These days TOMMY BOYD seems to be forever turning up on fly-by-night internet radio “stations” to shout at people on the phone, but instead let’s remember his days as the friendly face of ITV children’s shows.
Tommy’s pre-telly career seems to have included a dizzying amount of jobs including dolphin trainer, football coach at a US summer camp, journalist and redcoat, which perhaps explains why he appeared to have a rather wider frame of residence than most kids telly hosts when he turned up on Magpie in 1977.
Although Magpie was officially not as good as Blue Peter, Tommy made a good team with Mick Robertson and Jenny Hanley, able to shift seamlessly between the serious and the silly.
He always appeared a bit more literate and opinionated than your average kids’ show host, as best seen on the Magpie DVD where he earnestly reviews the entries to their Christmas card competition.
Boyd was apparently most pissed off when it ended in 1980 and cites politics as the reason, and in recent years he’s always gone into bat for the show, saying how cool all their viewers were.
After that Tommy went on to be something of a kids’ TV Red Adair, being parachuted into The Saturday Show at the last minute when Big Daddy legged it and then taking over from Timmy Mallett on The Wide Awake Club.
That’s where we most remember him, where he proved highly adept at marshalling two hours of shakily-conceived live television.
Boyd was always able to get an interview out of anyone, even the most hungover and uncooperative of indie bands. He was clearly completely devoid of embarrassment, always happy to don a silly wig and put on a daft accent, but again he always seemed to have a life outside of kids’ telly and would regularly stick in several references to amuse the most grown-up viewers.
Boyd stuck with WAC through think and thin, including TV-am’s mammoth industrial dispute, and for a while was even producing the show, before he finally called it a day in 1990.
A year later he resurfaced as Children’s ITV’s linkman, where he illustrated plenty of enthusiasm and again a pleasingly thoughtful approach, talking sincerely about the messages in the programmes, but he seemed a bit old for it and sometimes came over as more embarrassing than entertaining.
That was about it for his telly career, apart from an aborted spell as Channel Five’s face of baseball – apparently packing it in after two weeks because he hated baseball, which you think he’d have mentioned before taking the job. He then became a familiar voice on the radio, although to be honest we find the kind of radio he does utterly unlistenable. Nevertheless, for a good decade or so Tommy was a consistently intelligent and likeable TV presenter who took kids telly seriously.
THE DEFINING ROLE: We’re going to opt for The Wide Awake Club, which from a modern perspective is a somewhat curious show with its tiny budget and some rather high-minded educational aspects, not least endless appearances by Prince Edward, but Boyd managed to hold it all together and ensured it all ran smoothly.