TV Cream

TV: W is for...


"You! How dare you lay hands upon this fine BBC hand-woven apparel!" "Officer! Unhand me this instant!"

LIVE FROM the verdant pastures of Shepherd’s Bush Green, this was light-touched and louche chattery at its most imperial – and we won’t hear otherwise. Born out of El Tel’s Saturday night PARKY-replacement stints, Terrence took up residence at the BBC Television Theatre the same week as EastEnders began as part of Michael Grade’s grand plan for beating the shit out of ITV. And for a time it worked. Millions tuned in, knowing there’d always be somebody of interest on Wogan’s sofa, or if not then a topical reference to something that’d been on telly earlier (“I see they’ve changed the Six O’Clock News set again!”) or later (“so why not join me, for the first in a new series…of DALLAS” cooed Tel, introducing the show via a massive monitor on the wall behind him). There was talk of it going five nights. “I am but my master’s keeper,” quoth Terence. Some of the gloss started to come of, though, c.1988 when the guests started becoming all newsy and topical instead of glittery and glamorous. Stand-in hosts dropped from the calibre of KENNETH WILLIAMS to BEN ELTON. Then the show started getting dropped whenever the Beeb could find a reason, like when there was a football match on and, instead of Tel popping up for five minutes just to reassure us he was still there, he was nowhere to be seen. Big budget stunts like meeting Madonna just looked hammy and contrived. The final insult was being axed in 1992…for something infinitely worse (i.e. ELDORADO). Much missed.

That opening night line-up in full Tel with Vikki Watson, our Song For Europe in 1985 "You hum it, JY, I'll sing it"


  1. grimwig

    May 10, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Really enjoyed last night’s “radio 1” special- john peel being himself, ed stewart being mischievous. plus janice long, pete murray and tony blackburn. as if that wasnt enough the tantaliser- next editions guests being lords hailsham, denning and soper (“a far cry from this lot”) fair boggled the mind. more please.

    oh p.s leave bottle boys alone, it made me laugh when i was six, and thats all you want from life at that age

  2. Glenn A

    July 15, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I can remember some journalist coming on at the start of the 1986 World Cup and rubbishing it, saying the BBC were wasting £ 25 million covering a tournament three quarters of the population weren’t interested in and football was a game for yobs, or something on those lines, while football hating Wogan nodded in agreement. Somehow not the sort of person to appear on Fantasy Football League or Soccer AM then, but typical of the times.

  3. Applemask

    September 7, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    The only time that the American-style daily chat format has really worked in this country. And even then with compromises (ie skipping two days and being on in the early evening instead of at night; when it was briefly revived six months later as a weekly late-night show on Fridays it failed)

  4. Richard16378

    September 8, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    It would have been interesting if Terry Wogan & Russell Harty had been able to share presenting duties between them to cover all weekdays, or have 2 days each, with a highlights show on the other day, something which The Tonight Show in the USA has done for years.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    January 25, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Perhaps one of the best interviews was not by Wogan, but his very capable stand in, Sue Lawley, who carried out a very in depth interview with the late Christine Keeler when the Scandal film was released. However, to me the best moment was when Wogan destroyed David Icke in his son of God phase and Icke was too deluded to see he was being laughed at for his bizarre beliefs.

  6. Richardpd

    January 3, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    It’s interesting to read elsewhere that Terry wanted to have this on every weekday so it could have more running jokes & such. I’m not sure how well it would have worked as even The Tonight Show has been in effect a 4 nights a week show for decades with just highlights or a guest presenter one day. Considering it started to run out of steam after 4 years shows it was probably a good idea to keep it at just 3 nights a week. One of the problems was American based stars not wanting to come over to do interviews so the video links became more common, and Tel didn’t like doing.

    For years the BBC wanted to have a show like The Tonight Show, but probably realised the cost to potential audience after 10pm wasn’t worth it. Parky had quickly nixed the use of zingers on his show as they didn’t work with his interviewing style.

    A few years ago there were some daytime repeats of Wogan, which was welcome as it had a lot of material that would never normally be used on clip shows. An interview with a dignified pre-Bobby Brown Whitney Houston has less comedy potential than a boozed up George Best, but still refreshing to see, especially in the context of the whole show.

    • THX 1139

      January 3, 2022 at 7:22 pm

      The best facsimile of The Tonight Show in the UK was The RDA on BBC Choice, which hardly anyone watched but was fantastic (possibly because hardly anyone was watching it).

      • Richardpd

        January 4, 2022 at 10:32 pm

        I never watched it but I heard it was good.

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