TV Cream


A Brief History of Nationwide

"Ready, studio!"
September 1969 – June 1970


A startled, lonely-looking Michael Barratt Esq. single-handedly “co-ordinates” rickety volleys betwixt fledgling Beeb regional outposts in the choppy wake of starch-shirted national and local news bulletins, armed only with wieldy standard issue Corporation telephone and chunky formica desk. Tuesday-Thursdays only. Incessant technical breakdowns. Strictly monochrome.

AND AFTER NEWS FROM YOUR OWN REGION… (AKA How to recognise said incarnation of NW)

…A three-way discussion on equal pay, cut short for pictures of a bridge in Arnhem. Update on overheated British Rail axle boxes.


Non-existent. Chirpy, cod-jazz brew of a title theme does almost as well, blessed with instructional yet entertaining here’s-where-the-regions-are “map” palaver.


…But from little acorns…

July 1970 – August 1972

A potted plant - does The One Show have that?COMING UP

An assured Mike B. reigns in front of noticeably larger desk-business plus specially installed bank of eight shimmering telly screens. First proper ‘Wide reporting “team” assembled, including Messrs. Robert of Langley, Philip “Phil” Tibenham, and Joan Shenton. Sir Bob Wellings promoted from London anchor to NW co-host in October ’71. Launches of prototype “appeals” (for everyday “characters”) and “competitions”, esp. Cook Of The Realm, compered by Stuart Hall, judged by Ronnie Corbett, Hattie Jacques, Katie Boyle and, er, Ernest Marples MP.


…Crosscountry round-up of clergymen refereeing ladies wrestling. Ergonomics of kitchen equipment. Bob L. meets some gypsies. Late news on rise in the price of Polaroid film.


Still AWOL, but learn-about-your-country titles dropped for exciting multiple split-screen frenzy and, crucially, the proper logo. Stubborn oom-pah, oom-pah…pah pah! brass sting heralds promise of better things to come.


…Woman spotted taking pet duck for swim in Kensington Gardens
Mandala!Mandala!Mandala!Mandala!Mandala!Mandala!Mandala! Mandala!Mandala!Mandala!

A look a *round* the studio

September 1972 – September 1973


In glorious colour (well, in most regions) the ‘Wide goes a full five nights a week, with Frank Bough conscripted for joint “co-ordinating” duties and the “team” bolstered by Miss Sue Lawley, James Hogg and Lord Bernard Falk.


…Deputy Chairman of the Metrication Board answers viewers’ questions. Fanny Cradock compares food prices in London and Venice. First of epic deluge of features with presenters’ names shoehorned into titles (e.g. Tibenham’s Travels, Falk About Britain).


Yes! Yes! NW’s promotion to full-time teatime status secures welcome overhaul in graphics (with debut of multi-purpose spinning “NW” stencil action) and music via the sublime Johnny Scott classic ‘The Good Word’…


…Studio set now includes desk and “conversation area”.


Stranks for the memories

October 1973 – August 1975

Sir Bob Wellings consults notes to remember he's interviewing architect Peter MurrayCOMING UP

Imperial-era Nationwide: Mike, Frank, Bob W. and Sue L. up front; Consumer Unit open for business with Val Singleton and Senor R. Stilgoe detailing the cost of living through plethora of shopping basket displays/keyboard stylings; Jimmy Hill of a Friday with sporting gossip; Susan Stranks and Brian Widlake saunter Down Memory Lane.


…National Nursing Awards heats in Coventry. It’s A Knockout Scoregirl competition. Prince Phillip turning up. Letters from people with six fingers on one hand. Hooray!


By the bucketful. Plus ‘Wide faces busy out and about; a hospital bed; bloke with “The End Is At Hand” sandwichboard, etc.


…”The price of a first class stamp has gone up (caption: ‘STAMPS UP’) from 4p to 7p.” “Now somebody may no longer afford to send a letter to a loved one.”


*Weigh* to go, Donnie!

September 1975 – July 1977

All the beige! The NW gang!COMING UP

Mike and Frank continue to rule, though Sue is poached for relaunched Tonight programme so Val gets promoted. New intake includes Dilys Morgan, Julian Pettifer, John Stapleton. Weekly decamps en mass to regional studios (“For the third time this week, welcome to Norwich…”). Xmas Carol Competition, Slim And Trim, Good Neighbour contests launched. Stilgoe lands singalonga-correspondence slot Pigeonhole (with titular Walter) plus “Odd Job” segment on DIY tips. Golden years reach suitable climax as Mike bids farewell via regal “tour” of the nation on own ‘Wide customised train.


…James Hogg marooned on remote Scottish island for 14 days. More news on the Nationwide boat/horse/allotment/greyhound.


All present and correct. Mike getting out of car, the Severn Bridge, swooping shot of power station…


…Plus Frank pioneers timeless “I dunno” presentational technique; to wit: Frank: “I dunno what a folly is. Bob, what do you think a folly is?”/Bob: “Well Frank, we asked an architectural expert what a folly is, and he told us what a folly is.”

Silly billies

August 1977 – August 1980

And... cue Frank!COMING UP

Return of Sue to join Frank, Bob, Val and John S. at helm. Sportswide shared out amongst Peter Walker, Ron Pickering and Des Lynam. First ‘Wide pantomime. The contests keep a-coming: Children’s Champion, Schoolboy Footballer Of The Year, Glamorous Grandmothers, The British Rock And Pop Awards (replete with special NW Golden Award for group with most “all-round family appeal”). After week “In Europe” live from Brussels Stilgoe leaves – cue arrival of Glyn Worsnip in said Pigeonhole. Val departs for Tonight and The Money Programme. Hugh Scully gets the call.


…A day in the life of a seaside doctor. Eddie Braben with a sideways look at how the ’70s have changed British cities. Reginald Bosanquet on gossip and tennis. Sue Peacock wins chance to become NW presenter for a day on “The Big Time”. Frank cracks up: “You think I’m in complete control of this crisis, don’t you? Well, I’m not. We’ve nothing left and there’s two minutes to go. What would you do given two minutes of peak hour television time?”


Holding on, just.


…Gradual break-up of seminal “team” offset by Bob Wellings walking up the highest peaks “in each of your regions.”

Older and Scully (not in the order)

September 1980 – December 1981

From Sue and Hugh, it's over to you!COMING UP

First round of unnecessary messing with format by thick-headed BBC bosses sees boring gardening and pets sections introduced, Bob W. leave to be succeeded by dull Richard Kershaw, and Pigeonhole replaced with “Dear Nationwide”. Hugh fronts new consumer segment “Watchdog”, Tony Wilkinson spends a month living rough for acclaimed “Down And Out” slot.


…Bill Kerr Elliot with the twenty-fifth part in his journey round Celtic Britain. Glyn Worsnip live from the biggest helicopter base in Europe. Prince Charles turning up. A Newcastle housewife and a London aristocrat change places.


Aaaahh! Ditched completely for horrible meaningless “hi-tech” montage of presenter-less stills and instantly forgettable military march misery with no tune. The bastards.


…Though full-works Royal Wedding coverage something of a return to former glories (Frank of roof of tall building for no reason; tips on how to hold own wedding “party”)

Breaking The Budget

January 1982 – August 1983

Sue Cook of the realm!COMING UP

Second, and final, cack-handed meddling from The Suits installs hopeless David Dimbleby as front-man (billed above Frank in Radio Times!) while exiling the whole team behind horrible desks and ditching all “traditional” features for crappy foreign stories (so what’s the show called again?). Dimbleby lasts just four months, but damage is done. Frank quits for Breakfast Time, while Anne Diamond joins reporting team. Last minute rally via revived letters spot “Speak For Yourself” and memorable Thatcher/ Falklands phone-in spat, but it’s all too late. The old gang re-unite for last week on air before the tearful final curtain.


…The Pope flies out of Cardiff Airport. Michael Heseltine answers questions on domestic rates.


Yet another new title sequence sees all traces of former glories banished for a truly hideous crappy synth-heavy concoction plus graphics that hark back to first ever NW here’s-your-region instructions, only minus charm or imagination.


…Didn’t have to be the end, either.



  1. Chris O

    April 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Top work, CreamTeam! An excellent synopsis of a legend that must never be forgotten.

  2. Martin

    March 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Once there were a group of ladies standing in a row dressed as judges being interviewed by Bob Wellings. One collapsed under the heat of the studio lights and Bob said someting like “oh dear” then stepped over her and interviewed the next one.

  3. Martin

    March 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    …..And the lady that came to talk about a particular subject, when it was her turn to speak she just froze in fear, after ten seconds she said “I’m sorry” and went to get up and go, luckily Michael Barratt came back in and saved the day.

  4. Imogen

    September 12, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Will never get over them pointlessly dropping the classic theme in 1977. They blew it by doing that. It was a lesson for life not to be lulled into trusting TV current affairs.

  5. Glenn A

    October 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I wonder if the show was still going if George Osborne would appear in the pantomime.

  6. Chris

    March 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    this programme was like a warm friendly uncle & aunt baby-sitting me & my sister in the front room as Mum did the dinner in the kitchen & Dad commuted back home from London on the train ( ah the old fashioned nuclear family eh…how we;ve “progressed” since then )

    …I don;t believe it overstates the matter to say the murder of NW was one of the most gratuitous pointless acts of cultural vandalism perpetrated in my lifetime only rubbed in by the eye-gougingly dreadful excresences that followed it – Wogan and now even decade later…..the One Show…DAMN YOU BBC…

    …highlights I remember as a little lad : “Young Nation” covering Punk Rock ( clips on various punk documentaries ), the cave where old boots & stuff are hung up & get turned to stone and the ancient stone carved heads that triggered weird poltergeist activity in people’s homes ( also covered on Fortean Times discussion board )

  7. Glenn Aylett

    August 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Well loved show that attracted 12 million viewers in its imperial phase around 1977. However, since it was made at the home of Panorama( Lime Grove), the current affairs boys saw it as too light and by 1981 had dull Radio 4 man Richard Kershaw at the helm and then David Dimbleby in charge. What would you sooner watch, Denis Healey in the Wide pantomime or Arthur Scargill droning on about the victory of socialism.

  8. THX 1139

    February 4, 2018 at 12:11 am

    On one of the consumer bits, there was a can of baked beans featured, which promised a free T-shirt on the label. They opened it up and emptied the contents, which were those beans and accompanying them, the tomato sauce-covered T-shirt. Who the hell wanted a T-shirt covered in beans, and if you wanted to eat the beans, surely the point of the purchase, you’d have to scrape them off the clothing?

    • Richard16378

      February 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      Sounds like the cake jumper in an episode of Father Ted!

      • Glenn Aylett

        February 4, 2018 at 9:57 pm

        Then it went really serious when the eighties arrived. Perhaps Dimbleby needed a bit more money outside of Panorama, Richard Kershaw wanted his face to be seen on Nationwide rather than being heard on Radio 4, and poor old Frank Bough was biding his time for Breakfast Time, but the whole show lost its way around 1981. Mike Neville certainly was right for turning down the chance to present the show.

  9. Glenn Aylett

    February 4, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    I can remember Richard Stilgoe’s Pigeonhole with Walter The Pigeon and an announcer saying BBC One, ITV nil. I think it was a bit of light hearted fun and liked by kids more than adults. Also while the seventies Wide could be serious, it always had plenty of light hearted items and also had a well liked sports review with Des Lynam and Julian Wilson.

  10. Gavin Sutherland

    October 12, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    On your Michael Barratt podcast you played extracts from the Jubilee Song Competition – out of interest, is that on YouTube?

    Lovely celebration of childhood teatimes, though – many thanks!

  11. THX 1139

    October 25, 2020 at 11:59 pm

    RIP Frank Bough, one of the best TV presenters ever, until he pissed away all his goodwill. Or the drugs and BDSM equivalent. In the Spitting Image Comic Book there was a strip with The Crazy Psychedelic World of Frank Bough, showing all these wildly coloured shapes with Frank saying “Wow… far out man!” Then it turned out they were patterns on his Breakfast Time jumpers.

    • Richardpd

      October 26, 2020 at 11:30 am

      I was too young to remember Frank Bough on Nationwide but can remember him on Breakfast Time wearing loud knitwear bought from the same shop as Noel Edmonds.

      My bother has the same Spitting Image book as THX1139, they used to sometimes show him chained to a wall when the details of his private life became known.

      • THX 1139

        October 26, 2020 at 2:50 pm

        I’m cringing at every obit on Frank today bringing up the scandal, obviously they have to mention it, but it was so excruciatingly embarrassing for him to admit. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it myself – remember him behind the desk, delivering current affairs with calm authority instead (or on the BT sofa).

  12. Glenn Aylett

    October 26, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    RIP Frank, scandal aside and this was between consenting adults remember, a TV Cream era legend who presented three well remembered shows and was well liked in his heyday. Can also recall just after we upgraded to colour, Frank occasionally wearing a tartan blazer on Grandstand, but no one seemed to mind as it was the seventies and made him more avuncular.
    On a different note, saw FB presenting some cooking challenge at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1983 and being the perfect gentleman with autograph hunters and curious fans. A shame we no longer see presenters of his ilk who can do so many different programmes and do them so well.

  13. Richardpd

    October 26, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    I suppose we have to see the scandal in the context of the times, there were a few exposes of the private lives of famous people around the time.

    Certainly the second time things came to light was in the middle of the Tory Sleaze era, when the media putting celebrities under close watch for any potential scandals.

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