RISIBLY BAD regional cartoon woefulness starring a “crafty cat” and a “slow but loveable” dog. Pain inducingly derivative, animation just a notch above static.
T is for…
CURIOUS SPRIGHTLY cartoon about three floaty robots with TV sets in their stomachs plus Zudo the evil one, and a little floaty dog thing, who “fought crime” and did stuff. The villains were Bully-Byte, Angel Brain (bat-shaped computer) and a pink mohicaned woman of dubious point. There was also a newspaper editor called Mr. McSpreader. “Go Telesonic!” they said. Over and over and over…
TV CREAM SAYS: THEY'D KEEP THE MASTER JOHN SIMM AMUSED AT ANY RATE
PETER BARKWORTH, in no way typecast as pinstriped corporate banker from the city, packs up (see? Change, like money) and moves to the English countryside (Change! As in change. Clever, eh?) with wifey, the delightful HANNAH GORDON, lives on a houseboat and uses his economic and accounting knowledge to help out the locals. Except Hannah’s not so happy, preferring the high life of London town where she is treading the boards. Trouble brews, as is so often the way, when KEITH BARRON shows up. Affable Sunday night “quitting the rat race” gubbins.
TV CREAM SAYS: BARKWORTH LATER REPRISED SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN SCHTICK IN MID-80S SWEATY IRA KIDNAPFEST "THE PRICE"
ENGLISH LANGUAGE not evident. Shown on Sunday mornings before The Sunday Gang, but only if you lived in, as Sarah Kennedy would have it, the Principality. Central characters Syr Wynff (WYNFORD ELLIS-OWEN in granny specs) and Mici Plwm (real name MICI PLWM) became involved in various shenanigans each week, which usually involved Wynff screaming at Mici, Mici getting a pint of milk poured over his head, and crying. Celtic slapstick at its finest.
TV CREAM SAYS: NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH "WELLIFANT", THE FIRE BRIGADE'S 80S
AH, MONDAY NIGHTS IN THE ’80S, and NOEL EDMONDS bringing us the very definition of redoubtable family fare with his relaxed and beige TV-related quiz. Nothing less than a low-powered glory, you don’t need us to sketch in the format, do you? Two families battle it out over thirty minutes to prove they know most about TV. Now cue the clips. But, really, it’s all in the details with this show: the air raid siren; the “hoofer-doofer”; Noel throwing a question to the studio audience with a cry of “telly addicts?”; blanked out Radio Times billings; Sing the Sig; the USS Enterprise zapping the TARDIS in the titles (and prompting an angry letter to Dreamwatch Bulletin); “The NME – is that still going?”; stars setting questions in pre-recorded cutaways piped in to appear live (“I’m very well Noel, now, team…”); the Aches vs the Pains; “Let’s go… on the box!”; “This has never happened before in the modern history of Telly Addicts!” and so on. Total teatime viewing until a minor revamp in 1994, which saw the addition of novelty scorer Charles, and the families axed to make way for darts teams and book groups with names like ‘Swords and Daggers’ and, of course, ‘Warrior’s Gate’. Come 1998, though, and things got catastrophic: out went the sofas to make way for wine bar stools, pointless running about…and shrieking. Spawned a couple of board games (one of which included the question “Which series does Sheena McDonald present?” – but no answer) and, more recently, a nifty play-at-home DVD. PLEASE keep it moving through the Spotlight round.
TV CREAM SAYS: "TEN MORE YEARS! TEN MORE YEARS!"
PROVINCIAL TELEVISION companies! Can’t afford to make your own Saturday morning kiddiefest? Simply bolt together bits of other regions’ efforts, and presto! Your own show! The ‘ten’ was made up of assorted cartoons, obscure films and segments of THE SATURDAY BANANA and TISWAS. “HTV are leaving us now,” said Chris and Sal when the opt-outs ended, much to the chagrin of kids from Holyhead to Swindon.
TV CREAM SAYS: 'TWASN'T LONG, THOUGH, BEFORE TISWAS WENT NATIONWIDE
DIRTY-FACED FEISTY POWS of the fairer sex see out the Second World War in an internment camp in Malaya. The key word there being ‘camp’. Banding together under the de facto leadership of ANN BELL were rape victim STEPHANIE BEACHAM, doctor STEPHANIE COLE, nurses CLAIRE OBERMAN and JEANANNE CROWLEY and tottering old academic JEAN ANDERSON. Legendary BURT KWOUK was a camp commandant, the key word there being… oh, you get the idea. Stirring stuff and, once Michael Grade had sniffed out some post-SONGS OF PRAISE potential, a weekend hit. Last series offered up a multitude of baked bean endings by virtue of concentrating on that old dramatic stalwart, Life After Wartime, i.e. reunions with lost loves, arguments with other people’s lost loves, fights over lost loves, and lost loves staying positively lost through the small matter of, well, death. Lousy “reunion” finale in 1985 was set in 1950 and took the form of – erk – a murder mystery. At least nobody saw it coming. Unlike the end of the war.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE SMELL OF A SUNDAY NIGHT HIT
MORE OR less the only Gerryatrics of note from the 80s and the only outing for, ahem, Supermacromation aka glorified glove puppetry. Everything else was the same as before: a band of bow-legged brothers, each with wacky names, defending the world and making it back in time for a pithy pay-off in the drawing room before the closing credits. Except it was set in 2020, with bug-eyed monsters threatening the planet. On the side of Good: leader Dr. “Tiger” Ninestein (there were nine of him, in case one died, which was handy when you have the nasty habit of getting killed off by your arch enemy); Dr. Mary Falconer, Hudson, (a talking Rolls that could change colour to suite its mood), “Stew Dapples”, a DJ bloke, and the bouncy ball-bearing like Zeriods, led by Sergeant O, with voice of WINDSOR DAVIES, who could “increase in mass”, plus a Japanese Thunderbird Five-alike stuck in a space station. This demented crew fought the dastardly Martian Zelda, complete with idiot punky son and Sram, a frozen monster thing. Always “reclaimed her own” at the end. Had cube things which played noughts and crosses with the Zeriods over the end credits. Each zeroid had a number and an individual personality and the attitude of Zero towards some of them was a sly glance at, inevitably, IT AIN’T HALF HOT MUM, with the addition of extra flavours such as 18, a French zeroid who insisted he was to be called Dix-Huit. And if you followed all that, you were paying too much attention. It was only a kids show, for fuck’s sake.
TV CREAM SAYS: "STROLL ON!"
HARD-UP AUNTIE resorts to slapping on another shitty import to eat up expensive airtime on hot August mornings, when no-one will be inside watching telly anyway. Eponymous band of Oz youngsters, mixed-ages, kill time in dirty early-1900s provincial nowhere. Weekly assembly of packing-case make-believe town interrupted by occasional outbursts of excitement, such as when very large tree falls on old woman breaking her back. From the stable of ex-pat Kiwi children’s drama stalwart ROGER MIRAMS, who’d go on to give us the likes of THE MAGIC BOOMERANG and THE LOST ISLANDS, the UK showings of which inspired many a Brit kid to emulate their down under counterparts, and get the hell out of doors.
TV CREAM SAYS: NOTE: WAS NOT, AS HAS BEEN PREVIOUSLY SUGGESTED BY FOOLS (COUGH), CALLED TEN TOWN
STURDY EIGHT o’clock suburbacom, with the rock solid SCOTT-WHITFIELD conglomerate in a sequel of sorts to HAPPY EVER AFTER with the Fletchers becoming the Medfords, upping sticks to Purley and moving in next to uppity neighbours Tarquin, Malcolm and Beattie, with blustery boss Sir Dennis Hodge (REGINALD MARSH, of course) completing the set. Too many memorable moments to mention, but we’ll do it anyway: the one where they had a barbecue – Terry’s food was awful, and the closing shot was three beefburgers going round on a record player, for some reason; the one where they go to France, and get assailed on the ferry by a kid acting badly, because he’d written in to JIM’LL FIX IT to be in Terry & June; the one where June became a punk (in 1985) – loads of Frankie Goes To Cricklewood “jokes”; the one where Terry has to buy a satellite dish so that a Middle East client he was entertaining could watch his favourite TV show (which turned out to be…Dallas); the one involving giant It’s A Knockout costumes – inevitably Terry got trapped in a giant rabbit’s outfit. Oh, and the one in which Terry fell in a river/lake/canal/giant pond, which was the one on every week.
TV CREAM SAYS: LIMITED FAMILY FUN DERIVED FROM "OOH, WHOSE CHAIR'S GOING TO COLLAPSE THIS WEEK?" EVER-CHANGING PATIOCENTRIC TITLES
“IF THEY took sex out of this programme, there’d be nothing left!” FROST, LEVIN, KINNEAR, PERCIVAL, MARTIN, RUSHTON and COPE sit behind a giant desk with camera wires all over the place in the name of satire, in the process scandalising one half of the nation (the posh half) and bemusing the rest. Made legends out of a) Frost’s hair (a weird plastered down bowlcut with a mini-quiff at the front); b) Frost’s bad impressions; c) Milicent Martin’s ability to sing unfunny topical songs very very very fast; d) Bernard Levin verbally jousting with the upper classes; e) Timothy Birdsall drawing cartoons “live”; f) having cameras in shot; g) having cameramen in shot; h) Willie Rushton looking grumpy; i) Roy Kinnear looking frumpish; j) Ned Sherrin, by virtue of having at least ten separate credits on every programme. Went out live at the end of Saturday night BBC television, often for up to two hours at a time. “Questions” were asked in the House of Commons, of the kind nobody actually remembers hearing at the time. “Switchboards” were jammed, in a manner nobody actually remembers seeing at the time. They did a dreadfully mawkish special edition the night after JFK got shot which became a hit record in the States. Axed when the Beeb got the jitters about someone making jokes about a general election. Everyone – more or less – came back, though, for NOT SO MUCH A PROGRAMME, MORE A WAY OF LIFE.
TV CREAM SAYS: SERIOUSLY, THOUGH...
AND BY a quirk of fuck-you fate, here’s more Mollie. This time she’s moonlighting from Grace Brothers as Ida Willis, a busy-body housekeeper working for posh CHRISTOPHER BLAKE and his missus JENNIFER LONSDALE, who treats Chris like he’s her son despite him already having his own mother, albeit an adopted one, played by CLARE RICHARDS, and with whom he rarely sees eye to rheumatic eye. Ran for ages, courtesy of a welter of plot pyrotechnics, including – whoops – a wholesale relocation from London to Yorkshire.
TV CREAM SAYS: BLOWSY
MUCH LIKE the vogue for programmes beginning with a fulsome TAKE (see above), so programmes opening business with a terse THAT’S are equally near-universally rubbish. At least this only made it to one series. Life in a funeral parlour (a contradiction in terms, surely?) run by BILL FRASER and RAYMOND HUNTLEY, starring as the obligatory-1970s-sitcom-named Basil Bulstrode and Emanuel Holroyd. Coffins get mixed up. Corpses go missing. Dithering assistants get diddled over urns. Lots of Northern “wit” i.e. moaning. A film spin-off (another obligatory 1970s sitcom accoutrement) flopped, thanks largely to a car chase involving hearses.
TV CREAM SAYS: THAT'S YOUR AUDIENCE. THAT MAN OVER THERE.
FRANKIE HOWERD vehicle that lay on a shelf for almost 20 years before, for some reason, being shown on BBC2. Premise found Frankie, as himself, “oooh”-ing and “aaah!”-ing as War Office secretary Private Potts, a lacky in the Cabinet War Rooms under Whitehall, who accidentally found himself moved to the front line – whereupon he encountered General Fearless Freddy Hollocks, who bore a remarkable resemblance to…Frankie Howerd. Whole thing originally postponed thanks to the Falklands War. Then everyone forgot about it. Perhaps wisely.
TV CREAM SAYS: "OOOOOH, I'VE BEEN 'AVING TERRIBLE TROUBLE WITH ME WHIZ BANGS"
ABSOLUTELY DIRE musical comedy vehicle for evergreen band KID CREOLE AND THE COCONUTS, who find themselves washed up on a tropical island with a revolutionary government but still find room to crowbar in “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy” and “Stool Pigeon” (ha cha cha chaaaa!).
TV CREAM SAYS: CO-STARRING KAREN BLACK AND THE THREE DEGREES. NARCOLEPSY,
WEIRD SITCOMSKETCH thing about an alien invasion of the made-up town of Middleford, with much liver, giant prawn attacks, cannibal sofas and spontaneous combustion. Bizarre merging of styles from PETE MCCARTHY, ROBIN DRISCOLL and REBECCA STEVENS. Channel 4, naturally.