BASICALLY, THE bits between the programmes which turned into programmes. WATCH IT! was the CITV forerunner, mainly remembered for its opening circular animated graphic, a bit like those horrible old rotating Victorian lantern things, which changed with the seasons (snowflake in winter etc). Regional linkmen still introduced the programmes (DR SNUGGLES, CBTV) , before Children’s ITV (first instance of umbrella branding) was launched in 1983 with MATTHEW KELLY in a cheap’n’nasty spaceship set with giant levers to “cue” the shows. Amusingly all pre-recorded, which meant there was fuck all to do if a programme break down. Other CITV faces then showed up on a monthly basis – DEREK GRIFFITHS, ISLA ST CLAIR, THE KRANKIES, even TERRAHAWKS Terrahawks got in on the act. After a while things settled down to mostly TOMMY BOYD and BILL ODDIE, as most things tend to do. Later still they ditched the monthly guest presenter idea for regulars GARY TEREZZA (still doing the links on Channel Four) and DEBBIE SHORE, before the really dark days of MARK GRAINGER, JEANNE DOWNS and crap puppet dog SCALLY. One defining moment of micro-subversion hailed from this late era, though, when they patched through to a transmission of BLUE PETER and took the piss. A bit.
On the other side, meanwhile, your never-changing format from the 70s remained, consisting of a bog-standard voiceover bloke trying to sound avuncular over a promo still for RECORD BREAKERS featuring ROY CASTLE surrounded by some balloons or cut into the shape of a jigsaw piece. Then round about 1982 they decided to liven things up by doing some primitive computer animations (both vision and sound) on a Beeb model B (of course) – a barely-moving witch, a stiff cat on a ladder knocking paint over, and the one for Blue Peter with Goldie waggling a paw in the “Italian Sunken Garden” pond. Finally in 1985 came the Broom Cupboard, a shameless rip-off of CITV but way way way better thanks to presence of PHILLIP SCHOFIELD manning (literally) the controls. Tiny presentation studio decorated with half-arsed crayola-ed drawings of Dogtanian, later joined by extremely lucrative squeaking puppet rodent Gordon The Gopher (shapeless, yellow mini-Emu given to wearing leather jackets and playing the Clash’s White Riot). Obsessions with ‘Downtown’, downhill skier Franz Klammer and Innovations-catalogue pin-matrix things from Midge Ure’s decade-defining ‘If I Was’ followed. The kids didn’t really follow these indulgences though, and when Saturday morning duties beckoned, Pip was replaced by a series of less individually-minded stooges. First was DEBBIE “HELLOOOO” FLINT, then ANDY “HAIRSPRAY GAGS” CRANE, who soon swapped wrong-footed introduction of a comedy broom and unpopular non-puppet Bobby The Banana for bubble-bath merchandise favourite Edd The Duck and (over-egging the pudding a tad) butler’s arm Wilson. Nicked Pip’s idea for writing out words to cartoon themes (Phil had personally transcribed the lyrics to MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD), in this instance AROUND THE WORLD WITH WILLY FOGG and ultimately “performing” said song dressed in top hat and frock coat in CSO over the end titles, standing next to a crap prop lamp post.
Elsewhere summer mornings on the Beeb, previously the domain of WHY DON’T YOU, PLAY CHESS and SILAS, became But First This!: an assortment of filler material including Out Of The Inkwell cartoons (shit, they were dull), old 50s Superman shorts, morning repeats of Neighbours and pop magazine THE O ZONE. Presented by in turn by Crane, SIMON “EUROPE’S TOP TEN” POTTER, SIOBHAN “RIVER CITY PEOPLE” MAHER and Our Rita off Jonny Briggs. Rotten meaningless “tell that Aardvark it’s a wrap” theme tune introduced around this time as well. Other unmemorable faces from this era included the resolutely uncharismatic SIMON PARKIN, later to follow the money (and go down the dumper) at GMTV; and the obnoxious former Radio Top Shop DJ ANDI “WOMAN’S NAME” PETERS, who once disqualified some kid’s competition entry “because it’s not written on a postcard”. He was that kind of person. Then there was PHILIPPA FORRESTER, a woman now in the strange and unhappy position of being obsessively worshipped by a hundred odd male students but almost totally ignored by everyone else. She grinned and flicked her hair. Fey tosspot TOBY ANSTIS was the final straw before the whole thing became a studio-bound glitzy operation staffed by seemingly millions of ever-changing non-faces, mostly crap save for the likes of CHRIS JARVIS, JOSIE D’ARBY, BARNEY HARWOOD, KIRSTEN O’BRIEN and, of course, the imperial RICHARD MCCOURT and DOMINIC WOOD.