GERALD HARPER stalks the moors as eponymous lairy lord of the manor, before contriving to hitch up with HILARY DWYER and, well, settle down.
H is for…
ON-ITS-LAST-LEGS FINAL throw of the dice for the fine folk at Hammer, basically boiling down essence of numerous 60s/70s films into hour long made-for-TV (i.e. made for America) soupcons of suspense. Not bad, all told, with extra points for running amok with the kind of gore and guts which always got your mates excited in the playground the day after. Masterminded by the amusingly-named ROY SKEGGS. Highlights included:
- Lady journo investigating a health farm that turned out to be a cover for a load of plane crash survivors busy fattening up the staff then eating them. Heroine ended up, ahem, “just desserts”.
- DENHOLM ELLIOTT having dreams about doing his secretary, only for her to die horribly falling down lift shaft because he wouldn’t kill his wife. On waking he’d find said secretary sporting new kinky outfit on (including a school uniform, a plastic mac, 70s disco gear), then do it again (once inside a telephone box, with nipples on show). Eventually after having about five dreams within dreams he does kill his wife – but this time he was awake…
- PETER CUSHING devising a complex electric current lock to keep a couple hostage, only for them to escape, shove him in the cell and leave him there. On returning home they found themselves sealed in their own house – Cushing previously fixing locks in cruel act of foresight – and everyone starves to death.
- DIANA DORS (all the big names here) in a werewolf tale that involved CHRISTOPHER CASENOVE and a woman off TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED stopping at deserted farm house (bad move), getting raped, then fancying some raw meat. Pregnancy follows, she runs off, husband follows, new baby werewolf, dead wife in childbirth and Chris Casenove gets cleavered by the main man werewolf.
- Pissed off businessman sticks his knife five times into a voodoo doll as he’s angry at a partner who screwed him over. Unfortunately the picture of the man he wanted to curse also included four other people (including the business man and his wife). So for the next hour it’s death on toast: man falls off roof, man falls off horse onto combine harvester blades, woman slits her wrist open in the bath, business man’s wife goes through car window and then drowns in pond. The main man realises the inevitable, tries to burn the idol, but trips and falls in the fire himself, and that was the end of that.
TV CREAM SAYS: AS YOU'D EXPECT, TOP NOTCH TITLES INVOLVING SWOONING THEME AND MYSTERY MAN AT WINDOW OF TITULAR SPOOKY PILE
TOMMY STEELE theme song heralded less-than-welcome appearance of Carpenters-style singing/acoustic guitar duo KEITH FIELD and MARIA MORGAN (who replaced KATHY JONES in 1975), who professed to sing any song requested by children if they sent in an appropriate drawing. However evidently limited repertoire gave the lie to this ruse; kids would write in asking for Hurry Up Harry and S-S-S-Single Bed, but invariably got Yellow Submarine, Kum-Ba-Yah and A Windmill In Old Amsterdam for the tenth fucking time.
TV CREAM SAYS: HANDFUL BEING THE OPERATIVE WORD
SEEMS LIKE LESLIE ASH spent an entire decade appearing in obscure shows, to wit this comedy set in an advertising agency (there’s the 80s for you, right there) with Les as bimbettish secretary Nancy and NICKY HENSON as the young executive out to “woo” her. Two older execs provided the interlinking banter about dairy farms, sex, poinsettias, sex and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which Chas and Dave updated with lyrics for the theme song. Title explained away as contrast between popular fruits such as apples, and sad ones like figs. Obviously.
TV CREAM SAYS: KEITH "BILLY LIAR" WATERHOUSE WROTE THE WORDS
FORGOTTEN INHERITANCECOM with JENNIFER SAUNDERS as ageing dame sending ADRIAN EDMONDSON off around the world to locate six female sisters (JENNIFER SAUNDERS). Inevitably DAWN FRENCH, STEPHEN FRY, HELEN LEDERER and JIM BROADBENT turned up en route. Equally inevitably, a BEN ELTON script.
TV CREAM SAYS: FILE NEXT TO GIRLS ON TOP
CHILDCENTRIC FIFTEEN minute afternoon filler. Different children’s entertainers, among them ROD HULL and EMU and JACK O’REILLY and his dog Jeorge, entertained in a corridor with raked seating. Best bit was the theme: while a cartoon house with a happy face quaked gently, song was sung that went “Ha ha-ha ha-ha haa, Ha ha-ha ha-ha haa, Ha ha-ha ha-ha haa, Ha ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha.”
TV CREAM SAYS: HARMLESS
EXCEPT IT was mostly the Hardy Boys who appeared after those odd close-up-of-manhole-cover titles. Middling adventures, with the tedium alleviated momentarily by playing amusing Hardy/Nancy wordswapping game with the title. PAMELA SUE “DYNASTY” MARTIN starred for a bit.
TV CREAM SAYS: "GEE OFFICER! ARE WE GLAD TO SEE YOU!"
IMPRESSIVE RONNIE B. cavalcade bankrolled by suitably luminous writing team (GRAEME GARDEN, ALUN OWEN, BILL ODDIE, ALAN AYCKBOURN, JOHN JUNKIN and, naturally, “GERALD WILEY”) centred on horseplay antics of Lord Rustless, squire of crumbling Chrome Hall. Predictable but top-notch innuendo/cross-dressing business underscored Barker’s usual multi-personnage behaviour (eight or so characters per episode), but Lord was best creation, with raging libido tempered only by obsession with growing cress and mustard. DAVID JASON was mumbling alcoholic gardener Dithers, MARY BAXTER gurning old Cook, RONNIE CORBETT and MICHAEL PALIN also showed up. Spin-off from 1968 Rediffusion Frost-produced Ronnie Barker Playhouse effort “Ah, There You Are”.
TV CREAM SAYS: SHIFT TO BEEB SAW STATELY HOME RENOVATED INTO RUNDOWN HOTEL
FOR INCREASED COMIC POTENTIAL
GLOOMY THRILLER, another spin on the we’re-all-doomed pitch (see THE GUARDIANS), with make believe British Prime Minister ignoring experts (the fool!) and sending Captain Harry Brown (RAY LONNEN) into ranks of IRA to seek out assassin of government minister. Penned by former ITN bod GERALD SEYMOUR. BENJAMIN WHITROW and, implausibly, LINDA ROBSON among those waiting to see if eponymous hero “makes it through”. Broadcast over three nights.
TV CREAM SAYS: SET IN IRELAND, THEREFORE HAD OBLIGATORY DREARY CLANNAD TITLE MUSIC
CRIME FIGHTING jet setter rich git ROBERT WAGNER is Jonathan Hart (“He’s quite a guy!”) while STEPHANIE POWERS is his missus Jennifer (“She’s goigeous!”) who kept her bra on in the bath. Together they while away time and money rounding up Bel-Air scum. Oh, by the way, my name is Max (LIONEL STANDER). I take care of both of ‘em. Which ain’t easy. ‘Cos when they met, it was Moidah!
TV CREAM SAYS: NOT FORGETTING FREEWAY, POINTLESS DOG ONLY INCLUDED TO PROVIDE PISS-EASY QUESTIONS FOR PUB TRIVIA MACHINES AND QUIZZES
NOT TO be confused with RUSSELL HARTY the show (not the man), for which see, erm, RUSSELL HARTY. This was his primetime BBC1 post-SIXTY MINUTES roustabout, live from the Greenwood Theatre in London every Tuesday and Wednesday, with minimal interviews and maximum irreverence. Such as John Tovey turning up to do a recipe from the brilliantly-entitled Harty Kitchenette every Wednesday night, while a proto-Mister Motivator called Mister A demonstrated exercises you could do while doing the washing-up. Such as PETER COOK being hired as a regular in his EL Wisty guise, only to be bundled off after a few weeks to be replaced by Susan Cuff off MR AND MRS, who was in charge of the feature ‘Cuff’s Stuff’. Such as Russ going out and about and knocking on someone’s door to ask for a cup of tea, emphasising the man’s interest in The Great British Public, as these would be spontaneous encounters where he’d just idly chat away and hope for something interesting to come out of it, leaving lucky householders with a mighty ‘I Made Tea For Russell Harty’ teapot. Such as revealing the new chart on Tuesday nights followed by a live band from it performing live, such as Bananarama doing ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’ in front of, inevitably, some enormous pictures of Robert De Niro. Such as Dog Of The Week, where Russ would bring on a dog from Battersea for viewers to write in and adopt, and “if it only has three legs, all the better”. And such as a Valentine’s Day special, live from a pub in Liverpool, with Frank Carson, Stan Boardman and a yard-of-ale drinking competition. Inexplicably axed after six months, it was certainly the man’s grandest, if not greatest, hour. Especially as what came next was SONGS OF PRAISE.
TV CREAM SAYS: CAPRICIOUS
MILLINERY FILMFAIR fun for what the tabloids always call “tots”, trundled out in the 10-minute slot before RAINBOW. Assorted hats (with arms, legs, eyes, etc.) including a sombrero called Sancho, his donkey (who wore a hat with a carrot attached to it) and other characters reside in titular provincial sprawl, along with appropriately shaped mayor, policeman, milkman.
TV CREAM SAYS: DETECTIVE, NATURALLY, WAS A DEER-STALKER
FOLLOWING PHIL “BUSTER” COLLINS’s example, entire world criminal fraternity emigrates to island paradise. JACK LORD, perched atop a nearby skyscraper, won’t have it. Neither will sidekick “Book ‘Em” Danno (JAMES MACARTHUR), who’s busy peering through a nearby broken window.
TV CREAM SAYS: "GODDAMMIT DANNO, THAT PIECE OF YELLOW FILTH, WO FAT, HAS GOT
AWAY - AGAIN!"
MEAN-STREETS SAAAAHF LANDAN PI Mr James Hazell (NICHOLAS “THE HOUSE THAT BLED TO DEATH” BALL) was the creation of one P. B. Yuill, penman of a number of crimaramas, but who in turn was none other than a collaboration between Scots writer GORDON “STRAW DOGS” WILLIAMS and Professional Cockernee TERRY “CRYSTAL PALACE” VENABLES. Not entirely tongue outside of cheek capers always involved bristling bust-ups between maverick wideboy Hazell and former CID boss, grumpy Jock “Choc” Minty (RODDY MCMILLAN), who was always trying to get mi-laddo’s licence yanked. DESMOND MCNAMARA played cousin Tel, and former Stone The Crows songstress, MAGGIE BELL, crooned the melancholy theme.
TV CREAM SAYS: "I'VE GOT A WAD OF CASH 'ERE THAT COULD CHOKE A WASHING MACHINE"
DOUBLE JEOPARDY and no fucking mistake. Briefly obsessed over by Collins & Maconie, here were Joe and Bradley, together at last. Shame both didn’t repel each other, like magnets or something. No wonder Thames lost its licence.
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