TV Cream

TV: J is for...


Misguided schedule filling attempt to combine wartime nostalgia with nascent video technology which probably doesn’t figure too prominently on GLYNIS BARBER’s CV. The future Makepeace, yet to break out of the ‘bit of fluff’ phase of her career, played the hapless heroine (press kit cliché number one) of the eponymous Daily Mirror cartoon strip, who kept the British end up in its darkest hour (press kit cliché number two) by scampering about for a couple of panels in a frilly negligée, and… er, that was it. Kickstarting the much loved but frankly inexplicable tradition of aimlessly naughty newspaper cartoons, it was Axa without the dense cosmic symbolism, George and Lynne minus the coruscating wit. Nevertheless, in a few short years it became a national institution. Well, there was a war on.

In 1982, there was another war on, and with a wave of jingoistic ‘forty years on’ WWII nostalgia subsequently rippling through the media, it sounded like a bit of a wheeze to run off a little tribute to Jane in the form of a semi-live action recreation of the strip, with captions, panels and on-screen sound effects to boot. So NEIL INNES was hired to pen a wistful crooning paean to “the forces’ favourite”, veteran announcer BOB DANVERS-WALKER provided authentic period narration, and Barber was chosen as a suitably decorative leading lady (press kit cliché number three). The stage was set for a dose of risqué ribaldry with lashings of olde worlde charm (press kit clichés numbers four through six inclusive).

When things got underway, however, it quickly became clear how slight the source material was, even for five ten minute chunks. There’d be a bit of espionage intrigue in a chateau somewhere, Barber would somehow get her clothes torn off and run about a bit in her scanties until the reliable stooge likes of ROBIN BAILEY, MAX WALL or BOB TODD would happen to come through the door, cop an eyeful, and drop their monocles in randy astonishment to the sound of a violin emulating a wolf whistle. It was all good innocent saucy fun!

Or, to put it another way, it was rather dull and vaguely creepy. And not helped by the chosen method of rendering those cartoony backgrounds – or, to be fair, pretty much the only method available at the time – the venerable Colour Separation Overlay. Yep, hairdos buzzed with blueish electricity, rogue shadows fizzled round Glynis’s high heels, and the retinas of the viewing public screamed out for Optrex, or at least ten minutes staring at the wood chip to recover.

At least the background palette was restricted to suitable subdued wartime beiges and browns, leaving the end product slightly more watchable than such eye-watering Day-Glo affairs as CAPTAIN ZEP and JOHN LENNON: A JOURNEY IN THE LIFE. This didn’t mean it was anything other than a sterling technical achievement by the standards of the time. It was highly skilled, painstaking work (from a team led by STEVE ‘TRIPODS’ DREWETT), but never in the history of BBC visual effects had so many laboured for so long to produce something so unimpressive.

Still, it fared reasonably enough in the no man’s land of early evening BBC2 to warrant a sequel, Jane in the Desert, being quietly slipped out with a polite cough two years later, with a more audacious colour palette and a rather more accomplished way of mixing the actors and backgrounds. Then the whole thing was brought to a furtive close, with all concerned agreeing that some nostalgic whimsies are best left as faded sepia-tinted memories. For all of three years, after which JASPER CARROTT and friends turned the damn thing into a feature film, with even more calamitous results. “Oh Colonel, really!”



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Directed by Andrew ‘Rutland Weekend Television’ Gosling, who appeared to be the BBC’s “go to” guy for weird comedy shows made for tuppence.

  2. Ken Shinn

    July 6, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Slightly more alarming still was that “Jane And The Lost City” (to give the film version its name) was penned by bonkers Grail theorist Henry Lincoln and his Quark-creating partner in crime, Mervyn Haisman…

  3. Glenn A

    July 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Strange, very strange, I saw it once and thought, WTF is this? Never been repeated to my knowledge.

  4. David Smith

    July 15, 2010 at 6:32 am

    The bloke on the top left of one of those photos looks like one of the Chuckle Brothers.

  5. Glenn A

    July 16, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I have researched this a bit more and seemingly it never made it to DVD, but oddly You Tube clips have been removed for breaching copyright, which is odd as hardly anyone recalls Jane now and I’d forgotten about it until Cream reminded me. Also Google matches are thin on the ground.

  6. David Haisman

    May 20, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Ken Shinn, Henry Lincoln had nothing to do with ‘Jane and the lost city’ it was written by my father Mervyn Haisman.

  7. Richard16378

    May 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I’ve got a book on TV Graphics written in the late 1980s that has a few more stills from this.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    April 8, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Anyone consider doing a live version of Daily Star’s Checkout Girl, featuring the lives and loves of checkout girls in a supermarket that was popular around this time?
    Mind you the Daily Star always redeemed itself in my eyes with its Judge Dredd cartoon.

  9. George White

    April 10, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Jane, weirdly in the same ‘verse as Winds of War, as Howard Lang reprises his role as Churchill. Similarly, WOW’s Hitler, Gunter ‘Slugworth’ Meisner essayed the Fuhrer not only with Lang’s replacement in War and Remembrance, Robert Hardy in Churchill the Wilderness Years, but in the similarly rollicking Jean Paul Belmondo comedy Ace of Aces, also dragging up in Alpine dirndl and braid as Hitler’s sister Angela. Berkoff replaced Meisner for Remembrance

  10. Droogie

    February 27, 2021 at 10:11 am

    Watched this when I was 13 – an awkward age when I loved anything relating to comics, but also a time when I felt “ confused and emotional” whenever the beautiful Glynis Barber appeared in her underwear. From what I understand, the reason neither series got repeated or a DVD release was supposedly due to Barber later buying the rights and effectively destroying the tapes as she didn’t want this being seen again. Both series can however be seen on YouTube .

  11. Glenn Aylett

    February 28, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    Anyone get the impression BBC Two in the early eighties was the go to place for off the wall programmes opposite the news? Not forgetting Channel 4, which sometimes outdid BBC Two in its attempt to be different, with the surreal cartoon Murun Buchstansanger. Beats House of Games and Hollyoaks hands down.

  12. Tom Ronson

    February 18, 2023 at 5:45 pm

    Bit of crossover with the underrated Thames comedy series The Steam Video Company going on here, what with Bob Todd and Bob Danvers-Walker on board. The main difference being that The Steam Video Company was good fun, whereas Jane was, as noted above, largely dull – and more than a little creepy. All I really remember is the wolf-whistle violin.

  13. Glenn Aylett

    February 19, 2023 at 12:26 pm

    I can remember Jane being bizarre and a little bit pervy, actors in their sixties ogling a young woman in her underwear. The concept was unique, revive a 1940s cartoon strip, just badly done, creepy and boring. I don’t think Glynis Barber likes being reminded of this and would much sooner be reminded of her years as Harriet Makepeace.

  14. Richardpd

    February 19, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    I’m sure she’s happier to talk about her time as Soolin in Blake’s 7 rather than this.

    While I’m fine with the likes of The House Of Games I used to like the the oldies BBC2 used to show in the evenings.

    An episode of an ITC show or The Man From UNCLE followed by a repeat of Sounds Of The Seventies was a great way to start a Friday night’s viewing in the mid 1990s.

  15. Glenn Aylett

    February 19, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    Dempsey and Makepeace probably made Glynis Barber a lot more money and made her more famous than Jane or Blake’s 7. I suppose she would look at it now as a case of needing the money and getting more exposure, but certainly not something to be proud of. Always wonder how the young dancers on The Benny Hill Show in the show’s most notorious years from 1980 to 1985 consider the show now.

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