The story of BBC TV series Triangle

The BBC show ran for three series from 1981 to 1983 until it was axed - and it is sadly remembered for all the wrong reasons.

After being slammed by critics during transmission, the short-lived soap has been dubbed “some of the most mockable British television ever produced” and one of the worst TV shows of all time.

While the first series did manage to attract viewing figures of around six million, the show was considered a flop.

We looked back at what ultimately sunk Triangle…

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The Show 

Triangle told the story of the crew of the North Sea ferry which travelled from Felixstowe to Gothenburg, Gothenburg to Amsterdam, and Amsterdam to Felixstowe, the latter leg of the journey created purely to make the title seem realistic.

Four main characters made up the regular crew, Michael Craig as Captain John Anderson, Larry Lamb played Matt Taylor, the late, great Kate O'Mara was Katherine Laker, and Paul Jerricho starred as Charles Woodhouse.

It was somewhat of a breakthrough role for Larry who has since gone on to star in EastEnders, Gavin & Stacey, and is soon to appear in jungle-based reality TV series I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!.  

While Kate was one of the main characters of the show, she jumped ship after series two, the broadcast of which was somewhat overshadowed by the start of Dynasty, which she went on to appear in as Caress, the sister of Joan Collins’ character Alexis.

The US soap aired on British TV for the first time less than seven days after Triangle’s second season had kicked off.

As well as the regular Triangle cast portraying the crew, the show featured several guest stars - including Hollywood actress Dawn Addams, The Two Ronnies star Elizabeth Larner, and Inspector Wexford’s George Baker - who played passengers on the vessel.

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Limited Horizons

While the programme contained a cast of talented actors and actresses, the scripts didn’t always do the show justice.  

Comparing Triangle to some fellow suspect TV series that followed, such as Howard’s Way and Eldorado, TV critic Graham Kibble-White once said: “In Triangle and the programmes that followed we could find some of the most mockable British television ever produced.

"Common to all was a sense of limited horizons.

"Where each sought to escape from the mundane, depicting lusty lifestyles just beyond reach, all ended up a drab reflection of little England sensibilities.”

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Ferry Big Issues

The show was shot on a ferry, Tor Line’s MS Tor Scandinavia in season one and DFDS’s Dana Anglia boat in the second and third series, using portable cameras rather than in a studio - and this presented problems.

There were issues with the weather as the show was shot in the North Sea and a lot of the time the elements represented a somewhat cold and dull-looking location, which was somewhat nippy for Kate O'Mara’s topless scene in the first episode.

Camera lighting was also a problem as the ship’s portholes or windows had to be covered in curtains when interior scenes were shot for continuity because of the changing weather, and there was of course the issue of seasickness.

Kibble-White said: “Triangle was generally lambasted for the pokiness of its interiors. The necessity to film cabins with blinds drawn over portholes only contributed to the overall impression of drabness.”

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TV Hell

In August 1992, the BBC screened a theme night called TV Hell in which it showed archive TV clips regarded by critics and viewers as some of the worst TV of all time.

The evening included a short documentary about Triangle’s production, as well as interviews with the cast and crew and a repeat of the first episode.

If repeating the first episode to remind everyone about Triangle wasn’t enough, 40 critics consulted voted the show as “the worst of recent British failures”.

What’s more, among the show’s critics when it aired was Sir Terry Wogan.

He used to lambast the programme at times on his very own BBC Radio 2 show, causing some embarrassment for the BBC.

Triangle even had fun poked at it from other shows, such as The Young Ones, in which the character of Neil’s mother once said: “Even Triangle has better furniture than you do,” when discussing the poor state of the house in the British sitcom.

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Not All Bad

However, despite the bashing Triangle received, there were some who liked the show.

One Radio Times reader, Mrs H. Taylor, once wrote into the magazine saying: “I feel I must write to thank the BBC for the series Triangle before anyone else starts to say how poor it was.

"I was interested from the very first programme and am pleased that the series has turned out to be so interesting.”

What’s more, the critics weren’t always entirely negative about the programme, with Kibble-White admitting that it wasn’t quite as bad as the likes of Eldorado and had at least attempted to create a new genre - although he couldn’t resist slamming the show at the same time.

He said: “For all its faults though, Triangle is probably the most acceptable of the lot. Granted, in terms of tattiness it fell further than the rest, but at least it was a pioneer, carving out a new genre and doing so with some innovation.”