10th April 2015 at 2:48 pm #146
I have to be a little careful here (not everyone is dead yet!), but I can give some insight into the show's relationship with Cyril Abraham in its last two series. The fact is that he was, as a matter of policy, ruthlessly kept out of it. Mr Abraham did indeed have a plan for the story going well into the twentieth century; to say the least of it, this plan was not to the taste of Mervyn Haisman, the show's script editor. Mr Abraham saw the show as a slowly unfurling saga of a family and the sea – almost a Dickensian novel – but Mervyn, eye always to the ratings, thought more in terms of a 1970s soap opera in fancy dress. Under Mervyn, every episode had to have an "exciting" sea story and something going even more wrong with the family; there were times when he seemed to be talking about some sort of ocean-going Wacky Races based at the Crossroads Motel.
The fact is that Mervyn Haisman and Cyril Abraham detested each other to the edge of mania. Geraint Morris, the producer, got caught in the middle. Eventually, Mr Abraham's numerous phone calls were simply ignored. Geraint actually changed his home phone number to avoid him; Mr Abraham had no contractual relationship with the show by then, but would call the producer after every transmission to read the riot act. He had a lot to talk about. He was probably the first person to raise the annoying question of why, in a show set in Liverpool in the Victorian period, we never, ever heard a single Scouse accent, even from the servants. Mervyn would jump on any actor who even tried it, citing American sales as the reason. Mr Abraham would also pick merciless holes in the plots, which under Mervyn developed from the fantastical to the near-surreal; we were all, director very much included, very glad that he did not live to see the last episode, which made no sense at all.
Here's where I have to be careful. Much of the Abraham master plan was based around characters who, for the worst of practical reasons, simply couldn't be developed. Let's just say that some of the actors were better than others. Drink was an increasingly visible issue in one case.
In the end, the show's relationship with Cyril Abraham was so bad that we were genuinely surprised that Geraint asked Continuity to run an end-of-credits tribute to him when he died. Then they got his name wrong.