Let's Talk About S.W.A.L.K.

When Channel 4 started up in 1982, BBC2 was already well into its sadly-missed attempt at slotting cerebral entertainment for Older 'Younger Viewers' into the 6pm post-childrens'-programming news-avoidance timeslot. The Adventure Game, Maggie, Now Get Out Of That!, No Limits, The Great Egg Race, Monkey and The Deceivers were just a few of the fondly-recalled offbeat oddities that pulled in the otherwise ill-served audience demographic by treating them like they had a bit of intelligence and opinion, before ruining it all by foisting thirtysomething's idea of what 'teenagers' are interested in Def II on an unsuspecting world. They really should have gone with that second series of Juice.

Anyway, needless to say, the newly-launched Channel 4 wanted a piece of the action, and their early years were full of attempts to jump on the bandwagon, albeit usually getting the target audience wrong in the process and coming up with the likes of Michael Rosen-driven 'inclusivity'-promoting tediumfest Everybody Here. Sometimes they did hit the mark, though, notably with explanation-non-needing music show The Tube, subtitled imported underwear theft-themed comedy drama Xerxes (which probably needs a post of its own at some point), and S.W.A.L.K..

So what was S.W.A.L.K.? Well, something that's always drawn a good deal of blank looks, frankly. In short, it was a quasi-postmodern fourth-wall-breaking teen-comedy-drama with Photo Love Story-esque stylings about a teenage girl whose romantic trials and tribulations were steered by the Prunella Scales-essayed Aunt Patty, a problem page agony aunt come to metatextual life, and bolstered by its very own stroppy sub-Altered Images theme song. And hardly anyone ever seems to remember anything about it. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that at more or less the same time and in more or less the same timeslot, BBC2 were running the strikingly similar Dear Heart; indeed, for some years I wrongly recalled the S.W.A.L.K. theme as the Dear Heart theme.

Anyway, S.W.A.L.K. was one of those things - like Crow & Alice and proper MP3 versions of the original Now That's What I Call Music/Hits albums with the correct versions of all the tracks - that seemed destined never to show up on the internet. Was, that is, until the other day, when a whole episode showed up on YouTube. Next stop, The Boy Who Won The Pools!

Not On Your Telly, a book collecting some of my articles on the archive TV we never get to see, is available in paperback here or as an eBook here.