Searching for Britain’s best lady driver
Yes, if it’s Thursday it must be Creamguide. Er, unless you’re reading this on the website, of course, where we generally put it up on Friday evening. Whenever you’re reading this, though, we hope it’s of some use to you, unless you’ve stumbled on it through Google in six months’ time. Do send your news and views to email@example.com, and we will deal with it forthwith.
18.45 Dad’s Army
As we’re doing with this missive from TJ “Tom” Worthington. “The amusing writeup of the fall and fall of Eldorado has reminded me of just how overpowering the pre-launch hype was – in fact, I would wager that it left a lot of people sick of the sight of Gerry, Freddie and company before they’d even made it to air. Famously there was the off-putting ‘Are You Ready For Eldorado?’ ad campaign, but the two most ridiculous examples were that bloke who played the handyman selling his not-much-of-a-story to the tabloids and making it to the front page, and Sandra Sandri getting her own regular Radio 2 slot under the banner ‘Hola Pilar!’. They were bloody everywhere! A far cry from that hilariously subdued ‘The EastEnders are coming… to BBC1!’ hoo-hah.” We did remember the bloke who played handyman Snowy White – get his name right! – was the oddly named Patch Connolly, and that the big revelation was that he was deaf and we think he might have blamed the producers for getting rid of him for that reason. We think. We forgot to mention the other great thing about Eldorado was that on Bank Holidays, they shoved it to one o’clock, normally the repeat slot, and the Radio Times actually had to put “This is not a repeat” in the billing.
19.15 The Return of ‘Allo ‘Allo!
Not sure why this is getting another outing, it’s the marathon (105 minutes!) programme from a few years back which, like that Goodies show, mixes clippage and celebrity fans with new links from Gorden Kaye and Vicki Michelle, although we’re sad to report that Gorden doesn’t seem quite as on the ball delivering the gags as he was during the show’s pomp.
18.30 The Best Of Harry Hill’s TV Burp
Also in the postbag this week (not literally, they might suffocate) is Lewis Cox, who says, “I have been musing over this article from BBC News. What a brand new, fresh and innovative idea. A network of local TV stations united under a ‘spine’ of a national broadcaster! Then in twenty years one company could buy up all the local stations and rebrand them under the same name and… oh.” Indeed, it is a daft idea. Creamguide has a local TV channel, made by media students from the local university, and we’ve never watched it and never will, apart from the Saturday we stumbled on it and a programme had frozen on screen and stayed there until Monday morning, where we continually switched to the channel all weekend to see if anyone had noticed.
21.00 The British Comedy Awards
We were always amazed the Comedy Awards continued on ITV for as long as they did, as they never rated that well, ITV never won anything, they were always full of swearing, there was all that embarrassment with the phone-ins and it involved showing lots of clips of BBC2 and Channel Four shows that must have baffled the ITV audience. Anyway, after twenty years they have a new home, but the same host – and his monologue does now tend to be the only good thing he ever does on telly – and seemingly a rather annoying predilection to talk up the controversy, which isn’t why we watch it. It’s to see clips of Horrible Histories on prime time television! In other news, we have enjoyed the Comic’s Choice programmes this week, just because it’s a treat to see people talking intelligently and enthusiastically about comedy, and there were plenty of Day Today clips too so that’s ace.
BBC Radio 2
13.00 Pick of the Pops
1976, of which more later, and 1989. Meanwhile, Pete Lee writes, “I agree with your sadness at the departure of Rob McElwee, and his dignified and rather moving sign-off at the end of his final forecast. The sad news is that I’ve heard on good authority that Dan Corbett is also being moved to BBC World, so he’ll be on a lot less. Gutted.” Indeed, so now Peter Gibbs is the only forecaster we like, with his cheery “Hello there!”, and Matt Taylor is no replacement for Rob as we can’t take him seriously because he’s clearly about twelve years old.
BBC Radio 4
20.00 Going To The Flicks
Second part of this, looking at the decline of the cinema in the seventies and eighties before the arrival of the soulless multiplex and, eventually, 3D. Mark Jones writes, “Hailing, much like the TV Creamguide Editor, from Wrexham, I have fond memories of both The Hippodrome and The Vogue cinemas in the self-styled capital of North Wales. The Vogue (the tinier of the two, secreted down a small sidestreet) was where I first got to see cinematic fare like ET and Superman III – which, despite what everyone else says, is great. Once that burnt down, and I’d grown up a bit (I must stress, the two events are not connected), it was Hippodrome all the way, of which my main memories are how the route to the upstairs screen led you past polished black-and-white framed photographs of Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams, even during the nineties when we were about to watch Terminator II, and the toilets being so far away from the screens you *really* had to be sure you were choosing the right part of the mid-film lull to have a quick wee. Me? I’ll have a mint King Cone, please.” What Mark doesn’t say is that the upstairs screen at the Hippodrome was a rather belated attempt to compete with the multiplexes (although the nearest for many years was the Cannon in Chester) and was basically achieved by sealing off the balcony and placing in front of it a screen that was probably smaller than some televisions you can now buy in Tesco. It’s a shame they never reopened the Vogue, although burning down in the barren cinema-going decade of the eighties didn’t help, probably. Do tell your anecdotes about the cinemas you grew up in, especially if they’ve got lovely Creamy names.
21.00 Terry Wogan’s Ireland
In all the publicity for this show, nobody seems to have mentioned that Tel’s already done a series about Ireland in the mid-nineties, fiendishly called Wogan’s Island because he did Northern Ireland as well. Here he is again, anyway, just in the Republic this time, and he’s just going to potter around and wax a little wry, which is all we want, especially this week when he’s in his home town of Limerick.
19.00 The Funny Side of Live TV
Another outing for one episode of the vaguely TVC-related clip show from eighteen months ago, which apart from the appearance of Kelvin McKenzie, the world’s biggest arsehole, sniggering about his “hilarious” programming ideas at L!ve TV, who can piss right off, is excellent fun with plenty of ace clippage including a nice long sequence on The Late Late Breakfast Show. And it’s good to see a piece on that series that isn’t just about the fact someone died on it.
BBC Radio 2
15.00 Sounds of the Seventies
We don’t usually bill this show, or indeed listen to it, because we always expect it to feature Johnnie Walker playing endless AOR and earnestly discussing guitar solos, but it is actually quite thorough in its determination to cover the entire decade and its musical oeuvre, and never more so than today when Stephen Morris joins Johnnie to discuss the work of Joy Division.
16.30 Blue Peter
So here’s Barney, rather controversially stuck in the titles before Andy and Helen which doesn’t seem right, but his professionalism and easygoing nature seems to have seen him settle in quite well and he made a decent fist of his opening episodes. What we quite like about him, apart from the fact he looks and sounds a bit like John Simm, is that he’s in his thirties, because it makes us think that, if we wanted to, we could still become a Blue Peter presenter given the breaks. We also found out this week he’s from Blackpool, like Pete Purves, so that’s nice.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 The Thrill Of It All – Roxy Music
This week we’re discussing the post-Eno years when they became a fairly generic pop group, but we’ve always liked some of their late period stuff, like Dance Away and Over You, and better yet The Same Old Scene, which we once played air fretless bass to while waiting at traffic lights, only to later find out a friend of ours had been in the car behind us and thought we were having a stroke.
We can never stay away from the seventies for long in this feature, it appears, and here’s a year that’s probably memorable only for the weather. But there were things on television too, apparently, as we’ll find out…
FA CUP WINNERS: Southampton
CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE: Johnny Mathis – When A Child Is Born
UK EUROVISION ENTRY: Brotherhood of Man – Save Your Kisses For Me
BLUE PETER TEAM: John, Pete and Lesley
DOCTOR WHO: Doctor Who Tom Baker
RADIO 1 BREAKFAST SHOW JOCK: Noel Edmonds
BIG CHRISTMAS DAY FILM ON BBC1: Airport
THE MUPPET SHOW (1976-81)
“Well, they’re not quite a mop, they’re not quite a puppet, but, man…! So to answer your question, I don’t know.” Jim Henson had been hawking around his idea for a comedy show based on the mops/puppets he’d been using in Sesame Street for ages, to little response, until he approached Lew Grade who signed them up for ATV and got him to move his workshop lock, stock and barrel to Elstree. From there came what was probably the most profitable and widely seen programme in the world for a while (with Lew Grade coining it in from selling it back to the American stations who turned it down in the first place), and a Sunday teatime institution in the UK for five years. It certainly had the most stellar guest list of any comedy show, with the likes of Bob Hope, Elton John and Julie Andrews making appearances, alongside Brucie – who likes to claim he was the only guest not known in America booked to appear as they thought his shtick would work well – and, famously, member of the backroom staff Chris Langham, filling in at the last minute after Richard Pryor didn’t turn up, with a hastily-cobbled together plot about a lowly member of the backroom staff filling in at the last minute after the proper guest didn’t turn up, which shows ingenuity anyway. After its original run on ITV, it was sold to the Beeb who screened several lengthy runs in the mid-eighties. The series never seemed to date and it remains probably ITC’s most entertaining programme, although the attempt to revive it twenty years later with Muppets Tonight didn’t really seem to work, certainly in this country as it was now an all-American production, but also because, like much modern day Muppetry, it seemed to be a bit too soppy, and there were too many rubbish new Muppets, rather than Gonzo blowing himself up, which is what you really want to see.
DIXON OF DOCK GREEN (1955-76)
Saturday nights have always been home to stardust and celebrity and the normal workaday shows never really seem at home there – that’s why we still haven’t got soaps on Saturdays, however useful they may be. The one exception to this rule, however, is Dixon of Dock Green, which lasted over two decades on Saturday nights despite being the most humdrum and unglamorous programme you’ll ever see. Dixon was a huge hit but it seems remarkable how long it lasted given it was an anachronism almost as soon as it began. By the sixties it was facing continual comparisons with Z Cars, a much more modern day on policing, although Jack Warner and the writers were keen to point out that Dixon was just as accurate a portrayal as the nicer side of policing as Z Cars was dwelling on the dark side. However, eventually creator Ted Willis was so pissed off with constant comparisons he took a scene from a Z Cars script and inserted it verbatim into a Dixon script to prove they could do tough stuff, only for Warner to deliver it in such a mild-mannered fashion, as opposed to Stratford Johns’ constant shouting, nobody noticed. It was still hugely popular, though, and ran on Saturday nights four months of the year, year in year out, although with Warner now in his seventies, he spent most of the episodes looking on in a fatherly manner while the rest of the cast got stuck into the action. By the mid seventies, Z Cars itself was showing its age, so Dixon was virtually a period piece, the most memorable moment of the last few years probably being an actor’s notorious inability to say the words “Dock Green Nick”. Now The Sweeney was apparently set in the same city, and with Jack Warner now eighty, they finally called it a day in May 1976, surely at least a decade after most people presume it finished. However its tradition of really rather dull policing on Saturday night continued throughout the eighties with the equally tedious Juliet Bravo.
Everyone’s talking about…
SWAP SHOP! Noel made his debut in October, the Beeb’s first attempt at filling the whole of Saturday morning, initially planned for thirteen weeks but ending up running for six years. And yeah, it wasn’t Tiswas, but it was thoughtful and amiable and we’d love to see a whole episode of it now.
PETER WOODS BEING DRUNK! Pete’s sudden leap to prominence again this week allowed everyone to remember surely his finest hour, when he read the news despite, hem hem, “suffering from a sinus complaint” and after battling with the trade figures simply announced “the trade figures are an awful lot” before being faded out, at which point the VT department promptly wiped the tape to spare him further embarrassment.
THE SEX PISTOLS ON TODAY! Speaking of drunkards, it seems in recent years everyone’s decided that this whole encounter was Bill Grundy’s fault for being a pissed old fart and goading John and Steve into constant swearing. It’s funny how the word “rotter” has completely fallen out of the abuse lexicon in the past 35 years, isn’t it? It was only on in London, of course, not that it stops bores pretending they saw it. They’d never been so pleased to hear their signature turn Windy!
THE OLYMPICS! Quite a dull Olympics, certainly from the British perspective with Brendan Foster failing to bag the gold everyone was expecting, is perhaps most notable for Montreal still paying for it until about five minutes ago and the theme tune for the Beeb’s coverage being chosen in a Nationwide competition, which is what should always happen.
UP TO THE HOUR! Ian McIntyre, the demented new controller of Radio Four, was obsessed with the idea that current affairs programmes were too long and they’d be more sharp and concise if they were shorter, so as well as hacking The World at One and PM, Today was slung into two half hour chunks at seven and eight, the rest of the time being filled with a hopeless affair called Up To The Hour with all the non-news stuff like Thought For The Day and the sport, which was so half-arsed even the presenters slagged it off on air. It ran for two years before Ian McIntyre was shoved to Radio 3 and sanity prevailed.
THE WEATHER! It was really hot as well, so much so we had a Minister for Drought, although it was really just the Minister of Sport at a loose end.
Big departure this year was Sid James, who given he did 35 years ago still seems to have been around forever. Stars of the silver screen Edith Evans and Stanley Baker passed away, as did Rupert “Maigret” Davies and football commentator Maurice Edelston. Agatha “murder mystery weekend on Family Fortunes” Christie also didn’t see out 1976, nor did union leader and Yarwood favourtite Vic Feather.
Show of the year
THE MORECAMBE AND WISE SHOW
It’s 1977 that’s considered Eric and Ern’s imperial phase, of course, but as we know it wasn’t even the highest rated programme of that evening, let alone the year, not that it wasn’t ace. In 1976, however, an equally impressive Christmas show, with The Sweeney and Angela Rippon – albeit not written by Eddie Braben – was accompanied with their last full series for the Beeb, which was so important it wasn’t shown weekly but instead the six shows were rationed over about four months. It was also the cue for a famous Radio Times cover which didn’t even need to mention their names. In fact in their later years at the Beeb their appearances were somewhat sporadic, compared to their Thames days when they did a new series every years from 1980 as well as the Christmas show. The 1976 series was also the home of one of their greatest sketches, The Stripper, although we’ve always been a bit annoyed with how sloppily Eric cuts the lemons. Anyway, Eric and Ern were at the peak of their powers in 1976 and genuinely loved by the nation – and rightly so.
Let’s go there now!
Tony Wilson was always fond of saying that if you wanted to know why punk had to happen, you just have to watch an episode of Top of the Pops from 1976. That’s maybe a little unfair as there was some good stuff around – here’s the start of an episode from August which begins with one of our favourite Hot Chocolate songs, which isn’t on their bloody Greatest Hits album, for heaven’s sake. However it is true that there seemed to be a listlessness about the show and the music scene in general, and this remarkable sequence sums it all up, we think. We mentioned Peter Woods up there, and here he is at his professional best at a teatime in June. Best of all, the ultimate cliched seventies ad break with Tom O’Connor and Brian Moore topping and tailing spots for KP, K-Tel and Brut.
16.30 Blue Peter
Also last week the show decamped to Studio 1, it appeared, so Spellbound could put on a big display, which just illustrated how tiny the set is at the moment, it barely filled up a corner. We’re still no closer to solving the Which Barney? conundrum, by the way, it was sort of addressed by Helen getting Barney The Dog to do tricks while a bemused Barney The Human also did them in the background, but it didn’t get any further, so presumably the two will be kept separate in items in the future.
22.00 How TV Ruined Your Life
It’s another new series from Charlie Brooker! The man is a machine, and clearly will not rest until he’s come up with every single format that TV Cream could possibly pitch to a TV company, thus ensuring the TVC TV show will never be made. Never mind, he does them better than we would, and this is the archive-based show which the “blue pants” trailers have been about, where the general idea is that each week Charlton takes a subject and sees how it’s been treated on telly over the years, looking at the various conventions and stereotypes. Basically it’s a load of old clips with Charlie in between, which sounds a winning format to us, especially here when it’s about shit-scary telly.
19.30 The National Television Awards
The fact Loose Women won an award here last year, and for factual programming to boot, tells you everything you need to know about the importance and value of these prizes, and this show has never been any good, presented in the most boring manner imaginable and being nothing more than, yes, a damn popularity contest. Sure, Who’ll win a load of stuff, but it doesn’t justify two and a half hours of tedious telly from the echoey and unatmospheric O2.
22.00 Black and Blue
This isn’t The Black and Blue Lamp, the late eighties drama in which a Dixon-esque policeman is transported to a modern day cop shop, where one character delivers the immortal line “Wipe that in-tray off your face”, which is a shame given we were banging on about Nock Green Dick just then. In fact it’s another Screen One that’s almost as old, from 1992, about racism in the force, written by GF Newman, and while we’re not quite sure why they’re showing it, we’re not complaining they are.
BBC Radio 4
11.30 The Honest Musician’s Fear Of Accidental Plagiarism
Robert Webb said recently that, months after the “extreme negative feedback” sketch in That Mitchell and Webb Look had been written, recorded and broadcast, he woke up in a cold sweat one night and realised he’d unconsciously copied the entire premise from an old Absolutely sketch. Meanwhile our favourite bit in Ant and Dec’s autobiography is a story from their PJ and Duncan days where Ant proudly announced he’d written a definite smash hit, only for Dec to immediately realise that he was just singing different words to I’ll Make Love To You by Boyz II Men, a song Ant forgot already existed. This documentary tells more stories like that – though probably not that story – about how writers come up with what they think are wholly original songs only to later realise they’d accidentally copied something they’d heard before but couldn’t remember where.
After our amnesty we are now just back to listing specialist subjects as we don’t have anything else to fill this listing, so do look away now if you want to guess their interests from their appearance. It’s England in the World Cup and Gary Numan that catch the eye tonight.
21.00 Mark Knopfler – A Life In Songs
Or Mark “horrible headband” Knopfler, to give him his Smash Hits name, although fortunately time has put paid to that sartorial crime. This documentary is based around a long interview with Knopfler himself where he talks about his life and how it’s all been represented in his music, although whether it includes his views on Canada recently deciding to ban Money For Nothing after approximately ten million plays over the past two and a half decades, we don’t know.
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