TV Cream


Too busy thinking about The Beatles

"...and even better, it doesn't talk back!"Another bank holiday almost completely devoid of specially-prepared and singularly-special telly got TV Cream to thinking: whatever happened to the theme night?

Your proper, whistles-and-bells, special-feature-in-Radio-Times theme night?

Not your couple of repeats, two-to-three hour affairs. No, we’re talking about your massive fuck-off extravaganzas that begun at 5 or 6pm and went right through to the early hours of the morning.

You know the ones we mean: TV Hell, Weather Night, Lime Grove Night, Birth Night, One Day In The 60s…

They were the preserve of BBC2 in the late 80s and early 90s. More specifically they were the preserve of then-controller Alan Yentob, and are indelibly associated in TV Cream’s brain with long weekends, anniversaries, high days and holidays.

It’s perverse that these no longer exist. For starters, given the fact TV archives are exponentially growing, there will always be more stuff, and hence new stuff, to use for theme nights.

It would be a way of giving BBC2 more of a must-see, quirky feel once again, instead of its current non-existent dumping ground-esque personality.

Digital channels, with their half-hearted attempts at theme nights (ooh look, two repeats plus a new interview with Mark Lawson on BBC4!), should stick to stand-alone programmes and leave their elder brother to do things properly.

For instance, instead of last Monday’s rubbish line-up of, among other things, A Garden In Snowdonia, Future of Food, Hardcore Profits and Kill Bill – none of which belong on a bank holiday – BBC2 should have, and could have, given the entire evening over to a parade of things about, say, 1989, or the moon landings, or the great British holiday, or trains, or time, or spies, or vaudeville, or the English language, or…the Beatles.

Yup, instead of tonight’s semi-theme night (there’s even a repeat of Dad’s Army, for god’s sake) BBC2 should have gone for the full works and handed over eight, even nine hours to the Fabs.

And it would have looked something like…

A celebration of the greatest band in the history of popular music, starting with In My Life: the first of tonight’s five-minute reminiscences from people who witnessed the Beatles first hand, beginning with Michael Aspel.

5.40 The Beatles at the Beeb
A compilation of the group’s many appearances on BBC programmes, both together and alone, including Juke Box Jury, Not Only But Also, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Rutland Weekend Television.

6.20 In My Life: Cilla Black

6.25 Film: A Hard Day’s Night

7.55 In My Life: Jimmy Tarbuck

8.00 The George Martin Tapes
The Beatles’ producer discusses working with the group, plays some rare archive material and talks through the evolution of some of the band’s most famous songs.

8.40 In My Life: Simon Bates

8.45 Come Together
A documentary investigating the relationship of the Beatles after 1970, including the various attempts from members of the group and others to engineer a reformation, plus the many collaborations between ex-Beatles and their associates.

9.35 In My Life: Brian Matthew

9.40 Paul Morley meets Ringo Starr
The veteran music journalist attempts to arrange an interview with the Beatles’ drummer.

10.10 In My Life: Angela Rippon

10.15 Apple: Rotten to the Core
Documentary exploring the rise and fall of the Beatles’ late 60s business empire.

11.05 In My Life: Tom O’Connor

11.10 10 Songs that Changed the World
Paul Gambuccini picks 10 Beatles tracks that reshaped popular music, tells the history of their creation and considers their legacy.

12.10am In My Life: David Frost

12.15 The Songs we were Singing
Paul McCartney in conversation with Clive James.

12.55 In My Life: Cliff Michelmore

1.00 Film: Let It Be

2.30 Close



  1. annoyingmouse

    September 5, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    You’re surely missing a programme about the Beatles effect on the sixties featuring gratuitous overuse of A Whiter Shade of Pale over juxtaposed images of hippies and the Vietnam war with a talking head going on about the cold war “… a feeling of hopelessness but the Beatles changed all of that” quickly cutting to All You Need Is Love on Our World.

    A nice programme would be one about less well remembered Beatles stuff from the sixties like the cartoon series and the Christmas records.

    Is that a lost picture from an early 1970 attempt to claim that everything was ok in the band? Never mind “Paul is dead”, I want to see more from the “John is actually made of cardboard” period.

    (Actually, having been broadcast 14 years before I was born, I’d love to actually see Our World. I presume the whole programme is one those things that safely made it through any archive purges. The other bit from the UK was about Cumbernauld wasn’t it? Who came up with that bright idea?)

  2. David Smith

    September 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Lest we forget, the BBC2 of old used to do not only theme nights but theme days (well, starting around noon) – as well as the aforementioned One Day in the ’60s and Lime Grove Story there was A Perfect Christmas in 1991.

    On New Year’s Eve this year they should do Noughties Night (punctuated with, like your Beatles slots, five-minute celebrity reminiscences called Noughtie Bits). After all, nobody in the media seems to be that bothered about the impending close of another decade (on a slight tangent, how come we never got a Sounds of the ’90s?).

  3. B B Beyer

    September 7, 2009 at 12:20 am

    What about a “Nights Night”? A night of programmes dedicated to exploring theme nights down the years. There’s gotta be some mileage in that. Anyone care to suggest a schedule?

  4. Adrian

    September 7, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I’m just waiting for a new series of the ‘I Love’ franchise covering the noughties, err next year probably. Presumably they could run a few theme evenings from that..

  5. Jules Tavernier

    September 8, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Yes an I love the noughties would be brilliant. I for one can’t wait to hear Stuart Maconie and Miranda Sawyer wittering on about where they were when the dot com bubble burst and how they felt when Nasty Nick Bateman tried to cheat in Big Brother.

  6. Gregory House MD

    September 8, 2009 at 10:29 am

    It’s been quite an eventful decade actually. But don’t let that get in the way of a tired old (almost a decade) joke, obviously.

  7. David Smith

    September 8, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Where they were was probably being interviewed about something or other for I Love the ’90s!

  8. Nick H

    September 16, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Funnily enough, I’m at this very moment preparing a ‘theme’ night on Youtube, entitled ‘A Night of Entertainment on BBC2’, trying to recreate a typical 1970s BBC2 evening’s telly by cobbling together videos on the web…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top