4 what it’s worth

Saturday 29th September 2007

40 reasons to cherish the 40-year-old Radio 4:

1) That bit on Today just before the 8.30am news when they have a joke with whoever’s presenting the programme on at 9am.
2) Round Britain Quiz, specifically the music-themed questions
3) Nicholas Parsons shouting “Welcome to Just A Minute!”
4) Kirsty Young
5) “North Utsire, South Utsire…”
6) They have a continuity announcer called Zeb
7) The bit at midnight when the newsreader has to try and speak between the Big Ben “chimes and strikes”
8) “Over on Long Wave, it’s time for…”
9) Jim Naughtie
10) The special accordion version of The Archers theme used for the omnibus edition
11) Humphrey Lyttelton’s innuendos
12) It’s the only place you get to hear Richard Stilgoe anymore
13) Ditto Clive James
14) The theme tune to File On 4
15) Jenni Murray, the best mum you could ever have
16) The Archive Hour
17) “…and that’s the world at 1.30”
18) Whenever a station controller has to turn up on Feedback and explain a scheduling change to an angry listener
19) Today In Parliament, especially the what-kind-of-week-has-it-been? Friday editions
20) The way the guests on The Moral Maze are called “witnesses”
21) Masterteam with Peter Snow
22) John Humphrys in a tenacious mood
23) Hearing someone in the audience shout “for shame!” during the live transmission of Any Questions
24) The “sideways look at…” feature in the last 15 minutes of The Westminster Hour
25) Getting to eat your lunch while listening to Martha Kearney
26) “Coming up, the Greenwich time signal…”
27) Documentaries presented by Charles Wheeler
28) The fact Woman’s Hour has to come from Manchester once a week
29) Sean Barratt reciting poems on Poetry Please late at night
30) Andrew Marr verbally jousting with four guests at the same time on Start The Week
31) Edward Stourton getting indignant with slippery foreign ambassadors at 7.20am
32) Waking up too early on Sunday mornings and hearing five minutes of church bells
33) Any programme based on a parlour game
34) Annie McKie reading the news
35) You can still get it on Medium Wave in London and Northern Ireland
36) The fact that, in the event of war, British submarines have been ordered to interpret the repeated absence of the Today programme from Radio 4’s frequencies as proof Britain has been the subject of a nuclear attack
37) Whenever The Archers drops in a specially-recorded last-minute scene to incorporate some topical news story or other
38) Eddie Mair
39) ‘Sailing By’
40) “So, from everybody here at Broadcasting House, it’s a very good night.”


Photo clippage: Radio 2 40th birthday special

Friday 28th September 2007

This weekend’s multiple anniversary commemorations have already got off to a sparkling start with an edition of Friday Night Is Music Night featuring a medley of Radio 2 “themes”, a singalong version of ‘MacArthur Park’ and Joe Brown cracking jokes about Ken Bruce.

Unfortunately there was no evidence of a mooted (at least by TV Cream) appearance by the Radio 2 Players; indeed, there doesn’t look like being any collective tribute, not even a special pantomime, during the whole celebrations.

By way of scant compensation, then, here are some of Radio 2’s erstwhile constituent parts.

1) A phalanx of DJs and significant others marches on 10 Downing Street to demand an end to the pervasive corrupting influence of Waggoner’s Walk:

2) Gloria Hunniford swaps the verdant pastures of Broadcasting House for a stint on Open Air fielding endless complaints about Peter Sissons’s pay packet and enquiries about the music played during Ceefax AM:

3) Brian Matthew dresses down for dinner:

4) Jimmy Young is joined in the studio by a known bender:

5) Just another average lunchtime in the BBC club:

6) Ed Stewart in a rare shot reaching for his wallet:

7) John Dunn is informed he no longer has to share a locker with Steve Wright:

Phil Din

Thursday 27th September 2007

Phil Redmond was on BBC News 24 earlier, droning on about his plans to “save” Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations. Unsurprisingly, the moment his grey, squashed face appeared on camera, Redmond sucked all life out of proceedings, leaving his interviewer battling to salvage even a dash of audible usefulness from the encounter.

The gist of his intentions, however, seemed to be:

– a touring revival of Brookside, utilising a flatbed truck to visit some of Merseyside’s most deprived areas in an attempt to use cultural enlightenment to help those needing new drains and central heating. Starring Dean Sullivan.

– an open mike session staged in Liverpool’s “heart” (Brookside Close), compered by Dean Sullivan, giving locals the chance to sound off to nobody in particular about petty grievances and smug prejudices.

– a new musical, ‘Why Liverpool Is Da Boss’, penned by Phil Redmond, re-telling some of the city’s so-called “finest moments”in story and song, featuring Dean Sullivan, Louis Emerick and Claire Sweeney.

– ‘How Brookside Saved Britain’: a series of seminars chaired by Phil Redmond, in front of an invited audience (no questions allowed), with special guest speaker Dean Sullivan.

– ‘Why Grange Hill Was Set In Liverpool All Along’: a journey round various local landmarks, as seen in recent series of the increasingly unpopular children’s series, designed to prove that the nation’s once-favourite comprehensive was never set in north London at all. Tour guide: Dean Sullivan.

– ‘Capital Culture-l Elites (sic)’ A keynote address by Phil Redmond, arguing that the Houses of Parliament, the Olympics, the British Library, HMS Belfast, the London Marathon, the Tour de France, the Melbourne Cup and the annual 10km Brazil fun run should all be held in Liverpool. Includes a specially filmed testimony by Dean Sullivan entitled ‘Hey Jimmy’.

See for yourself

Tuesday 25th September 2007

Paul Kennedy has written to TV Cream to ask:

“Can you tell me if the tea-boy from a long lost lower Amazonian rain forest tribe who has had access to a television for half a peko second has started rating the programmes on your site? I refer you to the rating for Fawlty Towers. One of the all time classics. Sack the tea-boy.”

It’s a fair point: who is responsible for determining the programme rating for each of the A-Z billings, and how precisely is it arrived at?

Suffice to say the process is a long and, conveniently for this blog, legible one. Initially a team of one hundred developers working in a boxroom in Shanghai calculate, on the basis of innumerable statistical formulae, what are the range of ratings available. This can take anything from one day to, if there’s a fair wind and Carla Lane is involved, half a minute.

The information is posted back to TV Cream Towers and verified by the recently-formed governmental Central Committee For Un-Archivery Activites, which cross-examines all the analysis for signs of fakery, ambiguity, imagination, creativity, innovation, identity and blarney.

The entire staff of TV Cream then spend a weekend watching every single episode of the programme in question, like those people at Dr Who Magazine who have spent the past fifteen years watching every episode of the titular children’s science fiction series in order. Voices are raised and opinions are aired, particularly when it comes to deciding what should be put on the TV instead, something that happens roughly fifteen minutes in.

A focus group is employed to measure the likely response to a number of options. Lots and lots of pie charts and graphs which have a line that goes up and down for no reason are produced. Somebody moots the idea of scrapping the entire A-Z. A tea boy from a lost Amazonian rain forest tribe stops by to say there’s no milk left in the fridge.

Finally the entire thing is put to a secret ballot and the results painted onto a giant piece of plywood by Bob MacKenzie.

Or at least that’s what is supposed to happen.

Run VT

Saturday 22nd September 2007

As fantastic as tonight’s rank-the-prime-ministers two-hour BBC4 marathon was, it did fall back one too many times on obvious archivery. How many occasions has that same footage of an over-daubed half-dressed woman dancing alone in a muddy field been rolled out to denote the Swinging Sixties?

Anyway, here’s a rundown of other all-too ubiquitous clippage for future documentarians to avoid. How many can you collect over the next seven days?

End of the Second World War: Winston Churchill in an open-topped car waving his hat around
Late 1950s: Woman taking delivery of a washing machine
Early 1960s: Girl screaming at The Beatles and holding her hands against her face
Late 1960s: George Best pouring champagne onto a pyramid of glasses
Permissiveness: Mary Whitehouse standing up in an audience of old people complaining about “the dirtiest programme” she’s ever seen
The three-day week: Old women in a supermarket with lighted candles tied to their trolleys
The Falklands War: men marching across a field with a Union Jack tied to a radio mast
The miners strike: Arthur Scargill being arrested
The 1980s boom: A businessman talking into a brick-sized mobile phone
Mrs Thatcher in control: Maggie re-arranging tiny flags at a press conference
Mrs Thatcher not in control: Maggie being pulled along the beach by a small dog
Black Wednesday: A businessman running across an office looking crazy
John Major: PM sipping a pint of beer in a tiny near-empty village pub
Tony Blair: PM heading a ball with Kevin Keegan
Princess Diana: Martyn Lewis blubbing

Photo clippage #26

Thursday 20th September 2007

ITV faces go on a motoring excursion to meet their public. Why doesn’t this sort of thing happen anymore?*

*Because there aren’t any ITV faces anymore.

"You gonna doublet? I doan believe ya!"

Tuesday 18th September 2007

In a week or so’s time, BBC Parliament is going to be repeating Election ’87.

Fair enough, it’s 20 years (and a bit) since Mrs Thatcher told Robin Day she could well be “twanging a harp” by the year 2000, prompting David Dimbleby to remark on how at least she was “absolutely convinced she’s going to heaven one day”. But the channel has shown Election ’87 before (in 2005) and there are surely other epic transmissions from the archive that could be marched out to fill its schedules before Westminster opens for business.

Thatcher’s resignation, for instance. The launch of Operation Desert Shield (or, if that’s not exciting enough, Operation Desert Storm). If the 1981 Royal Wedding is still deemed out of bounds (“Throw a handful of good wishes after them”) how about the Royal Fireworks from the night before (“The Queen and twenty craned heads from other lands…bonfire built by Boy Skates…”) or even the 1973 Royal Wedding (“You’re gonna doublet? I doan believe ya!”).

Maybe there could be a By-Election Bonanza, with an entire weekend devoted to some of history’s most famous one-off counts, linked with special commentary from David Butler (he’s still alive, y’know). There’s even one whole general election yet to be aired: Election ’59, which, with Richard Dimbleby at the helm, was surely a majestically gregarious affair.

Basically there are loads of gems waiting for re-airing, which makes the second coming again of Election ’87 rather underwhelming. Alternatively, and to shut up all those whinging about “BBC cuts”, why not replace BBC3 with BBC+30: a real-time re-run of exactly what was appearing on BBC1 30 years ago to the day. It’d get the Daily Mail’s hackles up, but also the viewing figures. A win-win situation!