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20 small tales of Television Centre

Fry and Laurie not pictured

On Thursday, May 17, BBC4 brings us a superb, 90-minute documentary, Tales of Television Centre. Here are 20 brilliant things about it.

Britain's best building1) Joan Bakewell calls Television Centre a “jewel box of activity”

2) There’s a people-being-stopped-by-the-Television-Centre-commissioner montage

3) Esther Rantzen confiding “walking into Television Centre meant sparkle time!”

4) Philip Glenister recalling visiting the Dr Who studios when he was nine years old. “My abiding memory was, ‘My God, that’s cheap!'”

5) A clip of Sarah Greene’s mum in Z Cars

6) Judith Hann recalling the time she had to share her dressing room with an otter that was scheduled to appear on Blue Peter

7) Sarah Greene (again) revealing what she and Smitty did in Dressing Room 2.

8) John Craven: “I was told Television Centre was built in a circle so the buck couldn’t stop.”

9) Clive Dunn on It’s A Square World dressed up as Dr Who William Hartnell.

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10) The on-screen caption font is the old slopey BBC-tv typeface.

11) The brandishing of an ornate ‘TS’ card for recalcitrant production staff – the letters standing for ‘Tough Shit’.

12) Maggie Philbin’s revelation about what a BBC make-up girl did to her.

13) Behind the scenes footage from Eureka.

14) Katy Manning: “People were bonking all over the BBC!”

15) Eric ‘n’ Ern teasing Graeme Harper in a BBC lift and branding him ‘Choochie Face’.

16) Robert Powell inviting all of Pan’s People out for dinner – because he didn’t have the nerve to ask Babs alone.

17) “Merry Christmas VT!”

18) Johnny Ball’s revelation about Rick James and co.

19) How it was arranged for the BBC fountain to be switched on during the tap-dancing routine to raise money for Action Research For The Crippled Child.

20) A perfect choice of closing music.



  1. Chris O

    May 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I must say this really was a phenomenally good programme – a cut above your average clip show and made all the better for the sheer number of celebs interviewed. I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t have got a Python on or a Goodie but that’d be to ask for perfection.

    This was a lovely insight into a well-known part of television history and left me with even more respect for TV Centre than I had before I sat down to watch it.

    Well worthy of plenty of BBC4 repeats!

  2. fl3m

    May 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I also thought it was excellent. Isn’t it strange how footage shot on video rather than film ages better?

    They used a piece of music that I’ve heard on quite a few things. Most memorably on The Two Ronnies’ Stop – You’re Killing Me. Does anybody know what it’s called?

  3. Richard16378

    May 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    The Stop – You’re Killing Me music is called The Detectives by Alan Tew.

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