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Appearance and family
Yosser appears as a tall man in his mid thirties who wears predominantly black clothes and a distinctive bushy moustache. He always appears unkempt and unshaven. He has a wife called Maureen, an aggressive, unloving harridan who frequently berates him and had an affair with another man, the likely father of their three children (played in the drama by Alan Bleasdale's children).
The pilot of Blackstuff implies that Hughes worked in the Middle East at some time during the 1970s and later bought a house that was beyond the family's means. In the original pilot episode, he appeared comparatively sane, but displayed macho insecurities that would make his redundancy especially hard to take. When the boys were swindled out of their savings in Middlesbrough, Yosser reacted particularly badly, showing the first signs of the nervous breakdown that would characterise his behaviour in the 1982 series.
The first episode of the series saw Yosser collecting social security from a Liverpool DHSS and making an unexpected appearance at an illegal building site, organised by a corrupt Irish contractor called Molloy. When Molloy took him to task over a badly-built wall, Hughes headbutted him and kicked down the wall, storming off with his much-loved children in tow.
In what was perhaps the most memorable episode of the series, Bleasdale showed the complete disintegration of Yosser's life as his children were taken into care, he was made homeless and finally tried to commit suicide in a lake. Constantly trying to run the gauntlet of psychiatrists, social workers and debtors, Yosser made numerous pathetic attempts to re-establish his identity and sense of self-worth, at one point gatecrashing a charity event to meet his apparent lookalike Graeme Souness. Yosser eventually ends up courting arrest by smashing a storefront window, then being arrested for head-butting one of the police officers who arrived on the scene.
Bleasdale's use of black humour is also apparent in a scene in which a distraught Yosser and his three children enter a confessional where a priest named Fr. Daniel Thomas is listening, and telling him "I'm desperate, Father!" When the priest tries to calm him and sympathetically urges Yosser to call him Dan, Yosser blurts out the words; "I'm desperate, Dan!", a play on the comic character, Desperate Dan. Bleasdale admitted on 2 September 2011 on Radio 4's programme "Reunion" that he had been saving that joke for years, but it was the perfect joke at the perfect time.
In the final episode, Yosser pays a visit to George Malone, possibly the only person to treat him with any degree of understanding, although George is now too ill to offer anything more than token advice. He has been taken in by his mother and there seems little chance that he will see his children again.
Yosser attends George's funeral and loudly sniggers at the priest's banal eulogy. In the pub afterwards, he raises a cheer when he headbutts a vicious former bouncer into unconsciousness. In the very final scene, as three of the main characters watch a controlled demolition of a Tate and Lyle factory, Yosser's hopeless refrain of 'Gizza Job' is almost a requiem for the old working-class community that is being destroyed.