TV Cream

Cream over Britain

Advent Calendar: December 18th

1980: Top Of The Pops (full playlist), the last one before Christmas. Both Simon Bates and the production team are in “that” kind of mood, right from the off where the women flanking Bates for his opening link appear to miss their cue even after he’s started talking, unless they really are that excited about the prospect of “great live acts”. The full Winifred’s and the Barron Knights really running out of steam are included, but here’s the real highlight – Little & Large introducing the Specials. Yes, Eddie does some impressions that he laughs at, and yes, the phrase “special school” is invoked. That the band have donned their best Christmas jumpers, swapped bassists with the Beat and are performing one of their most dread-laden hits only adds to the effect.

1981: Franchises coming towards their end has been a common theme throughout On This Day, today seeing the final regional news show Scene South East. An eyewitness account of the fatal clashes that followed the declaration of martial law in Poland is hardly the light material they’d have wanted but eventually the closing down service gets to the writer of the guitar and tambourine theme and a hint of “the great Sussex pudding mystery”. The extended wave of the entire Southern team from around and atop their building is a much more dignified way to go out then what they actually did on New Year’s Eve, but that’s a different story.

1982: A full 79 minutes of the last Saturday Superstore before Christmas. While Cheggers is out in Durham with such kid-friendly features as handbell ringers and Lindisfarne, Dexys and Torvill & Dean are in the studio. Tony Hart designs Christmas cards, All Star Record Breakers is previewed, John Craven links up with Brian Hanrahan in the Falklands and Mike Read pops into the gallery, as all live shows do when short of proper content. Inevitably, Read has invited his band in too.

1984: John Peel very rarely got to see the recording of one of his own Peel sessions, so Whistle Test decided to send him down to Maida Vale themselves to watch Tools You Can Trust in action. A Mancunian industrial/experimental band who favoured metallic percussion and politicised lyrics, Peel would some years later bemoan that the TV exposure didn’t help their profile much, though they’re far from the easiest of sells to the unwary. Veteran BBC radio session engineer Mike Robinson produced it with an assistant sporting a mullet and lemon coloured sweater. Wonder what (checks notes) Mark Radcliffe does these days. Back in the studio his Egton House Room 318 co-habitant Andy Kershaw talks him through the experience before the legendary NME journalist (and future The Day Today writer) Steven Wells, here in his performance poet form Seething Wells, assails both with a stanza.

1992: And another region on the wane, TVS in everything-must-go mode with the final, near enough hour-long Friday Coast To Coast. The classic regional news filler of the top ten Christmas toys finds a spot, and as it’s 1992 they ignore it and talk about Thunderbirds and gaming zombification instead, the reporter virtually spitting out ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ as if personally affronted. Following that, the final TVS Police 5 as Shaw Taylor regards with interest a calliope in Crawley.

1993: Just to sneak a quick sixth clip in for today because we couldn’t really leave this lying around – BBC2’s theme Radio Night featured a documentary about comedy transitioning from radio to telly which featured the first recorded sketch, and possibly first TV appearance, as himself by Armando Iannucci.

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