30 October, 2007

"...in your pocket, or purse, or in your bank..."

You might have already spotted this, but on Sunday 18th November BBC Parliament is doing another of its as-it-happened themed anniversary evenings, this time remembering the devaluation of the pound on the same day (at 9.30pm precisely!) 40 years ago.

Feature-length archivery is promised from the likes of Twenty-Four Hours, The Money Programme with William Davis and Alan Watson, an Our Money special - whatever that was - with Robin Day, and highlights from Budget 68, with future DG Ian Trethowan "and team" examining Roy Jenkins' attempt to save the British economy by taking £923 million out of it.

Best of all, though, is the fact the whole evening is being introduced and linked by the Beeb's star face of current affairs and every single massive television event of the mid-late 1960s...Cliff Michelmore! Back on the box! It must be his first foray onto the small screen for nearly two decades.

Has there ever been a more becalming TV face than Cliff? If anyone can reassure the nation that everything's going to be all right, let alone stop housewives, navvies and costermongers from fretting about "prices", it was - and still is - surely he.

28 October, 2007

The Macca video jukebox: epilogue

By way of a farewell to this never-before-attempted and rarely-read-since feature, Chris Hughes has unearthed Paul holding forth on Aspel And Company in 1984 about metric conversion ("I'm not going decimal, me uncle Joe and me"), impersonating Michael Jackson, promoting a Buddy Holly painting competition, bantering with Tracey Ullman ("She plays this bird who cries all the time") and joining in with a mass serenade at the end. "I never knew you could sing, Michael!" "Neither did I!"

Part one...

...part two...

...and part three:

26 October, 2007

Four score

To continue the theme, back when Channel 4 turned 10 in 1992, Broadcast magazine drew up a list of what it believed to be the station's 50 most significant programmes to date.

They were the ones that supposedly "defined" the channel and most typified its achievements during that first decade.

Given C4 was supposedly at its most groundbreaking during its, ahem, formative years, it's doubtful even a half of this list would - or should - make it into a similar inventory to mark C4's 25th birthday. But anyway, here's the 50, together with a few pithy observations from Broadcast. Any takers for The Big Company? Or What If It's Raining? Or Centrepoint?

After Dark
Alter Image
As It Happens
Ask Dr Ruth
The Bandung File
Behaving Badly ("Dame Judi Dench plays a devoted wife ditched over the turbot for a bit of young stuff")
Berlin Alexanderplatz
The Big Company
Black On Black
Brookside ("Had to resort to sensationalism of late to cling on to its dwindling audience")
The Camomile Lawn
Club X
Diverse Reports
Don't Miss Wax
Drop The Dead Donkey
The Far Pavilions
The Last Resort
The Manageress
Manhattan Cable
Mapp And Lucia
Max Headroom
The Media Show
The Nation's Health
Network 7
One Summer
Out On Tuesday
Porterhouse Blue
The Price ("Peter Barkworth played the businessman whose greed cost his wife a finger, if not an arm and a leg")
Rear Window
Saturday Night Live
Tandoori Nights
Treasure Hunt
The Tube
A TV Dante ("TV designed to be watched over and over again. If only you could be bothered")
A Very British Coup
Watching The Detectives
Watch The Woman ("Cosmo for couch potatoes with Tina Baker")
What If It's Raining?
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The Wine Programme
Zastrozzi, A Romance ("Shelley's unreadable novel transmogrified into unwatchable TV")

24 October, 2007

Dropping a word in the nation's ear

The Today programme is 50 years old on Sunday, and to celebrate their website has rightly gone to town. Of particular note amongst the variety of clippage is the time Jack de Manio was late for an interview because he got locked in the toilet, and John Humphrys skewering a hapless Norman Lamont the day after Black Wednesday.

Best of all, however, is something half-heartedly referred to on the site only as 'The Today Song' but which, on listening, appears to be a musical skit written and performed by none other...than Richard Stilgoe!

Meanwhile here's Jack de Manio and John Timpson back when the Today studio was seemingly furnished with curtains, baize tables and sofas.

22 October, 2007

Gray matter

Hello! I'm Muriel Gray. You might remember me from such Channel 4 hit shows as Switch, The Media Show and The 100 Greatest Family Films.

Well now. I really can't believe my old stamping ground and home from home is about to turn 25 years of age. So many memories! I'll never forget the time I was presenting The Tube when I opened my dressing room door to find my dear friends Paula and Jools introducing the programme right outside! Whoops! I uttered a mild profanity - live on air! - then had to run outside, round the back of the Tyne Tees building, to reach the place I was supposed to be! I've been laughing about that incident non-stop for almost 20 years. Lordy lordy.

Anyway, I'm here to remind everyone to take part in the special TV Cream Channel 4 anniversary poll, which is being held to determine once and for all when were C4's greatest years. You'll need to be signed up to Yahoo, but then if you're subscribed to Creamguide that will nae be a problem.

Oooh! I can barely contain myself at thinking what the result might be! As Scotland's first lady, I must try and keep my composure - but as soon as I hear the theme tune to Right To Reply, I'm off! Mercy me. Anyway, happy voting, and here's to Channel 4: let's hope it continues to grow old *dis*gracefully!!!

20 October, 2007

Photo clippage: C4 birthday special

"And for the most of the country, it all starts on the 2nd of November: all right?"

1) The launch of the Channel 4 Daily, 1989. Michael Nicholson, Carol Barnes, Garry Rice, Debbie Greenwood, Dermot Murnaghan, Susannah Simons and Richard Whiteley get used to not having enough chairs, saucers and audience to go round.

2) The boss, 1994. Mike celebrates the opening of C4's new Horseferry Road office with a leftover Channel 4 Daily teacup.

3) Dark times, 1996. Rick Adams arrives to "save" The Big Breakfast.

4) Blustery times, 2001. Finnegan and Madeley indulge in an old-fashioned over-sized ident-wielding photo opportunity.

5) Jeremy Isaacs looking pissed off, 1982-87.

6) An ideas session for Channel 4 News, 1990.

7) The Queen passes death sentence on Jimmy Corkhill (sadly later commuted), 1995.

8) The boss, 1992. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

19 October, 2007

Alan Coren RIP

Here's the great man securing royal patronage for the drawing of big heads on little bodies.

16 October, 2007

The Pebble Mill Dash

Steve Williams pointed out below that the edition of Pebble Mill At One shown on the same day as the raising of the Mary Rose was a special 10th birthday programme, opening with the spectacularly-named Pebble Mill Dash: "a rally in which competitors make their way to the studio in unusual ways."

Further investigation seems to imply this fantastic idea, one that had been staged before, was limited to various visiting professional sportspeople and the like. This can't have been right. It should, naturally, have involved the presenters.

Each of them would have been shown at the top of the programme waiting at their respective start points, and cameras would then follow them in a multi-live link-up as they attempted to be the first to complete the Dash.

But what, pray, of the "unusual ways" in which they would undertake such a journey? Of those listed as being present on the day of transmission, the modes of transport would surely have been assigned accordingly:

Marian Foster - something decorous and prone to breaking down; a mini-moke, perhaps, or a pink-coloured scooter with helium balloons on the back.
Bob Langley - something preposterous and bombastic; a giant penny-farthing, or a customised lawn-mower.
Donny Macleod - something to do with the military; ideally, a Sherman tank.
Tom Coyne - something boring; a go-cart he'd made himself, or a jet-propelled hoverbuggy he'd built with help from a team of avuncular factory workers at Longbridge.
Patrick Moore - a giant see-through polythene bubble, like the one James Bond uses to walk across the sea in Diamonds Are Forever.
Frank Delaney - a mobile library.
Leslie Phillips - a hospital bed, pushed by entrants from the 1982 Miss Midlands Today contest.
Fenella Fielding - a mobile sofa on castors, like the kind that roll down roads in Last Of The Summer Wine.
Marjorie Lofthouse - a sedan chair carried by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen.

15 October, 2007

"Storms have battered...those parts...of Britain..."

Here's a concertinad account of events 20 years ago this very night and the following morning, including Nicholas Witchell pontificating shiftily on "what the prognosis for the rest of the day is", part of BBC Breakfast Time hailing from what looks like the corner of a canteen with Sally Magnusson, Jeremy Paxman and someone else slumped on cheap chairs behind a glass coffee table, and Michael Buerk giving Ian McCaskill what for.

13 October, 2007

No, it won't be soon enough...


This has been too too long coming, and demands to be at the top of any right-thinking person's Christmas list.

The blurb implies it'll be all the great man's music vidoes, a few live performances (including stuff from the fantastic 1991 MTV Unplugged session, Live Aid, and the 2004 Glastonbury set - "Now I wanna hear the men, just the men, c'mon fellas!"), some interviews with the likes of Parky and Melvyn, some alternate edits, unseen footage and all the usual whistles and bells.

This bit's especially intriguing: "The films can be viewed either in chronological order or as play-lists that have been personally arranged by Paul featuring his exclusive voiceover commentaries."

Just what form are these playlists, sorry play-lists, going to take? Dancefloor favourites? (such as Take It Away and Goodnight Tonight) Love songs? (the likes of No More Lonely Nights and Waterfalls) Wit and whimsy? (C Moon, Coming Up) Anthemic? (Tug Of War, Pipes Of Peace) Even, whisper it, Alternative? (Give Ireland Back To The Irish)

What with one thing and another, it kind of implies to an end to this blog's Macca Video Jukebox.

Although if the DVD fails to include Russell Harty serving tea to Paul and George Martin, maybe not.

11 October, 2007

Babcock Power Construction Division

It's apocryphal nowadays to assume the whole country was watching TV 25 years ago this very day, entranced as the titanic yellow pincers of Babcock Power Construction almost succeeded in failing to retrieve the Mary Rose from the bottom of the Solent.

Surely, though, the nation can't have remained transfixed from breakfast all the way through to mid-afternoon, which, according to retrospective accounts, was as long as it actually took? Having the TV trolley permanently set up in your primary school library was one thing. Skiving off work to spend several hours in the company of Margaret Rule was quite another.

Memory suggests the whole thing was done and dusted before morning break. Reality seems to imply something quite different. And worse: according to the Today programme, they don't even have to keep spraying the wreckage with that special sealant anymore. Another myth busted.

Can it really be that all of the retrospective nostalgic clutter which got washed up along with all those shards of Tudor nauticalism a quarter of a century ago is now, in fact, redundant? In the words of Prince Charles, "I was slightly horrified but I thought the best thing to do was to be British and not panic."

10 October, 2007

The Macca video jukebox: part ten


Paul reconciles two world powers over Christmas dinner

a) It's Macca's one and only solo number one single. No More Lonely Nights might have followed it to the top, had it not been for Chaka Khan and Jim Diamond. Sequentially (sadly).
b) A 25th anniversary version of the song, entitled 'Pipes Of Peace (Bring Our Boys Back Home, Gordon)', scheduled for release next year with guest backing vocals from Annie Lennox, Chris Martin and one of the ex-Sugababes, has since been dismissed as a rumour.

a) Paul's best acting performance in a video. Understated, subtle, even touching - and he's playing two people to boot!
b) Some Sgt Pepper-esque electronic noodling at the beginning.
c) The fact, once again, that Macca looks younger here than he did during the entire 1970s.
d) The explosions.
e) Paul goes to sleep at the end.

VERDICT: It's all we long to hear

The making of Pipes Of Peace!


a) A very famous person turning up with the tea, 30 seconds in.
b) Paul's description of the very famous person.
c) The bit where it sounds like they're doing a 12" mix. Why wasn't this released?!
d) Paul describing what a tabla is, and doing an unfortunately stereotyped Indian-wobbly-head impression.
e) The somewhat esoteric question "It's the first time I've been really close to you..." as the clip frustratingly fades out.

08 October, 2007

Poll axed

David Dimbleby is presumably feeling more gutted than most at the moment, seeing as how the election's been cancelled and his chance at playing results night anchor for the eighth successive time has been postponed. Perhaps indefinitely.

For will Dave really be in the running come 2009 or 2010? If Gordon Brown had gone to the country this month there'd have been no question Dimbleby would have been marshalling the small screen count. He's still in command of Question Time - just - and he's on a break from driving his giant jeep round yet another batch of fells. Nobody else would have got a look in behind his giant election desk.

Fast forward two or three years, though, and chances are some pugnacious junior controller or panicking top floor suit will want to see "a fresh new look" to the BBC's election coverage. They might even bypass Dave's obvious successor, Huw Edwards, for somebody of even younger hue. Nicky Campbell? Adrian Chiles?

Though that might not sound like an unreasonable idea, it'd be a shame if Huw didn't get a shot at the big one. And while David will want to cling on in the hope he gets to celebrate his 30th anniversary in 2009, you can't help wondering if, thanks to Gordon, he's seen his last post-hustings dawn.

06 October, 2007

Photo clippage #27

February 1978: the new face of the Radio 1 breakfast show poses with The Broadcasting House Alarm Clock.

04 October, 2007

"Ready when you are, Ronnie!"

Ten reasons to remember Ronnie Hazlehurst:

1) The multi-part mini-symphony that was his music for The Two Ronnies, from the glorious "bah! bah!" fanfare underneath the shimmering spectacles of the opening, to the scores for all those shot-on-film spoof sagas, to the pomp and circumstance of the closing credits.

2) The biiiiaaaooowww sound in the theme tune to Sorry.

3) His sterling work representing Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest, usually leading his orchestra dressed in regulation bow-tie and bowler hat, conducting with a crisply rolled umbrella.

4) The way he incorporated the bongs, sorry, the chimes and strikes of Big Ben into the theme for Yes, Minister, and then matching them perfectly with the earnest scraping of a wah-wah guitar.

5) Managing to make the music to Last Of The Summer Wine sound genuinely wistful.

6) Mustering a towering something out of the whimsical nothing that were the words "Blankety Blank", in the process transforming them into a national chant.

7) "Ready when you are, Ronnie!" Turning up every week to supply the (live) incidental music to the original Generation Game, all the while keeping his wits about him in readiness for a spontaneous Brucie shimmy or a spectacular miscue from Lal.

8) The everything *and* the kitchen sink soundscape that was the theme to Are You Being Served?

9) Insisting the opening music to Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em was actually the name of the programme in Morse Code, which might not have been strictly true, but at least added a dash of substance to an otherwise hollow noisy knockabout.

10) Managing to write a theme to accompany opening titles showing a man trying to drown himself at sea.

02 October, 2007

Ned Sherrin RIP

Patricia Hodge, Elaine Paige, Stephanie Cole and Dennis Waterman enjoy a last glass of Medium Dry Sherrin.

01 October, 2007

"He's doing some deal up in Baltimore now..."

Inexpicably lost down between the sofa cushions of the latest TV Cream Update, here's Chris Hughes with...

Radio 2's Greatest Hits

To complete our celebration of Radio 2's 40th anniversary, TVC looks back over the network's imperial phase (roughly 1974 to 1985) and selects 20 songs that, for better or worse, sum up the station that is Radio 2:

The lush, ivory-tinkling accompaniment to Dudley Moore wearing a top hat in a bath ("Arthur he does as he pleases"), performed by the man booked to provide the entertainment at Newman's millennium party in Seinfeld. "Think again, longshanks! I started planning this in 1978!"

The first ladies of "Theatreland" had to be in here, striding unnecessarily slowly in opposite directions in front of a giant chessboard. The "magic" of messrs Rice, Ulvaeus and Andersson took them to number one in 1985, and their magisterial power duet can still occasionally be heard being belted out on TV Cream office outings.

"Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat!" The dinner-dance jazz of "Man Tran" was the height of sophistication in 1977, spending three weeks at number one, although the definitive interpretation surely remains the one by the staff of Grace Brothers on a fictional regional news programme presented by Nick Ross.

"Like a rhinestone cowboy, dah dah! Ridin' frfrf like a frfrf on a star-spangled horse in a rodeo!" We're not sure if Wally Whyton ever played it, but this peerless pop-country hit definitely became a Radio 2 staple, the notion of getting cards and letters from people you don't even know doubtless appealing to David Hamilton and company.

"He's doing some deal up in Baltimore now!" Andrew Lloyd-Webber's finest moment, car stickers, corduroy pants and all, from the musical Tell Me On A Sunday. The soundtrack album is probably still lodged at the back of your mum and dad's record collection.

The bearded balladeer ("The man makes a strong bird!") and his heart-rending tale of those "four hungry children and a crop in the field" got to number one in 1977, no doubt aided by the fact Terry Wogan seemed to play it on the breakfast show every day for six months.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Barbara Dickson!" The second appearance by the glamorous auntie of pop in our chart, this breakfast-table singalong (produced by the great Alan Tarney) reached number 11 in 1980. The perfect interlude between The Worm That Turned and Ronnie C going on about "the Producer" again.

Fat Larry being a good friend of Fat Harry White ("Nowt down for you today, our kid"), lest we forget, and leader of the eponymous "Band", whose one and only success was this burst of traffic-jam soul in 1982. "Zoom, you chase the day away! Hi-i-i-i-igh noon, the moon and stars came out to play!"

The "haunting" instrumental theme tune from The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, of course, encased in that beguiling yellow 'BBC Records & Tapes' sleeve. For some reason, the B-side was the theme from dull BBC2 teatime chess series The Master Game.

Sir Clifford was enjoying a bit of a renaissance around this time, turning up on Kenny Everett and in Look-In every week, but he never topped this downbeat saga of his quest for "another missing person" who was "just another number on a payphone wall". Written by BA Robertson, fact fans.

It was Terry Wogan who championed this novelty folk-rock yarn about a works outing to a Welsh seaside resort by an accordion-squeezing ensemble best described as the thinking man's Wurzels. Such were Tel's powers that their rollicking tale of a "luvverly time" on "the big ferris wheel" briefly threatened to become the Christmas number one.

12) ABBA - I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO
Not one of their imperial hits (number 38, according to Gambo) but this shipment of superlative Scandipop gets into our chart ahead of Dancing Queen and the rest, thanks to repeated plays on early-morning Radio 2 while Creamup was eating its Weetabix and getting ready for school.

Discovered by Val Doonican, no less, country & western songstress Crystal Gayle proceeded to colonise the Radio 2 playlist for much of the late 1970s, but this number 5 hit from 1977 was the one that would have got Terry tapping a sturdy brogue on a winter's morn.

The result of an improbable Crossroads storyline about the construction of a recording studio underneath reception, this hit by motel guest 'Holly Brown', aka the future Mrs Angus Deayton, counselled Radio 2 listeners to "forget the politicians, nuclear fission" on a regular basis for much of 1974.

The one about the bloke who gets bored of his wife so replies to a personal ad ("If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain") in the paper, only to discover (if you don't want to know the result, look away now) that it was his "lovely lady" who'd placed it in the first place. Creamup has a definite soft spot for the follow-up, Him.

"There was a little Spanish flea, a record star he thought he'd be!"It had originally been a hit in 1965, predating the station by two years, but this nippy instrumental was a Radio 2 standby for much of the 1970s, effortlessly filling any spare time between the JY prog and Waggoner's Walk. "The Chipmunks he'd seen on TV, why not a little Spanish flea?"

Imagine a group that sounded like a cross between Roxy Music and The Cliff Adams Singers and looked like a Richard O'Sullivan lookalikes convention and you've got Sailor, who celebrated the female form from "shy girls, sexy girls" to "Miss World and beauty queens" via the medium of close harmonies.

"Glang! Glang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang!" Most sublime Bond theme of the lot, we reckon, from The Spy Who Loved Me, the best bit being that classy throwaway reference to the film's title just before the chorus. "He starts skiing and he's being chased by these Russian shits in black jumpsuits with lemon piping."

It sounded like the plot to a lavish Stefanie Powers mini-series set to music ("I've been to Nice and the isle of Greece/when I sipped champagne on a yacht") and somehow spent one week at number one in 1982 on the back of those racy lyrics about that "subtle whoring that cost too much to be free".

From 1974, perfect back-of-the-car singalong fodder from the duo that encapsulated imperial phase Radio 2 better than anyone else. Now, why can't Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand play more records like this, eh?