31 January, 2008

Miles Kington RIP

January ends with a distinct lack of instant sunshine.

30 January, 2008

28 January, 2008


There's nothing the media likes more than a story about on-screen channel idents, preferably when there's a sum of money involved they can make sound astronomically large and therefore utterly wasteful.

Well, nothing the media likes more save for a story about a story about on-screen idents and how much it has cost to replace them.

The so-called BBC3 blobs are on their way out, and fair enough. They've had a decent innings, a longer than average lifespan when placed in the history of channel idents, and now it's time for a change.

It's unclear precisely how they have been, in the words of The Guardian, "a huge hit" - how do you measure the hit potential of a logo? - but rest assured there'll soon be another anti-BBC topic for that paper to drone on and on about, probably involving a "leaked email" from yet another conveniently anonymous "disgruntled staff member".

Meantime let's recall the five best examples of on-screen branding with slightly more claim to have been huge hits, thanks mostly to the fact they a) disappeared ages ago but are still fondly remembered and b) looked really rather nice. In no particular order:

1) 1970s London Weekend:

2) 1960s BBC2 - in colour:

3) Early 1990s Channel 4, Christmas special:

4) BBC2 "paint":

5) Central Television - the original:

26 January, 2008

"Thursday night on BBC1, and..."

Things That Have Long Since Disappeared But Still Make Good Subjects For Idle Conversation #375: defining days of the week with TV channels.

For an entire generation, surely Thursdays was always BBC1 night. Top Of The Pops followed by EastEnders followed by Tomorrow's World was something stamped inside your head with as much force as a school timetable. There was no point ever thinking any different. There'd be no family arguments over what to watch because there was no reason to ever switch to the other side. It was the perfect appetiser to a Friday. A siren song that trumpeted the imminent arrival of the weekend.

Mondays, however, were - for at least one person - ITV's domain. A cold compress in the shape of Coronation Street, Fresh Fields and World In Action. The reality was inevitably different, but the perception is of those programmes always being on and always being on Mondays. A positive disincentive to welcome the start of the new week.

Call it what you want - more sensible scheduling, less channels to choose, more variety of programmes, a less complicated existence - but no longer will you ever get the kind of free association that would forever equate early Sunday nights with BBC1 and late Sunday nights with ITV and Friday evenings with BBC2.

And that really won't do, because how else are you supposed to remember what day of the week it is other than by the names of television programmes?

24 January, 2008

Photo clippage #32

Dineage over Britain.

22 January, 2008

Going all the way, sir?

News reaches TV Cream of an "On The Buses event in Elstree and Borehamwood on Saturday the 28th of June 2008."

Following a "Welcome get-together at 11am at venue to be confirmed" and a screening of Holiday On The Buses (cast members will be present!), guests will be taken on a tour of the area to visit various locations used in the film.

More pertinent, however, is what's happening in the evening: a trip to Elstree to celebrate 80 years of the titular studios, with "band, film clips, buffet, special guests and pay bar".

There's more information to be found if anyone's interested. Meanwhile it looks like something big's just come up for Stan...

19 January, 2008

Doctorin' the middle eight

Obviously the best bit of each weekly Digi-Cream Times mailout is the last line, but this week's was - hopefully - particularly satisfying, linking as it did to this stunning re-imagining of Ron Grainer's second finest hour after Tales Of The Unexpected (Winebar Mix).

Said song hails from a site devoted to collecting amateur makeovers of the Dr Who theme, but given there are hundreds on there, and given they're mostly crap, taking pot luck isn't an advisable experience. Here, then, are five of the best to save you the bother of unexpectedly downloading HellFire Hard Trance feat. The Cybermen.

1) Manhattan Transfer had nothing on this. One bloke scats, croons and duddle-de-dums his way through a multi-voiced tonsil-taxing triumph.

2) Someone bashing it out on one of those plinky-plonky pianos of the kind you only get in school halls and on Winifred Atwell records. With a TARDIS sound effect for good measure. Ten times more convincing than your average David Tennant episode, that's for sure.

3) The Jar Humphreys Dr Who Dub Explosion mix. Throw your best skanking shapes to this seriously wonderful bit of demented electronic reggae, of the kind Macca would probably have turned out over a sesame seed bap and a funny cigarette.

4) A toe-tapping cha-cha-cha medley combining your finest Palm Court Orchestra frugging, the old 1960s rubbish theme, and a guest appearance from Professor Who himself. "One day, yes, one day, y-y-yes one day...I shall come back!"

5) A musical joke. With a certain familiar festive tune creeping in at the end.

Nominations for the best one?

17 January, 2008

Jacobs' ladder

By way of a slight return to this slight return, some more information about those endless David Jacobs productions. They're all true, all in roughly chronological order, and all furnished with, if not stolen from, passages from Dave's bestselling 1963 autobiography (published by David Jacobs Associates Ltd.).

Journey Into Space (Home Service)
David does sci-fi! Flying from the earth to the moon, and from there to Mars, our man plays nearly all the characters in a fleet of nine space ships and a few Martians to boot. "On at least one occasion I found myself having a conversation with myself".

Wednesday Magazine (BBC television)
A pot pourri of Jacobs japery. "And now, here is Miss Janette Scott in a scene from her latest film...her latest film...er...her latest film!"

On The Brighter Side (Home Service)
Dave spins uplifting discs and dispenses midweek merriment from a pretend coffee bar.

Curioser And Curioser (Home Service)
Peter Sellers joins Dave and others to "read lesser known gems of humour, which achieved a record low in listening figures".

Music, Music, Music (BBC television)
Members of a panel try to guess the identity of a tune tapped out with a pencil, played backwards, speeded up, or disguised in some other way. "It turned out to be overcomplicated and stupid. It might have kept a couple of schoolboys amused for part of a wet afternoon but it had no general appeal at all."

Focus On Hocus (ATV)
A fortnightly conjuring show. Not a success. David learns a couple of tricks to impress his kids.

Television Ice-Time (BBC television)
Live from the Queen's Ice-Rink in Bayswater, Dave introduces some of the country's best skating professionals. "I suggested that I should jump a row of barrels during the programme. The BBC promptly insured me for £10,000. The inevitable happened: at rehearsals I soared over those barrels like a bird; on the broadcast I clipped the last one and went scudding across the ice like a tipsy penguin".

Make Up Your Mind (Granada)
Three chairman had come and gone in five weeks. Clearly the Jacobs was needed. "The idea was simple and exciting - having contestants guess the value of various objects - and I believed I could make a go of it." Sidney Bernstein had a different idea. "He didn't like my face". Eventually differences were settled and the show became Dave's biggest success. Until...

Lucky Couple (Radio Luxembourg)
"A near-lunatic programme in which we invited newly-married couples on to the stage and asked them embarrassing questions".

14 January, 2008

Photo clippage #31

To mark the long-awaited return* of News At Ten:

*Well, until Friday at any rate.

13 January, 2008

fiftysomething (slight return)

Enough of the grouching. Ten good things about the 1950s:

The first two were rubbish, but this, the third in the series, with Andre Morell facing an invasion of the world that had taken root in people's minds millions of years earlier and was triggered by the excavation of a ship full of giant crickets, is close to perfection.

Going off the clippage that turns up from time to time on BBC Parliament, this man was the most avuncular and reassuring front man the Corporation has ever employed. Closely followed by...

Specifically as the host of Tonight. Once the rotten 'Toddler's Truce' was ditched, who better to share your beans and toast with?

The front cover depicts the Chairman of the Board dressed up like a Pierrot clown, and looks crap. The album itself, however, is the most perfectly-judged, sustained evocation of solitude and despair you'll ever hear.

Namely that black-and-white film done by the Beeb in 1953 for no reason other than because speeded-up telly was exciting.

Bob Monkhouse's first-ever series, and though it's probably been lost from the archives for eternity, judging by what's been written about it - the man faking a dead-faint at the end of the first episode to win more time to write the second, blowing off part of Charlie Drake's ear - it was ace.

And also being the first UK artist to have two successive chart-toppers. The first is rotten ('Unchained Melody') but the second, 'The Man From Laramie', is fantastic.

For being a legend and for being everywhere in the second half of the 1950s: Juke Box Jury, Wednesday Magazine, Tell The Truth, Make Up Your Mind, Pick Of The Pops, Dateline London, Lucky Couple, Music Music Music, Television Ice-Time, Focus On Hocus (long overdue a revival), Come Dancing, The Vera Lynn Show, On The Brighter Side...

"Whether you walk
or whether you ride
Whether the weather
smiles or frowns
Vote Labour
when you get inside
And make yours one of
the HAPPY towns!"

Even if you don't drink the stuff, as a device it's still wonderful to look at. And above all listen to.

11 January, 2008

It's your letters

Not at all like the way Chris Evans used to spend every edition of TFI Friday reviewing what the press had been saying about him that week like some East European dictator, here comes some TV Cream self-acclamation.

It's in Broadcast magazine, in the wretched diary column on the back page. Except alongside the usual 100% wretchedly unfunny media in-jokes is this:

Nostalgia TV website TV cream (sic) has launched its own YouTube channel and Off Cuts' attention has been drawn to a clip from an ITV schedulers' meeting from 1984 in which a young John Birt, then controller of LWT, and his colleagues debate the appropriateness of airing "racy" new medical drama The Practice in a 7.15pm slot. There are concerns about putting the drama in the early slot because of its references to a vasectomy. But in the end, those liberal-minded ITV execs dismiss their "Nervous Nelly feelings about sex" and schedule the programme against the BBC's new Wogan chat show, a decision which the narrator gravely sums up as "Sex against chat, a new front is opening in the ratings war". Could this be video evidence of the end of television's age of innocence?

What and who could have possibly drawn their attention to that particular clip?

09 January, 2008


TV Cream doesn't normally have anything to do with the 1950s, but seeing as they're being put on trial by BBC4 this week - again - here are 10 pieces of evidence for the prosecution:

Supposedly an "iconic" children's "classic"; in reality a posh woman watching a shitty wooden horse frugging on top of a piano, over and over again.

"Ah yes," sigh the cultural commentariat, "how we used to love watching the interludes - what a wonderful oasis of calm in the schedules." What, from the hurly burly of Jack Hylton And His Palm Court Orchestra Play The Light Classics, or yet another newsreel, or a closedown of about three hours or so?

TV wasn't on much, which was fair enough as they couldn't afford it, but there was no excuse for the screens going blank at the most important time of the day: teatime! Telly for doing the pots to didn't arrive until 1957. Until then, if you wanted to catch up on the day's news between 6pm and 7pm, you were fucked.

She's been mentioned before, in suitably derogary terms, but that was last year. All the more reason, then, to castigate her and her proto-Jive Bunny jiggery-pokery once more. Some of those plinky-plonky chart-bothering classics: 'Let's Have A Party'; 'Let's Have Another Party'; 'Let's Have A Ding Dong'; 'Make It A Party'; and surely the most incongrous of all, 'Let's Rock'n'Roll'.

Specifically, the fact that in some weeks you could have two songs at number one. That's not right.

Presumably fusty clerks in funereal suits, of which there were millions in the 1950s. There was one week when 'What Do You Want' and 'What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For' were "joint" number one. Get your eyes tested!

Posh people repeatedly squawking "I've fallen in the water".

Double entendre needs to be in glorious technicolour.

OK, so rationing was still around, but it didn't extend to the notes of a musical scale.

"And here's Chancellor Of The Exchequer R. A. Butler, smiling as he prepares to board a jet aircraft at London Airport this morning!"

Coming soon: 10 good things about the 1950s.

07 January, 2008

Photo clippage #30

OK, here's a bunch of LWT's finest in 1984. Suggestions please as to:
a) who these people are, and
b) who these people are supposed to be

05 January, 2008

"But Ann, this is the Close! This is England!"

Seeing as how the revival of To The Manor Born was so crap, the Beeb needs to start thinking now about something decent it can run on Christmas Day this year.

One option is to do what former BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey used to do, which was make her staff wear party hats and pull crackers during brainstorming meetings. Another, saner, option is to consider making one of the following:

Martin and Ann, now retired, return to the Close only to find Paul, in his role as chair of the local council, has turned the area into an eco-village, with solar panels fitted on every roof and wind turbines in the garden. The erstwhile foes are soon at each other's throats. Meanwhile Ann is distraught to find the widowed Hilda living in a rundown care home.

Timothy has inherited the house which he used to share with his mother and father. Unfortunately he has also inherited dry rot, an infestation of weevils, and custody of the one son he had with his ex-wife. As his attempts to supervise the behaviour of his offspring (played by David Mitchell) lead to increasing acrimony, it begins to dawn on Timothy he is turning into the one thing he always feared: his own mother.

The Doctors Latimer find themselves called back into service when a team of East European medics are hounded out by a bunch of placard-wielding vigilantes, leaving the entire town completely devoid of GPs. Despite increasing infirmity (on the one hand) and lechery (on the other), the pair do their best to cope with a sudden outbreak of winter vomiting disease.

4) HI-DE-HI!
It's 1975. Joe Maplin is going broke, so he decides to reopen the holiday camp for a limited summer season. As the old gang reassemble, it becomes clear a lot has changed. Peggy is shocked to discover Sylvia is now an understudy for Anthea Redfern, Ted is appalled to find Spike has become one of the Black And White Minstrels, Barry is alarmed by Yvonne's newfound interest in disco dancing - but the biggest surprise of all is the fact there's a ring on Gladys's finger...

03 January, 2008

New season on TV Cream

How is TV Cream Towers like the Queen? One, Dr Who has got our phone number. And two, there's now a TV Cream channel on YouTube!

Thrill to archive continuity junctions. Swoon to historical commercial breaks. Experience Proustian rushes of joy as Frank Bough relates an icy near-miss en route to Lime Grove (in the words of Selina, "Oh heavens!").

There's also a fantastic clip of an ITV scheduling meeting, with Andy Allen smoking away and referring to "Dallas and Love Boat", John Birt behind a mountain of paperwork, Mike Scott waving his arms all over the place, and a rather pompous bit of commentary brilliantly summing up the notion of ITV's The Practice being broadcast up against Wogan on BBC1 as "sex against chat" that makes the whole thing sound like it's part of a schools programme.

Of course, none of the clips are TVC's, but - like the Queen - they do kind of belong to the nation.

02 January, 2008


What will 2008 bring? If these people know - and there's surely nobody more qualified to know - they're certainly looking cheery about it.