Whizzing around the country with the arts in general
Hullo and welcome to this week’s Creamguide. This week we got a letter from Tim Lawton which says, “Almost five hundred words on Paul Daniels and not one mention of Wizbit!”. Ah well, no use crying over it now, and we refuse to mention it because, as the Wikipedia page for it points out, “Although it was stated in the show that Wizbit’s year-and-a-day mission was to find out all about Planet Earth, this clashed somewhat with the events witnessed on screen”. Indeed. Anyway, if you have any comments then do send them to email@example.com.
Saturday 21st April
18.30 Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
19.00 The Good Life
19.30 Dad’s Army
Well, once BBC2 get an idea in their head, they stick with it, hence the familiar exploits from Walmington-on-Sea are accompanied by two more series for no other reason it appears than the fact they were made in the seventies and they’re currently doing a series about the seventies. Which would also explain…
20.00 TV 1973 – The Defining Shows
This show dates back to 2006 when BBC4 showed it as part of their 1973 Week (shame they’re not showing the Blue Peter Review of the Year like they did then). It’s a nice enough format in that it takes five shows from the year, traces their history and then ponders what they told us about the year, but on the minus side it’s presented by Mark Lawson. Still, one of the shows is the Generation Game, and even he can’t mess up these clips. And then…
21.00 I Love 1971
Wow! Remarkably this series is now twelve years old and, despite it being the acme of easy unchallenging nostalgia these days, it’s easy to forget it was a bloody great series at the time, excellent fun and full of brilliant clips. It was only when it was followed by ten million lookalike shows that it started getting a bad name. We’re not sure why they’ve missed out 1970, or even if they’re only going to show this one, but in any case it’ll be nice not just to remember the summer of the space hopper, but also 2000′s glorious Summer of Maconie.
Like the Pops repeats, kudos to BBC4 for choosing the most iconic slot possible for these repeats, here in the exact slot the show was before it came to an end exactly thirty years ago this month when Parky went off to float into TV-am on a cloud of bullshit. And they’re being repeated on Wednesdays when the other weekly show used to be for a while. David Niven here.
08.20 The Big Match Revisited
Our favourite bit of the whole series was last week’s heroically grumpy commentary by Gerald Sinstadt on Brighton vs Spurs. When Spurs played the offside trap, Gerald despaired that “at a time when football is looking for spectators, that tactic may be very effective, but it’s no entertainment”, then deep into injury time he announced “we’ve played 47 and a half minutes in this half, still going strong, apparently”, and finally summed up Brighton’s winner came after “35 minutes of quite appalling football”. That’s exactly what we want to hear from our football commentators.
BBC Radio 2
13.00 Pick of the Pops
A most curious show this week as first we go back to 1958, the earliest they’ve ever been we think, much to our disgust, and then go too far in the other direction to 2001, the first time they’ve ever ventured into this century. As when they did 1999 the other week, it’s a fairly Radio 2-friendly chart with not much to scare the target audience, which is perhaps a shame because if they’re going to go nuts they should try and do it properly.
Sunday 22nd April
We were nuts about Roald Dahl when we were young and devoured all his books, even Boy despite the talk of prep school being completely alien to our suburban primary school-attending life. We never got into Going Solo though because there was too much about flying fighter planes and not enough about buying gobstoppers. Anyway, here’s noted kids author David Walliams to take another look at his life and legacy.
22.25 Mark Lawson Talks To Felicity Kendal
Not sure what Felicity “Bloody bloody bloody” Kendal has to promote to justify her being subjected to the Lawson experience, unless BBC4 are being roped into BBC2′s seventies fest. We’re assuming her atrocious nineties sitcom Honey For Tea will get the shortest shrift imaginable, a show so bad producer Gareth Gwenlan went on a month’s holiday the day the first show went out, thus proving, as Will Wyatt pointed out, the secret of comedy is timing.
Monday 23rd April
21.00 The Seventies
This was all intriguing enough last week, and we were pleased to marvel again at that fantastic faux-newspaper produced for the pro-Common Market campaign, announcing that “EUROPE IS FUN! More work, but more play too!” which doesn’t make any kind of sense. This week’s features surely the ultimate Creamy period, the three day week, which we can’t get enough of, especially how the telly had to close down early, but BBC1 and ITV had to do so ten minutes apart so people didn’t all switch off at once and blow the transmitters up.
22.00 Sounds of the Seventies
Same titles as the original series, same Gary Glitter-inspired theme tune and same concept of linking all the performance with appropriate archive footage, so this is a highly entertaining way to pass half an hour. We’re sure Bob Harris would like to point out there were lots of intros when he said he liked the bands, mind. This one’s about reggae.
22.00 Ten Things I Hate About 1990
We’re afraid we haven’t watched the first episode of this yet, but we’re not going to write it off immediately because we’ve seen the last minute or so and the presence of some familiar names in the credits like Will Bryant and Alan Brown – who were responsible for imperial phase I Love and the other great clip shows from BBC Manchester – plus the presence of a clip from Steve Wright’s People Show suggests there might be a bit more to it than overexposed clips and lazy comedy slaggery, albeit only just. But we promise to watch it by next week and inform you one way or the other.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 Michael Grade On The Box
Probably the least interesting episode of the series here as it’s about American shows, though it at least concentrates on the imperial phase when the likes of Dallas would happily take up berths on primetime BBC1, which you don’t get these days, especially with Sky waving their chequebooks at everything that looks interesting. Doesn’t look like Mad Men has got people rushing out to nail a dish to their wall, though we’re perhaps not surprised given that, faced with exactly the same Mad Men they used to get for free but now have to pay for and it’s got adverts, people have said not “I must get Sky” but “fuck Sky”.
31) JOHN CLEESE
Well, it was close, but we’ve decided that John is officially the best Python, although we’re more or less basing that accolade on his fantastic body of work in the sixties and seventies rather than his rather iffy recent career. Especially those Sainsburys adverts. Had his dad not wisely changed his name, John would have been called John Cheese but any teasing at his name would surely have been countered by his enormous size, as if he were an inch taller he’d be medically classified as a giant. Cleese first got into comedy, of course, in the Footlights, where his ability to deliver lunacy with a straight face saw him win rave reviews. He followed the revue to America and lived there for a bit, before returning to write and star in The Frost Report. This really established himself as a major star, and like the Ronnies, Frost made sure to see him right by championing him for a number of products, including How To Irritate People, an aborted attempt to translate their style of comedy to an American audience, fronted by Cleese in a dinner jacket, though he had to change out of it to do every sketch, and later said he thought it would have made more sense to film all the links in one go, but didn’t want to cause a stink. The likes of At Last The 1948 Show kept him in the public eye, and it was he who was offered a BBC series, which he accepted as long as he could do it with his mates Graham, Mike, Terry, Eric and Terry. At the time he was the only one anyone had ever heard of and people assumed he must have been called “Monty Python”. He was the first to bail out of it, mind, leaving before the fourth series because he was getting bored of it and not enjoying writing with an increasingly incoherent Graham Chapman, though he came back for the films. Instead he went off to work with Les Dawson for a bit, appearing in Sez Les, which seems an odd combination but they enjoyed each other’s company and worked extremely well together. Then he concentrated on turning a character he’d created for an episode of Doctor In Charge into the star of his own sitcom, famously greeted with “Long John short on laughs”, but it worked out alright in the end, hence why sitcoms now only ever run for twelve episodes. After some fifteen years of non-stop quality, Cleese started to take his foot off the gas a bit then, and since the eighties it’s been a procession of quite dull films (apart from A Fish Called Wanda) and TV shows, with the odd interesting footnote, like the SDP Party Political Broadcasts and his work for Video Arts. Now firmly ensconced in America, Cleese has been on tour recently to pay off his alimony, although a proper Python DVD release might help. And the AA adverts are nearly as bad as the Sainsburys ones. Still, remember him for the Argument Sketch.
30) LEONARD ROSSITER
Despite featuring in two of the most famous sitcoms of the seventies, it’s instructive to remember that comedy only made up a very brief part of Len’s career, and indeed he didn’t take up full-time acting until he was 27, having decided to pack up his job in insurance. An extremely prolific actor in rep, where he played 75 characters in a year and a half, saw him established as an extremely proficient actor, renowned for his ability to deliver the most tongue-twisting scripts at a rate of knots. But it was drama in which he became established as a major name, appearing in the likes of 2001 and, unforgettably, The Year of the Sex Olympics, though there were occasional comedic roles, such as a memorable turn in Steptoe and Son. But it was in the seventies when he became established as a major comedy star, as he re-enacted his role in the stage play The Banana Box when it was turned into a TV series, now known as Rising Damp. A smash hit, Rossiter’s portrayal of Rigsby was one of the funniest and most cherished comic performances of all time, thanks to his intense approach which included rattling out the dialogue at top speed. One week he was asked to slow it down a bit as the script was a bit short, only for him to rattle out the dialogue quicker than ever and get it finished in about ten minutes. While he was doing that, he then also became the star of another iconic sitcom, taking on the role of Reginald Perrin, which for our money is probably the best sitcom of the seventies. In fact David Nobbs’ first choice was Ronnie Barker but the Beeb wanted to lure Rossiter over from ITV and overruled him, and you only have to see how awful the series they did without him was to see quite how important he was. Like every actor in the seventies he did the voice over in a cartoon, in his case The Perishers, and there was a series of memorable adverts for Cinzano, plus continued work on stage and on screen. Sadly his final series was no tribute, the appalling Tripper’s Day, and quite why he agreed to appear in such a hopeless series is beyond us, and unfortunately he died during its transmission. Nevertheless, with endless repeats of Rising Damp ever since, his legacy lives on.
29) VICTORIA WOOD
We’ve gone off Victoria Wood in recent years, given her graceless moaning her Christmas show was “only” on Christmas Eve, and her doing adverts for Sky, but such is the brilliance of her other work that she demands inclusion in this chart. It was a trek to get there, though, as after appearing on New Faces, nobody really knew what to do with this woman with a piano and some wryly humorous songs, so it was basically a load of unimpressive cabaret gigs, plus a spell on That’s Life doing topical songs even though she could never think of anything to write about. Eventually she started to attract attention for her comic plays, with Granada putting some of them on the telly, where they enjoyed moderate success. Eventually she was engaged to do her own sketch show, even though when it commissioned she’d only ever written one sketch. After asking that her mate Julie Walters was in it too, and requesting her name in the title as well as she was too nervous to go on her own, she did eventually get a series together, but it wasn’t a happy time as she realised she didn’t have enough material, the producer died immediately before filming and the audience didn’t have a clue who she was. It was popular enough, though, and got nominated for a BAFTA. But it was when she moved to the BBC when she became comedy royalty and the fantastic As Seen On TV, one of the best sketch shows ever made, crammed with brilliant ideas, including the demented Acorn Antiques and the ludicrous spoof documentaries (“It is The Bee-att-les!”). Staffed by her own repertory company, the two series were absolutely brilliant and garlanded with awards. And they used to mess around with the closing credits, which we’ve always liked. But Wood was getting bored with sketch writing and so she concentrated on stand-up, like An Audience With Victoria Wood, and the series of playlets that we always quite liked, helped by BBC1 repeating them a million times so we knew the scripts off by heart. From the nineties, Wood was a comedy A-lister with the odd special and big stand-up tours, as well as some self-consciously serious dramas. Dinnerladies wasn’t perhaps the most well-received sitcom of all time, and you really have to be in the mood for it, but looking back it was a perfectly likeable series with a fantastic cast and some interesting ideas. In recent years she’s gone into more dramatic areas still, and her last special wasn’t that good, but she was responsible for the Eric and Ernie drama which was a huge hit and she remains one of the UK’s finest ever comedy writers and performers. And we got through all that without mentioning the Women’s Weekly.
Tuesday 24th April
23.45 The Unforgettable Terry Scott
It was digital switchover in London this week, of course – which obviously got massive publicity despite most of the country already having gone through it – although it’s only now people are realising the biggest side-effect. To wit, as Tim Bowling points out, “Am I alone in in my sadness that both the analogue signal and Ceefax have passed away, in my part of the world at least? What a terrible shame that the BBC could not save the old teletext service. I recall many days checking the cricket scores and watching the “in-vision” score in the corner of the screen. It was bad enough that they switched off the analogue signal, forcing me to bin my trusty old portable (no scart socket for a Freeview box sadly) despite it still being in perfect working order, but then to find out that good old Ceefax had been laid to rest as well was devastating – I feel like an old friend has died. Still, if anyone in the future ever asks you what Ceefax was, just tell them, it was what the internet could have been.” Don’t forget it’s still clinging on in the North East, South East and Northern Ireland, and we do those in the province are getting their camera phones ready to record the last ever appearance of Ceefax in October. We hear that the last page of BBC World Ceefax before it closed was a QR code directing you to the website. Innovative to the last.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 King of Clubs
Looks like we’ve got a new dream job to add to our list – which as you know includes crew member (non-technical) on The Kenny Everett Video Show and teaboy at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – as this documentary tells the story of Johnny Gold, owner of Tramp in London which, in the late sixties, was virtually the headquarters of Swinging London. This is in two parts, the second’s tomorrow.
Wednesday 25th April
19.30 Watching Ourselves (Scotland)
Last week we made reference to Greg Hemphill’s slightly odd accent and said we were sure someone would fill us in on where it was from. So, many thanks to both George McGachey (who told us within five minutes of it going out) and Chris Waugh, who told us that Hemphill was born in Scotland but also spent much of his childhood in Canada, hence the hybrid accent. We’re particularly pleased about this news because the second we said it we were terrified it was just a normal 100% Scottish accent and we’d offended all our Scottish readers by saying it sounded weird. Instead we’ve offended our Canadian readers by saying it was American, but never mind. This one’s about documentaries.
23.40 Frost on Satire
Repeat for this entertaining documentary from the other year, but enough of that, we are indebted to Tim Worthington (a good week for Tims, this) for keeping our half-arsed breakfast TV thread going. Hence, “First breakfast TV memory? A very hazy one from shortly pre-Breakfast At Brisbane, when Points Of View featured several letters from disgruntled viewers objecting to Breakfast TV tryouts in some BBC region or other being partly presented by ‘a strawberry-haired punk’, accompanied by a brief clip of said presenter – looking not unlike that Benjamin Cook bloke from Doctor Who Magazine – relating some story of vital local interest. Not really clear on why they were so worked up, other than possible fear that he might suddenly call someone a ‘rotter’. Favourite actual moments? They’re all TV-am ones – Tommy Boyd getting visibly irritated at a middle-aged male guest proclaiming that he’d ‘hoped Bonk’n'Boob might have been something to do with Joan Collins’, Anne Diamond commenting ‘I bet you’re not laughing now, Rustie’ on hearing that the studio chef had been rushed to hospital, and, inevitably, the viewer furore that followed their reshowing of Spitting Image’s sketch depicting Roland Rat being hit by a cricket bat.”
Thursday 26th April
19.30, 00.00 Top of the Pops
We couldn’t entirely enjoy the David Hamilton-recovered episode the week before last because the idea of something taped off the telly being shown on primetime BBC Television reminded us a little bit too much of the end of Threads where they watch a dodgy old tape of Words and Pictures as the only thing that’s survived The Event. God help anyone who was waking up from a long coma at that exact moment (a rather small percentage of the audience, we admit). This week it’s our first sight of the year (though not his first show, that was last month and wiped) of Jim. “Chief Tadpole”?
17.45 Blue Peter
One thing this show seems to have started doing now is a menu at the start of the show announcing what’s on when, which we’re not sure about because it’s all very well on a three hour show like Swap Shop but maybe less vital on a half hour show, surely they’re just inviting viewers to switch off if they don’t like what’s coming up. Not that we ever would, natch, even when Helen’s not there, which she wasn’t last week. We do worry.
Friday 27th April
The final semi-final, and we suppose the one benefit of the messed-up scheduling of this run is that we’ve not had to think about anything else to fill this billing. Harold Macmillan and Band of Brothers among the subjects.
21.00 John Le Mesurier – It’s All Been Rather Lovely
John Le Mesurier would have been a hundred this year, so that’s reason enough to pay tribute to the great man. We inducted him into TVC’s 100 the other week, and this documentary is also likely to be extremely warm and affectionate because he was such a thoroughly nice man and everyone thought he was great, as we’ll hear from the likes of Michael Palin.
21.00 Sinatra Sings
22.00 Sings Bacharach and David
23.00 Burt Bacharach – This Is Now
23.50 Easy Listening Hits at the BBC
00.50 The Joy of Easy Listening
Only one of these shows is new, but together they make for a thoroughly entertaining evening in the company of the stars and sounds of Tin Pan Alley. The new show is at ten, with some of the finest voices performing some of the greatest songs ever written, including, yes, that Dionne Warwick clip with the donkey.
Don’t forget to keep checking www.tvcream.co.uk, currently featuring a special appearance by regular Creamguide contributor Keith Miller. More of this kind of thing next week, if you fancy it, so unsubscribe here