Tuesday 2nd June 2009

Your local independent radio station is on the air *now*

TV Cream Towers is shutting its doors for good. Yup, this blog is embarking on its second move in just over six months, which will no doubt result in even more blogrolls and favourites’ lists becoming out-of-date.

From everyone here in the presentation suite...

It’s not quite the same as the last move, though. This time it’s less an eviction, more an amalgamation. TV Cream Towers is finally moving into its spiritual home: the TV Cream website itself. More precisely, the brand new TV Cream website, which is looking perilously like nearing completion.

You’ll find this blog, replete with its entire archive (from both Blogger and WordPress incarnations) sitting at the top of the front page. Hope to see you over there. Meanwhile there’s just time to look at tomorrow night’s programmes, were this 19 and a half years and a fair few less ugly confrontations with the demands of growing up and the real world ago:

At 9pm, a brand new sketch comedy show...

For now, at least, goodbye.

...and thanks, as ever, for your company.


If the line is busy, please do keep trying

Saturday 30th May 2009

Once upon a time, everybody knew this number:


Surely giving children the chance to pick up the phone and talk directly to their heroes was one of the most brilliantly imaginative yet beautifully simple ideas in the history of telly? And surely TV is so much poorer for not doing it anymore? Why the conceit has died is not especially difficult to guess; presumably Them Upstairs think kids nowadays prefer email, texting and other alternatives to speaking. Which is, naturally, bollocks.

Phones, or ‘phones to be precise, have come a hell of a long way since they could be the subject of an entire photo opportunity:


Yup, that’s the hotline to Moscow. Disappointingly, only the handset is red. Harold seems unimpressed by its presence, presumably because he’s more preoccupied with the doodle-potential of that conveniently-placed sheet of A3 paper. These two seem more interested in the possibilities of a telephone conversation…


…though admittedly this was back when watching monitors showing pictures of other people speaking into a telephone was self-evidently the pastime du jour of the chattering (do you see?) class. Telephones soon became a universal trope of TV, fording the otherwise stubbornly insurmountable chasm of current affairs…


…and light entertainment:


It’s not immediately clear what Larry is supposed to be doing here, but that’s kind of not the point. The photo itself is the important thing: Lal with a bank of standard issue handsets, perhaps passing on the latest gossip about Everard and Slack Alice (“She never puts it out, you see, except on Wednesdays, and then only after half-day closing”), perhaps counselling a distraught Pop-It-In Pete; it doesn’t really matter. The profusion of ‘phones, plus that towering montage of dials behind him, more than justifies this photo’s existence. By this point in history, the more telephones on TV, the better. Hence the Saturday morning ‘phone-in, culminating in the arrival of the – gasp – cordless handset on Going Live:


This was a time when the Beeb not only cared about the appearance of the presenters of their flagship shows, they also bothered to give them equally stylish technical gizmos. Hence Phil was able to do Live Line perched on one of the studio gantries, or out in the Concrete Doughnut if it was a nice day, or anywhere that afforded ample potential to busk when, as Had To Happen, he misdialled, or nobody answered, or there were problems on the line (“Come on, come on! Tch, this always happens! I think I dialled it right – let me just try again…[speaks while presses keys] dur dur dur, dur dur dur, dur dur dur…ho hum, bom bom bom, come on! I’m sorry about this viewers – is anyone from British Telecom watching? Only joking!”)

Then, as always happens with a good thing that doesn’t need changing, somebody changed it. Exciting, fresh and funny exchanges twixt caller and celeb were replaced by cold, clinical and soulless online chats and email exchanges. Presenters thought they knew better than the public at asking questions, culminating in the isn’t-this-enquiry-crap-and-aren’t-interviews-just-a-fucking-waste-of-time business perpetuated by the presenters of T4. This kind of stuff didn’t help either:


What’s wrong love, don’t you know what a dial is? Neither was this likely to rescue the telephone’s reputation:


Yes, it’s the Amstrad emailphoneatron, as available to view every Wednesday night on BBC1 on the desk of the person hired to play this week’s incarnation of Frances.

A TV show that had the top celebrities of the day on one end of a telephone and ordinary folk on the other would rescue the ‘phone from these and other malign influences (such as playing stooge to Noel Edmonds) and turn it once more into a thing of import and entertainment.

Unfortunately such an idea would probably be dismissed as “not contemporary enough” by Them Upstairs and passed over in favour of another talent show for freaks like they had in the 70s.

Think of a number (between 82 and 100 (not 99))

Monday 25th May 2009

It’s another bank holiday, and the enterprise TV Cream Towers launched on the bank holiday before last still isn’t finished.

Unlike present-day Blue Peter, the meeting of self-imposed empirical targets is still valued at TV Cream. If anyone can help nudge up our sequential song-based count from 1 to wherever (preferably 100), feel free to add suggestions to the Spotify playlist.

There’s a piece of cardboard – cut out of a cereal packet with the word RESERVED written on the plain side – sitting on number 99, but everything else between 82 and 100 is more than available.

Photo clippage #53

Friday 22nd May 2009

Meet Pudsey Bear mark 1. Save for this photo, he seems to have been airbrushed out of history – perhaps wisely.

Presumably Michael Grade arrived at the Beeb, took one look at this scruffy unkempt ragamuffin and demanded a makeover. And then he ordered a new Pudsey as well.

A pre-Michael Grade Pudsey

“Quickly changed into a suit and left for LWT…”

Wednesday 20th May 2009

Last week’s Creamguide concluded that, historically, and ignoring everything since c.1997, ITV’s regional efforts have outshone those of the BBC.

And one of the main reasons for that was surely The Six O’Clock Show, itself surely the best of its kind – an honour forever sealed by these 30 seconds of pre-weekend animated affability:

There’s Asp scurrying on at the end.

If only more of this show existed online…other than this tiny tiny bit of Mike a little out of breath and gallantly trying to rescue a feature that is plummeting rapidly downhill:

“I’ll get the team in – Cheryl Baker and Gary Wilmot!”

Is that still going?

Sunday 17th May 2009

News that the pilot of Last Of The Summer Wine almost failed to get made at all has been filed eagerly in TV Cream’s ‘If Only’ box file, next to Richard Stilgoe almost writing a script for Dr Who and Margaret Thatcher almost not winning some crucial byelection or other back in the 1950s.

The box file in question is conveniently (for this blog) adjacent to another one marked ‘Is That Still Going?’, wherein TVC maintains an inventory of those programmes that ran on far past their Best Before date, usually because no TV executives could be arsed to think up something with which to replace them. Currently, the top 10 looks like this:

"Yes, we do employ black nancies too"

"Yes, we do employ black nancies too"

Esther should have gone the same time as Mrs T.

That weird non-feminine femininity, the hotch-potch of now-here’s-the-good-news, now-here’s-some-more-bad-news, all those bloody hangers-on – it had lost all appeal come the end of the decade.

And the same goes for Esther (ho fucking ho).

Here’s La Passionara with a rather desperate bunch of ooh-it’s-the-90s nancies (note how Doc’s still managing to hang on in there, replete with Jumper Sent In By Thoughtful Viewer).

Twee vocalists and crap puppets not pictured

Twee vocalists and crap puppets not pictured

9) Rainbow

Proud sponsors of Britain’s student T-shirt industry.

Seemingly remembered for all the wrong reasons (i.e. for being good, funny, subversive, charming and so on) instead of being remembered for its insufferable boredom and dreary sermonising.

"Does Mr Robot Dog have something for this young gentleman 'ere?"

"Does Mr Robot Dog 'ave something for this young gentleman 'ere?"

8) Jimmy Will Fix It

“It ended because I told the BBC it should end,” remembers Jim, wrongly. In reality ratings had slumped – rightly so, given how fixes such as getting to help the chancellor of the exchequer write the Budget were, in the words of Carter USM, Lamontable.

Mr Humphries, a gay man, pretends to be aroused by feeling a woman's breast

A gay man pretends to be aroused by feeling a woman's breast

7) Are You Being Served?

The most uncommercial, threadbare-looking and least patronised department store in the whole world somehow manages to stay in business for 13 years (until 1985!) thanks to a turnover wholly comprised of references to tits, homosexuals and “sales drives”.

"Another series, Humphrey?" "Yes...Prime Minister"

"Another series, Humphrey?" "Yes...Prime Minister"

6) Yes Prime Minister

It just looked wrong having Jim Hacker turn from fallible bumbler with a heart in the right place to pompous preener with no touch of humanity. Especially as Sir Humphrey and Bernard didn’t undergo any personality rewrite whatsoever.

Ted surveys the morning agenda

Ted surveys the morning agenda

5) 3-2-1

The issue here was probably a studied reluctance to move with the times. In other words, Ted Rogers thought it was still 1963 when it was actually 1987.

Hence the old-time variety schtick. Hence the “surprise” guests from decades ago that most of the viewers couldn’t give a toss about. Hence the convoluted parlour game riddlery when most people didn’t have parlours. Hence Ted doing yet another bloody tribute to Danny Kaye. Hence a remote-controlled bin being thought funny.

The cast of Dixon of Dock Green, yesterday

The cast of Dixon of Dock Green, yesterday

4) Dixon of Dock Green

Any programme that boasts a chirpy whistle-along-with-me theme tune replete with affable talky bit from your titular ordinary copper (“Allo, that boy with the mouth-organ’s back again!”) deserves something of a lengthy run on the box, but perhaps not one that takes it well well past the point that “teddy boys” stopped wanting “their capers to be seen”.

Or, indeed, the point that teddy boys stopped.

Hands up who thinks this show's about to be axed?

Hands up who thinks Henry should come back?

3) Game For a Laugh

Now come on. Who ever thought a line-up of Beadlebum, Rustie Lee, Martin “P” Daniels and the other one was an idea worth half a second of anyone’s viewing consideration? Where’s the frumpy one in a big frock? Where’s the gnomic head boy? Where’s the multi-coloured jumper?

"It seems that once again you were right all along, Lovejoy"

"It seems you were right all along, Lovejoy"

2) Lovejoy

The man’s divvying and all that endless East Anglia scenery might have been palatable for a couple of series, but when it dragged on into the 90s and those dreaded words “Executive Producer: Ian McShane” suddenly turned up on the credits, all charm disappeared as fast as a predictably rare vase at a predictably unassuming car boot sale.

"Ooh, I could rip a tissue" "Not if I don't rip seven shades of shit off you first" "Now calm down Janet"

"Ooh, I could rip a tissue" "Not if I don't rip seven shades of shit off you first" "Now calm down, Janet"

1) Crackerjack

The best thing Michael Grade ever did was pull the plug on this noisy, shouty, unfunny parade of gunge, lettuces and mincers.

Fuck knows why Janet Ellis is here; at least she escaped with eardrums and career intact.

Hello, we’re Mike Moran and Lynsey De Paul

Friday 15th May 2009

…and we’ve just got one thing to say about the current health of the economy¬†and the public’s opinion of elected politicians. Take it away Ronnie!

Tragedies? We got 'em