BLUSTERING PERIOD ROMP based on school library staple. ANTHONY HIGGINS, feted Roman solider, embarks on fateful quest for ninth legion gold Eagle standard.
E is for…
Troy Kennedy Martin’s eminent nuclear wasteathon with BOB PECK on the hunt for the killers of daughter JOANNE “PISS OFF, VAL” WHALLEY and encountering JOE DON BAKER, Captain Hastings, Eric Clapton’s guitar, the Barbican, Lord Percy, loads of big fuck-off bars of radioactive metal, black daisies and an incredibly touching scene featuring Peck and a big vibrator (don’t laugh, you’ll well up when you see it and all) along the way.
Pedants and lollygaggers moan low about how James Lovelock’s Gaia theories of global despoliation and natural rebalance are got all wrong by the script, but never mind them: if you want Big Themes tackled by a drama that doesn’t lose sight of the characters running about inside it, and a bit of classic thrillage with your intelligent nodding, you don’t get better than this series, which can hold its head up alongside any of the much-vaunted box sets of today. Spoiler: he turns into a tree at the end.
TV CREAM SAYS: "Y'EVER SEEN PLUTONIUM BEFORE FOLKS? HERE IT IS!"
Future telly drama overlord ANDREW DAVIES was responsible for unleashing The Worst Girl in the World on an unsuspecting public. Played with perfect bubblegum-popping malevolence by CHARLOTTE COLEMAN, she made her screen debut in , an edition of Thames Television’s children’s play miscellany THEATRE BOX involving a dormobile space shuttle, moustachioed male nuns, a nodding dog and the secret of the universe.
EDUCATING MARMALADE followed in short order, a sitcom that detailed the desperate efforts of her parents (played by JOHN BIRD and LINDA’ LA PLANTE’ MARCHAL/CAROL MACREADY) and education officer Wendy Wooley (ELIZABETH ESTENSEN, who developed an increasingly elaborate nervous tick as the series progressed) to find an educational establishment that could control her. each episode revolving around “hapless” local education authority personages trying to tame her – in one instance dispatching her to the latest establishment inside a nailed-up crate. Marmalade being Marmalade, all such plans were doomed to failure – in her own words, she put herself about, driving everybody potty. Regular parodies of other existing TV shows (always a good sign) featured, eg. “Cringe Hill” and “The Kids From Shame”.
There was a sort of mini-punk sensibility to Marmalade’s disinterested brand of mayhem, reinforced by a Bad Manners theme tune. In the second series, DANGER:MARMALADE AT WORK (in which various avenues of employment failed to contain the mop-haired wastrel) Coleman herself belted out a Sid Vicious-style opener (‘Jobs! I’ve had a few/and most of them/were pretty grotty-ah!’) But she’s still firmly in the catapult-twanging tradition of Minnie the Minx et al. ‘Marmalade Atkins, you are EXPELLED!’
TV CREAM SAYS: BAD MANNERS THEME TUNE SET UP PREMISE: "THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I
EVER MADE/WAS EDUCATING MISS MARMALADE."
BROWBEATINGLY PLAY-IT-SAFE dramatisation done on crappy videotape of hush-hush liaison between King Edward VIII (EDWARD FOX) and – oh no! – divorced American Wallis Simpson (CYNTHIA HARRIS). Subsequent abdication “furore” “rocked” “polite” “society”. All whispers of supposed Nazi “sympathies” brushed under very large carpet. Went on for ever. Unlike Edward VIII (ho ho).
TV CREAM SAYS: CONFUSING "DANCED WITH THE MAN WHO DANCED WITH THE MAN WHO DANCED WITH THE PRINCE OF WALES" THEME TUNE BOLLOCKS
ANOTHER OF those nothing-ventured, nothing-won Sunday morning fillers, with top 70s/80s annoying old bugger De Bono showing us how to “maximise your brain” by using it to think up things no-one else would. Whether these things were of any use to anyone was beside the point – lateralness was all. Example: the “invention” test – take two unrelated things, such as a camera and a tile, and combine them into a new invention (a camera that takes four pictures at once, like tiles). It was pointed out that this was fucking useless.
TV CREAM SAYS: "IT'S JUST AN EXAMPLE..." PROTESTED THE BALDING CHARLATAN. IT
ALWAYS BLOODY WELL WAS!
NOT THE same Eddie as him above; rather his dad, and Queen Victoria’s replacement. TIMOTHY WEST roared and roistered through the conveniently titled Edwardian era with as much conviction that video tape could allow. Victor Meldrew’s missus was his mum, Tom Good’s missus his daughter, Siegfried Farnon his son, plus, in no particular order, Professor Quatermass (the good one) his Prime Minister, JOHN GIELGUD another Prime Minister, MICHAEL HORDERN a third, Catwezle a fourth (Eddie was around a hell of a long time) and Slartibartfarst a fifth. FRANCESCA ANNIS turned up as Lillie Langtry, later spinning-off in the titular LWT periodathon. The present Mrs Windsor gave permission to let the production use Sandringham, no doubt after a phone call from the Lord thy Grade.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THE PRIME MINISTER TO SEE YOU" "AH YES. REMIND ME AGAIN: IS IT DISRAELI, GLADSTONE, PALMERSTON, SALISBURY OR ASQUITH?"
POST-AUF WIEDERSEHEN, PET angling antics of a Friday night which failed miserably to come up to high standards set by predecessor. Lots of arguments about weekends spent fishing: “But your mother’s coming on Saturday” and boxes of maggots in the fridge, that kind of thing.
TV CREAM SAYS: EEL MET MY MOONLIGHT
SEMINAL SHORT horror film of indeterminate Spanish origin, premiered in the UK on BBC2 in Royal Wedding ’81 week, then shown endlessly on early Channel 4 between OTV commercials. Mustachioed middle-aged guy has trouble in a telephone box, then discovers – aaaagh! He can’t get out! He calls for help to passers by, but they seem more amused than anything, and a crowd gathers. Finally, a fork lift comes to unload the box onto a truck, where it’s driven out of town into a deserted warehouse where…ah, now that would be spoiling it!
TV CREAM SAYS: IT WOULDN'T. IN THE WAREHOUSE THERE WERE...LOADS OF OTHER PHONE BOXES CONTAINING TORTURED-LOOKING CORPSES IN STATES OF DECAY.
BY THIS POINT THE home computer boom of ver 80s was collapsing fast. So who better to send for then FRED “ME AND MY” HARRIS to helm a more user-friendly pot-pourri-esque techie showcase (Armed robots! Walking robots! Seeing robots! Er, Switch cards!) replete with, inevitably, that Eddie Grant song even though Brixton locations were less than present.
TV CREAM SAYS: "IN TEN YEARS WE'LL ALL BE WATCHING THESE: THEY'RE CALLED LASER DISCS!"
GLENDA JACKSON shaves her head, wears a beak and paints her face white in order to rule England for 60 years. Giving her a warm hand on her entrance – but forsooth no more than that – were ROBERT “VET’NARIAN” HARDY, BERNARD “ARTOIS” HEPTON, LEONARD “GOOD OLD” SACHS, RONALD “TROUBLESHOOTER” HINES, ROBIN “CLUEDO” ELLIS, ANGELA “MARJORY FROBISHER” THORNE, MICHAEL “CHARLIE CHALK” WILLIAMS, PETER “MARTIN!” EGAN and anyone else who mattered.
TV CREAM SAYS: NASAL
BEDPAN-WIELDING BEDROCK of early ITV schedules, running twice-weekly for nigh on a decade before The Right Reverend Lew Grade pulled the plug (“one of the biggest mistakes of my career” he moped). Action based at fictional Oxbridge General Hospital, initially concentrating on fortunes of Nurse Pat Roberts (ROSEMARY MILLER) before cast bloated with stars-to-be including DESMOND “ALL TIME GREATS” CARRINGTON, RICHARD “EMMERDALE” THORP, RAY “TROUBLESHOOTERS” BARRATT and JOHN “…AND PAULINE COLLINS” ALDERTON, while roll call of “celebrity” sickies threw up ALBERT FINNEY, IAN HENDRY, JOANNA LUMLEY and countless hundreds more. Strict rules regarding corpse count: five per year to begin with, later revised – downwards – to a crappy two. Dependable ratings-winner and source of, inevitable, spin-offs including Call Oxbridge 2000 and 24-Hour Call plus big screen cash cow Life In Emergency Ward 10. Revived in selfless gesture by Uncle Lew as GENERAL HOSPITAL.
TV CREAM SAYS: ST JOHN AMBULANCE BOSSES SLAMMED CAST AS "FEATHER-HEADED FLIBBERTIGIBBETS"
BANISH FROM YOUR MIND the current sex-in-the-shit-sheds kaboodle. Older, gentler Beckindale was a lunchtime joy. In them days it were ‘t Sugdens at heart o’t'village and ’tis raining on t’cows again. Widowed Annie had to keep the farmyard crap-free and old grandad Sam on the straight while sons Joe (FRAZER HINES) and Jack did the digging and delving. Farmhand Matt Skilbeck fell under spell of local siren Dolly. Down at The Woolpack Amos Brearley and “Mr” Wilkes tapped the finest for woolly-hatted Seth and co. Much angst derived from arrival of commercial farming methods and assorted bad eggs on the nearby estate. Ubiquitous vicar relied on for confessions, wise counsel and other assorted character interaction duties. Turning point came when Phil Redmond flew a plane into the village, the Spice Girls moved in and everyone discovered shagging.
TV CREAM SAYS: "HAST THA SEEN T'INSEMINATING KIT?"
ARCHETYPAL GROUNDBREAKING-THEN, what’s-all-the-fuss-about-now affair, charting the fortunes and failings of residents in the titular racially mixed Handsworth street. NORMAN BEATON was the wise-worded patriarch; CORINNE SKINNER-CARTER his other half; JOE MARCELL, WAYNE LARYEAR, NALINI MOONASAR and ROSA ROBERTS dropped by with a storyline or two.
TV CREAM SAYS: RUDOLPH WALKER MOVED IN NEXT DOOR FOR THE SECOND SERIES
SADLY, THIS is what the majority of people remember Rod Hull for. Moving away from the inventive and funny Goodies/Kenny Everett madness of the Beeb’s EBC-1 show, Hull and Bird washed up on the other side with this less appetising cutesy pantomime romp. Set in a cartoon Pink Windmill (a studio set full of stage school kids), Rod and Emu performed various inconsequential whimsies, with frequent interruptions from green witch Grotbags (CAROL LEE SCOTT), who was constantly trying to kidnap Emu for some reason. Rod gave his arm a rest on occasion by slipping Emu into a wicker basket, and the entire cast gave our brains a drubbing with the “there’s somebody at the door!” chant. Occasionally the banal script was forgotten in the odd sub-Tiswas moment of studio anarchy, but not often. In the later ‘World, Grots acquired two rubbish camp costumed helpers – effeminately-voiced corcodile Croc and the even more effeminate gold-plated Robot Redford. Action switched from sketches to a more prolonged storyline in sub-Rentaghost mould, including blue-screen flying vacuum cleaners called “Hovergrots”. Fowl play indeed.