Monday, 5 June 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
I'm sure I must have caught some of the earlier iterations of this show that went out, usually on a Saturday night, in 1982-84 following the success of his encounter with Larry Hagman. However what I'm really talking about here is the thrice-weekly show that went out at 7pm from February 1985 when Michael Grade re-vamped the schedules.
Wogan lasted half an hour and was unashamedly a plug show. Everyone on it was selling something. It normally got through three guests, interviewed separately, with a musical break though these were much reduced and restricted to established acts in later years. I remember my mum being enthused by an appearance by The Flaming Mussolinis early on.
This was Terry Wogan at the height of his fame but crucially not at his best. As the Victoria Principal interview referred to a few posts back proved, he could not be as irreverent as he was on radio. All guests had to be accorded a certain amount of deference and the strain showed. At the time I thought the squirming in the chair was part of his act along with the regrettable mugging and sideways glances at the camera but after a thoughtful interview he gave to Smash Hits I realised that he was genuinely uncomfortable with representing the Establishment.
He had some breaks with guest presenters coming in like Derek Jameson and Sue Lawley who disgraced herself by allowing the audience to mock Vivienne Westwood. Bruce Forsyth took that opportunity to re-launch himself as an all-round entertainer after years of crappy game shows and a dire sitcom on ITV.
As the decade turned , the totemic eighties shows - and this was undoubtedly one of them - started shedding viewers. I didn't see the infamous George Best interview in 1990 (and still haven't seen the whole version which apparently contained some very libellous remarks about Tommy Docherty ) but it certainly didn't do the programme any favours.
There was though one huge spike in the declining viewing figures , in 1991 when David Icke called in. Icke had quit his successful TV presenting career in order to become a spokesperson for the Green Party and was at the helm when they achieved 15% of the vote in the 1989 European elections. He left that position a year or so later and we soon found out why. Early in 1991 he called perhaps the most bizarre press conference of all time in order to announce the probable end of the world, his own qualification to be the chosen prophet as a son of God and the special properties of the colour turquoise. The general verdict was that he had suffered a serious mental breakdown and gone insane.
His appearance on the show promised to be a real car crash, particularly after the Westwood experience and certainly the studio audience were ready to turn it into a bearpit. To his credit, Icke was extremely calm and made his arguments very cogently. Terry wasn't rude to him and occasionally tried to pick at the low hanging fruit in Icke's rhetoric with polite scepticism but mainly he just listened with increasingly visible discomfort. He entirely missed the largest chink in Icke's armour, that "the Godhead" had told him to move a younger woman into his home alongside his wife, but perhaps that wasn't a suitable line of inquiry that early in the evening.
It wasn't long after that that Terry told the Beeb he thought the show had had its day and he wanted to quit. He was persuaded to stick it out another year before the show finally made way for ill-fated soap El Dorado . Terry was moved to a Friday night show, more focused on comedy with Frank Skinner as a sidekick, but it failed to pull enough punters away from The Word and didn't last. Terry retreated back to radio and we soon fell in love with him again.