And now on BBC1, it’s time to pour another glass of…

Tuesday 28th April 2009

The last ever series of Last Of The Summer Wine began the other week. Or did it? The Beeb simply says it’s the 30th, but producer Alan “one line on my CV” JW Bell seems to think that’s it. Or rather, that’s it for him, because he’s quit claiming the Beeb has said the 30th series is the last one even though it hasn’t while writer Roy “two lines on my CV” Clarke hasn’t said anything either way and the cast are all too old to be insured to appear in the bloody thing anyway. Or are they?

Hmm, the future of this vintage (ho fucking ho) institution is as hard to unravel as its history. But TV Cream has given the latter a go. It seems to have gone something like this:


An episode of Comedy Playhouse in 1973 called The Last Of The Summer Wine and starring three mac-wearing malingerers is deemed a hit by the BBC suits. A series is commissioned but it is a flop. A second series is commissioned but it is also a flop. Both series are shown post-watershed and star Michael Bates as shifty ne’er-do-well Cyril Blamire with whiskery perv Compo Simonite (Bill Owen) and simpering wimp Norman Clegg (Peter Sallis). Bates leaves because of ill-health and BRIAN WILDE agrees to replace him so long as he gets top billing.

'Ere, yer great jessie


BRIAN WILDE is unhappy about not getting top billing. The show moves from Monday to Wednesday to Tuesday night. The 1978 Christmas special is aired at 10.40pm due to its explicit content. Someone decides to bung it in the doing-the-pots Sunday teatime slot. Ratio of pastoral pontificating to falling off dry stone walls: earthy. The perv pervs at old woman’s pants. The wimp simpers about not eating enough iron. BRIAN WILDE quits because nobody likes him and he doesn’t like anybody.


Percy Alleline off Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy invents himself a part in the series. Second eleven of archetypes introduced: hen-pecked husband who isn’t getting any, hen-pecked husband who doesn’t want any, hen-pecked lollygagger who’s had too much. Millions of old women sit about discussing “thems that have, thems that have not” in high-backed chairs. A cafe has no customers. Perv tumbles off ladders, through roofs, down drains and through windows. Thora Hird sucks her teeth in and whistles. Lousy spin-off, First Of The Summer Wine, has Sallis playing his own father. Ratio of pastoral pontificating to falling off dry stone walls: salty.


BRIAN WILDE discovers he likes everyone again and comes back. Eight years pass. BRIAN WILDE leaves because he’s not top billing and he doesn’t like anybody. Ratio of pastoral pontificating to falling off dry stone walls: perspicacious.

These are my residuals from Porridge, so hands off


Bill Owen lookalike and son of Bill Owen joins to play son of Bill Owen. Captain Peacock replaces BRIAN WILDE. Same scripts recycled (for 14th time) in hope of appearance-of-freshness-yet-still-reassuringly-familiar appeal. It works. Programme wins 1999 National Television Award for Best Sunday Teatime Yorkshire-Based Yomping.

Captain Peacock proposes 10 new sales drives


Dozens of Variety Club sitcommers move into town. Original cast now not allowed on location and film all scenes on a sofa with back projection. Archetypes now include dopey black policeman, conniving Oriental, befuddled swashbuckler, prickly spinster, Rene Artois, Nurse G-G-Gladys Emmanuel, whatshername off Bread and Norman Wisdom. Oh, and Blakey, who does this every five seconds:

If the wind changes...

Altogether, for the billionth time: “The last of the summer wine/The la-ast of the summer wine/The la-ast of the summer wine/er…”


Girls, girls, girls

Sunday 26th April 2009

BBC4’s Saturday night parade of female-fronted song-and-dance archivery felt like it accomplished two things.

First, it highlighted how you don’t see any of the following on TV anymore:

a) Routines wholly centred on fancy dress
b) Casual racialism
c) Moments where the studio seems to be in complete darkness

But more significantly it called attention to the absence of any comparable non-male helmed programmes doing the rounds today. Barrowman, Brucie, Norton, Ross, Ant and Dec: where are their female equivalents?

Fortunately the TV Cream Gentle Sex Matrix Databank has rustled up three pitches which are going to be sent to the BBC Entertainment department first thing tomorrow morning.

Sunday 7.30pm, BBC1
The delightful Miss Cracknell eases you into Sunday evening with a rich mix of celebrity and song. Each week’s show has a theme, such as the weather, fashion or America, which Sarah and her guests explore through timeless tunes and witty turns. Regular contributors Instant Sunshine serve up a melodic ode on an aspect of the week’s news, and legendary singers from Val Doonican to Kate Bush drop in for a duet. Why not forget about those pre-Monday blues and enjoy familiar faces from past and present, a joke or two, and – naturally – class performances by Sarah with her band of 20 years, Saint Etienne.

Wednesday 8.00pm, BBC1
The winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2007 makes her primetime TV debut with a star-encrusted variety spectacular for all the family. Alesha and her backing dancers, the Dixonettes, promise a cavalcade of good moves and great grooves. Every week there’ll be a dazzling routine with stars of Strictly Come Dancing (including Brucie, if he’s not too busy on the golf course!), a tune from a famous BBC face, and a celebrity revealing a hitherto secret talent. Alesha will also be showing viewers what she’s been up to during the week, springing surprises on people from 8 to 80. Each show includes a rundown of the midweek singles chart.

Saturday 5.35pm, BBC1
Teatime musical treats with an extra helping of cheeky charm. The former Kenickie singer-turned-national treasure shares some of her views on life through song, dance and plenty of down-to-earth humour. Professional comedians, magicians, crooners and dancers will be popping in to get the weekend off to a swing, along with regular guests Chris Serle, who’ll be introducing colourful locals with a story to tell, and Danny Baker, who’ll be broadcasting live out and about encountering Britain ‘as it happens’. Plus Lauren is challenged to learn and perform a classic song before the end of each show, in front of a panel of celebrity judges. Whatever they think of her efforts, they’re sure to agree on one thing: it’s Lauren!

Photo clippage #51

Saturday 25th April 2009

It’s 14th January 1976, and the country’s streets and fields are in a shocking state. The call goes out for a) a glamorous songstress who’s been around a bit and b) a pint-sized reassuring funnyman who can fit in a metal dustcart. Cilla and Arthur Askey are not available, so…

It's lovely to be with you again

Beeb stung by stink over Brucie’s pet burial

Wednesday 22nd April 2009

“A group of people snivelling at a dog’s funeral. Daft I call it!”

Meanwhile, further on:

“Should children call their parents by their Christian names?”

and new names for the WC – which is “going out of favour” – include The Menace, The Necessarium and The House of Commons.


TV Cream counts from 1 to…?: slight return

Monday 20th April 2009

Nominations for our musical stepladder have dried up, understandably, so in a shameless attempt to revitalise interest, there is now a Spotify playlist in existence of songs from 1 up to 40.

It’s somewhat different from the original list, partly because some songs aren’t on Spotify, partly because some of those nominated, such as 26 Years by Menswear, are awful (as the nominator of that song himself implied). The need to compile a playlist that people might actually want to listen to, rather than one derived solely on an empirical basis, makes obvious sense.

Anyway, this new list contains some delights. There’s a nicely apt prologue courtesy of They Might Be Giants; Cab Calloway’s band pleading for a Fifteen Minutes Intermission and their boss graciously conceding it would be good for their “palpitating embochure”; Leroy Carr pledging to turn over a brand new leaf in the Nineteen Thirty One Blues; and Brigitte Fontaine pompously intoning  J’ai 26 ans. Fuck knows what it’s about, but it sounds lovely.

The list gets sequentially more obscure, though hopefully no less appealing. There are a couple of harmless acoustic noodlings for numbers 14 and 28; a bit of George Fenton film soundtrackage for number 34; and a washboard for number 38.

Best of all, perhaps, is the version of #9 Dream by A-ha. Here’s a textbook example of how to take a dreary bag of wank and turn it into something fresh and quite charming (not least by ditching that wretched “John! John!” bit). It somehow fittingly segues into Loudon Wainwright III’s achingly sad 4 x 10.

Feel free to add your suggestions to the playlist on where to go from here, specifically how to get to Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover.

12 candidates. One channel. Sir Michael’s quest…begins.

Saturday 18th April 2009

The Apprentice is losing its lustre. ITV continues to struggle to find new hit shows. An obvious synthesis suggests itself.

Next spring, every Wednesday at 9pm, ITV should screen a series involving a dozen wannabe broadcasting moguls, competing for a crucial position on the staff of the country’s erstwhile favourite commercial broadcaster.

It is a job with a six-figure salary, in the employ of a man who oversees a “substantial business empire”: Sir Michael Grade.

Each week the candidates must perform a task to demonstrate some aspect of telly nabobbery. And each week one will be fired. “You’re out”, Grade will say, and point his finger.

Grade will be helped in his quest by two close associates and industry veterans: Greg Dyke (catchphrase: “cut the crap and make it happen”) and Liz Forgan (“this isn’t Channel 4, you know”).

Tasks will involve:

– assembling a Saturday night schedule
– being grilled by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee at the House of Commons
– negotiating pretend salary deals with big talent
– solving a pretend industrial dispute
– devising a format for a new Sunday night family-friendly shiny floor show
– a war game-style event involving the channel responding to a national crisis

The final will require each of the remaining candidates to commission, prepare and produce a live half hour of television, which will be shown sequentially on ITV, which will be appraised by a focus group in real time (viewers will be able to see the group’s live reactions on ITV2), and which will be followed by the conclusion of the series and Grade’s decision. The winner will then be escorted over to ITN for an IMMEDIATE appearance on News at Ten.

Oh, and the name of the series: Making The Grade.

Clement Freud RIP

Thursday 16th April 2009

Time’s up.