29 November, 2007

"Hello, I'm Penny Wise"

Chris Hughes has pointed out that new designs for every coin are being introduced next year, and wonders - rightly - why there has been no official publicity about this whatsoever.

Where, he contends, was the design-a-coin competition on Blue Peter? Where was the official announcement (which should, by rights, have been made by Alistair Darling as a guest on The One Show, in front of some blown-up giant-sized coins)?

And where is the publicity campaign, featuring an animated character called Penny Wise, voiced by Penelope Keith?

And is there going to be a special launch programme on BBC1, hosted by Huw Edwards and Evan Davies, with guest appearances from Sir Alan Sugar and Peter Jones; roving reports from Saira Khan and Matt Baker; mini-skits with the casts of Robin Hood ("Yes, Sheriff, I certainly do give to the poor...this bag of shiny newly-minted coins!") and EastEnders ("'Ere, Minty, what's this funny money? Are you trying to diddle me?"); plus the stars of Strictly Come Dancing performing to Pennies From Heaven?

27 November, 2007

Timothy Lumsden to a disco beat

A guaranteed floor-filler, surely.

25 November, 2007


By way of a belated tribute:


She didn't want any BEMs - Bug Eyed Monsters - and hence the Daleks were born. A hundred years later Jon P'twee shows up on Good Morning With Anne And Nick to ask viewers the competition question: who created "those pepperpots"? Correct answer: not Terry Nation. Not Davros. Not even Russell T Davies...

2) GBH
"I knew a missionary once. He said it was an interesting position." The best drama Channel 4 has ever done, the best script Alan Bleasdale has ever written, the best thing Robert Lindsay has ever done. Plus the best Julie Walters-doing-an-old-woman Julie Walters has ever done. "Are you Dirty Den?"

Anthony Andrews does his best not to get blown up by unexploded bombs in south London during World War Two. Everybody else tries, and fails. Meanwhile Iain Cuthbertson boils up increasingly preposterous bomb disposal magic potions, Kenneth Cranham loses his marbles, and the band play on.

It had an episode with a plot involving a copy of Radio Times and a cameo from Michael Grade. What more does anyone need?

Sam Neill gets planted inside newly-Revolutionised Russia by Peter Egan to sabotage the best-laid plans of Bolshie bastards Kenneth Cranham - him again - and David Burke. David Suchet looks in as Inspector Tsientsin. Troy "Edge Of..." Kennedy Martin wrote it. The most expensive thing Thames TV/Euston Films/Verity ever did.

Worth saluting not least for perpetrating that rare art of jumping the shark (Minder On The Orient Express) then jumping back again (Gary Webster in for Dennis Waterman).


John Mills tries to evade the clutches of a cackling Ethel Skinner off EastEnders while a battery of long-haired crusties chant drivel about "huffety puffety ringstone round" and Wembley Stadium gets covered in a thousand tons of chalk dust. Thankfully everyone gets blown up at the end.

Not even repeated bursts of Trish Valentine karaoke on the beach could drown out the sound of a million television sets being switched off. Ditto the endless cries of "Marrrrrccccccuusssssssss!"

Barry Humphries minces around Amsterdam in a seedy raincoat looking discombobulated while Simon Park and his orchestra parp in the background. Verity picked it up off the cutting room floor where Thames TV had dropped it. She should have left it there.

23 November, 2007

Verity Lambert RIP

"Just don't let me see any Bug Eyed Monsters!"

22 November, 2007

Make it happen

Now that Evan Davis is off to the Today programme - albeit for 12 months - vacancies are open for the position of host of Dragon's Den and BBC Economics Editor.

The former, quite clearly, needs to be filled by Greg Dyke. Having confirmed his ease at being able to trot out the same scripted bits of dialogue every bloody episode on Channel 4's recent Get Me The Producer, and given his own track record at business innovation (those 'Cut The Crap - Make It Happen' yellow cards for all BBC personnel), the man is a shoo-in. Besides, he's used to throwing money at doomed ventures, such as Channel Five (SATIRE).

As for Economics Editor, rather than merge the position with that of Business Editor, currently occupied by Robert "Errr" Peston, you really do need a separate appointment, someone with a light touch, affable personality and an eye for figures. Is Susannah Simons, sometime host of Channel 4's Business Daily, still around? Failing that, anybody got Joan Bakewell's number?

21 November, 2007

Shush a minute

If ever there was a time for the sentence "If ever there was a time for a country-wide poster campaign promoting discretion and lip-buttoning", then that time is now.

The practice of shutting up and keeping schtum used to be a national discipline. There must be dozens of poster prints, or at least stencil sets, gathering dust in a warehouse on the edge of a town somewhere that could easily be pressed back into service.

With 25 million bits of personal identification floating around and nobody quite sure who knows what about whom, some co-ordinated tongue-holding is clearly in order.

Bob Hoskins could front the campaign, in the guise of jovial Detective Inspector Ivor Difficulty (D.I. I.D. - do you see?), accompanied by David Mitchell as his sidekick PC Ben E. Fitz. The pair would journey around the country on the back of a flatbed truck, acting out skits and being interviewed - in character - on local news bulletins.

Jimmy Young, Joan Shenton and Rolf Harris would host a special telethon to raise money for the appointment of an Information Commissioner in every political constituency, operating out of small customised cubicles in shopping precincts.

Peter Kay could dress up as a giant child benefit form (anything to rob the man of some more dignity), and Danny Baker could do a few radio public information broadcasts.

Finally Simon Bates could organise a awareness-raising walk (plus accompanying charity single) from Tyne and Wear to London, along the route those two missing computer discs should have taken, hosting his Classic FM breakfast show from a different local council drop-in advice centre each morning.

19 November, 2007

"At least there's one happy end to the day!"

Tucked away at the very end of last night's epic excursion through the 1967 devaluation crisis on BBC Parliament was an edition of 24 Hours hailing from the night of Labour's 1968 Budget. And it was fantastic.

Bubbling away infectiously was Michael Barratt. Chuckling blithely was Cliff Michelmore. Both sat at different desks with different coloured backdrops, Cliff's all black to denote superiority, while Mike's was a bland grey.

Cigarette smoke drifted in front of the camera. Two union bosses grumbled and grunted about incomes policies. An indecently young looking Peter Jay droned on in precisely the same way he would proceed to do for the next 30 years. Mike did a round up of other news, including a press cutting from the Evening Standard containing a humorous misprint about the Archbishop of Canterbury - itself a correction of a misprint the previous day. Cliff tried to get in touch with Jamaica where England were about to win the test match.

Plus there was that staple of 1960s current affairs programmes, a topical skit. Hastily written and rehearsed in a matter of hours, it brought us "the Chancellor's other television budget address, his dummy run". Cue Nigel Hawthorne done up to look like Roy Jenkins, speech impediment and gigantic glasses present and correct, doing a tour de force to camera complete with ringing phones, giant calculating machines, an abacus and a collapsing briefcase.

Then it was back to Cliff for a sympathetic farewell consolation about all the new taxes on beer, tobacco and petrol, and into the jaunty end credits.

Why isn't there anything like this on TV anymore? Why is Newsnight something you feel compelled to watch not out of interest or fondness but duty? Or even boredom? Why can't current affairs be both heavyweight and light-hearted and not sacrifice a bit of charm in the process? And why, when it's attempted, is topical humour so clumsy and obvious?

There's still nothing, even after all these years, that comes close to rivalling the whole Tonight/24 Hours/Midweek small screen lineage of sending you to bed with the definitive full stop on the day.

17 November, 2007

"I hope this won't be the end of the Generation Game..."

Hmm. In retrospect he probably wished he'd chosen a different turn of phrase. Here's Brucie confessing "I do feel it is time to go" and taking his leave from his second home - for 13 years - on Christmas Eve, 1994. Rolf Harris, Susan George and Willie Rushton join in the obligatory end credit waving along with, presumably, the Trachtengruppe Schruns. "Merry Christmas, and see you soon..."

As an added treat, it's followed by a trailer for BBC1's Christmas Day evening schedule and then - ulp - the opening of the National Lottery Live, with Anthea and Gordon at the Hippodrome in Birmingham with the cast of Jack and the Beanstalk, where, by the look and sound of things, bedlam reigns.

15 November, 2007

Photo clippage #29

One of these men has worked tirelessly to make the world a better place through inspiring musical statements, mammoth live events and humanising the otherwise brutal image of the UK record industry. The other one is Bob Geldof.

13 November, 2007

If you want to help...

John Rivers gets in touch with Creamguide to say:

"When giving to charity this week, think not only of Children in Need, but that there are other charities and in fact people worthy of your good nature.

Cheryl Baker, for example."

11 November, 2007

Strait jacket required

It's been a while since the self-styled Bunty Bagshaw got herself in the papers for another "indiscreet remark". Well, all of a few weeks or so.

You'll probably have read how, the other day, she regaled listeners with the contention that, when out driving late one night, she'd almost run over a black person because "he was hard to see in the dark".

Cue a load of media twittering about how the woman is demented and can't be allowed on air and shouldn't be making "that kind of offensive remark". That "kind"? Is there some other kind of racist remark that isn't offensive?

Like each and every time before, however, she's escaped reparation to blithely sail forever onwards like some giant weather balloon floating into a dusk of indignity.

And just what was she doing motoring around after sundown when she presents a radio show that begins at 6am?

Anyway, in the annals of celebrity racialism her bleating is surely up there with Eric Clapton's "I'm with Enoch" recitation and that time when Phil Collins arrived on stage at the MOBO Awards, surveyed the audience and announced "It's suddenly got very dark in here."

09 November, 2007

Inevitable further Channel 4 anniversary waffle

(advance apologies for sounding like a particularly smug version of the Guardian's Media Monkey)

Last night's special event at the British Film Institute in London to mark the launch of Maggie Brown's history of Channel 4 was a disappointingly low-key affair. No Jeremy Isaacs or Michael Grade; no Muriel Gray or Roger Bolton; not even Cecil Korer looked in. Instead it was just Dick Fiddy on the microphone, followed by an appallingly vague and haphazard introduction from Luke Johnson, and then the author herself speaking from a lectern for an hour or so, mostly with her head buried in a pile of notes.

She promised a dozen or so clips which duly appeared but quickly turned from the exceptionally interesting to the all-too predictable.

First came footage of Isaacs and a woman publicist at some advertising conference in early 1982, awkwardly doing their best to sell the channel via a bit of heavily-scripted cross-talk and forced banter (to no audible response from their audience whatsoever). Next, some of The Friday Alternative advocating the end of the House Of Lords with primitive Paintbox graphics and a picture of Guy Fawkes.

It was followed by an extract from TV-am in early 1985 with Frostie ribbing Isaacs about their respective channels' dodgy early days, Isaacs refusing to name his favourite programme and proudly defining Channel 4 as the place to "have a jolly good argument", plus, for no reason at all, Peter Jay perched at one end of the sofa looking on and saying absolutely nothing. This was the best clip of the night.

Some Network 7 came next, and it had really weathered well. Sharp, witty, exciting: it was miles better than almost every current affairs or youth programme on telly today. But from here things started to go wrong. After Dark followed, but the most obvious clip imaginable: Oliver Reed falling over things and kissing feminists. Everyone in the world must have seen this footage by now; was there nothing else in the archive?

Then came a bit of GBH - the same bit that appeared in the Channel 4 At 25 documentary. Then a boring few minutes of Faking It, a bit of Queer Of Folk taped off the TV, not one but two extracts from Big Brother... Dammit, this was the pedigree of your Sky One talking heads show, not the BFI!

Anyway, Maggie Brown was refreshingly upfront about how shit C4 was in the early days, how Michael Grade loved throwing money at big set-piece drama, and how Michael Jackson just threw money around full stop. Then it all ended very suddenly with no questions or discussion, and the audience dissolved as rapidly as it had materialised.

Not the most accomplished or definitive of histories, then, but at least someone's first generation off-air recordings of Good Morning Britain haven't entirely gone to waste.

06 November, 2007

For Pete's sake

The Radio Times has, as usual, failed to resist the urge to go overboard on Dr Who and has put next Friday's Children In Need vignette on its cover. Is a five-minute non-canonical* skit really the most important thing on television next week?

At least it begs the blog-friendly question: just what will be Pete's first words as he arrives in the TARDIS? Bookies - the kind that always get quoted in the press but are never conveniently named because they don't exist - are predicting one of the following:

1) "I don't believe it - Turlough?"
2) "You've had this place redecorated. Don't like it."
3) "Am I...late for something?"
4) "Why Kamelion, how nice to see you!"
5) "That's the trouble with regeneration: you never quite know what you're going to get."

Money is also being accepted on two possible alternatives:

a) Tennant: "An apple a day..." Davidson: "...keeps the Doctor away?"
b) Tennant: "Well blow me, it's Freddie Flintoff!"

*This is true. No Children In Need Dr Who pantomimes are part of the canon, because otherwise the Raston Warriot Robot would still be stalking the galaxy and Colin Baker would be due to land in Albert Square in a decade or so's time. Oh, and according to the Five Doctors, Peter Davidson would still be Lord High Chief Prime Minister of Gallifrey or something.

04 November, 2007

Four score: slight return

It's the last blog entry on Channel 4's birthday*.

By way of a follow-up to that 1992 list of the station's supposed 50 most significant programmes, here's what might pass for a similiar inventory today. First up, those worth keeping from Broadcast's original rundown, and a word or two of justification:

After Dark (What closedown?)
Alter Image (your archetypal Isaacs-era impenetrable nonsense)
As It Happens (Paddy Haycocks, a microphone, and the city of London)
The Bandung File (textbook mid-80s multiculturalism)
Brookside (up to 1994, that is)
Chateauvallon ("Everyone's here. Even the Regional Prefect!")
Countdown ("It says here, 'Man And Vorderman'")
Diverse Reports (aka Thatcher's Britain)
Drop The Dead Donkey ("Bloody bastard John bloody Major!")
GBH ("This body leaves in two minutes: be on it!")
The Last Resort ("Maybe if I sleep with you after the show?")
Manhattan Cable (for inventing YouTube, at the same time as Clive James)
Max Headroom ("on drums: the Pope")
The Media Show (bring it back now!)
The Nation's Health (worthiness personified)
Network 7 (for-the-hell-of-it personified)
One Summer (a one-off one-off)
Saturday Night Live ("Please welcome...The Style Council!")
Traffik (at last, a bit of money)
Treasure Hunt ("Erm, I think you might find *this* book will be of some use to you...")
The Tube (for putting an entire ITV regional building on telly)
A Very British Coup (for being better and more expensive than Traffik)
Whose Line Is It Anyway? ("I'd like you to read them in the style of...a man with only 20 seconds to live")

Which totals 23. To bring it up to 50, how about...

The Big Breakfast ("That was funnier than you'll ever know")
Big Brother (up to 2002)
The Channel 4 Daily (missed out by Broadcast, for some reason...)
A Dance To The Music Of Time (even more money than Traffik)
Derren Brown Plays Russian Roulette Live (proper 'storm over...' tabloid-bothering business)
Desmond's (textbook mid-90s multiculturalism)
Don't Forget Your Toothbrush (well, William G. Stewart has to get a mention somewhere)
The Double Life Of Jonathan King (Jon Ronson's finest hour)
Father Ted (C4's last great sitcom)
Four Goes To Glyndebourne/Glastonbury (double-bill from 1993)
The Government Inspector (best drama for ages)
Grand Designs (kept C4 in pocket for ages)
Hearts And Minds (Dr Who and Jimmy McGovern: together at last)
Hollyoaks (up to 2001, that is)
Monarchy with David Starkey (grown-up telly)
The 1900 House (grown-up reality telly)
Right To Reply (again - why wasn't this in Broadcast's list?)
Richard And Judy (proper C4 'stars')
So Graham Norton (ditto)
Teachers (paved the way for all 3,598,219 episodes of Shameless)
That Peter Kay Thing (paved the way for all 3,598,219 repeats of Phoenix Nights)
Time Team (as recommended by Andrew Collins)
Top Ten (as patronised by Andrew Collins)
Watercolour Challenge (Hannah Gordon + daytime telly = genius)
Wise Up (for slagging off Rick Adams, at the very least)
The Word ("Come on Terry, keep it together!"
You Are What You Eat (epitome of C4's mother-knows-best TV)

*Until the next one.

01 November, 2007

Photo clippage #28

"You say it's your birthday?"