Recently I just finished watching the entire series of the UK tv show ‘Press Gang’. All five seasons have been released on DVD over the past two years, and after much scrounging and lounging I watched them from beginning to finish.
‘Press Gang’ ran from 1989 to 1993, and concerned a group of high school students working on a children’s newspaper, the ‘Junior Gazette’. For the first two series the show followed them as they tackled various serious subjects – including solvent sniffing, suicide and sexual abuse – and their various conflicts with the community, their school and their parent paper. The last three series saw the paper operating as a serious commercial paper – as the students had now moved on from school into their burgeoning ‘adult’ lives..
Unusually for a television series, it was shot on film – which, while expensive, gave the show a classy feel. It was written by Steven Moffatt – an ex-school teacher – who would go on to write the acclaimed UK sitcom ‘Coupling’ and Hugo-award winning episodes of the new Doctor Who series. What makes ‘Press Gang’ so special is Moffatt’s clever, witty and on-the-pulse writing… every episode is chock-full of memorable dialogue and moments, and not without thematic merit either.
The News Team
Lynda Day – Julia Sawahla
Lynda is the editor-in-chief of the Junior Gazette. She’s ruthless, single-minded and has a razor-sharp tongue. She also has very bad dress sense.
Spike Thompson – Dexter Fletcher
Spike is the wise-cracking American who chases after Lynda from the very moment he joins the news team. Starting out as a ‘bad boy’, Spike was given the choice by the school’s principal to join the news team or face expulsion. Spike and Lynda are often the main focus of the show.
Kenny Phillips – Lee Ross (Series 1-3)
Kenny is assistant editor and Lynda’s long-suffering best friend. Pathologically nice.
Colin Matthews – Paul Reynolds
Another problem student who was forced into working for the Junior Gazette. Colin was in charge of the newspaper’s finances. When he wasn’t doing that he was running scams, conning people, working for his dodgy uncle and generally irritating the news team.
Sarah Jackson – Kelda Holmes
Senior writer for the newspaper. Sarah is talented, unassuming and easily underestimated.
Frazz Davis – Mmoloki Chrystie
Like Spike, Frazz was a troubled student given a second chance. He writes the paper’s horoscope, despite not knowing all twelve star signs. He’s laid back to the point of comatose and can often be spotted in the background reading a magazine or comic.
Julie Craig – Lucy Benjamin (Series 1, Series 4 -5)
Julie was the head of the graphics team in series 1. She returned later to fill Kenny’s position as assistant editor when he left. She’s the sort of girl who’s popular at school and is easy foil for Lynda’s sharp tongue. Her taste in men is somewhat dubious.
Tiddler – Joanna Dukes
Tiddler scams her way onto the news team and writes the extra-junior section of the Junior Gazette.
Sam Black – Gabrielle Anwar (Series 2)
Head of the graphics team. Aloof and flirty.
Danny McColl – Charlie Creed-Miles (Series 1)
Danny is the Junior Gazette’s photographer.
Billy Homer – Andy Crowe (Series 2 -3)
Started out as a mystery writer for the Gazette thanks to super-modern internet technology! Billy is a quadraplegic and an old friend of Spike’s. He often makes extremely poor-taste jokes about disability.
Matt Kerr is the head of the Junior Gazette’s parent paper and he makes infrequent appearances throughout the entire series.
Mr Sullivan is a teacher at the school and often gives Lynda advice. He appears mainly in the first two series.
Chrissie is a writer with the Gazette’s parent paper, she helps them out occasionally during the first two series.
Sophie and Laura are two younger girls at the school who run errands for Colin, they appear in the first two series.
Mr Winters, the principal of the school. He appears infrequently throughout the entire series.
Anyway, that’s a rough guide to the show. It’s a very good show and if you’ve never seen or heard of it before it’s well worth checking out, some of the episodes are fiendishly clever and I was very sad when I finished re-watching them all as I had fallen in love with all the characters all over again and I didn’t want to say goodbye!