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Palin’s progress

The Beeb seemed to take on the guise of an absent-minded Charlie Drake-esque professor in the late 70s, putting things down then forgetting what it’d done with them or neglecting to look after previously cherished possessions only to find them gone astray when its back was turned. There’s a great entry in Michael Palin’s recently-published 1969-79 diaries which superbly sums up the whole state of affairs:

Thursday, June 29th 1978
…Drive through the rain to TV Centre. Terry Hughes disappears, and some time later, when we’ve finally got the BBC video machine to work (this takes four or five people, secretaries, window cleaners etc.), Terry emerges from Jimmy Gilbert’s office and, in an urgent whispered aside, tells us that Bruce Forsyth has just signed for ITV, and that Jimmy is in a state of utter confusion and trying to write a press release.”

Just a few months before Morecambe and Wise went missing, prompting nothing less than a emergency meeting of the Board of Governors, details of which have for some reason just been obtained by someone at the Independent who was clearly bored after the Christmas holiday. The highlight of these minutes is obviously when the BBC Chairman Michael Swann, in an unusually perceptive remark, wonders whether Eric’n’Ern had “perhaps passed their best?”

If you still haven’t done so, you’d be wise to invest in a copy of Palin’s magnificent tome. It’s the kind of size and weight that thankfully precludes you attempting to read it anywhere other than inside your own home in a large and comfortable chair positioned in good light and relative silence where you can give it the attention and respect it deserves. Plus it has entries like this:

Tuesday, April 14th 1970
At the BBC there was nowhere to park – the excuse being ‘Apollo 13’. In explanation of why ‘Apollo 13’ should be responsible for filling the BBC car park, Vic, the one-armed gateman, just said ‘Apollo 13’ in a way which brooked no argument.”

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