FIRST PROPER live-actioner from Supermationationer GERRY ANDERSON, fast forwarding to the 1980s for a caper through life in an alien defence organization (SHADO – Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) led by jawy Ed Straker (ED “CAPTAIN BLUE” BISHOP) and GEORGE “SPECIAL BRANCH” SEWELL. GABRIELLE DRAKE slinked about in a tinselly purple wig playing a character called Gay, while WANDA VENTHAM was Colonel (tee hee) Virginia Lake. More “adulty” flavour signposted by catsuit arse shots and sub-Bond innuendoes (hence consequent ITV region indecision about pre-or-post-watershed scheduling), ditto those green patrol ships with the phallic missiles on the front. Alien invaders, disappointingly, kept themselves to themselves, mostly kidnapping humans and stealing organs for transplant when nobody was looking. Bit of a cop-out all round. None of it came true either.
U is for…
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO LOOKING IN: AYSHEA "LIFT OFF" BROUGH, RICHARD "SLARTI"
JIVE-JOUSTING JAUNDICE-ATHON with grinning fools from Bristol and Wigan high-kicking, spinning and jiving to Odyssey in lurex hipster flares, silk shirts with five inch lapels and armpit holes, and the obligatory orange tan. Judges of the calibre of KEN “ERASMUS” CAMPBELL and DIDDY “DAVID” HAMILTON. Moonlighted on BBC1 as The Roadshow Disco. Celebrity panel usually led by SIMON BATES.
TV CREAM SAYS: ONLY REASON FOR WATCHING: INEVITABLE TORN LIGAMENT OR HEAD STRIKING THE FLOOR INCIDENT
POSSIBLY THE only instance of a Japanese-originated format crossing over to the west, starting off with 1000 contestants perched nimbly on the pebbles of Brighton Beach, ears agog to MICHAEL ASPEL (safely back in the studio). Out in the field were JONATHAN KING and SALLY “WAS” JAMES; ASP presided over a panel who pontificated as to who was most likely to win. RUSSELL GRANT did it astrologically, some computer bod did it statistically, along with someone else, probably WILLIE RUSHTON. The first round saw the 1000 whittled down to about 200 with true or false questions, and a few ‘You Bet’ style ‘will they won’t they’ stunts. Amongst these were Eddie Kidd doing a leap on a jetski, the Robin Hood Karate team from Nottingham kicking the hell out of a piano in four minutes, and a parachute team trying to land in a tiny circle in the sea. Contestants had to stand in a giant square that had either a tick or a cross in it while you were holding a helium balloon, and let it go if you had the wrong answer. Next round took place on a steam railway line near Winchester, was a bit more quizzy, and had old ARNOLD “GODFREY” RIDLEY asking one of the questions. The spurious eliminations continued on to France, Holland, Bahrain and Hong Kong, before finally one lucky winner who came away from it all…precisely one grand richer. What a fucking waste. Second series was an altogether more streamlined affair with DAVID FROST, but the third series never made it beyond Britain, perhaps understandable as it was hosted by STU “GRAPE” FRANCIS.
TV CREAM SAYS: "OOH, I COULD RIP A TISSUE!" FUCK OFF
NOT A James Joyce in sight for this dubbed Mediterranean wonder, which retold Homer’s Odyssey as an episodic (440 parts, or something stupid like that) space opera with middling-to-fair animation of the all-too familiar DOGTANIAN/CITIES OF GOLD kind. Bearded redhead journeys through space, accompanied by his son Telemachus, No-No (small robot, you know), and the by-now expected erratic dubbing techniques. Old Uly finds a planet of enslaved children overseen by a giant, robotic Cyclops. After destroying this clanking clukny machine, they discover that this particular region of space is ruled by the ancient Gods of Olympus, who take their revenge by causing the crew to fall into a sort of coma, characterised by hanging lifeless in mid-air. But through chance, and the expediencies of the plot, Ulysses, his son Telemacus and an alien girl Yumi, are left still conscious. The gods agree to lift the curse if Ulysses can find the “Kingdom of Hades”, and from there, the route back to Earth. All of this was re-told in earnest detail every bloody week in the opening title sequence. No idea whether the hirsute old heffer actually succeeded.
You might also want to see... “Soaring through all the galaxies!”.
TV CREAM SAYS: PROTO-ROCK THEME TUNE HAD PHILIP SCHOFIELD A-HOLLERING EVERY WEEK: "ULYSSES, ULYSSES!"
KIDS’ DRAMABORE series set in either Australia or New Zealand, featuring a boy and girl who lived on a beach overlooking an island/mountain/volcano a short distance away. Nearby was a creepy family called the Horrobins who lived in a large Addams Family style Gothic mansion. To the rest of the world said family seemed spooky but harmless…however (inevitably) the meddling kids discovered the clan were, erm, aliens placed on earth in an advance-of-the-invasion recce. Best bit came when realisation dawned on the viewer that the slime on the island had been left by these transmogrifying creatures (big blue n’ purple blobs, highly scary) who did indeed actually live Under The Mountain and travelled at great speed back and forth from the island to the mainland by means of a maze of tunnels causing untold misery.
TV CREAM SAYS: RIPPER!
ILL-ADVISED FORAY into sitcommery by STRATFORD “BARLOW” JOHNS, playing bombastic mainman Lord Mountainash (ho ho) in charge of made-up Confederation Of Shop Stewards And Allied Workers (COSSAW). Much early-80s badinage of a closed shop/arbitration hue ensued as the ennobled one squared off against union-hating butler Wordsworth (MORAY WATSON) and obligatory loony leftie Elizabeth Steel (CAROL MACREADY).
TV CREAM SAYS: EVERYBODY OUT!
BEND AN EAR TO perhaps the most deceptive theme tune ever. The delightful peal of the bells, the Grappelliesque swagger of the fiddle, indeed the sheer busyness of this up tempo number seems to promise a quiz show of high energy and whimsy. Yet despite BAMBER “ONCE WATCHED A MAN GET A COWPAT OUT OF A TUPPERWARE SANDWICH BOX” GASCOIGNE’s best efforts (most notably trying to use his hair to jolly things along), UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE is still simply just a load of wispy-faced would-be boffins trying to answer lots of reasonably dull questions as quickly as possible. Over the years, the show has brought us any number of moments that are forever repeated in TV clipfests, most notably a curiously cold, dead-eyd Stephen Fry caring too deeply about getting his question right, and that girl with the fringe, waistcoat and Deidre Barlow spectacles getting loads of questions wrong as part of the worst performing team of all time. When the series transferred to the Beeb after a successful one-off edition as part of a night of programmes about Granada Television, the services of the ever smiling BAMBER were dispensed with in favour of JEREMY PAXMAN, then right in the middle of his attempt to carve himself out as the JEREMY CLARKSON of news reporting. Consequently the once oft-used phrase “oh bad luck” has been replaced with various barracking remarks as PAXO tries to look hard by bullying a bunch of speccy kids.
TV CREAM SAYS: PLING PLONG PLONG DEE DEE DEE, DEE DIDDLEY DEE DEE DEE
“I NEVER seem to get it!” FRANKIE HOWERD, as himself, as a camp dogsbody desperate to get to the end of “the Prologue”, sports a badly-fitting toga on a badly-fitting Ancient Rome studio set while numerous character actors mince in and out of the temples behind him. Earnest senator: “Let me fill in you on the latest positions.” Nubile wench: “Don’t worry – I already know them!”. Frankie was Lurcio, WALLAS EATON/MAX ADRIAN and MARK DIGNAM his owner Ludicrous Sextus (do you see?), ELIZABETH LARNER the owner’s wife Ammonia, KERRY GARDNER the simpering son Nausius and GEORGINA MOON/JENNIFER LONSDALE the supremely-endowed daughter. Much running about, clothes falling off, “let me put it in for you” shenanigans. Audience hooting an unoptional extra. Sequel transferred the whole thing intact to the Middle East.
TV CREAM SAYS: "COPULATUM EXPENSIUM, AS WE POMPEIIANS SAY..."
SATIRE, EH, never as good as it blah blah blah. But this, another of the Beeb’s long procession of post-TW3 late-nighters, was well above average, thanks to somewhat stellar writing/presenting team of CLIVE JAMES, JOHN WELLS, WILLIE RUSHTON and KENNY EVERETT. Legendarily last-minute affair, with scripts knocked up hours before totally live transmission, sometimes not at all, plus sufficiently “laid back” running order so team could drop or cut short anything they got bored with. Which was pretty much everything. Regular guests also showed up, who were basically the gang’s best mates, which made for even more spectacular line-up, including JOHN FORTUNE, ERIC IDLE, RICHARD MURDOCH, MAX WALL, IVOR CUTLER, BARRY HUMPHRIES and VIVIAN STANSHALL in special “Up Christmas” edition as a pissed-up Santa, appearing out of a giant-sized festive hamper, brandishing a pint of Bloody Mary at the camera, before falling over, cutting his hand on the glass and bleeding all over the plain white studio floor.
TV CREAM SAYS: EVEN MORE LEGENDARY "INSPECTOR POIROT INVESTIGATES" SKETCH DESTROYED BY BBC ARCHIVISTS!
“I’M SURE they must be very nice people, the Navajos…” Bumsqueaking sitcom starring JIM DAVIDSON as Jim London, a prejudiced Cockney waster of limited intelligence. Wonder how many others they approached? Remarkably talented supporting cast opted into it, including JOHN “OUT OF OUR TOY DEPARTMENT” BARDON as London’s drifting dad, SUE “I HAVE MISTER PERRIN FOR YOU” NICHOLLS as undersexed neighbour Wanda Pickles and NICHOLAS DAY as Arnold Moggs, an anally-retentive neighbour with a council seat and a nasal issue. London inherits his home on Railway Terrace with a never-seen squatter perched above, and while it didn’t do Davidson a lot of real good, the quality of the cast generally kept it from being wholly unwatchable. End credits on untuned joanna were accompanied by Davidson smiling for the camera in Elephant & Castle, and for some reason the studio audience clapped and cheered with hysteria not heard on more palatable ITV standards of the time. Mysteriously popular, the only credit you could give Davidson was that he wasn’t a bad actor, even if you doubted his worth elsewhere. Spawned the stately, well-heeled spin-off HOME JAMES, which was an admirable exercise in how to learn from your mistakes.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND HE STANDS THERE AND CATCHES HIS FOOD??"
INTERACTIVITY 80S-STYLE courtesy of JENNY POWELL, TONY DORTIE and ANTHEA TURNER, the latter barely escaping with her life after almost being blown up on a lorry. Sadly this was the only thing of note to emerge from this you-control-the-line-up affair, and even that wasn’t controlled by us.
You might also want to see... Saturday Mornings.
TV CREAM SAYS: "IF YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT ANTHEA, DON'T WORRY, SHE'S OUT THE BACK HAVING A CUP OF TEA AND WILL BE BACK NEXT WEEK."
FREELOADING HACK JOHN ALDERTON makes his way around London society with the inevitable oooh, crikey-type situations arising from sequential attempts to get his leg over. Adopted a different guise to suit each potential paramour, none of whom, unusually, were PAULINE COLLINS. Created by KEITH WATERHOUSE. Regenerated into ROBIN NEDWELL for the sequel, THE UPCHAT CONNECTION.
TV CREAM SAYS: LIVED OUT OF A LOCKER IN MARYLEBONE STATION. THAT WAS THE GIMMICK
NEIL PEARSON is a hard-done-by down-on-his-luck recently-made-doleite guy musician guy stuck for something to do but with long-suffering girl by his side. Until, that is, he finds salvation in a pyramid selling scheme dishing out cleaning-products and morale-boosting druggy foodstuffs. Instantly becomes a yuppie success, with girlfriend losing faith in “not the guy I fell in love with anymore” sort of a way. Culminates in weird multi-coloured tub climbing frame malarkeys with Pearson and HUGH LAURIE outwitting each other in a warehouse who-can-get-to-the-top-of-the-pile battle with Pearson winning the day, but ultimately doing a “Prisoner” and deciding that he’d rather be a nobody than king of an arseheap “upline”. Smashing organ drudge theme tune backing animated credits of cartoon people (see PIGEON STREET) going up an escalator and then falling off the top. Archetypal early C4 alternative-ness.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WE BROUGHT YOU BACK FROM THE EDGE OF PSYCHOSOMATIC ILLNESS..."
THE IMPERIAL Leather of costume soap combining the best and worst of rich people and their servants with lots of dressing up, elegant living and snatches of well-honed period detail. JEAN MARSH, who played Rose the maid, dreamt up the Bellamy family and their well-appointed pad at 165 Eaton Place, London. Lining up for the aristos were RACHEL GURNEY as Lady Marjorie who went down with the Titanic and was replaced by a dapper HANNAH GORDON as Virginia Hamilton, second wife of Lord Richard Bellamy (DAVID LANGTON), a well-meaning but fundamentally useless politician. Spoilt-brat kids parts were taken by SIMON “AGONY” WILLIAMS, NICOLA PAGETT and LESLEY-ANNE DOWN. Below stairs was where they had all the fun. GORDON “CI5″ JACKSON was Hudson the grumpy butler and ANGELA BADDELEY was Mrs Bridges the cook with a bad chest. Additional bowing and scraping from Sarah the maid (PAULINE COLLINS) and Thomas the chauffeur (JOHN ALDERTON) who went on to do a lousy spin-off series of their own, and assorted footmen (including CHRISTOPHER BEENY), scullery maids, seat-wipers and candle sharpeners ensured that there was always coal on the fire and that the posh folk never went short of a cup of tea when they pulled on the silk sash next to the fireplace. All major historic events from World War I to the Wall Street Crash found their way into the storylines and in true soapy style the Bellamys had more than their fair share of disasters and scandals to contend with. Meanwhile in the kitchen or attic the servants were struggling to control their reproductive urges, fending off unwanted advances from Young Mr Bellamy and trying to live up to the morally sound, upstanding, salt-of the-earth behaviour that the melodramatic scripts required. Much imitated (and in some cases reheated – Jean Marsh was also responsible for The House of Elliott) but probably never bettered. A new three-part run was commissioned for Christmas 2010… on BBC1. Set in 1936, Jean Marsh returned, as did Gordon Jackson’s handwriting (on a key fob). The comma in the title, however, didn’t make it into the new era.
TV CREAM SAYS: "OOOH MR 'UDSON, I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TO DO WITH THAT GIRL
ANNUAL RESURRECTION ROUND ROBIN from His Holiness, piped live into living rooms at 11am sharp on Easter Day. Important enough for whatever would normally go out mid-morning on BBC1 to get temporarily ex-communicated and forced to take sanctuary on BBC2 (even if it’s the Grand Prix). Beatific enough to go out without a translation. C of E types regularly unsettled by double whammy of a) something on telly in a foreign language and b) something on telly in a foreign language to do with a religion that’s not theirs. Granted, Urbi et Orbi (or ‘This and That’) is not really designed for television, consisting as it does of a static shot of an old man reciting a lot of Latin in front of a million people in Rome. Nonetheless when the Beeb dropped it temporarily a few years back, a rift in the space-time continuum opened up in Cardiff Bay, thereby answering Stalin’s question: how many divisions does the Pope have?