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The 20-11 Greatest Doctor Who Moments

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"Because there's always a button"

Today we release part four of TV Cream Countdown: The 50 Greatest Doctor Who Moments. You might, should your browser allow, be able to listen to it above. Or you might prefer to download it from here (clocks in at 59meg). If you haven’t already, you could also subscribe. And this is our RSS feed

In this one we encounter the father of fandom, arrive on the planet Shepherd’s Bush, wonder if your wife has come back from her sister’s yet and find out what happens when Doctor Who sings.

As per Episode OneEpisode Two and – well – Episode Three, you can also access the various bits on Soundcloud right here, or below. Tweet any bits you like.

As per a previous ep, one of the bits didn’t make it onto Soundcloud, so we’ve replaced it with a fresh cut. But if you want to hear what you’re missing, click this.

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The 30-21 Greatest Doctor Who Moments

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"You will be the next... to hear this instalment"

Part three of TV Cream Countdown: The 50 Greatest Doctor Who Moments is now available! If your browser is amenable, you can listen to it above or download from here (clocks in at 45meg)). Or subscribe. Or try our RSS feed

Features a guest appearance from Debbie Flint of BSB Doctor Who Weekend fame. Plus, the Master debate, a particularly stupid theory, Sylvester McCoy saying “bollocks” and the rare photo of the Rill!

As per Episode One and Episode Two we’ve bit bits up onto Soundcloud for your downloading and sharing pleasure, which you can access here, or below. Tweet any bits you like.

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The 40-31 Greatest Doctor Who Moments

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"Lll-a-llll-a-lllll!"

And so, part two of TV Cream Countdown: The 50 Greatest Doctor Who Moments, which you can listen to above (if your browser lets you) or download from here (that’s about 50 meg you’ll be shifting). Or subscribe. Oh, and this is our RSS feed

This time around one of the Jamie McCrimmons joins in the fun, we take a journey to an altogether more far-flung shore, examine premature male pattern baldness, an oscilloscope and a frockcoat, and remember the time the Doctor Who Appreciation Society blew it.

As per Episode One, we’ve also popped bits up onto Soundcloud for your downloading and sharing pleasure, which you can access here, or below. Feel free to tweet any bits you like. We should add, though, that due to copyright reasons, two chunks are not included in the playlist. But you can hear them, well, here. They are numbers 36 and 34.

We’ve instead included two extra, additional bits, to plug those Soundcloud gaps below. Collect them all!

Our thanks go to voice heroes Jonathon Carley and Dom O’Shea.

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The 50-41 Greatest Doctor Who Moments

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"Peoples of the universe please attend..."

Peoples of the universe, please attend! The podcast that follows is TV Cream Countdown: The 50 Greatest Doctor Who Moments!

This is the start of a five-part series, which will run daily from here till Friday. It’s a slightly misnamed podcast to be honest, as it’s more a miscellany of 50 things about Doctor Who; but whatever – it’s still a nifty tie-in for the programme’s golden jubilee.

In this first instalment, we countdown from 50 to 41. Includes the Cybermen, the crossover betwixt DW and 007, a living legend of Doctor Who podcasting and a symposium on Whovian impressions. Ahhh.

It weighs in at about 46 minutes and 50 meg. You can listen to it above (if your browser supports that kind of fun) or download from here.

Easiest thing, though, is to subscribe. And this is our RSS feed. Be aware, for technical reasons this is a different iTunes feed from the previous TV Cream podcast, so even if you were signed up to that, you’ll have to sign up to this. Sorry.

We’ve also popped bits up onto Soundcloud, which you can access here, or – again, browser permitting – below. Feel free to tweet any bits you like, download, share etc.

At least try listening to the Introduction – that gives you a good taste of the podcast to follow…

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Coming soon from TV Cream

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Peoples of the universe please attend: The above video is to flag up that next month, we’ll be launching our podcast series celebrating the five faces… erm, five decades of Doctor Who. It’ll be called TV Cream Countdown: The 50 Greatest Doctor Who Moments.

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56) “Blimey, that was original!”

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Pip Schofield vs Fruitbat, 27th October 1991

56-01 56-02
56-03 56-04
The great thing about Smash Hits was how democratic it was – certainly not just confined to teen fare, if you were in the charts you were in the magazine, and that spirit of openness continues when Ver Hits appeared on the telly in the shape of the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party. A major TV event in the day when pop was still strictly rationed on our screens, grebo trailblazers Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine don’t at first glance appear to be the most obvious choice of guests but they were in the charts and provided something of a contrast between New Kids of the Block and Chesney Hawkes (although late 1991, just after New Kids’ pomp and before the rise of Take That, offered up pretty thin gruel as far as teen idols went). That said, their political lyrics and distinctive fashion sense were likely to have baffled and bored much of the audience, until a spectacular climax. Such was the fast turnaround of acts on the show, all the bands were obliged to mime and the issues of live TV meant some were faded out early to allow the show to run to time. Jimbob and Fruitbat weren’t particularly impressed – and had also enjoyed some pre-show hospitality – so decided to indulge in some time-honoured rock posturing at the end by smashing up their equipment. Host Pip Schofield found that terribly amusing so made what seem pretty quick-witted pointed remarks about how the band were “pushing back the frontiers of music”. Fruitbat decided Pip was taking the piss a bit too much and launched himself at him. The framing of this moment is absolutely beautiful, Fruitbat coming from absolutely nowhere and taking the pair of them off screen, leading to a panicked director to immediately cut to a shot of nothing in particular, but ever the professional, Pip immediately dusts himself down, has a good chuckle and then continue s, albeit with half his Halloween-themed costume now on the floor. Apparently Carter were frogmarched from the venue and told they’d never appear live on the Beeb again, but Pip took it all in good part and posed for a photoshoot in the next issue of Ver Hits with a Fruitbat lookalike and a baseball bat, while a few million more people knew who Carter were and within a year they’d had a number one album. And rightly so, they were a great band.

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David Frost RIP: scrupulous gadabout genius

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The man and his people

FEW WENT ABOUT THE BUSINESS OF BEING FAMOUS as meticulously as David Frost. Even fewer managed to make it look so effortless.

From his debut on television in 1962 to his unofficial retirement in 2005, everything seemed so maddeningly playful. A whiff of insincerity, a sense that he wasn’t merely the sum of his parts but that his parts weren’t even his own, clung to him throughout his TV career.

Yet he virtually created the modern media industry, if not purposefully then through intimation. Both on and behind camera he revolutionised what was possible – and more importantly what was thought possible.

From the start it all seemed casually calculated: an attitude that won him as many apostles as brickbats right up to his death. The job fronting That Was The Week That Was came about partly because John Bird didn’t fancy it, but mostly because of a nice lunch between Frost and the show’s creator Ned Sherrin. Frost was inserted into a format 95% fully-realised. But he contrived to make the remaining 5% the most important bit of all: himself.

Seriously, they're doing a great jobChristopher Booker said Frost’s most obvious quality was “he simply wanted to be amazingly famous for being David Frost.” Yet away from the cackle and the hair, Frost turned in some remarkable work.

For example, there remains very little on television that has ever been as incisively critical as the sketch on home secretary Henry Brooke broadcast in the very last TW3 in December 1963.

Its effrontery is staggering. Brooke is paraphrased as being “the most hated man in Britain”; he is called a liar; Frost declares: “Your word, Henry, isn’t very eloquent, is it? Perhaps that’s why you so rarely bother to keep it”; and it ends with Willie Rushton as Brooke saying direct to camera: “It just shows, if you’re home secretary, you can get away with murder.”

Frost didn’t make TW3, but it made him. In turn he made a whole host of others if not quite as influential as he, then certainly as famous.

The casts and writers of TW3, its successor Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964-65), and the subsequent comedy series The Frost Report (1966-67) were the yeast in British TV entertainment of the 1960s. Frostie had the wherewithal, but also the intelligence, to fuel the rise – and to ensure he rose with them. The whole industry got shaken up.

Ubiquity became the trademark. For a time he was on television every night of the week: four in America, three in the UK. If you had the means, you could arrange to be out of the country whenever he was in. If not, he was there to shoo you to bed with an increasingly cosy turn each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Now he was playing television like a captain of trade. He owned the commanding heights and became the champagne commissar of ITV, pulling levers and spinning dials and concocting five-year plans. The industry got shaken up all over again.

And still he couldn’t really do presenting. The topical gags at the start of each edition of Frost on Sunday (1969-72) triumphed in spite of their delivery. Frost would appear, his grin and tie perfectly in place, gripping a clipboard a little too tightly, armed with zingers penned by Dick Vosburgh and Neil Shand about statutory incomes policies or the Common Market, only to plunge through proceedings with the same demeanour as a Wile E Coyote plunging down a ravine.

Selfridges presentsDid it matter? Not a jot. It never mattered. The material made the man, not the other way around. If the material ever ran out, so did he.

The best moments in Frost’s interviews came when the scripted questions led into chit-chat, combative and wispy. It was here that he let his knowledge of both medium and message inform his interrogation rather than dominate it.

The jousts with Nixon and Kissinger would not have so wrongfooted their subjects had the host not been so lightfooted in his prosecution.

The showdown with the Yippies would not have worked in any other setting than a studio, where Frost could nail so perfectly his cluster of undignified dopes by informing them: “Laughing childishly when you manage to say a four-letter word on television? Big deal.”

When he told Emil Savundra that he had “either to be stupid or dishonest – which?” it was a question Frost could only have asked on live TV with a garrulous audience egging him on and a larger one at home hanging on his every word. “Well done Frostie!” the studio cried as, shuddering with rage, he strode off set as the credits rolled, surely knowing that such a denouement would have just as much impact as the cross-examination it concluded.

The language of television that Frost helped to write was easy to mock at the time, but only in the way anything unfamiliar is lampooned in order to make it more palatable. The parodies came quickly too, with former proteges leading the charge.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus spoofed Frost with the kind of barbed wit based on first-hand experience. But listen to the hoots of laughter and applause from the audience as they realise who Eric Idle is impersonating. This is no elite in-joke. Everyone is in on the gag – and it’s only 1970, not even 10 years into the Frost supremacy.

Setting some hares running“David came over here and fooled everybody for a while,” said Johnny Carson. “They thought he was an entertainer – and then they got on to him.”

Frost’s strutting around the planet in the 70s stretched the elasticity of his act until it was nearly transparent. Those who wanted to could look right through. Others marvelled at how he kept it all together.

The scrupulous gadabout was once again shaking up the industry, this time on a global level. He funded and filmed the Nixon interviews independently, raising an imperial two fingers at the US networks. He then sold the tapes to whoever was interested, being sure to keep hold of the rights. And still the money bubbled in.

There was no science to any of this. The one time Frost tried to dabble with the elements with was when he promised “sexual chemistry” at TV-am. That particular farrago was one from which he managed to emerge with his status and bank balance reasonably intact.

But from now on a different kind of Frostie flitted through the ether. All the rough edges had been chipped off. Where once he sashayed, now he shuffled.

Come the 1980s, all most of us saw of him was an hour or so on a Sunday morning, and the occasional Guinness Book of Records special on a bank holiday. He was still only in his 40s, but like Keith Richards and the Queen he suddenly seemed to age 30 years in the space of three.

Then, as if to prove such cheap observation wrong in as public a manner possible, he had one last go at shaking things up. Except this time, he over-reached himself in spectacular fashion.

“Richard Branson and I have always cherished a desire to work together,” Frost said when trying to explain the reason for their joint attempt to win yet another slice of ITV in 1991. The bids were stuffed with ponderous quotations from ancient philosophers. Money splashed about the place, with £45m being pencilled for London, £22m for the south and £10m for East Anglia.

Yet it wasn’t the cash that scuppered the project. All three bids failed the meet the regulators’ “quality threshold”. In other words, they were rubbish. With proposals including “Sunstroke, set in a ClubMed-style resort”, an adaptation of Jeffrey Archer’s Beyond Reasonable Doubt and 60 minutes of local news a night, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was unusual to see Frostie fail. Twice, in fact, for the same process saw TV-am lose the breakfast franchise.

Major disasterA berth on the BBC completed his journey from industry ignition to brake.

Breakfast with Frost was where things simmered down, not kicked off. It was sofa, so good. The drowsy atmosphere sometimes lulled politicians into indiscreet outbursts. This was the exception, however. The programme was an anachronism from the start: a 1950s colonial-drinks-lounge supposedly at the spearhead of a 1990s mission-to-explain Birtist BBC.

It did change over time, but only to become more cumbersome, fussy, peculiar. After the final show in 2005, the continuity announced proclaimed it to be “the end of an era”. Whichever era it was, it was the wrong one.

For what will David Frost be most remembered? Almost certainly the shop-window stuff: the chinwags with potentates, the tete-a-tetes in presidential parlours, the way he made satire look glamorous and sexy rather than starchy and sad.

But he also deserves to be cherished for his appreciation of how television works, what makes it great, and how it can confer greatness upon others.

He created the template for the modern media mogul. He showed that you can be on TV and run TV at the same time.

Above all he understood what countless others failed and still fail to realise: that it’s not what to be on television that matters, it’s how.

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The Creamup Summer Special 2013

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The Creamup Summer Special 2013

It’s fun-in-the-sun time as our sometime ‘emag’ returns to brighten up the last few weeks of summer!

Subscribers to our weekly Creamguide email have already been notified of Creamup’s return, but now it’s your turn, common-or-garden TV Cream reader, to download the rays! It’s 24 pages of pop lists and nothing but (well, except for the front and back cover) and comes in PDF form.

A mighty 20.1mb, you can download it right here.

NB The PDF can look screwy in some browsers (Firefox for one) so best download it and then open it in whatever PDF-reading application you have.

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Great news for all readers!

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La la la la la TV Cream!

Hi pals!

Ever wondered what TV Cream would have looked like if it had been published in the 1970s as a weekly comic? Of course you have, right? Well, courtesy of yet another old abandoned TVC pet project, you can now find out!

Click on the cover below to download our six-page supplement in smashing PDF format! (Just 820k!). But don’t place a regular order with your newsagent.

tvc1978-1

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The Seven Cs of Wry

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The other mighty titan and his troubadors, yesterday
What happened to the comedy song? We don’t mean the two-a-penny pop parodies that ailing sketch shows knock out with dreary regularity, but the fully-paid-up, bowtie-wearing, whimsical ditty slotted into That’s Life! or a great big national event special. As a craft it was unfairly maligned even while it was still a going concern, and now it’s all but died out in the mainstream, we think a reappraisal is long overdue. So come with us, as we challenge the mighty titan (Miles Kington) and his troubadours (Instant Sunshine), and with a smile, we’ll take you to… THE SEVEN Cs OF WRY

1. CLEVERNESS

As Pete Baikie pointed out, whatever the ostensible subject of a wry comedy song, the overarching message is, more often than not, a slightly self-satisfied “Clever/I’m very clever!” on the part of the singer-songwriter. Composing whimsical ditties on scientific subjects was a good wheeze for Tom Lehrer (The Elements) and Flanders and Swann (The First and Second Law of Thermodynamics – “Oh, I’m hot!/That’s because you’ve been working!/Oh, Beatles, nothing!”) to playfully show off their intellects. Stilgoe, of course, on top of his anagrammatic expertise, was a hire-a-wit par excellence, often called upon to compose an on-the-spot ode at major events, none more notable than his break-neck summary of Decision ’79, The Man Who Voted Don’t Know in the Election, a rhyming catalogue of the night’s gains and losses (“Commander Boaks got twenty votes/There were more for Hatters-ley/And Tam Dalyell did awfully well/So he can’t blame that on me!”) after which Sue Lawley marvelled “I don’t know how he manages to get his tongue round it!”

2. COMMENT

Well, you’ve got to earn a living, and what better way of keeping your oar in the public’s boat race than scoring a nice, airplay- garnering topical tune or two? It’s a grand tradition, from Flanders and Swann (“There’s a hole in my budget, dear Harold, dear Harold…”) through Cy Grant and Lance Percival’s topical calypsos for Tonight and TW3, to that man Stilgoe again. From musical musings on politics and consumer affairs on Nationwide to his own “musical satire without the nasty bits” series And Now the Good News (sample song/sketch – The Stilg as Natural History Museum attendant sings a tearful goodbye to the Tyrannosaurus skeleton – represented by a Dr Who and the Loch Ness Monster-style blue-screened glove puppet – due to be moved into storage). He even dipped a tentative toe into post- modern media analysis in the famed ‘Wide slot where he itemised the foibles of the various regions’ political interviewers, who, arranged on a bank of monitors, joined in live with their collective catchphrase – I’ll Have to Stop You There (“But Stuart Hall in Manchester, he gets the whole thing wrong/He just says “Shut up minister, you’ve gone on far too long!”)

3. CIRCUMLOCUTION

It’s a golden rule – never use one syllable where ten will do. The very presence in a wry song of the sort of vocabulary usually given a wide berth by ‘proper’ songwriters provides – or at least ought to provide – a chuckle or two, so bizarre linguistic constructions abound. This may help contrive a tricky rhyme (Stilgoe’s Towels – “The Americans made explorations lunar/And they prayed the Russians wouldn’t get there sooner”), or create comic confusion (First and Second Law – “That you can’t pass heat from the cooler to the hotter/Try it if you like but you far better notter/’Cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a ruler/’Cos the hotter body’s heat will pass to the cooler”). But mostly it’s just the love of language for its own sake. Jake Thackray liberally anointed his earthy tunes with this sort of vocal relish (“Country bus, north country bus/Clumsy and cumbersome, rumbustious…”) and knew just when to drop the right word in for comic effect (a copulatory description in the excellent On Again, On Again – “Not even stopping while we go hammer and tongs towards the peak/Except maybe for a sigh and a groan and one perfunctory shriek”). Now, that’s verbal engineering of Kingdom Brunel proportions. Where’s Thackray’s Revolution in the Head, then?

4. CHEEK

Since George Formby elbowed Frank Randle out of the limelight and shoved his little banjulele in the nation’s chops, the cheeky chappie persona has been a staple of that sector of the whimsical song contingent that doesn’t hail from within the M25 or have access to a piano stool. Formby begat, by some tortuous conjugal process, Doc Cox, but never mind him, Mike Harding’s our main candidate for this category. Stripy, stripy blazer, funny face, funny face, big glasses. And, unlike Simon Fanshawe, some laughs into the bargain. OK, haunted curry house humour like the accordion-backed Ghost of the Cafe Gunga Din may not cause the shade of Noel Coward much concern, but sheer jauntiness makes up for the comparative lack of sophistication. And when he delivers the line about King’s Cross’s “street of a thousand norks” in Aussie expat picaresque She’ll Be Right, Mate… well, you’ll have to trust us that it’s with the ultimate “ooh, crikey!” expression all over his silly old face. Moving up the taste ladder, the sainted Jake Thackray wasn’t above some superbly stylish sauce. Sister Josephine detailed the life of a big burly crim hiding out in a convent (“Oh, Sister Josephine/Founder of the convent pontoon team/They’re looking through your bundles of rare magazines…”) while North Country Bus was sung with a crafty emphasis on, well, certain syllables. And Bantam Cock is a great album title. And lest we give the impression this is a purely male ballpark, there were also Fascinating Aida (and, er, Hinge and Brackett) and of course Victoria Wood, whose “beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly!” shtick may have been dulled by over-familiarity, but still, we love it.

5. CONSERVATISM

With a small “c”, we hasten to add. While Stilgoe visibly grinned when crooning of Callaghan’s defeat, he also trilled with some relish – “One more thing to add – what was it?/Oh, the National Front lost its deposit”. Then again, any hoary old observational cliché was grist to his mill – Towels was a tower of fancy built on the ancient made-up phenomenon of Germans colonising sun-loungers, which he was still doing in the late ’80s. Similarly, a wistful air of longing for a more innocent past informed Richard Digance’s infamous Spangle-mentioning verse list of lost ephemera. And with its roots in folk and/or Noel Coward’s tinklings, the musical accompaniment of choice for all our acts is unashamedly old hat. We’ve no idea why this should be the rule, but there it is. However, if anyone knows of a whimsical Trotskyite songwriter who had a stint on The Braden Beat or some such, do let us know.

6. CLOSE HARMONY

We never understood why The Simpsons writers thought the idea of a wave of topical barbershop quartets in the late ’80s was so hilarious. Over here we’d already had over a decade of Instant Sunshine, the medically-qualified purveyors of harmonious sideways looks. Even solo performers managed to double up via studio trickery. Peter Skellern’s wry lovelorn paeans often found him accompanying himself on the multitrack in a twenties crooner style, none more liltingly than on his Me and My Girl theme. But top of the tree is, yet again, Stilgoe, for his superlative performance of Statutory Right of Entry to Your Home, a song composed in honour of a Nationwide consumer unit viewer who enquired after which authorities possessed the titular trespass entitlement. Not only did Dickie act out the part of his astonished self returning home from work to find his domicile infiltrated by an ever-increasing mob of state-sponsored snoopers, he used the wonders of colour separation to impersonate each of the unwelcome governmental gatecrashers (the Customs and Excise clerk, for instance – “Where’ve you stashed the stolen jewels?/Do you take us all for fools?” – was appropriately rendered in piratical cod Cornish). Truly, this was the apotheosis of the genre. And all to placate some miserable old sod who objected to his gas meter being read. That’s value for money!

7. CONVIVIALITY.

Whether in concert, in the Nationwide studio or (in Instant Sunshine’s case) on the hard shoulder of the M1, it’s the mirthful minstrel’s job to inject an atmosphere of classy bonhomie, as if a well-appointed cocktail party or cabaret evening were just getting underway. The ironic donning of the dinner jacket (The Sunshine, Stilgoe), the bowtie (Stilgoe again) or the straw boater (Sunshine, Mike Harding) was the first step. Second, jolly musical syncopation – the chirpily-strummed banjo, the hoppity squeezebox refrain, the bouncy “ba-dum-bum-bum” of The Sunshine’s double bass. Or a bit of dainty ivory tinkling, utilising the full range of the keyboard for comic effect, punctuating the gaps between each jokey line while the audience takes it in with a brisk plonk-plink, and of course, augmenting the final punch line with a showy glissando up the keyboard, ending with the right hand pertly raised above the head in a fey lampoon of the concert virtuoso. Thirdly, the vocal delivery should feel free to waver in between ‘proper’ singing and, when the comedic moment arises, a sort of staccato spoken delivery accompanied by a sly twinkle in the eye. In fact, Keith Michell went the whole hog and delivered the Captain Beaky songs – surely the very definition of whimsy – entirely in this manner, archly twisting his tongue round that final line about “a flying um-ba-rella” while the brass band backing came to a respectful halt. That’s the classic whimsical song payoff – never knowingly undersold.

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The Official Doctor Who Fan Club returns

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Oh yes!
Last year we waxed unusually lyrically about Keith Miller’s super book The Official Doctor Who Fan Club – possibly the best ever tome written about the children’s own series that adults maintain isn’t. Plus, it’s never had two up it.

Well, here’s some very welcome news, as Keith’s dropped us a line to say that Volume Two: The Tom Baker Years will soon be available to buy. As Keith says: “This is the second in a two volume set which features set reports from Carnival of Monsters, The Three Doctors, Planet of the Spiders, Genesis of the Daleks, Terror of the Zygons and Masque of Mandragora, with a full set of the very first Doctor Who fanzine, and facsimilies of the actual letters between the stars and production team of the show.”

Plus, it’s got a cover designed by Clayton Hickman!

Keith’s supplied us with two exclusive previews, see below. In return, we feel duty-bound to do this: Price: £16.99, published May 2013 – more details and orders at www.odwfc.com.

CLICK TO READ!

"Problem child, eh?""Can you imagine silver leaves waving above a pool of liquid gold?"

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U-turn (off) if you want to: 10 TV shows that summed up Thatcher

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The ladie's not for tuning (in properly)

Her favourite programmes were Miss Marple, anything with Paul Daniels, and the Fairy Liquid adverts. Oh, and this. But that was about it. By all accounts television did not loom large in the world of Margaret Hilda Thatcher. But she loomed large in television. She inspired, diluted, bisected, mystified, enraged, enraptured and cocooned it.

An awful lot of television tried to bait or decry her, utterly misunderstanding that such responses only made her stronger. Wiser heads reduced her to the equivalence of a coat hanger. Other shows absorbed and reflected wisps of Mrs Thatcher: her personality, her obsessions, even her attitude. It’s those shows we’re concerned with here: the ones that summed up Mrs Thatcher without necessarily being about her, or even mentioning her. She probably didn’t know any of the following TV programmes existed (including the one in which she appeared). But she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

10. Think It… Do It

You could tell something was a bit up with the world whenever Johnny Ball lowered his voice. Serious stuff was about to happen. He was going to tell us about real life. And in Think It… Do It, he was going to tell us about JOBS. Because there weren’t that many in the 1980s any more, or so Professor Phil Redmond wanted you to think, and so it was up to us, together with the good folk at Manpower Services with their Youth Training Schemes, to get off our arses. Had we thought about the financial sector? What about information technology? Look at this film about a day in the life of an apprentice in a processing laboratory. Come on, Mrs Thatcher once did experiments with ice cream, y’know!

"You've done it again, Lovejoy!"9. Lovejoy

Anyone could make it in the 80s. You just needed the right sartorial signature (jacket and jeans for him, tarpaulin-sized blouson for her), a shady past, a way with words, contacts including a dandied loon and hapless klutz, and a nemesis in the shape of Those Ghastly Men On The Town Planning Council.

There was always money to be found in the land of Lovejoy, where toffs and tearaways rubbed shoulders in the pursuit of wealth, and interest rates were as flat as the Norfolk Broads. This was a world where the sun never set before somewhere a little old lady had been persuaded to divest of a bit of her portfolio. “Well Maggie, it seems you were right all along!”

8. 4 What It’s Worth

Thanks to Nationwide, shoppers became “consumers” just in time for the biggest stock-keeper of them all to trip into Downing Street. But now that we were consumers, we also had Rights. And we had to know them, in order to work our the best deals for ourselves, rather than merely relying on a bit of cardboard announcing “2p off” a pack of United chocolate bars. Watchdog took care of the big stuff with its big exposes and big novelty cheques. 4 What It’s Worth did everything else: dodgy second-hand car dealers, the best buys of blended whiskies, and how to fill in a form to buy British Gas shares. All the bits of Thatcherism that got under your fingernails, basically.

From head to foot-se7. Business Daily

Launched with a big bang just one month before the big crash, here the fag-end of the Thatcher decade was tallied, bartered and flogged. Achingly public service from Channel 4, in that it didn’t really serve anybody, especially the public, it glowered at you at lunchtimes and, from 1989, breakfast times too. “From head to foot-se.” HAHAHAHA!

Still, many of us unwittingly absorbed, osmosis-like, a fleeting awareness of such things as PEPs and TESSAs from this and its later tea-and-toast rival, BBC Business Breakfast. Remit-fulfilling roughage at its rawest.

6. See For Yourself

A gigantic, cross-Corporation, “well, if you MUST” exercise that marked the culmination of the Beeb’s decade-long do-si-do with No 10. Once a year Sue Lawley let us peek inside Auntie’s innards and have a good poke about, being sure to remind us that the sofa from the 1988 Olympics was now being used on Jim’ll Fix It, while Esther Rantzen’s frocks were the same ones she’d been sashaying in since 1972. It was oh so important to know the cost of everything, you see. Is 16p a day really too much to ask?

Martin in the middle (management)5. The Krypton Factor

Your indispensable introduction to that most pre-eminent of 1980s breeds: middle management. For most of us, this was the first time we’d heard of, let alone seen, people who called themselves a “sales specialist” or “property consultant”.

And the fact this was happening while they competed against each other in the most dazzlingly competitive competitions in which it was possible to compete, popped the Krypton Factor into a Thatcher-esque hole (“a multi-dimensional hole made from perspex building blocks,” whispers Gordon Burns) from which it’s never really emerged.

Hawk? Aye!4. The Interceptor

More middle management types, this time strutting around England (never the UK) in primary coloured-jumpsuits trying to stop an evil meddler from getting his hands on their cash.

Everyone could see what all this really meant. Yes: Annabel Croft was poor substitute for Anneka Rice while the bloke in the giant coat who screamed like a hawk was a knob. But oh, didn’t those aerial shots look lovely? The countryside was so much NICER then.

3. Press Gang

Before Thatcher, kids spent their free time befriending urchins who lived on shitheaps, pretending they were still fighting the war, or living on a double-decker bus. After a decade of Thatcher, kids wanted to spend their free time WORKING. Preferably for MONEY. The fact they seemed to have such a wise-cracking, sensitively-lit, heart-fluttering time doing it just made it all the more impossibly attractive. Here was our very own junior Margaret and Willie.

Great Scott!2. The Clothes Show

Take one of the nation’s most famous female faces: trend-setter, tabloid darling, opinion former and style icon. Then ignore her and hire Selina Scott instead.

Still, at least Sarah Greene outran both Selina and Maggie. Plus she did that Clothes Show knock-off for a bit, Posh Frocks and New Trousers, which would probably count as even MORE of a Thatcher-era-defining effort were it not itself a knock-off of Frocks on The Box (look: the very first shot is champagne corks popping!). Plus the theme tune isn’t a patch on In The Night. But then what is?

1. Saturday Superstore

For positively the finest snapshot of absolutely everything to do with the Thatcher era, clear a three-hour-and-15-minute gap in your Saturday morning and watch an entire edition of this: a shambling, shimmering, shouty shop window of a show, thrown open for business once a week by the Captain Peacock of mid-80s morning entertainment, Mike Read.

What have we done to deserve this?Gone was the shabby, oh-so-70s, make-do-and-mend, dowdy idea of “swapping” one thing for another. This was a Store, not a Shop. Moreover, a SUPERstore. And Mike was your “store manager”, one part Norman St John Stevas, one part Ken Masters.

This was an over-lit, over-stuffed and overdone stew of a programme, but you lapped it up, because everyone important was on it, and it looked like they were having the best of times. Yes, even Maggie herself, and there was no finer stamp of approval than that.

In a Completely Unconnected and Coincidental Fact, Mrs Thatcher’s most pervasive, not-for-turning era spanned precisely the same years as Saturday Superstore. Presumably she sent Mike a Gyngell-style letter of commiseration when he got dumped for Going Live.

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Logopolis! The greatest ever TV logos

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"So we need something for Keith Chegwin - commonly known as 'Cheggers' - new game show which, as I understand it from Edward, will have a kind of popular music theme."

Above, an exclusive still from the actual creation of the Cheggers Plays Pop emblem. Arguably the finest TV logo ever created. It just is. But which other programme-ushering-in wodges of typography are fit to touch its sequined hem? Glad you asked, as we’ve prepared a bit of a list…

Marion, get your hit records out!Pebble Mill at 1

A happy sign for millions that you’d successfully wangled a sick day off school, the imperious Pebble Mill at 1 logo takes the cursive style of the show’s original 1972 caption card for a veritable spin! Look how the loop of the capital P winds around itself, connoting the dizzying smorgasbord of light chat, ecclesiastical cookery, grumpy gardening and stick-mic pop music it’s about to usher in.

"Mr Policeman, see if you can ram your bicycle into that freaky youngster standing on the edge of the wharf!"The Tomorrow People

Although Thames TV’s boys-in-pants sci-fi series most often played out as farce, it was blessed with a stentorian title caption that alluded to a harsh, futuristic world, but without resorting to the Data Seventy font. And the way it used to ‘split’ at the start of each episode somehow captured the TPs’ habit of legging it… for a bit, before then ‘jaunting’, only to leave a bicycling copper to (chortle!) career headlong off that jetty! So good, Marvel comics lifted it in full some decades later.

"Phwoar! Looking at that smashing lady walking through Covent Garden... hold on, aren't I supposed to be juggling right now? Lor!"Gems

C’mon! Look at that! A perfect fusion of 1980s design, playing with that era’s twin obsessions for pastel colours and floaty shapes. It also perfectly evoked the essence of this shortlived daytime soap – it’s flighty, it’s informal and it’s about sewing, you dummy! We like to think even now ‘breakout star’ Tony Slattery still owns a stonewashed denim jacket with that logo stitched onto the back.

George & MildredHis and her's

A title-case that pays due respect to its Man About the House lineage, plus there’s a rare subtlety that perhaps isn’t always present in the show, with the ‘M’ slightly domineering the ‘G’. The fusion of those fancy caps with a rather more proletariat typeface is also pleasing – yes, there’ll be some fun here, but it will be straightforward, not-too-fancy fun!

 "...from the BBC!"The Six O’Clock News

While Martin Lewis lay in wait behind a beige-y, mixed case font at lunchtimes, Sue and Nick were ushered onto screen via this slab of a logo, seemingly chiseled from a plutonium brick. This is how we want our news! Bold and with beveled edges!

"And in a few minutes - log rolling from Vancouver!"World of Sport

It’s the bravura logo Department S was too timid to do! So confident, a single letter – a single letter on a banner – suffices. That was Dickie Davies, Fred Dinenage and Kendo Nagasaki flying those planes, by the way.

"Death on Delos!"Captain Zep – Space Detective

Stay Alert! For unexpected restraint in TV titling! In a show that features Roger Dean-style fantasy art and a New Wave theme tune, the graphic designer could have been forgiven for reaching for the neon tubing. But instead we get this. And look, also, how it sits left of centre. So understated. Another winning case for the SOLVE (Simple Onscreen Letters Very nicely Executed) academy.

"Back to Desmond in the studio"Sixty Minutes

So the Sixty Minutes Rubik’s Snake gets a nod, but the Nationwide mandala is nowhere to be seen? Yes – deal with it! As a simple spot of branding, you have to admit, this is rather effective. All ruined, of course, when you cross-fade to Desmond Wilcox.

Kick it up the arse! The Old Grey Whistle Test

Or how to taken an unpromising programme name and, with the selection of just the right font (plus, let’s be honest, that harmonica doesn’t hurt), give it a kick up the arse. Much like that man does to that star.

 visionthumbVision On

Pat Keysell! Tony Hart! Wilf Lunn! Sylvester McCoy! Of course! Tony Hart’s finest hour, and, yes, we’re aware of his work on the Blue Peter badge. The mind genuinely boggles at the thought process that led to the programme’s name becoming an eyes-a-popping grasshopper/frog fusion. Or whatever that thing is.

The fonts of all wince-dom

A word in passing for a few or our perennial least-favourite logos. Such as the Doctor Who ones the show has sported since it came back to telly. Both the taxi cab version and the current effort erroneously market the programme as being the Carpet Right of the sci-fi world. Then there’s this iteration of The Golden Shot, which – much as we love the show – feels like it’s trying to capture the essence of a migraine. Meanwhile, when sans serif and serif fonts met it was moiider! Virtual Murder, in fact. The Open Air title card is a classic case of one that’s working too hard (so, right, we’ll put TV-type lines across the ‘Air’, have that three-coloured thing that somehow means telly, put it against television static…), while The Time The Place just seem like two competing shows. Bagsy we’re ‘The Time’ and you’re ‘The Place!’ Worst of all, though, the revamped 3-2-1 logo. Oh Dusty! Look at you now!

NB. We’re also announcing a ban on all lower-case only logos, and any that appear on screen with the letters gradually drifting apart.

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B’Bye Television Centre

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A short video we made. Sniff…

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Bob Godfrey, 1921-2013

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Goodnight, Bob
It’s been a terrible week. We’ve lost Richard Briers, Derek Batey… and now, we hear, Bob Godfrey, godfather of the lovely wobbly, egalitarian animation style that made Roobarb, Noah and Nelly, Henry’s Cat et al so brilliant. And possessor of TV’s friendliest voice.

Below is a documentary from 1971, showing the great man at work…

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Richard Briers, 1934-2013

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Richard Briers, RIP

The great Richard Briers has passed away at the age of 79.

Eight years ago (give or take) we were lucky enough to chat to him about bringing back Roobarb for Channel 5′s Roobarb and Custard Too. Here’s some of the things he had to say…

ON VOICEOVER WORK: Oh yes – it pays well and it’s very quick. I love it. I’ll voice anything – I always have. Well, as long as it wasn’t something horrible. You have to be a bit careful. If your image is of somebody who’s amusing and all your shows are clean, you’ve got to be a little bit careful. I always get the scripts to look at, and if they’re tasteless or there’s bad language in it, then I can’t do it.

BEING A PART OF CHILDREN’S TV AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: I’m sort of an Uncle Mac. Uncle Dick! [Laughs] I love doing kids’ stuff, always have done. I’ve recently done Big Toe Little Toe on Radio 7. Reading kids’ stories for them. So I’m still doing all that kids’ stuff, which is nice – I’ve always liked doing it.

THINGS YOU’D REVISIT: Oh no, no, I wouldn’t revisit something like The Good Life – that’s them done and dusted.

WINDING DOWN HIS CAREER: Short jobs. This is the thing now. I’ve stopped touring and I’ve stopped West End plays so I’m not locked in. It means I can do work two days a week. Great. That keeps the business ticking over, really. Until I fall down I shall keeping doing something. And, of course, sound work is lovely, because you haven’t got the stress of not remembering your lines and things like that. They’re nice jobs to have.

HIS GIFT FOR COMEDY: It’s an instinctive thing. It’s a lovely gift, like any gift. It’s mainly… it’s a very narrow gift. I’m very, very, very good at reacting. In Ever Decreasing Circles with Peter Egan it was a good double-act. He’s good-looking and very tall, and I’m playing a ratty little man. The reactions of this very super sensitive little man against this… he sent me up rotten, and I didn’t know or understand – and that makes me laugh. I think my strength is reacting to somebody else.

WORKING ACROSS COMEDY AND DRAMA: I was always in rep, when I first started, I was always a ‘useful’ actor, playing 70-year-olds or something – and I’m now 70 – and I’d do croaky little voices and things like that. Always did the voices. So I was called a very ‘useful’ actor because I could do very different parts. And I kept that going, really. I thought, ‘Well, how far can I get?’ Not in terms of success that way, but in width. Expanding ones talents. And Ken Branagh arrived by miracle and, you know, I ended up going around the world playing King Lear for God’s sake. It nearly killed me. But, from Roobarb to Lear is a lovely range, you can’t say I’m insular. The good thing about Roobarb is I haven’t got to grow a beard for it, which is fine.

BEING STUCK IN COMEDY AFTER THE GOOD LIFE: I was stuck as a comedy man. The boys who wrote The Good Life wrote Ever Decreasing and gave me a character part, which was brilliant. Because with Tom Good I had to use my own personality for him, but Martin was a wonderful character – I never got typecast. Very lucky. Ever Decreasing Circles seems to be slightly overshadowed by The Good Life. They won’t put it on – I don’t know why they never put it on. There’s almost too many repeats of The Good Life, in a funny way. However good a show is, you can have too much of it. But they don’t seem to put Circles on. They put it out sometime in the afternoon about five or six years ago. That was all. Because it’s a very funny show. And a lovely team.

MARTIN BRYCE: He was a very irritating man. [Laughs] Maybe that’s it! Maybe that’s why they don’t put it on anymore – they can’t stand the little bastard. I find him very amusing, and of course it was nice to play somebody who wasn’t me – or parts of me. So that was good and, as I say, Penelope Wilton, Peter Egan and the neighbours. It was a very strong first 11 team that one. Well, The Good Life was a wonderful team as well. It’s all team shows, not just one person.

THEATRE: I’m not going to do anymore. Well, I might do a little tiny bit – I don’t know. I’ve been so lucky… But I’m 71, and I want to have fun. Why the hell do something which could frighten me to death, or I possibly couldn’t do? I just have a nice time.

LIVING IN CHISWICK: It’s too late to move now, really. All the children have grown-up there. You could swap a palace in Devon for a semi-detached in Chiswick, but then you’d go out of your mind, the bottles start coming out and then you’ve had it.

BEING MARRIED FOR OVER 40 YEARS: Well, you only hear about the planes that crash. A lot of people we’ve known for 40 years are still married. I think a lot of the problem is if you’re very, very good looking and you get into films and go off in a jet away from home. Then you’re with other people who are equally handsome or good-looking, and that’s the danger. Luckily I wasn’t good-looking and I never left home, so I was all right [laughs].

THE WORK HE’D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: Well, obviously there’s The Good Life , which will be remembered. I mean, the public hardly see you on the stage, only 2,000 people might catch you in the theatre, but there was 18 million for The Good Life. One of the best performances I ever gave was Malvolio in Twelfth Night, directed by Kenneth Branagh. And that’s been my sort of favourite part in the classics.

STILL BEING ASSOCIATED WITH TOM GOOD: I don’t mind. It was such a marvellous, successful show and it made the difference for the four of us. I mean, Paul Eddington died, but it made his life. He was quite broke and had three children and if he’d been an ordinary actor, he’d have been struggling for money. And that made him. Afterwards he got Yes Minister and so on. So that sort of thing you can’t measure in gratitude in a way. And we didn’t do that many. I think if you become entrapped in something then you’re thinking, ‘Oh, drat, I should have got out of that’. But on The Good Life, the writers said, after 30 shows, ‘Look we’re really sorry, we just can’t get any more ideas’. I said, ‘Look, I don’t want you to write when you don’t want to write’. The whole point was that they loved their material and they respected their talent. And out of 29 shows, you probably got 24 really good ones. If they’d gone on, down it goes. They always do. Nowadays, they make 75 shows and you think, ‘Oh dear, it’s a bit dangerous’.

AMBITIONS?: None. I think Roobarb and Custard to King Lear is a good range. I wouldn’t give it back.

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Win Sammy’s Super T-Shirt!

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"Oh what has happened to our Sammy?"
The Race Is OnTV Cream has joined forces again with its pals at the BFI to present another smashing giveaway!

To mark the release of DVD The Children’s Film Foundation Collection: The Race is On on 18 February (which compiles 1957′s Soapbox Derby, starring a fresh-faced Michael Crawford, 1967′s The Sky-Bike and – yes! – 1978′s Sammy’s Super T-Shirt), we’ve arranged a prize pack comprising the  DVD and, holy cow, a limited edition replica of Sammy’s lucky tiger t-shirt to be made available to three lucky TV Cream readers!

All you have to do is answer this question:

What’s the name of the ’70s and ’80s film-based quiz show for kids that often featured CFF footage in its observation round?

++UPDATE!++UPDATE!++UPDATE!++UPDATE!++UPDATE!++UPDATE!++UPDATE!

This competition is now closed. The answer, of course, was Screen Test. Our three lucky winners should expect an email from us imminently.

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We NEED more Bob!

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Our doors are always open to him

If you read Creamguide you’ll know that the current re-runs of Bob’s Full House on Challenge have ushered in  – to quote the man himself – “a period of great joy” for us. Alas, that might be about to change.

Thanks, @sherbertavenger. So, prompted by that, we dropped Challenge a line (already this is turning into an episode of That’s Life!). They said:

The next exchange then read…

So that’s the news. On 22nd March, Bob’s Full House moves to Friday nights. Tell all your friends to clickety-click their remotes and tune in to Bob en masse. We don’t want to leave the great man with droopy-draws ratings. And hopefully, if things pick up and they get a ‘lotto’ viewers, Challenge might buy series two…

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Tee-Vee Cream!

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To a tee!
Well, here’s a happy scene!

And it’s all because TV Cream has decided to launch a clothing line. Well, kind of.

Actually, what we have been doing is creating a load of t-shirt designs which you can now purchase through Red Bubble. (That explains the unwelcome Flash widget that’s appeared in the site’s sidebar, advertising not only our designs but also the work of Twitter sensation Steve Berry)

Below, you can find a sample of our wares (or, chortles, wears!), which include tributes to Record Breakers, Look and Read, Dr Who, Lymeswold cheese…

NB. Our Baldwin’s Casuals-style workplace is currently putting together a Glens, Hutchison, Robertson and Stepek t-shirt. But we’ll take requests!

Some of the range of exciting new TV Cream t-shirts!

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Alasdair Milne, 1930-2013

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He's resigned, and he's off home

 

A tribute to the former BBC director-general, who has died aged 82.

When the BBC board of governors were looking for a replacement for outgoing director-general Ian Trethowan in 1981, despite Alasdair Milne (as deputy director-general and managing director of television) being the obvious successor, they still went ahead and placed advertisements in the newspapers seeking “recommendations and applications”.

Intent on highlighting the absurdity of this situation, Bill Cotton went along for an interview, not to put himself forward for the role but solely to “recommend” Milne. The bemused governors eventually gave Milne the post he’d been tipped for ever since joining the Beeb in 1954, but their deliberations uncannily portended five years of unprecedented – and wholly unforeseen – turbulence that would ruin the man’s career.

Milne had shot up the BBC ladder, working to create TONIGHT, THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS and THE GREAT WAR before serving time as controller, Scotland and director of programmes, television. Neither a visionary in the mould of Hugh Carleton Greene, or a networker like his immediate predecessor Trethowan, as DG Milne inspired only qualified loyalty from his staff: a situation that evolved out of the man’s own enigmatic personality.

He addressed other colleagues as “Boy”, preferred settling awkward personnel issues over a glass of whisky, and had a very small, tight circle of friends. Michael Grade, as controller of BBC1 and director of programmes, was only invited to his office twice in three years – and one of those was to be interviewed for Milne’s job.

But Milne adored the BBC, and managed to build one of the best management teams the organisation had ever had, with figures such as Grade, Cotton and David Hatch heading up a team who’d spent up to four decades mastering their craft and serving the Corporation.

Trouble was looming, however, in the shape of an anti-BBC lobby more spiteful and sustained in its criticism than ever before, regardless of the fact the Beeb was delivering some of its finest drama, comedy, current affairs, children’s and factual output. When the machinery of BBC governance, very carefully and smoothly oiled by former DGs Charles Curran and Ian Trethowan, became unstuck, everything reached a head and relations between the governors and the Beeb’s management fell into pieces.

A sequence of controversies, mistakes, misjudgments and bad luck pock-marked Milne’s tenure as DG. Some were revisits to old ground trod by Trethowan (how to cover Northern Ireland), Hugh Carleton Greene (standards of morality) and even Reith himself (the point of the licence fee).

But others were unavoidably contemporary. A terrible catalogue of misfortune blighted the Corporation in the mid-’80s. In short, the governors, led from 1986 by the menacing Marmaduke Hussey, saw everything as being the fault of Milne personally, and became obsessed with contriving his departure.

In one sense Milne was responsible: he was the editor-in-chief, accountable for everything broadcast, transmitted and published in the BBC’s name. But a figurehead is not the same as a scapegoat. To ascribe Milne culpability for all the Beeb’s failures was as ludicrous as giving him sole credit for all its successes. When it came to the fight, however, Milne simply didn’t have the stamina to prolong his survival. His lifelong preference for negotiation and compromise over fortitude and aggression ultimately accelerated his own fate.

In the end Hussey and his deputy Joel Barnett virtually removed Milne themselves, collaring him after a board meeting on 29 January 1987 and, presenting themselves as “men of honour”, ordered him out, agreeing to dress the entire charade up as a resignation. A flummoxed Milne made no pretence of objecting, or of wishing to consult colleagues over the legitimacy of his dismissal.

This same passivity permeates Milne’s autobiography, where not only does he leave the circumstances surrounding his sacking to the very last few pages, but chooses to sum up the pivotal, dreadful confrontation with Hussey and Barnett in just five words (“What terrible people, I thought”).

By any measure, Milne’s exit was a tragedy. His successors worked hard to hasten his total expunging from the BBC’s history – a process the man, with typical perversity, seemed happy to encourage.

Disappearing into almost total obscurity, Milne takes to his grave the details of precisely what happened that day in January 1987.

His name, and work, was all-too quickly forgotten, but not just thanks to the passing of time: those forces who had chased him out of the BBC re-focused everyone’s attention away from Milne’s demise by perpetuating, not healing, the rancour. The Corporation is still dealing with the legacy of those events today.

Fundament, Al

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