Is that still going?

News that the pilot of Last Of The Summer Wine almost failed to get made at all has been filed eagerly in TV Cream’s ‘If Only’ box file, next to Richard Stilgoe almost writing a script for Dr Who and Margaret Thatcher almost not winning some crucial byelection or other back in the 1950s.

The box file in question is conveniently (for this blog) adjacent to another one marked ‘Is That Still Going?’, wherein TVC maintains an inventory of those programmes that ran on far past their Best Before date, usually because no TV executives could be arsed to think up something with which to replace them. Currently, the top 10 looks like this:

"Yes, we do employ black nancies too"

"Yes, we do employ black nancies too"

Esther should have gone the same time as Mrs T.

That weird non-feminine femininity, the hotch-potch of now-here’s-the-good-news, now-here’s-some-more-bad-news, all those bloody hangers-on – it had lost all appeal come the end of the decade.

And the same goes for Esther (ho fucking ho).

Here’s La Passionara with a rather desperate bunch of ooh-it’s-the-90s nancies (note how Doc’s still managing to hang on in there, replete with Jumper Sent In By Thoughtful Viewer).

Twee vocalists and crap puppets not pictured

Twee vocalists and crap puppets not pictured

9) Rainbow

Proud sponsors of Britain’s student T-shirt industry.

Seemingly remembered for all the wrong reasons (i.e. for being good, funny, subversive, charming and so on) instead of being remembered for its insufferable boredom and dreary sermonising.

"Does Mr Robot Dog have something for this young gentleman 'ere?"

"Does Mr Robot Dog 'ave something for this young gentleman 'ere?"

8) Jimmy Will Fix It

“It ended because I told the BBC it should end,” remembers Jim, wrongly. In reality ratings had slumped – rightly so, given how fixes such as getting to help the chancellor of the exchequer write the Budget were, in the words of Carter USM, Lamontable.

Mr Humphries, a gay man, pretends to be aroused by feeling a woman's breast

A gay man pretends to be aroused by feeling a woman's breast

7) Are You Being Served?

The most uncommercial, threadbare-looking and least patronised department store in the whole world somehow manages to stay in business for 13 years (until 1985!) thanks to a turnover wholly comprised of references to tits, homosexuals and “sales drives”.

"Another series, Humphrey?" "Yes...Prime Minister"

"Another series, Humphrey?" "Yes...Prime Minister"

6) Yes Prime Minister

It just looked wrong having Jim Hacker turn from fallible bumbler with a heart in the right place to pompous preener with no touch of humanity. Especially as Sir Humphrey and Bernard didn’t undergo any personality rewrite whatsoever.

Ted surveys the morning agenda

Ted surveys the morning agenda

5) 3-2-1

The issue here was probably a studied reluctance to move with the times. In other words, Ted Rogers thought it was still 1963 when it was actually 1987.

Hence the old-time variety schtick. Hence the “surprise” guests from decades ago that most of the viewers couldn’t give a toss about. Hence the convoluted parlour game riddlery when most people didn’t have parlours. Hence Ted doing yet another bloody tribute to Danny Kaye. Hence a remote-controlled bin being thought funny.

The cast of Dixon of Dock Green, yesterday

The cast of Dixon of Dock Green, yesterday

4) Dixon of Dock Green

Any programme that boasts a chirpy whistle-along-with-me theme tune replete with affable talky bit from your titular ordinary copper (“Allo, that boy with the mouth-organ’s back again!”) deserves something of a lengthy run on the box, but perhaps not one that takes it well well past the point that “teddy boys” stopped wanting “their capers to be seen”.

Or, indeed, the point that teddy boys stopped.

Hands up who thinks this show's about to be axed?

Hands up who thinks Henry should come back?

3) Game For a Laugh

Now come on. Who ever thought a line-up of Beadlebum, Rustie Lee, Martin “P” Daniels and the other one was an idea worth half a second of anyone’s viewing consideration? Where’s the frumpy one in a big frock? Where’s the gnomic head boy? Where’s the multi-coloured jumper?

"It seems that once again you were right all along, Lovejoy"

"It seems you were right all along, Lovejoy"

2) Lovejoy

The man’s divvying and all that endless East Anglia scenery might have been palatable for a couple of series, but when it dragged on into the 90s and those dreaded words “Executive Producer: Ian McShane” suddenly turned up on the credits, all charm disappeared as fast as a predictably rare vase at a predictably unassuming car boot sale.

"Ooh, I could rip a tissue" "Not if I don't rip seven shades of shit off you first" "Now calm down Janet"

"Ooh, I could rip a tissue" "Not if I don't rip seven shades of shit off you first" "Now calm down, Janet"

1) Crackerjack

The best thing Michael Grade ever did was pull the plug on this noisy, shouty, unfunny parade of gunge, lettuces and mincers.

Fuck knows why Janet Ellis is here; at least she escaped with eardrums and career intact.

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7 Responses to Is that still going?

  1. lucy says:

    The Generation Game, most notably the last resurrection when Jim Davidson took over from Brucie.

  2. Adrian says:

    I’ve never seen the point of Last Of The Summer Wine, as nothing plotwise ever seems to happen in it.

    There’s a bit of crossover between That’s Life & Are You Being Served, as Mollie Sudgen appeared on both programmes at one point. I came across the following post imperial That’s Life clip from Youtube a couple of weeks ago:

    Shame it didn’t feature Adrian Mill’s ‘Spanish’ accent!

  3. Thunderbird5 says:

    How could you omit Rentaghost from this list? It went completely tits-up in 78 when two of the original cast – Mr Davenport and Mr Mumford – left, and an appealing little programme with interesting characters and a nicely varied and well-observed take on ghosts and hauntings subsequently dissolved into appalling sub-Mclean/Glaze c(r)apery.

  4. So very strange, didn’t Janet Ellis’s husband direct some of the films shown on That’s Life.

  5. creamymuck says:

    It’s astonishing how long “Served?” went on for. The cast had aged so visibly by the mid-80s.

    The final episode “The Pop Star”- which features Nick Ross as Himself!!- is on You Tube. It’s not a fitting epitaph.

  6. Dave Nightingale says:

    The guy in the sports casual knitwear on Game For A Laugh – is that Lee Peck?

    (Just checked – it is…)

  7. Matt says:

    How dare you slate this show TV Cream? In fact, I remember you having a 11 down to 3 star rating for this show, which was a staple of Kids TV whilst growing up!!!! We weren’t lucky to have the francis as lead host, Stewpot with the 3 stooges was miles better but at least the francis was gunged every week, along with those annoying dolly birds occasionally!

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