Sharing these good times

Tuesday 27th February 2007

Whole books have been written about Radio Times graphics, but it’s unlikely anything hailing from the last 12 months would find a place in their pages. Something seems to have really gone awry down at Brett Towers by way of cover art, reaching yet another all-time low with the issue out today.

The signs were there last summer when the call went out for a cover photo of two wrinkled old crones – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards selflessly standing in at the last minute for Gill Hudson and Alison Graham. Then there was that one featuring Dawn French and Tracey Ullman, as if the latter has meant anything to anyone in this country for the past 20 years.

2007, however, has already seen a stomach-curdling ensemble of Jayne Torvill, Christopher Dean and Sandi Toksvig, which was wrong not just because it was promoting an ITV show, nor because it was a tatty ITV show, but mainly because Sandi was doing a Macaulay Culkin face, something which even looked wrong on Macaulay Culkin.

Then came that TOP GEAR group shot: three petulant-looking middle-aged men, one of whom was pointing at another for no reason other than to distract attention from his bland face, one who appeared to be in the middle of chewing an Opal Fruit, and the third who looked like he’d not quite recovered from a near-tragic accident, which was ironic given he was Jeremy Clarkson. It also featured the first ever appearance of profanity on a Radio Times cover. Then again, after that edition last year which talked about masturbation, you couldn’t call it unexpected.

This week’s issue boasts a photo of David Tennant which has been knocking around for ages, to promote a half-arsed thing about TV’s most wanted. And now the new issue has no fewer than four alternative covers, each showcasing Ben Fogle in hilariously-antiquated garb, to promote…a half-arsed thing about TV’s most wanted.

The days of obscure line drawings, weird electronic etchings, studious portraiture and painstaking parodies are indeed long gone, but surely something in the way of eyecatching, original and imaginatively-designed covers wouldn’t be out of place right now, when the magazine sorely needs to raise its game and become the best-selling TV listings weekly again. It’d certainly make it stand out from the rest and give it a bit of personality again. Besides, it’d afford Gill something different to write about in her column instead of how she lives her life. Anything to bring back those good times.


The Macca Video Jukebox: part two

Sunday 25th February 2007


Paul achieves his ultimate dream: performing in a band entirely made up of himself. Oh, and Linda.

a) This was Macca’s first single of the 80s.
b) It was only kept off the number one spot by Blondie’s dreary shoutathon, ‘Call Me’.
c) It was, however, top of the charts in the United States.
d) Which was where John Lennon heard it, specifically inside a taxi cab, upon which he exclaimed “Fuck a pig – it’s Paul!” and (for what it’s worth, which isn’t much) professed it to be one of the best solo songs his erstwhile cohort had ever done.
e) The amiable army of Pauls in the video was dubbed, by the man himself, The Plastic Macs.

a) The Maccalikes. How many can you spot? There’s (at the very least) Buddy Holly, Ginger Baker, Frank Zappa, Ron Mael out of Sparks, and (best of all) Beatlemania Paul.
b) The fact even Linda looks like she’s enjoying herself.
c) The bit where Paul points at the band just before he starts singing.
d) The bit where the Beatlemania Paul does a thumbs-up.
e) Macca’s ace moves. They’re all here: bopping, head jiggling, eye rolling, weird arm gestures, doing a peace sign, the works.

Toppermost of the poppermost


Here’s Paul and co doing the song live in 1979. It’s an absolutely storming version, topped off with some textbook Maccalese of the kind that would later bedeck his live gigs from start to finish. “C’mon, don’t be shy, give your bums a quick rub, ooh yeah!”

Photo clippage #7

Thursday 22nd February 2007

Tel and Jim in no way conforming to type.

What a munter

Wednesday 21st February 2007

Among the scores of reasons why the 1980s was the best decade ever, its crop of strikingly exhilarating swearwords is rarely mentioned.

There are truly some fine expletives which, unlike other less palatable aspects of that decade (Steve Wright), have virtually passed out of existence. This is a shame, especially as today’s profanities don’t have half as much imagination or playfulness as those hailing from 20 or so years ago.

See if you can work one of the following into a conversation during the next 24 hours.

As in: “That Steve Wright, he’s a right piss artist.” If you prefer, an alternative is to substitute the adjective for a noun in order to deploy the sentiment by way of a condemnation of something not being quite up to standards, i.e. “I had to listen to that Steve Wright for an hour while I was stuck in traffic, which was a right pisser”.

As in: “I see that dipshit Steve Wright is somehow responsible for the most popular programme on Radio 2.”

A slightly less petulant example of 2), as in: “I reckon that Steve Wright is a bit of knobhead.”

This has good comical as well as caustic potential. For example: “That Steve Wright! What a fucking bell-end!”

5) Not a word as such, or indeed at all, but a gesture. Namely, flicking the Vs at someone by dint of pretending to “scratch” your face or rub each of your eyes using two fingers simultaneously. As in the kind of gesture you’d have been minded to make when sitting in the audience for The Steve Wright People Show.

"Well, I don’t know about you, but…"

Monday 19th February 2007

It’s precisely 50 years since the first edition of TONIGHT, the Beeb’s topical teatime tryst helmed by the impeccable, unflappable, infinitely three-piece-suitable Cliff Michelmore.

Cliff, together with cohort Alan Whicker and anyone else who’s still alive, is down at BBC Television Centre this very evening at a special celebratory dinner laid on by the D-G himself Mark Thompson. You can only hope Mark has his ears pinned back far enough to take on board whatever avuncular anecdotery Cliff sees fit to dispense over the melon balls and Hollandaise sauce. For much of what made Tonight not only hugely influential but compulsively watchable should, by rights, still be practiced on telly today. Not least on THE ONE SHOW, due back later this year.

Such ingredients can, at one remove, be boiled down to:

– a theme tune you can a) hum when you’re walking down the street b) hear above the noise of doing the pots and c) acts as a cheerful clarion for anyone in the vicinity to get in front of the box tout suite

– a set that looks like your friend’s dad’s study

opening patter that refers to some impossibly mundane subject of conversation and which allows the host to begin by musing, “Well, I don’t know about you, but…”

– someone interviewing colourful local people with a story to tell in a dementedly far flung corner of the British Isles, preferably in inclement weather

– someone interviewing colourful local people with a bizarre object to show and tell on a patch of gravel just outside the studio, also preferably in inclement weather

– a co-presenter sitting to one side of the studio in a sort of booth/cubby hole, to which the main host can turn with a raise of the eyebrow and the words: “If ever there was one person to tell us why, from tomorrow, we’ll officially all be one inch taller, it’s…”

– a whimsical topical song, neatly distilling the salient points of an otherwise earnest news item into a jovial caper with funny rhymes and a crap punchline which allows the singer to look faintly uncomfortable and the host to roll their eyes in mock-despair

– a luminary figure (politician/captain of industry/media mogul) in the studio doing something out of character for 30 seconds or so (riding a unicycle, wearing 3-D glasses, tasting an unusual foreign dish) before grimacing and allowing the host to crack: “Don’t give up the day job!”

– a long-running partwork wherein a famous friendly face flies the world/walks from one coast to the other/engages in a series of jobs that involve the phrase “back at the coal face”

– a Bernard Levin-esque brainbox who comes on regularly to pontificate wryly and articulately about something that’s been bothering them

– viewers’ capricious correspondence

– and last but definitely not least, someone who’s appearing in something on telly later that very night, who comes into the studio to plug their show, chuckle and say, “I couldn’t possibly tell you that!” when asked about what will happen to their character, and who then chats in an agreeably animated fashion with the host while the signature tune plays out.

Top of the Fops

Saturday 17th February 2007

There aren’t that many cads on television anymore. By way of louche-sized salute to the finest blackguards ever to parade across the small screen, the Digi-Creamguide mailout has idled away the last few weeks amassing a roster of definitive telly rogues. Chief, and indeed sole, qualification was to have an ability to wear a hat at rakish angle while letting a smile play suggestively around your lips.

Here’s the final list. Thanks to Nigel Fishwick, Steve Norgate, David Pascoe and TJ Worthington – Creamguide readers all – for suggestions. In no particular order:

1) The Charmer
aka Nigel Havers, aka any character played by Nigel Havers in anything he’s ever done.

2) The Bounder
as above, substituting Peter Bowles for Nigel Havers.

3) Paul Ryman
Richard Briers’ neighbour in EVER DECREASING CIRCLES. Expert at almost everything. Knew “a friend” who could fix/rustle up/smooth over everything else. Played to perfection by Peter Egan, who’d pretty much qualify as a cad incarnate were it not for his decidedly humbling househusband turn in JOINT ACCOUNT.

4) Major Giles Bradshaw
Resident cad in THREE UP, TWO DOWN, he tried to court Angela Thorne’s Daphne, much to the chagrin of Michael Elphick’s Sam. Defeated Sam in a game of poker in order to stop him stuffing a bear for his taxidermy hobby. Could well have asked Daphne to marry him, before being eventually exposed as a fraudster or bigamist, or possibly even both. Neil Stacy’s performance was basically his DUTY FREE schtick but swapping the anti-German paranoia for ex-military contempt.

5) Henry Newhouse
Titular gentleman gallivanter of CASANOVA ’73.

6) Hercules Grytype-Thynne

7) Baron Bartram
He was up against Mr Benn in a balloon race.

8) Far too many weekly guest characters in JEEVES AND WOOSTER
Hildebrand ‘Tuppy’ Glossop, Cyril ‘Barmy’ Fotheringay-Phipps, Alexander ‘Oofy’ Prosser, Augustus ‘Gussie’ Fink-Nottle…all had a proclivity for acts of flagrant foppishness, not to mention regenerating between series, usually into Martin Clunes.

9) The Master
Some clarification is needed here. The First Master (Jon P’twee era) was most definitely a cad, but not the Second Master (Peter Davidson onwards), who was something of a dopey twat. The Third Master, who looks like being Derek Jacobi, will definitely be a cad, unlike the Fourth Master, who The Sun thinks is going to be John Simm, and who will therefore be a wide boy with a big gob. Should get on fine with Mr Tennant, then.

10) Miles from THIS LIFE
Placed an advert in Time Out’s Talking Hearts Service which included the line “Do you like dining by candlelight and taking every moment as it comes?” Case closed.

Photo clippage #6

Thursday 15th February 2007

Perhaps the greatest publicity photo ever. A dazzling array of stars, including a cardboard Des O’Connor and the dog from Never The Twain, gather to promote ITV’s autumn schedule of 1983.