29 September, 2007

4 what it's worth

40 reasons to cherish the 40-year-old Radio 4:

1) That bit on Today just before the 8.30am news when they have a joke with whoever's presenting the programme on at 9am.
2) Round Britain Quiz, specifically the music-themed questions
3) Nicholas Parsons shouting "Welcome to Just A Minute!"
4) Kirsty Young
5) "North Utsire, South Utsire..."
6) They have a continuity announcer called Zeb
7) The bit at midnight when the newsreader has to try and speak between the Big Ben "chimes and strikes"
8) "Over on Long Wave, it's time for..."
9) Jim Naughtie
10) The special accordion version of The Archers theme used for the omnibus edition
11) Humphrey Lyttelton's innuendos
12) It's the only place you get to hear Richard Stilgoe anymore
13) Ditto Clive James
14) The theme tune to File On 4
15) Jenni Murray, the best mum you could ever have
16) The Archive Hour
17) "...and that's the world at 1.30"
18) Whenever a station controller has to turn up on Feedback and explain a scheduling change to an angry listener
19) Today In Parliament, especially the what-kind-of-week-has-it-been? Friday editions
20) The way the guests on The Moral Maze are called "witnesses"
21) Masterteam with Peter Snow
22) John Humphrys in a tenacious mood
23) Hearing someone in the audience shout "for shame!" during the live transmission of Any Questions
24) The "sideways look at..." feature in the last 15 minutes of The Westminster Hour
25) Getting to eat your lunch while listening to Martha Kearney
26) "Coming up, the Greenwich time signal..."
27) Documentaries presented by Charles Wheeler
28) The fact Woman's Hour has to come from Manchester once a week
29) Sean Barratt reciting poems on Poetry Please late at night
30) Andrew Marr verbally jousting with four guests at the same time on Start The Week
31) Edward Stourton getting indignant with slippery foreign ambassadors at 7.20am
32) Waking up too early on Sunday mornings and hearing five minutes of church bells
33) Any programme based on a parlour game
34) Annie McKie reading the news
35) You can still get it on Medium Wave in London and Northern Ireland
36) The fact that, in the event of war, British submarines have been ordered to interpret the repeated absence of the Today programme from Radio 4's frequencies as proof Britain has been the subject of a nuclear attack
37) Whenever The Archers drops in a specially-recorded last-minute scene to incorporate some topical news story or other
38) Eddie Mair
39) 'Sailing By'
40) "So, from everybody here at Broadcasting House, it's a very good night."

28 September, 2007

Photo clippage: Radio 2 40th birthday special

This weekend's multiple anniversary commemorations have already got off to a sparkling start with an edition of Friday Night Is Music Night featuring a medley of Radio 2 "themes", a singalong version of 'MacArthur Park' and Joe Brown cracking jokes about Ken Bruce.

Unfortunately there was no evidence of a mooted (at least by TV Cream) appearance by the Radio 2 Players; indeed, there doesn't look like being any collective tribute, not even a special pantomime, during the whole celebrations.

By way of scant compensation, then, here are some of Radio 2's erstwhile constituent parts.

1) A phalanx of DJs and significant others marches on 10 Downing Street to demand an end to the pervasive corrupting influence of Waggoner's Walk:

2) Gloria Hunniford swaps the verdant pastures of Broadcasting House for a stint on Open Air fielding endless complaints about Peter Sissons's pay packet and enquiries about the music played during Ceefax AM:

3) Brian Matthew dresses down for dinner:

4) Jimmy Young is joined in the studio by a known bender:

5) Just another average lunchtime in the BBC club:

6) Ed Stewart in a rare shot reaching for his wallet:

7) John Dunn is informed he no longer has to share a locker with Steve Wright:

27 September, 2007

Phil Din

Phil Redmond was on BBC News 24 earlier, droning on about his plans to "save" Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations. Unsurprisingly, the moment his grey, squashed face appeared on camera, Redmond sucked all life out of proceedings, leaving his interviewer battling to salvage even a dash of audible usefulness from the encounter.

The gist of his intentions, however, seemed to be:

- a touring revival of Brookside, utilising a flatbed truck to visit some of Merseyside's most deprived areas in an attempt to use cultural enlightenment to help those needing new drains and central heating. Starring Dean Sullivan.

- an open mike session staged in Liverpool's "heart" (Brookside Close), compered by Dean Sullivan, giving locals the chance to sound off to nobody in particular about petty grievances and smug prejudices.

- a new musical, 'Why Liverpool Is Da Boss', penned by Phil Redmond, re-telling some of the city's so-called "finest moments"in story and song, featuring Dean Sullivan, Louis Emerick and Claire Sweeney.

- 'How Brookside Saved Britain': a series of seminars chaired by Phil Redmond, in front of an invited audience (no questions allowed), with special guest speaker Dean Sullivan.

- 'Why Grange Hill Was Set In Liverpool All Along': a journey round various local landmarks, as seen in recent series of the increasingly unpopular children's series, designed to prove that the nation's once-favourite comprehensive was never set in north London at all. Tour guide: Dean Sullivan.

- 'Capital Culture-l Elites (sic)' A keynote address by Phil Redmond, arguing that the Houses of Parliament, the Olympics, the British Library, HMS Belfast, the London Marathon, the Tour de France, the Melbourne Cup and the annual 10km Brazil fun run should all be held in Liverpool. Includes a specially filmed testimony by Dean Sullivan entitled 'Hey Jimmy'.

25 September, 2007

See for yourself

Paul Kennedy has written to TV Cream to ask:

"Can you tell me if the tea-boy from a long lost lower Amazonian rain forest tribe who has had access to a television for half a peko second has started rating the programmes on your site? I refer you to the rating for Fawlty Towers. One of the all time classics. Sack the tea-boy."

It's a fair point: who is responsible for determining the programme rating for each of the A-Z billings, and how precisely is it arrived at?

Suffice to say the process is a long and, conveniently for this blog, legible one. Initially a team of one hundred developers working in a boxroom in Shanghai calculate, on the basis of innumerable statistical formulae, what are the range of ratings available. This can take anything from one day to, if there's a fair wind and Carla Lane is involved, half a minute.

The information is posted back to TV Cream Towers and verified by the recently-formed governmental Central Committee For Un-Archivery Activites, which cross-examines all the analysis for signs of fakery, ambiguity, imagination, creativity, innovation, identity and blarney.

The entire staff of TV Cream then spend a weekend watching every single episode of the programme in question, like those people at Dr Who Magazine who have spent the past fifteen years watching every episode of the titular children's science fiction series in order. Voices are raised and opinions are aired, particularly when it comes to deciding what should be put on the TV instead, something that happens roughly fifteen minutes in.

A focus group is employed to measure the likely response to a number of options. Lots and lots of pie charts and graphs which have a line that goes up and down for no reason are produced. Somebody moots the idea of scrapping the entire A-Z. A tea boy from a lost Amazonian rain forest tribe stops by to say there's no milk left in the fridge.

Finally the entire thing is put to a secret ballot and the results painted onto a giant piece of plywood by Bob MacKenzie.

Or at least that's what is supposed to happen.

22 September, 2007

Run VT

As fantastic as tonight's rank-the-prime-ministers two-hour BBC4 marathon was, it did fall back one too many times on obvious archivery. How many occasions has that same footage of an over-daubed half-dressed woman dancing alone in a muddy field been rolled out to denote the Swinging Sixties?

Anyway, here's a rundown of other all-too ubiquitous clippage for future documentarians to avoid. How many can you collect over the next seven days?

End of the Second World War: Winston Churchill in an open-topped car waving his hat around
Late 1950s: Woman taking delivery of a washing machine
Early 1960s: Girl screaming at The Beatles and holding her hands against her face
Late 1960s: George Best pouring champagne onto a pyramid of glasses
Permissiveness: Mary Whitehouse standing up in an audience of old people complaining about "the dirtiest programme" she's ever seen
The three-day week: Old women in a supermarket with lighted candles tied to their trolleys
The Falklands War: men marching across a field with a Union Jack tied to a radio mast
The miners strike: Arthur Scargill being arrested
The 1980s boom: A businessman talking into a brick-sized mobile phone
Mrs Thatcher in control: Maggie re-arranging tiny flags at a press conference
Mrs Thatcher not in control: Maggie being pulled along the beach by a small dog
Black Wednesday: A businessman running across an office looking crazy
John Major: PM sipping a pint of beer in a tiny near-empty village pub
Tony Blair: PM heading a ball with Kevin Keegan
Princess Diana: Martyn Lewis blubbing

20 September, 2007

Photo clippage #26

ITV faces go on a motoring excursion to meet their public. Why doesn't this sort of thing happen anymore?*

*Because there aren't any ITV faces anymore.

18 September, 2007

"You gonna doublet? I doan believe ya!"

In a week or so's time, BBC Parliament is going to be repeating Election '87.

Fair enough, it's 20 years (and a bit) since Mrs Thatcher told Robin Day she could well be "twanging a harp" by the year 2000, prompting David Dimbleby to remark on how at least she was "absolutely convinced she's going to heaven one day". But the channel has shown Election '87 before (in 2005) and there are surely other epic transmissions from the archive that could be marched out to fill its schedules before Westminster opens for business.

Thatcher's resignation, for instance. The launch of Operation Desert Shield (or, if that's not exciting enough, Operation Desert Storm). If the 1981 Royal Wedding is still deemed out of bounds ("Throw a handful of good wishes after them") how about the Royal Fireworks from the night before ("The Queen and twenty craned heads from other lands...bonfire built by Boy Skates...") or even the 1973 Royal Wedding ("You're gonna doublet? I doan believe ya!").

Maybe there could be a By-Election Bonanza, with an entire weekend devoted to some of history's most famous one-off counts, linked with special commentary from David Butler (he's still alive, y'know). There's even one whole general election yet to be aired: Election '59, which, with Richard Dimbleby at the helm, was surely a majestically gregarious affair.

Basically there are loads of gems waiting for re-airing, which makes the second coming again of Election '87 rather underwhelming. Alternatively, and to shut up all those whinging about "BBC cuts", why not replace BBC3 with BBC+30: a real-time re-run of exactly what was appearing on BBC1 30 years ago to the day. It'd get the Daily Mail's hackles up, but also the viewing figures. A win-win situation!

16 September, 2007

TV Cream: new season

As you'll hopefully have spotted on the site's homepage, the TV Cream A-Z has had a complete overhaul.

Basically, every single entry has been updated in some way, be it amended, corrected or totally rewritten. There is, as such, fresh new content - yikes! - to be found in every single one of TV Cream's 1,820 listed programmes.

But wait, as Peter Purves said on those mid-90s collect-a-CD adverts. There are also 100 brand new entries as well, filling in gaps in the A-Z that had long tested the patience of the site's, ooh, dozens of readers.


Discover the difference between RUSSELL HARTY and RUSSELL HARTY PLUS; between ABRICADIGANCE, A DROP OF DIGANCE and DIGANCE AT WORK; and THE ZOO GANG and ZOO TIME. Relive Paddy Haycocks's finest hour in AS IT HAPPENS and Joe Pasquale and Bradley Walsh's worst in, er, HE'S PASQUALE, I'M WALSH. Reminisce about the days when you could have both your RIGHT TO REPLY and SEE FOR YOURSELF.

Wonder why it's taken us so long to do an entry for BLACKADDER. Wonder why we bothered to do an entry for BLACKEYES. Rattle some virtual collecting tins for both CHILDREN IN NEED and COMIC RELIEF. Explore the history of cummerbunds with EDWARD THE SEVENTH, ELIZABETH R, LILLIE and THE CHARMER. Explore the history of, well, history with THE ASCENT OF MAN and CIVILISATION.

There's more shameless Monkhouse worship in CELEBRITY SQUARES and FAMILY FORTUNES. There's the children's programme with the scariest opening titles ever, ONCE UPON A TIME...MAN. And, SURPRISE SURPRISE, there's not one but two enormous boons: A BIT OF FRY AND LAURIE and A BIT OF A DO.

So allow yourself a modest shout of PRAISE BE and a soupcon of FOOD AND DRINK, and delve into the new model TV Cream A-Z. Don't forget to PRESS GANG your mates and fellow TELLY ADDICTS to do the same.

Oh, and if anyone's got any decent images lying around that could replace some of the site's near-decade-old fuzzy low-resolution jpegs and screengrabs, we'd be more than happy to receive them.

13 September, 2007

Him again

The new edition of Radio Times features Ol' Miserable Bastard, aka Michael Parkinson, whinging on yet again about how the world will be a bleaker place once he disappears off the air for good* and how he's supposedly one a million because "the one skill I'm most proud of is that I can write", something he shares with much of the entire world over the age of five.

There's also an accompanying feature listing, revelation-style, who the old hobbledehoy would invite to his fantasy dinner party, including Dame Edith Evans, Shirley MacLaine, Billy Connolly (yawn), Ian McKellen and Judi Dench.

This roll call would be forgettable in the extreme were it not for the fact that, in an issue of TV Times from 1989, there's a similarly hold-the-front-page feature, ostensibly the first in a series, asking "top name celebrities" to discuss who they'd invite to, yup, their ideal imaginary dinner party.

And inevitably the first to step up to participate in such an earnestly whimsical exercise, despite him having absolutely no programmes on ITV that week, was him again: the master of the post-prandial prattle, Michael Parkinson.

No points for guessing who his first nomination was ("The only problem would be finding time to stop laughing and eat the food"), nor his second ("The greatest raconteur I have ever met - and I've met quite a few"). What's more striking, though, was the way Parky proceeded to flout the rules and choose seven people to attend the meal, when TV Times had clearly insisted he could only choose five. You might have had some courtesy, man, the feature had only just been launched!

At least his enervating babble was amusingly undermined by an accompanying line drawing of the grouchy bugger, which was the most assuredly hopeless, i.e. splendid appropriate rendering of the man ever seen. Half of Parky's face was missing, though sadly not the bottom half, and rather than draw a big head on a little body the anonymous artist had done it the other way round. Better still, the entire thing had been reproduced on the front cover as well.

He'd probably quit TV altogether if such a thing had happened today. Oh, wait a minute...

*We've heard that before.

11 September, 2007

Photo clippage #25

Ah, the dream breakfast line-up. Except it was on the fussily-named London Newstalk Radio (one of the many many convoluted rebrands of LBC), and Brian did the weekdays while Frank did weekends. It couldn't have lasted. Sure enough it didn't.

08 September, 2007

"All for just 37 pence a day"

With the BBC having inexplicably slipped back into some kind of mid-1980s crisis of confidence with doubters and baiters on every side and constant moaning about cuts and budgets from its own staff, something needs to be done and quickly.

And that something is a three-minute promotional film of the sort that used to liberally bedeck the schedules night and day.

Not Mikhail Gorbachev talking about how he used to listen to the World Service while being held prisoner, nothing like that. No, what's needed is a classic, steadying-the-boat, why-the-licence-fee-matters broadcast, packed with stars and famous faces, in a familiar TV location, and ending with some simple statistic or other about how much the BBC costs you every day.

So let's have Brucie toetapping his way into the Queen Vic, in the process bumping into Huw Edwards reading a newspaper, Terry Wogan arm-wrestling with Chris Moyles, Jonathan Ross pulling *that* face, Gary Lineker having a kickabout, David Attenborough standing by a pot plant, Natasha Kaplinksy choosing a tune off the jukebox, Dick and Dom playing a video game, Fiona Bruce nibbling on a bag of peanuts, Graham Norton at the piano, French and Saunders falling over, and Alan Yentob sharing a joke with Barbara Windsor behind the bar. Ending with John Cleese walking in, pulling a bemused expression and making a droll remark about how "they haven't smartened this place up much since I was last here".

No references to "the unique way" it's funded. No references to it being broadcasting "at its best". No references to us making it "what it is". Just a reminder of how great the BBC is, how little it costs everyone, and how important - and essential - it is in our everyday lives.

06 September, 2007

Zygmunt Jankowsi's Hammond Pop Party

TJ Worthinton has forwarded a link to a suspiciously entertaining site listing something of occasional Creamguide interest: dementedly alleged Beatles cover versions.

Extra points must go to the version of Fool On The Hill by the stunningly-named 'Bobby Lamb and The Keymen' (on, ahem, BBC Records), Hey Jude by (could it really be?) Tony Hatch and The Satin Brass, and Across The Universe by, ahem, Sounds Galatic on their "LP" 'An Astromusical Odyssey'.

04 September, 2007

The Macca video jukebox: part nine


Re-record, not fade away

a) It's another "classic" moment from Give My Regards To Broad Street.
b) It originally appeared on Macca's 1982 LP 'Tug Of War', and was one of many from his back catalogue he decided to, well, "revisit" for the film. It's a fantastic song, but this version doesn't quite do it justice.

a) A somewhat sloppy vocal performance by Paul. At one point he takes a breath in the middle of a word, which wouldn't be quite so bad were the word not "Wanderlust".
b) Ringo on drums, appearing - as usual - to be playing along to his own, entirely different, song inside his head.
c) George Martin conducting the brass players with a pencil.
d) The brass players doing some synchronised tea-sipping.
e) The bit at the end where, apropos nothing, Paul slips in two bars of Here, There And Everywhere. He knows what people want.

VERDICT: This one's not for me.

02 September, 2007

Written in a bit of a rush

One of the most perspicacious aspects of TV Cream's 10-year history has been its relationship with the Daily Mail.

Back in the autumn of 2002, just three days before the site's 5th anniversary, a journalist employed by the Mail On Sunday contacted Creamguide directly by email. The person in question was Matthew Knowles, a reasonably high-profile and experienced reporter, then tipped as a rising star within the Mail empire.

Indeed, earlier that year at the prestigious Scottish Press Awards, Mr Knowles had been privileged to scoop a notable number of gongs including 'Journalist Of The Year', 'Reporter Of The Year' and 'Scoop Of The Year' for a story about Henry McLeish, the former Scottish First Minister.

A man of high standing and stern moral scruples, you'd think. But then, on Wednesday 28th August 2002, he sent this message to TV Cream Towers:

"Answer your moby cock piece"

What could have prompted such a rash outburst? What did the man seek to imply? Might the email have been written, to coin a phrase, in a bit of a rush?

As it turned out, this was but an augary and although the man never contacted TV Cream again (and seems to have since disappeared off the face of the planet, or at least the face of the press) Associated Newspapers was to tangle with the site in a far more direct manner later that year.

The Daily Mail had already alerted the world to its knowledge of TV Cream when, a short while into the site's existence, it received the dubious honour of being named as one of the Mail's '10 Of The Best Websites'.

An article dated 14th December 1999 not only placed TV Cream at number one in the chart but also described the site as: "The best place to find the TV shows of yesteryear." The piece was bylined Elizabeth Stout - someone else who seems to have vanished with the passing of time.

A different kind of flattery, however, surfaced in late October 2002 when the Mail ran an article entitled 'Blue Peter Saints And Sinners'. The piece bore a number of striking similarities with TV Cream's own guide to BP presenters; so many, in fact, as to transcend similarity and approach the plateau of blatant carbon copy. A few examples:

TV Cream's Blue Peter Special Assignment -
"Peter Purves: Quieter, more cerebral, supply teacher-like foil for action man Noakes."
THE DAILY MAIL, 25/10/02 -
"Peter Purves: Quiet, more cerebral, supply-teacher-like foil for action man John Noakes."

TV Cream's Blue Peter Special Assignment -
"Sarah Greene: Arrived at the 'Peter chubby-cheeked and brunette, fled as a blonde saucepot to Saturday Superstore."
THE DAILY MAIL, 25/10/02 -
"Sarah Greene: Arrived a chubby-cheeked brunette, fled as a blonde saucepot to Saturday Superstore."

TV Cream's Blue Peter Special Assignment -
"Tina Heath: Made television history by having an ultrasound scan of her unborn child (named Jemma, as it happens) live on the programme. Then left before the breastfeeding could be featured."
THE DAILY MAIL, 25/10/02 -
"Tina Heath: Became pregnant almost as soon as she arrived and made TV history by having an ultrasound scan of her unborn child live on the programme. Then left before the breastfeeding could be featured."

TV Cream's Blue Peter Special Assignment -
"Matt Baker: Starring role in 2001's absurd Blue Peter Quest, wherein he had to lip-synch in drag to Blondie and look at Peter Duncan's arse, confirmed his coronation."
THE DAILY MAIL, 25/10/02 -
"Matt Baker: Most memorable moment - lip-synching in drag to a Blondie track on 2001's Blue Peter Quest."

TV Cream's Blue Peter Special Assignment -
"Simon Groom: Outdoors type Groom spent many of his 'Peter days showing viewers around his parents' Derbyshire farm, accompanied by the imaginatively-named golden retriever, Goldie."
THE DAILY MAIL, 25/10/02 -
"Simon Groom: Spent much of the time showing viewers around his parents' farm, accompanied by the imaginatively-named golden retriever, Goldie."

The case was taken up by none other than Matthew Norman of the Guardian, who, in his column on Wednesday 30th October, warned the Mail that TV Crean was "about to sue you for plagiarism" (this never happened). He continued by instructing the Mail's editor, Paul Dacre, to "have a really good, long holiday on a Mauritian beach, come back refreshed, and for God's sake, man, get a grip" (ditto).

Suffice to say much amusement was derived from the Mail's lamentable excuses that the article was "written in a bit of rush", that "there isn't any rule against copying stuff off a website, is there?", and, best of all, "What's TV Cream?"

Inevitably the whole thing came to nothing, and despite some nice support from those capricious veterans over at Need To Know, the "dispute" fizzled out chiefly because, well, nobody really knew what to do next. Although there was a postcript of sorts.

Still, it would've been great taking the Mail to court, not least as it would've afforded TV Cream the possibility of calling character witnesses such as Fred Harris, Richard Stilgoe and Marian Foster.