Spend, Spend, Spend is an episode of the BBC's Play for Today anthology series first transmitted 15 March 1977 on BBC1
When Keith and Viv Nicholson won the pools, she declared that she would take the money and 'spend, spend, spend!'. That's where the inspiration for this clever play from Jack Rosenthal comes from - it stars Susan Littler as Viv, John Duttine as Keith, Helen Beck as Viv's mother, and Liz Smith as Keith's granny.
The setting is Northern England, the characters are slightly stereotypical - Viv is flirty and flighty, Keith is quiet and withdrawn, Viv's parents are in an abusive marriage where traditional dad takes all the family money for beer, Keith's granny is a seething matriarch.
Winning the pools, too, is very of its time - no headline would pursue the winners of a few thousand when millions can be had in these days of lottery windfalls.
Still, the play is well-acted, by the much-missed Littler in particular, even if works now more as a historical document than a relevant slice of life.
The Play's The Thing Project
The dramatic story of Viv and Keith Nicholson who, in 1961, scored 8 draws on Littlewoods Pools and netted a staggering £152,000 (£3 million in today's money) is the classic rags to riches to rags story made all the more devastating because it is true.
Jack Rosenthal's Play for Today film based on Viv's book also explores this country's tendency to build people up only to knock them back down again. A blousy yet naive working class twice married housewife and mother of four from Yorkshire, Viv's only crime was to proclaim she would 'spend spend spend' her winnings - it was enough for the tabloid press, the jealous, former friends and the charity cases to get their knives out. By the 1970s she had nothing left, not even Keith who died in a car crash, or any of her following husbands who also died (one, ironically, in a car crash and another of a drug overdose right in front of her) The message of Spend Spend Spend is all too clear; money can't buy you happiness. Peerless performances from Susan Littler (who tragically died from cancer just five years after this film aged 34) as Viv and John Duttine as Keith help bring Rosenthal's wonderful script and Viv's side of the story vividly to life.
Classing as a first watch despite having seen it in my early teens.
BBC please consider repeating some of these classic plays.
© 2019 by HOWARD NICHOLSON