TV Cream

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The First Division of Television Furniture

barrattOne of the many many highlights of BBC4’s recent Nationwide documentary was the sight of Michael Barratt blithely doing a bit to camera while a pot plant grew out of his desk.

This instantly confirmed the admission of Mike’s office suite (telephone, ashtray and customised wall of monitors included) to that uber-exclusive inventory: the First Division of Television Furniture.

But does it command enough upholstered clout to outrank any of the Division’s current top five?

1) The BBC Weathermen Daytime Desktop Conversation Area

weather Perma-feature of the mid-to-late 1980s, never without an in-season bouquet, that tantalisingly-unexplained ‘box of tricks’ at the forecaster’s fingers, and a view across London allowing details of the climate to be followed niftily by an avuncular ‘…as you can see behind me’.

2) The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop Presentation Pod

swapshopVaguely space age-esque circular plaything covered in crap but boasting space for Edmonds to rakishly put his feet up. “People are always asking me, how do you get inside it?” fibbed Noel every week. He revealed the answer on the last edition. A nation shrugged.

3) The Dave Allen Anecdote High Chair And Retractable Side Table

daveallen2Uncomfortable-looking contraption from which its occupant dispensed pointed blarney and acidic blather, usually involving as many equally terse arm gestures as possible. Accompanying left-hand add-on accessory served as holding pen for important visual aids and safety blankets.

4) The Channel 4 Daily Newsreader Bureau

c4dailyThunderously po-faced look-how-serious-we-are arrangement of dull and joyless colours and items organised for maximum potency to remind the viewing several of how fucking ghastly the world is first thing in the morning. Available in London, Washington and Tokyo varieties.

5) The Turnabout Swimming Pool

turnabout2Never knowingly used, referred to, advertised, entered, drained, chlorinated, defumigated, sifted, salinated, polluted or covered out-of-season to avoid falling leaves. But it was still genius.



  1. Adrian

    February 16, 2009 at 9:19 am

    “1) The BBC Weathermen Daytime Desktop Conversation Area”

    Apparantly the plants outside the window were strategically positioned potted plants on a balcony, presumably to give the impression that Shephard’s Bush was a lush and verdant forest.

    Nice sweater on the weatherman. Also the monitor looks like a Cub Microvitec, much used by for BBC computer graphics in the 80s.

    Do newsreaders still have phones on their newsdesks? ISTR no desk was complete without one or more Trimphones on in the 70s and 80s..

  2. fl3m

    February 17, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    I always wondered about the Turnabout swimming pool. How deep do you reckon it was?

  3. Dave Nightingale

    February 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    What no Jimmy Saville Chair from Jim’ll Fix It?

    The High Seat Chair from the Shackleton’s Advert (YTV region only…)?

    Cyril Fletcher’s Leather Armchair from “That’s Life”?

  4. David Pascoe

    February 18, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I used to bloody love that Daytime Weather Desk Area. Brings back memories of Andy Crane and Five to Eleven.

    As for phones on newsreaders desks, they seem to be a thing of the past now. Those Section 28 protestors would be able to fuck up George Alagaih good and proper these days as he wouldn’t be able to phone for security like Nicholas Witchell did.

  5. fl3m

    February 19, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Does anybody remember when Playschool got revamped around 1983ish? For a while they had this contraption thay would get shown during the end credits, releasing ball bearings from the top that would cascade to the bottom. I think it was called the Shapes Machine and I was fascinated by it.

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