Press Gang

From Academic Kids

This article is about the British television series Press Gang. For the old military practice of 'pressing' men into service, see Impressment.

Template:Infobox television

Press Gang was a British children's television comedy-drama, which ran for forty-three episodes in five series from 1989 to 1993. It was produced by Richmond Film & Television for Central, and screened on the ITV network in its regular weekday afternoon children's strand, Children's ITV. Unusually for a children's series, it was shot on film rather than video, contributing to high production costs.

Aimed at older children and teenagers, the programme was based around the activities of a "children's newspaper" initially begun as a school project but in later series depicted as a commercial venture. The show was devised by ex-teacher Steven Moffat on the suggestion of his father Bill, a school headmaster. Moffat also penned all forty-three episodes, and the majority of episodes were directed by Bob Spiers, a noted British comedy director who had previously worked on Fawlty Towers amongst many other programmes, and would later direct Absolutely Fabulous and the Spice Girls' movie.

The show was notable for the high quality and sophistication of the writing, as well as the chemistry between the two lead actors, Julia Sawalha who played the tough-as-nails editor Lynda Day, and Dexter Fletcher, playing wise-cracking American reporter Spike Thompson. Moffat used themes such as child sexual abuse, firearms and death, as well as the more mundane fare of interpersonal relationships, and drew out multifaceted characters, to the point where ITV became concerned that the program was too sophisticated for its intended audience. The series received a BAFTA award in 1991 for "Best Children's Entertainment/Drama".

Moffat has said in interviews and on the commentary track of the DVD release that the character of Lynda Day was partly based on the television show's producer, American-born Sandra Hastie. Hastie was also responsible for making the character of Spike American (in the hope of an American sale of the series which never occurred, although episodes were aired in Canada on TVO), though this apparently happened after the casting of the English actor Fletcher. The on-screen chemistry between the two leads was reflected off-screen as they became an item for several years.

Whilst the show's geographic location, or the dates of events, were never specifically mentioned, shooting was mostly done in Uxbridge, a suburb of London, though with the demolition of the building housing the original newspaper office sets, interior shots were filmed in Pinewood Studios from the second series onward, and the exterior of the building wasn't seen beyond that series.

The first two series were released on DVD for sale in the UK in 2004, the second series DVD featuring commentary tracks by Sawalha and Moffat, amongst other extras. The third was released in April 2005.

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