Our Forgotten Black Television Drama season opens at BFI Southbank on Monday 4 February with a screening of Trix Worrell’s Just Like Mohicans (Channel 4, 1985) for which Worrell won Channel 4’s Debut ’84 prize for new writers. Directed by Faith Isiakpere, Just Like Mohicans features Mona Hammond as an elderly woman whose home is broken into by three youths. After an altercation the two white youths leave and, Barrington (Gary Beadle), the black youth, is left alone with the woman, Shirley, who starts rebuking him for his bad language and his values. She’s from Jamaica and has been in England for 27 years, while he was born in England of St. Lucian heritage (Worrell was born in St. Lucia and came to England at the age of five).
The 40-minute play explores the generational and cultural clash between the woman and the youth, who loses his bravado in the face of Shirley’s resolute but polite criticisms of his behaviour, especially when she tells him that her husband died the year before and that she is now living alone after her two daughters emigrated.
Filmed entirely on video, Just Like Mohicans suffered from onscreen interference when broadcast and was interrupted by titles apologising for the interference. We are therefore delighted that the production company, Holmes Associates, have been able to make available a pristine print enabling Just Like Mohicans to be seen as originally intended for the first time.
After writing Just Like Mohicans Trix Worrell co-authored the feature film For Queen and Country (1988), about a disaffected Falklands War veteran (played by Denzil Washington), and created the highly successful Channel 4 sitcom, Desmonds (1989-94), featuring Norman Beaton and Carmen Munroe, which explored in a comedy context some of the themes first introduced in Mohicans. In 1993 Worrell wrote and directed the seven-part sitcom, What You Lookin’ At? for London Weekend Television and, following the death of Norman Beaton in 1994, he created Porkpie (Channel 4, 1995-96), a new sitcom based around one of the characters from Desmonds. In 1998 Worrell received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Television Society.
Following the screening of Just Like Mohicans there will be a panel discussion featuring Trix Worrell, screenwriters Daniel Fademisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith (Run, Save Me) and season co-curator Stephen Bourne (author of Black in the British Frame) examining what we might learn from the dramas showing in the season (many of which have not been seen since they were first broadcast) and what opportunities lie ahead for black creatives and writers in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
The panel discussion was recorded and can be viewed here.