Pudding spree not enjoyed by all
Good evening, er, unless you’re reading this in the morning. In any case it’s another edition of the nation’s favourite pedantic semi-archive-based-unless-we’ve-got-some-sort-of-boring-interest listings guide, which as you’ll know lives at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unlike in recent weeks we’ve not got much to bill on Saturday but there’s some fascinating stuff for the rest of the week, so without further do, let’s dive in.
Saturday 17th March
18.30 Dad’s Army
First, though, confirmation that, as we’d more or less assumed last week, Challenge are not showing Lord Bob-fronted episodes of Family Fortunes on Saturday nights, they’re just more Les ones. So we hope you didn’t cancel any dates or anything. We can also confirm here and now that despite what it says, they’re also not showing Millsy-fronted episodes of Win Lose Or Draw, nor the Bake either. In fact it’s the unwelcome Liza Tarbuck late night incarnation. Even Darren Day episodes would have been better.
19.00 The Story of Light Entertainment
It’s comedians tonight, which reminds us we’ve yet to get a tribute to Frank Carson which, given his funeral got on the news, seems a bit remiss. Our favourite bit of Frank on the box, by the way, came on The Entertainers, that Theroux-esque series following around chicken-in-a-basket entertainers, where Frank showed up at Bernard Manning’s house, and the second Bernard opened the door, Frank shouted “Frank Carson, News at Ten, Sober!”, told five minutes of non-stop jokes to nobody in particular and then shouted “Frank Carson, News at Ten, Sober!” again. There’ll never be another.
19.30 Harry Hill’s TV Burp
Into the postbag and a letter from Stuart Ian Burns. “It’s sad to see there won’t be in a fourth I’m In A Mixed Gender Group show on BBC2 in which members of Liberty X, Hearsay, S Club 7, S Club Juniors and the Dandy Warhols talk about how the girls are always up front in the publicity, the mechanics of the male rap solo and with half the show dedicated to the Steps break-up with bitchy contributions all round. And a TOTP2 afterwards with footage of The Carpenters required to bump it up to an hour.”
08.35 The Big Match Revisited
At least back in daylight hours, we take another jaunt to Granadaland this week and a programme that only lasts 45 minutes, which is not ITV4′s editing but its original duration from 1983 because nobody was very interested in football at the time and the broadcasters were virtually showing it under duress, so they saw no problem with chopping fifteen minutes off a highlights show to make way for the exciting new attraction of snooker.
BBC Radio 2
13.00 Pick of the Pops
1973 and 1994 here. A correction and clarification from last week, now, with Philip Townley. “Sorry that I only seem to email you to correct you but Eric Sykes wasn’t in The Hours with Nicole Kidman but The Others instead. He was also good as Rambo in Son of Rambow. Keep up the work.” Yes, not the good work, just the work, because clearly there are too many cock-ups in this thing. We’re sorry, Philip. Keep us in check, it’s the only way we’ll learn.
Sunday 18th March
00.00 Terry Wogan’s Ireland
BBC4 are celebrating St Patrick’s Day 24 hours late – well, Saturday is European drama night, as we know, as well as the Pops repeat which this week is at a surprisingly early half past ten – and pleasingly they’re able to opt the current chat season into it as well, as we get a repeat of the first two shows of last year’s whimsical series. There’ll be more of Tel later this week, but if you can’t wait, this has just turned up on YouTube, the entirety of eighties BBC1 summed up in 45 seconds.
Monday 19th March
16.30 Helen’s Polar Challenge
Happily the end of Helen’s journey was shown to teatime viewers first, rather than forcing them to stay up late for last week’s primetime showing. To make it seem even more like a proper BBC documentary, this final episode is the behind the scenes instalment which explains how it was all filmed, and tells us what actually goes on at the South Pole.
19.00 University Challenge – The Story So Far
It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘challenge this year, but that’s clearly not important enough to make any new programmes when they had this documentary on the shelf from the other year, and it’s entertaining enough. That’s followed by this year’s final, then later at twenty past eleven it’s another screening for Starter For Ten, which is quite an amiable film but like most British comedies, works just as well on the telly as it does at the pictures.
19.40 Sounds of the Sixties
Yesterday seem to be having a sixties season every five minutes, and even when they’re not they’re showing Pop Goes The Sixties – and yes, that’s on again tomorrow night. But another one starts this week, and even though we’ve billed this before, the difference this time is that all the episodes, which are being shown in double bills every day this week, are billed in forty minute slots so we’ll get all of them, as opposed to the half-hour-with-adverts edits from last time. Which we didn’t like, as they edited out Love Loves To Love Love by Lulu.
21.00 Cilla’s Unswung Sixties
They left in Surround Yourself With Sorrow, mind, which is just as good, and we prefer the Pops version of that to the record because it’s more agreeably frantic. It’s Cilla’s finest moment of the sixties, we reckon, and here she is in a new documentary where she looks at the aspects of life in the sixties that singularly failed to get with it.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 Dudley Moore’s World of Jazz
We suppose that if one part of your career ends up completely overshadowing everything else you do, you may as well make it the part where you produced some of the funniest comedy of all time. But of course Dud was actually a bloody good musician as well, with his work with The Dudley Moore Trio not just being some novelty records but properly critically-acclaimed compositions, and we’ll hear some of them here.
46) FRANKIE HOWERD
Francis Howard (he added the ‘e’ to make him stand out) had a curious career where he alternated with incredible frequency between one of Britain’s biggest stars and a washed-up old hasbeen. He initially wanted to be a serious actor, doing the kind of thing he would later send up, but was rejected by RADA, and when he was called up for the war, his shows for the troops saw him move towards comedy. After meeting up with Eric Sykes, who wrote much of his early material, Howerd’s comedic persona became well-known enough to get him gigs on the embryonic BBC TV, in the days when they were still working out what worked on telly. Hence Frankie requested that a cameraman be employed specifically to focus on him throughout, which gave his shows an intimate appeal and established him as one of the leading talents of the day, but then he fell completely out of favour. He struck lucky, though, when he performed at Peter Cook’s Establishment Club and got a spot on That Was The Week That Was, when he reinvented himself as a sharp, topical comedian, which was enough to bring him back to prominence and, though he was never quite at the cutting edge again, he was a regular primetime performer, including appearing quite frequently with Bruce Forsyth on a series of variety specials. His finest hour, though, came in 1970 with Up Pompeii. One of the silliest sitcoms ever made, the plot went out of the window to give more time for Frankie to break the fourth wall, regularly come out of character and simply stammer and smirk his way through bucketloads of smut. Only two series were made, though sadly Frankie kept on returning to the concept with diminishing returns, with the likes of Whoops Baghdad and then, in 1982, Then Churchill Said To Me, which was dropped because of the Falklands War but seemingly considered so bad it wasn’t shown even when the war had finished. By the eighties, Frankie’s career was at a low point again, with just the occasional guest appearance and narrating the likes of the cartoon series The Blunders. But then at the end of the eighties he was back, back, back, as his intelligent vulgarity was back in fashion. We recall a memorable appearance on Comic Relief, manning the “Nose Desk” with an unusual straightman in Simon Mayo, where he simply did his usual shtick for ages and everyone cried with laughter. There was also a hugely popular repeat run of Up Pompeii in 1991 – enough to convince ITV to bring it back for a crappy one-off – and he was given a number of starring vehicles, including a memorable performance at the Oxford Union, and making appearances on the hip comedy shows of the day, forever hanging around with the likes of Jonathan Ross. Unfortunately, Frankie wasn’t able to fully reap the rewards of his latest renaissance as he died at Easter 1992.
45) RICHARD BRIERS
The worst thing Chris Morris ever did (apart from the song at the end of the Brass Eye special) was making Richard Briers look stupid on Brass Eye, which is not on because Briers is a wonderful actor who’s done nothing to sneer at and didn’t deserve it. Happily, the rest of Briers’ career has been hugely successful, now spanning over fifty years. Throughout he’s been a thoroughly reliable leading man and, if his work has never been that challenging (with one notable exception), it’s always been delightfully played and hugely comforting. His first big break was alongside Prunella Scales in Marriage Lines, one of the first TV sitcoms to really make it big, with Briers establishing himself as a likeable leading man with a pleasingly whimsical approach. Other fine examples of character acting followed throughout the sixties and early seventies, but his finest moment was undoubtedly The Good Life. Picked because he was appearing in an Alyn Ayckbourn play which was the same kind of humour, Briers became a household name and managed to make the potentially irritating Tom Good hugely likeable. At the same time he was also bringing a spot of anarchy to kids TV by narrating Roobarb, the cartoon that looked like it had been scribbled onto the telly and Briers’ lovely warm voice just added to the appeal. Other sitcommery in the eighties included the unexceptional All In Good Faith and the flop The Other One with Michael Gambon – the lack of success of which was apparently a running joke within TV Centre – before he struck gold again, working with his Good Life colleagues Esmonde and Larbey in the brilliant Ever Decreasing Circles. Originally written off as simply dull suburban sitcommery, with its huge audiences seen as proof of its pleb-pleasing nature, these days it’s become renowned as a far more subtle, thoughtful and interesting show, stuffed with great lines (“We’re respectable people, Ann, not the London School of Economics!”) and a stunning performance by Briers as another likeable unlikeable character. The idea of him working with David Renwick sounded like it’d be a real treat but sadly If You See God Tell Him didn’t really work, and Briers didn’t seem quite to gel with the script (he certainly wasn’t the production’s first choice). In more recent times his appearances have been more sporadic, in the likes of Monarch of the Glen, but it’s always a treat to see him on our screens, as along with Geoffrey Palmer he’s a guarantee of quality.
44) JOHNNY MORRIS
A big name in kids TV when the eccentric uncle figure was much sought after, Johnny Morris was the face and voice of wildlife on the telly for three decades. He never had any formal qualifications but his deep interest in animals and nature was evident for all to see, combined with a lovely voice and a talent for storytelling. Indeed it was his way with a yarn that got him into broadcasting in the first place, telling tall tales on BBC Radio in the West Country. His first long-running TV engagement was as The Hot Chestnut Man, the kind of low concept series that was all over telly in the fifties, in which Johnny would simply tell a whimsical story. Then in 1961 came his finest hour, Animal Magic. Initially, as with all kids presenters of the time, Johnny wore a smart suit for the show but, after animals kept on clambering all over him, the attire became more casual and the mood of the show became more laidback. Indeed, at a time when kids shows were still presented by the schoolmasterly likes of Huw Wheldon, barking at the audience, Johnny’s gentle approach must have been as revolutionary at the time as his replacements’ was in the eighties. The big attraction, in the early days at least, was the anthropomorphism, mostly filmed at Bristol Zoo, although this was never the whole point of the show and there was always a lot of solid information given over, albeit in Johnny’s idiosyncratic manner. Around the same time too he also narrated Tales of the Riverbank in equally languid style. Animal Magic ran for years and years and years but by the end of the seventies, there was the idea that it was all a bit simplistic, so the likes of Nutkins were engaged to bring a bit more science to proceedings, and the anthropomorphism was toned down a bit, although Johnny said that, while he didn’t mind the more analytical approach, he thought there was still space for an enthusiastic amateur. It was still a huge surprise when the show came to an end in 1984, mind. The line was that it was too old-fashioned for the modern audience and that anthropomorphism was wrong, but in fact he was offered another series, which we’re assuming would have been aimed at much younger children (because anthropomorphism remained a big part of kids TV, most notably in the work of Derek Griffiths), and the ending of Animal Magic was simply because the show was simply too associated with Johnny to continue and, as Take Hart became Hartbeat at the time, it needed freshening up. In any case, Johnny turned down the offer, seemingly a bit disillusioned with modern telly, and went into semi-retirement, though he continued to tell stories on the radio and on stage, enchanting another generation of rather polite children. He still made the odd appearance on telly, mind, and in 1999 was engaged to appear in a new show on ITV, but unfortunately fell ill and died almost immediately. Famously he left his estate to Nutkins in his will, which was surprising as we thought they didn’t get on.
Tuesday 20th March
23.20 Are You Having A Laugh? TV and Disability
BBC1 are currently screening a series of documentaries about various aspects of disability and how the disabled are often marginalised in society, an issue perhaps best illustrated by the fact the only other programme about disability on television this week is directly opposite it. It’s a repeat, mind, but it’s certainly worth another look, not just covering the likes of See Hear and One In Four but also Sandy in Crossroads and, natch, Ironside.
21.00 Return to the Falklands
It’s the thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands War in a couple of weeks, and the light channel get in early with their commemorations. Famously it wasn’t a particularly televisual war as the footage took an age to appear on our screens, but there were certainly some iconic reports, some from ITN’s Michael Nicholson who returns to Port Stanley here alongside Simon Weston.
21.00 Talk at the BBC
Well, there’s a name we can work with, and excitingly this is a three part series of odds and sods from the archive. It’s all in chronological order too so we can at least be assured there won’t be too much Parky in this opening instalment. In fact we head as far back as the fifties with the likes of Picture Page, which we know is way out of the Cream era but the hilariously stilted chats of the early days of telly are always worth a look.
22.00 Mark Lawson Talks To Terry Wogan
Lord Terence is a great chat show host, as we know, but not always the best chat show guest thanks to his tendency to lapse into autopilot and regurgitate the same old anecdotes. In fact we recall his appearance on TFI Friday when he suggested hosting a chat show wasn’t brain surgery, at which point Evans pulled an envelope out from under the desk in which was written “He will say it is not brain surgery”, such was the predicatble nature of his response. Still, maybe he’ll be in the mood to dust off some less frequently told stories.
23.00 Russell Harty
Wow! This is the best thing on telly all week! It’s the famous episode of Russell’s show with his altercation with Grace Jones, but that only lasts about ten seconds, and we’ve got the entire show with Russ’ interviews with Lord Lichfield, Walter Poucher and Tom Gibney as well as Grace, so that’s going to be fascinating, not just for the chat but also the chance to see an otherwise mundane bit of TV fluff from 1980 warts and all. It’s another great example of how BBC4 show stuff you never expected to see again and why it’s the best channel on TV. Again, the entire show!
BBC Radio 2
22.00 Songwriting Partnerships
This seems a bit of a comedown after the excitement up there, but for the record it’s Rogers Cook and Greenaway this week, prolific writers of AM radio staples from the likes of Cilla, The Hollies and Gene Pitney.
Wednesday 21st March
11.30 The Budget
We’ve forgotten why we bill The Budget every year, we think it used to be because we had fond memories of coming home from school and watching it so we could tell our dad how much petrol had gone up by when he came home from work, before switching over to Pip in the BBC2 Broom Cupboard. None of that fun anymore, mind, and it’s so boring now not only are Radio 2 not doing a Budget Special like JY used to do, but Jeremy Vine’s even taken the week off!
19.30 The Unforgettable Russell Harty
Telly’s having a Harty Party this week with this new tribute, undoubtedly including a clip you’ll have seen last night, but hopefully lots more footage of the great man who we think is brilliant. In fact, so ace was Russ that, suitably inspired by this week’s programming, we’ve put a tribute to him up at www.tvcream.co.uk, which we hope you enjoy. If she’d hung on another six minutes, she’d have had another little bit!
22.00 I Was A Jet Set Stewardess
Pan Am ended up flopping on both sides of the Atlantic, but the life of an air hostess in the sixties remains one of the ultimate Creamy professions (not as good as working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, natch), so we may as well get another documentary about it.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 Desmond Carrington’s Icons of the Fifties
This is the first episode of the series where we’ve never heard of the subject, Malcolm Vaughan, who apparently had loads of hits in the fifties and only died last year. Better let Des and JY tell us about him, then.
Thursday 22nd March
19.30, 00.00 Top of the Pops
We think we’re back on a run of half hour shows again now, though we’ll keep on billing the repeats for the moment in case you want to ensure you get every available second of the aimless panning over the credits. Tone’s in charge tonight, with acts including Berni “berni flint i know him” Flint.
17.45 Blue Peter
This show has been emphasising its live nature in recent weeks by inviting viewers to e-mail and text in with their answers to a question of the day, like The Big Breakfast, which is presumably also valuable as a way to stop people watching the BBC1 repeat and put up with endless captions reminding you not to e-mail in so nobody’ll mind when they drop it. No option this week anyway, because it’s not on BBC1, so luddites have to get over here.
21.00 From Blackpool to Benidorm
It’s a fact that people always used to go on holiday to the same place every year, though a few months ago we paid a return visit to Conwy on the North Wales coast, where we regularly holidayed in our childhood, and were amazed we managed to get a week out of it every twelve months in the past when this was our first visit for well over a decade and we’d exhausted the town centre in 25 minutes. In any case, here’s Ruth Madoc, appropriately, on how we used to holiday in the sixties.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 Sounds of the 20th Century
And so we come to the end of a series which we admit we haven’t listened to every week but we’ve been pleased to know has been there and has apparently been very good. Unfortunately we’ve gone off it in this final show as they’ve pedantically included 2000 in the twentieth century, which is technically right but aesthetically unpleasing.
Friday 23rd March
19.00 Sport Relief
Nobody can tell the difference between this and Comic Relief anymore, especially given both are now generally presented by the same people, but we always like seeing Gary Lineker in a light entertainment setting. The bit to watch this year will be Frank Skinner’s amazing swimming challenge where he’s trying to swim a length and genuinely thinks he might die doing it. Dame Helen of Skelton, meanwhile, is on BBC2 at ten, and earlier in the afternoon too she’s the host of CBBC who are, like they used to in the old days, devoting the entire afternoon to it, including more chances to see Helen’s South Pole adventures.
And after two weeks of single episodes, back to the double bills, but at a different time to the last time they did them like that. There’d better be something bloody good coming up to excuse this ridiculously haphazard scheduling and the apparent need to churn it out as quickly as possible. Nirvana and Everton in show one, What Katy Did in show two.
21.00 Classic Albums – Peter Gabriel’s So
22.00 Prog Rock at the BBC
23.00 Prog Rock Britannia
Nothing that went on the actual vinyl of Gabriel’s mid-eighties LP was as memorable as the video that spun off it, but no doubt that’ll get a few outings during this documentary. The glossy synth rock was a bit removed from Peter’s earlier work, but he’s still associated enough with the utterly tedious genre to see the latter two shows get another outing, including what we think was the first ever Britannia documentary, not least because John Peel’s on it.
And that all promises to be, yes, really great. Anyway, don’t forget Russell Harty on Tuesday, it’s going to be fascinating, and let’s hope for more oddities as the chat season continues next week. Why not find out with us? If you want to, subscribe here