Saturday, 28 February 2015

104 The Lone Ranger

First  watched : Uncertain

The  Lone  Ranger  cartoon  series  was  one  of  umpteen  incarnations  of  the  Western  superhero  originally  based  on  a  character  from  a  Zane  Grey  novel. Made  in  the  late  sixties  , partly  in  Britain , it  roamed  well  outside  the  genre  with  excursions  into  science  fiction* . Tonto  and  Kemo  Sabe  had  a  regular  villain  to  contend  with  in  the  shape  of   the  dwarf  Tiny  Tom. My  recollections  are  rather  hazy  but  I think  I  liked  it.

* The  series  was  said  to  owe  a  heavy  debt  to  a  CBS  programme  The  Wild  Wild  West  which  I  don't  think  was  shown  in  the  UK.

Friday, 27 February 2015

103 Mr Magoo

First  watched  :  Uncertain

They  don't  make  them  like  this  anymore. A  cartoon  that  relies  for  its  humour  on  the  misfortunes  of  a  visually  impaired  man ?  I  don't  think  so.

Mr  Magoo  was  the  1949  creation  of  Millard  Kaufman  and  Thomas  Hubley  who  had  both  been  fingered  as  communists  and  in  his  early  shorts  he  was  a  caricature  of  a  blinkered  McCarthyite. When  a  nervous  Hubley  handed  over  the  character  to  the  studio's  creative  director  Pete  Burness  the  character  was  de-politicised  and  as  voiced  by  Jim  Backus  became   a  crotchety  Everyman   who  was  just  too  stubborn  to  admit  the  diminution  of  his  powers. Guilty  pleasure  or  not  it  was  usually  pretty  funny.

Magoo  has  largely  been  put  to  bed  since  the  TV  series  What's  New  Mr  Magoo ?  finished   in  1977. Backus  expired  in  1989  and  a  live  action  film  version  starring  Leslie  Nielsen  died  at  the  box  office  in  1997.

102 Clapperboard

First  watched : 1972

My  mum  and  gran's sniffy  attitude  towards  ITV  was  all  the  more  ironic  given  that  we  were  living  in  the  Granada   Television  region  during  its  golden  age  under  the  stewardship  of  David  Plowright  whose  commitment  to  innovative  and  quality  television  was  the  equal  of  anyone  at  the  BBC. And  so  they  made  things  like  Clapperboard,  a  serious  programme  about  film  and  scheduled  it  amongst  the  childrens'  shows.

The  programme  was  produced  by  Muriel  Young  who  was  also  responsible  for  Lift  Off  With  Ayshea  and  presented  by  Plowright's  World  in  Action  colleague  Chris  Kelly. He  was  a  very  likeable  host  , a  little  dry  perhaps  but  never  patronising  to  his  young  audience. The  programme  had  a  fairly  loose  format.  One  week   it  would  be  a   round-up  and  review  of  current  films, the  next  a  technical   documentary , then  an  exploration  of  how  films  had  treated  a  particular  subject  or  maybe  an  appraisal  of  an  individual  director. Therefore  whether  it  interested  me  or  not  varied  widely  but  it  was  always  worth  checking  out.

The  one  caveat  of  course  was  that  X  -films  couldn't  be  featured. Perhaps  that  was  actually  the  reason  for  the  early  time  slot; Kelly  and/or  Young  didn't  like  horror  films  and  this  excused  them  from  having  to  watch  any.

The  series  lasted  ten  years.  Chris  Kelly  was  there  for  the  duration. When  the  series  finished  in  1982   he  remained  gainfully  employed  as  the  usual  narrator  of  World  in  Action  and  a  presenter  on  Wish  You  Were  Here. In  the  nineties  he  got  more  involved  with  writing   ( episodes  of  Minder  and  Lovejoy  )   and  production,  where  he  enjoyed  two  big  hits  in  Soldier  Soldier  and  Kavanagh  QC,   while  still  working  as  a  prime  time  presenter  with  Food  and  Drink . Since  that  finished in  1998  he's  been  largely  off  screen  and  now  74. he's  been  pretty  much  retired  for  the  last  decade.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

101 Lift Off With Ayshea

First  watched : 1972

I  do  have  a  vague  recollection  of  watching  this  before  I  became  interested  in  pop  music  and  recognised  the  guest  acts  on  it.  Lift  Off  With  Ayshea  was  a  bit  like  Top  Of  The  Pops  with  two  or  three  lip-synched  performances  of  current  hits  but  other  songs  performed  at  the  request  of  viewers  with  the  catch  that  it  would  be  the  host  who  sang  them. Ayshea  Hague  ( later  Brough  after  marrying  a  record  producer )   was  a  talented  singer,  dancer  and  actress  ( also  appearing  regularly  in  U.F.O. at  the  time )  of  mixed  race  parentage  making  her  one  of  the  few "Asian"  faces  on  the  TV  in  the  early  seventies. Before  she  married  and  after  her  divorce  she  was  a  gossip  column  regular  being  romantically  linked  with  many  of  the  show's  guests  and  Roy  Wood  in  particular. She  recorded  a  string  of  singles  herself  but  never  managed  to  chalk  up  a  hit.

It  ran  from  1969   before  Ayshea  was  unceremoniously  dumped  in  favour  of  the  tartan  terrors  and  re-booted  as  Shang-A-Lang.  Ayshea  decamped  to  the  US, married  CBS  president  Michael   Levy , appeared  in  a  couple  of  movies, started  an  interior  design  business  and  as  far  as  Britain  was  concerned, faded  from  memory. She  returned  to  the  UK  to  look  after  her  ageing  mother  in  2000, started  another  property  business  and  has  so  far  resisted  offers  to  return  to  TV  despite  her   ( no  doubt  Botox-assisted )  youthful  appearance.

100 Stories from Toytown featuring Larry the Lamb

First  watched : Uncertain

This  ITV  series  of  puppet  dramas  was  a  visualisation  of  radio  plays  that  went  back  to  the  1920s  with  larry  as  the  main  protagonist. Other  than  getting  him  confused  with  Lamb  Chop  on  the  Shari  Lewis  Show  I  can't  recall  anything  else  about  it.

Monday, 23 February 2015

99 Rainbow

First  watched : Uncertain   

If  I  had  to  list   my  least  favourite  children's  TV  characters  , Bungle  the  giant  bear  on  Rainbow  would  probably  come  out  on  top.  I  just  couldn't   abide  this  giant  wet  blanket  with  his  mincing  voice  and  self-appointed  head  boy  status  in  the  household  simpering  up  to  Geoffrey  ( Hayes ) at  every  opportunity  like  the  school  creep. While  loud-mouthed  Zippy  , a  creature  of  indeterminate  species, was  undoubtedly  annoying  in  his  own  right,  I  unfailingly  rooted  for  him  when  he  was  undermining  Bungle's  position, to  which  the  big  oaf  could  only  respond  with  violence. About  dumb  hippo  George  I  couldn't  muster  any  strong  feeling  one  way  or  the  other.

Rainbow  was  conceived  as  a  British  version   of  Sesame  Street  with  a  similarly  balanced  mix  of  music, educational  content  and  puppet  fun. It's  the  best  example  of  a  programme  I  watched  because  there  was  nothing  else  on   and  I  don't  remember  finding  it  anything  other  than  childish  and  irritating. As  I  must  have  been  at  least  pushing  eight  - quite  possibly  older  as  I've  no  recollection  of  original  presenter  David  Cook -  when  I  first  saw  it  that's  not  too  surprising . Rainbow  is   therefore  the  first  programme   I  was  "a  bit  too  old  for  ".

It  continued  all  the  way  to  1992  when  Thames Television  controversially  lost  the  ITV  franchise  in  the  London  area  and  disappeared  from  the  network. Two  separate  revivals  in  the  nineties  were  short-lived.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

98 The Adventures of Black Beauty

First  watched  :1972

As  I  said  on  the  The  White  Horses  post  these  horse-y  dramas  have  blurred  into  one  as  far  as  my  memory  goes. With   this  one  I  had  a  vague  awareness  that  it  was  linked  to  a  classic  novel  as  it  had  been  read  to  us  in  one  of  my  infant  classes.

The  series  actually  had  little  to  do  with  Anna  Sewell's  novel  but  was  set  in  the  present  day. It  was  a  first  big  break  for  young  actress  Judi  Bowker  although  she  decided  to  leave  after  two  series  and  Stacy  Dorning  took  over  as  a  sister  of  the  original  character  for  the  last  series  in  1974.

It  was  revived  in  the  early  nineties  by  a  New  Zealand  company  although  two  of  the  original cast  took  part  and  the  shift  across  the  world  was  explained  in  the  first  two  episodes.    

Saturday, 21 February 2015

97 Josie and the Pussycats

First  watched  :  1972

Josie  and  the  Pussycats  provided  further  proof  that  Hanna-Barbera  were  spreading  the  jam  a  little   thinly. Its  format  was  so  similar  to  Scooby  Doo  - the  series'  two  male  protagonists  looked  suspiciously  similar  to  Fred  and  Shaggy - that  it's  difficult  to  retrieve  any  specific  recollection  of  the  show. Josie  and  the  Pussycats  were  a  lasciviously  drawn  girl  band  with  an  unusual  guitar-drums-tambourine  line  up  whose  tours  were  always  marked  by  getting  caught  up   in  criminal  conspiracies. Each  episode  would  feature a  chase  sequence  set  to  one  of  the  group's  dire  songs.

It  differed  from  Scooby  Doo  in  having  a  villain  in  the  regular  cast, their  manager's  sister  Alexandra  who  wanted  a  share  of  the  limelight  and  to  prise  guitarist  Josie  away  from  hunky  roadie  Alan. Rather  than  learning  bass  or  keyboards  she  took  the  Dick  Dastardly  route  of  scheming  and  unfailingly  self-defeating  sabotage.  

Sixteen  episodes  were  made  of  the  original  series  then  a  further  sixteen  of  its  reboot  as  Josie  and  the  Pussycats  in  Outer  Space   where  the  criminals  were  replaced  by  aliens.  However  the  Beeb  only  screened  18  episodes  across  the  two  series  between  1972  and  1975. Their  last  appearance  was  as  guest  stars  in  a  episode  of  The  New  Scooby  Doo  Movies.

A  live  action  movie  was  a  box  office  disaster  in  2001.

Friday, 20 February 2015

96 The Long Chase

First  watched  : Uncertain

Another one  for  my  personal  Top  10  here. This  was  probably  the  most  ambitious  and  daring  of  all  childrens'  serials , a  thirteen part  thriller  about  two  teenagers  caught  up  in  an  international  criminal  conspiracy  through  the  boys'  father  , a  shamed  policeman . The  action  moved  across  the  length  of  the  British  Isles  and  involved  some  impressive  stunt  work  with  bikes  being  driven  over  cliffs,  a  well-staged  kidnapping   and  as  the  title  implies , plenty  of  nail-biting  chases. It  was  I  think  the  only  dip  into  childrens'  TV  for  the  prolific  writer  N J  Crisp  who  specialised  in  gritty  thrillers  and  this  was  quite  near  the  knuckle  in  its  violence  and  suspense.

It  was  first  broadcast  on  Monday  teatimes  from  September  1972  but  I  don't  think  I  saw  too  much  of  it  then  perhaps  finding  it  a  bit  too  scary  but  I  watched  the  repeats  on  Sunday  afternoons  in  the  summer  of  1974  religiously.

It's  thought  to  be  still  extant  but  the  Beeb  have  so  far  resisted  calls  for  any  further  repeat  or  DVD  release . Much  of  the  clamour  comes  from  fiftysomething  guys  wanting  another  look  at  the  young  Jan  Francis   although  she  was  actually  24  at  the  time  of  filming. Her  partner  on  the  run  was  Simon  Turner, fresh  from  his  success  in  Tom  Brown's  Schooldays  and  the  father  was  rugged  Glyn  Houston  who  starred in  another  Crisp  drama  The  Brothers  that  we'll  be  discussing  shortly.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

95 Look And Read

First  watched  : 19  or  22  September  1972

I  was  now  in  Junior  One  at  school  and  our  claim  on  the  TV  was  for  Look  And  Read  but   I can't  recall  whether  it  was  for  the  Tuesday  or  Friday  showing. Look  And  Read 's  format  was  ingenious; it  sandwiched  a  literacy  section  between  two  halves  of  an  exciting  serial  which  itself  posed  questions  that  could  be  solved  by  applying  reading  skills.

I  was  very  fortunate  that  one  of  the  two  serials  broadcast  in  the  1972-73  academic  year  was  the  highly-regarded  The  Boy  From  Space. The  serial  was  written  by  Catweazle's  Richard  Carpenter  and  was  genuinely  scary  which  of  course  we  loved. The  blond-haired  silver-skinned  boy  Peep  Peep  and  his  father  were  on  the  run  from  the  terrifying  Thin  Man. The  two  parka-clad  children  who  discovered  them  were  able  to  assist  if  they could  interpret  the  aliens'  language   which  was  actually  English  written  backwards  so  it  could  be  deciphered  with  a  mirror  or  reflective  surface. As  with  Sesame  Street , the  educational  section  was  pitched  below  my  reading  level  so  wasn't  that  interesting  but  I  loved  the  story  which  probably  began  my  interest  in  science  fiction.  One  of  the  children  was  played  by  Sylvestra  Le  Touzel  , still  a  highly  regarded  and  very  busy  actress.

The  Boy  From  Space  had  first  been  shown  in  the  autumn  term  of  1971-72   but  the  serial  for  the  spring  term  in  1973,  Joe  and  the  Sheep  Rustlers  was  entirely  new.  Though  I  wouldn't  have  realised  it  at  the  time  it  was  all  filmed  just  a  few  miles  away,  around  Todmorden  and  Hebden  Bridge; one  ruin  featured was  Higher  Pemmin  Farm, less  than  an  hour's  walk  from  the  school. Watching  it  through  on  You  Tube  it's  a  wonderful  snapshot  of  familiar  places  just  a  few  years  before  I  started  discovering  them  for  myself. The  farming  consultant  on  the  programme  was  Littleborough   sheep  farmer   Harry  Lord  who  had  a   few   lines  himself  in  a  shearing  scene  although  I  don't  think  his  place,  Heights  Farm,  is  one  of  those  used  in   the  programme , perhaps  because  of  its  close  proximity  to  overhead  power lines. I  don't  recall  anyone  mentioning  such  a  local  connection  at  the  time  though  you'd  think  from  a  class  of  30+  local  kids  some  of  whom  lived  very  close  to  Heights  Farm,  somebody  would  have  recognised  him..

It's  also  full  of  recognisable  faces. The  heroic  young  shepherd  Joe  is  played  by  Struan  Rodger  who's  been  even  busier  than  Sylvestra  Le  Touzel  in  the  years  since  and  is  currently  in  Game  of  Thrones.  Having  survived  her  adventure  here  his   buxom  sidekick  Jill   ( Martine  Howard  )  had   to  contend  with  David  Van  Day   in  mid-seventies  pop  group  Guys 'n' Dolls.  The  inept  half  of  the  rustling  duo  was  played  by  Citizen  Smith's Mike  Grady  and  the  wonderful  character  Ken  Jones  who  died  this  time  last  year  played  the  youth  hostel  warden  whose  quasi-judicial  role  in  the  story  surely  wasn't  in  his  job  description.*

The  plot  is  full  of  holes  and  some  of  the  embedded  literacy  devices  are  very  contrived  but  its  still    enjoyable. BBC  supplied  schools  with  worksheets  connected  to  the  series  and  I  had  sight  of  the  teachers'  version  which  was  full  of  spoilers. I  eagerly  looked  forward  to  the  last  episode  in  which  someone  got  shot  because  I  had  a  bit  of   a  death  fixation  at  the  time  , regularly  taking  out  the  Shakespeare  for  kids  book  from  the  school  library  because  the  tragedies  of  course  had  multiple  deaths  at  the  end. In  the  end  the  guy  was  only  wounded  in  the  shoulder  and  the  real  glory  of  the  last  episode  was  a  marvellously  silly  mass  chase  through  the  back  streets  of  Hebden  Bridge  with  the  main  villain  ending  up  in  the  Rochdale  Canal.

* The  hostel  in  the  story  was  Mankinholes  Youth  Hostel  near  Todmorden  which  is  still  open.
The  real-life  warden  during  the  period  in  which  I  visited  there (1977-81)  , a  battleaxe  called   Mrs  Halliwell, would  certainly  have  made  a  good  sheriff.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

94 Michael Bentine Time / Michael Bentine's Potty Time

First  watched  : 1972

At the  risk  of  being  executed  for  treason  in  the  next  reign  I've  never  seen  anything  very  appealing  in  the  Goons  that  would  warrant  further investigation  though  that  might  be  over-influenced  by  that  unctuous  bullfrog,  Harry  Secombe's  inescapable  presence  in  their  ranks. I  did  like  this  though; perhaps  Michael  got  out  before  becoming  too  tainted  with  their  cloying  silliness.

The  Potty  puppets  were  a  little  similar  to  the  Diddymen  although  the  tone  of  the  programme  was  sharply  different,  Michael  and  Doddy  having  little  in  common  as   comedians. The  Potties  generally  performed  comic  re-creations  of  historical  events  scripted  by  Michael  who  also  did  the  voices  ( which  did  owe  something  to  the  Goons )  and  designed  the  look  for  the  puppets  though  as  he  interacted  with  them  on  screen  they  were  operated  from  below  by  others.

Strangely  it  didn't  take  in  its  Friday  teatime  slot  on  BBC1  so  the  following  year  switched  to  ITV  where, slightly  re-titled  it  ran  for  the  rest  of  the  decade.

93 Help!'s the Hair Bear Bunch

First  watched : 1972

 Help ... it's  the  Hair  Bear  Bunch   was  a  lesser  cartoon  from  Hanna-Barbera  that  hasn't  been  repeated  much  perhaps  because  it  was  so  explicitly  linked  to  the  fashions  of  its  time.

The  Bunch  are  led  by  Hair  Bear  , a  cool  ( for  1972 ) character  with  a  blond  Afro, scarf  and  waistcoat.  In  personality  he's  pretty  similar  to  an  anarchic  Top  Cat  with  square  zoo  director  Mr  Peevly  as  his  Dibble. He  is  backed  up  by  Square  Bear, a  dozy  strong  man  and  the  tiny, incomprehensible   Bubi  Bear  who  appears  to  have  been  based  on  Stanley  Unwin. The  Bears  are  the  chief  mischief  makers  at  the  zoo  and  arrange  numerous  "escapes"  although  they  don't  want  to  permanently  leave  their  comfortable  berth  at  the  zoo  and  Peevly  sometimes  uses  the  threat  of  expulsion  to  the  woods  as  a  threat. Running  gags  include  the  bears having  a  bachelor  pad  at  the  back  of  their  cage  disguised  by  secret  panels  and  Square  Bear's  invisible  motorcycle

Just  16  episodes  were  made  and  though  I  remember  enjoying  it  at  the  time  little  of  it  has  stuck  in  the  memory.

Monday, 16 February 2015

92 Olympics 1972

First  watched : 1972  ( funnily  enough )

To  this  day  I  don't  care  very  much  about  the  Olympic  Games  as  they  bring  to  the  fore  what  for  me  are  seriously  dull  sports  so  the  blanket  TV  coverage  is  never  something  I  welcome. I  don't  think  I  watched  much  of  it  in  72  as  I  don't  recall  the massacre  or  watching  Olga  Korbut  doing  her  thing. However  I  do  remember  the  brouhaha  about  Mark  Spitz  winning  all  those  medals  so  I  must  have  seen  some  of  it.

Whether  Spitz, an  American  Jew,  was  fired  up  by  the  massacre  to  overachieve   you  can't  say  but  his  decision  to  retire  from  competition  immediately  afterwards  at  the  age  of  22  was  almost  certainly  influenced  by  those  events. In  the  immediate  aftermath  he  was  a  superstar, he  and  his  moustache  appearing  in  many  magazines  and  advertisements. After  a  brief   and unconvincing  attempt  at  acting  he  became  a  sports  pundit  but  from  the  mid-eighties  retreated  into  private  life  where  he  has  a successful  real  estate  company  and  other  business  ventures. In  1992  he  attempted  to  qualify  for  the  1992  games  as  part  of  a  documentary  project  but  didn't  make  the  qualifying  time; in  a  measure  of  how  much  the  sport  had  progressed  the  bar  was  set  higher  than  some  of  his  medal-winning  times !  I  didn't  like  Michael  Phelps  so  I  was  sorry  he  managed  to  beat  Mark's  record  though  Mark  himself  was  phlegmatic  about  it.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

91 Herge's Adventures of Tintin

First  watched  : 1972

Herge's  Adventures  of  Tintin  had  many  uses. It  was  a  source  of  names  for  a  number  of  dodgy  eighties  pop  acts  for  one  thing. It  was  also  a  potential  answer  to  that  perennial  quandary  of  naming  a  famous  Belgian.

The  series  was  based  on  the  famous  comic  books  of  Georges  Remi  writing  under  the  pen-name  Herge  from  the  late  twenties  to  his  death  in  1983. They  concern  a  young  investigative  reporter  who  pursued  dangerous  stories  leading  to  numerous  threats  to  his  personal  safety. He  is  aided  by  colourful  friends  such  as  Captain  Haddock, Professor  Calculus  and  his  dog  Snowy  and  his  zeal  and  resourcefulness  often  shows  up  the  efforts  of  the  police  represented  by  the  incompetent  Thompson  Twins.

This  series  made  in   the  late  fifties  1957  took   seven  of   the  books, made  major  changes  to  the  plots  and  broke  them  down  into  five  minute  episodes   which  always  ended  on  a  cliffhanger  with  Tintin  in  a  perilous  situation.

I  loved  it  but  there  was  a  problem. Even  the  shortest  adaptation  , The  Secret  of  the  Unicorn,  ran  for  10  episodes  i.e  a  fortnight  and  at  10.50 am  it  was  right  in  the  danger  zone  for  being  taken  to  the  shops, clinic, Gran's , dentist  or  wherever. So  I  don't  think  I  ever  managed  to  watch  a  complete  story  from  start  to  finish  which  rather  spoiled  the  experience.

As long-running  comic  series  tend  to  do  Tintin  has  attracted  his  fair  share  of  obssessives   who  don't  like  this  adaptation  mainly  because  it  messed  around  with  the   original  story lines  too  much. Nevertheless,  as  Messrs  Bailey  and  Duffy  would  attest  it  is  still  fondly  remembered  in  Britain  if  nowhere  else.            

Saturday, 14 February 2015

90 Casey Jones

First  watched :  Uncertain

This  had  been  on  before  but  I  think  it's  most  likely  I   first  saw  it  as  part  of  the  morning  schedule  in  the  summer  holidays  in  1972. Like  The  White  Horses  the  theme  song  is  easier  to  recall  than  the  series  itself. Made  in  the  late  fifties,  Casey  Jones  was  very  loosely  based  on  a  real  railroad  engineer  and  his  train , The  Cannonball  Express.  It  had  a  regular  cast  of  five  with  Alan  Hale's  Casey  assisted  by  Wallie  the  fireman  and  Redrock  the  conductor  plus  a  wife  and  Casey  Junior  ( Bobby  Clark )  who  featured  in  episodes   to a   variable  extent.

The  episodes - thirty-two  were  made  in  total - were  basically  mini-Westerns  with  familiar  tropes  , gold  shipments, escaped  prisoners , Indian  attacks  etc  but  with  a  low  death  rate  to  keep  it  child-friendly. The  resourceful  Casey  manages  to  save  the  day in  half  an  hour. It  was  quite  gritty  and  is  still  watchable  although  being  black  and  white  it  hasn't  been  shown  here since  1975.

Apart  from  Clark  all  the  cast  had  died  by  the  mid-nineties. Now  70  himself  he  still  makes  the  odd  public  appearance  although  his  screen  career  ended  in  the  early  sixties.  

Friday, 13 February 2015

89 Cabbages and Kings

First  watched  : 1972

There's  not  much  on  the  'net  to  stir  up  memories  of  this  second  Play  School  spin-off   led  by  Johnny  Ball  but  also  featuring   Derek  Griffiths  and  Julie  Stevens.  Each  episode  was  basically  a  half  hour  Crackerjack  - style  comedy  sketch  loosely  based  on  historical  events . It  lasted  for  three  series. The  first  two  in  1972  and  1973  had  just  three  episodes  while  the  final  one  in  1974  had  a  more  generous  five. Despite  my  later  interest  in  history  I  don't  remember  this  as  being  much  cop  unfortunately.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

88 Little Women

First  watched  : 1972

This  was  first  screened  on  Sunday  evenings  in  1970  but  I  think  it's  more  likely  my  memories  are  from  the  repeat  screening  on  Wednesday  afternoons  from  28  June  1972. This  was  one  of  umpteen  adaptations  of  Louisa  M  Alcott's  classic  novel  of  four  young  women- the  economically  named  Amy, Beth , Jo  and  Meg , growing  up  in  nineteenth  century America. Like  Anne  of  Green  Gables   it  required  its  English  cast  to  speak  in  American  accents. I  only  remember  it  very  vaguely  as  something  that  interested  my  mum  and  sister  more  than  me.

None  of  the  four  young  actresses  Angela  Down, Jo  Rowbotham, Janina  Faye  and  Sarah  Craze  went  on  to  become  household  names  and  only  Angela  seems  to  be  still  working.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

87 The Monkees

First  watched  :  1972

A  tricky  one  this; as  a  pop  boffin  it's  hard  to  separate  what  I  know  about  the  series  from  what  I  remember  when  it  was  repeated  after  a  long  absence  from  the  screen  in  June  1972.

The  latter  is  actually  very  little. I  recall  it  being  a  bit  like  Banana  Splits  but  not  as  good  which   I  suppose  doesn't  say  much  for  the  guys'  charisma. Micky  Dolenz  was  the  only  one  who  made  an  impression  on  me  in  terms  of  recognition  when  he  turned  up  elsewhere.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

86 Right Charlie

First  watched  : 1972

I  sat  in  a  bus  shelter  and  marvelled  at  an  advert  for  an  afternoon  performance  by  Charlie  Cairoli . Surely  not  the  same  one  who  blighted  my  Easter  Mondays  with  his  sinister,  unfunny  routines   on  Billy  Smart's  Circus. He  must  be  a  hundred  by  now . ( Stuart  Maconie, Pies  And  Prejudice ).

Charlie  Cairoli  would   actually  have   been  96  had  he  still  been  alive  at  the  time  of  Maconie's   visit  but  he  died  back  in  1980  so  it  must  have  been  his  son  that  was  still  performing.

Charlie  was  62  when  he  got  his  own  series  having  been  a  star  turn  on  the  Bank  Holiday  circus  screenings   mentioned  above. I'm  not  sure  quite  what  spooked  Maconie , there's  an  element  of  sadism in  all  clowning  and  I  can't  see  where  Charlie  upped  the  ante. The  victim  in  his  routines  was  a  little  Scottish  guy  called  Jimmy  Buchanan  who  mesmerised  me  with  his  long  rubbery  face  and  perpetually  terrified  expression.

Charlie  had  a  colourful  past. Born  into  a  circus  family  in  Italy  in  1910,   he  first  performed  during  World  War  One  at  the  age  of  seven. His  long  association  with  Blackpool  began  in  1938  when  the  family  were  booked  at  the  Tower  Circus. That  same  year  he  was  given  a watch  by  an  appreciative   spectator  at  a  performance  in  Munich  , a  certain  Adolf   Hitler.  Charlie  reportedly  threw  the  watch  off  Blackpool's  North  Pier  when  war  broke  out  but  it  didn't  stop  him  being  interned  as  an  enemy  alien  on  the  Isle  of  Man. Charlie  had  already  applied  for  French  citizenship  and  when  this  was  granted  he  was  allowed  to  return  to  Blackpool  where  he  did  his  bit  entertaining  the  troops. He  never  left.

Charlie's  TV  series   initially  ran  from  1972  to  1974 . A  final  series  was  made  in  1976. Charlie  finally  retired  from  the  circus   in  November  1979  through  ill  health  and  exhaustion. He  died  just  a few  months  later. There's  not  much  Charlie  on  You  Tube  and  what  there  is  doesn't  come  from  the  series  so  I'm  guessing  it's  all  been  wiped  and  that  Charlie  will  eventually  fade  from  memory.    

Monday, 9 February 2015

85 Pardon My Genie

First  watched : 1972

I  knew   there  was  something  I  watched  early  on  that  had  Roy  Barraclough  in  the  cast  and  this  was  it.  He  played  a  fussy  ironmonger  Mr  Cobbledick  whose  put-upon  assistant  Hal  Adden   ( Ellis  Jones  )  discovers  a  genie  ( Hugh  Paddick  in  the  first  series, Arthur  White  in  the  second )   in  an  old  watering  can  and  seeks  his  help  in  various  comic  situations.  I  thought  it  was  quite  funny  at  the  time ; perhaps  it  wouldn't  seem  so  now.

The  series  was  written  by  Bob  Block  who  went  on  to  the  more  celebrated  Rentaghost . Star  Ellis  Jones  acted  regularly  on  TV  up  to  the  end  of  the  eighties  then  moved  into  directing  and  training  young  actors. He  is  currently  a  lecturer  in  theatre  studies  at  New  York  University.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

84 John Craven's Newsround

First  watched  :  April  1972

Now  be  honest , we  all  say  we  loved  this  and  its  indestructible  presenter  but  how  many  of  us  at  the  time  saw  this  as  anything  other  than  an  unwarranted  intrusion   of  the  boring  adult  world  into  our  fun ?  I  didn't  hate  this  as  much  as  the  music - stopping  Newsbeat  feature  on  Radio  One  which  followed  in  1973  but  I  never  looked  forward  to  it  either.

The  ultra-Reithian  idea  behind  Newsround  ( as  it  became  after  JC's  departure  in  1989 ) was  to  present  the  news  of  the  day  in  a  simplified  and  sometimes  bowdlerised  form  for  children. This  apparently  hadn't  been  done  anywhere  else  in  the  world  and  drew  some  adult  criticism  for  "invading  the  garden". To  present  the  programme  they  chose  a  young-ish  reporter  from  regional  TV  who  was  so  square  he  was  cool.  Because it was  the  first  news  programme   on  BBC1  for  four  hours  it  often  broke  important  news  such  as  the  Space  Shuttle  explosion  in  1986. It  started  out  as  a  five  minute  insert  but  later  expanded  to  fifteen  minutes  so  I  should  count  myself  lucky.

John  of  course  was  involved  with  other  kids'  programmes  which  we'll  discuss  in  due  course  and  has  never  been  off  our  screens,  starting  a  new  quiz  show  only  this  year. Newsround  also  continues  to  this  day  but  finally  finished  on  BBC1  in  2012.   

Saturday, 7 February 2015

83 The White Horses

First  watched : Uncertain

The  Easter  fortnight  in  1972  was  the  first  holiday  period  where  the  BBC   put  on  a  full  schedule  of  child-friendly  programmes  to  entertain  the  kids  in  a  morning. They  were  all  repeats  but  that  was  better  than  nothing.  

The  White  Horses   was  originally  made  in  1965,  a  joint  German-Yugoslavian  production. It  was  first  broadcast  with  English  over-dubbing  in  1968  and  frequently  repeated  but  the  1972   holiday  showing  was  the  most  likely  time  for  me  to  have  caught  it.

It  concerned  a  teenage  girl  Julia  (  Helga  Anders  )  who  goes  to  work  for  a  summer  on  a  stud  farm  for  Lipizanner  horses  owned  by  her  uncle  in  Austria. Mild  adventures  ensue. I  must  confess  that  , having  no  great  feeling  for  the  beasts, my  recollections  of  this , Follyfoot *  and  Black  Beauty  tend  to  merge   into  one  equestrian  melange  of  disinterest.

The  series  is  most  celebrated  for  Jackie  Lee's  breezy  theme  tune, a  top  10  hit  in  1968  and  much  feted  by  the  "shambling"  scene  of  1986. Unfortunately  that  was  also  the  year  that  Helga  Anders  succumbed  to  a  short  lifetime  of  debauchery  and  passed  away  at  just  38.

* I'm  not  100%  certain   I  ever  watched  an  episode  of  Follyfoot  but  it  was  on  around  this  time  and  makes  me  sound  less  thick  than  mixing  up  just  the  other  two.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

82 Anne of Green Gables / Anne of Avonlea

First  watched  : 1972/ 1975

These  two  series  were  my  sister's  favourites,   five  and  six  part  adaptations  respectively  of  the  first  two  books  in  a  series   of  eight  written  by  the  Canadian  author  L.M. Montgomery between  1908  and  1939. The  books  were  set  on  Prince  Edward  Island  so  the  cast -  nearly  all  British - had  to  try  on  Transatlantic  accents.

In  the  first  book / series   Anne  is  an  orphan  sent  to  work  on  a   farm   run  by  the  Cuthberts  - brother  and  sister  which  might  raise  an  eyebrow  today - who  are  expecting  a  boy  rather  than  a  quirky,  unpractical  girl. Anne  has  to  win  over  the  rather  grumpy  sister  Marilla  just  to  remain  at  Green  Gables  before  making  friends  in  the  village.

The  only  thing  I  remembered  before  a  cheating  look  at  wikipedia  was  that  I  rather  liked  one  of  Anne's  friends  Ruby  Gillis   ( on  the  right  above )  and  that  she  died  of  tuberculosis  in  the  second  series. That  was  the  trouble  with  these  classic  adaptations; with  their  high  mortality  rate  you  never  knew  if  your  favourite  character was  going  to  pop  their  clogs  or  not.

Anne  of  Avonlea    made  three  years  later  , took  the  story  on  a  few  years  with  Anne  having  fulfilled  her  dream  of  becoming  a  teacher  and  looking  for  romance. Fortunately  the  production  team  were  able  to  round  up  the  same  cast  despite  the  gap  so  it  makes  sense  to  consider  the  two  series  together.

The  series  gave  early  acting  breaks  to  a number  of  young  actors.  Anne  was  played  by  22  year  old ( i.e twice  as  old  as  Anne  was  supposed  to  be  at  the  start  of  the  story )  Kim  Braden ,  daughter  of  the  Canadian  presenter  Bernard  Braden   who  would  be  sacked  by  the  BBC  later  in  the  year  for  the  heinous  crime  of  advertising  margarine.  She  worked  steadily  until  having  kids  in  the  late  eighties  and  hasn't  been  heard  of  since  the  mid  nineties.  She  was  rather  eclipsed  by  her  onscreen  best  pal  Jan  Francis  ( on  the  left  above ) who  we'll  be  meeting  again  a  few  times. In  the  second  series , one  of  Anne's  pupils  was  a  young  Nicholas  Lyndhurst  cunningly  disguised  as  Brian  Jones. Ruby  was  played  by  an  obscure  actress  called  Kim  Hardy  who  disappears  after  a  small  role  in  Confessions  of  A  Summer  Camp  Councillor  in  1977 ;  I   hope  it  was  small - the  thought  of  Robin  Askwith  getting  his  mucky  paws  on  her  is  horrible.

The  Beeb  never  took  up  an  option  on  the  third  novel. Perhaps  they  were  hoping  the  series  could  be  sold  across  the  pond  and  it  didn't  happen.  My  sister  wanted  to  follow  what  happened  to  Anne  but  only  the  first  two  books  were  available  in  paperback. She  managed  to  cut  a  deal  with  Cleggs'  bookshop  in  Rochdale  who'd  bring  in  the  others  and  she'd  pay  in  instalments. She  told  me  recently  that  our  mum  used  the  fourth*  book   Anne's  House  of  Dreams  to  ward  off  depression.

* Montgomery  wrote   two  of  the  books  in  the  thirties  after  a  long  hiatus  and  their  events  took  place  in  gaps  she'd  left  in  the  chronology  so  the  fourth  published  is  actually  the  fifth  in  terms  of  Anne's  life  if  that  makes  sense.

81 The Best in Football

First   watched : 1972

This  was  a  fourteen  part  ten  minute  series  where  the  flamboyant  football  star  coached  a  bunch  of  youngsters  in  various  aspects  of  the  game. I  wasn't  very  interested  in  football  at  this  point  but  I  knew  who  Best  was  and  had  the  impression  he  was  an  invincible  superman  who  produced  victory  in  every  game  he  played.

The  timing  of  the  series  wasn't  great. With  his  team  struggling  Best  had   begun  to  lose  interest  in  football  and  had   recently  skipped  a  full  week's  training  in  order  to  bonk  Miss  Great  Britain  1971  piling  the  pressure  on  his  manager , the  luckless  Frank  O' Farrell. In  fact  Best's  misbehaviour    had  begun  the  previous  season  when  he  opted  for  a  weekend  with  Sinead  Cusack  rather  than  a  game  at  Chelsea  in  Matt  Busby's  final  season  in  charge. It's  generally  glossed  over  that  United's  decline  began  under  Busby  rather  than  his  two  immediate  successors. Best  actually  announced  his  retirement  ( at  26 )  at  the  end  of  the  season  but  changed  his  mind  over  the  summer.  He  did  the  same  again  when  O  Farrell  was  sacked  at  the  end  of  the  year  but  continued  to  play  until  the  beginning  of  1974  when  he  was  dropped  by  shifty  new  boss  Tommy  Docherty  and  left  the  club  for  good  at  the  end  of  the  season  when  United  were  relegated.

Best's  long  slow  decline  from  that  point  is  well  documented. There  were  isolated  moments  of  joy  such  as  the  game  he  and  Rodney  Marsh  played  for  Fulham  against  Hereford  who  were  so  out  of  their  depth  the  duo  were  able  to  lark  around  on  the  pitch  and  still  hammer  them  and  a  fabulous  goal  he  scored  for  one  of  his  American  teams. However  his  time  at  Fulham  was  also  recalled  for  an  horrendous  tackle  which  effectively  ended  the  career  of  Crystal  Palace's  Ian  Evans  and  for  which  he  never  apologised. He  was  a  good  talker   and  got  work  as  a  TV  pundit  including  a  series  with  Marsh  ( who  was  conspicuously  sharper )  and  that  well  known  soccer  expert  Tony  Wilson. This  tailed  off   after  a  disastrous  appearance  on  Wogan   where  he  was  smashed  ( it  was  probably  a  stepping  stone  in  the  show's  fall  from  grace ). Thereafter  it's  hard  to  muster  much  sympathy  for  him,  wife  beating, drink  driving, denigrating  any  new  star  in  the  tabloids  for  a  few  quid  and  criminally  wasting  the  new  liver  he  was  controversially  given  on  the  NHS  in  2002. The  story  ended  nearly  a  decade  ago  when  he  succumbed  to  kidney  and  lung  infections  in  hospital.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

80 Watch With Mother : Fingerbobs

First  watched : February  1972

The  first  new  Watch  With  Mother  series  since  Mr  Benn  was  this  low  budget  but   much-loved  series  which  could  only  have  been  made  in  the  early  seventies. The  Fingerbobs  were animal  puppets  which  consisted  of  little  more  than  paper  on  the  gloved  fingers  of   a  genial  balding  hippy in  a  grey  Argyll  sweater  known  as  "Yoffy"  but  instantly  recognisable  from  his  work  on  Play  School   as  Canadian  actor  Rick  Jones.

Jones  was  an  interesting  character  who'd  worked  in  the  mines  to  finance  a  drama  course  in  London  in  1964 . He  was  quickly  snapped  up  for  Play  School  for  his  warm, soothing  voice. There  was  another  reason  for  Jones's  mellow  persona; he  was  an  incorrigible  pothead  and  was  stoned  throughout  the  making  of  Fingerbobs. On  his  days  off  he  was  over dubbing  European  porn  films  with  English  dialogue.

Thirteen  episodes  were  made  and  usually  consisted  of  lead  character  Fingermouse  , helped  by  others  such  as  Enoch  the  woodpecker  and  Flash  the  tortoise, collecting  objects  which  Yoffy  would  use  for  creative  purposes. The  main  characters  would  have  their  own  signature  song   performed  on  suitably  acoustic  instruments.

Jones's  career  at  the  BBC  came  to  an  end  in  1973  when  a  fan  inadvertently  revealed  that  she  and  Jones  had  spent  an  afternoon  getting  stoned  in  her  back  garden. He  had  become  bored  of  TV  work  anyway  and  formed  a  band  called  Meal  Ticket  who  had  a  good  following  on  the  pub  rock  circuit  until  the  arrival  of  punk. He  emigrated  to  the  States  where  he  has  written  and  appeared  in  a  couple  of  minor  musicals.

Fingermouse  was  resurrected  without  Jones  for  his  own  series  in  1985  but  it  didn't  last  any  longer.


Monday, 2 February 2015

79 Unsolved Mysteries

First  watched :   February  1972

I  only  have  the  haziest  recollection  of  this  six  part  series  on  a  Wednesday  teatime  which  was  repeated  once  at  the  beginning  of  1973. It  explored  strange  events  and  phenomena  and  is  chiefly  notable  for  giving  a  first  presenting  gig  to  the  avuncular  Magnus  Magnusson.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

78 The Adventures of Sir Prancelot

First  watched  : 1972

This  little  series  went  into  The  Magic  Roundabout  slot  in  January  1972.  It  was  made  by  John  Ryan  Studios  who   also  did  Mary  Mungo  and  Midge   with  the  same  limited  animation. Prancelot  was  an  impoverished  knight  who  wanted  to  invent  rather  than  fight  but  had  to  go  on  crusade  to  escape  his  creditors  taking  his  family  and  fretful  accountant  Girth  with  him. They  were  pursued  by  villainous  Count  Otto  but  got  there  in  the  end.

I  remember  Girth  the  most, being  never  quite  sure  whether  the  character  was  male  or  female.  It  was  the  former  but  a  few  years  down  the  line  I  had  the  acquaintance  of  a  woman  who  looked  just  like  him.

Thirty  one  episodes  were  made  in  total. It  doesn't  seem  to  be  as  fondly  remembered  as  its  contemporaries.