NOT MUCH to recommend this post-FROGGITT BILL MAYNARD trundler. Here the “sit” was a small engineering company with a smaller list of orders, a pile of debts and a stroppy shop-steward played by RUSSELL “LONELY” HUNTER. The “com” was supposed to accrue from Gaffer Maynard’s attempts to keep the company afloat. Topical enough for its day but, on the whole, you’d rather have a pint of cookin’ and a bag of nuts.
G is for…
CURIOUS CHROMAKEYFEST centring on a couple of tiny aliens – Vektor (ANDREW SACHS) and Plasmid (SARAH NEVILLE) plus their ship’s computer, Chimera – arriving in a suburban back garden and having plenty of BELLAMY’S BACKYARD SAFARI-style encounters with spiders, frogs, and a nuclear family. They float about on a grasshopper-shaped “bug” thing which promptly gets killed off by leaking batteries. BBC Bristol natural history unit provided background animal footage. A bit of a Sachs pet project, all told.
TV CREAM SAYS: SPACESHIP LATER REVEALED TO BE A SILVER-PAINTED COURGETTE
THAT EXCLAMATION MARK says it all. Textbook “sideways-look-at” kids sitcommery penned by BOB “RENTAGHOST” BLOCK, here substituting wacky aliens for “visitors from the spirit world” and 25th century spacemen for Harold and Ethel Meeker. Whole thing enlivened by unlikely presence – in voice form only – of KENNETH WILLIAMS played onboard ship computer SID. Further zaniness epitomised by character names like Dinwiddy Snurdle. Blue-screen blarney supplied, as ever, by MATT IRVINE.
TV CREAM SAYS: SECOND SERIES SAW KEN ESSAYING PATENTED "STRANGLED OIK" VOICE
AS SON OF SID
IN AN AGE where even crisps are no longer safe from having their ingredients meddled with in order to become 70% more healthy or something, it’s assuredly worth reflecting upon an era when affable bouncing bon viveur GRAHAM KERR would frolic onto our screens every afternoon, running through the ITV daytime line-up like a skewer and, along with CROWN COURT and AFTERNOON PLUS, make up a kind of tasty entertainment kebab. Very much a cross between George Hamilton and Robert Carrier, Kerr would gambol onto his Schreiber red kitchen set (somewhere in Australia, judging by that kind of early smudgy colour picture quality) and get down to work. Work being creating the most cholesterol-packed, artery-congesting meal humanly possible. This being the seventies, the average Kerr menu resembled what was on offer down at your local Berni Inn; a time when Coq Au Vin and Chicken Maryland were the height of Cinzano’n'Milk Tray Man-style glamour. But with lots of cream. Lots and lots of cream. However, central to the compelling nature of GG was Kerr’s splendidly flirty repartee with his (mainly female) audience: “why not make this for your husband, girls, and have a special night, eh?”. Crowning glory came when Kerr would invite one lucky blushing audience member to share his latest culinary concoction at an on-stage, candle-lit table. Whether or not this rendezvous would continue post-show is unclear.
TV CREAM SAYS: ILL-ADVISED COMEBACK IN THE '90S, WITH CREAMY RECIPES REPLACED
BLOATED SPY GAMES from busy-busy pen of LEN DEIGHTON. IAN HOLM is returned to active service to sort out familiar rotten-apple suspicions. Mega-budgeted affair, trailing heels across London, Berlin and Mexico, but which subsequently bombed in the ratings. AMANDA DONOHUE, FREDERICK TREVES and PETER VAUGHN ran for cover.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO FEATURED SEYMOUR OFF OF LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE
CONVOLUTED MURKY-DEPTHS shooting and shagging melodrama set in the pressure cooker multi-racial atmosphere of Britain’s Second City (that’s Birmingham, by the way, not Norwich). MAURICE “HOWARD’S WAY” COLBOURNE led a small-star cast of several (ELIZABETH CASSIDY, SAEED JAFFREY, ROBERT LEE) as the bodies piled up and the plot drifted away. Came back for a contractual obligation second series but the game was up by the end of the first run. Additional laffs accrued from the irrelevant stand-up comedy snippet at the beginning of each episode.
TV CREAM SAYS: "QUICK! THERE'S WORD OF A RUMBLE AT THE BULLRING!"
LONG-SERVING horticultural hoedown expertly nailing that weird stepped-into-another-universe vibe you get from entering your common or – ho ho – garden Garden Centre, often opting for unusual presentational venue gambit of the presenters’ own garden. Seedling Tips Ahoy content of little use to younger viewers, yet they still had no choice but to sit through it, as BBC2′s notorious predeliction for overrunning early evening sport invariably caused either it or close pal Victorian Kitchen Garden to eat into the timeslot of your favourite psuedo-alternative comedy show by upwards of seven minutes. A special word also for the quite startling theme music employed in its heyday, in which a deafening volley of sweeping strings spiralled upwards through a wonky melody to an agogness-occasioning crescendo.
TV CREAM SAYS: CLOSING CREDIT SNIGGERS INEVITABLY INVITED BY 'BOB FLOWERDEW' AND 'GAY SEARCH'
PASSING RESIDENT of post-GRANDSTAND teatimes, prior to being usurped by the good Doctor. Titular airline pilot played by TERENCE LONGDON – call-sign GMLF – is joined by Bergerac’s dad to do battle against unassumingly named baddie The Voice (PAUL WHITSUN-JONES). Japes and jocularity follow, as do stern morals about right and wrong.
TV CREAM SAYS: A PILOT, NOT A DAMN CHAPLAIN, WHICH IS WHAT WE WANT
UPMARKET YARN for Children’s ITV concerning itself with twins-separated-at-birth conundrum. Lee (the bad one) and Leah (the good one) are found on the obligatory doorstep each with one half of a ring which when put together forms that Feng Shui symbol resembling ying and yang. Lee ends up in a children’s home (as did almost every boy in 80s CITV dramas), whilst Leah is adopted by a fluffy middle-class family (ditto every 80s girl). Lots of telepathic “adventures” a la CHOCKY ensue. CHARLIE CREED-MILES and LOUISA HAIGH were the titular twosome, who finally ended up atop a clock tower being struck by lightning and realising they were, er, the same person. Or something.
TV CREAM SAYS: OBLIGATORY COMPUTER-GENERATED TITLE SEQUENCE HAD THE TWINS' HEADS MORPHING TOGETHER, LIKE ON THAT QUEEN ALBUM
DAYTIME SOAP froth set in Covent Garden workshop of titular fashion design company. Boasted no star names whatsoever. Featured dresses designed by students from Royal College of Art. Cast got to keep some of them, presumably in lieu of working on such shite. TONY SLATTERY was among them. The shite, not the dresses.
TV CREAM SAYS: LYNNE HOWARD OFF OF HOWARD'S WAY WASHED UP IN IT AS WELL
DR LEW GRADE re-opens the ATV medical wing, mothballed since EMERGENCY WARD 10. Lo and behold, everything still present and correct, including manky metal-framed beds, manky janitor with metal mop and pale, manky canteen with brown and orange plastic chairs upon which brown and orange plastic cups of coffee are drunk, and manky patients. Only this time boasting a profusion of facial hair. Harmless fare, ironically, which idled away many a drizzly weekday afternoon. Plenty of heroes and villains to swoon/swing for, including LYNDA BELLINGHAM, TONY ADAMS, LEWIS JONES and JUDY BUXTON.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WHAT'S THE DIAGNOSIS, DOCTOR?" "I'D SAY THERE WAS EVERY CHANCE
OF YOU...ACCOMPANYING ME FOR DINNER TONIGHT!" "OH HONESTLY!"
QUITE SIMPLY, one of the finest programmes ever ever made. The jewel in small screen’s light entertainment crown, this was absolutely essential viewing for, hey, a generation, and anyone who thinks otherwise ought to be tied to a conveyor belt for eternity, preferably one moving through a never-ending Jim Davidson stand-up routine, whose tenure at the helm of this institution we’re obviously not counting because a) he fucked up all the games b) he had fucking Mr Blobby on every week c) he fucking gunged the contestants at the end and d) he was just fucking shit.
Anyway, we’re dealing with two distinct but equally imperial eras here.
PART ONE: THE BRUCIE YEARS. “Life,” croons Bruce, “is the name of the game, and I want to play the game with you.” Sequence of stills show our host pulling variety of comedy faces (mock-horror, mock-shame, mock-amusement). Curtain rises. Brucie strikes “thinker” pose at back of stage then shimmies towards camera. “Ladies, gentleman, children, nice to see you, to see you…” Gags about weather/what’s on the other side/old woman in front row before ANTHEA REDFERN comes on in a giant smock (“Give us a twirl!”). Two pairs of contestants ushered into shot (mother and son-in-law; old man and daughter). Bruce interrogates them in a manner to imply they’re idiots/drunks/both (“I’ll just make a note of that”) with much wry aside glances to camera. “Watching” game ensues, involving contestants identifying mystery objects/people/places. Answers recorded on giant clipboards. “I’ve got ‘Richard Baker’ written down here!” “Doing” game follows, involving contestants observing demonstration of ludicrously difficult vocation (pottery making, formating dancing, campanology) then copying it. Bruce joins in to further imply contestants stupidity/score more easy gags, but hey, “didn’t they do well?!” Next, the playlet, wherein contestants assume famous historical roles in comic pageant co-starring Bruce and surprise celebrities. Contestants never able to deliver lines properly, despite script in front of their nose. Celebrities screw up and interrupt Brucie. “I’m in charge!” he howls. Finally, conveyor belt memory test for winning pair: steak knives, plate warmer, teas-maid, cuddly toy etc. “The decanter, don’t forget the decanter.” Audience blatantly shout out answers. Then everyone – and that’s everyone, including all earlier formation dancers/pottery throwers, plus complete haul of prizes positioned on giant display stands – return to wave at camera while Bruce promises to see us all again next week. Roll credits and extended theme (“life can be terribly tame…”).
PART TWO: THE LARRY YEARS. It’s 1978. With Brucie off to ITV for his Big Night, Beeb cast around frantically for a replacement. Genius idea forms to pick someone the polar opposite of the Forsyth saga. Call goes out to Lal, who casts frantically around for his spectacles, packs his best beige three-piece suit and heads for BBC Television Theatre. Theme tune gets stylish makeover: “Shut! That! Door!” chirp close harmony choir, “and enjoy the Generation Game/What’s in store?/The best of relations is our aim!/Larry Grayson is heeeeere to play/soooooooooooooo….” Larry interrupts. “Shut that door!” Second “Lal” theme kicks in (“Der da da der-der, der da-da da-da der-der”) as host leaps through false frontispiece. Meaningless anecdote follows (“I said to Everard, you don’t want to put it out in this weather”). ISLA ST CLAIR (“My very best girl”) sashays on to keep things ticking over. Lal spends next 50 minutes mithering and mooching, while Isla ensures games actually take place. “Scores on the doors”. Celebrities turn up for no reason (usually Rod Hull and Emu). Contestants try hand at “doing” game. Larry tries and fails. “What a gay day!” Contestants try hand at “watching game”. Larry tries and fails. “Ooh, I’ve come over all queer.” Celebrities appear from behind sliding doors. Musical-based finale sees contestants having to become instant ballerinas/morris dancers/snake charmers. Winning pair decided by half-arsed yes or no trivia question. Conveyor belt. “Now keep thinking, keep thinking.” Contestant sits in giant wicker chair. “The music centre, don’t forget the music centre!” Audience blatantly shout out answers. Then everyone returns to bid goodbye and wave throughout extended theme (“That’s! Your! Lot!”).
EPILOGUE: Show dumped in panic at success of GAME FOR A LAUGH; revived brilliantly in 1990 with all flags flying (Brucie, Rosemary Ford, celebs, playlets, Bruce teaching the nation how to do the lambada).
EPILOGUE TO THE EPILOGUE: No comment.
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TV CREAM SAYS: "GOOD GAME, GOOD GAME!"
HUGE FUCK-OFF grizzly “befriends” chipmunk-faced son (CLINT “RON’S BROTHER” HOWARD) of Everglades patrolman for sub-Flipperian “adventures”. Countless repeats down endless decades culminate in wanky Broom Cupboard chorus of “Beeeeeaaannnnn!” from Messrs Anstis and Peters.
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL, THOSE ONE-MAN SWAMP HOVERCRAFTS AND ENORMOUS BEDSTEAD-TRACTORS ON STILTS WERE ACE
CAPABLE WOMAN-IN-A-MAN’S-WORLD coppery with JILL GASCOINE as DI Maggie Forbes dispensing tea-cosy conciliation in London’s Seven Dials police station before popping home to lecture her teenage son about “feelings”. WILLIAM MARLOWE was perenially pissed-off boss DCI Russell, while PAUL MORIARTY swanned about in a three-piece suit making the tea.
TV CREAM SAYS: JILL LATER SWAPPED SHOPPING LISTS AND SAVING PROSTITUTES FOR C.A.T.S. EYES
“PASS THE kettle love, I’ve been up all night.” “You could’ve fooled me, dear”. Sparkling suburbcom shenanigans spun-off from MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE wherein our heroes decide to up sticks from their London terrace and relocate to commuter belt bliss, thereby allowing Mildred to indulge in much Abigail’s Party-mooning about quality of life as typified by textbook middle class neighbours the Fourmiles (“They’ve even got wall-to-wall carpeting!”) replete with bespectacled smartarse son Tristram, who in turn gives professional idler George the runaround (“I tells yer, there’s summat wrong with that kid!”). Whist drives, dinner drives, tupperware parties and coffee mornings ensue. ROY KINNEAR dropped in from time to time, inevitably, as did Sir Dennis off of TERRY AND JUNE (ditto).
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TV CREAM SAYS: HERE'S-HOW-IT-WORKS TITLES RECAPPED PROTAGONISTS LIVES
THROUGH PHOTO ALBUM PALAVER TOPPED OFF WITH HONKY TONKY PIANO
SCRATCHY VEHICLE for SID JAMES in post-Hancock hinterland, now settling for repeated scrapes with eponymous “Dragon”, PEGGY MOUNT. Below-stairs knockabout saw Sid (controversially not called Sid) as handyman/chauffeur, Peg as housekeeper, both in the employ of JOHN LE MESURIER.