TV Cream

TV: M is for...

Magpie

BLUE-PETER-BEATING ITV kids’ magazine, staffed, in chronological order, as follows.

Initially, TONY BASTABLE, PETE BRADY and SUSAN STRANKS, a dream team covering all bases (“Between them, Magpie’s three presenters have a wide range of hobbies and interests. Pete’s water ski-ing and Sue’s cycling have already been featured in the programme, but Tony’s main interest in history still requires more of an airing. Tony – “I’m the old-fashioned type” – hopes to share his enthusiasm for the more unusual aspects of things past with viewers.”). Lots of features on behind-the-scenes goings-on at the Thames studios, partly because kids were fascinated by all that, but mainly because it was very cheap.

1969 saw the introduction of PUFF THE PONY (“Just 12 hands, 2in high – 4ft. 2in, to the uninitiated – Puff is eight years old and seems to be enjoying his television life”) along with riding expert PAULINE VOSS, and the expansion of the programme to a twice-weekly ‘Peter-ish slot (“Twice-weekly means double the information, double the entertainment and twice as many chances to win one of the splendid Magpie badges -or “A day with the Magpie film unit” prizes. To launch the “dynamic duo,” Magpie introduces a new feature. Following the highly successful item on the American Apollo Moon shot a few weeks ago, letters poured in to producer Sue Turner and it was decided to extend the idea to cover all aspects of space flight. Pete Brady, with the expert help of TV Times Science Editor Peter Fairley, presents the “ABC of space”, which will examine everything from “Astronaut”-today’s subject-to “Zero g”). For the lads, an early football skills initiative set out to enlist “the managers and stars of soccer to demonstrate every facet of the game from the role of the attacking forward to goalkeeping, from the sweeper-up to the full back.” Meanwhile, “The competition to find a name for the fat little Magpie bird that is featured in the programme’s opening film proved enormously popular. More than 20,000 votes were received and from the five possible names viewers chose Murgatroyd. It was a case of coast-to-coast inspiration because the winning nominators came from Kent, Tees-side, Surrey, Gloucester and London.” It didn’t stop there – ’69 also saw the launch of “Magpie’s ‘floating studio’ Thames Magpie, at a grand launching ceremony at Shepperton, Middlesex. Lady Dorothy Rose, wife of round-the-world voyager Sir Alec Rose, will perform the traditional ceremonials, and it is hoped to show viewers round Sir Alec’s boat, Lively Lady. Many distinguished people will be at this gala occasion, and you can meet the woodcarver who made the twin figureheads for Thames Magpie. She has two figureheads because as One is for Sorrow, there had to be a Two for Joy!” It was all taking off by now – “Magpie seems to have started a new cult. The programme’s files now contain details of more than a dozen Magpie clubs started by viewers up and down the country, at least four boats have been named Magpie and there are three pop groups composed of young viewers who have called themselves the Magpies.”

1970 brought both Susan’s Back in Gear historical fashion segment and the Magpie Mystery Tour: “Magpie hopes to be coming to you ‘live’ from a very special outside broadcast location. It should be spectacular, amusing, and amazing, with a strong equine slant.” There was also the first BP-apeing summer expedition – “Where have they been during the summer? The whole Magpie team flew halfway round the world to film and record interesting stories from the Far East. Among the places they stayed: Manila in the Philippines and Hongkong.” On the more serious side, there was “Can You Cope? in which the programme’s team is joined by TV Doctor Michael Winstanley. The topics dealt with are not limited to the purely medical, but include advice on what to do in a variety of situations. For example: would you know how to set about stopping the water flow from a burst pipe? What would you do if you saw strangers acting suspiciously next door? This feature aims to tell you.”

1971 saw the first personnel change, as Brady made way for “wee Scot” DOUGIE RAE, very much stepping into the Noakesian “action man” mantle: “who’s been out training with the British Olympic Ski Team? Look at those beautiful bruises Doug is sporting and no more need be said!” Newsdesk rounded up local clubs and events in a community-minded style. The Magpie Appeal began, its total indicated by line going through “the Thames studios here at Teddington Lock.”

1973, and researcher MICK ROBERTSON replaced Bastable, who moved behind the scenes into a producer’s role (taking over from the ubiquitous ROGER PRICE). Dougie, meanwhile, continued to milk a self-deprecating line in heightist gags (“Douglas Rae is not very large – in fact to put it bluntly he’s rather small – so he’s been out learning about the art of self-defence.”)

1974 saw the original team finally evaporate for good, as Stranks handed over to Tory MP’s sister JENNY HANLEY. Worthy Magpie Special programmes on disabilities, country life, endangered species and the like were commonplace.

1977 – Dougie ups sticks, leaving a two-handed team for a while until the ever-loving TOMMY BOYD joins proceedings in the autumn, heralding a second Golden Age team that would last until the final edition on 6th June 1980.

The ‘Pie’s Much-debated ‘working class credentials’ seemed to stem mostly from the fact that a) it wasn’t on the BBC, and b) Princess Anne never went on it.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Enoch S.

    February 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Surely you haven’t forgotten the most important aspect of early Magpie – no bra on la Stranks…

  2. Lee James Turnock

    May 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Theme tune credited to ‘the Murgatroyd Band’ was in fact Steve Winwood and members of the Spencer Davis group. Don’t say I never tell you anything.

  3. Nibs

    August 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    I was one of the chosen few who named Murgatroyd! I lived in Morden, Surrey at the time and it remains my 15 minutes of fame. Was on TV and got a badge, a poster / picture of Murgatroyd and studio photos.
    I was only about 5 or 6 at the time and was gutted that I missed Marine Boy the day we had to attend at Shepperton studios.
    Best bit was Susan Stranks looking after me and getting me a drink and a chocolate bar in the canteen!

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