FIRST ARTHUR LOWE then ROBIN BAILEY was your eponymous curmudgeonly old curmudgeon with amiable mate insulting shopkeepers, landlords and numerous landed gentry. “Potter Mints – the hotter mints. I’m a respected face round here!”
P is for…
PRE-NATIONWIDE CARRY-ON of a kids comedy series set in an old cinema, concening the titular Potter (EDEN PHILLIPS) and his attempts to inherit the titular picture palace which is rightfully his. Professor Phil Redmond “sagged off” from GRANGE HILL to pen a couple of episodes.
TV CREAM SAYS: CO-STARRING MELVYN HAYES AS, ER, "MELVYN"
EX-GOON AND Square-worlder played avuncular host to the Potties: short, squat, neckless bickering puppets reconstructing mighty moments from world history (see MIGHTY MOMENTS FROM WORLD HISTORY) with little regard for facts or coherence. Featured durable double-act Big Potty and Little Potty. Thousands of episodes made, inevitably lapsing into glorious parody along the way: On The Pirate Buses, Pottdark etc.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THANK YOU, PROFESSOR!"
CUTTHROAT CHICANERY and dastardly derring-do in the alluring, nefarious world of budget airline manufacture. Unlike the bulk of its supposedly internationally renowned fleet, somehow the series got off the ground and piloted a perfunctory course to the end of the 60s before nosing to standstill when its star, PATRICK WYMARK, copped it. Admittedly this longevity was helped by the fact a) its storylines quickly switched from boring discussions about wingspan to eye-bulging barneys in the boardroom and gap-toothed mutterings on the shopfloor, and b) its name quickly switched to The Power Game from the rather insufferable The Plane Makers. Meanwhile BARBARA MURRAY did a fine turn as the boss’s missus, while JACK WATLING, REGINALD MARSH, PETER BARKWORTH and CLIFFORD EVANS tried to make monologues about petroleum distillate sound thrilling.
TV CREAM SAYS: "IF ONLY THOSE BLASTED ARABS WOULD LET US HAVE SOME OF THEIR OIL; WE ALL LIVE ON THE SAME PLANET, Y'KNOW!"
YET MORE sleep-inducing sophistry for a Sunday morning: sub-de Bono lectures from a Canadian dullard purporting to give us the techniques to “achieve total memory.” Can’t remember anything else about it.
TV CREAM SAYS: "NOW, I WOULD IMAGINE A HORSE, TO REPRESENT THE NUMBER SEVEN." WHY NOT JUST IMAGINE THE NUMBER SEVEN?
SUMMERTIME STAND-IN for SONGS OF PRAISE, hosted by THORA HIRD from an oversized armchair in her “home” surrounded by numerous religious trinkets, baubles, bangles and beads. Basically a clip show of ver Praise with the Dame cueing in “requests” from viewers. “A lot of you wrote in asking to see again that wonderfully inspiring performance of Sing Hosannah To The King from that delightfully kept church of St Peter-in-the-Midden in Wessexshire.” Our host would drop in a few gossipy asides, pick her own faves from the archives, tearfully clutch real “letters” from fans, and introduce classic interviews between ROGER ROYLE and (usually) CLIFF RICHARD. Running order would be printed in Radio Times, thereby removing – for those who cared – all element of surprise (“Oh no, and I was hoping for Abide With Me this week!”)
TV CREAM SAYS: SAINTED AUNT
HER OFF of Absolutely Fabulous, him off of Hotel Babylon, the geeky one from Trevor’s World of Sport, the affable one from EASTENDERS (and there is only one these days) and Gonch Gardner’s sister get together with him who writes all the best episode of present day DR WHO and come up with the finest children’s drama series ever made. The lives, loves and losses of a bunch of supremely everyday, yet also extraordinary, sixth formers schlepping their way through Norbridge High then manically moonlighting in an office with one phone (“Who’s paying for it?” “Not us”), one front door (apart from Colin’s secret exit) and a fountain of the finest dialogue this side of the watershed: “I’m thinking of habits I’m wanting to kick” “So I’m a habit already?” “You’re something I’m wanting to kick”…”Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a wonderful vocabulary?” “I always knew that. I just could never put it into words”…”Graphic Department spending proposals. An HB pencil and a sunbed?” “Well, I can explain the pencil”…”Tell me, how do you justify being off work at her funeral on no less than eight separate occasions?” “She is my aunt!” “Kenny – this woman has died eight times!” “How do you think I feel?”…”Who hates me enough to want to get me battered senseless by Malcolm the shaving gorilla?” “I’ll get the list”…”Why do I do so many major scenes in my life dressed in my pyjamas?”…”Thanks.” “For what?” “I don’t know. Everything.” “I’m not responsible for everything. I just make it look that way.” Lynda was the editor, Kenny her assistant and best friend, Spike her obsession and everybody else’s punchline, Colin the money man, book-cooker and oil sheik-impersonator, Sarah the boring lead writer, Frazz the stooge, Tiddler the small one, Sam the mouth, Julie the replacement and Mr Kerr the man upstairs. Romance, death, pigeons, pizza, Czars, ping-pong balls, hiccups, plant pots, lampposts that light up by magic, crossed lines, bad cardigans, giant rabbit costumes, swear boxes, sieges, drugs, shootings, explosions, nightmares, comings, goings and lots and lots of endings: all from the pen of STEVEN “CHALK” MOFFAT. Never before, or since, have the funniest and the saddest storylines in the world come together to sing in such perfect harmony. The only programme to make staying behind after school look thunderously exciting. Tommy Boyd declared it the best thing he’d ever seen, and who are we to disagree?
TV CREAM SAYS: "WELL WHADDA Y'KNOW BOSS? WE'RE YESTERDAY'S NEWS"
MORE HOKUM from Harlech. English Civil War chase chicanery involving nosey kid Elam (CURTIS ARDEN) who thinks he’s heir to the heir to the throne, hooking up with sister called, erm Perfect (ELIZABETH ROBILLARD) and nefarious ne’er-do-well Joachim (FREDERICK JAEGAR) to find his ostensible dad, the Duke Of Monmouth. JOHN THAW showed up as “Fast Jack”.
TV CREAM SAYS: EPISODE TITLES INCLUDED 'THE EYE OF THE DRUM' AND 'NOT A LIVE THING LEFT'
MID-PERIOD OUTING for the littlest Ronnie, halfway between NO, THAT’S ME OVER HERE! and SORRY! Except this one didn’t have an exclamation mark in it. And was set in a pub, after which the title was named. BARRY CRYER and GRAHAM CHAPMAN wrote.
TV CREAM SAYS: AND IT'S LAST ORDERS FROM HIM
ROTTEN PANTOMIMESQUE female lag epic, beneficiary of a dreadful “cult” following amongst people who should know better. No prison cliché was left unexplored, no potential for sordid melodrama left unrealised. Boss Cocky of the incarcerated femmes of the fictional Wentworth Detention Centre was Bea Smith (VAL LEHMAN), a queasy cross between a ginger-hued Miss Piggy and an Antipodean Anna Magnani, gaoled for double murder and rightfully deserving the title of “top dog”. Bea’s teenage daughter had died from a heroin overdose, prompting much decidedly dodgy “Just Say No” moralising amongst the ensemble of killers, thieves, thugs etc. Many of the most popular characters came from the early years, such as drunken old hag Lizzie Burdsworth (SHEILA FLORANCE), inserted for proto-COCOON “you’re as old as you feel” factor, yo-yo knickered cockarnee sparra Chrissie Latham (AMANDA MUGGLETON) and Judy Bryant (BETTY – ho ho – BOBBIT), token lesbian with a pacemaker powered heart of gold. The officers or “screws” were chiefly represented by genteel governor Erica Davidson (PATSY KING), hair piled into an elaborate Sybil Fawlty meringue and blissfully unaware she is administering a teeming mound of corruption; and sadistic warder Joan “The Freak” Ferguson (MAGGIE KIRKPATRICK), enforcing her will with her black-gloved fists and taking her cut on everything that happens. CROSSROADS, WITHIN THESE WALLS, St. Trinians and THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW all rolled into one and bunged out over here in the only slot it deserved: the back of fucking beyond.
TV CREAM SAYS: SOPPY, SENTIMENTAL THEME SONG TOTALLY AT ODDS WITH THE 50
MINUTES OF HIGH TACK CACK THAT PRECEDED IT
Man drives very fast into an underground car park, hands his notice in to a bloke in a cupboard, packs his bags for Hawaii, gets gassed, wakes up stuck in a Italianate tourist attraction, gains the appellation Number Six, dons a monochrome Joe Maplin’s jacket and spends 17 episodes doing an allegory of civilisation replete with discomfited weather balloons and a “row of cabbages”, aka lots of extras in stripey tops. Cooked up by PATRICK MCGOOHAN with producer DAVID TOMBLIN and script editor GEORGE MARKSTEIN. Sold to Lew Grade on the back of a cigar packet between 6.30 and 6.40am one Friday morning in spring 1966. A month of location work at Portmerion in North Wales in the autumn (largely McGoohan bawling at the cabbages or looking narrow-eyed into the middle distance or bawling at the cabbages while looking narrow-eyed and having spasms) was followed by a whopping 15 months of studio stuff at MGM. Original seven episode concept got hiked by Lord Lew to 13 then to 26 then down to 17. Fantastic “I am not a number” title sequence came replete with who’s-the-Number-Two-this-week? revelation, giving the likes of ANTON RODGERS, PATRICK CARGILL, CLIFFORD EVANS, KENNETH GRIFFITH, LEO MCKERN, MARY MORRIS, PETER WYNGARDE and ERIC PORTMAN a turn in the giant bubble chair. McGoohan: “I need a penny-farthing, mini-mokes, giant computers with wheels rotating one way then the other, Fenella Fielding to be Gladys Pugh, a mammoth chessboard you can walk on and the Albertus font without any dots on the i or j.” Lew: “Great!” One year later: McGoohan “I don’t have an ending”. Lew: “Great!” Best episodes: The Schizoid Man (two Patrick McGoohans!), Many Happy Returns (they let the Prisoner escape just to spite him), Hammer Into Anvil (the Prisoner wins), The Girl Who Was Death (McGoohan does the Avengers, only better), Free For All (the cabbages fight back) and A, B and C (the Prisoner dreams of Peter Bowles). Worst episodes: It’s Your Funeral (the Prisoner saves a wimpish Number Two), The General (education is bad!), Living In Harmony (look – it’s a Western!), A Change of Mind (the Prisoner gets a pretend lobotomy), Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling (McGoohan skives off) and Once Upon A Time (McGoohan kills Leo McKern with long words). Finale contained some great bits but a hell of a lot of crappy, let-it-all-hang-out, make-you-own-mind-up laziness, including the unmasking of Number One as a gorilla/McGoohan, a space rocket taking off, Dem Bones, All You Need Is Love and McGoohan, McKern, the titchy butler and Alexis Kanner jiving on the back of a lorry. Dazzling, maddening, inspiring, depressing, iconic, moronic and unique, everyone who cares about good and bad telly should watch the Prisoner all the way through at least once. Be seeing you.
TV CREAM SAYS: "I WILL NOT BE PUSHED, STAMPED, FILED, INDEXED, BRIEFED, DEBRIEFED
THE SECOND World War, eh? That was a barrel of laughs! Especially the time when dopey Nazi private MICHAEL ELPHICK cocked up a plan to drop forged £5 notes on England! And IAN RICHARDSON turned up as, variously, fiendish plotter Major Neuheim, an incompetent British officer and a Glaswegian “old lag”! Ho hum! Happy days!
TV CREAM SAYS: 1940S POUND NOTES "SIZE OF A 1:10 000 MAP OF DARTMOOR", QUOTH EXPERTS
PYRO PUDDLE-SPLASHING, cardboard box-barging, “cover me!”-shouting, gun-held-with-both-hands, barrel-up-nose-having adventures of crack MI5 (here changed cunningly to CI5) operatives Bodie and Doyle, aka MARTIN SHAW and LEWIS COLLINS. Many a provincial car-park became noisy child haven for months afterwards thanks to the perfunctory stakeout antics, directed by GORDON “UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS” JACKSON. Depicted a London permanently under siege from a) shifty Arab potentates b) Oirish bomb-toting bastards c) Soviet shysters with tiny eyes d) jive-talking African mercaneries, all of which both our protagonists would alternately joyfully beat up or shamelessly imitate.
TV CREAM SAYS: "GRENADE DOWN PAMELA STEPHENSON'S BRA" EPISODE TOPPED THE RATINGS - TWICE
ODDBEAT ODDMENT of a kids’ semi-educational series about building and architecture. Professor Ken Martin from The Royal Institute of British Architects was your bristling titular boffin, arriving in an battered red mini with crappy lobster claws stuck on the doors to teach a group of kids the rudiments of the building trade, then getting them to mix concrete in the studio. Latterday impact on redevelopment of 21st century brownfield sites unknown.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THERE'S A WISE OLD MAN FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA/HE'S COME TO HELP BOTH YOU AND ME/PROFESSOR LOBSTER!!"
OZ IMPORT for kids screened in (sigh) two-hour segments. Old bloke and requisite Big Freckled Brats float around in a big bus with an airbag fastened at the top, collecting bits and bobs to improve their vehicle. “Dr Robotnik”-style baddie attempts to foil them with a series of hi-tech gizmos, but a hastily improvised soup-up of the zeppelin’s “Mega Steam” and the like put paid to that. One memorable episode featured the old “snake bite” race-against-time-before-venom-takes-hold staple scenario.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THERE'S A BIG RED BUS WAY UP IN THE SKY/WHICH EVERYONE SAID
WOULD NEVER FLY..."
ONLY ONE problem, to be fair. CHARLIE DRAKE notes a worrying hole in his pension plan and promptly accedes to star in this tatty affair as (naturally) a batty professor who, along with kidsistant, gets shrunk by own formula for desktop shrinking man adventures. Cue huge papier mache telephone handsets, pennies the size of hoops and a cat’s paw as big as a Ford Transit.
TV CREAM SAYS: THEME SONG SUNG BY A BESTRANGLED DRAKE: "I MAY BE SMALL/BUT I'M BIG ENOUGH FOR ME/I'LL STAY JUST AS I AM/A HAPPY LITTLE MAN!"
NOT UFO, mind; instead, a keep-watching-the-skies spookarama that always began with a UFO “visitation” on a hick redneck Southern town. Soon on the scene were the Project UFO guys from the military, who would investigate the scene of the close encounter and find something distinctly man-made like glitter, fairy lights or latex rubber. Then they’d piece together the mystery, and it’d turn out that the local dullards had in fact mistaken a Goodyear air-balloon that tore from its moorings for an interstellar craft. At this point the opening scene would be repeated, but from different angles, showing exactly how stupid we’d all been in the first place to fall for it. F’rinstance, one farmer-faked (to keep locals away, “Scooby Doo”-style) UFO, using crop-dusting chopper and fairy lights, was found out by the two investiblokes as a fake, via convoluted “boys in the lab” dissection of an audio tape made of the sound of the craft, e.g. one part ice-cream van played backwards, one part helicopeter noise, one part doorbell etc. Sometimes the FBI guys couldn’t work it out and they’d show the scene in a mysterious way. Ostensibly based on the US Air Force’s real ‘Project Blue Book’ UFO investigations; only at the end titles did you find out that the USAF wrapped up that department a decade before the show took place. Produced and narrated by JACK “DRAGNET” WEBB.
TV CREAM SAYS: EVERY EPISODE WAS CALLED "THE SOMETHING-OR-OTHER INCIDENT" IN
THE STYLE OF MAN FROM UNCLE
EAST-END DESOLATION, Thatcher-style. The money-making schemes of two doleite friends, Pincy (GARY “2.4″ OLSEN) and Billy (BRIAN BOVELL). Demolition ball opening titles set the scene for Isle Of Dogs Enterprise Zone shenanigans, with the duo establishing a variety of businesses (pest control, home-made booze, etc.) and getting into scrapes as a result. Typical “typical Channel 4″ Channel 4.
TV CREAM SAYS: "YTS? YOUR TOUGH SHIT, MORE LIKE"
NOT TO be confused with THE PERSUADERS, THE PURSUERS or, indeed, THE PROTECTORS, 1964 vintage (with ANDREW FAULDS and MICHAEL ATKINSON). Here lay NYREE DAWN PORTER, TONY ANHOLT and ROBERT VAUGHN as jet-setting, i.e. back-projection-frequenting, private eyes. Produced by GERRY ANDERSON. Highlight was Tony “I Did What I Did For Maria” Christie-sung theme “Avenues And Alleyways.”