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"Sex and violence; I love children's television."
—Frazz Davies, Press Gang, "Bad News"
Press Gang was a UK children's comedy-drama that ran for five series from 1989 to 1993, receiving a BAFTA in 1991 for "Best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama)". It acquired a cult following both during and after its run, and its creator, Steven Moffat, would later become a writer for the revived Doctor Who.
The series followed the trials of the Junior Gazette, a newspaper founded to keep the 'problem children' from the local comprehensive school out of trouble. The paper in fact usually provided them with further opportunities to get into trouble as they investigated stories ranging from glue-sniffing by local kids to leaking sewage at the school headmaster's house, and eventually 'graduated' to running the paper as a professional youth newspaper.
Although extremely prone to Very Special Episodes, as the show covered everything from Star Wars conspiracy theories to child abuse, it usually managed to avoid becoming Anvilicious, mainly thanks to very sharp writing from Moffat and charismatic performances by Julia Sawahla as 'warped repressed power-mad bitch' editor Lynda Day, and Dexter Fletcher as Fake American Badass Spike Thomson, the show's resident bickering duo with Belligerent Sexual Tension.
This show provides examples of:
- Anyone Can Die: Partly subverted when we learn that gunman Donald Cooper in fact killed himself, rather than any of the main characters, during the gun siege, reinstated with the death of Lynda at the end of the final series - or is it?
- Author Appeal: Non sexual - the episode "unXpected" is about how amazingly awesome the cancelled sci-fi series Colonel X is, with the Colonel (and the deceased actor who played him) being portrayed by Michael "Valeyard" Jayston. Moff is, of course, a Doctor Who fan.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Spike and Lynda
- Berserk Button: Particularly in the early episodes, Lynda gets even more explosively outraged than usual if someone dares to suggest that she might care about Spike.
- Character Development: Lynda and Colin's relationship changes notably and permanently after their heart-to-heart conversation leads to her helping him to help Cindy in the second season two-parter 'Something Terrible'. Before, she cut him no slack whatsoever. After, she can actually be quite protective of him at times.
- Clint Squint: Spike has the page quote.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Frazz, who thinks that 'Purple' is a star sign
- Connect the Deaths: In the episode A Quarter to Midnight, Lynda was locked in an airtight vault with a half-broken phone. When she didn't turn up at work and four co-workers all reported the same weird phone calls in the middle of the night, they drew a cross to find that X marked the spot.
- Creepy Children: Sophie and Laura, Colin's disconcertingly weird little assistants, who feed people 'death sweets' and measure their teachers for coffins
- Death Glare: Lynda has a particularly good one as her default expression.
- Disabled Snarker: Billy Homer
- The Ditz: Sam. Julie could be considered this to a lesser degreee, though the trope was in full effect in the first series.
- Double Meaning Title: Press Gang: About a group of children who run a school newspaper, some of whom have been forced into doing the job as punishment for misbehaviour. The original treatment played on the pun even more, with two warring school gangs being forced to work together. However, this was toned down to two occasionally-sparring characters for the final show.
- Emotionally Tongue-Tied: Lynda and Spike are unable to bring themselves to say 'love' to each other and end up resorting to anagrams, declaring "I vole you".
- Epunymous Title: 'Day Dreams', 'unXpected'
- Fake American: Dexter Fletcher's American accent, introduced in order to give the show greater marketability in the US. Later lampshaded by Colin: when scheming to sell the story of Spike and Lynda's love life to a TV company, he promises "Don't worry, Spike, we'll get a genuine American to play you!"
- Generation Xerox: Spike and Linda to Spike's mom and dad
- Genius Cripple: Also borderline Disability Superpower - tetraplegic Billy Homer, played by real-life tetraplegic Andy Crowe, who engages in Hollywood Hacking from the newsroom computers, is Internet-savvy in 1989, and generally uses his Magical Computer for the common good.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair: Lynda Day, of the brown curly hair suggesting evil and/or Ax Crazy tendencies variation.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Quite a few for later audiences. Lynda is Saffy, Sam is Fiona, Kenny is Owen Turner and Julie is Lisa Fowler, Chrissie is Brigadier Bambera, Mr. Winters is Vorus/Poul/Mawdryn/Silver and Colonel X is the Valeyard, Spike is Tony Casemore/Soap and Simon Knowles is Vyvyan Basterd.
- High School Hustler: Elements of this trope in the characters of both Colin and Spike
- Hollywood Nerd: Subverted in the character of Sarah, who actually does look very much like a geeky late teen/early 20something
- Honest John's Dealership: Colin Matthews, who has been known to sell, among other things, defective half ping-pong balls, cans of soft drink that stain people's faces green, homicidal "security" briefcases, and the services of a sadistic hypnotist. For some reason that is never entirely clear to the audience or the rest of the characters, he is somehow allowed to remain in charge of the newspaper's finances.
- I Uh You Too: Lynda and Spike, unable to express their true feelings, resort to using anagrams, leading them to profess that "I vole you"
- Kavorka Man: Spike, despite being short, not particularly attractive, and insisting on wearing leather jackets and sunglasses indoors, apparently has no trouble both attracting a string of conquests that he uses to annoy Lynda, and continually stealing Colin's love interests.
- Like Parent, Like Spouse: Lynda is exactly like Spike's estranged mother, something which she takes the time to point out.
- Locked in a Freezer: An episode had Spike trapped under the rubble of a collapsed record shop, only able to speak to another trapped girl through a piece of piping. She later died of her injuries. A later episode had Lynda trapped in a bank vault and running out of air.
- No Empathy: Lynda Day is like this most of the time.
- Noodle Incident: Spike at the school dance
- Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: In the episode "A Night In", Lynda is handing out 'yellow slips' which mean that the recipient has to work on Saturday evening. Cue a round of excuses...and, when the round gets to Kenny, a wry look and the question, "Can you tell me which excuses haven't been used yet?"
- Parental Abandonment: Spike's messily divorced parents and dead father
- Subverted when Lynda pretends that her parents are divorced in order to manipulate Sarah into staying on the paper
- Platonic Life Partners Kenny and Lynda
- School Newspaper Newshound: Pretty much the whole cast, but particularly reporter Spike Thomson and features writer Sarah Jackson, fulfil this trope
- Slap Slap Kiss: Literally enacted by Spike and Lynda in the episode 'Bad News'
- The So-Called Coward: When a gunman is loose in the newsroom, Colin runs back into the building to save his friends. Later subverted when he returns to his weaselly ways after the siege is over, even using his gunshot wound to guilt Lynda into ceasing to shout at him
- The Starscream: Wee Tiddler.
- Tsundere: Lynda is an epic-level example of this
- The Unfettered: Lynda. About the only thing she won't do for the Junior Gazette is fold to blackmail - and even the suicide of the blackmailer isn't enough to throw her off her game for long when she sees the paper being run into the ground by Colin.
- Very Special Episode: Too many to count! Havingsaid that, they were very well done, and often some of the highlights of a series.
- Visions of Another Self: As shown by this very trope page, the devoted much time to the tempestuous romance of leads Lynda and Spike. One episode has a flashback to Spike's parents meeting for the first time - played by Julia Sawalha and Dexter Fletcher.
- With Friends Like These...: Lynda to just about everyone; Colin to Spike and Kenny