There are only a couple of months to go until the first transmitter is turned off and digital TV begins seeping across the land like the globules in the opening titles to Survivors.
But what word has there been by way of suitably lavish happenings to mark each stage of analogue’s farewell? None! The whole thing might just as well involve a group of unlikeable people gathered on a muddy old farm in the back of beyond, like the rest of every episode of Survivors.
No, what’s needed is a proper, whistles-and-bells, star-encrusted nationwide effort, called something irritating like The Really Big Switchover, packed full of celebrities and gimmicks. An oversized foam-costumed walking embodiment of Digit Al would be involved, naturally, traversing the land from region to region like he’s carrying the Olympic flame. Or the Nationwide chocolate cake.
On top of that, however, there need to be massive events in each part of the country to accompany the actual moment the switch is flicked and Five Million Pensioners Realise They Can’t Watch Coronation Street Anymore ((C) The Daily Mail).
Fortunately (for this blog if not anything else), just such a roster of events suggests itself:
The Really Big Switchover (part one)
WHERE: A windswept moorland
WHO: Melvyn Bragg, Derek Batey, Fiona Armstrong
HOW: Melvyn pontificates with a group of academics for 45 minutes before Derek does a plug for his Mr and Mrs stage show. Fiona stands in the background looking frosty. Miss Carlisle 2008 presses a giant button which makes a beeeeeeoooooooowwwww sound effect.
WHERE: The Albert Dock
WHO: Colin Weston, Elton Welsby, Sue Robbie, Julie Goodyear, Pete Waterman (DJing a special outside disco), Lord Michael Winstanley (with advice on how to avoid being diddled by a shifty Freeview salesman), William Roache, Anne Kirkbride and a special guest appearance by Richard and Judy.
HOW: Ken and Deidre are having problems with their TV reception. Bet walks in and tells them they need to get digital. Richard and Judy drop by with a spare set-top box (Richard: “You’ll find it pays to keep at least three spare in case of emergencies” Judy: “Oh Richard”) and soon everyone is settling down to enjoy an episode of a strangely-familiar Northern soap opera set in a cobbled street that’s not Albion Market. Meanwhile Colin, Elton and Sue sing a song about Winter Hill transmitter before blowing it up.
WHERE: Plymouth Hoe
WHO: Richard Digance, Judi Spiers, Gus Honeybun
HOW: A lookalike of Sir Francis Drake steps forward for a game of bowls; one of the balls hits a giant cardboard cut-out of Judi’s face, a ship’s bell sounds, Gus squeals and the plug is pulled.
WHERE: The Rift
WHO: Dilwyn Young Jones and Vincent Kane
HOW: An unofficial facsimile of the TARDIS materialises by that giant fountain thing in Cardiff. Out step Dilwyn and Vincent, they exchange pleasantries, thank you for watching analogue television, then step back inside. The switchover happens off-screen, for budget reasons.
WHERE: Norwich market place
WHO: Nicholas Parsons, Fred Dineage, Russell Grant, and Paul Lavers dressed as a medieval knight
HOW: Paul is positioned on a giant rotating board which Nick, Fred and Russell have to spin. While a brass band plays the Anglia fanfare, Paul uses his spear to try and puncture various balloons suspended above his head. Most of them contain whipped cream, custard and mushy peas, but one contains a mobile phone with which he has to ring the nearby transmitter control room and tell them to shut down. Russell provides predictions for the future of television. “Now onto Pisces – this is you Nicholas!”
WHERE: The Angel Of The North
WHO: Tom O’Connor, Mike Neville, Jools Holland, Supergran
HOW: While Jools plays some boogie-woogie, Supergran flies down from the top of the Angel and lands on a giant Crosswits board, which lights up the letters SWITCHOVER and which triggers the opening of a mystery compartment inside the Angel, a la The Wicker Man, from which Tom and Neville wave at the crowd.
WHERE: On top of LWT Towers on the South Bank
WHO: Michael Aspel, Dame Edna Everage, Danny Baker, Janet Street-Porter, Gloria Hunniford (interviewing people in the crowd), Roland Rivron (floating in the Thames), Fred Housego (answering riddles from Aspel on the history of TV), Greg Dyke (in shirt sleeves, explaining how he saved television by inventing Freeview)
HOW: A giant banner is unfurled down one side of the building, onto which a countdown clock is projected. At the moment of the switchover, Cilla Black, in a pod in the London Eye, wishes viewers “a lorra lorra digital fun” and pulls a lever launching a flaming arrow high into the sky which lands on a junction box at Crystal Palace and is the cue for Denis Norden to turn a golden key in a nearby portakabin.
To be concluded…