RATHER SURPRISINGLY well-done cartoon (though very low-fi) series about a Yak and his friend Crow who had various unlikely adventures. We recall the poignant farewell episode (surely a staple of childrens’s series – often much more “downbeat” than an adult series would have allowed?) where Yak left to return home, on his own, without friends or help.
Y is for…
CORRUSCATING COMMONS satirecom, with PAUL “JERRY” EDDINGTON as hapless (and clueless) Minister for Administrative Affairs Jim Hacker fighting a losing battle with amoral Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by NIGEL “GEORGE” HAWTHORNE. “MR.” DEREK FOWLDS was stuck-in-the-middle Personal Secretary Bernard Woolley. Politely deranged stuff, and as Hacker was promoted to PM the scale of destruction got even greater. JOHNATHAN LYNN and ANTHONY JAY wrote, light entertainment music-grüppenfuhrer RONNIE HAZLEHURST penned the faintly regal theme, GERALD SCARFE supplied the watch-how-it-did-them line-drawn titles. Top cameos from ROBIN “I DIDN’T KNOW” BAILEY and GRAEME GARDEN.
TV CREAM SAYS: VERY DROLL, MINISTER
MORE SELF-INDULGENT than LYNN MARSHALL on the subject of “Hatha” yoga, this bizarre black-limbo with a few pseudo-Chinese bordello trappings-set tranceathon had bearded Californian guru bloke plus two “demonstrators” go through the motions of this ancient technique. General stoned atmosphere all round.
TV CREAM SAYS: CONTORTED
UBIQUITOUS KIDS’ infotainment presented in classic era by one of the following: a) stop-motion duo of hamster (“Alice”) and hyperactive crow (“Crow”) doing a sort of running commentary on some footage of real life kids doing mundane stuff (going to the doctor/library etc.), with Crow the impatient uncomprehending stooge and Alice the knowledgeable one calmly explaining everything; b) the clackety-mouthed Duncan the Dragon; a human presenter would chat in the studio with Duncan sitting on his wall, there’d be a story, with, again, frequent interruptions/questions from Duncan etc. Very basic but enduring stuff. Makeover in the 80s resulted in lame puppet things Cosmo and Dibs and reggaefied theme by UB40.
TV CREAM SAYS: "COME ON CROW, SAY HELLO TO EVERYBODY" "HELLO TO EVERYBODY!"
"NO CROW, EVERYBODY!"
GHASTLY ATTEMPT to introduce family comedy to a peaktime Saturday audience mainly through the imposition of SHANE RICHIE wearing striped dungarees and telling jokes about MPs tucking their shirts into their underpants. Richie was joined by watered-down adult comic BILLY PEARCE, as both his camp gagteller and as the pointless Panto Man, and future XYZ host GEORGE MARSHALL for the bleakest impressions routines (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clive Anderson). Better fare came from the two women involved, mimic singer MADDI CRYER (whose take on Karen Carpenter needed to be heard to be believed) and ANNETTE LAW, impersonator of Penelope Keith and, er, other people. Episodes began with each cast member sliding down a fireman’s pole to tell a reassuringly clean joke (“What do you call a fight in an Indian restaurant? An onion argy-bhaji!”) or deliver a useless bon mot (“I went to see my optician yesterday – what a waste of time. If you can see your optician, you don’t need to see your optician…”). Then, aside from the dodgy stand-up, we got juvenile, punchlineless sketches and songs (“we don’t mind personal stereos and we don’t mind if you smoke!”) plus sub-NTNO’CN news bulletins (Marshall as Trevor McDonald, Law as Anna Ford) and the forgettable synopsis sumups entitled “Ten Second Cinema Presents…”. Dated for its time although anyone who had seen Pearce’s immense live show knew straightaway he did it purely for money and exposure. Ended each show with a celebrity (JASON DONOVAN, JAMES WHALE) saying “You gotta be jokin’!” in a totally unironic manner. Richie’s performances and apparent status as unofficial “leader” (always first down the pole, first to do his stand-up, first on the credits), got him CAUGHT IN THE ACT and trapped us all, although the striped dungarees were chucked out.
TV CREAM SAYS: "...WITH TV'S TOP DOOLALLY TEDDY BOY TYPE"
MORE YOUNG persons stuff, this time a string of variety-esque affairs masterminded by ROGER “TOMORROW PEOPLE” PRICE, peopled with kids who weren’t obviously “stage school”, and blessed with scripts that usually resulted in the kids ending up in uncomfortable situations, being knocked about and having all manner of crap dumped on their heads. The sketches were about common teenage situations and conflict with authority. …JOKING! was the first, in which token adult JIM BOWEN failed to take charge of Anna Scher kids including PAULINE QUIRKE and LINDA ROBSON, and music of a sort from GARY KEMP and Flintlock; PAULINE’S QUIRKES pushed the two birds to the top of the bill, along with Flintlock for nudge-nudge snog interest – the shows were anarchic enough for the Tyne Tees and Yorkshire regions to refuse to show them; while …SERIOUS was back to the original format, this time with a new set of kids who never really made it after, and a different token adult each week, including CLIVE DUNN, DEREK GRIFFITHS, STEPHEN “BLAKEY” LEWIS, “DIDDY” DAVID HAMILTON, and the newly grown-up Quirke on a return visit.
TV CREAM SAYS: PAULINE'S PEOPLE SOON FOLLOWED, WHEREIN THE TWO BIRDS EXAMINED LIFE "FOR TEENS" IN LONDON
WOEFUL BARGAIN bin laughless comedy with TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR adjudging his uselessness in contrast to wealthy bestselling writer wife DIANE KEEN. Meaningless shitty dialogue – “Have you read it?” “No, I wrote it.” “Yes, but have you read it?” – confirms writer to be COLIN “RAT” BOSTOCK-SMITH.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AND JUST WHERE DID SHE GET THE RESEARCH FOR ALL THOSE GRAPHIC SEX ROMPS?" NOBODY WONDERED
YET ANOTHER load of You Have Been Watching lummoxery from David Croft, as usual set in some hilariously over-cliched recent period of British history, and as usual starring SU POLLARD, PAUL SHANE and JEFFREY HOLLAND. This time the laughs were to be found – allegedly – in a 1920s house where, and hold onto your sides now, the upper classes are battier than those below stairs! And everybody’s either trying to diddle or screw everyone else! Basically, Shane and Holland gain the employ of Lord Meldrum (DONALD HEWLETT) years after saving his life in the First World War, only to install Shane’s – gulp – daughter Su Pollard as parlourmaid. Cue “oo eck!” accidents with dusters, slippery scullery floor scrapes and falling out of cupboards in ill-fitting clothes. Also living in the house are, variously, a demented biddy, a lesbian who dresses as a man, a randy pensioner, numerous stupid toffs and toffesses, wailing cooks, dim-witted errand boys and BARBARA WINDSOR. Oh, and BILL PERTWEE used to call round for a bit of tongue from the head cook. And some food as well. Best thing by far was undoubtedly the theme tune, crooned by none other than SIR BOB MONKHOUSE in his best clipped-voice posh-man impersonation (“From Mayfair to Park Lane/you will hear the same refrain/in every house again, again…”) replete with PAUL SHANE interjections (spoken, thankfully: “You rang, m’lord?”). Various topical events of the 1920s turned up, including – implausibly – the General Strike. Ended when the Meldrums ran out of money and had to sack everyone. Now that’s our idea of going out on a high.
TV CREAM SAYS: QUOTH LORD BOB: "POOR VALENTINO'S PASSED AWAY!" CUE TED BOVIS: "HOW SAD, M'LORD"
NOTICE HOW all these “YOU…” shows have bloody exclamation marks in… Anyway. This was basically a giant in-studio Snakes and Ladders game show in which teams of stage school kids competed against each other for “fame”. A clapometer was used to determine the number of moves, after a group from one team had performed an act. “Fame” quotient measured, logically, in Blackpool rock. Hosted by an impoverished COLIN BENNETT as the oleaginous Butlin’s reject Vince Purity. Weird career curve, has our Mr. Bennett. Theatrical background (produced a musical of Nillson’s infamous “The Point” – the story of Oblio, a bloke with a round head in a land of pointy-headed people, songs like “Me And My Arrow…” etc.) Moved into TV as presenter and writer, most famously for Luna, but also such stuff as bizarre and diverse as Captain Zep, Roland Rat, Women of a Certain Age, Panda Pete, Headfirst, Greetings from England, Little Thistle, Tricky Business, Robo Pigeon (yeah), Fantasy Five, It’s Weird, etc. etc. Whatever they are. Also the model railway fanatic in the non-classic Yellow Pages “R186 signal box” ad, as well as dad in one of those “There may be trouble ahead” insurance ads.
TV CREAM SAYS: GUESS WHAT THE CATCHPHRASE WAS, SHOUTED EVERY THIRTY SECONDS
BY THE AUDIENCE. GO ON...
EXTREMELY ROTTEN ITV sitcom that managed to stink up the schedules for four years. Easy laughs were accrued from old folks home setting – The Paradise Lodge – home to PEGGY MOUNT, playing Peggy Mount, and PAT COOMBS, as her weak-willed stooge Cissie. Dismal. Creators Pam Valentine and Michael Ashton went on to inflict THAT’S MY BOY and MY HUSBAND AND I on an ungrateful nation.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO STARRED DIANA KING AND CHARMIAN MAY
NOT THAT there was anything very young about them. Possibly the foundation stone of the now omnipresent, scary Masonic-style icosahedron logo-bearing Grundy empire, this budgetarily-challenged Aussie medsoap found its way into many an early 80s ITV afternoon line-up, in lieu of anything else that wasn’t GIVE US A CLUE or TROPIC. Most famous graduate was a pre-NEIGHBOURS ALAN DALE, distinguished by a superb Afro haircut. Precious few sets: hospital lobby, minuscule ward (not that they ever got many patients), and a couple of multi-purpose offices a la ARE YOU BEING SERVED. Possibly a corridor for the evil Dr Steele and that white-haired bloke who ran the hospital to stomp down. Lots of “plain” nurses in thick glasses: “Just take those off for a moment…why, has anyone ever told you you’re beautiful?”. There for the course were hospital kiosk matriarch turned TV cookery celebrity Ada, and oft-engaged orderly Dennis.
TV CREAM SAYS: CRACKING THEME TUNE ("BABBA-DABBA-DERRRR!") ENHANCED BY TERRIFICALLY MURKY 1970S STANDARDS CONVERSION
SOFTLY-SPOKEN SURGEONS inform patients of the intricacies of kidney stone removal before performing the necessary operation and inviting the patient to come back and talk about how they’re feeling four months later. All on camera. Viewers claim to “prefer suicide” than submit to such an ordeal themselves. British Medical Association spokespeople bluster about scaremongering. Ordinary doctors profess pleasure in seeing things being told as they are. Patients profess incredulity at all the fuss and express wish for “a cup of sweet tea”.
TV CREAM SAYS: GLOOPY
THIS IS more like it. The Central Junior Television Workshop presents! Here were dozens of kids doing just what you wished you could do, i.e. dress up and do vaguely-rude sketches and piss-takes about farting, the royal family and everything on TV. Seminal for giving a break to teenage STEVEN RYDE, the brain behind Dick And Dom In Da Bungalow (and indeed IAN KIRKBY, regular contributor to said show). Among the coterie: Tweeman, superhero Street Budgie, Loaf and his tea-lady mum, and of course Tapeworm. Spun-off into the equally brilliant PALACE HILL.
TV CREAM SAYS: FRIDAYS AT 4.50PM; NO BETTER WAY TO SEE OFF THE SCHOOL WEEK
BUT WAIT! It gets worse! LAMENTABLE SEQUEL to ROMANY JONES, with the MULLARD et al relocated from a caravan site to crappy council flat. First episode saw elder brother, appearing from nowhere, turn out to be MIKE REID. Upper-class twit lived next door. Much non-hilarity when Arf discovers first non-stick frying pan.