“Quickly changed into a suit and left for LWT…”

Wednesday 20th May 2009

Last week’s Creamguide concluded that, historically, and ignoring everything since c.1997, ITV’s regional efforts have outshone those of the BBC.

And one of the main reasons for that was surely The Six O’Clock Show, itself surely the best of its kind – an honour forever sealed by these 30 seconds of pre-weekend animated affability:

There’s Asp scurrying on at the end.

If only more of this show existed online…other than this tiny tiny bit of Mike a little out of breath and gallantly trying to rescue a feature that is plummeting rapidly downhill:

“I’ll get the team in – Cheryl Baker and Gary Wilmot!”


“Good evening Miss Rantzen” “Do call me Esther”

Tuesday 31st March 2009

In 1985 That’s Life! was in its imperial phase. It had an immovable berth in Michael Grade’s aromatic Sunday night line-up of hit shows. It was trying to save children’s lives and start up phone lines and close down sweat shops across the planet. Audiences of 16 and 17 million tuned in to titter at misprints and miscarriages (of justice and babies).

Clearly it was a show at the peak of its powers. That’s what your memory tells you, and what popular culture readily seconds.

How come, then, that the truth is bone-chillingly removed from reality? Here is the first 10 minutes of a programme from June of that year. Maybe the show was near the end of its annual 40-week (or however many it was) run. Maybe Desmond had been giving Esther a hard time about ironing the Boy David’s smock. Maybe everyone just simply couldn’t be arsed.

Of particular note:

1) The first couple of seconds of the clip, which comprises, entirely uncoincidentally, the last few seconds of a plug for a programme by Esther’s other half.

2) The quality of the film stock used during the That’s Life! opening titles. It is appalling. It looks like it dates from the early 1970s. In fact it probably does. On another technical note, the sound balance is dreadful, with the microphones on the audience turned up way too high, meaning you hear endless shuffling, coughing and non-laughing in the studio.

3) The ginormous set. Wogan never got a wall that size.

4) The on-screen captions to introduce the nancies. They are horrible. Where are the Paintbox pyrotechnics?

5) John Gould and Maev Alexander! On an MFI sofa, him in a bow-tie, she in a suit! This was a dreadful decision (thankfully shortlived – Doc was back the following year), evident from the moment they walk on, awkwardly, and sit down, awkwardly, side by side, awkwardly. John seems to be wearing the kind of microphone Cliff Michelmore and David Butler wore on Election ’70.

6) The preamble, which is thin gruel indeed. There is a back-reference to last week’s guest Janet Brown in the shape of Esther trying to do a caricature of herself. There is also a non-amusing mug, a non-amusing cheque, and “two outstanding pictures” which aren’t.

7) Finally, the opening film package. This was clearly concocted off the back of someone who knows someone who knows someone in Esther’s husband’s drinking club. The ‘expert’ is rubbish, laughs at his own jokes and then blows the final punchline. Esther keeps trying to trump the expert with her own opinions, then runs around Covent Garden in a big mac like a flasher, failing to say hello to the people she collars and repeatedly trying to make a joke about ‘leg-overs’.

A quick look ahead through the rest of show reveals all the boxes are lazily ticked: animals running amok in the studio? Check – some ducks! Befuddled special guest? Check – Spike Milligan! Problems with the welfare state? Check – here are some people living rough! And so on. Maybe TV Cream was misguided in its unqualified veneration of Sunday night telly.

Meanwhile, prepare to guffaw raucously like you’ve never seen it before at the sight of an old man, possibly in 1973, using his eyebrows to move a cap backwards and forwards on top of his own head.

“How long has the album been got together, as it were?”

Monday 16th February 2009

This being the week of the BPI Awards, here’s a helping from 1980 back when it was still the Radio 1 Daily Mirror Nationwide (precise order open to debate) Rock and Pop Awards.

Highlights include DLT’s many attempts at jocular adlibbery (“Oh Katy Katy, you look a bit shattered…No plugs for Walt Disney please”), Sue in a flattering outfit introducing Leo Sayer (“A gentleman for whom I personally have a very soft spot”), BA Robertson pissing about, the Numanoid looking comatose and the fact Cliff came third in the Best Male category. It’d be nice if the audience shut up now and then.

Meanwhile here’s 1989’s roustabout in full.

My clothes are black but my bread is brown

Wednesday 7th January 2009

Forget your Specials, Police, Blur, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and whoever is reforming (again) in the next 12 months. Now that The Beautiful South is no more, it must be only a Humber-spanning period of time before the second best band of the 80s, the third best ever songwriting partnership in Britain and the fourth best band from Hull get back together.

They’re all still on good terms. There wasn’t any bad blood at the time, even when they swapped drummers between albums. Indeed such was their nonimosity they used this changing of the skins (usually that most bitter of musical machinations) into a conceit for the following, irrefutably* one of the finest singles of the decade:

*The evidence being the fact the final score is, still, London 0, Hull 4.

…and introducing TERRY WOGAN as himself

Wednesday 24th December 2008

It’s December 25th 1985, and, in one of the best bits of harmless nonsense ever undertaken in the name of festive telly, Terence jets off to Denver to interview all the cast of Dynasty in character. “What about the Irish one – did we tell him?”

Happy Christmas – from all of us, particularly the DG.

Touched by the hand of Cicciolina

Friday 12th December 2008

Ah, 1990. Over-bright primary colour back projection? Check. CSO turning cut-out people upside down? Check. Archivery spliced with juvenilia? Check. Ugly blokes dancing behind superimposed beautiful women? Naturally.

“Where did you get that? Let me see it!”

Monday 1st December 2008

Half-way through this clip you’ll find Michael Grade doing a brilliant guest spot in an episode from the first series of French and Saunders. This was back when Mike was happy to do an on-screen turn almost anywhere, from sharing a sofa on Telly Addicts to “firing” Philip Schofield from the Broom Cupboard.

You don’t get this kind of thing anymore, sadly. Alan Yentob was probably the most recent Beeb executive happy to show up as “himself” on television. Nowadays it’s likely nobody would recognise Jay Hunt even if she introduced herself.