Tuesday, 20 December 2016

565 The Late , Late Breakfast Show

First  viewed  :  4  September  1982

BBC  One  launched  its  autumn  season  with  a  new  vehicle  for  Noel  Edmunds, moving  into  adult  TV  with  a  prime  time  light  entertainment  show.  It  was  produced  by  Michael  Hurll  who  also  did  Top  of  the  Pops  and  had  a  live  musical  act  each  week  although  it  was  always  a  safe  choice.

It  was  a  strange,  hybrid  show  which  had  both  derivative  and  innovative  elements. The  Golden  Egg  Awards  for  amusing  recent  bloomers  was  clearly  trying  to  steal  them  from  under  Dennis  Nordern's  nose  and  The  Hit  Squad's  practical  joke  set-up  was  a  lame  attempt  to  compete  with  Game  For  A  Laugh  on  the  other  channel. On  the  other  hand  it  was  well  ahead  of  the  curve  in  featuring  funny  video  clips  sent  in  by  viewers, launching  the  entire  premise  of  You've  Been  Framed.

The   other   main  feature  of  the  show   - and  the  one  that  would  eventually  sink  it  - was  Give  It  A  Whirl  where  a  member  of  the  audience  would  be  assigned  some  challenge  via  a  fairground  roulette  wheel.  The  options  ranged  from  dangerous  stunts  to  Generation  Game - style  tasks.  How  they  got  on  would  then  feature  on  the  following  week's  programme. It  was  clearly  rigged; when  a  dear  old  lady  stepped  forward  you  knew  she  wasn't  going  to  be  fired  out  of  a  cannon. Lo  and  behold,  the  needle  dropped  on  "Make  A  Pop  Record". The  resultant  abortion,  "Have  A  Cup  of  Tea"  recorded  with  Chas  and  Dave  was  so  bad  I  don't  think  they  even  bothered  releasing  it.

The  show  had  teething  problems  and  ratings  for  the  first  series  were  poor. Co-host  comedian   Leni  Harper  was  bumped  after  half  a  dozen  episodes. Then  there  was  Peel. Hurll  had  made  major  changes  to  Top  of  the  Pops  aiming  for  a  continuous  party  vibe  then  bafflingly , at  the  start  of  1982 , persuaded  Radio  One's  most  esoteric  DJ  John  Peel,  who'd   evaded  the  programme  for  over  a  decade , to  resume  a  regular  presenting  slot. Peel's  incongruous, self-deprecating  presence  was  an  immediate  hit  so  Hurll  signed  him  up  for  this  as  well.

On  the  first  show,  he  was  in  the  studio  and  gave  a  little  monologue  that   would  have  been  fine  for  a  late  night  changeover  on  R1  with  David  "Kid"  Jensen  but  was  embarrassingly  unsuitable  for  a  6pm  Saturday  evening  TV  slot.  From  the  embarrassed  titters  that  greeted  his  mention  of  going  to  see  a  band  called  Christians  In  Search  of  Filth  during  the  week,  it  was  clear  the  studio  audience  had  no  idea  what  to  make  of  him. It  was  so  badly  pitched , you  wondered  how  his  usually  sound  judgement  could  have  gone  so  awry.

After  that   Peel  was  switched  to  being  the  outside  broadcaster  for  the  stunts  that  couldn't  be  accommodated  in  the  studio. In  September  1983  he  narrowly  avoided  being  maimed  or  killed  by  flying  metal  when  a  car  turned  over  at  speed  and  he  never  appeared  again. According  to  Edmunds  they  never  spoke  after  that.

Perhaps  some  of  Peel's  chagrin  was  down  to  the  choice  of  replacement. Mike  Smith  was  at  the  absolute  opposite  end  of   the  DJ  spectrum  to  Peel, an  ambitious  self-publicist  with  no  interest  in  music  whatsoever. His  willingness  to  be  the  butt  of  Edmunds's  jokes,  whilst  stood  in  the  rain  until  his  own  big  gig  came  along,  became  a  distinctive  feature  of  the  show.

As  to  the  musical  content  it  did   manage  to  lay down   a  couple  of   marks  in  musical  history. The  first  series  climaxed  with  what,  until  earlier  this  year,  was  the  last  public  appearance  by  Abba. It  was  preceded  by  an  exquisitely  awkward  interview  with  the  band,  with  poor  Edmunds   visibly  struggling  with  the  Scandinavian  winter's  chill  they'd  brought  over  with  them.

 By  the  second  season  the  ratings  had  improved  and  artists  appearing  on  the  show  could  expect  to  see  a  sales  boost  in  the  charts  the  following  week. This  gave  Edmunds  another  awkward  interview  to  manage. Paul  McCartney and  Michael  Jackson  had  made  another  single  together  , "Say  Say  Say "  and  then  lazily  decided  not  to  make  a  video  for  it ;  after  all,  Queen  and  David  Bowie   hadn't  bothered  for  Under  Pressure   two  years  earlier. That  however  was  a  decent  song. "Say  Say  Say "  sounded  like  an  outtake  from  Off  The  Wall  and  an  outtake  from  Back  To  The  Egg   had  been  bolted  together  by  a  welder.  After  two  weeks  in  the  charts,  the  public  correctly  divined  that  this  Event  Single  was  actually  mediocre  rubbish  and  it  started  to  drop  from  its  number  10  peak.

A  dismayed  Macca  quickly  got  off  his  arse  and  on  to  a  plane  to  California  to  shoot  a  video  with  Jacko.  He  then  presented  it  to  Top  Of  The  Pops   but  the  programme   had  a  longstanding  rule  that  they  didn't  feature  songs  that  were  going  down  the  charts  and  Hurll  commendably  stood  his  ground  against  McCartney's  special  pleading. He  offered  McCartney  a  slot  for  the  video  on  this  show  provided  that  he  came  in  for  an  interview, his  first  for  the  BBC  in  a  decade.  

With  ill  grace  McCartney  accepted   the  offer,  much  to  the  displeasure  of  Olivia  Newton-John  who  hadn't  expected  to  be  playing  second  fiddle  to  anyone  on  her  appearance.  Macca  brought  along  Linda  to  eat  up  some  of  the  time. I  thought  Edmunds  handled  it  well. He  knew  neither  of  them  wanted  to  be  there  and  that  he  wasn't  going  to  get  any  great  revelation  out  of  the  former  Beatle  but  he  stayed  in  control  and  didn't  give  him  too  many  opportunities  for  monosyllabic  answers. The  single  duly  climbed  back  up  to  number  2  so  Macca  got  the  pay-off  he  wanted  but  there  was  no  mistaking  that  he'd  been  brought  down  a  peg.  It  was   a  considerable  coup  for  Hurll  who'd  faced  off  against  a  megastar  and  got  him  to  dance  to  his  tune.

Perhaps  Macca  and  Peelie  derived  a  modicum  of  pleasure  from   the  show's  grim  demise. Despite  the  latter's  near  escape, the  show  had  continued  with  the  daring  stunts  and   just  over  30  years  ago  sent  hod  carrier  Michael  Lush  to  his  death  in  a  shoddily  prepared  bungee  jump  stunt.  They  were  prosecuted  by  the  Health  and  Safety  Executive  in  a  landmark  case  and  made  a  big  pay  out  to  Lush's  family.  Edmunds  declared  he  couldn't  carry  on  immediately  after  the  accident  and  so  the  show  terminated  in  the  most  abrupt  fashion  in  November  1986.

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