GENEALOGICAL GALLOP courtesy of (at the time) the Beeb’s most expensive production ever. Basically, 45 years in 26 episodes with 150 characters. KENNETH MORE was Mr. Jolyon Forsyte, main man of original John Galsworthy novels and centre of eponymous household, grappling with shifting sands of class, society, wealth etc. ERIC PORTER, SUSAN HAMPSHIRE and MARTIN JARVIS sat at his table, TERENCE ALEXANDER and MICHAEL YORK dropped by for tea. Notorious “rape” episode divided the country as to whether Irene Forsyte, ahem, “deserved” it or not. Initial success on BBC2 led to hasty repeat on the main channel, prompting church services to be rescheduled and sports events postponed.
TWO COCKTAIL-SIPPING Auden-spouting flappers move to Hungary, find the Second World War has broken out, and proceed to spend the next four years defeating Hitler by staging amateur productions of Shakespeare, having Alan Bennett for tea, hoofing in hotel saloons and sitting on top of pyramids. KENNETH BRANAGH, sporting his favourite Woody Allen glasses, and EMMA THOMPSON, her hair like two damp dishcloths, were the twittering twosome forever bumping into the likes of RONALD PICKUP, ROBERT GRAVES, ROBERT STEPHENS and CAROLINE LANGRISHE while out taking their similes for a walk.
TV CREAM SAYS: "DAMN THOSE BLASTED GERMANS, ALWAYS INTERRUPTING OUR TEA
FIRST ALL-BLACK cast sitcom for the UK, based on US effort Good Times, itself a spin-off from Maude, itself a spin-off from All In The Family. Featured NORMAN BEATON alongside a post-NEW FACES acting debut for LENWORTH J HENRY, minus condensed milk.
TV CREAM SAYS: NORMAN AND CO-STAR CARMEN MUNRO RETURNED IN DESMOND'S
FRIDAY EVENING serial soaper set in the high-ranking executive world – a sort of BROTHERS shifted up half a class. Heads of eponymous cartel were LYSETTE ANTHONY as Davinia Prince, and her down-to-earth sister, teacher Katherine. Romantic intrigues, determined dialogue and bared lower teeth a speciality.
TV CREAM SAYS: AS WAS A TINY PATSY KENSIT
EVEN EARLIER (see above) GERRY ANDERSON marionette hokum, chiefly notable for presuming that authentic Wild West frontiersmen could be suitably voiced by NICHOLAS PARSONS and KENNETH CONNOR. Parsons provided pipes for main man Tex Tucker, prone to breaking into song at opportune moments whereupon he inherited the voice of MICHAEL HOLLIDAY.
TV CREAM SAYS: THIS BEEN ANDERSONIA, ALSO FEATURED TALKING DOG AND HORSE
“I IMAGINE,” MUSED STEPHEN FRY at the time, “that there must be many people who have never pulled up a chair for a Four Square. I doubt if they will even know the meaning of this estimable phrase.” Sadly, said rendezvous proved to be a rubbishy computerised boardgame which revolved on making squares of four (get it?) or something. Presented first by MICHAEL GROTH, then by that master of the non-catchphrase, JOHN SACHS.
TV CREAM SAYS: "LET'S SET SAIL FOUR SQUARE TO THE WIND!"
EUSTON FILMS EPIC of five South London bruvvers (played with stereotype-busting vim by BERNARD HILL, DERRICK O’CONNOR, LARRY “TRIANGLE” LAMB, RAY WINSTONE and EAMON BOLAND), their parents (PETER “GROUTY” VAUGHN and ELIZABETH SPRIGGS) and their families. Titular clan almost on the right side of the law, except VAUGHN’s King Billy is the local hard man and cock o’ the manor. When he dies, the family starts to fall apart. Much chewing of bricks and knuckle sandwiches. Trevor Preston done the words.
TV CREAM SAYS: BIT PARTS FOR CINDY O'CALLAGHAN, TRUDI "THE BILL" GOODWIN, MARK "DITTO" WINGETT, ROSEMARY MARTIN AND MANY MORE
DIANE “RINGS ON THEIR FINGERS” KEEN was the eponymous “dame” taking over Lancastrian local paper The Ramsden Reminder, in process battling to get entire male staff – including Dr Who and Rab C Nesbitt – under her inky thumb.
TV CREAM SAYS: HENDRIX THEME "ABSENT" FROM FINAL CUT
MEDIOCRE MUPPET goings-on with cavorting mythology well to the fore. Unnecessarily complicated set-up required lengthy title sequence every episode. Fraggles, quirky froggy things, lived in a cave along with other little blokes who kept building transparent structures which the Fraggles ate, and there were also these three giant monster things who caught them from time to time and there was this talking compost heap with a couple of rats and the whole thing happened through a hole in FULTON “MISTER” MACKAY (later Damon Grant)’s lighthouse which only his puppet dog knew about and there was this postcard from a… “Involved” is the word. Name adopted by musical movement popular for three weeks in the arse end of the Black Country and typified by likes of Back To The Planet. Then it was adopted again, for equally charmless purposes, by smelly road protestors who couldn’t read.
TV CREAM SAYS: DANCE YOUR CARES AWAY (CLAP CLAP)
LOVABLE OLD-ENGLISHERY with Bolton’s late lamented Dibbers interviewed “on the job”, i.e. sat on top of a chimney, farting around with traction engines, knocking down and old stack with traditional “burning props” method, etc. Geoff Boycottian banter mixed with falling masonry was cult success and led to, among others, A Year With Fred, more of the same but with shift towards “private life” (marital troubles).
TV CREAM SAYS: "YOU'RE DICING WI' DEATH MUCKING ABOUT ON THE TOP OF A ROTTEN OL' CHIMNEY!"
POST-MAGPIE BUBBLE-PERMED Leo Sayeralike MICK ROBERTSON found himself fronting this Friday evening activity magazine, which professed to have “something for everyone” – from active kids (absailing, BMXing, adventure holidays etc.) to stay-at-homes (drawing in the margins of a telephone directory.) Suffered from same flaw as WHY DON’T YOU: presentation encouraged you to switch over, bored, rather than stick around and learn something interesting. Around this time Micky recorded a solo album of self-penned songs, notably “Then I Change Hands”, a song about masturbation. If anyone has a copy, mail us now! And then burn it.
TV CREAM SAYS: MICK THEN WENT ON TO CREATE C4'S WISE UP, PROVIDING YET MORE EXPOSURE FOR SHOUTY KIDS
ABSOLUTE ARCHETYPAL posh-kids-in-peril effort majoring on pointless running about, black-hearted blaggards, cut-glass accents and lots and lots of speedboats. Because Southern TV owned one. Dozens and dozens of episodes made, all basically the same, involving self-titled band of teens “phoned up” by – ha! – MI5/6 whenever they cocked up and needed some kids to do their jobs for them. Shifty shenanigans in the shire counties ensued, initially involving pissed off Nazi called von Gelb (GEOFFREY TOONE) who still thought there was a war on. A deserted railway station usually turned up once a week, as did an appearance from the local historical re-enactment society. “Freewheelers” themselves went through a number of line-ups a la BLUE PETER, baton being handed between, variously, BILL COWAN, CHRIS “NOT THAT ONE” KELLY, ADRIAN WRIGHT, WENDY “WHO” PADBURY and other suspiciously-grown up looking types.
TV CREAM SAYS: EPISODE TITLES OBSESSED WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS: "FRAMED!" "TRICKED!" "RAPIDS!" "TANKS!"
SLEEPY WESTCOUNTRY-ONLY hour-long replacement for TISWAS with Blonde Getting First Break In Telly and Wayne Sleep-a-like IAN CALVERT. Standard in-studio affair notable for having scaffolding in shot. Kids (from scout group or local school) got to stand on the top and spit or throw things, while sporting grey T-shirts with Freeze Frame written around a square box. After screaming “Freeeeze Fraaame!” at the start and before ad breaks, they’d then just sit back and look gormless for the camera with streamers draped over per them. Rest of the show consisted of the usual WB cartoons, interviews with local ‘outdoor sport’ champions, a rather dull science segment, more local ‘talent’, and a minor band to end the show of the calibre of The Bloomsbury Set.
TV CREAM SAYS: INITIALLY TITLED "THE SATURDAY SHOW", BUT CHANGED WHEN CENTRAL'S 'ALL CONQUERING' PROGRAMME OF THE SAME NAME CAME OUT
NONE-MORE-80S SUBURBACOM, the gold standard of wedding-ring-in-the-washing-up-bowl, contact-lens-down-the-back-of-the-sofa, iron-shaped-hole-burnt-through-best-posh-frock studio-bound audience-hooting 8.30pm weeknight whimsy. Title sequence laid out both “sit” and “com”: to bawdy instrumental version of “Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, start all over again!”, amusing silhouette shapes are struck by two protagonists, depicting his (reading paper, slumped in armchair) and hers (tossing pancake, riding exercise bike, playing drums) contrasting worlds. She (JULIA MACKENSIE) forever pines for new challenge evoked by show’s title. He (ANTON RODGERS) perfectly happy with status quo earning tons in the city. She signs up for pottery classes, bicycling classes, exercise classes, fencing classes, catering classes and the Meals On Wheels. He remains oblivious. She gives up new life 28 minutes later, just in time for closing credits. Show gains points by seamlessly melding everyday euphemism of title with names of principal characters (Hester and William Fields); gains more by having Hester’s mum live in a shed at the bottom of the garden; gains even more by writing in sassy neighbour always poking her nose in (Sonia, played by ANN BEACH); then gains still more by spinning-off into FRENCH FIELDS, wherein our heroes relocate to northern France for no reason other than to live next door to Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart and loads of people who go around with onions round their necks. “Excusez-moi, ou est le bicycle repair shop?” Hooray!
TV CREAM SAYS: WON AN INTERNATIONAL EMMY TO BOOT
MERIDIAN-STRADDLING CHAT meanderer helmed by rotating line-up of guest hosts. Remembered mostly for a) weird jungle-type set with pot plants all over the place b) “saucy” titles showing couple refraining from carnal pleasures as soon as, yup, they note programme “starting” on “TV set” c) JOHN CLEESE and MICHAEL PALIN going on to defend Life Of Brian in face of MALCOLM “DON’T HAVE TO LOOK IN A SEWER TO KNOW WHAT’S DOWN THERE” MUGGERIDGE and the BISHOP OF WOOLWICH (“You’ll get your 30 pieces of silver!”); d) someone deciding to get HAROLD WILSON to present it, only to have the ex-PM go to pieces and ask HARRY “WHISTLING” SECOMBE what he’s doing after the show.
TV CREAM SAYS: TIM RICE AND NED SHERRIN ALSO TOOK TURNS (FOR THE WORSE)
WELL-REMEMBERED comedy edition of the usually straight and serious ITV PLAYHOUSE strand, co-written by JOHN “CLIFFY” RATZENBURGER. Retired professor ROBERT STEPHENS leads the Friends in Space Society, a harmlessly eccentric bunch of binocular-toting, long wave-trawling suburban UFO nuts (including Ratzenberger, ELEANOR BRON, TERENCE ‘SOFTLY, SOFTLY’ RIGBY and PAT HEYWOOD) who, inevitably, happen upon a genuine alien (resembling a translucent half-jellyfish, half-lampshade, half-man thing) which they rather brilliantly name The Nigel. The rest of the play works out as a sort of EXPLORERS in reverse, as they determine their ‘Nigel’ is just a kid, revert to suburban type, and try and get in touch with its parents to fetch him home, making for the most mundane alien encounter ever filmed.
TV CREAM SAYS: NIGEL DESIGNED BY SAPPHIRE AND STEEL VETERAN STANLEY MILLS
WAS THERE NO WAY to keep the lesser talented Oddie off the screen in the mid-80s? No. Here he was again, writing, starring and musically-embellishing (of course) in kids sitcom depicting goings-on at Jolly Theatre Stage School. Which (of course) is far from jolly. Especially when Bill – William Worthington, 43-year-old bank manager – turns up to enrol. Much pratfalling and caterwauling ensues. And that’s just from Bill. Other characters included Polly Jolly and Wayne Layne. Couldn’t he be bothered to have thought up different sounding ones?
TV CREAM SAYS: "A LITTLE MORE FLIP/A LITTLE LESS FLOP" IF ONLY.
“MALCOLM AND SHELDON, dem fight like puss and dog,” explained EDDY “ELECTRIC AVENUE” GRANT’S reggae theme tune to ethnic-com from the pen of Alex Shearer. PAUL “DENZIL” BARBER and ALAN “BLACKSTUFF” IGBON starred as two brothers, a copper and dodgy-dealing doleite respectively. One and only series mainly memorable for scene in which Igbon builds huge ragga boombox speaker which is too big to get out of the door.