Thursday, 30 July 2015

189 Roobarb

First  watched : October  1974

No  half-measures  here; I  absolutely  hated  this  from  the  migraine-inducing  animation  and  over-loud  theme  tune  and  found  it  so  difficult  to  watch  that  I  couldn't  engage  with  Richard  Briers'  narration. I  know  it  has  its  fans  but  I  could  never  be  one  of  them.

Roobarb  was  shown  in  the  Magic  Roundabout  slot. Thirty  five  minute  episodes  were  made  originally. More  than  thirty  years  later  it  was  revived  on  Channel  5  with  rival  Custard  the  Cat  given  equal  billing  as  Roobarb  and  Custard  Too. Briers  returned  as  narrator  and  39  more  episodes  were  made.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

188 Heidi

First  watched  : 20  October  1974

False  Memory  Syndrome  strikes  again. I'd  have  placed  this  much  further  back,  1971  or  thereabouts, well  before  say  Carrie's  War.  That  it  was  only broadcast  after  we'd  changed  schools  in  the  summer  of  1974  flabbergasts  me.

Heidi  replaced  the  repeat  of  The  Long  Chase  as  the  Sunday  tea  time  serial  and  could  hardly  have  been  more  different. It  was  an  adaptation  of  a  Swiss  novel  about  a  little  orphan  girl  who  improves  the  lives  of  everyone  with  whom  she  comes  into  contact  particularly  disabled  friend  Clara. The  BBC  version  simplified  the  story  and  toned  down  its  religious  overtones.

It  is  best  remembered  as  the  ( credited )   TV  debut  of  13  year  old  Nicholas  Lyndhurst. As  I  got  interested  in  drama  shortly  after  this  was  broadcast  I  followed  his  career  with  interest  and  it's  hit  me  in  the  gut  to  see  him  now  playing  an  "old"  man  in  New  Tricks .  He  played  Peter  Heidi's  goat  herd  friend  who  ends  up  doing  something  rather  naughty  out  of  jealousy  with  unexpected  beneficial  results.

Heidi  herself  was  played  by  Emma  Blake  who  has  only  acted  intermittently  since,  having  spells  as  a  jazz  singer  and  dialect  coach  and  time  out  of  the  public  eye  caring  for  an  alcoholic  mother. Her  grumpy   and  impressively  hirsute  grandfather  was  played  by  grim-faced  German  actor  Hans  Meyer. In  a  case of  life  imitating  art,  the  actress  who  played  Clara  , Chloe  Franks,  was  struck  down  by  rheumatoid  arthritis  as  an  adult  and  is  now  a  respected  disabilities  campaigner.  

Friday, 24 July 2015

187 The Brothers

First  watched  : 1974

This  soapy  drama  was  one  of  my  mum's  favourite  programmes  and  I  think  she'd  followed  it  from  its  memorable  start. The  old  patriarch  of  a  family  haulage  firm  had  just  died  and  his  will  split  the  shares  four  ways  between  his  three  sons  hard-living  Ted, boring  accountant  Brian  and  young  playboy  David  and  his  secretary  Miss  Kingsley, now  revealed  to  be  his  mistress  and  mother  of  his  child. How  they  took  things  forward  from  this , with  Mum played  by  the  hatchet-faced  Jean  Anderson  sticking  her  oar  in unhelpfully, drove  the  drama  for  the  rest  of  the  series  though  there  were  plenty  of  diversions  into  the  brothers'  love  lives..

It  is  a  bit  of  a  seventies  relic  with  the  coming  decade  represented  from  the  fourth  series  on by  ruthless  financial  whizz  kid  Paul  Merroney  played  with  icy  charisma  by  Colin  Baker.  His  supposed  villainy  dominated  the  later  series. The  Sun  had  a  poll  at  the  time  which  voted  him  "Most  Hated  Man  in  Britain" . It's  interesting  to  speculate  that  if  the  show  had  been  broadcast  a  few  years  later  Merroney  would  have  been  perceived  quite  differently  and  might  have  become  as  popular  as  J.R. Ewing.

The  Brothers  ended  rather  abruptly  in  1976  without  much  explanation ( even  to  the  cast  ! )

What  I  recall  most  about  it  is  my  mother's  irritation  that  we  were  watching  it  at  all. By  1974  I  in  particular  was  a  bit  too  old  to  be  put  to  bed  before  7.30  on  a  Sunday. It  was  no  fun  being  in  the  cold  bedrooms  of  our  non-centrally  heated  house  in  the  autumn  nor  being  in  the  kitchen/sitting  room  with  our  silence-loving  dad  so  the  lounge  with  Mum  was  the best  option. That  entailed  Mum  having  to  answer  lots  of  questions  about  what  was  going  on  in  this  strange  world  of  wealthy , argumentative  adults  which  she  wasn't  happy  about  and  let  it  show. When  Brian  had  a  nervous  breakdown  it  was  the  excuse  she  needed  to  declare  it  unsuitable  viewing  for  me  and  my  sister  and  kick  us  out.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

186 Ask The Family

First  watched  : 1974

I  remember  that  in  the  mid-seventies , after  the  excitement  of  the  new  singles  chart  at  lunchtime,  it  was  a  pretty  lousy  night  for  TV  and  this  was  one  of  the  component  parts. You  could  not  get  a  better  representation  of   seventies  middle  class  values  than  an  episode  of  Ask  The  Family  where  two   smug  middle-aged  professional  couples  paraded  their  swotty  offspring  and  competed  against  each  other  on  a  series  of   general  knowledge  questions  and  mental  puzzles  to  get  through  to  the  next  round.

As  if  that  wasn't  bad  enough  the  show  was  hosted  by  the  awesomely  obnoxious  Robert  Robinson. Coming  on  like  the  evil  bastard  brother  of  University  Challenge's  saintly  and  genuinely  erudite  Bamber  Gascoine  he  couldn't  have  been  more  supercilious  and  patronising  towards  the  contestants  and  audience  with  an  Evan  Davis -like  propensity  for  telling  you  what  you'd  just  seen  for  yourself. He  also  sported  a  ridiculous  comb-over. You  might  have  supposed  he  was  sending  the  whole  shebang  up  except  he  was  just  the  same  on  Radio  4's  Brain  of  Britain  which  he  continued  to  present  into  his  eighties , only  giving  up  a  year before  his  death  in  2011.

He  wasn't  quite  so  lucky  on  TV  as  Ask  The  Family  was  ostentatiously  axed  in  1984  by  a  BBC  anxious  to  appear  more  inclusive. It  was  briefly  revived  in  1999  in  a  relatively  straight  fashion  with  Alan  Titchmarsh  as  host   then  disastrously  in  2005  as  a  vehicle  for  juvenile  comedians  Dick  and  Dom, the  dumbing-down  only  highlighted  by  the  decision  to  trail  the  new  series  with  a  few  repeats  of  the  old.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

185 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em

First  watched  : 1974

The  move  to  an  early  Monday  evening  slot  finally  gave  me  the  chance  to  see  Frank  Spencer  in  action  after  innumerable  Mike  Yarwood  and  playground  impersonations.

This  fairly unique  sitcom  followed  the  adventures  of  accident-prone  and  socially  inept  Frank  Spencer  as  he  and  long-suffering  wife  Betty  negotiated  the  day-to-day  challenges  of  life. Frank  was  played  by  Michael  Crawford  who  looked  set  for  film  stardom  in  the  sixties  after  appearing  in  Hello  Dolly  with  Barbra  Streisand  but  somehow  let  it  slip. Michelle  Dotrice  in    somewhat  one-note  performance   was  Betty.

Famously  Crawford  performed  all  his  own  stunts  including  the  iconic  and   still  utterly  fantastic  roller  skating  sequence  , a  marvel  of  athleticism  and  choreography. It's  those  moments  that  will  always  give  the  show  an  audience  however  creaky  and  dated  the  rest  of  it  seems. The  Health  and  Safety  implications are  one  reason  why  we're  unlikely  to  see  its  like  again . Some  recent  critics  have  also  suggested  that  Frank's  difficulties  indicate  a  mental  disorder  akin  to  autism  and  now  find  it  distasteful.

Crawford  seems  to  have  realised  early  on  that  he'd  created  a  monster  and  had  to  be  coaxed  back  to  do  a  third  and  final  series,  five  years  after  the  second  one  finished  in  1973  ( though  there  were  two  Christmas  specials  in between ) , with  the  offer  of  a  big  hand  in  the  writing.  As  he  reinvented  himself  as  a  major  theatre  star  in  the  eighties  he  doggedly  avoided  anything  Spencer-related  until  1998  when  he  appeared  as  Frank  again  in  Noel's  House  Party  and  now  seems  at  ease  talking  about  his  days  as  a  comedy  legend.    

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

184 Speed Buggy

First  watched : 9  September  1974

Another  humdrum  offering  from  Hanna-Barbera  which  highlights  the superior  quality   of  Wacky  Races  and  Scooby  Doo  in   that  they  are  much  clearer  in  the  memory  than  stuff  which  came  two  or  three  years  later With  Speed  Buggy  they  were  cannibalizing  their  previous  work  to  an  even  greater  extent. It's  Scooby  Doo  with a  semi-independent  talking  car  instead  of  the  dog.The  driver  Tinker is  almost indistinguishable  from  Shaggy. What's  more  the  storylines  were  actually recycled  from  Josie  and  the  Pussycats. Sixteen  20-minute  episodes  were  made  in  total.

Monday, 20 July 2015

183 The Tommy Cooper Hour

First  watched  : Uncertain

Tommy  used  to  do  one  hour  specials,  usually  following  Coronation  Street,  so  it  would  be  around  1973-74  that  I  first  saw  him. I  remember  my  gran  dismissing  it  as  "he  tries  to  be  a  magician  and  he  isn't  funny"  and  the  rebel  in  me  took  up  the  challenge. I  did  find  him  funny  although  I  can't  quite  see  why  he  was  so  highly-rated  among  his  peers.

For  all  the  affection  he  generated on  screen,  Tommy  seems  to  have  been  a  fairly  disagreeable  character  in   a  very  private - he  would  only  do  interviews  in  character -  life. He  was  a  long-term  adulterer,  notoriously  tight-fisted  and  a  heavy  smoker  and  drinker. The  latter  and  its  effect  on  his  health  curtailed  his  TV  career  as  Thames  decided  in  1980  that  continuing  with  his  own  shows  was  too  much  of  a  risk  though  he  continued  to  work  with  them  as  a  guest  on  other  shows. That  seems  to  have  acted  as  a wake-up  call  and  Tommy  made  some  effort  to  cut  back .

Tommy  of  course  went  out  "just  like  that"  collapsing  backwards  on  stage  during  a  guest  spot  on  Live  From  Her  Majesty's   in  1984  while  the  unknowing  audience  guffawed  at  what   they  assumed  was  part  of  the  act. A  hasty  commercial  break  signalled  to  the  TV  audience  that  all  was  not  well. Tommy  was  pronounced  dead  on  arrival  at  hospital.  1984  was  a  bad  year  for  show  business  with  Eric  Morecambe, Leonard  Rossiter  and  Diana  Dors  all  checking  out  and  Dustin  Gee,  who  followed  Tommy  on  stage  that  evening,  wasn't  long  in  joining  them. Like  the  Bradford  fire , footage  of  Tommy's   death  comes  and  goes  on  YouTube  but  it's  there  at  the  time  of  writing,  posted  from  Spain.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

182 Swiss Family Robinson

First  watched  : 1974

Over  to  ITV  for  this  Canadian  series  loosely  based  on  the  bestselling  novel  about  a  family  stranded  on  a  desert  island. The  series  added  a  young  daughter  Marie  who's  not  in  the  novel.  She  was  played  by  a  Heather  Graham  who  was  no  relation  to  the  blonde  film  star   and  not  much  of  an  actress  either. Leading  man  Chris  Wiggins  as  Father  was  pretty  wooden  too.

Only  one  series  was  made ( 26  episodes )   because  ABC  in  America  were  known  to  be  developing  a  version  of  their  own.

I  can  barely  recall  it  and  probabluy  only  saw  one  or  two  episodes.

Friday, 17 July 2015

181 Jeannie

First  watched : September  1974

"Jeannie"  arrived  as  the  latest  offering  from  Hanna-Barbera  on  Fridays  from  6th  September  1974. It  was  loosely  based  on  the  1960s  comedy  show  I  Dream  Of   Jeannie. 

As  clumsily  explained  in  one  of  the  worst  theme  songs  in  TV  history  Jeannie's  bottle  was  discovered  by  surfing  hunk  Corey  when  he  fell  off  a  wave. The  scantily-clad  girl  genie  was  unfortunately  accompanied  by  obese  trainee  Babu  for  supposedly  comic  relief. The  other  regular  characters  were  Corey's  geeky  friend  Henry  and  love  rival  S  Melvin. Jeannie  generally  wanted  to  help  Corey  with  her  magic  but  suffered  from  Tinkerbell-like  jealousy  and  would  sabotage  any  attempt  to  get  off  with  another  chick.

The  voice  cast  was  notable  for  former  Stooge  ( as  in  The  Three...  not  Iggy  Pop's  compadres )  Joe  Besser  as  Babu  and  a  pre - Star  Wars  Mark  Hammill  as  Corey.

I  can  barely  remember  it  and  a  run  of  just  16  episodes  suggests  no  one  else  rated  it  very  highly.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

180 Mastermind

First  watched  : Uncertain

I've  really  no  idea  when  I  first  caught  this  show  but  September   1974  when  it followed  immediately  after  Top  of  the  Pops  seems  like  a  good  candidate.  The  1974  series was  the  third. I  remember  my  mum  saying  something  like "this  is  really  difficult. I  might  get  one  or  two  in  the  general  knowledge  round".  The  show  starts  by  quizzing  the  four  contestants  on  a  specialist  subject  then  brings  them  back  for  a  general  knowledge  round. The  most  famous  winner,  in  1980,  was  London  cabbie  Fred  Housego  who  had  a  brief   career  as  a  TV  personality  on  the  back  of  it.

The  show's  still  on  today   with  pretty  much  the  same  format  and  a  good  fit  for  the  late  Magnus  Magnusson  in  John  Humphreys  but  that  does  disguise  some  wobbles. It  was  cancelled  as  a  BBC 1  show   in  1997   fter  a  big  slump  in  viewing  figures   but  resurrected  on  Radio  Four  the  following  year  with  Peter  Snow  as  the  question  master.  That  lasted  three  years  before  Clive  Anderson  had  a  go  on  a  satellite  channel. After  a  year's  hiatus  it  resumed  on  BBC 2  with  Humphreys.

When  I  first  saw  it  I  could  perhaps  answer  a  handful  of  the  general  knowledge  questions  while  the  first  half  of  the  programme  was  nigh  on  incomprehensible. The  specialist  subjects  chosen  were  often  ridiculously  esoteric. I  still  watch  it  occasionally  though  never  by  appointment  and  the  general  knowledge  round  seems  pretty  easy  for  an  ex-pub  quizzer  like  me. It's  more  of  a  challenge  to  take  on  the  contestants  on  their  own  subjects  and  out-score  them  which  is   getting  easier  now  that  they  often  come  from  popular  rather  than  high  brow  culture. Inevitably  the  show  has  been  accused  of  "dumbing  down"  and  I  think  there's  something  in  that. Certainly  it's  now  much  less  difficult   than  University  Challenge  whereas I'd  say   they  were  once  on  a  par.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

179 Mission Impossible

First  watched  : 1974

By  the  time  I  first  caught  it  in  the  autumn  of  1974  this  spy  series  had  been  cancelled  in  the  US  after  a  five  year  run  and  what  we  were  seeing  on  a  Tuesday  evening  was  the  seventh  and  final  season.

The series  followed  the  exploits  of  a  shadowy  group  of  good  guys the  Impossible  Missions  Force  who  would  take  on  assignments  to  bring  down  some  bad  guy  whether  in  politics  or  crime  by  some  form  of  covert  mission. The  team  was  run  by  Jim  Phelps  ( Peter  Graves ) from  Series  Two  after  the  original  leader  was  written  out  because  the  producers  could  not  accommodate  the  actor's  religious  commitments. His  regular  assistants  - who  pre-dated  him  in  the  series  - were  saturnine  muscle  man  Willie  ( Peter  Lupus  )  and  electronics  expert  Barny  played  by  Greg  Morris, later  the  police  chief  in  Vegas. The  female  member  of  the  team  had  changed  throughout  the  series; in  the  final  season  it  was  Lisa  played  by  Linda  Day  George.

It  famously  started  with  a  self-destructing  tape  outlining  the  mission  and  I  always  enjoyed  watching  that  but  thereafter  got  a  bit  lost. The  show  featured  little  violence  hence  its  early  timeslot  ; the  interest  came  from  watching  the  scheme  unwind  and  for  a  nine  year  old  it  was  difficult  to  follow.

Graves  returned  for  the  late  eighties  re-boot  of  the  series  which  I'm  not  sure  was  broadcast  here. Of  course  since  then  it's  become  a  successful  film  franchise  despite  little  connection  to  the  original  series. Phelps  was  in  the  first  film  but  became  a  villain  and  was   killed  off  severing  the  only  real  reference  to  the  series.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

178 Star Trek Animated Series

First  watched : 31  August  1974

The  cartoon  version of  Star  Trek  arrived  on  a  Saturday  teatime  while  the  live  action  repeats  were  still  being  broadcast  on  a  Wednesday. Fan  pressure  was  not  enough  to  revive  the  show  as  a  live  action  proposition  but  Filmation  secured  the  rights  to  do  an  animated  series  which  would  carry  on  where  the  series  left  off.

It  immediately  disappointed  me  by  replacing  Chekov  with  a  stupid-looking  alien. Most  of the  original  cast  were  back  to  do  the  voices  and  Leonard  Nimoy  had  insisted that  George  Takei ( Sulu ) and  Michelle Nicholls  (Uhura)  be  included  in  that  but  somehow  Walter  Koenig  had  to  be  content  with  just  writing  an  episode.

Animation  in  theory  should  have  led  to  better  depiction  of  alien  beings  and  worlds  but  in  reality  budget  constraints  neutralised  that  advantage. Shots  were  re-used, mistakes  were  evident  and  the  characters'  blank  expressions  soon  induced  boredom. For  Filmation  it  was  actually  a  success, being  their  only  cartoon  series  to  be  re-commissioned  and  winning  an  Emmy  for  one  episode.

This  series  was  my  point  of  departure  from  the  Star  Trek  universe. I've  not  seen  any  of  the  films  or  watched  more  than  the  odd  snatch  of  the  post-Kirk  series.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

177 Stump The Scientist

First  watched  : Summer  1974

More  brain-box  fodder  as  the  Beeb  came  up  with  a  thinly-disguised  rival  to  How  on  the  other  channel  featuring  the  seventies'  version   ( albeit  less  telegenic )  of  Brian  Cox,  James  Burke. The  Beeb's  go-to  presenter  for  anything  scientific  hosted  the  show  where  clever  children  posed  tough-ish  questions  to  a  panel  of  three  eggheads  ( from  a pool  of  eight ). Alas  the  series  proved  a  little  too  cerebral  for  its  Monday  teatime  slot  and  wasn't  on  long  enough  to  turn  the  academics  into  celebs. Only  eight  episodes  were  broadcast  between  July  and  September  1974  and  never  repeated.

There's  a  nice  little  piece  recalling  the  series  here.

176 International Circus Showtime

First  watched : 12  July  1974

On  26th  January  1974  I  went  with  my  gran  on  a  trip  to  see  the  circus  at  Belle  Vue, arranged  by  the  school. It  is  still  my  only  visit  to  a  circus. It  came  from  Denmark. The  lady  on  the  front  of  the  souvenir  programme  ( not  mine  unfortunately ) is  Annette  Jensen  ( aka  "Nelly  Jane"  who  died  in  2009  aged  74 ) . We  enjoyed  it  although  my   recollections  of  the  trapeze  acts, clowns  and  most  of  the  animals  are  meagre . The  one  act  I  really  did  enjoy  was  Helmbrecht  Hoppe  and  his  Unrideable  Mule   which  offered   members  of  the  audience   a  chance  at  being  a  circus  star  if  they  could  stay  on  the  animal. Some  young  men  ( no  one from  our  party )  tried  and  failed  then  a  soberly -dressed,  middle-aged  man  got  up  to  the  loud  protestations  of  his  wife  who  was  trying  to  drag  him  back  into  his  seat. The  argument  continued  into  the  ring  and  the  mule  ended  up  chasing  her  around. I  realise  now,  and  probably  had  an  inkling  at  the  time,  that  they  were  part  of  the  act  but  it  was  well  done  and  absolutely  hilarious.

We  must  have  told  my  mum  about  it  because  six  months  later  she  called  me  out  of  bed  to  watch  the  same   thing  on  BBC  One  on  a  Friday  evening.  I  didn't  see  myself  on  screen  and  given  the  length  of  the  show's  run  it's  unlikely  to  have  been  filmed  on  the  same  night  we  were  there  but  the  possibility  was  exciting.

NB I  know  there's  a  discrepancy  between  the  title  and  the  programme  cover  but  that's  how  it  appears  on  Genome.  

Friday, 10 July 2015

175 The Goodies

First  watched  : 1974

I  probably  first  watched  this  when  it  followed  Top  of  the  Pops  in   July  1974  ( actually  repeats  of   episodes  first  broadcast  on  BBC2  ). It  quickly  became  one  of  my  favourite  programmes  and  remained  so  for  the  rest  of  the  decade.

The  Goodies  met  at  Cambridge  where  they  were  closely  associated  with  the  Monty  Python  guys. Both  Graeme  Garden  and  Tim  Brooke-Taylor  were  presidents  of  the  Footlights  Club. Tim  looked  set  to  join  the  Python  team  but  didn't  feel he  could  match  the  input  of  the  others  in  writing  material  and  indeed  he  wrote  the  least  for  The  Goodies.  The  trio  had  appeared  together  in  other  shows  including  the  radio  hit  I'm  Sorry  I'll  Read  That  Again   and  Broaden  Your  Mind. The  show  always  suffered  some  criticism  as  a  lowbrow  version  of    Python  but  I  think  most  people  would  admit  to  secretly  preferring  The  Goodies.

There  was  something  of  a  local  connection to  the  show  as  Bill  Oddie  was  born  in  nearby  Rochdale  and   back  in  1980   my  friend  and  I  once  met  an  old  lady  on  a  bus  who  claimed  to  be  his  mum. Lillian  Oddie  was  still  alive  at  this  time  so  I suppose  it  might  have  been  her.

The  great  thing  about  The  Goodies  is that  from  its  premise  of  three  ill-assorted  guys  ( mad scientist, highly-strung  conservative  and  obnoxious  anarchist )  available  to  take  on  any  assignment  it  could  go  pretty  much  anywhere  except  for  nudity  and  bad  language. The  shows  took  in  slapstick, sight  gags, surrealism , character  comedy,  a  liberal  sprinkling  of   pop  cultural  references  and  satire. Any  popular  film  or  TV  show  in  the  seventies    was  likely  to  be  spoofed  by  the  trio.  What  sealed  its  place  in  the  hearts  of  people  of  my  age  was  the  special  extended  episode  The  Goodies  Rule  OK  where  the  gang  have  to  deal  with  a  Britain  under  a  literal  puppet  government i.e  Sooty and  Sweep, Hector , Andy  Pandy  and  so on , all  your  childhood  icons  drawn  into  this  marvellously  silly  scenario.

Some  of  it  was  un-p.c  of  course. It's  difficult  to  imagine  the  episode  spoofing  Roots   , which  featured  a  blacked-up  Enoch  Powell  , getting  the  green  light  now.

The  Goodies  was  also  famous  for  someone  actually  dying  while  laughing  at  the  show.  I   heard  this  at  school  and  for  long   assumed  it  was  an  urban  myth  but  it  is  actually  true. A  guy's  heart  gave  out  while  watching  the  Rochdale-referencing  Kung  Fu  spoof   introducing  the  martial  art  of  "Ecky  Thump"  and  his  widow  did  send  them   a   friendly  telegram  about  it.

That  happened  in  their  annus  mirabilis  year  of  1975  when, in  addition  to  being  in  a  top-rated  comedy  show  they  also  had  five  hit  singles  all  written  by  Bill  , most  memorably  "Funky  Gibbon".

The  Achilles  heel  of  The  Goodies  was  that  it  was  expensive  to  make  and  as  soon  as  the  ratings  slipped  a  bit  it  was  under  pressure.  Between  1977  and  1980  only  6  episodes  were  made. Not  surprisingly  the  guys  went  over  to  ITV  in  1981  but  hit  the  same  brick  wall  as  Simon  Dee , Brucie  and  Mike Yarwood  with  their  show  being  cancelled  in  1982  after  only  six  further  episodes.

The  trio  dispersed  without  acrimony  and  worked  together  again  providing  the  voices  on  the   cartoon  series  Bananaman. After  that  Graeme  seemed  to  remember  he  was  a  doctor  and  presented  the  BBC  series  Bodymatters  in  the  mid-eighties   before  returning  to  comedy  writing. Tim  became  a  comic  actor  in  a  string  of  undistinguished  sitcoms. The  two  maintained  their  involvement  in  the  long-running  radio  comedy  I'm  Sorry  I  Haven't  A  Clue.
Bill  of  course  went  back  to  his  childhood  hobby  of  bird-watching  and  gradually  built  up  a  whole  new  TV  persona  as  a  grouchy  wildlife  presenter,

Bill's  successful  re-branding  was  helped  by  the  BBC's  aversion  to  paying  them  any  repeat  fees  with  extremely  rare  repeats  of  any  of  their  work  until   a  documentary  show  Return  Of  The  Goodies  in  2005. That  year  the  trio  did  a  13 date  tour  of  Australia . A  UK  tour  in  2007  had  Graeme  and  Tim  on  stage  with  contributions  from  Bill  on  video. Though  now  all  in  their  seventies  they  remain  active  in  TV  and  radio,

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

174 Brainchild

First  watched : 5  July  1974

Another  brain-racker   this  one. It  appeared  on  Fridays  over  the   summer  in  1974  ( and  again  the  following  year ) . John  Craven  was  the  host  of  this  quiz  show  where  four  brainy  school  kids  answered  questions  apparently  generated  by  a  computer  called  B.E.R.Y.L.  ( aka  Brainchild  Electronic  Random  Year  and  Letter ) . They  either  got  a  question  based  on  an  event  in  a  particular  year  or  a  word  beginning  with  the  selected  letter.

The  computer  was  completely  fake, just  a  stage  prop,  and  the  programme  only  ran  for  two  short  series  but  it  was  a  clear  antecedent  to  ITV's  long-running  Blockbusters.    

Monday, 6 July 2015

173 How

First  watched : Uncertain

How  was  the  brainchild  of  Jack  Hargreaves,  the  Deputy  Programme  Controller  of  Southern  Television, an  avuncular  character,  already  halfway  through  his  fifties,  with  some  idiosyncratic  ideas  on  what  made  riveting  television.  Accordingly  How  as first  envisaged, was  targeted  at  people  like  himself, middle-aged  bores  coming  home  from  the  pub , to  settle  arguments  or  teach  tricks. After  the  late  night  pilot  in  1966 , Hargreaves  felt  it  was  better  aimed  at  inquisitive  children   and  viewing  figures  soon  proved  him  right.

There  were  occasional  temporary  changes  in  the  line  up  but  for  most  of  the  time  the  quartet  of  presenters  were  eager  Fred  Dineange, dry  scientist  Jon  Miller, jolly  Bunty  James  and  of  course  bearded, pipe-smoking  Jack  himself. They  usually  each  got  one  question  to  answer  per  show  and  there  was  some  jovial  banter  between  them  especially  as  it  was  broadcast  live  with  frequent  mistakes  and  mishaps. As  with  all  magazine  shows  you  were  lucky  if  you  were  interested  in  every  item; in  fact  with  this  show  I  felt  lucky  if  I  was  interested  in  one although  compared  to  Jack's  other  contemporary  offering  ,Out  of  Town  , a  weekly  tour  of  his  garden  shed , it  was  always  enthralling.

The  series  came  to  a  halt  in  1981  when  Southern  lost its  franchise  to  TVS. They  waited  nine  years  before  reviving  it  as  How  2  in  1990. Dineange  had  graduated  to  senior  presenter  and  stayed  with  the  revived  show  until   its  end  in  2006.

Jack  went  over  to  Channel  4  and  presented  a  show  called  Old  Country  until  1985. He  retired  to  Dorset  and  died  in  1994. Miller  was  60  when  the show  ended; he  did  not  appear  on  TV again  and  spent  his  retirement  in  Cornwall  writing  erudite  letters  to  newspapers  and  magazines. He  died  in  2008 . James  left  the  show  in  1977  and  vanished  into  obscurity  apart  from  a  brief  reappearance  as  herself   in  the  nostalgic TV film  The  Happening  in  1991. She  is  now  in  her  eighties  and  thought  to  be  living  in  Scotland.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

172 Whodunnit ?

First  watched : 1974

Wow,  this  is  another  that  I'd  forgotten . This  replaced  Opportunity  Knocks   on  a  Monday  evening  for  the  summer  in  1974. There  had  been  a  previous  series  hosted  by  Edward  Woodward  but  I  don't  think  I  saw  any  of  that. The  draw  for  this  was  Jon  Pertwee  taking  the  games  master  role  - he  was  on  the  cover  of  TV  Times - just  after  his  last  outing  as  Dr  Who  ( the  dire  Planet  of  the  Spiders )  had  been  broadcast.

Whodunnit  was  loosely  based  - though  this  was  never  acknowledged- on  Cluedo. Jon  would  introduce  a  little  playlet  with  a  murder  at  its  heart  and  then  ask  two  panels, a  celebrity  one  and  one  derived  from  the  audience  to  identify  the  murderer  and  justify  the  decision. The  celebrity  panel  always  included  the  none-more-seventies  duo  of  Patrick  Mower  and  Anouska  Hempel  and  two  guests. Following  the  play  the  celebs  could  question  the  actors  and  request short  scenes  again   with  the  guarantee  that  only  the  murderer  could  lie  to  them. The  audience  panel  only  got  a  short  slot  to  announce  their  decision  and  seemed  a  bit  tokenistic. And  of  course  you  could  play  along  at  home.

I  seem  to  remember  it  was  OK  but  I'm  surprised  to  read  it  ran  until  1978. I  suspect  that  we  got  a  bit  bored  of  it  as  Tom  Baker  started  erasing  memories  of  Pertwee's   Who  stint  and  drifted  away.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

171 New Faces

First  watched  : 1974

In  1973  Opportunity  Knocks  got  a  brash  new  rival  talent  show, again  on  ITV. Although  New  Faces  fished  from  the  same  pool  of  club  acts  and  deluded  freaks  the  crucial  difference  was  that  the  act  had  to  please a  panel  of  show  business  experts  to  progress  rather  than  the  less  discerning  TV  audience. Not  surprisingly  New  Faces  was  much  better  at  producing  durable  winners, some  of  whom  are  still  high  profile  entertainers  today.

The  panel  of  four  was  drawn  from  a  rotating  cast  of  luminaries. The  most  notable  were  creaky  old  musical  hall  comedian  Arthur  Askey  and  record  producers  Mickie Most  and  the  man  above , Tony  Hatch. They  had  to  give  up  to  ten  points  each  in  the  categories  of  "Presentation" "Content"  and  "Star  Quality" . Hatch  quickly  became  the  show's  star  with  his  plain-speaking  brutality, once  despatching  a  useless  guitarist  with  a  treble  zero  score. Sometimes  he  had  to  be  smuggled  out  of  the  studio  afterwards. Most  was  pretty  waspish  himself  but  managed  a  veneer  of  politeness. It  did  give  rise  to  the  suspicion  that  poor  acts  were  deliberately  being  chosen  by  the  producers  to  be  publicly  eviscerated.

The  first  winners  I  remember  were  Manc  impressionist  Aiden  J  Harvey  because  he  was  living  in  Littleborough  at  the  time,  although  I  don't  remember  ever  bumping  into  him ,  and  young  soul  band  Sweet  Sensation  who  got  to  number  one  with  Sad  Sweet  Dreamer.  Later  came  Our  Kid  , the  youngest  of  whom  was  born  in  the  same  year  as  me  and  who  nearly  pulled  off  the  same  trick. Then  of  course  there  were  the  young  gun  comedians  and  political  soulmates  Lenny  Henry  and  Jim  Davidson.

The  series  ended  in  April  1978   but  was  revived  in  the  late  eighties  with  former  winner  Marti  Caine  presenting  ( in  place  of  Derek  Hobson  whose  career  went  straight  down  the  tube  when  the  series  finished )  and  gobby  TV  critic  Nina  Myskow  trying  to  fill  Hatch's  boots. It  lasted  three  series  and  has  the  dubious  distinction  of  foisting  Joe  Pasquale  on  us.

In  recent  years  there's  been  a  lot  of  fatuous  comparisons  with  the  likes  of  The  X  Factor   usually  omitting  the  crucial  distinction  that  Hatch  and  Most  were  talented  people  in  their  own  right  ( particularly  the  former )  with  real  creative  input  into  the  records  they  made  not    just  self-satisfied  business  people  piggybacking  on  the  talents  of  others.