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Casualty series two
cast: Derek Thompson, Brenda Fricker, Cathy Shipton, Bernard Gallagher, and Christopher Rozycki

creators: Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin

739 minutes (12) 1987
2 Entertain DVD Regions 2 + 4 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
SPOILER ALERT!
There almost wasn't a series two. The first series of Casualty had been controversial, being singled out by the Conservative government of the day as epitomising the BBC's perceived left-wing bias. However, the series had done well in the ratings, so producer Geraint Morris was given the go-ahead for a second series. The budget was higher, and a permanent set was built in a warehouse just outside Bristol.

As the Holby City Accident & Emergency night shift had closed at the end of the first series, the opening episode sees the principal characters dispersed, and some of them gone altogether. Baz has left for London, leaving a grieving Charlie (Derek Thompson) behind. This episode deals with Ewart (Bernard Gallagher), Charlie, Megan (Brenda Fricker), Duffy (Cathy Shipton) and others' campaign to have the shift reopened. As the new permanent set was still being built when the series entered production, writers and creators Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin had been instructed to write an initial episode set outside the hospital. At the end of the episode, they succeed and the shift reopens.

There are new characters: administrator Elizabeth Straker (Maureen O'Brien), who initially clashes with Ewart, but as his divorce goes through enters into an affair with him; Sunderland-born SHO Mary Tomlinson (Helena Little), who gets an initially frosty reception; student nurses Cyril (Eddie Nestor) and Karen (Kate Hardie). On the rebound, Charlie has a one-night stand with Karen. Duffy finds a boyfriend, Peter (Eric Deacon), but has a nasty surprise in store. The demands of Megan's work puts a strain on her marriage to Ted (Nigel Anthony), who loses his taxi-driving job. When a patient dies, Megan is accused of negligence. And Ewart's dedication to his job puts a strain on his health, resulting in a heart attack.

The most dramatic development of all involves the paramedics Andrew Ponting (Robert Pugh) and Sandra Mute (Lisa Bowerman), a close-knit duo who were - it was established in the first series - having an affair, despite his being married. In episode four, Sandra is stabbed by a drunk and dies - the first time the series killed one of its own regulars off, a device that has since been somewhat overused. A grieving Ponting leaves. Their replacements were Shirley Franklin (Ella Wilder) and Keith Cotterill (Geoffrey Leesley). It's worth saying that these two characters didn't have the same impact as their predecessors. Shirley gets a strong introductory episode but afterwards retreats into the background, while Keith basically stays there throughout: his wife has a baby and that's all we really get to know about him.

Series two is slicker and more polished than the first one, perhaps due to the extra budget, perhaps to greater confidence. Credit is also due to strong writing and the work of some directors who would go on to better things: Antonia Bird, who had worked on the first series, now directs features and high-profile TV productions, while Christopher Menaul made the first Prime Suspect. As the series progressed, viewing figures rose, to the point where as many as 12 million were watching each week. The BBC had a hit on its hands.

As with series one, there are 15 episodes in all, contained on four discs: A Little Lobbying; A Drop Of The Hard Stuff; Shades Of Love; Cry For Help; Anaconda; Lifelines; The Raid; Cross Fingers; Seeking Heat; Rock A Bye Baby; Hooked; Fun Night; Peace, Brother; Burning Cases; and These Things Happen. There are commentaries on two episodes, from creators Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin on A Little Lobbying, and from Derek Thompson and Peter Salt (the inspiration for the character of Charlie, and the show's medical advisor from the beginning to this day) on Cry For Help. Shot on videotape, the episodes are in the original 4:3 ratio with mono sound. There are some (unidentified) edits, probably due to music rights issues.
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