PUPIL-POPPING PARADE of slapstick and speeded-up shenanigans which sprawled across many a year (and channel) but always traded in the same business: double-time running about; period costumery with present-day gags; monsters in dog baskets; monsters behind people masks; triple-time running about; and shouting. Most of it was written by BARRY TOOK. The good bits.
M is for…
DO YOU live in a town? Mary (human) Mungo (dog) and Midge (piccolo-playing mouse) did. Each week they left the flat and checked out some urban goings-on, from building site to street market. Newsreader RICHARD BAKER narrated. Manipulated cut-out live “animation” courtesy John Ryan Studios (see also CAPTAIN PUGWASH). Closing credits (it was fun right to the end!) elaborately held up over a set of building blocks by Midge.
You might also want to see... John Ryan, RIP.
TV CREAM SAYS: YOU MUST ALWAYS WAIT FOR THE LIFT DOORS TO CLOSE
MOST EXPENSIVE TV film ever, apparently. Roman Empire epic boasting PETER O’TOOLE, ANTHONY QUAYLE, TIMOTHY WEST, WARREN CLARKE and MICHAEL ELPHICK parading around in, despite the ostensible gargantuan budget, bedsheets.
TV CREAM SAYS: NO EXPENSE SPARED, SAVE PLAUSIBLE DIALOGUE, ACTING AND TOGAS
HEAVENS, IT’S been all of, what, 11 entries since we last mentioned Glen? It feels a lot fucking less. Here he is rounding up more of his celebrity mates, this time for a “knowing” spy romp, including ROD TAYLOR, KIRSTIE ALLEY, GREG EVIGAN, ERNEST BORGNINE, OLIVER REED, CYBILL SHEPHERD and RICHARD ROUNDTREE.
You might also want to see... Matt Houston.
TV CREAM SAYS: DID THE MAN EVER SLEEP?
THAT FAMOUS theme tune was called “Approaching Menace”, but we reckon it should have been “Fanfare for the Common Man”, as this teatime slice of austerity was television’s greatest ever platform for spod-u-likes and nerd-do-wells. Never before had an obsession with Polish pottery circa the 1930s been so richly rewarded. Presiding over the interrogation was fearsome question master MAGNUS MAGNUSSON, a man of gravitas and oft-spoken Nordic roots. His famous catchphrase “in my homeland of Iceland” featured less in MASTERMIND than most programmes in which he appeared, but he still made for a memorable, if overly formal questionmaster. Ironically, given the show was broadcast from a different educational institution each week, MASTERMIND’s most iconic element was its stark “set”, catalyst for many sketch-based “started so I’ll…” chicaneries. Most remembered champs are, naturally, men of the people: cabbie FRED HOUSEGO and engine driver CHRIS HUGHES. Latterly revived by the peerless JOHN HUMPHRYS.
TV CREAM SAYS: "SO HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME INTERESTED IN THE LIFE-CYCLE AND HABITS OF CHIN-STRAPPED PENGUINS?"
UPMARKET RIDDLE-ME-REE business doled out in weekly 45 minute doses. WILLIAM “SCHWEPPES” FRANKLYN hosted, with JENNY LEE-WRIGHT on hand as, ahem, “Miss Moneypacker”. Opened with famed Clouseau-esque animated japery as be-cloaked agent lit bomb fuse with cigar. Premise relied on three “agents” assigned a mission plus elaborate cover stories, then meeting requisite quota of special “guests” en route to target. Contestants awarded jumble of correspondence at the outset from “The Department Of Hazardous Projects” courtesy of one “R.J. Bingham-Sterndale”. KRYTPON FACTOR-lite sequence of rounds – logic, observation, manual etc. – mingled with appearances from Agent X (aka Very Special Guest), culminating in GENERATION GAME rip-off playlet with Franklyn prompting hapless contestants via walkie-talkies.
TV CREAM SAYS: MORE FUN THAN MOONRAKER, FOR SURE
1) Seminal theme tune which gets revamped every couple of years to a chorus of complaints then gets changed back again
2) Besuited pundit panel of varying form but always boating a “head boy” (i.e. JIMMY HILL, ALAN HANSEN)
3) “Coming up”, all the action from “the games that matter”, i.e. be thankful for what you’ve got
4) Occasional boring feature profiling struggling/plucky/wacky/foreign player/manager who is currently “causing an upset” in a lower league
5) Goal Of The Month with a prize of two tickets to an away fixture as close as possible to London to keep the BBC budget down
6) Delirious shouting from the likes of JOHN MOTSON, DAVID COLEMAN or BARRY DAVIES
7) Earnest analysis of “spot of bother” at this or that ground, inevitably ending with someone concluding “the authorities really need to crack down on this sort of thing”
8) Pithy sign-off from your host, either mastered by the majestic Lynam or muffed by the mithering Lineker.
TV CREAM SAYS: OH, AND OPEN-NECKED SHIRTS OR JUMPERS FOR SUNDAY FIXTURES
NO-NONSENSE NUMERICAL school business distinguished from fantasy-led MATHS-IN-A-BOX by dint of urban locations and (relatively) gritty realism. ARTHUR ENGLISH, ROY KINNEAR and others struggled with calculators, timetables, estimates and an ace burbling electro theme tune.
TV CREAM SAYS: "NO LOOK, YOU'VE BEEN ROUNDING THE FIGURES UP! YOU SHOULD HAVE ROUNDED THEM DOWN!"
MORE NUMBER-CRUNCHING, this time going for the hey-kids-it’s-fun angle with comedy incompetent police inspector Fred Newton (a moonlighting TONY ‘MATHSHOW’ HUGHES) of the Number Squad purpoting to solve unlikely simple maths-related crimes along with standard does-all-the-real-solving sidekick WPC Susan Jones (JACQUELINE CLARKE) and cleaning lady played by her off CITIZEN SMITH. Explained the notion of scale by inviting the inspector to a public information film with sets (brick wall and chalk) multiplied by a factor of ten.
TV CREAM SAYS: HILDA BRAID, THAT WAS HER NAME
AGAIN WITH the adding, and as the title suggests a far more sombre affair than the previous two. Animated diagrams demystify trigonometry and statistics with a profusion of yellow-on-brown stencils. Once more, an ace theme tune (what was it with school maths shows and superlative title music?) FERGUS O’KELLY did the voice.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WE NEEDN'T STOP AT ONE REVOLUTION"
TYNESIDE FOLK SINGER ALEX GLASGOW was the unlikely man behind this educational affair, bashed out in the white heat of progressive schools programming, where oddness and music took precedence over log tables and grammar. Hence these programmes had a weird, disorientating atmosphere which proved too much for some easily-bewildered kids, but rather that than the monumental tedium of previous watch-and-copy-this-down endeavours. This was ostensibly a “comedy adventure series” dealing with slightly more basic concepts and starring two bog-standard kids who find a mysterious “dice”, from which emerges a babbling, op-art-clothed, P’tweean alien bloke called Powkah, who despite having mastered interstellar travel and dimensional compression has trouble counting up to ten. The kids then take him all over the place (i.e. cheap locations in the south of England) via a suspiciously TARDIS-like “box” to teach all manner of basic mathematical and physical stuff. Plus there was an annoying computer (voiced by the writer) who sang songs of similar educational persuasion. Kids and Pow went in and out of the craft by grasping the old man’s “Truestock” (a sort of plastic blunt dagger with the numbers one to twenty written down the side for easy reference) and chanting “ticky-ticky-tox, out of (into) the box!” followed by a standard Rentaghost dematerialisation.
TV CREAM SAYS: FINAL EPISODE SAW THEIR MUM, INEVITABLY, FINDING OUT ALL ABOUT
THEIR "LITTLE GAME"
WHEREAS HERE we get the complete opposite: maths with, hey, a football twist! ROGER SLOMAN was manager of some made-up side or other, helming sketches about square numbers, scale factors, stacking tins in shops and that old chess board with grains of rice paradox. Different series for different colour-coded SMP boxes.
TV CREAM SAYS: "YOUR MATHSCORE IS NOW ONE!"
WHEN WILL it end? This was pretty decent fare, actually, and the nearest you got to Johnny Ball in school hours. A veritable pot pourri of mathematical animations and sketches, including a square (the pipes of CHARLES “WORDY” COLLINGWOOD) talking to a circle, a character called Des Cartes, and of course the DOCTOR HOW? mini-series wherein serial moonlighter TONY HUGHES dressed up as Tom Baker and “solved” various maths-related phenomena, eg. an invisible boundary line in a park which makes portions of paper plates disappear, or when the laws of probability get all fucked up and when they (for instance) cut up a newspaper and read words at random, a la David Bowie, it still made perfect sense (pas a la David Bowie). Mainly written by Alex Glasgow, who, in between chairing SCENE-style discussion shows for General Studies kids, would resurface as..
TV CREAM SAYS: "DO-DOO, DO-DO-DOO, DO-DOO, DO-DOO-DO-DOO, DO-DOO, DO-DOO, DO-DOO!", AS HEARD OVER THE END OF DAWN OF THE DEAD
UNTIL THE arrival of I’M PASQUALE, HE’S WALSH, the most delirious coupling in TV history. For your lunchtime viewing pleasure, please welcome Messrs MATTHEW CORBETT and GERRY MARSDEN. Yup, from The Pacemakers. Plus Bobo the computer.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE LAUGHS WERE LIMITED, IF NOTHING ELSE
LIKE CAIN AND ABLE, Aaron Spelling and Glen Larson engaged in a battle royal throughout the 80s as to who could rustle up the biggest slabs of preposterous prime time palaver. Here’s Aaron fighting back after a nearby alphabetical resurgence from Glen (see MANIMAL and MASQUERADE), courtesy of the poor man’s TOM SELLECK, LEE HORSLEY, a wealthy idler who rounds up criminals in his spare time, aided if not abetted by PAMELA “PRINCESS ARDALA” HENSLEY, a smart computer called Baby, requisite Italian American loudmouth Vince Novelli (JOHN APREA) and his uncle Roy. Having his own helicopter inevitably meant one-in-the-eye for dopey old footsolidering felons, every bloody week.
TV CREAM SAYS: "COMEDY" SUPPLIED BY "SIMPLE" RANCH-HANDS BO AND LAMAR
RICKETY OLD 1950s Western gets revived for no reason other than to allow JAMES GARNER to say “thought you’d never see me again” while tipping back his hat and looking rakish. Original ran from 1959-63 and involved Garner and numerous brothers taking the piss out of bog standard Westernisms. 1982 resurrection was latest in a run of similar such endeavours, and the last.
TV CREAM SAYS: CO-STARRED ROGER MOORE PLAYING COUSIN BEAUREGARD PLAYING ROGER MOORE
JEREMY ISAACS’S favourite ever Channel 4 programme: fact! And you thought the old bugalugs didn’t have a sense of humour (well, he was responsible for THE CUT PRICE COMEDY SHOW). Original was actually REBUS – THE MAX HEADROOM STORY, set in Blade Runny futuroscape, with multiple TV channels (mostly owned by Maxwellian fat bloke) fucking up the population (especially famous “blipvert” exploding bloke scene). Ace mobile reporter (MATT FREWER) is doing an undercover nose on this stuff, gets caught, chased, dies in a bike smash, but is re-animated by the TV blokies as virtual groove-headed, shadewearing Max Headroom (after sign he saw just before the crash), who then links their TV shows in stuttery, knackered Transatlantic style. Actual titular show was proto-MTV clip-linking stuff, with much bouncy lines in background and references to 80s cultural jetsam. Arch status sealed in collaboration with The Art Of Noise.
TV CREAM SAYS: "R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R-REAGANOMICS"
ANOTHER OFFSPRING of ITV’s Mystery Movie strand (see MACMILLAN AND WIFE, if you dare), here came DENNIS “GENTLE BEN” WEAVER swapping his airboat for a horse as the eponymous New Mexico lawman using cowboy chicanery to lassoo hoodlams in Harlem. Literally rode into town in opening titles. Behind it all: that cowed husk of a hotshot who we haven’t heard from for all 50 seconds…GLEN A. LARSON!