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Now that you’re here, we can begin with another edition of Creamguide. In a break with tradition, this one isn’t beginning with a correction (although we do know the date’s wrong up there, but we can’t change it), but rather a follow-up to our moan last week about Comedy Central failing to get into the 1990s with the rest of us and broadcasting widescreen programmes in widescreen, which has nothing to do with the Cream era, but annoys us. Ian Rhodes says, “This week’s episode of the US Office on Comedy Central was shown in wide screen. This is the first time I have ever seen them do this. Hopefully it is the start of this being the standard practice.” Let’s hope so, but it wasn’t the case for this week’s 30 Rock. This could be the start of a proper TV Cream campaign, as we’ve got a platform here, unless we get bored of talking about it or 30 Rock goes rubbish and we stop watching it as it’s the only thing we watch on that channel, so if you work for Comedy Central, the floors is yours if you’d like to write to email@example.com and explain why you’re broadcasting like this. Don’t forget the HD channel being widescreen is not the correct answer. Or at least you can reply to the e-mail we sent you a fortnight ago. It’s only manners! Blue Peter writes back!
19.00 Dad’s Army
While we wait, though, here’s the start of our new feature, Around The World WithCreamguide, where we invited all our overseas readers to let us know where they’re reading this and their current views on British telly. First up via Telstar is one of our allies in Germany, David Cobley. Over to you, David. Over. “May I wish you a big Guten Tag from Germany. Having tried and failed to put up a satellite I now slow down my sister’s internet connection by using a Slingbox. Therefore, as per you other correspondent it is much the same as the UK but an hour later (and in my case occasionally a bit blocky when the internet is playing up). While not necessarily in your remit, one of the most remarkable things about German TV is the length of some of the programmes – Schlag den Rabb (the programme that sadly became Beat the Star in the UK) can start at 8.15pm and still be going up to five hours later – all live with a studio audience sitting there in Cologne! You don’t get that with British light entertainment.”
19.30 An Audience with Ken Dodd
20.30 Ken Dodd’s Happiness
These repeats must be doing alright for BBC2 to keep them running for so long, this time dusting off an old ITV staple which the Beeb now seem to have for keeps, then a documentary from the other Christmas. In the meantime, another expat has written in via air mail, Shaun Stephenson. “I’m another Brit abroad, currently living and working in the Bay Area of San Francisco – ish having previously spent “quality” time in Montreal and ACTUAL quality time in Boston. The only American TV we watch is sport and the odd cop/criminal/detective/legal drama – and let’s face it, there’s plenty to choose from as every new series is either a hilarious dysfunctional-family-centred comedy or one of the above. However it’s pretty refreshing to find but that actually the majority of my more ‘educated’ work colleagues love British TV… the BBC on Netflix keeps them sane, or at least some semblance of sanity. Brit-com, Doctor Who and for some reason Panorama seem to be top of the hit parade in these parts.”
19.00 Harry Hill’s TV Burp
Also appearing on our big light-up map of the world, regular contributor Tony Hughes, who started the whole thing off the other week. “Scottish-American although I was the former years before the latter. Born in Fife in the early seventies, I moved to the USA around the turn of the century, leaving just a few years after the end of the Cream Era so most of my UK memories, TV or otherwise, are Creamy. Euro 2000 was the last tournament I’ve seen where the commentators weren’t crapping on about offensive plays and the like. It’s hard to find a TV or radio channel here that isn’t dedicated to a particular niche (pronounced ‘nitch’). As it is, I use an IronKey flash drive running firefox with a secure session, enabling you to fool the computer you’ve plugged it into that you’re somewhere you’re not in order to watch BBC stuff with iPlayer. Or I would if didn’t have four small kids taking up most of my time. My only current window to British telly is BBC America, a 24 hour, Gordon Ramsay-loving, Top Gear-fawning, Graham Norton-athon that blows hot and cold depending on what the passing fad is with whomever controls that station. What is slightly strange is that about half the content is non-BBC (which I didn’t realise until I was back in the UK for the first time in years a few months back), with the other half culled from the light channel, Channel 4 or some random film that’s been sitting on a shelf for a while. Old Bond films are a particular favorite.” And yes, he did say “favorite”. Tony is so far our favourite foreign correspondent for saying, ” I love Creamguide, especially when it arrives in time for me to read it at work on a Thursday afternoon” – that’s before we write it! Amazing! – and also, “As it happens, I do happen to know some single, kooky types (I’m thinking Katie Puckrick-esque?).” You think right, Tony, but we’re not desperate enough to use Creamguide as a dating service. Although if you mention their names we might look them up on Facebook and see if we have any likes in common, then take it from there.
10.55 Irish General Election
As we’re talking about how others see us, here’s an appropriate chance to some actual foreign telly, albeit from the closest place to home imaginable, as BBC Parliament simulcasts RTE for most of the day, which should be quite interesting. That’s especially so as, aside from an hour’s break at one, it’s actually scheduled to run until 6.30 even though, looking at the RTE listings, the last half hour is the 6.01 News, preceded, presumably, by that mythical “programme”, The Angelus! Let’s hope so anyway, as we’d love to see that.
BBC Radio 2
13.00 Pick of the Pops
1968 and 1987, the former being quite familiar as it’s when that one existing sixties episode of Pops comes from, with Dave Cash and The Stattus Quo.
22.00 All Round Bob Monkhouse
There are two Bob shows being billed in this week’s Creamguide, and you can probably guess what the other one is. This is the repeat from last year that’s not quite as good (because, natch, the back of our head isn’t in it) but it’s still ace, not least for Bradley Walsh saying that his proudest moment was Bob telling him his greatest wish was “to see you and Pasquale get the success you deserve”.
BBC Radio 4
10.30 Britain in a Box
This is a great choice, Driving School, which it’s easy to forget now was a killer of a show, to the extent that Creamguide even set the timer for it when they went to France for two weeks in the middle of the series. Maureen wasn’t even in every episode, but she was the main attraction, of course, although we always thought the real star was her wry husband Dave. “The car was up your arse!”
22.45 I Was There… When The Beatles Played The Cavern
Nothing else on today, so we’ll bill this repeat from the other week to give us another opportunity to say that it happened FIFTY years ago this month, and also to congratulate Vic Cowling who is, so far, our furthest flung Creamguide subscriber. He says, “Just to confirm that you have one reader at least in Lao PDR. Since the country used to be called the Kingdom of Lan Xang, and Lan Xang means ‘a million elephants’ quite an appropriate time for your mail out to have the “The TV listings guide that reminds you of elephants” heading. All the best from a 37c Vientiane.” So if anyone can beat Vic’s record of being the furthest away from TV Cream Towers, do let us know. Also, we’re still interested to know if any readers aren’t actually British, or indeed have never been to Britain, but are just interested in British telly. We love that idea.
16.30 Blue Peter
Today’s the day, although we probably won’t see it on the telly until a bit later, that Helen does her spectacular high wire walk at Battersea Power Station, for which we wish her the very best of luck because we don’t want her to die. Last week she competed in a rather lower key “challenge” set by Blue Peter’s new crazy animal expert known as “The Blowfish”, who is the cleanest cut, most child-friendly rebel you’ll ever see, wearing slogan T-shirts and back-to-front baseball caps and having a goatee beard like some skater, but with no tattoos or piercings or anything and an immaculate cut-glass accent. Not to be cynical, but we’re thinking he might be putting this on for the cameras a bit.
19.30 Mark Lawson Talks To Anne Robinson
Yeah yeah, Weakest Link, yeah yeah, alcoholism, but we do hope that Lawson also talks to Anne about the part of her career we’re most interested in, her marathon stint on Points of View, when she’d regularly rally against Them Upstairs in her trademark harsh but fair manner and we used to think she was great, one of our favourite people on telly. Probably won’t, though.
21.00 The Story of Variety with Michael Grade
Yes! Mike didn’t do his legacy much good at ITV but here he is back doing what he does best, spinning a yarn about his glittering career. This is the first of two programmes which looks at the post-war history of light entertainment and the final days of the variety theatres, joined by a host of stars including Brucie, Doddy, Val Doonican and, natch, those walking comedy encyclopaedias Roy Hudd and Barry Cryer to have a good old natter about touring the provinces.
22.00 Eric and Ernie – Behind The Scenes
23.00 The Art of Tommy Cooper
23.30 More Dawn French’s Boys Who Do Comedy
00.00 Paul Merton’s Palladium Story
And a load of big old fuck off light entertainment to accompany the show, albeit only in the form of clippage rather than an old repeat of the Billy Cotton Band Show or something. So that’s the show about Eric and Ern’s early days from after that drama at Christmas, a show about Cooper we can’t remember being on before, an interview with Doddy and a documentary which we think may be the thing Merton did on Sunday night BBC1 in 1994, given that it’s also on at the same time tomorrow and it was a two-parter. Or maybe something else.
Sky Sports 1
18.00 The Sky Sports Years
We’ll keep on billing this for a bit as it’s great fun, last week including some very early Soccer AM when it appeared to be filmed in someone’s flat and was just on the wrong side of that line between “anarchic” and “absolute rubbish”. 1996 also brought us a Nigel Benn fight sponsored by Nik Naks, the Sky Panasonic Soccer Awards, the show that commemorated 1996’s footballing achievements but somehow failed to mention Euro 96 at all, definitely not because it wasn’t on Sky, and the launch of Sky Sports 3… on VHS!?!
After the excitement of the sixties last week, we’ve returned to the comforting bosom of the eighties for this week’s dip in the archives. Nothing as good as Rolf singing I’m A Train, sadly, but it’s still worth a look, probably. Especially as we can promise you a rotating Christmas pudding.
FA CUP WINNERS: Manchester United
CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE: The Flying Pickets – Only You
UK EUROVISION ENTRY: Sweet Dreams – I’m Never Giving Up
BLUE PETER TEAM: Si, Saz and Pete, then Si, Pete and Janet
DOCTOR WHO: Doctor Who Peter Davidson
RADIO 1 BREAKFAST SHOW JOCK: Mike Read
BIG CHRISTMAS DAY FILM ON BBC1: Treasure Island
BREAKFAST TIME (1983-89)
“If we pummel people with facts at that time of the morning, they won’t want we know”, said Ron Neil, editor of the Beeb’s first ever breakfast show, and that’s why the accent was on relaxation from the start, and why it became such a smash hit. An unashamed spoiler for TV-am, the Beeb hit upon a perfect format from day one, while their rivals over at Eggcup Towers produced the kind of television you’d expect from five famous people playing at running a station. Neil hired his old mate Frank Bough as host, inviting him to a meeting via a BBC haiku – “Last time we had dinner. Now may we have lunch? To talk about breakfast” – and with it giving Frank the opportunity to launch a show for the first time since he started Look North in Newcastle twenty years previously. Rehearsals were famously fraught, with no set – as the custom-made sofas only arrived from Switzerland two days before the first show – and no cameras due to a union dispute, while the problems in mastering the links into the regional news on the quarter hour were addressed by forcing everyone in one Sunday and spending eight hours rehearsing nothing but. When it got on air, though, it immediately felt like it had been on for years, with Uncle Frank and his colleague Selina Scott and Nick Ross being hugely reassuring, and silly gimmicks like The Green Goddess and Russell Grant sitting happily alongside authoritative news and interviews, and it thrashed TV-am. Sadly, this much-loved format only lasted three and a half years, before a horribly abrupt format change in 1986 shoved everyone in suits and behind desks and created, basically, a long news bulletin, which became more pronounced when it became Breakfast News in 1989 (not that people didn’t still call it Breakfast Time), and it probably wasn’t until just recently that they managed to create a workable mix of seriousness and relaxed presentation that works as well as the original Breakfast Time, and again it’s thrashing the opposition. But no horoscopes this time, alas.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS (1953-83)
If ever there was a show designed to repel younger viewers, it was The Good Old Days, which certainly at the end was unintelligible to anyone under the age of about sixty – especially given it was purposely an anachronism when it started in the fifties. Beeb producer Barney Colehan got the idea when he went to see a theatre show re-enacting the music halls and realised that the City Varieties in Leeds, a fully functioning Music Hall, was just down the road from the office and they could do something very similar. So began three decades of irregular transmissions with Leonard Sachs (though not at the start, Don Gemmell was the first host) banging his gavel and making increasingly demented announcements into the “stars”, who were modern day performers re-enacting, if not the original performers, certainly something in the spirit of the age, while the audience dressed up in period costume and were invited to join in. Most of the big comedy stars of the era took part, although by the beginning in the eighties it was recalling an era alien to most of the audience, although the only reason it ended was because Barney Colehan was retiring and, having produced every single episode, they couldn’t imagine it without him, so the curtain was finally drawn on New Year’s Eve 1983. Since then, the show continued off-screen and the likes of Roy Hudd produced similar shows recalling vintage variety, although Hudd, while an enthusiastic champion of this era of humour, once said he was getting a bit sick of people asking him if he remembered Dan Leno, as he died in 1902, and he wasn’t that old.
Everyone’s talking about…
TV-am! The famously shambolic early days of the ‘vam, where they “floated in on a cloud of bullshit”, produced some of the disastrous programming ever transmitted, leading to the papers gleefully reporting endless sacking and walk-outs. And really, how long would the Famous Five have carried on getting up that early with their money?
CHILDREN’S ITV! “And now, a surprise!” The light channel brought together all its kids output into one block, linked each month by a different host, who had to record them all in one go, which must have been a pain, and also had to stare gormlessly into the camera for a minute after each link in case the programme never turned up.
THE ELECTION! Not a vintage election, telly-wise, with David Butler exiled to the wireless and Bob McKenzie having died, so Dave and Robin were joined by Peter Snow, but all the behind the scenes staff were hidden, well, behind the scenes, which wasn’t much fun. But we did get Diana Gould, where Maggie was, in the immortal words of Denis Thatcher, “stitched up by bloody BBC poofs and Trots!” And here’s ninety minutes of ITV’s election night!
SIXTY MINUTES! “All this and Andy Rooney tonight on Sixty Minutes!” Not that one, but the Nationwide replacement which was so similar to Nationwide that when launch presenter Desmond Wilcox was told what it was going to be like, he asked why they didn’t just carry on Nationwide. Except it got rid of all the bits anyone liked and was a massive flop, being axed after nine months.
KEN AND DEIRDRE! Whose reunion after Deirdre’s affair was such big news it was shown on the electronic scoreboard at Old Trafford, albeit as part of an advert for the Mirror. Which much have pissed you off if you were taping it.
LIVE LEAGUE FOOTBALL! For the first time since ITV’s aborted one-off experiment in 1960, league football was shown live on telly for the first time as Spurs took on Nottingham Forest on Sunday 2nd October, live on ITV, and them and the Beeb sharing ten live games between them. Shirt sponsorship was also allowed for the first time but there were draconian limits on how big it could be, leading to complaints from Brighton that they couldn’t fit “British Caledonian Airways” in the space provided.
LIVE CRICKET FROM AUSTRALIA! Again for the first time, BBC1 showed action from the Ashes test overnight in January, but at 2am, with England losing, they decided it wasn’t worth the bother carrying on and pulled the plug.
Biggest death of the year was probably Dick Emery, a giant TV star, who died just a few days before his final series was due to go out. Other comedy favourites passing away were John “it’s all been rather lovely” Le Mesurier and James “Mr. Tebbs, you know, the short-lived, toupeed Mr Grainger replacement off of Are You Being Served?” Hayter. Great to see that gag again. We also lost acting giants David Niven and Sir Rich Ralphardson, and a real icon in Violet Carson. Kenneth “Civilisation” Clark also died, as did Billy Fury, just after an appearance on Russell Harty. That had nothing to do with it, though, honest.
Show of the year
ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES
We could have chosen this for many years in the Cream era, but we’re alighting on this now because 1983 was the year Only Fools became a smash hit. The series had begun back in 1981 to lukewarm ratings – John Sullivan always used to say “it had an audience of about three, all from my family” – and for the first two years it was the kind of steady, unspectacular sitcom, like Seconds Out or Sink Or Swim, that used to populate the pre-watershed BBC1 schedules and would run for a couple of series without being particularly memorable. However in 1983 a repeat run for some reason got massive audiences, presumably ITV were showing rubbish at the time, leading to the show striking a chord with the public, ratings leaping up for the third series and the Christmas special being shown on Christmas Day. In fact we reckon that special, the Del’s dad one, is the ultimate Only Fools because Grandad’s in it, and it was only half an hour long, compared to the bloated affairs of later years. After that, the series’ future was assured and even the imminent death of Lennard Pearce couldn’t derail it. Sadly, the side effect is that now every sitcom that flops immediately leads to someone saying that we’re not allowed to slag it off and stop watching because Only Fools took a bit of time to get going, forgetting that Only Fools was actually a good show in the first place and most sitcoms are crap. So John Sullivan is to blame for the second series of Hyperdrive. He’s also to blame for this series going completely crap, but try and remember the good ones.
Let’s go there now!
So, as promised, the rotating Christmas pudding in this fabulous clip, which despite a hilarious typo in its name is brilliant, from Tuesday 27th December, where the end of Disney Time is followed by a quick change to ITV where the teatime news features the classified football results with – yes! – the rotating Christmas pudding! Fantastic. And an advert for Bucks Fizz’s Greatest Hits at the end. Ace. 24 hours earlier, here’s teatime on BBC1. Had he included Final Score we’d have been able to directly compare the results graphics, but never mind, we’ve got a menu anyway. And here’s the whole of the teatime news from a Sunday in May. We know this is getting quite news-heavy, but we’ve also got this one which features the world’s most exciting graphic. Anyway, as far as we’re concerned, Top of the Pops was at its pomp in 1983, and here are the Rhythm Pals in full effect in a full episode from March. And here they are again, on episode 999, with the multi-talented FR David, and we’ve got the one after that too. It’s an old picture of you, Noel, where you looked slightly different!
16.30 Blue Peter
Also last week, Chris Evans made for a lively and entertaining guest – and we love it when big famous people like that turn up on this show – and we got another chance to enjoy that classic Blue Peter item, A Presenter In A Suit, this time Barney donning the whistle to go to Buckingham Palace to judge the competition to design the logo for next year’s Jubilee. Out of 34,000 entries – which is about a fifth of this show’s entire audience – the winner ended up being a rather strange child whose design was chosen in spite, and indeed partly because, of the fact it referred to the “Diamound Jubliee”, whatever that is.
22.00 How TV Ruined Your Life
Funny how so many of Charlie’s media-literate tweeting audience were unable to read a TV guide last week and moaned extensively online about the cricket being on instead. Grow up. Also, shut up about the last one about love being pointless because he’s married to an attractive woman, it’s not as if he’s being serious. Anyway, this one looks set to be a lot of fun, as it’s about tomorrow’s technology, yesterday.
21.00 Paul Merton and Nicholas Parsons – Me and Arthur Haynes
We always say that Dick Emery is probably the only veteran comedian never to have enjoyed a critical renaissance, but even he’s done better than Arthur Haynes, who in the fifties and sixties was one of the most famous people in the country, but is now virtually completely unknown. Reason enough to do a documentary about him, then, with Nick’s connection being that he was a regular supporting actor on his show, and Paul’s connection being that he thinks he’s great.
22.00 Frankie Howerd – Rather You Than Me
We do hope we get some actual variety shows next week, actually, because the Cillas, Rolfs and Vals we’ve had in recent years have all been great fun, or at least they could have flung on that I’m A Train clip we featured last week, as the whole show doesn’t exist, and we do love it. Especially the bit where the tape skips several times during the bit where they all jump up and down for ages, because we like the idea that actually went on much, much longer. Anyway, instead of that, here’s David Walliams as Frankie again.
BBC Radio 2
22.00 David Jacobs – On The Record
It always used to be Alan Keith that was Radio 2’s oldest presenter, but now he’s no longer with us that honour falls to David, who’s still broadcasting and sending the nation to bed every Sunday night with a song in their hearts and a smile on their lips at the ripe old age of 84. To celebrate his remarkable longevity, here’s a richly deserved two-part tribute to the great man, with an extraordinary list of contributors including, invariably, the likes of Pete Murray and Vera Lynn, but also Chris Evans, Michael Winner and Ken Livingstone.
BBC Radio 4
11.00 In Living Memory
There should be more programmes about recent social history on radio and, especially, the telly, so we welcome this series that proudly concentrates on post-war business. That’s especially the case here as it’s the story of Death of a Princess, the ITV drama documentary from 1980 where there was something of a kerfuffle about how much of a drama and how much of a documentary it actually was, to the extent that it sparked a full-scale diplomatic incident between the UK and Saudi Arabia. As Lord Bob said at the time, ATV decided to smooth things over by offering a hand of friendship to the Saudis – a hand that had previously belonged to the producer of the programme.
21.00 The Secret Life of Bob Monkhouse
22.30 On Show – Two Ton Tessie
It now official Creamguide policy to bill the former programme on every single appearance, even now on its umpteenth repeat so far this year. We won’t talk about it again, though, but instead alight on the latter, a profile of Tessie O’Shea, the banjo-playing actor and comedienne who gained most of her laughs from her outsized appearance. A bit like Miranda Hart, we suppose. But with a banjo.
BBC Radio 4
11.30 Liberty, Fraternity, Anarchy – Le Punk Francais
We all know that Malcolm McLaren ripped off a load of ideas from American punks like The New York Dolls when he invented The Sex Pistols, but this documentary suggests that he also ripped a load of ideas off French punks as well, and certainly there was a thriving punk scene across the channel, even though the only French punk record anyone’s ever heard is Ca Plane Pour Moi, and that’s Belgian anyway.
10.30 Referendum 2011 (Wales)
We thought this might be on BBC Parliament as well, but Westminster being in session means if you’re outside the principality you’ll have to delve into the depths of the EPG. Of course we’re all getting a referendum in a bit, but Wales has a bit of a warm-up with this one about the Welsh Assembly, and here’s five and a half hours of the yes votes in order of yesness, which’ll be interesting if you like that kind of thing. We don’t know if Huw Edwards is involved, as he was in the first Assembly election in 1999, which were networked for a bit, and he had to translate all the declarations into English.
We’re in the semi-finals now, which means five specialist subjects to cram in and much shorter rounds, which doesn’t seem like much of a test. Still, there’s a minute or two of Our Friends In The North in this one.
23.50 Heroes of Comedy
Another boring line-up on BBC4 means this week’s Creamguide is again an anti-climax as we can only offer shows about Les Dawson and Barry Humphries for the millionth time to round it off. Never mind.
Speaking of Facebook, as we were earlier on, one idea we always thought would be good to implement onto Facebook would be an “introducing” function, where if you wanted to do a bit of matchmaking, you’d be able to able to introduce two of your friends to each other, and arrange it so they could access each other’s profile for 24 hours or so and decide if they were the right fit for them. It wouldn’t be stalky or anything, you’d have to know them both and they’d have to agree to it. If Mark Zuckerberg is reading, the usual address applies. Oh, and there are more listings next week, and if you inexplicably can’t wait to see our rubbish, subscribe here