, to be honest, although my grandmother understood the plotline of one episode rather too well and queried, with my mother, what I was really permitted to view.  Now, my father was always sparring with my grandmother, so this was red rag to a bull.  Next week he had to check Z-Cars out for himself and he gave it the OK, so Z-Cars and Softly, Softly (which followed when Z-Cars proper reached its sell-by date) became part of our weekly schedule at home.

So, a few months ago, I bought a DVD of Z-Cars episodes… and left it on the shelf under our telly, while One and Only Husband and I finished off our Dr Finlay’s Casebook DVDs – except that we kept finding more and more Dr Finlay DVDs on the internet.  Dear Reader, we completed our last one on Frida – and OAOH now tells me he’s just bought another one.  Back in our home in Leicester, Dr Finlay was also taboo, but for another reason.  My mother was fed up to teeth with hearing about Scotland, where my father and his own mother had taken several holidays in Scotland, which they had enjoyed enormously, and discussed endlessly.   For OAOH, however, Dr Finlay had loaded emotional value because, each week, it was the last warm lacuna of home before his father drove him back to boarding school.   On seeing the first episode over a year ago, I was transfixed; Finlay, Cameron and Janet are such believable, distinct and sympathetically-drawn characters.  The plots (nearly) always make sense and, for their era, are quite gritty, concerning communicable diseases, illegally-imported and diseased dogs, abortion, over-bearing fathers, the setting is truly idyllic – and Finlay and Cameron drunk enough whisky to fill a Scottish Loch.

So, after Dr Finlay on Friday afternoon, we eventually broke into Z-Cars on Friday evening.  The episode we saw was the very first one, when the new crime patrol was being set up, following the death of a policeman, black-and-white (obviously) and poor quality (probably illegal!)  However,  I amazed myself by recognising Charlie Barlow, John Watt and Bert Lynch and remembering that, despite the setting really being Liverpool, the fictional location was somewhere called Newtown.  It was very atmospheric, especially the clothes (all women in skirts, some in headscarves and curlers) and the tiny house where one of the policemen lived, with a coalfire in a ceramic grate, which the wife kept tending with a dusty shovel and poker.  Very different from what’s on television now, I can still see that modern crime series learned a lot from Z-Cars:  the cameraderie and rivalries amongst the police, for instance, and the occasional lighthearted subplots.  However, some things pulled me up short:  the way one of the characters (the one in the tiny house) treated his wife like a skivvy; the smoking; Bert Lynch thumping a suspect, unprovoked, to get something out of his pocket; Barlow harranging Lynch for not arresting the (same) suspect, on the basis that the suspect had a criminal record (even though he hadn’t committed a new offence at the time Lynch was interviewing him).  And I still couldn’t work out the plot.  My husband had to explain it twice.

I enjoyed every minute of it.  But, Dear Reader, is it just the nostalgia I’m enjoying, or are these things really really good?


9 thoughts on “Why Do We Do What Our Parents Forbid Us to Do?

  1. I loved Man from Uncle and Ilya Kuryakin. We bought a DVD of MFU films – not as good as the programmes. Did you ever see Get Smart, the spoof? I wasn’t that fussed about Z cars but at the time had no idea where it was set – now I know the theme tune is a Liverpool folk song. We also watched the slightly more sophisticated Softly Softly. But what really set me off from this post was Finlay, Cameron and Janet. I can still hear the way Dr Cameron said ‘Janet’. But the big memory is of someone diagnosed with anaemia who was prescribed raw minced liver sandwiches. I have never forgotten that and lived in fear and trembling that I would one day get anaemia and have to either eat raw liver or die! What a choice!
    Were they good shows? Yes, in context. Society has changed so they may not seem so to new generations. And early on they were moral tales too. I have a deeply ingrained memory of a tv police show, not sure if it was Z Cars or Dixon of Dock Green, in which a milkman was out collecting milk money on Christmas eve or Christmas day, had a glass or two of sherry, crashed on the way home, died. His wife we saw looking at his present, hanging on the tree. A fountain pen. Times really have changed…

    1. Never saw the raw liver mince one. I think I would’ve been sick! Regarding Janet in Dr Finlay, she gave as good as she got, and went through the motions of leaving several times. One of the prevailing themes was the doctors not respecting her enough.

  2. Great. Thank you. Now you have got me interested in another (endless, it seems) series: Dr. Finlay sounds right up my alley, with doctors and Scotland an irresistible mix. Will have to see where it is available. At this point, I wish I were a TV critic with all the good tv out there, old and new, to watch.

  3. Can’t say I was ever a big fan of the above. We recently bought a dvd of Robinson Crusoe — the dubbed children’s version from the 60s and 70s. Didn’t live up to our romantic expectations of it, though.

    1. So you didn’t like Dr Finlay, or even ZCars, despite being a north country girl. Regarding 1970s version of Robinson Crusoe, Classic FM were playing the theme music to it on Andrew Collins’s ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ last Saturday. (Yes, I know Robinson Crusoe was a TV series, but they dedicated a week to TV themes.) I enjoyed the theme, although I can’t remember the programme.

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