OUR FIRST SIGHTING in this A-Z of the sainted STILGOE. Here the man had a full half hour to fill, week after week, with, yup, the topical comedy song. Unfairly maligned still, Rich was always at his best behind a piano rather than exhorting kids to do things “with scissors and glue”, and here we got what we wanted: unadorned tunesmithery of a cheery, things-aren’t-all-that-bad-despite-it-being-the-winter-of-discontent bent.Read More
Posts Tagged With '1978'
MUCH-TRUMPETED “prestige” adaptation of the venerable Blytonian underage derring-do saga, adapted by RICHARD ‘FLYING KIWI’ SPARKS from the musty-smelling Hodder and Stoughton paperbacks that everyone read whether they wanted to or not, and lavishly filmed in various privately owned chunks of the New Forest for that idyllic “eternal summer of youth” vibe.
It was, of course, all updated for the go-ahead seventies. Starched collars and Pathfinder shoes were ditched to make way for zip-up cagoules, ten-speed Grifters and those lovely polyester polo shirts with an off-centre brown zig-zag up the front. Blyton’s busting out! But only by about so much, as the Enid Blyton Foundation, jealously guarding their intellectual property as well they might, weren’t too keen on that many liberties being taken with those timeless storylines. So despite the Tartrazine-coloured Year of Three Popes costumery, our intrepid heroes still found themselves going after gorblimey smugglers and swarthy gypsies, and the local bobbies still turned up on a rickety old bicycle in the nick of time. (“Constable! Thank goodness you’re here!”) We were still firmly in “lashings of ginger beer” territory, which to your average ’70s child was as exotic as Servalan’s homeworld. And what were the odds, in 1978, of happening across an Aunt Fanny still able to get about under her own steam? Yet here she is, baking scones in a sparkly top. Something doesn’t quite fit.
On top of the period elephant in the room, there was the small matter of the production values not being quite up to scratch. Lots of lovely countryside and stately old piles, yes, but, with all due respect to GARY ‘Dick’ RUSSELL and pals, the acting, direction and pacing were Children’s Film Foundation level at best. Every other shot ended in a pause so long you could practically hear the key grip lighting up a post-take fag. Line delivery was firmly of the posh-gosh declamatory style. The odd medium-big name guest star provided a bit of variation, but much of the action was as flat as the browned-out ’70s film stock that captured it. All kids telly is prone to this to some degree of course, but here it was acute and chronic. Luckily the crims were as stiff as everyone else, otherwise nationwide anarchy would have ruled by the end of the first season.
And yet… everyone watched it. Slothful story progress, niggling period worries and the suspicion that Julian was a bit of a git weren’t nearly enough to offset the fact that here were some kids getting to muck about outdoors on the telly. Which, as it turned out, was all anyone wanted entertainment-wise during those heady Callaghanian summers. Look-In strips and spin-off books (OK, the original books but with cagoules on the cover) abounded. The oddly tuneless school choir theme tune (“Julie and Dick Annan, Georgian TIM-my the do-O-og…”) was, as was seemingly compulsory for all Southern kids TV themes, released as a single for nobody to buy. Hay was well and truly made.
Ironically enough, none of the Five ever went on to become truly famous by themselves, although Dr Who conventions are occasionally set on a roar when some wag claims that old Who is best because at least Tom Baker could operate a punt without falling in the water. The best part of twenty years on, ITV went back to Blyton, this time keeping the thing firmly in the time of grey flannel shorts and postal orders for six shillings. They’d learnt their lesson. Don’t decimalise Dick!Read More
IT COULD never happen today. What started as a regional opt-out for Midlanders in late ’78 (original host JOCK SMITH of Radio Derby “fame”) ultimately became enduring BBC2 early evening staple under the benevolent rule of the great Professor HEINZ WOLFF, ordering three colour-coded teams of three cardigan-wearing types representing appropriate organizations like Wipac, ICI, Pilkington Glass etc. to “solve a fiendish engineering problem” using an esoteric array of materials (always including a bike pump and a hot water bottle – “the Englishman’s best friend” quipped Heinz). First series involved repeatedly trying to construct a means to propel an egg over a certain distance without breaking in a vehicle powered by a standard rubber band (hence programme title). Later shows devised other tests, such as building a windpump or a “prehensile tail”. Boring section where the teams got down to business was when you went to the loo/got another can of pop. When everyone came to demonstrate their devices, one team was guaranteed to cock the whole thing up completely. A beard-but-no-moustache “guest expert” (with an improbable name, like Fabian Acker) would then mark them on their engineering accomplishments, and good old Heinz chucked in a few extra points for “entertainment value”. A bizarre diversion in the grounds of BBC Pebble Mill saw LESLEY JUDD, no less, introduce the ‘Incredible Egg Machine’, which delivered Heinz his breakfast ostrich egg (they always tried to mention the word “breakfast” as much as possible) via a Heath Robinson-out-of-Mousetrap! series of comical mechanisms. Whole stunning affair capped by smashing theme tune reminiscent of Hot Butter.Read More
SHOUTY SCOUSE sound effects nerd herein masquerading as A1 kids comedy champion. VIDEO was done on a shoestring but made a virtue of it, using camera crew for audience, globular titsci-fi Captain Kremmen cartoon (by Cosgrove-Hall) plus bank of TVs, gags based on Quantel effects console and the baiting of the “mates” Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury who appeared for bugger all. Arseing around with Thames continuity was icing on the cake. SHOW was for the Beeb and cemented legendary roster of characters: Gizzard Puke (“but don’t we all?”), Cupid Stunt (Michael Parkinson’s corpse, “best possible taste” legs routine), Marcel Wave (“my little rubik cubes”, rubber jaw), Sid Snot (“Snot Rap”, fag-catching), Reg Prescott (“Our old friend the cross-cut saw”), that clown who “drew things”, outraged bloke in bowler hat, exploding head bloke, “Round ‘em up, put ‘em in a field and bomb the bastards!” shoulder pads general, Brother Lee Love (giant hands, etc.) and copious use of white limbo backgrounds and blue screen. Futurist “I Like Electro People” theme. Oh, and the Bee Gees. BARRY CRYER co-wrote the lot.Read More
APTLY-TITLED SUNDAY evening miserycom, reworking bits of Take It From Here off of the radio. JIMMY EDWARDS got his toe stuck in the taps, JUNE WHITFIELD gave way to PATRICIA BRAKE as Ma, and IAN LAVENDER wore the “der-drip dry” shirts.Read More
STURDY EIGHT o’clock suburbacom, with the rock solid SCOTT-WHITFIELD conglomerate in a sequel of sorts to HAPPY EVER AFTER with the Fletchers becoming the Medfords, upping sticks to Purley and moving in next to uppity neighbours Tarquin, Malcolm and Beattie, with blustery boss Sir Dennis Hodge (REGINALD MARSH, of course) completing the set. Too many memorable moments to mention, but we’ll do it anyway: the one where they had a barbecue – Terry’s food was awful, and the closing shot was three beefburgers going round on a record player, for some reason; the one where they go to France, and get assailed on the ferry by a kid acting badly, because he’d written in to JIM’LL FIX IT to be in Terry & June; the one where June became a punk (in 1985) – loads of Frankie Goes To Cricklewood “jokes”; the one where Terry has to buy a satellite dish so that a Middle East client he was entertaining could watch his favourite TV show (which turned out to be…Dallas); the one involving giant It’s A Knockout costumes – inevitably Terry got trapped in a giant rabbit’s outfit. Oh, and the one in which Terry fell in a river/lake/canal/giant pond, which was the one on every week.Read More
NIGEL “KINVIG” KNEALE takes responsibility for these plays about various animal/human horror confrontations. BARTY’S PARTY was the best: rats invade the home of a woman via the toilet while she listens, shocked, to reports on the radio (the unseen vermin being much more scary than the shitty in-vision puppetry of your late-period hamfisted DOOMWATCH; cue puppet rats poking heads out of toilet bowl and man whacking them with a broom). Another one had PAULINE “PAULINE QUIRKE’S” QUIRKE as a supermarket shelf-stacker haunted by a ficticious invisible rabbit that was in fact not even a rabbit but a manifestation of her telikinetic abilities to dislodge produce from supermarket shelves. Then there was the one with the dolphin-ghost starring Martin Shaw. Finally there was the disenchanted actor playing a monster in a series of films, THE DUMMY. He starts killing the other actors and blaming it on the monster, but no one believes this until the monster, yes, kills him.Read More
US-DERIVED TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED-esque capery, with WILLIAM CONRAD narrated tall stories such as BILL “HULK” BIXBY sailing into the future on a boat, and a Hands of Orlac transplanted limb with a memory yarn.Read More
FUSTY PERIOD-SWAPPING kids drama with a door in an old cottage leading Penelope (SOPHIE THOMPSON) from the Edwardian era back to the seventeenth century for some Queen of Scots-baiting adventures. The farmhouse where it was shot was the home of Simon Groom’s parents, and canny Simes used an interview he did with director Dorothea Brooking for local radio as his ticket to BLUE PETER sofadom.Read More
OLD-TIMEY ADVENTURE serial reworked as late-70s conspiracy thriller – for kids! Emily (MAXINE GORDON) opens the wrong door in a hospital to see a dead woman with a strange man peering at the body. One thing leads to another, and soon there’s a plot to blow up a visiting African delegation. Delirious far-fetchedness based on the Josephine Poole novel, with the great AUBREY MORRIS as the chief bad guy and DAVID PARFITT as Emily’s accomplice Charles. Also starred SANDY RATCLIFF as an uber-bitch female gangster.Read More
HYPNOTIC BRIDGE traversal to Bob James flute/vibraphone theme started this proto-Cheers ensemblecom. DANNY DE VITO was bastardish boss Louie de Palma, JUDD HIRSCH and MARILU HENNER were the “normal” leads. TONY DANZA was thick ex-boxer, CHRISTOPHER “DOC” LLOYD was spaced-out freak Jim Ignatowski and, of course, ANDY KAUFMAN as Latka Gravas. Seminal, before that word stopped being, well, seminal. What happens when it rains? Monetary gains.Read More
PROVINCIAL TELEVISION companies! Can’t afford to make your own Saturday morning kiddiefest? Simply bolt together bits of other regions’ efforts, and presto! Your own show! The ‘ten’ was made up of assorted cartoons, obscure films and segments of THE SATURDAY BANANA and TISWAS. “HTV are leaving us now,” said Chris and Sal when the opt-outs ended, much to the chagrin of kids from Holyhead to Swindon.Read More
IFFY EEKING out of the last scraps of PORRIDGE whereby RONNIE BARKER struggles with Civvy Street calamities typified by shifty DHSS clerks and social workers. Much rolling of eyeballs and shuddering of shoulders. “Cor blimey, I got better grub than this on the inside!” RICHARD BECKINSALE called round to do the dishes and get off with Ron’s daughter. Son, meanwhile, was – as decreed by late 70s BBC sitcom lore – NICHOLAS LYNDHURST.Read More
HAND JIVER extraordinaire TED ROGERS flipped his wrists throughout this hour-long Spanish-derived mystery quiz rambling epic of an extravaganza, seemingly involving the whole Yorkshire Television studio complex every Saturday night and relying upon the most convoluted set of rules imaginable. Three dopey couples tried to outwit each other on the quest for a forrin oliday or a fitted kitchen (Moben, Schreiber etc.) while avoiding radio-controlled, red-nosed booby prize Dusty Bin. Fiendishly impossible rhymes, given by “guests” after they’d done their turn, were never guessed correctly. Many a bin won in this rather tight game show, mostly recalled for the way the Yorkshire logo would take off in flight at the very start of the opening titles. How would you have fared?:
Sample Clue: “The Arches Might Provide A Clue, Not Strolling But He’s Going Too”, accompanied by some sheet music.
Ted’s Baffling Explanation: “Well the first three letters of arches might have been clue enough, but we also said not strolling but he’s going too. Well if you take away HES from arches, all you have left is ARC. If you rearrange that with the sheet music, you’re left with ‘Music Maestro Please’. So what do think that means? Maestro! The British Leyland Maestro! You’ve won the car!” We didn’t make that up.Read More
IT WOULD take Macca strolling along Stevie Wonder’s “pia-nor key-board” to finally demonstrate how black and white can live together in peace and harmony, but until then the likes of London Weekend battled on with MIND YOUR LANGUAGE and this: a multi-racial melting pot, if you will, wherein CHRISTOPHER BLAKE and MURIEL ODUNTON moved in with each other to collective muttering and tuttering from entire rest of the studio-bound universe. There being need for a disapproving elderly relative, JOAN SANDERSON was also involved.Read More
THIS IS more like it. Sub-Pinball Wizard fanfare was the cue for our man to bound, literally, onto camera, do a little skip and go “Yessss!” by way of an introduction to this neverending rock’n'inflatable roustabout. Two teams of two kids in matching T-shirts then answered pop trivia which’d shame Mike Read (“Name two members of the Human League”) before taking a break for the latest from Bad Manners while the BBC back room boys pumped up the bouncy castle. Ending always involved forty gallons of foam and a car hooter. “See you next time!”
You might also want to see... CHEGWIN, Keith.
OVER-LIT, OVER-LOUD and over-egged spin-off from one of many jump-the-shark instances on HAPPY DAYS wherein Richie dreamed he was abducted by an alien from another planet in the shape of ROBIN WILLIAMS. Series itself was similarly scrappy, doused in eardrum-splitting audience whooping and sickly Americana. Williams fell for PAM DAWBER. They got married. He hatched an egg. Nannoo, “calling Orson”, crappy fat-bloke-as-son subsidiary character and the inevitable “I’ve learned something about humans today, Min” sentiment all followed. Still, every kid in the world briefly sat upside down in cars at some point or other…Read More