WELL-MEANING (OR not, depending on your allegiances) spin-off from top film Network, about a fictional TV station and all the bribery, baseness, corruption etc. going on down there.
W is for…
INSUFFERABLE SCOUSE-BASED “adult” sitcom from VINCE “LOVE THY…” POWELL where greatest crime was once again not so much lazy-arsed ethnic stereotyping as not being the slightest bit damn funny. “Humour” derived from fact half of house were Catholic and the other half Protestant; plus one half supported Liverpool and the other Everton. Misery compounded by the appearance of objectionable adolescent-era KEITH CHEGWIN as teenage son Raymond, brother to Bernadette (sprightly 28-year-old ALISON STEADMAN), while mum and dad duties were handled by real-life married couple KEN JONES and SHEILA FAY.
TV CREAM SAYS: INEVITABLE APPEARANCE BY BROOKSIDE'S HARRY CROSS TICKED LAST
OF MERSEYSIDE CLICHE BOXES
NO FURTHER explanation needed, surely? The most daredevil group of daffy drivers ever to whirl their wheels in the Wacky Races, competing for the title of the world’s wackiest racer. The cars are approaching the starting line. And awaaaay they go…
The Turbo Terrific – Peter Perfect
The Buzz Waggon – Rufus Roughcut and Sawtooth
The Army Surplus Special – General, Sergeant and Private Pinkley
The Bulletproof Bomb – The Anthill Mob (who presumably later traded it in for Chugga Boom)
The Ring-a-Ding Convert-a-Car – “Ingenious inventor” Pat Pending
The Compact Pussycat – The lovely Penelope Pitstop, “the glamour gal of the gas pedal”
The Boulder Mobile – The proto-Cavey Slag Brothers, Rock and Gravel
The Creepy Coupe – The Gruesome Twosome
The Crimson Haybailer – Red Max
The Arkansas Chuggabug – Luke and Blubber Bear
The Mean Machine – Those double-dealing do-badders Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley
You might also want to see... Perils of Penelope Pitstop, The.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND THEY'RE OFF - TO A STANDING START, AND WHY NOT? THEY'VE BEEN CHAINED TO A LAMPPOST BY SNEAKY DICK DASTARDLY..."
WHAT THE SIMPSONS once did for the Clinton decade, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home did for Nixon-era America, as titular dad Harry Boyle, voiced by TOM “HAPPY DAYS” BOSLEY and his wife Irma continually fretted about their three kids (fat frumpy Alice, proto-slacker Chet and annoying brat Jamie) and whether they were shagging around or smoking dope. Bit of a departure for H-B then, being based on the success of All In The Family (the American version of TILL DEATH US DO PART), and their last primetime effort in the States, although more usually to be found here on a Sunday afternoon or just before the News at 5:45. Despite the presence of that singular Hanna-Barbera canned laugh, you didn’t get the jokes when you were seven, apart from the sliding-down-bannister/crockery-smashing incident in the titles, memorable also for Harry Boyle driving along the show’s title in 1970s colourful lettering in the credits, before the roof flew off the family house at the end. Doubtless watched by Matt Groening on more than a few occasions, though the wacky next-door-”neighbor” in this case was anti-Communist nutcase, Ralph.
TV CREAM SAYS: "I LOVE MY MOM AND DAD AND MY BROTHERS TOO/AND THE GROOVY WAY WE GET ALONG..."
ON SUNDAY Mornings, after TV-AM’s eggcups faded into the ether, viewers in the London area were treated to this five minute oddity. A sort of non-specific what’s-on guide to London with a vague narrative. Presented by The Vicious Boys (ANGELO ABELA and ANDY SMART, hot stuff for about half an hour in 1985) from various locations within the region, but towards the end always from the pavement outside LWT. Last series was presented by obscure double act Rabbitt and Doon, the latter being Doon “Smack The Pony” MacKichan.
TV CREAM SAYS: CHANNEL 4 AMERICAN FOOTBALL BECKONED
ONE OF the lamest ideas for a kids’ show before Dick and Dom revived ASK THE FAMILY. Large wall made up of irregularly-shaped foam pieces was demolished at the start by a gang of nasty school children who then had to improvise a short drama around them. They could build anything at all, but it all had to come from that one big wall. Obviously.
TV CREAM SAYS: LUMPEN
EARLY, UNDISTINGUISHED effort from Bill and Joe, featuring an alligator who, in time-honoured H-B fashion, wore just a collar and tie. Nothing else. A hat, maybe. In the words of the forgettable theme song, Wally Gator is a swinging alligator in the swamp, and (we’re quoting here), he’s the greatest percolator when he really starts to romp.
TV CREAM SAYS: THERE HAD, INDEED, NEVER BEEN A GREATER OPERATOR IN THE SWAMP
ONE OF those (now old chestnut) tales of a mentally handicapped kid experiencing the harsh realities of the world when his mum dies. Fifties period institution drama with a social point and lots of pigeon shit, handpicked by JEREMY ISAACS for the centrepiece of Channel 4′s opening night on 2nd November 1982. Immediately became archetypal example of Isaacs-era OTT gloom wallowing. IAN MCKELLAN was Walt, STEPHEN FREARS directed.
TV CREAM SAYS: ABLY PARODIED BY SMITH AND JONES AS "WALTER AND SMYKE TRY TO
MAKE A CUP OF TEA"
MICHAEL ASPEL announces the end of the world while a boy’s face catches fire and a bloke’s cabbages get squashed. Famously buried until 1985 by a scared Beeb in the same place they now keep all those episode of Have I Got News For You with Paul Merton referring to Princess Diana as “an overblown tart”. PETER WATKINS wrote and directed, inspired by the UK’s then-hapless and half-arsed “official” plans on what to do when the balloon went up, i.e. send a man round on a motorbike to tell everyone to keep their head down. Resulting unrelentingly grim and grisly carnage still shocks today, and not just by having Asp on voiceover.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THIS WOMAN NOW HAS RADIATION POISONING, AND WILL DIE IN THREE DAYS"
BRINY QUASI-SOAP set aboard pretend HMS Hero, drifting through schedules and seven seas under the bristling helm of Commander Nialls (DONALD BURTON), and Lt. Commanders Beaumont (DAVID SAVILE) and Kiley (JOHN LEE). “Special relationship” with real Royal Navy meant occasional stock film footage of, er, random frigates interspersed proudly wooden studio-bound action in cabin, bridge and mess. Non-coms rarely got limelight; this was strict officer-only territory, devoting much hackneyed bluffery and lip-trembling to the resolution of nuclear attacks and fishing permits.
TV CREAM SAYS: SCUTTLED
MAMMOTH NIXON rehashing, with JASON ROBARDS as the crooked nutter Richard Monckton (names changed for legal purposes) and ROBERT VAUGHN the one pulling the strings, planting the mikes and cleaning up the crap. Ace teleprinter place and time titles.
TV CREAM SAYS: WAITING IN THE WEST WING: STEFANIE POWERS, CLIFF ROBERTSON, LOIS NETTLETON AND ANDY GRIFFITH
GENERAL STUDIES for kids. Each term they had a different theme (eg India, the Crusades, Robinson Crusoe). Usually in charge were JAMES EARL-ADAIR and LOUISE HALL-TAYLOR, although the man/woman pairing changed frequently. Jolly piccolo and percussion theme and morphing plasticine titles (“Watch!” was the only lyric, spoken with vim and vigour at the start of the ninth bar).
TV CREAM SAYS: "ROBINSON, ROBINSON, ROBINSON CRUSOE/ALL ALONE AND ALL ON HIS OWN"
PRE-DATING MONKEY, here came 108 plucky knights brought back from the dead to battle nastiness in the Orient, working out of their base in the titular wetlands of Lian Shan Po. Hero was Lin Chung, whose missus was called Hsiao. Tripitaka-like Hu San-niang carried two swords crossed on her back and fought with them simultaneously. Baddy (with Ming-style stringy moustache) was called Koa Chia. Voiced over here by, among others, BERT KWOUK and MIRIAM MARGOLYES.
TV CREAM SAYS: ADAPTED BY DAVID WEIR
ANOTHER OF those PLANK-esque short Britcom films, this one starring LEONARD ROSSITER as Charles Barker who boards the train last at Surbiton determined to be the first out at Waterloo and hence the winner, for the 15th consecutive time, of the Waterloo Bridge Handicap. Very little dialogue apart from Rossiter’s thoughts expressed as voice-overs and BROUGH SCOTT’s commentary. Apart from Rossiter’s character, all the other racers are given horsey nicknames, eg Austin Reed (JOHN QUENTIN), Lincoln’s Inn (IAN MARTER), Likely Lady (LYNDA BELLINGHAM), Red Hair (ZOOT MONEY) and Chubby Chap (GORDON KAYE).
TV CREAM SAYS: PATRICIA HODGE HAD RARE "SPEAKING" PART
FRENCH-DERIVED CARTOON about a bunch of greedy, untidy, irritable geese the Zwas who – hey! – exhibit the worst of our human foibles and in effect tell us a lot about ourselves. They do an activity each episode and inevitably fuck things up. Then it’s left to Wattoo Wattoo who’s been watching like some kind of smug social worker all this time to call down his friends from space, who clear it all up. Greenpeace morals, fuzzy animation and one notoriously uncensored sex education episode broadcast, in full gory detail (hot zwa action and all) at ten in the morning.
TV CREAM SAYS: "EACH BIRD SUDDENLY MULTIPLIES INTO THOUSANDS OF WATTOOS, LIKE STARS IN THE SKY"
PE COMPETITION overseen by stern-but-fair RON PICKERING and the noisiest thing ever on children’s television. Games on the grass, then in swimming pool. Coloured polygons on T-shirts identified teams. Hopelessly complicated rules: “When I blow the first whistle, I want you to run down here, under the tarpaulin, taking the tennis ball from this post, go around these skittles, and put it in the basket. When I blow this swanny whistle, run back down to here with the wheelbarrow, pick up the quoit and throw it over to the bucket, then take the tennis ball over the see-saw…” Pickering’s penchant for profuse sweating, especially around the nipple region, rendered many an episode not just unlistenable or incomprehensible but downright unwatchable.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AWAY YOU GO!"...SAID MICHAEL GRADE, PULLING THE PLUG
RANK SITCOMMAGE from across the pond. Two single blokes share a flat, two single women live next door. Blokes get a vacuous blonde cleaner in. Much hilarity fails to ensue. Included here only as a reminder that FRIENDS nicked its basic scenario from here (and, incidentally, many of its jokes, too). TERI COPLEY, the dumb blonde, launched her career off this. UK syndication suffered badly by being scheduled just after repeats of PORRIDGE.
TV CREAM SAYS: ONLY SLIGHTLY MORE BEARABLE THAN MY MOTHER, THE CAR
GLORIA HUNNIFORD brings you this undemanding TV-based Friday at 8:30pm celebrity quiz show, in uberLWT double-bill with ME AND MY GIRL, which passed the time whilst you waited for BLACKADDER on BBC2. Show’s logo based on RKO’s transmitting transmitter. Theme was a load of chorus girls chirping “No doubt about it, can’t do without it, We Love TV!”. Those C-list celebs so familiar from GIVE US A CLUE were popular here, paired with a member of the Great British Public.