VERBOSE VOYAGES in a double-breasted suit. “Here, the streets of Bombay team with a multitudinous morass of sociological strata, the profligate penny-pinching panjandrums rubbing skyscraper-shoulder pads with rag-clothed ruffian roisters.” Began as a well-attired segment in the middle of the TONIGHT programme, wherein our hero flew off – via BOAC – to a former colony and chatted with natives on scratchy film with the sound dubbed on afterwards at Lime Grove. Obvious spin-off potential was too good to resist, however, and so the series proper was born, replete with fantastic titles featuring a giant jet aeroplane taxiing off a runway to reveal a massive WHICKER’S WORLD logo underneath. Episodes invariably revolved around Alan earnestly trying to make sense of some new counterculture or other (“they call themselves flower children, though from what I could see, few would want this kind of fauna decorating their back garden”) or jawing with a former dictator in cloth-backed chairs on the front lawn of an imperial villa, or riding in some glamorous means of transport with an equally glamorous starlet. Defected to Yorkshire TV in 1968 taking the brand name with him, ditto an increasingly fawning, alliterative-obsessed attitude to his eponymous planet. Filmed about a million boring jaunts to the Far East. Came back to the Beeb in the 1980s for spruced up theme (the one that went nah-nah-ner-nah, nah nah nah nah nah-ner ner, BANG BANG) and incorrect title sequence that showed an aeroplane taking off and Alan not on it. Series now branded with subtitles – Living With Uncle Sam, Living With Waltzing Matilda – implying the Whicker wanderer couldn’t be arsed to travel around much anymore. Famously knocked back AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, preferring AROUND WHICKER’S WORLD: THE ULTIMATE PACKAGE, a dreadful transglobal gander in the company of obnoxious zillionaires. Brand “rested” during much of the last 15 years, only to return in the form of Whicker’s War, featuring the old bugalugs revisiting his days as a journo in Italy in the 1940s. Further jaunts are promised, despite Alan now into his 80s. Britain’s finest export after The Beatles and the penny post.
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Despite wearing the worst jumper in television history and getting the names of at least four songs wrong, Bates impressed the producers enough a few weeks ago to be invited back here, and indeed invited back every few weeks for the next eight years. Still he’s not on much and if you’re a fan of uncharismatic bespectacled men who look a bit out of place, you’re in luck because we also get Rupert Holmes. In fact it’s a right eclectic mix because the whole show lasts a whopping 45 minutes – so well worth recording the late one – and as they scour the lower reaches of the charts to fill out the line-up there’s a debut for a very famous band indeed.
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