Sunday, 31 January 2016
First viewed : January 1978
This Saturday morning kids TV show had been running in some ITV regions, including its creator, ATV, since 1974 but Granada and others were a bit sniffy about it and didn't buy in until the fourth series.
The regular presenters for this were blonde London disc jockey Chris Tarrant who'd been with the show from the start and acquired more clout with each year it ran and actress Sally James who'd presented another Saturday morning show in the London area. Tiswas ( Today Is Saturday, Watch And Smile ) presented a direct challenge to Multi-Coloured Swap Shop on the other channel , occupying more or less the time slot and presenting a more anarchic , less patrician view of what children wanted to watch with all the flan-flinging and slapstick. For the older boys it had another extra ingredient; instead of the fairly sexless Maggie Philbin you had Sally in a variety of low-cut tops designed to give you a better view of her impressive cleavage.
You could make a rough swots and scruffs distinction between the kids who liked Swap Shop and those who favoured Tiswas . Though I would soon eschew staying in on Saturday mornings , I leaned towards the latter because it had a higher pop content. The regular dousings and peltings of both presenters and guests I could take or leave ; it got a bit tiresome after a while.
Other presenters such as Lenny Henry, John Gorman and Bob Carolgees joined the team but these all joined Tarrant in quitting the team to do adult version O.T.T. in 1981 leaving Sally to soldier on with a distinctly Second Division team of Midlands DJ Gordon Astley who I can't even picture , former Darts loon Den Hegarty and impressionist Fogwell Flax. Tiswas always had its foes among the suits and a combination of Sally throwing in the towel and slipping ratings brought the show to an end in 1982.
There was a Tiswas Reunited show in 2007 but no serious attempt to revive it. The show was Sally James's last as a presenter. She was a reliable guest on things like Blankety Blank Punchlines and Countdown until the early eighties when she dropped off screen to concentrate on her business selling school uniforms. She's had a stint on BBC local radio and since the turn of the millennium has been a regular talking head on nostalgia shows.