ANNUAL RESURRECTION ROUND ROBIN from His Holiness, piped live into living rooms at 11am sharp on Easter Day. Important enough for whatever would normally go out mid-morning on BBC1 to get temporarily ex-communicated and forced to take sanctuary on BBC2 (even if it’s the Grand Prix). Beatific enough to go out without a translation. C of E types regularly unsettled by double whammy of a) something on telly in a foreign language and b) something on telly in a foreign language to do with a religion that’s not theirs. Granted, Urbi et Orbi (or ‘This and That’) is not really designed for television, consisting as it does of a static shot of an old man reciting a lot of Latin in front of a million people in Rome. Nonetheless when the Beeb dropped it temporarily a few years back, a rift in the space-time continuum opened up in Cardiff Bay, thereby answering Stalin’s question: how many divisions does the Pope have?Read More
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Much pontificating – ho ho – has been going on over the expense of Cardinal Ratzo Rizzo’s jaunt, but that’s nothing compared to the enormous palaver that was Pope John Paul II’s six-day stadium tour in the late spring of 1982.
If you think they’re incensed over the incense now, consider the mammoth spectacle that his predecessor warranted – not merely in terms of miles travelled by the Popemobile, or patronage from the likes of Norman St John Stevas (pictured), but hours lavished upon JP by the networks.
Step back with us now to Friday 28th May 1982…
DAY ONE of the the Pope’s visit to the UK found BBC1 opening up at the unheard of hour of 7.45am.
David Dimbleby (who else?) was at Gatwick Airport along with Cardinal Hume and other papal people.
Coverage continued uninterrupted all morning, including ’8.30: Departure By Train’ and ’12.15: Blessing of Crowd’ with commentary from Tom Fleming and Monsignor Treeb-lopez.
There was then almost two hours of coverage of John Paul George Ringo II’s journey “by motorcade” to Buckingham Palace.
ITV did pretty much the same, albeit with Monsignor Peter Coughlan on the mike. The third channel opted not to show “Pope John Paul leaving Buckingham Palace and travelling to St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, for a special service for the sick and handicapped”, as After Noon Plus was on instead.
DAY TWO found our man visiting Canterbury and live coverage on both BBC2 and ITV all morning. As TV Times explained: “Another hectic schedule lies ahead for Pope John Paul II on this, the second day of his momentous visit to Britain. The Pope, who has endeared himself to millions all over the world – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – visits the cradle of the Anglican faith this morning, Canterbury Cathedral. Here, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, he prays for church unity. Later he meets leaders of other Christian churches in Britain.”
You were stuck with BBC2 if you wanted to watch live coverage of the mass at Wembley Stadium, as both BBC1 and ITV were showing Scotland vs England live fom Hampden Park.
DAY THREE saw ITV alone showing the mass at Coventry Airport (“An audience of 700 million will watch the mass on television in every corner of the globe”), but in the afternoon Sunday Grandstand on BBC2 promised a line-up of cricket, golf, show jumping and athletics with Desmond Lynam, plus “visits to Liverpool where Pope John Paul II, after driving from the airport through the streets [what, at the wheel?], is due to visit both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Cathedrals.”
Granada was the only ITV network who bothered covering this, in half hour chunks during live cricket, neither, none and all of which would never merit even half a second of commercial telly today.
DAY FOUR was Bank Holiday Monday and JP’s visit to Manchester. Only BBC2 North West bothered with this from 8.15am to 11.30am, while the rest of the UK had a closedown and Granada bundled out the film Charlotte’s Web.
In the afternoon, coverage of the visit to York was shown on ITV during Bank Holiday Special (i.e. World of Sport), where between the ITV Six and motorcycling with Dickie Davies there was “coverage of the Pope’s arrival at York racecourse, his last stop in England before moving to Scotland and Wales”.
The visit to Scotland was shown on BBC2 from 4.45 to 7pm, with a youth rally at Murrayfield in Edinburgh (“Commentators Tom Fleming, Donnie B MacLeod and FR Bill Anderson“).
DAY FIVE was reasonably quiet, with BBC2 showing the mass in Glasgow from 2.30 to 4.05pm, while ITV’s coverage was only on news bulletins, including at one o’clock, “coverage of the Pope’s visit to a home for the mentally handicapped near Edinburgh”.
However things ballooned again for the SIXTH and FINAL DAY of this evangelical mystery tour.
The pope’s farewell concert at Ninian Park in Cardiff was shown on BBC2 from 3.10pm to 5pm, but on BBC Wales coverage started on BBC1 at 8.30am and continued all the way through until 7pm, with breaks just for the news at lunchtime and teatime, moving test match cricket and the children’s programmes over to BBC2.
On ITV, HTV Wales also provided coverage in the morning from 8.30am, but stopped in the afternoon to show The Derby. On the radio the Ninian Park gig was live on Radio 4, although Radio Wales went for the full, ahem, mass effect by starting its coverage at 11pm the previous evening, with “music, chat and information until dawn, as Cardiff prepares to greet the Pope”, and continuing non-stop until 5.30pm on Wednesday.
The Beeb’s coverage this year may be fairly exhaustive and indeed exhausting, especially for Ed Stourton, but it’s not quite in the league of ’82.
There’s no Dimbleby for starters – now that’s blasphemy for you. Jesus H Christ!Read More
A simple bit of identification will give you the grid reference of the next square to cross off your Puzzle Trail map.
Once you’ve spotted him – or her – you should take the first letter of their first name (their real name, not their celebrity name), and couple that with the number of points by which this person lost the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968.Read More
GOSPEL ACCORDING To Lord Lew. ROBERT POWELL played Him in Sunday-night multi-buck epic, born out of word-in-your-ear “exchange” twixt Pope Paul and Grade over tea in the Vatican. ANTHONY BURGESS and FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI were on scripture duties, while predictably stellar cast reeled in OLIVIA HUSSEY (Mary), ANNE BANCROFT (other Mary), IAN MCSHANE (Judas), MICHAEL YORK (John the Baptist), LAURENCE OLIVIER (Nicodemus – who?), RALPH RICHARDSON (Simeon), JAMES EARL JONES (King #1), DONALD PLEASANCE (King #2), FERNANDO REY (third King), JAMES MASON (Joseph – not that one), PETER USTINOV (baby-eating Herod), CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (another Herod), ROD STEIGER (Pilate), STACY KEACH (Barrabus), CYRIL CUSACK (Yehuda), IAN BANNEN (Amos), OLIVER TOBIAS (Joel) and legions more. Three-year shoot based in Italy and Tunisia. Cigar-chomper reputedly arrived at million-pound selling price in above-Atlantic aircraft “daydream”.Read More
PARISHONAL POW-WOW showcasing abnormally packed congregations doled up to the nines singing in an exaggerated fashion, interspersed with reflections on the locality from the likes of civic dignitaries, community leaders and the world’s oldest lollipop lady. Format barely touched since day one. Famous face (CLIFF MICHELMORE, PAM RHODES, MICHAEL BARRATT, DEBBIE THROWER) welcomes you to “the beautiful county town of…” while loitering in a churchyard. Then it’s inside for the first hymn (the words on the screen so you can sing along). Then it’s back outside for a nose around the vicinity. If it’s a fishing town, there’s always a shot of locals bringing in the first catch of the day at 5.30am. If it’s in a city, there’s a shot of a workman in an orange bib climbing onto a bus at 5.00am. More hymnnage follows. A celebrity born in the area will show up for some reminiscing (“I remember the Harvest Festival of 1957 when I dressed up as a wheat sheaf and forgot the words to the second verse of All Things Bright And Beautiful!”). A local sob story is told. Prayers will be read. During the final hymn the camera will pick out people in the congregation who were featured in the programme earlier. Then it’s a dutiful farewell from our host and that strident organ theme to send us on our way feeling suitably wretched. An immovable feast at 6.40pm on Sunday teatimes for decades, even turning up on Christmas Day, though latterly its timeslot has crept back to 5.30pm. Hosts now include JONATHAN EDWARDS and also DIANE LOUISE JORDAN who lied about being a Christian when applying for the job, only for prolonged exposure to the book of Jobe and all 3,781 verses of Guide Me Oh Thou Great Redeemer to convert her on the spot.
You might also want to see... Praise Be!.
SUMMERTIME STAND-IN for SONGS OF PRAISE, hosted by THORA HIRD from an oversized armchair in her “home” surrounded by numerous religious trinkets, baubles, bangles and beads. Basically a clip show of ver Praise with the Dame cueing in “requests” from viewers. “A lot of you wrote in asking to see again that wonderfully inspiring performance of Sing Hosannah To The King from that delightfully kept church of St Peter-in-the-Midden in Wessexshire.” Our host would drop in a few gossipy asides, pick her own faves from the archives, tearfully clutch real “letters” from fans, and introduce classic interviews between ROGER ROYLE and (usually) CLIFF RICHARD. Running order would be printed in Radio Times, thereby removing – for those who cared – all element of surprise (“Oh no, and I was hoping for Abide With Me this week!”)Read More
We must admit, we find this piece of Cumbernauld schtick increasingly difficult to take. A film can be just too whimsical for its own good after all. Still, one aspect of it we never tire of is the great and sadly now quite very late Chic Murray who played the Headmaster of the school, contemplating confectionary orders and insisting that little boys go off. Despite being the Greatest Comedian Who Ever Lived – FACT! – Chic didn’t have much of a film career which was a shame as he had a definite presence which he managed to transmit in even the most bizarre vehicles, even proving to be at least of note in shit like Secrets of a Door to Door Salesman and Confessions of a Handyman. In fact, he became as much a fixture of the British sex shitcom as much as Alfie Bass or his ilk ever were with titles like I’m Not Feeling Myself Tonight and Can I Come Too? so by the time Bill Forsyth roped him into this he was lucky to have been given the chance to gain some credibility at all. Of course we know that he already had buckets of credibility to spare as a result of his very early doors involvement in Casino Royale in which he played the deeply disturbing hitman who at one point reaches out of the telly and shoots Orson ‘peas’ Welles, a scene which kept us up for hours on the night of the first Easter Bank Holiday we saw it on. The last telly appearance we saw of chic was when he appeared on Tarby & Co. Not the best material he had on show unfortunately but he made up for it by appearing on national primetime television doing his routine wearing a dark blue tie with the Strathclyde Regional Council logo on it.Read More
Whevever Dame Telly of Vision deigns to screen on of Bing ‘n’ Bob’s screwball messaround masterclasses, phones depart hooks nationwide. The fourth sees them as two wisecracking hoodlums on the trail of Klondike gold, thanks to a map secreted about the person of nightclub singer Who Else But Louisianan Dorothy Lamour.Read More
GOD AWFUL clergycom in which a young vicar takes over a village parish and becomes a lust target for the ‘young wives group’, all of whom embraced dizziness/stupidity in a way most Page 3 girls can only dream of. STEVEN PACEY played the dishy rev, and Scottish sort MAUREEN “CASUALTY” BEATTIE was one of the frustrateds. There was also a wifely role for PATRICIA “SHE’S FOUND ANOTHER MAN, DAD” BRAKE, while ANNA “OH, ARRRFUR!” KAREN overplayed a belligerent cleaner (headscarf, curlers, fag in mouth, nuclear voice – no resemblence to Hilda Ogden intended, honest) and provided the only semi-memorable moment when she interrupted a wedding at the ‘know of any lawful impediment’ stage to moan that she hadn’t been invited. Even though she was there, in a pew, with hat and buttonhole. Thirteen episodes in all, during which the husbands of these supposed ‘wives’ never surfaced. Opening titles showed the women singing Bread Of Heaven with altered lyrics, while looking simperingly at the vicar.Read More
EARLY SUNDAY morning Christathon where audience were invited to join in, but only if equipped with “a bible, some bread, and a candle.” Kwik Save-style Evangelicism.Read More
“AS I SAT at my small kitchen table this morning, a thought formed in my mind: what price the peace of one man’s soul?” Infamous Epilogue-esque pontifications that popped up just after mid-morning BBC1 kids programmes delivered by out-of-work thespian types, usually JOSS ACKLAND. Poems, short stories and so forth of an ecclesiastical bent. Taken over by obnoxious stage school kids during summer holidays. Small screen equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses rattling at your front door. Go away!Read More
HARRY SECOMBE buys a Senior Citizen’s Railcard and heads off on a decade-long excursion to admire some of the country’s most famous religious relics – and to look at a few buildings as well. Route strictly determined by the necessity to visit every ITV region at least once a year, which while posing no problem for, say, Granada, probably exercised the tourist information officers of Guernsey (“Well, we’ve the cliffs, or the sea, or the sea and the cliffs, or a pregnant puffin…”). At each location a celebrity would be conveniently waiting, ready to share their “spiritual journey through life” and then shut up while Harry sang a hymn on a nearby hilltop.Read More
SUNDAY EVENING. The 1970s. Tinned peaches with Dream Topping. Battenburg. On the telly, your choice was sedate GEOFFREY “WINNER TAKES ALL” WHEELER fronting SONGS OF PRAISE on BBC1, or this atheist-baiting horrorfest on ITV, with the egregious JESS YATES in charge, introducing guests of the calibre of MOIRA ANDERSON and various harpists to faintly religious effect. Jess got his marching orders in 1974 following tabloid coverage of his relationship with showgirl Moira Kay; various guest presenters took over, Deayton-like, for the rest of the decade including WILFRED PICKLES, ROBERT DOUGALL, CLIFF MICHELMORE and GORDON JACKSON.Read More