"Hello, I’m Penny Wise"

Thursday 29th November 2007
Chris Hughes has pointed out that new designs for every coin are being introduced next year, and wonders – rightly – why there has been no official publicity about this whatsoever.
Where, he contends, was the design-a-coin competition on Blue Peter? Where was the official announcement (which should, by rights, have been made by Alistair Darling as a guest on The One Show, in front of some blown-up giant-sized coins)?

And where is the publicity campaign, featuring an animated character called Penny Wise, voiced by Penelope Keith?

And is there going to be a special launch programme on BBC1, hosted by Huw Edwards and Evan Davies, with guest appearances from Sir Alan Sugar and Peter Jones; roving reports from Saira Khan and Matt Baker; mini-skits with the casts of Robin Hood (“Yes, Sheriff, I certainly do give to the poor…this bag of shiny newly-minted coins!”) and EastEnders (“‘Ere, Minty, what’s this funny money? Are you trying to diddle me?”); plus the stars of Strictly Come Dancing performing to Pennies From Heaven?


Timothy Lumsden to a disco beat

Tuesday 27th November 2007

A guaranteed floor-filler, surely.


Sunday 25th November 2007

By way of a belated tribute:


She didn’t want any BEMs – Bug Eyed Monsters – and hence the Daleks were born. A hundred years later Jon P’twee shows up on Good Morning With Anne And Nick to ask viewers the competition question: who created “those pepperpots”? Correct answer: not Terry Nation. Not Davros. Not even Russell T Davies…

2) GBH
“I knew a missionary once. He said it was an interesting position.” The best drama Channel 4 has ever done, the best script Alan Bleasdale has ever written, the best thing Robert Lindsay has ever done. Plus the best Julie Walters-doing-an-old-woman Julie Walters has ever done. “Are you Dirty Den?”

Anthony Andrews does his best not to get blown up by unexploded bombs in south London during World War Two. Everybody else tries, and fails. Meanwhile Iain Cuthbertson boils up increasingly preposterous bomb disposal magic potions, Kenneth Cranham loses his marbles, and the band play on.

It had an episode with a plot involving a copy of Radio Times and a cameo from Michael Grade. What more does anyone need?

Sam Neill gets planted inside newly-Revolutionised Russia by Peter Egan to sabotage the best-laid plans of Bolshie bastards Kenneth Cranham – him again – and David Burke. David Suchet looks in as Inspector Tsientsin. Troy “Edge Of…” Kennedy Martin wrote it. The most expensive thing Thames TV/Euston Films/Verity ever did.

Worth saluting not least for perpetrating that rare art of jumping the shark (Minder On The Orient Express) then jumping back again (Gary Webster in for Dennis Waterman).


John Mills tries to evade the clutches of a cackling Ethel Skinner off EastEnders while a battery of long-haired crusties chant drivel about “huffety puffety ringstone round” and Wembley Stadium gets covered in a thousand tons of chalk dust. Thankfully everyone gets blown up at the end.

Not even repeated bursts of Trish Valentine karaoke on the beach could drown out the sound of a million television sets being switched off. Ditto the endless cries of “Marrrrrccccccuusssssssss!”

Barry Humphries minces around Amsterdam in a seedy raincoat looking discombobulated while Simon Park and his orchestra parp in the background. Verity picked it up off the cutting room floor where Thames TV had dropped it. She should have left it there.

Verity Lambert RIP

Friday 23rd November 2007

“Just don’t let me see any Bug Eyed Monsters!”

Make it happen

Thursday 22nd November 2007

Now that Evan Davis is off to the Today programme – albeit for 12 months – vacancies are open for the position of host of Dragon’s Den and BBC Economics Editor.

The former, quite clearly, needs to be filled by Greg Dyke. Having confirmed his ease at being able to trot out the same scripted bits of dialogue every bloody episode on Channel 4’s recent Get Me The Producer, and given his own track record at business innovation (those ‘Cut The Crap – Make It Happen’ yellow cards for all BBC personnel), the man is a shoo-in. Besides, he’s used to throwing money at doomed ventures, such as Channel Five (SATIRE).

As for Economics Editor, rather than merge the position with that of Business Editor, currently occupied by Robert “Errr” Peston, you really do need a separate appointment, someone with a light touch, affable personality and an eye for figures. Is Susannah Simons, sometime host of Channel 4’s Business Daily, still around? Failing that, anybody got Joan Bakewell’s number?

Shush a minute

Wednesday 21st November 2007

If ever there was a time for the sentence “If ever there was a time for a country-wide poster campaign promoting discretion and lip-buttoning”, then that time is now.

The practice of shutting up and keeping schtum used to be a national discipline. There must be dozens of poster prints, or at least stencil sets, gathering dust in a warehouse on the edge of a town somewhere that could easily be pressed back into service.

With 25 million bits of personal identification floating around and nobody quite sure who knows what about whom, some co-ordinated tongue-holding is clearly in order.

Bob Hoskins could front the campaign, in the guise of jovial Detective Inspector Ivor Difficulty (D.I. I.D. – do you see?), accompanied by David Mitchell as his sidekick PC Ben E. Fitz. The pair would journey around the country on the back of a flatbed truck, acting out skits and being interviewed – in character – on local news bulletins.

Jimmy Young, Joan Shenton and Rolf Harris would host a special telethon to raise money for the appointment of an Information Commissioner in every political constituency, operating out of small customised cubicles in shopping precincts.

Peter Kay could dress up as a giant child benefit form (anything to rob the man of some more dignity), and Danny Baker could do a few radio public information broadcasts.

Finally Simon Bates could organise a awareness-raising walk (plus accompanying charity single) from Tyne and Wear to London, along the route those two missing computer discs should have taken, hosting his Classic FM breakfast show from a different local council drop-in advice centre each morning.

"At least there’s one happy end to the day!"

Monday 19th November 2007

Tucked away at the very end of last night’s epic excursion through the 1967 devaluation crisis on BBC Parliament was an edition of 24 Hours hailing from the night of Labour’s 1968 Budget. And it was fantastic.

Bubbling away infectiously was Michael Barratt. Chuckling blithely was Cliff Michelmore. Both sat at different desks with different coloured backdrops, Cliff’s all black to denote superiority, while Mike’s was a bland grey.

Cigarette smoke drifted in front of the camera. Two union bosses grumbled and grunted about incomes policies. An indecently young looking Peter Jay droned on in precisely the same way he would proceed to do for the next 30 years. Mike did a round up of other news, including a press cutting from the Evening Standard containing a humorous misprint about the Archbishop of Canterbury – itself a correction of a misprint the previous day. Cliff tried to get in touch with Jamaica where England were about to win the test match.

Plus there was that staple of 1960s current affairs programmes, a topical skit. Hastily written and rehearsed in a matter of hours, it brought us “the Chancellor’s other television budget address, his dummy run”. Cue Nigel Hawthorne done up to look like Roy Jenkins, speech impediment and gigantic glasses present and correct, doing a tour de force to camera complete with ringing phones, giant calculating machines, an abacus and a collapsing briefcase.

Then it was back to Cliff for a sympathetic farewell consolation about all the new taxes on beer, tobacco and petrol, and into the jaunty end credits.

Why isn’t there anything like this on TV anymore? Why is Newsnight something you feel compelled to watch not out of interest or fondness but duty? Or even boredom? Why can’t current affairs be both heavyweight and light-hearted and not sacrifice a bit of charm in the process? And why, when it’s attempted, is topical humour so clumsy and obvious?

There’s still nothing, even after all these years, that comes close to rivalling the whole Tonight/24 Hours/Midweek small screen lineage of sending you to bed with the definitive full stop on the day.