Was this TV show filmed in Suffolk one of the worst ever made?
- Credit: BBC
The 80s have long been heralded by many as a golden age for British television. The decade gave us long-standing classics such as Only Fools and Horses, Auf Widersehen Pet, and Yes Minister. Eastenders and Casualty both debuted in the 1980s and are still broadcasting new episodes to this day. But how many of you can remember Triangle?
Not to be confused with another more recent BBC series of the same name, 1981’s Triangle was a soap opera set aboard a North Sea ferry, and was filmed locally in Felixstowe.
The show – which starred Larry Lamb as Matt Taylor, Kate O’Mara as Katherine Laker, Michael Craig as Captain John Anderson and Paul Jerricho as Charles Woodhouse – only ran for three series on BBC1 between 1981 and 1983 before being axed. But why didn’t Triangle stand the test of time?
The show’s premise was simple enough, and followed the day-to-day lives of the crew and passengers aboard the MS Tor Scandinavia, and in later seasons the DFDS vessel Dana Anglia, as they travelled between Felixstowe, Gothenburg and Amsterdam – hence the name Triangle.
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But the sight of glamourous Kate O’Mara sunbathing topless on the ferry’s freezing deck in the pilot episode’s opening scene wasn’t enough to help save the show or pull in much of an audience.
Dubbed “some of the most mockable British television ever produced”, Triangle’s script was particularly lambasted, and became the butt of many jokes on Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 morning show.
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Just 11 years after its first episode aired, Triangle’s pilot was rebroadcast as part of BBC2’s TV Hell – a night dedicated to some of the worst British television ever made. Among those also on the smorgasbord of rubbish telly were various embarrassing clips dug out from the Top of the Pops archive, Churchill’s People – a 26-part historical drama that was so poorly watched it changed how the BBC would commission dramas from then on, and Club X – a Channel 4 magazine show that was presented from the inside of a noisy nightclub.
Even decades later in the 21st century, the soap opera couldn’t shake its embarrassing reputation, and once again found itself in the firing line as it made an appearance on a 2015 episode of Channel 5’s ‘The 80s: The Best of Bad TV’, with broadcaster Anne Diamond saying: “People used to talk about Triangle – but I can’t think why because when you look back on it, there was no action at all.”
For example, in one episode, there was a scene that just showed a row of lorries slowly driving around Felixstowe Port - and that was it.
Eighties songstress Toyah also poked fun at the show’s lacklustre plotlines, adding: “Who on earth would think that a programme about a cross channel ferry could be exciting? Then you watch the scenes and you think where are the drunks? Where are the people puking over the sides? Where’s the fighting?”
Triangle’s set didn’t help matters either, with former cast member Sandra Dickinson remembering how difficult it was to shoot scenes aboard a ferry making its way across the choppy North Sea.
“There was often a force nine gale when we were filming, so it was quite hilarious trying to get the show done. The scenes that were going to be done very much depended on who was standing up at the time, as the people in the scene with you may have been seasick.”
These issues, coupled with Kate O’Mara’s exit shortly into the second season, meant Triangle wasn’t destined to sail much further. Could Felixstowe have played a more pivotal part in the show if more episodes were made? We’ll sadly never know.
While Triangle failed to make much of an impact on British audiences, or go on to become a cult classic years later like many shows do, that didn’t hamper the star potential of its main cast, with the likes of Larry Lamb and Kate O’Mara going on to have incredibly successful careers long after the show’s demise.
Readers may best remember Larry Lamb as Mick Shipman on BBC’s Gavin and Stacey between 2007 and 2010, and as soap villain Archie Mitchell on Eastenders over 10 years ago. As recently as 2016, Lamb also placed seventh on the 2016 series of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity.
A couple of years after leaving Triangle, Kate O'Mara joined the cast of US primetime soap Dynasty, starring alongside Joan Collins, playing her sister Cassandra 'Caress' Morrell.
However, Triangle’s legacy isn’t a total sunken ship, as it apparently had quite the loyal following in Europe at the time. Triangle writer David Quantick says: “I think Triangle was actually East Germany’s number one soap opera when it got transferred to the BBC by accident. I don’t know what was on the other two channels to make Triangle so popular. They must’ve been showing footage of brick walls. Or beatings.”
Do you remember the show being filmed in Felixstowe, or have any fond memories of it? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories.