WELL, WHO wouldn’t?
D is for…
ANTHROPOMORPHIC PAPER puppetry. The theme song featured a bunch of kid voices singing “Hello to Mr. Owl, What’s happening today in Fable Land ?” to which Mr. Owl would reply “More news from our fable land”. There were two brothers who were woodworking beavers, a wolf called Boris who spoke like Bela Lugosi and had a penchant for playing the accordion, a rabbity thing called Zippy the Hare (who ran for Prime Minister of the wood), George the Guinea Pig, Mr Crow, Miss Stork (who briefly became queen), a depressed carrier pigeon, Miss Ant, Harold the Bear, Shelley the Tortoise, Mr Cunningham the Fox, Myra and Martha the hamsters, Fulton the trout et al. Five minutes long.
TV CREAM SAYS: FIVE MINUTES TOO LONG
JUNGLE QUACKERY in the Wameru Study Centre where in worked MARSHALL THOMPSON (Dr Marsh Tracy) CHERYL MILLER (his daughter Paula) and HEDLEY MATTINGLEY as The Obligatory Colonial Brit In Uniform. Supporting cast members, including Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Judy the Chimp, repeatedly stole show from any zoological fable furnishing.
TV CREAM SAYS: JOANIE OFF OF HAPPY DAYS WAS ALSO IN IT
SHEPHERD’S BUSH THEATRE, Wednesday night, the 1980s. Wogan is sat on a sofa. Behind him is a big screen. “Now, steady on!” he booms to the nation. “Fix your hats and saddle your horses! It’s that time at last! Join me as we set a course westward ho! Oh yes! It’s…DALLAS!” In brief, “A rich Texan family faces all kinds of trouble.” In full, the brainchild of DAVID JACOBS (not the Radio 2 one, sadly). LARRY HAGMAN (JR), KEN KERCHEVAL (Cliff Barnes), BARBARA BEL GEDDES (Miss Ellie), VICTORIA PRINCIPAL (Pam), CHARLENE TILTON (Lucy), PATRICK DUFFY (Bobby), HOWARD KEEL (Clayton Farlow), LINDA GRAY (Sue Ellen) got burned into the global consciousness via much-parodied three-way split screen grinning intro. JR and Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pam, Lucy and Mitch, Jock and Miss Ellie – sexual tension was everywhere, culminating in top oversold JR shooting and “eagerly awaited” revelation of identity of almost-killer at start of the following season. Gave Tel years worth of material (“Why only one phone?! Wardrobes the size of garages I tell yer!”) Tanked with unpopular death of Bobby, and subsequent revelation of him alive, well, and showering: intervening season had all been one of crazy Pamela’s dreams. Various characters emigrated north to KNOTS LANDING. Reunion “specials” more frequent than Bush family presidencies.
TV CREAM SAYS: SUE ELLEN, SO THE (LITTLE AND LARGE-ORIGINATED) SONG WENT, WAS
ON JUNK. HER BABY WAS A PUNK.
IN TRUTH, one big long prelude to infinitely superior THE PRISONER, itself supposedly inspired by lead star PATRICK MCGOOHAN’s frustrations at working on this series and being constant plaything of Lord Lew “World Charleston Champion 1926″ Grade. McGoohan played John Drake, roving NATO operative assigned to an assortment of back projections around the world. Deliberately “uptight” bloke – drank little, said less. Influence of Bond films prompted revamp away from half hour playlets into bigger budget 60 minute yarns replete with increased gadget count, and McGoohan re-assigned to makebelieve MI9. Also gained interfering boss figure, Hobbs (PETER MADDEN). Long service ultimately gave McGoohan enough leverage with the man Grade to realise his weather balloon fantasies.
TV CREAM SAYS: SUPPLIED MARK RADCLIFFE WITH GRAVEYARD SHIFT THEME
SMASHING WWII bomb disposal expert saga with ANTHONY “BRIDESHEAD” ANDREWS and MAURICE ROEVES heading a team of sappers clearing up Adolf’s mess in south London. Much who’s-going-to-cop-it-this-week? excitement.
TV CREAM SAYS: "IT'S REALLY VERY SIMPLE. ALL I HAVE TO DO IS SNIP THIS LITTLE...AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!"
“CRUMBS!” ONE-EYED cartoon white mouse (DAVID JASON) and a short-sighted mole (Penfold – TERRY SCOTT), despite having only one and a half good eyes between them, continually outwit wheezing frog BARON GREENBACK and STILETTO the mafioso crow (BRIAN TRUEMAN) before reporting to Jimmy Edwardslike Colonel K (EDWARD KELSEY). Another superlative effort from Cosgrove-Hall. English-as-hell humour, in-jokes for the parents and Pythonesque fourth wall narrator interrupting the action make this long overdue a full revival. The mystic stick (“Are you the hairy old twit with the twig thing?”), cunning plans (“Aha! Greenback wants us to think that he thinks we’ll think there isn’t a drop at all. But I know he thinks that I know he thinks there is!”), the Time Traveller’s Potting Shed – it was all here. Dangermouse. Powerhouse.
TV CREAM SAYS: "GOOD SHOW, DM!" "CRIKEY!" "A-HAAAA!" "OOH, 'ECK!" "SI, BARONI!"
"GOOD GER-IEF!" "IN WILLESDEN GREEN"
THEY HADN’T done one for a while (see THE APHRODITE INHERITANCE), so it was high time the Beeb packed its flip-flops and E111 form for another impenetrable Greek thriller. This time fortune dealt a poor hand to (what a surprise) another unsuspecting tourist who took a holiday snap of an old castle owned by (ditto) a shifty local, here played by PETER EGAN. Said tourist gets lured up to the castle, wherein lies CLIFFORD ROSE as Egan’s butler/personal servant, along with all manner of occult silliness, culminating in a plan to raise the ghosts of a chapter of the Knights Templar for, umm, the hell of it. Buried treasure was probably involved. Likewise busty local waitresses. And Greek gods.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALL FROM THE PEN OF APHRODITE HIMSELF, MICHAEL J. BIRD
HB’S TOP-RANKING baddie and his doggy in fruitless airborne pursuit of endlessly irritating pigeon with a satchel full of messages. As well as Dick and Muttley there was Klunk, the short inventing one with a neat wrrrpding-brrrd-spleoww speech impediment and Zilly, whose uncontrollable terror caused him to shout “Ohhhh Dear! Ohhhh My!” all the time. Orders were issued by a perpetually apoplectic general who could reach down the phone line to throttle DD when he got stuff wrong. Rarely changing plot was made up of Klunk’s latest avionic wonder failing to do anything other than send the crew hurtling earthwards once more. Best bit was Muttley getting a medal, which happened every week by law, and caused him to float around in an ecstatic trance making squeeky noises.
TV CREAM SAYS: MANIC 'STOP THE PIGEON' THEME HARDWIRED INTO TEN MILLION
NEXT LINK IN THE Micro chain, this was indeed a Great Leap Forward from the likes of THE COMPUTER PROGRAMME, not least due to the presence of the smooth TONY BASTABLE and the gorgeous JANE ASHTON. Covered a wide range of topics: games (Jet Set Willy, Trashman etc.), business (ie the Sinclair QL), mobile computing, but went one better than its peers by actually transmitting computer programs over the end credits. Except it was all a bit of a palaver, involving a small square flashing in the corner of the TV screen, which you (or rather, your dad) had to cover with already-purchased “special adaptor” to somehow “load” it into your ZX81.
TV CREAM SAYS: SUPERLATIVE THEME WAS BY LORD RICK WAKEMAN
PREMIER LEAGUE sub-fingered foul-mouthed Catholic pope-baiter on a stool with tumbler and fag railed against the modern and ancient world alike in trademark stream of foetid consciousness style, later ripped off by many a bespangled alternative ranter in the following decade. Most of the show was this studio-bound stuff, but some location sketches (Beast with Five Fingers, Thomas A Beckett, etc.) boasted a stalwart cast including RONNIE BRODY, MICHAEL SHARVELL-MARTIN (next-door neighbour bloke from NO PLACE LIKE HOME), JACQUELINE CLARK and PETER HAWKINS.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND BLOODY TROLLEYS! BLOODY SODDING TROLLEYS!"
YES, YOU read that right. A PARTRIDGE FAMILY spinoff with little Daveyboy infiltrating a US college drug ring. Lasted just four shows, surprising given the inherant flaw in notion of being David Cassidy “undercover”.
TV CREAM SAYS: HOW CAN YOU BE UNDERCOVER IF YOU'VE STILL GOT YOUR REAL...OH, NEVER MIND
A TRIUMPHANT return to prime time Friday nights for redoubtable amusical pentheraphobe LES DAWSON. The format was a ‘look at life’ sketch show, linked by the man himself and covering a different topic each week, in the manner of such familiar fare as Terry Scott’s Scott On. But Dawson, typically, went one better, packaging his skits in the format of an urgent investigative current affairs programme (complete with requisite groovy, doomy theme tune) concerning the nefarious machinations of “them” – a faceless race of aliens manipulating mankind into its perennial state of hapless discord for their own sinister ends. Such extra-terrestrial encroachment took the form, naturally, of British Rail sandwiches, Post Office queues and Bank Holiday traffic. The links were presented from ‘Dawson Control’, a futuristic bunker full of spinning tape reels, banks of flashing lights and that big projection TV screen they used to display song lyrics on Top of the Pops for a bit, wherein Les would be handed the latest worrying developments on bits of computer paper by a crew of headset-equipped dolly birds. (“Wear the boots tonight!”)
The sketches, co-written by Les with such venerable comedy workhorses as Andy Hamilton and Ian Davidson, were of a more traditional bent than all this techno-tomfoolery might suggest, but solid enough, helped by a supporting cast of the calibre of JOHN JUNKIN, DAVID BATTLEY, MICHAEL KNOWLES, SAM KELLY and, in a rare adult comedy role, JOHNNY BALL. Each show was rounded off with the obligatory Cissy and Ada dialogue betwixt Les and ROY BARRACLOUGH. Technological hi-jinks did occasionally get a look in, with Dawson commenting on sketches via surveillance monitors, and performing little monologues next to a Dr Strangelove-esque illuminated world map (in which the various dots were climactically joined up to spell out words like ‘cobblers’ etc.) For the most part, though, it was Les alone, hands behind back, spouting his finely-hewn baroque monologues unaided. Even the grand piano was kept in its crate (along, presumably, with the wife’s mother). Les would later revisit the theme of alien manipulation in his expectation-confounding (to say nothing of profoundly weird) 1985 science fiction novel A Time Before Genesis, in what must be the only working men’s club comedy/dystopian sci-fi crossover in British telly, unless you count Mike Reid’s unbroadcast Day of the Triffiks.
TV CREAM SAYS: DID YOU KNOW THAT WHEN A DAMP FERRET RUNS UP A DRUID'S TRUSS, IN HAMMERSMITH ANY DWARF IS ENTITLED TO FREE MILK?
POST-FAWLTY TOWERS runaround for ANDREW SACHS as a bloke (called Ernest, handily) who gets killed by a champagne cork after winning the pools, goes to heaven and spends the rest of the series trying to get back. Time ticks by in the company of Ethel from EastEnders and Percy from Corrie.
TV CREAM SAYS: BEETHOVEN AND MOZART LIVE NEXT DOOR
LESS THAN whelming drama effort with DENNIS LAWSON as a detective embroiled in all sorts of untold underworld nastiness, including mackintosh/wellies romping, and who stumbles upon a package which contains…well, that would be telling.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE CLUE'S IN THE TITLE
THE LATE, great RALPH BATES was the eponymous hero, dumped via mantlepiece-mounted letter by his wife and forced to take solace in a lonely hearts-style encounter group which turns out to be nutter haven. Group leader is bizarre, rotund woman with no clue whatsoever, other members included a slightly dippy woman for developing love interest with Bates, Ralph, a wooly-hatted loser (“Would you like a ride in my motorcycle combination”) played by PETER “PLEASE, SIR” DENYER and Kirk St. Moritz, medallion chauvinist who turned out to be shy mummy’s boy in real life.