Wednesday, 30 March 2016

366 That's Life

First  viewed :  Winter  1979

This  isn't  the  coolest  programme  to   admit  that  you  watched  but  one  has  to  be  honest. This  was  one  of  a  number  of  programmes  around  this  time  that  I  started  watching  on  the  recommendation  of  my  best  friend   Stephen.

The  series  began  in  controversial  circumstances. There  was  a  popular  consumer  show  called  Braden's  Week   which  ran  from  1968  until  1972  when  the  host  Bernard  Braden  was  sacked  by  the  BBC  for  the  heinous  crime  of  appearing  in  a  margarine  commercial.  The  show  was  effectively  resurrected  by  producer  Desmond  Willcox  with  his  mistress  Esther  Rantzen  promoted  to be  main  presenter. It's  always  worth  remembering  that  this  champion  of  child  protection  is  a  home-wrecker  who  stole  a  father-of-three  away  from  his  wife.

With  her  voluminous  dresses, big  teeth  and  ingratiating  manner,  Rantzen  was  the  ultimate  Marmite  presenter, something  you  just  had  to  get  past  to  enjoy  the  rest  of  the  show . When  I  started  watching  her  co-presenters  were  the  likable   bloke-y  duo  of   Paul  Heiney  and  Chris  Serle   who  played  the  jobsworths  being  exposed  by  the  show   and  Cyril  Fletcher. I  can't  improve  on  Griff  Rhys-Jones'  description  of  Fletcher, from  a  wicked  Not  The  Nine  O Clock  News  parody  , as  a  "camp  old  twat".  His  job  was  to  sit  in  a  chair, read  out some  humorous  misprints  sent  in  by  viewers  then  round  off  his  slot  with  a  rotten  pun.

Added  to  that  of  course  you  had  the  phallic  vegetables,  comic  songs  by  the  likes  of  Richard  Stilgo  and  those  awful  street  interviews  with  old  dears  who  didn't  realise  they  were being  patronised  and   then   served  up  to  the  nation  as  idiots.

Heiney , Serle  and  Fletcher  got  out  while  the  going  was  good  in  1981. Fletcher's   spot  was  taken  by  smutty  songwriter  Doc "Ivor  Biggun"  Cox  while  the  boys  were  replaced  by  a  trio  including  Angels  actress  Joanna  Monro . It  wasn't  the  same  and  I  think  I'd  stopped  watching  it  by  the  time  I  went  to  university,  certainly  by  the  time   of the  Ben  Hardwick   feature.

Public  tastes  change  and  the  show  was  finally  axed  in  1994. Rantzen  of  course  has  stuck  around  and  had  other  TV  vehicles  but  has  never  been  as  prominent  since.

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