One of those 1950s childhood artifacts that lingered on onto the 70s and beyond by sheer bloody force of will (see also: The Famous Five, Meccano, Jack Hargreaves), these little themed spot ‘n’ jot booklets covered the gamut of outdoor entities from birds to car registrations to the glamorous ‘on the pavement’, for eager spies to complete (no cheating now!) and send off to Big Chief I-Spy, Wigwam on the Green, Paddington. Yes, it was all very ‘delightfully un-PC they’ll be banning scotch eggs next’ if you really must bore the entire snug bar into oblivion, but let’s not let a tedious Jeremy Vine-style debate obscure that evocative, visceral thrill of… Er, looking at some things and then ticking a little box to say you’d seen them.
I is for…
This begrudgingly sickly yet alluring pudding feature enjoyed a window of mid-1980s ubiquity when any mum with a modicum of sense made sure a substantially-filled bottle was always ready in the cupboard. Ice Magic lived in a crappy plastic squirty pyramid at room temperature, but when applied over ice-cream turned from runny liquid to a rock-hard solid, forming – depending on the application – a wafer-thin veneer (for wimps) or a massive crust (for die-hard dessert denizens). The only problem was you had to wait fifteen minutes for the thing to harden, by which time you’d invariably excavated all the ice-cream and were left with a lump of chocolate you may as well have got from out the biscuit tin.
TV CREAM SAYS: CHEMISTRY IN DELICIOUS ACTION
The finishing touch to a million Sunday afternoon desserts, Ideal evaporated milk from Nestlé’s (pronounced ‘Nessles’, never ‘Ness-lay’) brought a dash of creamy richness to any bowl of jelly, fruit cocktail or peach segments. Evaporated milk etiquette demanded that one made a hole in the top of the blue can with a tin opener, before decanting it into a jug. Rivalry came in the shape of Ideal’s nemesis Carnation, prompting a Coke vs Pepsi-style battle of red and blue tins. In the 1980s, evap, as the connoisseurs called it, faced new challenges, not least from Nestlé’s own Tip Top, a Bernard Cribbins-impersonating concoction (‘Whoops-ooh, aren’t you looking slim, mum?’) and, fatally, from Anchor Cream in a can (‘You just go squirt! Squirt! Squirt!’). Sunday teatimes with Jim Bowen and the Man from Del Monte were never the same after that.
TV CREAM SAYS: DAVID JASON PICKED UP SOME EARLY WORK AS A VENTRILOQUIST'S DUMMY IN THE EARLY '70S ADS
Unapologetic graduates of the straw boater/starched spats school of wordplay and whimsy, scarce indeed was the light-hearted magazine programme of the 1970s and 1980s that didn’t call upon capricious ensemble Instant Sunshine to supply a full stop to a line-up of topical chat, consumer watchdoggery and cut-price cuisine. Erstwhile medical students Alan Maryon-Davis, David Barlow and Peter Christie had swapped their lab coats for blazers in the late 1960s, moving swiftly from college hops to the Edinburgh Fringe to cabaret supremacy. With Christie penning the tunes and new recruit Miles ‘Franglais’ Kington wielding double bass, the tantalising prospect of not one but four Richard Stilgoe’s waxing wry about everything from government subsidy (‘We’re awfully keen on the Arts’) to liturgical controversy (‘Who mowed the lawns of Eden?’) to package holidays (‘Los Peckham Ryos’) became a reality. They were covered by the King’s Singers. They were permanent fixtures in the grubby foyer of Pebble Mill at One. Their appeal spanned the ages from kids on Jackanory – semi-musical tales including ‘The Search for the Source of the M1’ – to remuneratively-challenged pensioners listening to Radio 4 (‘Financial review is long overdue/don’t let money stew – with profit in view/what you must do is tune to Money Box’). They were regulars on Robert Robinson’s Stop the Week for decades, slipped effortlessly between the world’s cocktail lounges and literary festivals, and outgunned and outpunned rival harmonisers Harvey and the Wallbangers ten to one. Side projects, including Alan’s stint climbing in and out of giant polystyrene capillaries on BBC1’s Bodymatters, failed to derail the ‘Sunshine’s state, though Miles eventually buggered off to do more newspaper columns about funny foreign accents. Thankfully they’re still going strong today, with David’s son Peter now on bass and the repertoire bolstered by ice-cube chinking winners like ‘Don’t tell the Abbot’, ‘Cucumber Sandwiches’ and ‘Conservation Conversation’. Scat’s the way to do it.
TV CREAM SAYS: IN BETWEEN 'ONCE UPON A TIME' AND 'HAPPILY EVER AFTER' THERE'S A TALE TO TELL...
Also-ran Atari console rival from the days when cartridge-based video games still seemed just about a really good idea. Small controversy was drummed up with ads taking the Big A head on, and claiming technical superiority. But, in classic VHS-Betamax style, the better man lost, thanks to a lacklustre roster of games including Fantastic Voyage knock-off Microsurgeon and Burgertime, wherein giant sausages chased a chef up and down ladders.