HIGH-FALUTIN’ MACHINE-TOOTLIN’ tribute to that most ubiquitous of 1960s freestanding studio sets, the Government Research Laboratory. JOHN “THE RUBBISH QUATERMASS” ROBINSON led the massed ranks of wunderkids, “juggling” professional and personal lives with all the aplomb you’d juggle, well, a pipette and a particle accelerator.
R is for…
LESBIONIC BIKER gang hold up a wedding ceremony, then turn up in 1700s period costume to do an opera. No discernable point to proceedings at all, though JOSIE LAWRENCE was in it, playing the titular Rach. GARY OLDMAN was looked in as well, as the fiance of the girl snatched from the altar by the lesbite leathereds, but his part was cut to ribbons because the money ran out. JAMES GROUT and Mike from THE YOUNG ONES were also involved, and should have known better.
TV CREAM SAYS: WHAT WOULD DONNY MACLEOD SAY?
OIK’S DRAMA set in local kids radio station called Radio Phoenix and written in part by FRENCH and SAUNDERS. TVS logo turned into VU meters at the beginning. Everyone else turned off.
TV CREAM SAYS: IBA RECEIVED COMPLAINTS FROM PEOPLE TRYING TO TUNE IN TO THE STATION. GUH.
CRAVAT-SPORTING CREEPERY of the yowser roisterer shafer-me-lad kind. Eponymous cad bore additional moniker Gentleman Thief like it was a profession, and, guess what, it was! ANTHONY “HORST” VALENTINE was the ultra-smooth Victorian vicompte with penchant for a suitably HAVERS-esque double life of rollicker (whizzo cricketer, A1 socialite) and rascal (light-fingered jewel thievery). CHRISTOPHER STRAULI was stooge Bunny Manders, while VICTOR CARIN was Befuddled Of The Yard.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WHAT, RAFFLES? THAT HARMLESS OLD BOISTERER? NEVER!"
EARDRUM-BATTERING COMEDY OF the working class woman from RONALDs WOLFE and CHESNEY. Miserly PETER “VOICE OF THE BOOK” JONES runs a clothing factory with a shopfloor redolent of CORONATION STREET’s Baldwin Casuals. Laughter ensues when staff of seamstresses, amongst them MIRIAM KARLIN (all series), ESMA CANNON, SHEILA HANCOCK and BARBARA WINDSOR (BBC version), ANNA KAREN and GILLIAN TAYLFORTH (LWT version) decide to work to rule. Decible level alternated between the moderately high and the sheer fucking terrifying. Episodes always ended with all sides “pulling together” to avoid minor crisis of the tea-urn-exploding kind. REG VARNEY and CHRISTOPHER BEENY also turned up, while Olive from ON THE BUSES joined the staff during the LWT years.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WELL, IT'S SATURDAY, AIN'T IT? SO WE'RE ON DOUBLE TIME"
LITTLE-SEEN AND less-remembered stop motion toy triviality with various shelf-bound “adventures” culminating in…a list of the people who made it. Theme song, sadly, has survived: “Ragdolly Anna’s fine and brown/Standing up and sitting down/Ragdolly Anna’s fine and fat (!)/With a bunch of paper roses and a big straw hat.”
TV CREAM SAYS: AND THAT'S THAT
MUCH LIKE the above, except with scores of ‘em instead of the one. Crappy animated doodlings showcasing the “adventures” of a bunch of broken dolls and dismembered teddy bears, whose exploits were scarcely less substantial than their own innards. As with the above, the theme tune persists, petulantly: “Raggy dolls, raggy dolls, dolls like you and me/Raggy dolls, raggy dolls, made imperfectly/So if you’re not at ease with your knobbly knees/Or your fingers are all thumbs/Just stand on your two left feet/And join our raggy doll chums/’Cause raggy dolls – RAGGY DOLLS – are happy just to beeeeeeee/Raggy dolls, raggy dolls, dolls like you and me.”
TV CREAM SAYS: NEIL INNES WAS THE MAN RESPONSIBLE, ON A CAREER DOWNWARD
CURVE FROM THE RUTLES
WRETCHED WITLESS whimsical game show boasting a triumvirate the like of which could only have been dreamt of (in the most drink-addled of nightmares): host GYLES BRANDRETH plus team captains LENNIE BENNETT and STAN BOARDMAN. The “aim” was to act out a well-known Dingbats phrase or saying in a railway carriage (or similar tatty cardboard wobbly set) for the other team to guess. The reality was a pre-Six O’clock News purgatory that made you pray actively for the return of FAX.
TV CREAM SAYS: RUMOURS OF A RETURN AS POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT FOR THE CHANNEL-FIVE-BOUND NEIGHBOURS WERE GREATLY EXAGERRATED
DOES THE name BABCOCK POWER CONSTRUCTION ring a bell? It bloody well should. How many schools got the morning off doing Oxford Junior English or the dreaded SMP and were bundled off to the telly room for this slow-burning disappointment of a post-breakfast extravaganza? “But where’s the sails?” “What’s that yellow thing?” “Is that sodding it?” “Where’s Sarah Greene?” A testament of the rotting powers of the Solent, to be sure.
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL BEING SPRAYED WITH THAT "SPECIAL SEALANT" IN A SHED IN PORTSMOUTH
ACE DEAD detective capery with KENNETH COPE Rentaghosting about in a Martin Bell suit, and the hapless MIKE PRATT as his earthbound colleague. Fairly routine adventures enlivened by Marty H. appearing at inopportune moments, or failing to turn up at crucial ones to “blow” on things and outfox the three suited heavies. Vic ‘n’ Bob remake was rubbish.
TV CREAM SAYS: ANNETTE ANDRE WAS MRS HOPKIRK, FOREVER WONDERING WHY THOSE BITS OF FURNITURE KEPT FLOATING ROUND THE ROOM
ORDINARY BLOKE (GLYN OWEN) gets coerced into working for sinister baldy with steel-rimmed specs (PHILIP STONE) whose boss is GERALD “KAMELION” FLOOD. All work in an office that doesn’t exist in a department that was never there in a building that was never built. All had to defend Britain from notional rodents of the title.
TV CREAM SAYS: SIGNATURE TUNE PLAYED OVER FOOTAGE OF MAIN CHARACTERS IN DIFFERENT CARS ON A MOTORWAY, ALL GAWPING AT EACH OTHER
FRITTERSOME FIVE-MINUTER about a group of rats living in the skirting board created by Laura Milligan and which achieved moments of greatness via a voiceover of inspired confusion from her dad, Spike. Tales unfolded of said Ratties (as the Milligan-rapped theme informed us: “There’s one called Tatty/And Auntie Hat-Hat-Hattie/There’s two called Fatty/And Uncle Mat-Mat-Matty”), in an extremely shambolic fashion.
TV CREAM SAYS: NOW EXTERMINATED
ALL YOUR usual HTV nonsense – mystical legends, wind-swept hillsides, Merlin-esque menace, kids with ill-kempt hair, ecological prattling – get nicked by LEW GRADE for ATV and done on the cheap on a video camera. PHIL DANIELS was your eponymous ex-Borstal tyke of the “tough but vulnerable” school, who gets adopted by Seymour off of LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE and his wife PATSY ROWLANDS. Together they try and save some caves which the Nasty Government wants to fill with nuclear waste.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO PRESENT: THE POMPOUS LOCAL VICAR, THE CYNICAL HACK, THE SNOOTY RELATIVE, THE ATTRACTIVE FEMALE CUB REPORTER
DEFINITIVE TAKE on the telly Western, with unabashed celebration of good ol’ Stars’n'Stripes to the fore, and less about them Injums if you please. Frankie Laine-voiced “Keep ‘em doggies rollin’” foghorn of a theme raised the curtain on seemingly endless attempt by mid-1860s cattle drovers to, well, drove a load of cows from Texas up to Missouri before lip-smacking speculators from Tha’ Darn Railroad Company put them out of business. CLINT EASTWOOD, ERIC FLEMING and I-was-told-this-was-going-to-be-all-back-projection CHARLES GRAY dodged the tumbleweed.
TV CREAM SAYS: NEVER ACTUALLY DELIVERED THE COWS EITHER
COMMERCIAL CHIP off the CHEGGERS block. Best remembered for “Rah! Rah! Rah!” theme and LISA STANSFIELD debuting as juvenile presenter. Other culprits included sub-DLT bearded compere ALISTAIR “BMX BEAT” PIRRIE, and BREAKFAST TIME Teenage Correspondent ZOE “OLD MAN OF HOY” BROWN. Recurrent irritant – the Peggy Babcock game, wherein ver kids would have to say this tongue twister three times in order to win a copy of Into The Gap by The Thompson Twins and Grandstand Firefox.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND NOW, IT'S TEARS FOR FEARS!"
WHAT RICHARD O’SULLIVAN was to Friday night telly in the 80s. Call-to-arms curtain-raiser for the weekend and ubiquitous front room appointment-to-view, helmed by KEITH FORDYCE, MICHAEL ALDRED and a big star in the 60s and an ever bigger star in the, er, CATHY MCGOWAN. What your school disco would’ve been like without teachers present. Much hyped exaggerated 60s swingingness and “hey there!” shambolic presenter style would go on to define all pop shows for evermore. The Beatles appeared, as did Glenda Collins and The Orchids. Got axed just as British rock was on a roll. For some reason Dave Clark (of the Dave Clark Five) ended up owning the rights, re-packaging what highlights remained in the archive as a series of compilation shows bundled out on Channel 4 in the 1980s…to an assuredly far greater audience than the one which saw it the first time round.
TV CREAM SAYS: "GIVE IT UP, IF YOU WOULDN'T MIND, FOR BOBBY SHAFTO!"
FORMER TOMORROW’S WORLDLING MICHAEL “SCREEN TEST” RODD defected to link up with SUE JAY to front ITV’s typically flashier rival pop science wrap-up, noted for periodic gimmickry, most memorably early 3D experiment, utilising free glasses given away with TV Times which inevitably sold out and left you having to watch hopeless 3D western Fort Ti and endearingly rubbish “things flying at the screen” melange of decidely ropey effects with some Quality Street wrappers sellotaped to your face. Later “Smell-o-Vision” ruse less of a success, and Rodd was soon relegated to the wilds of the OPEN COLLEGE.
TV CREAM SAYS: "NOW HERE'S SOMETHING YOU CAN ALL TRY AT HOME - EVEN GRAN!"
LONG-RUNNING PROMOTIONAL campaign for the Guinness family and, for most of its existence, the only place you’d see 80-year-olds on children’s telly. ROY “OOPS! ANOTHER SOFT CENTRE!” CASTLE was your tapping, trumpetty host, with NORRIS (and, originally, IRA murder victim twin brother ROSS) McWHIRTER as the Book-compiling know-it-all foil. Never-changing menu: sketches, reports, McWhirter-retention testing ‘Norris on the Spot’ round (which always went: ROY: “Have you got a question for Norris?” KID: “What’s the biggest fish?” NOZZA: “Well, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that there’s a leopard in Africa that can run faster than a motorcycle”) and closing performance of Castle’s ‘Dedication’, replete with parping jazz tapestries of sound. Everything linked by twangy-ruler sound and pop art animated stings. Numerous obsessions included Precious MacKenzie (miniscule car-lifter), that Rhodesian bus that bent in the middle, and endless domino toppling attempts in a Japanese warehouse (Cue Roy: “The next morning the team returned to a horrific sight. All the stacking they had done the day before had collapsed due to a small earthquake in the area. Japan is noted for its frequent earth tremors…”) with waterfalls, rockets, Mona Lisa reproductions etc. Roy essayed numerous record breaking attempts of his own, including wing-walking across the English Channel (eh?), throwing himself off the top of Blackpool Tower and hoofing around Television Centre (see THE ALL-STAR RECORD BREAKERS). Show went downhill the minute assistants and sidekicks started showing up, including FIONA KENNEDY, MARK CURRY, CHERYL BAKER, KRIS AKABUSI and worse of all RON REAGAN JUNIOR, the Gipper’s very own son. Death knell sounded in 1998 when another moaning athlete took over and immediately insisted it be rebranded – for shame! – Linford’s Record Breakers.