"You’re one step closer to that BBC Acorn computer"

Saturday 28th June 2008

The official BBC Beat The Teacher quiz book, published in 1985, contains some uncomfortably difficult questions. Were these really the type of thing fired by Howard Stableford at wide-eyed kids from the likes of Brickhill Middle School, Bedford and Monk’s Walk School, Welwyn Garden City (the eventual champions)?

1) What is the maximum number of similar-sized circular coins, placed flat on a table, that can touch the edge of one other coin of the same size?

2) What is the weight of tuppenny rice and treacle in ounces?

3) Four horses run a race. Bright Star came two places behind All At Sea. Give Us A Kiss was in the first three, and Pottipop wasn’t. Who won?

4) What could ‘HIJKLMNO’ stand for?

That last one in particular is ludicrous.

The thing is, nine times out of ten (well, seven at least) the kids faced with such riddles would fire back the responses with face-punching ease. Sometimes the teachers would upstage the lot (and Stableford, or his decreasingly convincing successors) with a look that screamed of staff-room-superiority the next morning.

Anyway, if the series was back on today, with – say – Adrian Chiles presenting (though in reality it’d be someone like Dermot O’Leary) it’s hard to believe this level of questioning would be present. Ditto the show’s creator and question-setter Clive Doig.

What year did decimalisation take place?

would become something like:

What is the four-letter name beginning with E for the currency used in, among others, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland and Italy?

And they’d still get it wrong.

(Answers to the four questions above will follow)


"Cost: under a pound, you know"

Friday 27th June 2008

Courtesy of Chris Hughes, Jill Phythian and Jon Peake (who, in an alternative universe, would be the current Blue Peter team), here’s an itemised, bullet-pointed analysis of two light popular classics.


– Had a lovely time

– Cost: under a pound, you know

– Walked along the seafront

– Heard a brass band

– Elsie and me had a cup of tea

– Took a pedalo boat out

– Jack (cuddled with)

– Opened a bottle of cider

– Sang a few of our favourite songs

– Ate chocolate ice

– Ferris wheel

– Elsie felt sick

– Said goodbye to the seaside

– Cash on demand (wouldn’t it be grand to have)


– Score with chick (in disco bar)

– Car (hairy little)

– Went to school with her ma and pa

– Scared to look at mirror in light of day

– Wrangler’s (scared to zip up, belly in way)

– Barber takes a little less time each week

– Offered seat when walk into a disco

– Prefer pint of mild to Bacardi and Coke

– Lights (too bright); Smoke (too much)

– Stroke (fear of having)

– Like disco king meets Yogi Bear

– Vick (rub on where used to rub Brut)

– Latest punk fashion is wedding suit

– Sex appeal (have to go shopping for)

– Ultra-violet light (dentures glow in)

– Takes all night to do what you use to do all night

"I was promised Sue MacGregor; who are you?"

Wednesday 25th June 2008

Here’s a brilliant clip from an edition of the Today programme in 2001, wherein John Humphrys receives a telephone call from an inhabitant of the planet Skaro.

It’s followed by an appallingly po-faced discussion about the future of Dr Who, wherein somebody called Michael Hanlon expresses his view that to ever bring the show back to television would be “an abomination” and that “it wouldn’t stand a chance”.

"The same thing happened to poor old Reggie Maudling"

Monday 23rd June 2008

Anthony Howard is one of those people who has already lived forever. He’s impossibly permanent. Every time there’s yet another political scandal, a shock resignation, a change of Prime Minister, he’s there. On the TV, on the radio, everywhere, as reassuring as the sound of a whistling kettle or an aspirin fizzing in a glass of water.

“Well, of course, the same thing happened to poor old Reggie Maudling…” “I think the closest example I can think of was George Brown’s attack on Harold Wilson in the spring of 1968…” “We haven’t witnessed this kind of seismic shift in fortunes since the days of ‘Orpington Man’…”

He’s still as insightful and essential as ever, half a century since he began his trade. And to mark the anniversary, he’s doing a series of short talks on Radio 4 called Fifty Years Before The Masthead. They’re wonderfully no-holds-barred yarns, with our man even daring to include mention of – shudder – a close encounter with Michael Parkinson when the latter was busy cultivating a lifetime’s supply of mean-spirited moaning while working as “a proper journalist”.

Let’s hope he’s around for a good few more “worst week ever for the Prime Minister – since the last one!” yet.

"A couple of tunes by a couple of prongs"

Sunday 22nd June 2008

A plug for an album by Adam and Joe, which is available on iTunes from Monday. It’s a collection of their ace ‘Song Wars’ efforts, wherein each comes up with a self-penned, self-performed ode to an emphatically ordinary subject, then plays them to listeners of their 6 Music show for evaluation.

Let’s hope the sequel-touting title doesn’t follow the precedent set by Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1. Similar sales figures wouldn’t be that bad, mind.

“Masterpieces of DIY tunesmithery” – TV Cream, yesterday.

"This is the story of how I died – but not really!"

Saturday 21st June 2008

Ahead of the nation’s largest simultaneous ejaculation, when Billie Piper returns to Dr Who tonight, the TV Cream Matrix Databank has been busy calculating where Rose’s long-inevitable ingress ranks in terms of all-time TV and radio re-appearances. And the results are in!

1) Harold Bishop returns to Neighbours.
2) Angela Rippon joins the ITN News Channel to update viewers on the war in Iraq, but only during working hours because there’s no news after 6.00pm.
3) Michael Grade goes back to save the BBC after Greg Dyke was chased out of Broadcasting House by Lord Hutton and Geoff Hoon.
4) The return of Sherlock Holmes in Granada TV’s The Return Of Sherlock Holmes.
5) Alan Freeman returns to present Pick Of The Pops on Radio 1.
6) Alan Freeman returns to present Pick Of The Pops on Radio 2.
7) The swingometer returns to the BBC’s general election coverage.
8) Bob Monkhouse returns to Celebrity Squares (“Hello celebrities!”)
9) Mark Kermode returns to Mark Radcliffe’s graveyard shift on Radio 1 after two weeks’ absence due to injuring his back in a minor road accident.
10) The chimes of Big Ben return to the Six O’clock News on Radio 4 after having their once-in-20-years polish.

Oh dear! It seems there’s no room for a warm hand on Rose’s entrance* in the top 10 all-time TV returns. And sadly the TV Cream Dr Who Matrix Databank cannot calculate any list-based trivia beyond 258 places (or the number of times Russell T Davies has dropped an incongruous popular culture reference into one his scripts), so it’s not clear whether Billie Piper appears in the chart at all. Ah well. Happy wanking.

*A premature taster for all the fanboys counting down until this evening.

"It’s very simply really, you just…KABOOOOM!"

Thursday 19th June 2008

Surely the most stirring title sequence ever: