Cue the life of Phil; a fun loving student in his final year at high school and currently going steady with girlfriend
Sharon, whose best friend Vera just happens to have the hots for his best mate Matthew. And nothing wrong with that.
Except that Matthew's gay, having quit education the previous year as a means of escaping the homophobic abuse
of the classroom, only for the discovery of his collection of softcore porn of the man-on-man
variety to cause fireworks on the home front.
Then again, life for Phil is none too easy, given the realisation that whilst he loves Sharon, he equally has feelings for
Matthew. Tired of the 'nancy boy' taunts of life in the city, the two decide to elope to the coastal resort of Seaford.
Only when Sharon turns up, coupled with the presence of teenage runaway Suzie, the question is not so much whether
they can leave their troubles behind, but more of whether Phil's bisexual nature is destined
to make their so-called honeymoon, a short-lived one.
Commissioned in 1986 for transmission in February 1987 as part of the BBC Schools SCENE series, this episodic drama dared
to portray two teenage boys who come to realise that their friendship for each other, has developed into something far
more substantial. It is sincere. It is touching. It also flew in the face of Thatcherite concern over sex education.
For the real story here is not about Phil and Matthew, but that of what became of this tender portrayal
of adolescent gay love.
For this was the age of Dame Jill Knight and the infamous December 1987 introduction of what would become Clause 28 to the
Local Government Act. Namely a clause aimed at preventing local authorities from intentionally promoting "the teaching
in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." By May 1988,
Clause 28 had became Section 28 and a law that would remain on the statute books in England and Wales until
July 2003, by which time it had turned into a political carbuncle to the party that had introduced it,
being as embarrassing for the Tories, as it was offensive to us.
Today we may well wonder what all the fuss was about? Indeed given the multitude of primetime OUT television personalities
and shows with openly gay characters, it seems incredible that this sweet story of two teenagers in love, who just happen
to be gay, could have caused such a furore. And yet it did. Pulled by the BBC from its scheduled transmission date due
to concern over its pro-gay stance, it was finally broadcast on the 25th March 1988, only for the BBC to have bowed
to government pressure and reworked the original ending so as to showcase a 'choose straight' preference. Even
then and with as late a screening of 11:30pm, many were still unhappy over the broadcast of what The Sun
newspaper cited as a programme that should be "returned to where it belongs - the closet."
Thankfully many opinions, let alone laws have changed since those words were written and this 'alternative Beautiful Thing'
remains nothing more, and nothing less, than a sweet gay love story, complete with an early television appearance from
British TV icon Kathy Burke. Back in its day however, this brave attempt by the BBC and inparticular from writer
Leslie Stewart to educate the youth of the day on the issue of sexual diversity lay directly in the shadow
of Clause 28 and a government that will forever be remembered for having introduced one
of the blackest sexual rulings in UK constitutional history.
withdrawn from transmission 1987
reworked 'choose straight' ending aired 1988
starring: Jason Rush, Lee Whitlock, Jenny Jay, Zoe Nathenson, Kathy Burke,
James McKenna, Judy Gridley, John Judd