30 March, 2007

The Macca Video Jukebox: part four


A post-Anthology Paul feels the urge to pick up his old bass. And then pick up a million other instruments. Again.

a) This was the finale to Macca's "comeback" album (of which he has so far released around 14), Flaming Pie, released in 1997.
b) It was also released as a single, and like the previous 14, it was a flop.
c) Still, it was easily his best tune for at least a decade, deservedly winning at least six separate spins on the Ken Bruce show.

a) Happy days are here again. It's an old boys' reunion, as Macca welcomes both Ringo and George Martin back to the fold. The latter is on top form, jiggling round the studio, swaying to the orchestra and, at one point, wrapping himself in a giant sheet of paper.
b) There is a remarkable profusion of chunky jumpers.
c) As seems to be obligatory with videos based around the recording of the song in question, look out for loads of shots in "the console room" with Macca and team mouthing along to the recording.
d) The last two minutes, a textbook wig-out, is the cue for much thumbs aloft/funny face/spinning round on a swivel chair zaniness.

Macca at his most lyrically basic. He rhymes "things can go bump in the dead of the night" with "let me be there with you in the dead of the night" - and then makes the very next line "Make it a beautiful night"! There are also multiple mentions of "lovers of love", a reference to getting "a medal from my local neighbourhood", and the rather charming idea of "some boat's on the ocean, we're here in this room, seems to me the perfect way to spend an afternoon".

"Sounds like a record to me!"


Here's Macca literally making it a beautiful night for the citizens of Liverpool, New York and, indeed, the world.

28 March, 2007

"Today, not tomorrow: is it steal, or borrow?"

Ahead of Greg Dyke's one-off BBC4 documentary on Lord Reith next week, here are five other format ideas, any or all of which would help keep the man where he belongs - in front, rather than behind, the camera:


Greg is joined by co-host Bob Mills for an hour of music, laughter and lots of surprises, live from the LWT Tower every Saturday night. Each edition also features Cilla Black roving the studio audience meeting colourful people with a story to tell.


BBC2 business game show where struggling firms get the chance to pitch for Greg's services as professional troubleshooter.


A six-part documentary series for BBC4 in which Greg revisits the scenes of some of the most turbulent and high-profile episodes of his TV life, accompanied by a familiar female face who was there at the time. Featuring Janet Street-Porter, Wincey Willis, Fern Britton, Dame Edna Everage, Anne Robinson and Natasha Kaplinksy.


A half hour Friday night topical revue, live from the Mailbox in Birmingham, presented by Greg and Richard Stilgoe. Each week the pair cast a wry eye over the past seven days, paying tribute to the week's winners and losers through skits, songs and special guests.


Virtual reality action show pitting two teams of middle management types against each other in a battle to accumulate the most financial acumen through a series of computer simulated logic puzzles. Greg hosts proceedings from a specially constructed gantry high above a vast studio set full of wire mesh, flashing lights and weirdly-shaped pulsing pods.

25 March, 2007

Photo clippage #11

"You should see my Denis Healey." "I couldn't possibly," replies Yarwood.

23 March, 2007

Bates Around The World

Now here's a photo and a half:

The date: 26th June 1989. The occasion: Simon Bates departs from outside Broadcasting House to begin his attempt to travel around the world in a record-breaking 67 days. The vehicle: a Rolls Royce, naturally, "driven" by professional full-time Bates Mate Steve Wright.

As memory serves, this was promoted as the biggest thing Radio 1 had ever done in its history - an impression no doubt largely fostered by Bates himself, who presumably dreamed up the typically unsubtle idea and dictated a wholesale recasting of the station's schedules as a result. While he was gone Mike Read came back to do the Golden Hour, then you had half an hour of Bates "on the spot" from the back of beyond, followed by the Roadshow.

It seems the idea was for Simes to broadcast from a new country each day - again, typically over-ambitious and unrealistic, especially given the first week or so was spent crossing the Atlantic. Unlike Michael Palin, and just because he had to be different, Bates went west rather than east. Like Palin, he vowed to do it all relying solely on surface transport. Unlike Palin, he failed (not even a man with as much clout as he could command the Saudi Arabian government to let him drive across their land). And unlike his promise, he didn't take 67 days. In fact he took 78.

Still, it raised £300,000 for Oxfam and treated viewers of Going Live to, among other things, the ghastly sight of Simes stripped to the waist while washing his own shirts, and a decidedly pathetic climax involving Bates driving (cheat!) from Yugoslavia to Calais in 24 hours.

Apart from that, precise details of the man's route remain hazy. Where did he cross the Pacific? Did he turn up on any other TV shows? And is a dim distant memory of him commanding an entire fleet of canoes to go up the Amazon merely retrospective wishful thinking?

20 March, 2007

"Oh yes, we go back a long way; several centuries in fact..."

Given Russell T Davies's penchant for reviving more and more Dr Who clutter from the old days, despite saying he'd do no such thing, who - and what - should we reasonably expect to see parading across our screen in years to come?

This will happen, there's absolutely no doubt about it. It's too simple and lazy a device for Davies to resist. The Doctor will arrive in Cardiff to "mend the rift" or some such bollocks only to notice, out of the corner of his eye, a strangely familiar flash of yellow lurking in a nearby garage. "Well blow me!" he will shout at the top of his voice in a way that, for David Tennant's Doctor, seems to increasingly pass for normal speech. "The old girl's back!"

A slightly less obvious alternative to 1), but a must for mid-way through series five. The Doctor is in Cardiff mending the rift, only to get a strange feeling he's being watched. Determined to find out who is spying on him, it transpires it's not a who, it's a what...the Whomobile, hovering above his head thanks to some kind of preposterous automatic homing beacon business, ready to take the Doctor off to a peace conference where John Simm is threatening to blow up the planet.

While mending the rift in Cardiff, the Doctor is suddenly grabbed by some anonymous looking thugs and bundled into the back of a van. Protesting, he is bound and gagged and transported hundreds of miles to a secret location in the heart of the Cardiff suburbs. Only when he is freed does the Doctor recognise the surroundings as the base for the army's killing-aliens division, whereupon he marches boldly into the Brigadier's office, bawls "Alastair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, me old matey!", only to find Caroline Quentin sitting behind the desk.

Now this is more like it. A shape-changing robot who can disappear for episodes on end and have its non-appearance explained away by being a) in a cupboard b) broken c) having shape-changed into a normal human being. "It was ahead of its time," boasted John Nathan-Turner. Perhaps, now, it's time has come.

You just know that this is going to be the "big" Radio Times-cover thing for series four. While the Doctor is mending the rift in Cardiff he gets caught in "a temporal distortion" or some such crap, ending up in an expensive foreign location peopled with guest stars like Stephen Merchant, Kate Thornton and Keith Barron. "Mysterious forces" will have conspired to also bring none other than Peter Davidson to the same location, together with - in a fuck-you to the fans - Sarah Sutton and Sophie Aldred at the same time. The two Doctors must learn to work together if they are to save the world from Keith Barron and his evil wicked space queen, played by Gwen Taylor.

18 March, 2007

For Pete's sake

It's pretty much accepted that Peter Kay has jumped the shark. But when precisely did it happen? Here are ten contenders for that aeronautical apocalypse. It's by no means a definitive list, but nonetheless a start towards pinpointing exactly when "the nation's favourite comedian" became a right honourable pain in the arse.

1) 2000: Peter remembers the title sequence of Monkey. "Monkey magic - and it were, weren't it!"

2) 2002: The last ever episode of Phoenix Nights becomes an excuse for Peter to clear the decks of all jokes for a load of crappy singalongs.

3) 2003: Channel Five shows Live At The Top Of The Tower for the 159th time. Admittedly this isn't Peter's fault, but it certainly doesn't help things.

5) 2004: Peter goes on tour again to "buy me mam a bungalow" and does the same business about garlic bread and the speedboat on Bullseye.

6) 2004: The first episode of Max And Paddy's Road To Nowhere features a running joke about a holidaying couple mistaking the titular duo for a pair of homosexuals.

7) 2005: Peter appears on Granada TV to croon with a big band.

8) 2005: Live 8. Peter comes on clutching some booze - "this isn't alcohol, it's not" - and, completely alone, tries to get the crowd to join in with 'Is This The Way To Amarillo?'. He struggles with the tune. He forgets some of the words. Nobody else appears to be singing. He leaves the stage. Then, five minutes later, he comes back on, still clutching some booze - "this isn't alcohol, honest, it's not" - and proceeds to do the whole fucking thing all over again.

9) 2006: Peter publishes his autobiography, claiming he's only doing it to "buy me mam a better bungalow". Probably.

10) 2007: Peter does a sketch for Comic Relief that is exactly the same as the one for 2005, using a character he created in 2000, singing a song that was a hit in 1988.

VERDICT: If 6) didn't clinch it, 8) certainly did. That, or any one of his endless appearances on Parkinson.

16 March, 2007

Photo clippage #10

Comic Relief: it's not the same as it was.

15 March, 2007

"They liked her...(sob)...they loved her...(sob)"

There's one thing above all else which BBC4's 1997 week has confirmed, and that's the way the decade is destined to be evoked in every single TV programme of the future.

Just like the 1960s are always referenced by that bit of black-and-white footage of George Best pouring champagne onto a pyramid of glasses, so the 1990s will be forever represented by Martyn Lewis reciting the words of Tony Blair and blubbing in front of the nation.

12 March, 2007

"I'm sorry, there appears to be someone drilling in the studio downstairs"

Broadcasting House is 75 years old this week.

The official opening of the second greatest building in the world (after BBC Television Centre) was marked in suitable imperial fashion: a live performance by the legendary Henry Hall and the newly-formed BBC Dance Orchestra. Hall was, of course, a toe-tapper of trenchant form and became as much a fixture in the nation's front rooms and parlours as the likes of Brucie many decades later.

He merits most acclaim, though, for penning a special song about and for no less an institution than the Radio Times. His whimsical ode was published within the magazine's Christmas edition of 1934, "written clearly enough for you to play it on your piano".

Incredibly, RT then had a circulation of over five million. Equally shamelessly, the song was played almost non-stop on all the BBC's stations throughout the festive period. What Gill Hudson and Alison Graham wouldn't give for that kind of generous promotion nowadays. What they wouldn't give for any kind of promotion, for that matter.

The lyrics to the song don't seem to be online anywhere, which is a pity. Instead, by way of a salute to Henry Hall's tireless support for the BBC, and to the sublime Broadcasting House itself, here's a photo taken on 16th April 1980, when a gaggle of Radio 1 DJs pushed Jimmy Savile in a bed all the way from Portland Place to Park Lane to raise money for some charity or other. The entire endeavour was clearly organised by that bespectacled gentleman on the far left. Although in retrospect this may be wishful thinking.

In the meantime, what chance the next series of Strictly Come Dancing elicits a spin-off single performed by Bruce Forsyth And The BBC Dance Orchestra?

11 March, 2007

Shut up, Andre!

By way of doffing a Dog On Wheels-sized cap to BBC4's superb 1997 Week, five of the best programmes of that year:

Ant And Dec Unzipped

Adam And Joe's Fourmative Years
If only for their top ten most preposterous appearances of the word "fuck" in Channel 4's history (with, at number one, The Camomile Lawn: "May I...fuck you now? Now, at once?")

Election 97
The most exciting and entertaining TV of the year, if not the decade. "...Asteroid hitting the earth"..."Are you ready to drink hemlock yet?"..."There they all go, buried"..."So, we lost"..."It's been fun!"..."Tory telecom reforms!"..."I think that's what you'd call champagne socialism!"

The Show
Bob Mills does Larry Sanders without the budget, guests or noticeboard covered in multi-coloured post-it notes. Where to begin? Bob testing out libellous jokes on Andi Peters in the LWT bar; Bob and executive producer Jeff being told C4 would either recommission them or courtroom series Nothing But The Truth; Danny Baker coming on the week he was fired from the BBC; people dropping out at the last minute (Mills: "If we do this again, we won't book any guests in advance, we'll just phone them up two hours before the programme"); Sandra Bernhard being slagged off by the audience...

This Life

09 March, 2007

The Macca Video Jukebox: part three


Paul invites a few mates round to his parlour for a singalong and, thanks to the help of the Naked Civil Servant, suddenly finds himself playing a packed-out velodrome.

a) This was off Macca's best-ever solo LP, Tug Of War, produced by that grand master of the grams, George Martin.
b) It was a top 20 hit in July 1982, peaking at number 15.
c) George also played piano on the song, besides donning his best spats and bootlace tie for the video.

A true embarrassment of riches. For starters:
a) What a line-up! Macca, Linda, Ringo, George Martin, Eric Matthews out of 10CC and Steve Gadd on "other" drums.
b) As with the best of Paul's videos, it has a story to tell, and as is always the case, it's told very literally. Hence on the line "faded flowers wait in a jar", we see some fading flowers waiting in a jar. And when a "lonely driver" "switches on his radio", sure enough, the titular motorist is seen manhandling the aforementioned transistor.
c) Macca's band begins by practicing in his front room, until his mum, fed up with the noise, cuts the power with the help of an Authentic Overalled Man From The Electricity Board.
d) The "important impresario" is none other than John Hurt, who does very little throughout except look enigmatic and fix up Macca's band with a stellar gig in a massive fuck-off stadium in front of about 1000 people. This is yet another highlight, as the band are all in uber-smart suits, Macca is bopping about, Ringo is waggling his head like in the old days and even George looks like he's having a ball.
e) When we're in "the bar", John appears to be offering a separate recording contract to - yikes - Linda, at which Paul raises his eyebrows affably and turns back to converse with some fans.

There are some fine examples of Paul's effortless pop craftsmanship on display here. In the verses, not only have you got some simple, smart rhyming couples ("miles to go/radio"; "in his hand/for the band"; "corner seat/is complete"), you've also got some nifty internal rhymes as well. Hence "Lonely driver, out on the road" is matched with "Soul survivor, carrying the load" and, best of all, "After hours, late in the bar" with "Faded flowers wait in a jar". Nice one.

Wanna hear you play till the lights go down.

08 March, 2007

Photo clippage #9

26th June 1979: the Beeb's battery of newsreaders past and present gather to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first television news bulletin, read, as it would be again that very night, by Richard Baker.

07 March, 2007

Owl-Stretching Time

Yet again the proper release of MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS on DVD has been delayed.

This has become something of a bugbear for Digi-Cream Times (just for a change), but I'm afraid it just defies belief that a series as imperial as this has yet to receive a decent, all-flags-flying, whistles-and-bells DVD treatment.

The latest twist in what is probably an implausibly long and tiresome story appears to be that the versions of the show which are advertised as being available to buy at the end of this month are the episodes and nothing but. In other words, no extras, no special features, no lovingly assembled treats, no astutely chosen bonus rareties. Fuck all, in fact.

This isn't what DVDs are for and not what Monty Python is for. Yet you can bet these forthcoming releases will be exhaustively promoted and flogged all over the place in much the same way as Spamalot, and with equally tedious gimmicks.

Look out for advertising straplines that run something like "funnier than the last time you bought them - and more expensive!" or "0.000001% new footage!" or "the complete series - except for all the missing bits".

There's a whole lexicon which must be deployed when anything Python-esque is being publicised, including generous use of the word "Python-esque". As noted elsewhere in TV Cream Towers, it's like the way anything to do with Comic Relief is always the Great Big Stupid this or the Amazingly Incomplete Silly that or, latterly, so and so "does" so and so. Lazy words for lazy efforts.

Overall, things don't look good. I can't see why Monty Python doesn't seem able to get the same loving treatment as, say, RIPPING YARNS, the DVDs for which are packed with superb extras. Ah well. If you've enjoyed reading this blog half as much as I've enjoyed writing it, then I've enjoyed it twice as much as you. Goodnight.

05 March, 2007

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot and Gelth

It seems that when Douglas Adams took over the role of Dr Who script editor in the late 1970s, he made great play of casting around for writers that had never contributed to the series before and who could bring something new to proceedings. Most of these were luminaries of the literary scene - Tom Stoppard and the like - but one was none other...than Richard Stilgoe! Richard Stilgoe writing for Dr Who! Can you imagine such a thing?

Well, yes, and the results would go something like this.

The Doctor (Tom Baker) lands in present-day London on his way to some secret alien conference or other and immediately gets a parking ticket slapped on the TARDIS by a stroppy traffic warden (Patsy Rowlands).

A wry debate about the city's transport network ensues, ending with the Doctor vowing it'd be quicker to walk, only to find the pavement dug up by the Gas Board. A wry debate about public utilities ensues, with a workman (Robin Askwith) professing his bemusement at having to dig so many holes only to fill them up again. The Doctor agrees, comparing the situation to being caught in a space-time trap, then shambles off leaving the workman scratching his head and looking suspiciously at a bottle of beer.

The Doctor finds he has to board a train to reach his conference in time, but when he gets to the station he is warned by the station-master (Richard O'Sullivan) of "trouble ahead, squire". "What, Daleks?" stammers the Doctor. "No - pickets!" quips the station-master. A wry debate about industrial relations ensues, resulting in the Doctor charming his way past the protestors with the promise of "free jelly babies and double time on Fridays!"

Once on board, however, the Doctor has to do battle with an even greater foe: British Rail sandwiches. In the canteen he challenges the attendant (Richard Stilgoe) about the quality of his catering. A wry debate about train cuisine ensues, ending in the attendant making an unusual and witty anagram out of the letters DOCTOR WHO and performing a short ditty about Cheap Day Returns on a small pianola.

The Doctor finally arrives at his destination, only to find the Brigadier (Geoffrey Palmer) looking grim. "Sorry Doctor, but you're too late," he intones. "The entire place has been overrun - by red tape!" "Good heavens!" cries the Doctor, "is there nothing you can do?" "Afraid not, old boy. This stuff just keeps on coming. Whitehall is spewing it out, non-stop!"

A wry debate about Government bureaucracy ensues, interrupted by the arrival of the local MP (Frank Thornton). "Quick - you must come up with a new law to ban red tape!" pleads the Doctor, "it's the only way to save the country!" "That won't do any good," moans the MP, "Whitehall is completely out of control! Nobody can stop it, not even the most powerful person in the land!"

"What, the Prime Minister?" queries the Doctor. "No," responds the MP, "Terry Wogan!"

"I wouldn't be too sure about that," a familiar voice interrupts. Lord Terrence of Wogan, for it is he, steps forward to assail the group with a wry debate about the foibles of parliamentary democracy and why there's nobody called Blake in Blake's Seven. "That's often occurred to me as well!" quips the Doctor.

Tel sees off the profusion of red tape with a few capricious remarks about men in suits and a sharp cry of "Avast ye!" A TV interviewer (Russell Harty) then appears to ask all and sundry for their comments on what has just unfolded.

"I wish I could have this man on hand whenever I had to do battle with evil!" observes the Doctor of Wogan. "I'm afraid we can't spare him," interrupts the Brigadier. "He's needed to spearhead a forthcoming wry debate about why nobody's hair blows when it's windy in Dallas, and why Southfork only has one telephone."

"Never mind, Doc," sighs Terry. "Tell you what: next time you get into a bit of trouble with those Daleks, here's a tip: run up a flight of stairs!"

03 March, 2007

"A big 'how're you doing' to everyone on the Streatham High Road!"

On PM the other day, Eddie Mair quizzed the leader of Essex County Council as to the sincerity of his desire to inaugurate a Helen Mirren Day.

It turned out not only was this intended to be a local celebration of the Dame's birthplace of Ilford, but also the occasion for a bank holiday. The whole country, no less, would be given the day off work to join in an annual commemoration of the lady who, in the film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, rolls naked on a chopping board and shoots Michael Gambon in the head for swallowing a mouthful of roast penis.

Anyway, it's long been the case that Britain has lagged behind the rest of Europe as regards its tally of national holidays, so why stop here? Three suitable candidates for similar canonisation immediately spring to mind.


Celebrations would include, at 12pm every year, Mike appearing live across all BBC radio networks to recreate the bit in THE WAR GAME when he announces the end of the world in a nuclear conflagration; an ASK ASPEL roadshow wherein our host tours the country sitting in a recreation of the original studio set on the back of a flatbed truck; a turn-the-tables affair involving former Miss Worlds putting Mike on the spot as to his views on environmental conservation and the threat of third world Communist insurgency; and local garden fetes and street parties where everyone has to dress up as a red book.


Here seen on the set of PUNCHLINES in 1983, Madeline would be honoured chiefly in an annual pageant organised by Jeremy Beadle involving various character actors donning period costumes to recreate elements of her life in front of badly-Chromakeyed hand-drawn sets. This would include Sylvester McCoy and Mike Savage recreating that bit at the start of Live And Let Die where M turns up at Bond's house only to find 007 running over a few points with Madeline under the eiderdown (Sylvester displaying his versatility by playing both Madeline and the eiderdown).


Revolving around a giant carnival held in David's home town of Streatham (helmed by Matt Baker), celebrations to mark the life and work of the erstwhile chief announcer on Radio CEAC in Ceylon would all be drawn from within that cabinet marked The David Jacobs Anecdote Collection. From a thousand giant speakers would pump Our Kind Of Music, interspersed with audio clippage of David recalling meeting obscure theatrical impresarios, extracts from JUKE BOX JURY where he had to break up a fight between the likes of Beryl Reid and Ray Davies, and that episode of ANY QUESTIONS when the venue was trashed live on air after an audience member, incensed by the presence on the panel of Enoch Powell, threw a stone through a window.

01 March, 2007

Photo clippage #8

"Welcome to what one could, if so persuaded, be minded to term a palace of pixellated pleasures, a factory of facile fun-seeking follies, or maybe a bastion of brash broadcasting braggadocio..."