Run for the hills! No, it’s not a callback to Grant Brady ‘hair like a lady’; it’s the second part of the Creamguide(Films) disaster film commentary double as the team suffer through Roland Emmerich shitfest 2012 so you don’t have to! But if you really want to, join Chris, Craig and – always third – Jack as they try to find something to talk about as the awful spectacle unfolds in the background. Turn on the commentary as the idents kick in and feel the desperation as the panel talk about almost any other film they can think of while wishing they were watching Earthquake.
THE SUMMER SHOW (ATV 1975)
Victoria Wood’s telly debut was, like many of her peers, on a talent show, in her case New Faces which she more or less managed to get on because she had a mate on the production team. Her comic songs were an appealing diversion from the norm and she managed to win, though New Faces was an incredibly labyrinthine format that was more complex than the Europa League (“So, Our Kid will return at a later date to be re-assessed”) and there were shows, winners’ shows, all-winners’ shows and finals. She certainly did very well, in any case, although her appearance on the show now appears only to exist via VHS. Part of her prize was to appear with other New Faces alumni in The Summer Show, where she was part of a motley cast including Lenny Henry and Marti Caine, plus Leslie Crowther to add a bit of glamour to proceedings, and all Victoria can remember from the series is singing a version of Waltzing Matilda with Crowther where every instance of the word “waltzing” was replaced by “Walsall”.
THAT’S LIFE (BBC 1976)
One big difference between today’s talent shows and those of the past was in those days, after you won that was as far as the telly was interested and you had to sort yourself out after that. Hence Victoria was now hunting for more work and was hired by Esther Rantzen to join the rotating line-up of musicians providing comic songs about the week’s news for That’s Life. Unfortunately Victoria soon realised she hated topical comedy and couldn’t find any news stories to write funny songs about, with Esther telling her to fish out Tuesday’s Daily Express from the bin because she remembered reading something amusing in it. After a couple of weeks of that she gave up and tried to find a career that wasn’t just as Richard Stilgoe with breasts.
TALENT (Granada 1979) NEARLY A HAPPY ENDING (Granada 1980) HAPPY SINCE I MET YOU (Granada 1981)
After a couple of years performing and writing, Victoria finally found her niche in writing comedy plays, and after her show Talent had proven popular on stage, she was commissioned to do it on the telly, writing and appearing in it alongside her mate Julie Walters. It was shown in August 1979, fortunately for her just 24 hours before ITV started collapsing into chaos and the strike began, and was popular enough to generate a sequel the next year, then she wrote another one which she wasn’t in, but Duncan Preston was, and finally her career seemed to be taking off.
WOOD AND WALTERS (Granada 1981)
Such was her success as a writer, Granada offered Victoria her own show, which she accepted as long as Julie Walters was in it, and also she had her name in the titles. A Christmas special did well enough and a series followed, but in between the producer died, with a replacement arriving just before recording who didn’t really seem to know or like much about Victoria. In addition, when she was commissioned to write six half hours, she did exactly that, failing to realise you were supposed to write loads more so you could throw half of it away. A clueless studio audience who didn’t know what they were watching didn’t help, but there were some interesting bits in it, including a rather out-of-place but amusing monologue from Rik Mayall.
VICTORIA WOOD AS SEEN ON TV (BBC 1985)
After a few years out refining the act, Victoria was back in TV comedy but this time on the Beeb. To coincide with the show she went out on tour, billing herself as “as seen on TV”, only for the series to be put back and make her look stupid. When it finally got on air, though, it was absolutely brilliant, a fabulous mix of sketches and stand-up, the only downside being the horrible suits Victoria wears for those bits. There are loads of great bits across the two series and one special, like the daft documentaries such as Flatmates, Marjorie and Joan and, of course, probably the funniest recurring sketch on telly, Acorn Antiques. That link up there is the last one ever at Christmas 1987. We wonder why they never dropped the audience laughter from the opening titles but you get the original continuity and the Quantel-ified credits we used to love so much. Plus, TVC celebrate another all-time favourite here.
AN AUDIENCE WITH VICTORIA WOOD (LWT 1988)
For many years it used to be Victoria sketches on the Beeb and Victoria stand-up on ITV, with many of her theatre shows being televised on the light channel. This was the only time she did a proper telly show for ITV after Wood and Walters, though, for this highly memorable compendium of all her greatest hits which was then repeated and mined for clips for an eternity (and for a while was one of the few of her shows you could get in full on video). She’s got an excuse for the awful outfit in this one too because she was six months pregnant when she made it.
VICTORIA WOOD (BBC 1989)
Victoria’s first series after As Seen On TV saw her promoted to BBC1. This was a series of six one-off sitcoms which Victoria played “herself”, although the rest of the cast changed in every episode and in some of them Victoria is very much a supporting character. We enjoyed them at the time but some of them seemed a bit too much like sketches dragged out to half an hour and Victoria didn’t enjoy making them because they didn’t film them in front of an audience. The one up there is probably the best, the airport one, and despite a rather lukewarm response the Beeb didn’t seem that bothered as they repeated them a thousand times.
VICTORIA WOOD’S ALL DAY BREAKFAST (BBC 1992)
A bit more like it, this, Victoria was now a big enough star for her new show to get a Christmas Day outing. The whole thing came about when Victoria had just giving birth and spent hours and hours watching daytime telly, which she considered the perfect target for spoofery – and she managed to get in before everyone else parodied This Morning as well. The whole thing was of course just a linking device for more sketches and songs, and there were certainly plenty of nods towards As Seen On TV with the continuity announcements and a new soap, but none the worse for that. Since then Victoria’s telly work for the rest of the Cream era owed more to drama, at which she was equally adept, with great stuff like Pat and Margaret, establishing her as one of the greatest writers of her generation. Don’t forget, it may be Hamlet, but it’s got to be fun, fun, fun!
Creamguide(Films) rockets (!) back…to the future! with the very singularity of puzzlingly shit disaster epics: 1998’s DEEP IMPACT. Help Craig and Jack talk Chris down from a towering inferno of bafflement that has spanned two decades while they mix up Michael Biehn and Jurgen Prochnow and argue over the jelly tots on empire biscuits. There’s swearing, comedy fart noises and sheer rage in a film whose ineptitude is so big only the biggest of the big screens can do it justice.
Grab your giant carrot and take to the TISWAS stage as Chris, Craig, Jack and the Easter bonnet herself Rose sit trembling at the sheer unadulterated horror that is the rabbit version of Passchendaele: WATERSHIP DOWN from 1978. Thrill to the sounds of the Barry Manilow beat as the bunnies rip each other to pieces. And a Happy Easter!
Come with TVC… and you’ll be… in a world of imaginative swearing! Join Chris, Craig, Jack as they discuss the massively popular 1971 mittel European weirdo General Foods advert WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY in the company of returning actually-useful contributor Rose. Ponder the sheer wonderment of Gene Wilder’s hair as you turn the commentary on as the ident appears and enjoy.
In light of the sad news, here’s a ruffle through the TV highlights of Mr Paul Daniels…
FOR MY NEXT TRICK (BBC 1975)
It’s the man who excels, Paul Dan-i-els! And yes, we’ll come to that in due course. The former local government auditor from Middlesbrough started his magical career in night clubs, initially performing alongside his then wife in a double act called The Eldanis (do you see?). We think Paul’s first telly appearance was on Opportunity Knocks and he slogged away on the circuit for many years, gradually working his way up the bill. One of his first proper TV gigs was this Saturday teatime series which promised, it says here, “non-stop, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t magic, mirth and music” with Paul billed alongside Faith Brown and some other names we don’t recognise.
THE WHEELTAPPERS AND SHUNTERS SOCIAL CLUB (Granada 1976) THE PAUL DANIELS SHOW (Granada 1977) PAUL DANIELS’ BLACKPOOL BONANZA (Granada 1978)
Probably the man most responsible for turning Paul Daniels from a middle-of-the-bill novelty act to a star name was Granada’s legendary star-spotting Head of Light Entertainment John Hamp, who hired him for several appearances on the Wheeltappers where his mix of magic and aggressive comedy caught the eye. He was successful enough for ITV to give him his own Christmas special in 1977 and then the next year he was booked to front a variety series, his tricks interspersing the traditional fare, the highest rated episode pulling in 12.8 million viewers in August 1978 with a guest list including Roy Walker and his old Wheeltappers mate Colin Crompton. However Paul’s spell on the light channel was short-lived as he was then poached by the Beeb.
THE PAUL DANIELS MAGIC SHOW (BBC 1979)
Paul’s move to the Beeb saw him launch a new series that would eventually run for fifteen years. The key word in the title was “magic” because the show was devoted to tricks and nothing but, with no opportunity to wheel on a singer or comedian when inspiration ran dry. A hugely successful series, it seemed very much the flagship light entertainment show on the Beeb, with extremely high production values, while it was constantly entered for, and won, awards like the Golden Rose of Montreux and, for four years in the early eighties, was rewarded with the much coveted slot on Christmas Day. We join it up there in 1981, during the period where the show had a “jury”, twelve members of the studio audience who would sit on the stage in the interests of seeing everything was above board and there were no camera tricks or anything. And there was that unforgettable theme tune, inviting us to “look at this trick and that trick”, not quite Ronnie Hazlehurst’s finest few minutes.
ODD ONE OUT (BBC 1982)
As well as his magic show keeping him busy for many years, Paul also spent over a decade capably hosting a trilogy of amiable, if unexciting, game shows which would happily while away an idle half hour. This was the first, heralded by surely the strangest composition that man Ronnie ever came up with, though just right for the daft titles with Paul’s “haven’t got it… nearly got it… got it!” faces. Revolting set, though. The point of the game was to, well, spot the odd one out in lists of things, but it’s fun to play along and we wouldn’t mind if a channel commissioned two hundred episodes of it to run every day. Paul’s banter with the contestants and audience was a bit brittle but he had the quick wit to keep it all running smoothly for four years, unsurprisingly getting its highest ever rating just before the end of its run in 1985 when it found itself opposite a three hour documentary on the Miners’ Strike on ITV.
WIZBIT (BBC 1985)
This kids’ series is fondly remembered, albeit mostly by people who haven’t actually seen any of it for many years. Paul narrated and starred in this series about an anthropomorphic triangle thing (we wonder if his face was modelled on Paul’s craggy features) who travelled around Puzzleopolis getting involved in encounters that inevitably involved magic and puzzles the viewers were invited to figure out. And Paul rapped the theme tune which we’re sure you’ll now have running around your head for the next few days. Sorry.
EVERY SECOND COUNTS (BBC 1986)
Apparently Larry Grayson and Russell Grant both recorded pilots for this show but in the end Paul seamlessly moved across from Odd One Out to front this new series. As with his previous quiz, there was nothing particularly earth-shattering about it but its enjoyable playalong format and Paul’s gags meant that while it was something you’d never stay in to watch, you wouldn’t switch it off if you stumbled across it. It flitted around the schedules a bit – we most associate it with Friday nights when Blankety Blank wasn’t there, but it was on Saturdays for a while and towards the end all over the place – but lasted seven years which isn’t bad going. However even at the end nobody knew exactly what the contestants won (it was the first prize they won, and the last, but not the prizes in between). The highlight of course was when a telly was a prize and it showed the Every Second Counts logo in teletext. And Paul’s fantastic wave at the end, natch.
PAUL DANIELS LIVE ON HALLOWEEN (BBC 1987)
Halloween was never that big a deal in the eighties but with 31st October falling on a Saturday in 1987 Paul took the opportunity to present some suitably spooky illusions in this special, climaxing with the hugely memorable moment where apparently the iron maiden trick had “gone wrong” and the audience were asked to leave while the credits rolled in silence. Apparently the Beeb switchboard melted and, after the Python repeat, Paul popped up to tell us he wasn’t dead after all. Twelve months later there was a second special but because Halloween was on Monday it went out at ten o’clock after Panorama and nobody noticed it, but we’ve got that in full!. That one ended with Paul being burned alive and the following day Tracey McCoy, age thirteen, from Wembley wrote in her diary for One Day In The Life Of Television that, in her opinion, “whoever thought this up must be mentally disturbed”.
QED (BBC 1988) COMIC RELIEF (BBC 1989)
Two memorable guest appearances here. We wish there was a show like QED now, which certainly put the pop into pop science, using all kinds of gimmickry to bring science and innovation to the masses, whether that was getting Kenny Everett in to explain visual effects of inviting Steve Davis to take on a snooker-playing robot. In 1988 Paul presented a special edition of his show devoted to “The Magic of Memory”, with all his usual patter to explain the concept of brain training. Then on Red Nose Day 1989 he did a trick with a milk jug that went ever so slightly wrong in an amusing fashion, its failure becoming something of a running joke on Comic Relief for the next few years, as whenever they invited viewers to vote to see a clip again, they would always offer up The Moment Paul Daniels’ Trick With The Milk Jug Went Ever So Slightly Wrong.
THE PAUL DANIELS MAGIC SHOW, er, again
Given it’s now ten years into its run we should probably alight on The Magic Show again as here’s what it looked like in 1990. The jury had gone, as had that theme tune, replaced by a rather anonymous theme and the opening titles with CGI magic props, which is certainly the era we most remember. A decade on Paul was still finding new ways to present the same old tricks, in things like The Bunco Booth, and unearthing interesting special guests, along with regulars like Tom Noddy and Hans Moretti. But it was starting to show its age a bit and in those days you could always tell when a BBC Saturday night show was on its way out as it would either be moved to a weeknight (a la Russ Abbott) or moved from the winter to the summer, and hence in 1994 the Magic Show moved from its cushy January start date to April, got shoved around from pillar to post during the World Cup and then unsurprisingly came to an end after a marathon run. But he wasn’t quite finished!
WIPEOUT (BBC 1994)
Every Second Counts had come to an end but Paul moved straight on to another show, with even the set looking virtually the same – and as with the previous two the format made for an enjoyable, if hardly exciting, half hour of your time. After three series the show moved to daytime and Lord Bob Monkhouse took over and Wipeout purists suggest that it took a turn for the worse at that point. We can’t agree because we simply can’t accept Lord Bob being second best at anything, especially not a game show, but we will admit Paul did a decent job of it and his version certainly had a far better theme tune.
SECRETS (BBC 1994)
So no more of the Magic Show, but certainly not the end of a Paul Daniels magic show. In its place came Secrets, which had a faux-nightclub setting, allowing for the slightly cheesier aspects of his shows to be stripped away and more concentration on close up magic. A Christmas special in 1994 was followed in 1995 by a whole series, but not on Saturdays, in the week where it seemed a bit out of place and, sadly, a bit out of date. It was probably a bit too close to his last series to allow Paul to reinvent himself and though he said in the final show “that’s the end of our series, if you liked it, write to the BBC”, clearly not enough people were compelled to shell out the price of a stamp and Paul took his leave of primetime BBC1 after nearly two decades. For the rest of his life, though, he was a regular presence on television and, while perhaps never much-loved, was certainly respected and admired by all.
It’s not Holyrood, it’s Hollywood! Yes, the desperately threadbare run of the mill humdrum team of Chris, Craig and Jack are joined by comic book and movie international supremo Mark Millar for the latest CREAMGUIDE(FILMS) COMMENTARY.
Listen as everyone is too inhibited to swear much as they (sort of) watch the superlative STEPTOE & SON RIDE AGAIN from 1973 in the company of a man who genuinely knows what he is talking about. Kick off the audio as the beautiful ‘Nat Cohen Presents’ ident spins into view and enjoy.
What links Superman and Strathclyde Regional Council? Why, it’s the latest CREAMGUIDE(FILMS) COMMENTARY! This time it’s prime Cannon-fodder Salkind-lite utter shite SUPERMAN IV from 1987. Listen as Chris, Craig and Jack can’t even be bothered to swear about the desperate nonsense that killed off a franchise. Top men. Top. Men.
Creamguide(Films) is back! Back! BACK! for 2016 with a request from Robert Gillespie’s puppet lion – Disney’s live-action frippery from 1981: CONDORMAN. That can only mean swearing, poor impressions, endless menchies for Little and Large and musical interludes. Listen to Jack attempting colloquialisms as Chris blatantly contradicts Craig out of sheer badness: yes, it’s business as usual round the Creamguide(Films) Fireplace. Turn on the commentary as the movie ident kicks in and enjoy(!)
SPOILERS: the additional SFX are provided by Chris blowing his nose
CREAMGUIDE(FILMS) REVERSE FAQ
1. James Hampton. And he wasn’t (that was Fred Sorensen.) But he was in Tales of the Golden Monkey, which is the same thing
2. Robert Arden
3. The Cumbersome Diamond is a Sid Caeser reference. Just sayin
4. The Jokers from 1967, not in The Assassination Bureau. But Vernon Dobtcheff is (see below.) And Fred Emney, kids!
5. About £1,500
6. From 1968
7. From 1996. Bishop Wisharton
8. Checked in to the motel in 1985. The Bruce is her last screen credit, it says here
9. John ‘Baltar’ Colicos was Cromwell in that. Pleasance was Cromwell in the very literally-titled Henry VIII and his Six Wives starring Keith ‘not long dead’ Michell
10. Vernon Dobtcheff. Most recently he was in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell
11. Leslie Dwyer
12. “Who Killed Mr Partridge?” 12th January 1986. He’d quit to go off and run a pub but wanted to put the shits up the rest of them
13. The Return of Captain Invincible from 1983
14. Bonnie and April
15. There wasn’t
16. 1979. Telt ye
17. Baby BA-BY!
18. And it has a John Barry score
19. Billed as ‘Paramount Pictures Corporation and Walt Disney Productions Present’
20. Kids from 1995. Still can’t remember the branding
21. When they bought Marvel they were urged to include CONDORMAN in the ‘universe.’ They didn’t
23. David Hedison (boo) vs Norman Burton (yay)
24. Robert Arden. And it’s Omen III
In light of the sad news, TV Cream presents some snippets from the time it sat down with the now late Lord Terrence of Woganshire. Here, dear reader, is Wogan’s ever-verdant take on a variety of subjects.
… His breakfast show audience
There must be at least, by now, three generations of young people who have grown-up to hate me, because they’ve been forced to listen to the show. But eventually they come around to my side because [laughing] I get so many letters from people saying, ‘My mother used to make me listen to you on the radio and I hate you, but now I’m inflicting you on my children’ – which is very rewarding.
… His style of chat
I don’t look for tough insights. I leave that to older men! I do it in the way I do the radio programme, which is in a spirit of spontaneity and fun. We’re not going to be confronting people and challenging them and demanding to know their innermost secrets. I don’t really do that kind of stuff. Old Paxman does that, and it leads to tears in the last thing I saw him do. Dear old boy.
I don’t work out what I’m going to say before I say it and I don’t have researchers telling me what to say. I’m bright enough to absorb this kind of information. If you don’t read enough newspapers, you won’t know about people anyway. I’ve always felt I’d rather bring spontaneity to things. And because I’m lazy, I don’t want to be sitting there poring over things. I’m not that much of a control freak where I want to control the production. I would never want to produce it myself.
Interviewing isn’t some archaic art. It’s a question of asking the right questions. My style is slightly tongue-in-cheek, looking for humour and trying to have a bit of a laugh. So we won’t talk too much about bird flu [laughs] or indeed the current situation in the Ukraine.
I don’t do confrontational interviews, and I don’t believe that you can. I’ve been criticised for doing interviews that are bland, but if you’re confrontational, after a month you’ll find you’ll get no guests. So – what? – you’ve got to try and be nasty to people? What’s the point of that?
… People touching his knee
That whole business used to drive me mad. Ho! The most irritating thing of all time. Of course, increasing numbers of PRs would say to the guests, ‘Touch his knee’. When I’d see a hand reaching out, a cold fear would come over me. For God’s sake, get off!
You see, one of the reasons I became a bit disenchanted with Wogan, was that the agents began to run Hollywood, and kept saying, ‘We’ll do it by satellite’. We began to do far too many by satellite. Over the last couple of years it became rife.
The old Wogan was on three days a week. I always maintained it should have been on five days a week, so I could have running gags, so that if you got somebody who was really interesting and you had to cut them short, you could say, ‘Come back on tomorrow’. But we couldn’t do that, because you only had two gaps.
I would have preferred less research and more spontaneity. It was always belts and braces. There was too much in it. Four guests in a show was ludicrous. So you’d end up with a big star and only have four minutes before you had to get the next guest on. That was an irritation that didn’t go away. But, anyway, you couldn’t do it now. You can do it if you’re Letterman, but he’s in New York, with an American audience. But they’re not going send stars over here. You’d run out of people, that’s the problem. Whereas if you do it infrequently like Michael [Parkinson] does, you can get away with it, and that’s OK. I don’t think there’s a market for it. Of course, you’ve got daytime talk shows, but they’re at a different level. They’re much more housewifey – no offence to housewives. They’re the kind of thing you want to watch in the afternoon as you [pretends to nod off].
Bill Cotton wanted to do it later in the evening, at 10pm, which is where all talk shows should be. 7pm was never a good idea. Not at all, it was too early. Do you think people are ready for talk that early in the evening?
… That David Icke interview
I don’t know whether to apologise to him for that. Although that got a huge round of applause, and I suppose it was relevant at the time, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I have a low threshold of embarrassment. I don’t want to be upsetting anybody. His beliefs are entirely his and sincerely held. Looking back, what I said was kind of a cheap shot. It didn’t do him any harm. It certainly didn’t do me any harm, but, I think it was too easy to say it. I looked at that, and, it was a comment, but maybe I should have said nothing. I think you’ve got to be kind. Why be nasty? Only kindness matters, really.
You see, that was another mistake. If they’d kept that on – I know it was expensive because they bought this place in Spain. The eejits could have shot all the interiors in a studio, rather like Neighbours – but they built this bloody place in Spain. Then they got cold feet. I suspect it could have been a success in the same way as Emmerdale if they’d left it.
… His work ethic
I don’t put a lot into things. I don’t! I don’t! If you can do something, you can do it. I’m a great believer in the Corinthian.
… His relationship with the BBC
You don’t have a relationship with a big monolithic organisation. It is paternalistic and it’s a very fine organisation. But it’s a broadcasting organisation. They’re not my aunty. So if you’re useful to them, and you’re getting viewing figures. they love you. They’re like any other organisation, if you’re not performing, it’s goodbye Mr Chips.
… His approach to his career
No, never. I was always really lucky. When I left working in the bank, I immediately went to be a staff announcer on Irish radio, which paid approximately four times a week what I had been getting, so I was rich as Croesus. Well, I haven’t ever been that rich, but I’ve always worked and I’ve never had the insecurity of being out of work. I didn’t come up through the theatre so I’ve never known what it is to wait for the next piece of work from an agent. I think it comes down to things like my upbringing and the school I went to, because school is important. So I’ve never had that insecurity. I think most of the trouble in the world is caused by people who are insecure. Border Scots! [Laughs]. But do you know? Oh, that was cheap shot! But that’s the way it is. I’ve always felt, when I’ve come to negotiations, that I’m strong enough to walk away. If they know you’re never going to walk away, then you’re never going to win the contract – you’re never going to win any contract.
I’m not a confrontational person. You don’t want to be arrogant. Arrogant people get nowhere. But they do say to get on in our business you have to be really tough, but I don’t see myself that way. I’ve never knocked on anybody’s door to get a job. I’ve never walked over anybody. I’ve never had any idea of what I wanted to do, to be honest, so this idea of being determined to get on the radio … I drifted into it.
I’ve risked a lot in terms of career, I’ve never risked anything as far as my family is concerned, but I’ve risked a fair amount of my career. I’ve stopped doing series when I’ve felt that I’ve had enough, or I’ve lost interest. Like Auntie’s Bloomers. They’ve got no more bloomers, but Anne Robinson’s still doing it. And you think – no disrespect to her – but it’s been done. What’s his name’s still doing it? Dear old Denis Norden. He said to me, at Spike Milligan’s funeral I think it was – requiem – he said, ‘God, you’re lucky you got out of that’. [Laughs] He’s still doing it! But that’s fine, he’s good at it. But for me it’s got to feel that what you’re doing is different. That you’re bringing something that no-one else is bringing, and you’re doing it better than somebody else. Radio and television is full of people just doing it. They’re not thinking about what they’re doing, they’re not thinking, ‘Am I doing this better than anyone else? Can I do this differently? Why am I doing this? What am I doing?’ It’s mechanical, there’s no humanity in it all.
… His knighthood
It’s surprising that I got it for services to broadcasting; they could have given it to me for services to charity. What have I brought to broadcasting? Well, I have, brought what I hope is originality, but it’s not much to get a knighthood for. I was at the investiture and I saw a fella come out, an old soldier who was getting the Queen’s Award For Bravery and I thought, ‘He deserves it’.
… His legacy
Oh gosh, there will be no footprints. As I always say, not many people talk about the Duke of Wellington these days, do they? Even Alexander doesn’t get a mention now.
Direct from London’s verdant Shepherd’s Bush Green, we celebrate the televisual excursions of….
LORD TERENCE OF WOGANSHIRE
JACKPOT (RTE 1964)
Eager for excitement after a few years as a bank clerk, Tel applied for an announcer’s position on Irish radio, and when television arrived in Ireland, he was among those radio voices who were tried out on the screen. Tel’s big break was when he took over from the legendary Gay Byrne as host of a primitive game show called, with stunning originality, Jackpot. Tel wasn’t initially popular, mostly because he wasn’t Gay Byrne but also because on his first show he forgot the rules and failed to work out the game had ended, but he soon created a self-deprecating presentational style that added a bit more spice to this rather dull format. A few years later, though, they axed it without telling him and this was the spur for him to approach the Beeb about getting some work in the UK. Hence he was there on the steps of All Souls in 1967, initially commuting from Dublin, then by the end of the decade he was in London full time and broadcasting every day on Radio 1.
COME DANCING (BBC 1970)
The odd beauty contest aside, we think this was Tel’s first regular presentational gig on British screens, although the format hardly gave him much scope to stamp his personality on proceedings. Indeed, although he presented it for seven years, he eventually realised that nobody actually remembered who presented Come Dancing and when he announced his departure the biggest response appeared to be from people who thought Peter West was still doing it.
LUNCHTIME WITH WOGAN (ATV 1972)
By 1972 Tel had moved from afternoons on radio 1 to breakfast on Radio 2 and was well on his way to become a wireless institution. His first regular starring vehicle on telly, though, came on ITV with an afternoon soiree which was one of the first shows to take advantage of the relaxation of broadcasting hours that brought about all day TV. A very light chat show, the most interesting aspect was Tel’s co-host, an Old English sheepdog that continually upstaged him. Oddly just a few months into its run it was awarded the honour of being part of ITV’s All Star Comedy Carnival on Christmas night, which is presumably the only fragment that exists, and which you can see at the above link.
DISCO (BBC 1975)
We’d love to see a full episode of this, not just the first thirty seconds they sometimes wheel out to embarrass Tel. This was “a light-hearted pop quiz” in the unusual slot of Sunday at half past three on BBC1 and filmed in the palatial surroundings of Cinderella’s Discotheque, Sayers Common. Tel pops the questions to teams captained by Tim Rice and Roger Scott – why they didn’t use a Radio 1 DJ, either as host or captain we don’t know – and “a special feature each week will be a live group”, including the great 5000 Volts. If Never Mind The Buzzcocks was a bit more like that, it might be worth watching.
A SONG FOR EUROPE (BBC 1978)
Tel’s first Eurovision commentary for the radio was in 1973, but it was in 1978 when he started commentating for telly (though he missed 1979) and also, after a strike put paid to it the previous year, hosted the UK’s selection procedure. This was always great fun but the one we’re alighting on the demented 1980 contest, with far too many acts and too many juries, which rather brilliantly manages to end with a tie. Tel just about manages to hold it together (“It’s at times like this you need a secretary!”) while they scoot around the juries again to get a show of hands (and there’s an even number too, so that could have been a draw too) and John Mundy becomes Britain’s top rock powerbroker. This is the kind of thing Tel does so well and you can tell he’s relishing every minute of it.
STAR TOWN (BBC 1978)
Still Tel couldn’t find that vehicle that allowed him to be as entertaining on the telly as he was on the radio. This was an undistinguished talent show were eight British towns battled it out to see which housed the most talented residents, to little effect, though some excitement came from the celebrity captains, including Stanley Unwin going in to bat for Coventry. Tel didn’t much enjoy it, not least because he had to drive up to Manchester to it after his radio show, then drive straight back, whych left him totally knackered.
BLANKETY BLANK (BBC 1979)
At last! Well, we all know what this is, although Tel initially turned it down because they showed him the Australian version (where it went under the slightly different name of Blankety Blanks) and he hated it, and it wasn’t until they convinced him to watch an episode of The Match Game that he decided to take it on. Immediately he realised this was the TV show for him, played for really low stakes and not to be taken seriously at all.
FRIDAY NIGHT SATURDAY MORNING (BBC 1980)
With its demented set and bizarre choice of hosts (ie Harold Wilson), Friday Night Saturday Morning was the very definition of “mixed bag”, though its lasting legacy came when it invited Tel to host an episode during the second series. His star guest was Larry Hagman, a man whom he’d been talking about non-stop for the previous year, and he proved himself so effective a chat show host, the hunt was on to find a format to allow him to do that on a regular basis.
WHAT’S ON WOGAN (BBC 1980)
YOU MUST BE JOKING (BBC 1981)
This wasn’t really it, though. As the trailer suggests, What’s On Wogan was a pretty low-concept affair, screened on Saturday teatimes, where seemingly the idea was that he’d just replicate the kind of thing he was doing on the radio, but with some celebrity guests. Inspiration was a bit harder to come by in front of the camera, though, and the only bit anyone remembers is Tel’s desk with each week featured an anagram of the programme’s name. Twelve months later, in exactly the same slot, came a panel show where members of the public were invited to guess whether the film clips Tel showed were true or false, which despite Beadle on scripting duty didn’t amount to much.
CHILDREN IN NEED (BBC 1980)
Tel had presented the Beeb’s Children In Need appeal a couple of times when it was just a five minute programme, and when the decision was taken to extend it to a whole evening, he took on the job of linking it all together. For the first five years it popped up between the programmes, and the first production was somewhat fraught, being shunted out to the Cunard Hotel in Hammersmith and with It Ain’t Half Hot Mum refusing to let them put the number on screen. By 1986 it enveloped the whole evening, but given Tel was presenting most other things on BBC1 by that point, it wasn’t too much of a surprise.
WOGAN (BBC 1982)
WOGAN (BBC 1983)
Same title, slightly different format. The first incarnation of Wogan was a low key show on a weeknight with a miscellany format that, initially, included celebrity gossip from Paula Yates. A year later, Tel was promoted to fill the Saturday night slot vacated by Parkinson, although Tel pointed out “My show will be different from Parkinson’s, because I am different from Parkinson”. The one innovation was that instead of the guests walking on stage to join Tel, he would walk to them, which was apparently quite big news. Tel’s relaxed approach ensured it was a hugely successful series, though, and he became renowned for helping a number of stars – such as Cilla Black and Freddie Starr – back from troughs in their careers. The link up there too features Tel’s favourite ever interview, with Mel Brooks.
WOGAN (BBC 1985)
Same title, but different again, this is the version everyone remembers, three nights a week at seven for seven years. Tel was actually very pleased with the extended run, thinking viewers had too high an expectation for weekly shows and he wanted a show that would just motor along and viewers could dip into and didn’t need to create a spectacle every episode. Sadly for Tel episode one’s most talked about moment was when he fell arse over tit while meeting Elton John. In many ways it was the eighties equivalent of The One Show, not a series you’d seek out but watch if the opposition didn’t appeal, and occasionally it could come up with the goods, like that episode up there based around the screening of the last episode of Dallas. We had hoped to feature all the title sequences, but though we’ve got the We’ve Got A Computer titles, we can’t find the turquoise jigsaw ones, alas. Tel was getting a bit bored by the end and thought a good time to pack it in would be 1991 when they’d reached a thousand episodes and the TV Theatre was closing down. However the Beeb demanded to carry on, relocating it to TV Centre and gaining these titles but then much to Tel’s embarrassment they almost immediately decided to axe it, Tel spending the final year going through the motions, with the odd innovation including some bizarre Partridge Over Britain-esque political debates.
STOPPIT AND TIDYUP (BBC 1988)
Presenting 150 shows a year didn’t leave Tel with much time for other stuff, though one hugely appealing diversion was his narration of this fondly remembered cartoon series, created by the Tidy Britain Group and with a fantastic musique concrete-inspired theme tune.
TERRY WOGAN’S FRIDAY NIGHT (BBC 1992)
Despite Wogan getting the chop, the Beeb didn’t want to lose Tel completely, though, and immediately gave him a new weekly show, safely after the watershed. Tel said it would be more than just a chat show, with guests “made to entertain”, and to emphasise the changes, Tel was behind a desk, joined by rotating sidekicks, including in this episode Frank Skinner, and mixing interviews with monologues and filmed reports. Although it lasted six months, it didn’t really work out, being a bit of an awkward blend of the old Wogan and some sub-Letterman bits of business, and Frank says Tel seemed a bit bored of the whole thing anyway. This episode, which is here almost in full, is worth a look though, because although we don’t have Frank’s Rothmans joke, we do have a discussion on women priests which, according to Frank’s autobiography, took on a rather different tone before it was edited with Cliff coming out rather badly, and a very familiar name on the writers’ credits.
DO THE RIGHT THING (BBC 1994)
During the run of his Friday night show, Tel returned to his old stomping ground of Radio 2 and it was immediately like he’d never been away, eventually presenting the breakfast show for far longer than he did the first time round, to wild acclaim. However he still had a golden handcuffs deal with BBC Television, which meant occasional shows like Auntie’s Bloomers, Eurovision and the odd interesting project like this. Each show featured a moral dilemma via a short drama and Tel invited a panel (including in the first series his old mate Frank Skinner), the studio audience and viewers at home to have their say, eventually opening up the phone lines to choose which (pre-recorded) ending would be shown. Though shown on Saturday nights in series one, series two was punted around weeknights before being dropped, though it made for mildly amiable viewing, and gave Russell T Davies a bit more cash to spend on Doctor Who memorabilia.
WOGAN’S WEB (BBC 1998)
Probably Tel’s only worthwhile telly gig since has been this short-lived but highly entertaining series. It was basically his radio show on the telly, though not a simulcast. As you can see, it was set in a mock-up radio studio and Tel, accompanied by Paul Walters, would simply chat, solicit letters and e-mails and meet a few guests for an hour at lunchtime. Freewheeling and fun, it did better than most shows in bringing Tel’s radio persona to the screen, but sadly it only lasted a month and never came back. For shame!
Thanks to that unexpected repeat of a 1987-vintage episode of Wogan the other night, it was possible to take a good, hard look at the armoury Tel deployed on telly to such effect for so long.
And what an armoury. Many were on display during that episode, as indeed they seemed to be during every episode. There always was a lot more to old Wogan’s act than merely the “I don’t know what’s going on here but I wish it would stop” stuff.
Anyway, TV Cream has sallied forth, as the great man himself would say, unto the technological interface that is the screengrab in order to assemble an anatomy of a Wogan.
First, the opening gambit:
Note how our host doesn’t simply walk on set; rather he engages in some visual badinage with his first musical guests, simultaneously acknowledging and patronising them with a mock-bow. Cheeky, but charming. Then instead of walking to the front of the stage, our man gambols and skips into position, gently tickling the conventions of chat. Once in place, the gurning can begin:
Two examples of how to pull off the tricky task of engaging with the camera, yet not actually looking into it. Tel looks a little undignified to begin with, but soon finds his poise, hands clasped in front, ready to discharge another peroration. Time to look the viewer straight in the eye:
Now we’ve stepped up a gear and are witnessing Wogan’s wheezes at full pelt. First we have the nonplussed shrug of the shoulders, deflating whatever pomposity was evident in tonight’s line-up. Note the slight tilt of the head – we’ll see more of this shortly. Second, the wide-eyed stare of delightful desperation. Old Tel’s up to his old tricks again! But wait, there’s more:
Wogan cranks up the corn still further, essaying first a worried glance to the heavens, then a toothy explosion of hilarity. Phew! Now that the climax has been reached, our man can move to the conversation area and deploy his next battery of whimsy…
…whoa! Wogan goes for not simply a tilt of the head but an entire body swerve. This is masterful stuff, coupled as it is with feigned gestures of falling asleep at the prospect of meeting tonight’s guests. Speaking of which, let’s introduce the first batch, with a little kick of the leg to reassure viewers that he is actually enjoying things after all. Tch! Once the music is done with, it’s time for the chat. Let’s examine two examples of the Wogan-as-questioner pose:
First, a tightly-framed shot of the man at ease with his surroundings and supplicants. His interlocked hands rest on crossed legs, to help put his guests entirely in a state of good grace. In the wide shot we see Tel is resting his hands on the arm of his swivel chair, legs splayed in front in a manner that seems to have disarmed Messrs Peel and Blackburn completely. Note the shiny shoes – every inch of Wogan seems perfectly groomed for early-evening telly. Finally, two examples of Wogan testing the BBC Television Theatre to destruction by virtue of a bit of multi-media magic and some good old-fashioned prop silliness:
Smitty and Bungalow are totally upstaged by our man, even though he’s barely a couple of inches high. Then, for good measure, Tel pretends an ordinary garden rose is some kind of joke flora that is about to emit a stream of water. The ideal note upon which to bid viewers farewell.
And there you have it: an anatomy of a Wogan, where all aspects of the man – expression, appearance, pose (both standing and sitting) and presence both alone and in company – are functioning in harmony.
Despite declining ratings and the rise and rise of other entertainment options, festive telly continues to have something of a mythical status. There’s an expectation the schedules on 25th December should have something special about them rather than the usual workaday programmes we watch the rest of the year. Hence the importance of the big event – a last-ever episode, a big revival or the appearance of a host of special guest stars to lure you away from the turkey and cement Christmas Day’s role as a showcase of British television at its best.
With the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime apparently cannibalising the audiences of the existing broadcasters, there’s surely an even bigger need for must-see TV that simply has to be watched. Perhaps surprisingly the biggest event on Christmas Day 2015 came from ITV, a channel that had often made a minimal contribution to festive cheer. Its renaissance in recent years has been thanks to Downton Abbey, and five years on the show came to an end with its last-ever episode.
Unsurprisingly the last outing for this phenomenally popular series pulled in the biggest audience of the day. This was good news for ITV, though it’ll be fascinating to see what will take its place both in autumn 2016, after a few years where it seemed to have been single-handedly holding together the ITV schedule, and on Christmas Day itself. Will ITV be happy to return to the pretty nondescript drama and light entertainment that cost-effectively filled the big day up until 2010, or will they aim to continue being competitive?
Certainly outside of Downton there doesn’t seem to have been much effort made in finding a replacement from their existing slate of programming. The rest of primetime on Christmas Day was inevitably filled up by the usual hour-long episodes of Emmerdale and Coronation Street. All sturdy enough, of course, and a fixture for millions, but it doesn’t suggest a great deal of long-term thinking at the light channel.
The rest of the schedule seemed pretty familiar as well – Santa Claus The Movie and Happy Feet were unspooled again in the morning, followed by an hour of highlights from their Text Santa charity initiative. After The Queen, while BBC1 catered for a young audience, ITV aimed old with a profile of royal correspondent Peter Wilkinson going under the banner of Cameraman To The Queen, and then a festive episode of its Countryfile-like series Countrywise, with another dispatch from Paul O’Grady at Battersea Dogs Home and You’ve Been Framed – now a quarter of a century old – leading us into the evening.
After Downton came something a bit more interesting, with a special tribute to a fixture of ITV Christmases past, Cilla Black, rather thrown away in a late evening slot when you’d think it may have merited a primetime airing on another night. With Dr No the midnight movie, ITV seemed very content to spend much of Christmas Day looking back, though while pleasingly nostalgic, this schedule didn’t seem to suggest much in the way of innovation over recent years.
Still, at least thanks to Downton delivering the goods, ITV came out of the big day with the most positive headline. Over on BBC1, surely the home of Christmas telly, the headlines were less impressive, with shows down year on year and a general lack of enthusiasm about their offerings. On paper, though, things looked absolutely fine – the channel was all-new from 2pm until after midnight, while the schedule was stuffed with some of the Beeb’s biggest names in its biggest shows. But somehow there was something lacking. It seems that it was missing that special ingredient which turns a good Christmas Day into a great one.
The early part of the day motored along in familiar style, including BBC1 outings for the revivals of The Clangers and Danger Mouse, which had debuted during the year and quickly proven as loved and cherished as the original series. After the religion came yet another outing for one of The Santa Clause films, this time the third in the series, followed by the third Madagascar movie. Then at 2pm came the Christmas Top of the Pops. As per, this one-off show was preceded by the news that the BBC were seriously considering launching a new music show to take the place of Pops on a regular basis, but we’d heard that before and the old stager is still with us. And we’re probably more likely to see TOTP in this spot at Christmas 2016 than anything else…
The animated film premiere that follows The Queen is now almost as much a tradition as the royal message itself, and Brave, though perhaps not one of Disney’s finest, turned out to be a pretty good choice with its British theme engaging a large audience. Following that and the news came Stick Man, a new adaptation of the childrens’ book by Julia Donaldson, which was great fun for adults and kids alike. Perhaps some of it was thanks to anaemic opposition from ITV, but these two hours were hugely successful for BBC1 and Stick Man in particular trounced a number of primetime programmes.
Then came the festive juggernauts, starting at 5.15pm with Doctor Who, celebrating its 10th anniversary as a Christmas Day staple. The show was very enjoyable and notable for the first appearance of Alex Kingston’s River Song alongside the current Doctor, but after the regenerations, new companions and huge guest stars of previous specials, this didn’t jump off the screen with excitement – not helped by the fact the most recent series had ended less than three weeks previously.
Strictly Come Dancing followed at 6.15pm, again with a host of previous contestants returning for a lap of honour, but sadly not featuring the return of Sir Bruce Forsyth as host, who was unwell. Brucie did at least make a short recorded appearance, but that perhaps wasn’t enough to ensure this special will live long in the memory. It did at least ensure it was BBC1’s most successful show of the the day, which given it was originally placed in the schedules to offer token opposition to Coronation Street is pretty good going.
The now familiar double-helping of drama followed with the fourth annual Call The Midwife special, pleasing the series’ many fans but not doing much to lure in any floating viewers. EastEnders followed for an hour at 8.45pm, although it perhaps inevitably found itself playing second fiddle to Downton, and even the show itself seemed to expect it, with most press attention diverted to the Carters’ wedding taking place in seven days time.
Mrs Brown’s Boys followed, one of three new outings for Brendan O’Carroll over the festive period with the two new episodes (and the stack of repeats that are a mainstay of the BBC1 schedules) accompanied by the premiere of the movie version on New Year’s Eve. The usual fun and games abounded, and if you liked it usually, you’d like this, and if you didn’t, it wasn’t going to convert you. After that Michael McIntyre was back for the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five Christmas Days, this time back at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for comedy and variety with a guest list headlined by Dame Edna Everage and Tom Jones. Perhaps the most interesting programme on BBC1 came after that at 11.45pm – ensuring they continued transmitting new programming after midnight, a rare occurance – with Comedy Bloopers, a compilation of clips which had apparently managed to dig out some very rare footage, although how many of the audience were still sober enough to appreciate that is another question.
Overall it’s hard to argue with the BBC1 schedule which in terms of the amount of original British material and entertainment is probably as good as it’s been at any time in its history – there’s certainly no sign of anything like the episodes of Changing Rooms and Ground Force that found their way into primetime a decade or so ago. But nothing this year stood out as demanding to be watched – a solid schedule, but seemingly in the face of increased competition, solid isn’t quite enough.
Certainly increased competition is one obvious reason for the lower ratings on BBC1. Less than a decade ago Channel 4 would barely scrape a few thousand viewers on Christmas Day as it devoted its schedule to religion, history and the fine arts in a self-consciously alternative fashion. This year the audience stayed above two million for most of the day with a schedule as populist as BBC1, including the films A Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged and Home Alone 2, plus a kids’ spin off of the hugely successful Gogglebox. Alan Carr was back too.
BBC2 also managed to capture a million or so that might otherwise have opted for BBC1 with its Dad’s Army and Two Ronnies repeats, plus a new episode of QI. Chris Packham’s new series on the World’s Sneakiest Animals found itself starting on a rather unusual day, though one echo of the more traditional BBC2 Christmas came with Darcey Bussell reflecting on her Ballet Heroes.
Channel 5, as is so often the case, found itself straddling the sublime and the ridiculous, as it so often does. The Wizard of Oz was shown exactly 40 years after its first appearance on TV back in 1975, preceded by Scrooge and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, while most of the rest of the day was cost-effectively filled up with compliations of Britain’s Favourite Christmas Songs and ABBA Songs. After last year’s primetime repeat of Chas and Dave’s Christmas Knees Up from 1982, you may have thought that was the ultimate bit of bizarre scheduling, but Channel 5 surprised us by… repeating it in primetime again! And then again 24 hours later!
With ITV2 also managing to pull in an audience of over a million for their umpteenth screening of Quantum of Solace – suggesting a lot of people still can’t have a Bank Holiday without Bond – and BBC3 (in its last festive season as an actual television channel) almost getting to the million mark with another run of Toy Story, it’s clear the Christmas Day audience is now more fragmented than ever, and programmes need to shout louder to make an impact. It isn’t a good idea to write the main channels off completely, though – a new companion for Doctor Who, a big movie and a return visit to Dibley or Barry Island next year, and things could be very different.
It’s CHRISTMAS! And here to tap and unwrap is the final instalment of Chris, Craig and Jack talking a load of hoary old bobbins while THE BOX OF DELIGHTS plays in the background. We suggest it is the perfect accompaniment to any number of cliches about peeling sprouts and will most certainly be preferable to ‘jokes’ about Willesden on Radio 2. So it’s a Merry Christmas from us and a Happy New Year from them. Goodnight!
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THIS COMMENTARY IS RATED ‘AA’
SPOILERS: Creamguide(Films) will be back! Back! BACK! in February with some more hoary old bobbins.
It’s the second part of three of six covering three and four with five and six to come in three. Once again join Chris, Craig and Jack as they talk over, around but not necessarily about THE BOX OF DELIGHTS. Once again press play at the wolfy eyes and neck a posset.
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THIS COMMENTARY IS RATED ‘AA’
SPOILERS: the mystery and terror of the box are hard centres
1. That being Wednesday 21st November 1984
2. She is in fact from (West) Belfast and the petition is here.
3. Merlin of the Crystal Cave was 1991
4. Maid Marian and Her Merry Men ran from 1989 to 1994 and 26 (count ’em!) episodes
5. That was Nicky Croydon
7. Shot at close range with a .357 Magnum
8. Maybe ‘worthy’ was the wrong word. We’ll stick with ‘interesting’
9. Doc Morrissey
10. St Ronan’s Preparatory School. Now defunct. Amazingly.
11. Naturally though you would return it to a gentle heat or it won’t be anything but lukewarm milk with raw egg in it: FACT
12. Sing Lofty: Thoughts of a Gemini. 4 1/2 stars on Amazon! (no copies available)
13. Joanna Dukes, she was Tiddler in 30 episodes of Press Gang from 1989 to 1993
14. She was alright in Watching
Next week: Creamguide(Films) will be back with part three of three next week!
It’s nearly Christmas! Count down the days to the Creamguide Double Issue with Creamguide(Films) in the varying heights and shapes of Chris, Craig and Jack as they watch the epic BBC children’s drama serial THE BOX OF DELIGHTS from 1984. Enjoy further defamatory comment about Patrick Troughton, reminiscence about killer geese and giants and listen in detail to the Christmas Day plans of people you’ve never met. Click it on as the wee star comes tumbling down the screen and enjoy. Cheers!
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SPOILERS: Contains poetry
Creamguide(Films) will be back next week with part two
Granted, Radio Times has a history – a now fading history – of terrific Christmas covers, but what of its downstairs rival? We submit that thanks to its more capricious art-editing, and ITV’s lacklustre seasonal schedules, TV Times’ own festive frontispieces present a rather more lurid and appealing advent calendar than the RT.
So Merry Christmas one and all, as we celebrate TVT’s half-dozen greatest Yuletide covers!
A Dr Lowther-bound Hilda Ogden, plus an ebullient Bet ‘Listen Lady’ Lynch, are perfect cover fodder, for once making TVT’s ITV allegiance feel like something approaching a boon. Yes! Their own cover shoot! Of TV’s biggest story! And doesn’t everyone look happy? NB: Don’t miss Ghost Busters!
Harry didn’t have to go to Paris to get an eyeful! Although he’d go on to helm one of the worst ever TVT covers, here he is in another quintessential ITV diorama, shipping, indeed, with George, Mildred and Violet Elizabeth Bott. As the coverline makes clear: glittering entertainment.
The Christmas hats aside, one could argue that this has a more Easter-ly vibe. But we care not! It also feels indicative of those mash-up-of-characters covers Fleetway comics would do when two of their titles merged, so it’s an aye to that. Sooty pumping the balloon an additional genius detail.
An art department triumph! There’s nothing here to indicate TVT even so much as met Des for this cover image, but the appropriation of his mugshot into a Santa face is masterfully done. And the concept of O’Connor-themed wrapping paper – YES. Also, very much appreciate the little telly themed Father Christmasses. Look! One of them is actually a tiny oven with a turkey inside.
Although Minder On The Orient Express would be duffed up in the ratings by Only Fools, who cares when it provided inspiration for this terrific winterscape? Tel and Arthur (holly sprig in trilby band) getting into some bother in Santa’s sled while a discomfited owl looks on. What’ll I get for Christmas for ‘er indoors? This! A smashing painting!
A lavishly budgeted restaging of the 1978 cover, this one has got the lot! Yes! ITV has a Bond, The Man With The Golden Gun actually, plus M&W arguably returning to the near-peak of their powers and – of course – Janet Brown as Mrs T. Roger: “I’ve pulled a few powerful ladies in my time before, but never pushed them…” Janet: “I push Denis around all the time!” Plus, a hint of appropriate shilling to the network, with the inclusion of that for-one-season-only ITV Christmas tag alongside the logo. ALL CHRISTMASSES SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS!
Christmas is not all about Radio Times of course. Because whenever John Craven craned out from a festive Back Page so too did a limpid-eyed Katie Boyle. But while the BBC always decked its schedules with the very merriest fare, that’s never quite been the case on ITV, meaning the Christmas TV Times has, if anything, a more eccentric run of covers than its upstairs rival.
We’ve already waxed a little wry over RT X-mas duffs here. But now, come all ye faithful, here are TV Times’ worst ever efforts.
Slap-bang in the ‘so much more than TV times’ magazine era, Harry Secombe, there, firmly on the highway to getting sozzled, in a perfunctory photo-shoot of the ‘let’s just split for lunch’ variety. Sack the art ed who married those red and white hues with a lime flavoured logo.
The concept – to bring together the TV Times family of stars in one Christmas super-shoot. The realisation – hastily scissored faces slapped upon stock Santa hoods. Many, not even looking into camera (“Frankie, over ‘ere!”).
“Christmas Morning service comes from the ancient parish church of Bierton in Buckinghamshire.”
M&W mark their first, desultory, Braben-less, Christmas on Thames with a TVT cover. Again, strong concept (and one they’d revisit with far more success in 1980) but shockingly poor realisation. There’s even a light reflection off the cardboard Connery’s shoulder. And as for Eric seemingly about to blow his own head off… well, perhaps the realisation of all of this was just sinking in.
Who’s that? A young Jan Leeming perhaps? “Here’s the news: It’s Christmas!” In fact it’s – as the cover caption tells us – The Boy Jesus by Florence Kroger. Turns out that shit vanity covers by ‘name’ artists aren’t just the province of modern day RT.
We’re fans of the over-sized heads school of caricature, but, in all charitableness, that’s probably an inadvertent feature of this horrid imagining of a – we’re going to say it too – ‘right royal Christmas’ with Charles, Di and William. What’s that Wills is reaching for? And is Di really leaning on a mattress, adjunct to a Ferguson TV set?
Dishonourable mentions for…
Everything generic, creepy Santa illustration which they’ve run in perpetuity since the mid 1990s.
IT’S NOT HARD. You’ve all year to think about it. You’ve been doing it for almost a century. And it’s not like the occasion hasn’t been responsible for inspiring, at the last count, 134,932 carols, songs, films, plays, musicals, myths, costumes, jokes, rituals, foodstuffs, fluids, religious fables and drunks shouting.
And yet the Radio Times Christmas cover is often so poor, so throat-narrowing, colon-clenching, Scrooge-besting poor, you have to wonder just what the magazine has been up to over the past 12 months*.
Anyhow, let’s not dwell on the periodical equivalent of a Brussel sprout dry fart. Let us instead look back to half a dozen festive fancies we’d drop everything to save from the flames of an Advent crown, fireproof tinsel or no fireproof tinsel. Doff your paper hats to the six greatest Radio Times Christmas front covers.
*Aside from not watching TV programmes, of course.
Celebrating Dr Who’s return to Christmas Day after 40 years, the Tardis gets plonked in a globe along with a snowman sporting Tom Baker’s scarf, the inevitable pepperpot, and blobs of space junk looking like baubles. Nobody would’ve expected this 12, even nine months earlier. Sod Narnia; please Mum, can I have a Dalek for Christmas?
Not for the last time, RT puts a bunch of pricks on the cover. But there’s Claus for thought in the shape of not one but two Saint Nicks, one vaguely resembling Alan Whicker, the other crouched behind a camera thumbing a red nose at the electricians’ union. Why can’t you give Santa the sack? Because he’s already got one. Ho bloody ho.
Ponce alert! Radio Times goes a bit way out as it dips a toe into the cold Serpentine of mid-60s abstract art. It could be the British Isles, it could be a dove of peace, it could be what happens when one of your Woolworths baubles falls on the floor. Whatever, it’s rather splendid.
Got your number, ducky. RT goes gay with a swinging toast to the roaring 20s, offering up its own Christmas Reith in the guise of a bell ringing out – huzzah! – radio waves. ALL THE CHRISTMAS PROGRAMMES too, should there be any doubt.
Groovy typeface adorns a preposterously pendulous bauble, star-encrusted with the famous and not so (who’s the chap on the far left with the teeth and suit?). It looks like a poster for the original (and best) Casino Royale. If only this HAD been the cast of the original (and best) Casino Royale.
The most imaginative seasonal cover ever – and the most gorgeous. Carol singers with no eyes, a clump of Lowry parishioners trudging to worship, reindeer that look like the Black Rabbit from Watership Down, and an angel with a bouffon. Bold, unique, and utterly baffling: the true spirit of Christmas.
A first television outing, after a few months on iPlayer, for this hugely entertaining romp through the golden age of snooker, majoring on the careers of Alex Higgins and Steve Davis. It looks and sounds great, and is possibly the only film ever to soundtrack a character having an emotional breakdown with Snooker Loopy. If it reminds us of anything it’s The Damned United, and it’s all good foul-mouthed fun – and if the snooker overruns and it ends up going out late, you can, er, watch it on iPlayer of course.