ONE OF THOSE self-styled comedy showcases that did nothing of the sort. Revue format-meets-crappy sitcom about imaginary Crumpsall Theatre. HENRY NORMAL (who jumped ship after one series), FRANK SKINNER (in Teddy Boy phase) and JENNY ECLAIR were your titular trio, all being largely unfunny until BILLY WRIGHT came on with an accordian and made it even worse.
P is for…
EARLY ATTEMPT at computer game crossover that should have ensured it never happened again. Yellow blob with big fat gob ate those sodding ghosts (Blinky, stinky, wanky and fucky, or something) who then turned into arguing floating eyeballs. Faithful to the original, at least…
TV CREAM SAYS: WHITHER MANIC MINER?
WORLD’S MOST famous sporter of the duffle coat until L. Gallagher. Hailing from Darkest Peru, our model (literally) hero winds up at name-donating London station and somehow contrives to enter the 2D cut-out suburban Brown household, replete with nasty neighbour Mr. Curry, housekeeper Mrs. Bird and kindly antiques dealer Mr. Gruber. MICHAEL HORDERN narrated. Ace closing titles spelled out on bits of cardboard previously sequested in Paddington’s TARDIS-esque suitcase.
TV CREAM SAYS: HARD STARES, MARMALADE SANDWICHES UNDER HAT, "IT'S WHAT'S
KNOWN AS A DRY BATH," ETC.
THE BEEB’S screensaver. Self-perpetuating flick through virtual catalogue of news, sport, weather and travel news, backed by gentle burbling electronica and Palm Court strummings. Bundled out for hours at a time for much of the 1980s. Spawned a cousin, CEEFAX AM, which became the curtain-raiser for BREAKFAST TIME or, during the holidays, THE PINK PANTHER SHOW (via blocky semi-moving graphic of the eponymous feline). Famously transmitted “between the lines” of normal pictures, or something. Died when 24 hour telly came along. Still available on your set, though, and online, courtesy of its bastard offspring the internet.
TV CREAM SAYS: NEXT: SPORT HEADLINES P601
STILL RETAINS a sizeable cult following to this day. Of all the numerous art school/Sunday painting shows down the years, Nancy Kominsky’s weekday lunchtime oil class has stayed in the consciousness the longest, probably due to huge cachet with school-avoiding children of the ’80s. Subjects included Wind on Exmoor, Rainy Day in London, Moon Over Lake Tahoe and Still Life With Eggs. Occasional guests tried their hand, including ALAN TAYLOR and ED STEWART. The cocktail jazz theme and end-credits resume where the picture painted itself in stop-motion animation are legend.
“For women viewers interested in submitting their entries on the theme of Love to the Paint Along with Nancy competition, before January 14, the address is, Nancy Kominsky Competition, TV Times, PO Box 40, Kettering, Northants…
“…There has been a great response to our TV Times Paint Along With Nancy competition, to paint a picture of one or more of the Royal Family. The winning entries will be picked this week from regional finalists, on daily public display at the Chenil Galleries, Chelsea, London, between March 11 and March 18 (please note: gallery closed on Sunday, March 13). Helping to choose the winners will be Annette Crosbie, who last year won a TV Times Award for her portrayal of Queen Victoria in Edward the Seventh.”
TV CREAM SAYS: AND ALWAYS REMEMBER TO CLEAN YOUR PALETTE KNIFE
MASSIVE OVERDOSE of Anthony Trollope historama, with six novels chopped into 26 meandering, mirthless episodes. Family in question conveniently happened to be present at all crucial turning points of Victorian England, all of which conveniently took place indoors. Much dramatic throwing open of French windows by SUSAN “ANDROMEDA BREAKTHROUGH” HAMPSHIRE, PHILIP “WILLY IZZARD” LATHAM, ANNA “SCEPTRED ISLE” MASSEY, DEREK “I” JACOBI, PENELOPE “STRESS” KEITH, ANTHONY “MASTER” AINLEY, PETER “CLEGG” SALLIS, “JUNE “JOOOOONE” WHITFIELD, JEREMY “…SCHOOL” IRONS and three score and ten more.
TV CREAM SAYS: STRIKE BY BEEB SPARKS MEANT IT LASTED EVEN BLOODY LONGER
CHARMLESS CHILDREN’S soap about paper rounds. GLYNN “MINDER” EDWARDS ran the newsagents. Brit art-rockers RENAISSANCE released the theme, “Back Home Once Again”, as a single. It didn’t chart. We all forgot about it.
TV CREAM SAYS: FEATURED THE MOST 1970S CAST CREDIT EVER: "AND GAVIN KITCHEN AS BAZ"
REDOUBTABLE LUNCHTIME ten-minuter in which MAGPIE’s SUSAN STRANKS was “in command” doing craft stuff with card, paper, tissue, glitter and Gloy Gum. The real stars, though, were Itsy and Bitsy, two squeaky/growly puppet “spiders” (actually just gloves with a pom-pom stuck on the back, operated by NORMAN BEARDSLEY) who came down a woolen web at the start and caused the hapless Stranks much hassle in the “helping” department. Playing second fiddle: oft-forgotten Boris the mute ladybird and Cardew The Caterpillar. Earlier show TINGA AND TUCKER did a similar interfering with presenter act, but this was far superior. Four spin-off books were also available on how to make stuff, such as cardboard castles, Norman swords and helmets etc.
TV CREAM SAYS: "NO, PUT THE GLITTER DOWN, IT'S NOT FOR THAT!"
BULLMAN AND DIRTY DEN – together at last! An unloved dramatic coupling – he was a streetwise priest, and he was a reluctant villain – it told of the coming together of two mismatched brothers played by DON HENDERSON and LESLIE GRANTHAM. All swept-back hair and long black jackets, a pretty hopeless crime-drama effort all round in a particularly BBC early ’90s type of way (hello, MOON & SON).
TV CREAM SAYS: FIRST INDEPENDENT DRAMA SERIES EVER COMMISSIONED BY AUNTIE, APPARENTLY
JOHN MORTIMER swaps a swig of BAILEY for a hefty helping of post-war decline-and-fall histrionics adapted from his own novel and layered with two dozen coatings of A-list sheen. Upper class rotters and softly-spoken damsels pick over the bones of late-20th century East Anglia. Made a star of DAVID “GALLAGHER” THRELFALL as the humbly born creep who rises to be a member of Thatcher’s cabinet to the dismay of both local nobs and wealthy Labour-supporting family headed by MICHAEL HORDERN-alike.
TV CREAM SAYS: PETER EGAN'S STROPPY TEENAGE DAUGHTER DEFINES HER GENERATION
BY DECLARING: "I DON'T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT GREAT HULKING WHALES"
COMIC SHOWCASE at name-donating London nightspot which gave valuable Saturday night airtime to some particularly brilliant new comedians from either side of the Atlantic and, of course, some indefatigably awful ones. Series one was hosted by the craggy face and craggier jokes (“I’m writing a book about trousers, and yours are interesting sir – they are definitely a turn-up for the book”) of ARTHUR SMITH, introducing brilliant five minute sets from MARK STEEL, JACK DEE, and proving, for the first of many times, that PAUL MERTON is largely terrible when stifled by a script. Music came from the B52S (“it’s the Lancaster Brothers – oh hang on…”) in full Love Shack mode. Series two, now themed by C&C Music Factory’s “Things That Make You Go Hmmm” and on a cartooned set, relied more heavily on American performers, with BILL HICKS and PAUL PROVENZA on fire and DENIS LEARY getting his sickest gags repeated on POINTS OF VIEW (“My father died of throat cancer, and I was so upset…”). Impossibly awful Brixton double act CURTIS & ISHMAEL (“Rankin’ John Major Hi-Fi International!”) were hosts, with their own “How To Chill With The Bro’s” shtick providing semi-tolerable intermission material (“I waan it fi boss out me eardrum, riiiiiiiight?”) while STEPHANIE HODGE or RONDELL SHERIDAN (“who makes this decision if you’re obese or not?”) got ready. Among the British comics, even SHANE RICHIE got on, talking about pubic hair and Freeman’s catalogues, while SIMON DAY got residency status as TOMMY COCKLES (“and I was born and raised in the music halls!”). Music came from RICK ASTLEY, whose iconic appearance helped Never Knew Love shoot to No.70 in the charts, and BROS, performing dimly-remembered and universally-disliked comeback single Are You Mine?. If that wasn’t bad enough, the programme also handed DAVID BOWIE his first appearance with TIN MACHINE, and from then onwards we knew the end was nigh.
TV CREAM SAYS: 'HMMM'-GOING AMONGST VIEWERS DECIDEDLY MUTED
A HAPLESS young tyke going by the name of Hal Adden (do you see?) played by ELLIS JONES is cheerily polishing his watering cans when out pops HUGH PADDICK. The genie, for it is he, turns out to be 4000 years old with a bad back and, inevitably, a penchant for pissing up his spells. All of which spells a lot of bother for Hal’s boss in the hardware shop Mr Cobbledick (ROY BARRACLOUGH), not least when Hugh regenerates into ARTHUR WHITE for the second series. Kids fare that did the business, from the pen of BOB “RENTAWRITER” BLOCK. Stunning last episode found the genie running amok in – hooray! – Thames Television, raising the hackles of EAMONN ANDREWS, TONY BASTABLE, WENDY CRAIG, DICKIE DAVIES, JACK SMETHURST, WILILAMS MERVYN, SUSAN STRANKS and, er, PUFF THE PONY.
TV CREAM SAYS: "A THOUSAND APOLOGIES, MASTER!"
ONCE UPON a long ago, this was the finest chat show of them all, helmed by a man who was very much “one of us” albeit with an address book that boasted the phone numbers of the greatest stars in the world. Raconteurs, conversationalists, learned specialists, Hollywood legends, articulate politicos, inspirational artists, genius musicians: they all took a turn strolling down the steps to take their seat on Parky’s raised brown daius. Then the man fucked off to TV-am on the promise of loads of money, got sacked, did ALL-STAR SECRETS and GIVE US A CLUE, moaned a lot, did some gardening, went to Australia loads of times and finally revived this, to no great acclaim in the late 90s, whereupon he revealed himself to have become a) a grouch b) a fogey c) a sycophant d) prone to slagging off anyone who wasn’t “a journalist” e) the most boring man on the planet. Defection to the other side sealed his fate, where he spent a few insufferable seasons playing host to ITV Z-list celebrities, before bowing out to spend more time with his biography. Which he’s writing himself, of course, because he’s “a journalist”.
TV CREAM SAYS: IN THE WORDS OF KENNETH WILLIAMS: NORTH COUNTRY NIT
SUGAR-COATED DISPATCHES from the picket-fenced permanently-sunny perimeters of the eponymous bird-named brood, with matriach SHIRLEY JONES trying to keep DAVID CASSIDY, SUSAN DEY, DANNY BONADUCE, SUZANNE CROUGH and JEREMY GELBWAKS in order, mostly through toothy grins, sickly laughter and sodas, inbetween packing them all off round the country in a shitty camper van to sing songs.
TV CREAM SAYS: ANIMATED SPIN-OFF, PARTRIDGE FAMILY 2200AD, SAW THE CLAN ENTERTAINING ALIEN RACES WITH THEIR SLICK MOR SOUNDS
BRIEF BUT not brief enough Wednesday night quizzer, fronted by GEORGE “PIGEON STREET” LAYTON. Two couples were given a question by George and then had the option of answering or, erm passing the buck, to their partner, somehow. Not on for long, but there was a Christmas celebrity special, featuring stars and their other halves, including DENNIS WATERMAN, RULA LENSKA, SIMON WILLIAMS and his missus.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE BUCK, AND THE ENTERTAINMENT, STOPS HERE
A TRIPTYCH of Sunday night monochrome sci-fi escapades, respectively …IN SPACE, …TO MARS and …TO VENUS, starring GERALD “KAMELION” FLOOD and PETER WILLIAMS, chiefly penned by MALCOLM “WHO” HULKE. Recounted the spacefaring fortunes of the posh Wedgwood family, plus hamster, in a number of suspiciously pencil-thin rockets.
TV CREAM SAYS: SYDNEY "AVENGERS" NEWMAN CALLED THE SHOTS
THE NATION’S number one syrup-sporting sorceror and whiny voiced-wizard held sway over prime-time BBC1 for a hell of a long time, presenting well-honed, exhibiting his executions of classic magic tricks (which people tend to forget) in a rather annoying and charm-free way (which people can’t help but remember). For variety’s sake, various regular “segments” were contrived to bracket the routines – The Bunco Booth (“I win and you loose” read the hoarding as Daniels duped an audience stooge in the manner of an American funfair huckster, while wearing a silly hat), Under Laboratory Conditions (over-serious close-up magic with several witnesses and a superimposed tabletop camera view – Daniels’ riposte to Gellereque charlatans), House of Cards (card tricks presented from within a giant ‘card house’ set, and another silly hat) and latterly Mississippi Riverboat Magic (cartoon sting leads into old-timery period set for the usual fingertip shenanigans). Also The Magic Square, which was just The Brian Rogers Connection doing dances with ribbons. All ably assisted by “the lovely” Debbie McGee. Oh, and the extra-curricular “cream of variety acts from around the world”, who ranged from the sublime (the legendary escapologist Hans Moretti) through the quirky (crosstalking jugglers The Brothers Karamazov) to the just plain bizarre (a bloke who pretended to cut his fingers off, a bloke who threw playing cards at watermelons, and an old Heath Robinson inventor type who brought in his whimsical inventions and just talked about them). Infamous late ’80s Halloween Special ended with an iron maiden-based trick that apparently went wrong in front of various B-list celebs (who weren’t in on the sting), until – after a repeat of the Biggles Dictates a Letter PYTHON episode – Daniels turned up with a cheeky “I’m still alive, ha ha!” coda. Spinoffs included the Paul Daniels Magic Trick range (rather nifty, as it happened – boxed in odd lozenge-shaped packages and graded Blue (easy), Red (fairly easy), Purple (slightly harder) and Black (“master magician”, ie impossible) – “all from the House of Dubrecq!” as YesPaul chirped in the TV ads which he shared with Rolf Harris’ Stylophone and painttube brushes – as well as boxed sets and books), ODD ONE OUT and EVERY SECOND COUNTS (game shows) and WIZBIT (not good).