Saturday, 25 April 2015
First watched : September 1973
I think it was on Not The Nine O Clock News that someone made a reference to this programme as "that boring crap that you only watch because it's on before Top of the Pops" and I remember thinking "got it in one !" With one exception to come in the eighties I don't recall viewing anything with more irritation and longing for the credits to run. You could probably count the number of full editions - as opposed to the last five minutes - I watched on one hand. I loathed the arrival of Eastenders and the consequent shoehorning of Top of the Pops but at least it meant I'd never have to watch this again and I didn't.
Nevertheless its longevity deserves some respect. Born in the mid-sixties with crusty old Raymond Baxter at the helm, it rode the wave of interest in Wilson's "white heat of technology" and managed to sustain itself long after that bubble of optimism in technological benefit had been pricked by regularly re-vamping itself with new presenters and titles. The demonstrations of dodgy new gadgets provided some amusing moments amid the drab explanations. As with Dragon's Den ( which owes something to Tomorrow's World ) ventures , many of the inventions were never heard of again or failed spectacularly; the Videodisc immediately springs to mind.
It was finally pulled in 2003 although as ever there is talk of reviving it.
Friday, 24 April 2015
First watched : September 1973
Come September 1973 and this ratings-winner returned to the Saturday night schedule for its third series. The Generation Game was the Beeb's first big game show having noted ITV's success with low-budget but extremely popular fare such as The Golden Shot. Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton picked 43 year old variety artist Bruce Forsyth and immediately struck gold. For all his success in other shows, the public's love for old Brucie ultimately derives from his stint on this in the same way that Paul Weller's fanbase rests on his time with The Jam. All the catchphrases - "Cuddly toy !" "Didn't he do well ?" "Give us a twirl" etc are part of our national culture.
The Generation concept worked on three levels. The contestants were four couples. The individuals in the pairs were related to each other but a generation apart and much of the fun derived from the older person's ineptitude at skills they needed to master in about five minutes. Secondly it was a genuine family show that kids could enjoy for the uncontrived slapstick while their parents enjoyed Bruce's sharp wit. And thirdly, it was soon noted for its host's interest in inter-generational sex as he copped off with, and later married, blonde eye candy Anthea Redfern who was twenty years his junior. I recall my mum tutting disapprovingly about all that.
My time with the show effectively ended in 1978 when Brucie accepted the filthy lucre and went over to ITV for his ill-fated Big Night venture. Though we didn't follow him over there ( neither did Redfern and they soon divorced ) we didn't stay with Generation Game either. My mum was what would now be described as homophobic and Larry Grayson was anathema to her. Nevertheless Grayson and his relatively cerebral co-host Isla St Clair actually got the show's highest ratings although helped by an ITV strike.
By the turn of the decade the show's grip had started to loosen as ITV found a big Saurday night ratings winner in Game For A Laugh. Grayson , four years older than Forsyth decided it was time to retire in 1982 and after Jimmy Tarbuck declined to take over , it was decided to rest the show. It returned in 1990 with its original host for four years before Jim Davidson took over. His stint lasted until 2002. Since then it has only been revived for one-off specials with celebrity contestants but there are still rumours of yet another comeback.
Thursday, 23 April 2015
First watched : 1973
A programme that was never as interesting or clever as its smartarse producer Patrick Dowling intended when he came up with the concept in 1972. A TV show that told you not to watch it ! ; that'll answer all those fuddy-duddies who say we're turning kids into couch potatoes ! And of course we can fill a gap in the holiday schedules with something dirt cheap that doesn't require any professional scriptwriters, presenters etc.
"Something Less Boring " usually consisted of some crafty task or magic trick that a viewer wrote in to suggest the resident gang of kids might like to do. Generally it would engage your typical kid for less time than the programme's 15 minute running time.
Despite an obvious overlap in content with shows such as Blue Peter and later, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop , Why Don't You ... ( its usual abbreviation ) lasted a staggering 42 series before its termination 20 years ago. I guess the low budget always won the argument. It has some cachet from once being produced by modern day Dr Who guru Russell Davies and among its young presenters was one Anthony McPartlin without that other guy glued to his arse.
Wednesday, 15 April 2015
First watched : Summer 1973
I don't think I saw much of this; I seem to recall tuning in to see if it was like The Tomorrow People when it could hardly have been further removed from sci-fi camp. The Kids From 47A introduced me to the concept of "latch key kids" who didn't have any parents to open the door when they came home from school. The show has basically the same premise as the sixties film Our Mother's House with the youngsters trying to stay together after widowed mum goes to hospital. By the start of the second series she's died. Oldest sister Jess who's just started work has to balance her career aspirations with looking after her younger siblings. The series mixed socially realistic situations with broad comedy and I wouldn't mind betting Shameless creator Paul Abbott caught the odd episode,
Despite the writing team including future TV gods, Phil Redmond and Lynda La Plante, the show , which ran from 1973 to 1975 , seems little celebrated today.
Monday, 13 April 2015
Sunday, 12 April 2015
First watched : 30 June 1973
Repeats of Dad's Army replaced Clunk Click in the Saturday schedule. It's enduring appeal is proven by its continued presence on a Saturday evening albeit on BBC2. No other comedy has survived that long on prime time.
Although some of the humour and material such as the class conflict between Mainwaring and Wilson and the latter's liaison with Pike's mother went over my eight year old head there was enough slapstick to entertain me until I got old enough to appreciate the subtler stuff. My mum and gran were a bit ambivalent about it as my grand-dad had been in the Home Guard and they didn't enjoy seeing it mocked that much.
It wasn't long before watching this run taught me an important life lesson. Just days after my first watching it Don Powell of Slade ( bear with me ) was involved in a bad car smash and his life hung in the balance but he came round and, though left with permanent memory problems, was soon back on Top of the Pops. It seemed a miraculous triumph of medical science. But just a fortnight after Powell's crash the actor Jack Hawkins died after an operation to insert an artificial voicebox. His name meant nothing to me but I recall Mum and Gran's harsh moralising that it was his own fault through smoking too much. Four days before Hawkins died , James Beck who played Private Walker, the resourceful spiv who usually helped Mainwaring out of the soup was taken into hospital after falling ill at a summer fete. A heavy drinker he was suffering from pancreatitis. For three weeks he lingered on as the public watched and then died. It was a profound shock to me after Powell's recovery and the repair to my own eye a couple of years earlier. I knew that people died when they were old or had accidents but that the doctors couldn't fix a celebrity in their prime who had just fallen ill and gone to hospital really hit me.
Beck's death was also a shock because at 44 he was so young compared to the rest of the cast ( excluding Pike of course ). It was always likely that one of the cast would expire during the series's run - Beck had been known to tease Arnold Ridley about it - but nobody expected it to be him. He was in fact the only member of the cast to die during the series's run although Edward Sinclair the bumptious verger died shortly after the last episode was recorded which reinforced the decision to bring it to a close.
That was in 1977. Beck was initially replaced by a Welsh character , Private Cheeseman played by Talfryn Thomas but after one series he was bumped apparently for garnering too many laughs for the liking of certain stalwarts. Ian Lavender - along with Frank Williams ( the Vicar ) the only survivor - says something was lost when Beck died but I recall it keeping up the quality well enough. The episode where they think Fraser is hiding a fortune on his premises is particularly good . The cast just got too old to cope; John Le Mesurier in particular was struggling though he recovered to appear in Brideshead Revisited and other things before his death in 1983.
Saturday, 11 April 2015
First watched : Summer 1973
More sci-fi now . I'd never even heard of The Tomorrow People, even though it was coming towards the end of its first run, when I first saw it next door but I liked what I saw. Four young people aged between 12 and 20 hiding their special powers ( telekinesis, mind reading, teleportation or "jaunting" ) from the world until the time was right for them to peacefully take over the world from the hoi polloi . They had a secret den with a talking computer called TIM and were helped out by some rather rum normal-people-in-the-know. These were known as "saps" - homo sapiens as opposed to our heroes being "homo superiors" , a term producer Roger Damon Price admitted to lifting from Bowie's Oh You Pretty Things .
In the first series there were four of them, a rather prissy prefect type called John ( Nicholas Young ) , a slightly dizzy blonde Carol ( Sammy Winmill ) , impetuous black adolescent Kenny ( Stephen Salmon ) and newcomer Stephen ( Peter Vaughan Clarke ) whose "breaking out" set the first episode in motion. Like Dr Who each series comprised a number of multi-part stories, some of which were set on earth and others on alien planets.
I watched the schedules carefully hoping the series would return. When it did I had the battle royal with my sister recounted in the Blue Peter post but won out. She quickly got over it and developed a crush on Stephen.
Carol and Kenny were gone. Sammy Winmill didn't want to continue and Salmon was unceremoniously dumped ; in a series not known for its great acting he stood out as particularly terrible and was never heard from again. Perhaps to cut costs they were replaced by a single black female Elizabeth ( Elizabeth Adare ) a student teacher who breaks out in the first episode , a device used repeatedly by the producers as a handy way of reiterating the show's premise to new viewers. The sap ally, biker Ginge also disappeared because the actor Michael Standing came off his bike for real and so Ginge's hitherto unmentioned brother Chris, played by Emmerdale's Chris Chitell, was quickly drafted in to take over his lines.
Series 3 introduced a new character , gypsy boy Tyso ( Dean Lawrence) though he - and Stephen - spent most of the first story lying comatose in their underpants . Nice work if you can get it. The cavalier treatment of the young cast was illustrated by Lawrence's treatment at the end of the run. Nobody told him he wasn't required for series 4 so he turned up on the first day to find he had no lines. He was - barely -written into a few scenes but sent most of the series just hanging around in the background. That series introduced Mike Holoway , drummer of Flintlock as Mike , a working class lad from a council estate and that finished it off for me. Holoway was in my sister's teen mags and it just seemed too naff to tie the programme in with the promotion of a new pop band who were in fact, shit.
That was , if you like - my first peep behind the curtain as regards television. I recognised a marketing ploy and knew it to be crap. A coming of age if you will. I don't recall my sister continuing with it either, possibly because Stephen was dumped along with the hapless Tyso at the end of that series.
Regardless of my desertion the series ran until 1978. I rather regret missing Series 7 where Elizabeth had to be temporarily written out due to Adare's pregnancy and she was replaced by a Japanese "actress" who the rest of the cast couldn't understand . It also had a storyline featuring Adolf Hitler. Price had been trying to end the show for the past couple of years to concentrate on his light entertainment vehicles but was thwarted by its continuing popularity. A tussle over studio time , Price's emigration to Canada and the ITV strike of 1979 finally ended the show. While being vaguely aware of the 90s revival which ran from 1992 to 1995 I never checked it out nor the 2013 US version shown on E4.
The appeal of The Tomorrow People to marginalised kids who felt their social exclusion might mean they were special was obvious. It has been suggested however that the whole series is a metaphor for homosexuality i.e breaking out = coming out. I've not found any confirmation that producer and writer Roger Price is gay and I'm normally very suspicious of such claims but I think there's some evidence that supports that view. There is a lot of young male flesh on view throughout; many stories involve barely-clad boys often shot from the crotch upwards while Elizabeth Adare's striking figure isn't exploited at all. Many of the young actors were cast despite very little acting experience and then you have Flintlock. It's very hard to account for Price's championing of these useless Roller clones - they appeared in two other Price productions Pauline's Quirkes and You Must Be Joking at the time - unless it was basically sexual with Mike Holoway the Heinz to Price's Joe Meek. I don't however think that John's irritatingly mincing voice was part of the concept; I think that was Nicholas Young's genuine affliction.
Young and Holoway are the only one's who've maintained a career in performing , the latter largely in musical theatre. The others quit acting early for a variety of new careers, for instance Peter Vaughan-Clarke is now a lighting technician while Elizabeth Adare is a child psychologist in local government.
Thursday, 9 April 2015
First watched : Summer 1973
This was a thrice weekly fixture at 11.35 a.m. Along with Fanny Craddock, host Graham Kerr was part of the first wave of TV chefs. Although Kerr was born in London and served in the British Army for five years his TV career began in New Zealand where he was working for the Air Force. He then moved to Canada where this show was made between 1969 and 1971. The name came from a book Kerr published about an international trek he made to the world's great restaurants with wine expert Len Evans. The show was recorded with a live audience with Kerr enjoying mild banter with and heckling from the audience and the odd glass of wine while he was cooking.
The show ended when he had a serious car accident and then his wife was wrongly diagnosed with lung cancer. Both recovered and Kerr resumed his career with other shows in the US but he's never had as high a profile here since.
For a while Kerr's stage name became synonymous with anyone who tried to put the boat out in their cooking but eventually dropped out of use as we all began taking our food deadly seriously. Bad food is one of the main charges we like to bring against the seventies and Kerr's fat-heavy recipes have joined Wimpy and Berni Inns in the sin-bin. Still he should be recognised as a trailblazer for Harriott, Ramsey and the rest which is actually a more serious charge.
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
First watched : Summer 1973
Another one glimpsed at the house next door one Monday morning that summer.
This series was actually made for cinema in the 1950s and comprised 30 minute dramatisations of notable cases - usually from the thirties - from the files of Scotland Yard with an introduction and narration from celebrated crime writer Edgar Lustgarten. Because of its cinematic origins it had a noir-ish feel that has held up well, making repeat showings on Channel 4 and Bravo and a DVD release feasible.
I only recall seeing one episode, where they had to identify an unknown female corpse found on the London Underground, but I remember we found it quite engrossing.
Tuesday, 7 April 2015
First watched : 1973
I don't think this was ever on in our house but I caught it once or twice next door.
This unfathomably popular game show was based on a German series. Basically contestants had to hit a target with a crossbow bolt by verbally guiding a blindfolded cameraman. That was it basically but the rounds were interspersed by banter from the host and special guests from the fields of music and comedy. First host Alex Rae in 1967 was quickly bumped by the shark-eyed , perma-tanned Bob Monkhouse who made sure he upstaged Rae in his guest appearance.
Monkhouse was absolutely vital to the show. Because half the contestants were playing by telephone it was a live show and utterly shambolic. Monkhouse's sharp wit and fleet-footedness held it together amid the missed cues, prematurely-fired bolts , arithmetically challenged dolly birds and tongue-tied contestants.
Monkhouse was controversially dismissed in 1972 for accepting a gift from Wilkinson Sword who then provided a prize for the show. It was very small beer. The producers then suicidally allowed him to present a last show with his replacement Norman Vaughan watching from the wings and having to endure a series of jibes from Bob egged on by the audience.
Though a successful comedian Vaughan never stood a chance and things got even worse when the utterly crap Yorkshire comedian Charlie Williams replaced him. He was completely at sea; contestants were lucky if he got half their name right. In 1974 the execs swallowed hard and invited Bob back. He agreed but , suspecting that the show may have had its day, he made it a condition that he be allowed to host a new show which became Celebrity Squares. A much sharper operator than he's generally given credit for, Bob's instincts were absolutely right and the show was axed the following year.
Monday, 6 April 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I probably first saw this on a Sunday afternoon in 1973 but can't be certain.
This of course was the series that made Roger Moore a superstar and where he perfected the quizzical raised eyebrow expression beloved of satirists everywhere. The modestly talented actor explained it by saying that his character Simon Templar had no depth whatsoever and consequently he never knew how he was to play the scene.
Besides Roger the series's main ace, once in colour, was the exotic location work, expensive but it paid off in international sales. My first impressions of Europe, as a world of sun, yachts and casinos , came from this and jig-saw pictures.
The common misconception is that the series came to an end when Moore accepted the part of Bond but in fact he'd turned it down twice in the sixties in favour of continuing as Templar. The series actually ran its course until 1969 when Moore and ITC decided to develop an idea from one of the final episodes as a new show The Persauaders.
We'll discuss its successor series in a separate post.
Sunday, 5 April 2015
First watched : 1973
It was round about this time that our neighbour Mrs M became a bit less bothered about us playing indoors so this is the first of a string of programmes - almost invariably on ITV - that were first, if not exclusively, glimpsed next door.
The Addams Family was made between 1964 and 1966 , inspired by the satirical cartoons of Charles Addams in the New Yorker magazine ( whose proprietors were less than enthusiastic about having a popular TV show tied to their upmarket publication ) about a family with a pronounced taste for the Gothic and macabre. All subsequent adaptations are based almost entirely on this series rather than the original cartoons where the family members weren't even named.
The appeal of the series was always the contrast between the horror trappings and the good-natured family comedy underneath. They were all likeable characters with great affection for each other. The enduring appeal of the series can be judged its continuing use as a source for not-always-kind nicknames. Any girl with long straight dark hair is likely to get called Morticia particularly if her clothes are less than colourful while any over-sized but apparently slow-witted guy has a good chance of being likened to the lugubrious butler, Lurch.
The most notable member of the cast was Jackie Coogan as the creepy Uncle Fester who achieved early fame as "The Kid" in Charlie Chaplin's film of the same name and later became the catalyst for legislation protecting the earnings of child stars when he sued his parents for squandering his earnings. John Astin ( Gomez ) was the last member of the original cast to be involved with the franchise voicing his character in the animated series of 1992. Apart from Lisa Loring who played Wednesday he is the only surviving member of the cast at the time of writing.
My only gripe with the series was that the child characters Wednesday and Pugsley ( who was originally to be called Pubert ! ) were not always involved in the storylines.
Saturday, 4 April 2015
First watched : 1973
My mum and gran were always huge Wimbledon fans so it's almost certain that I saw something of earlier tournaments but I'm putting Wimbledon coverage here because the first thing I definitely recall is the teen hysteria surrounding a 17-year old Swede with his flowing blonde locks who made it to the quarter-finals. Bjorn Borg even got a feature in It's Here And Now which was a bit strange considering he hadn't released a record. Perhaps he practised in his bedroom with a guitar. He was put out by Roger Taylor, the last British male to make the semis for nearly 30 years ( though in truth he probably only got there because a lot of the big guns were boycotting Wimbledon that year ).
Borg became my first favourite and I was pleased he went on to win it five times in a row after growing a scruffy beard to scare away the teenyboppers. After he lost to McEnroe in the 1981 Final - a tournament I followed almost entirely through the papers as I was on a long walking holiday in the Lakes for most of that fortnight - he never played there again, a boycott of the 1982 tournament for some reason or other became a complete retirement the following year. He had his ups and downs out of the game with divorce, a suicide attempt, mixed fortunes as a businessman and a bonkers attempt at a comeback in the nineties when he tried to turn back the clock by using his old wooden rackets. He later joined the Champions tour and seemed more content although in 2006 he put his trophies up for auction until John McEnroe and other champs talked him out of it.
Mum and Gran didn't mind Borg but they had their pet hates. Mum's was Billie Jean King whose career choice to have an abortion made her absolutely beyond the pale and Chris Evert became a huge favourite, despite her crushingly boring playing style, just because she could beat King. Gran's target was Jimmy Connors whose brash , pugilistic manner and graceless demeanour on court lowered the tone at SW19. Arthur Ashe's famous triumph against him in 1975 was hugely applauded.
The first tournament where I recall several events was unsurprisingly 1977 with Virginia Wade's triumph in Jubilee year. Sue Barker reached her career high as a losing semi-finalist and the obscure British player John Lloyd secured a victory he still dines out on against the cannonball-serving Roscoe Tanner in an earlier round. That brings me to a perennial bugbear about the coverage; the assumption that we're more interested in how mediocre British journeymen are doing than anything else and automatically want them to beat the great players when they come up against them. This was at its worst in 1993 when some guy called Andrew Foster had a competitive third set against Pete Sampras and the commentators went along with the crowd's ugly delusion that he could turn the match around. Fortunately the mikes didn't pick up Sampras's "Hasta la vista motherfuckers" to the crowd when he came through the tiebreak. on his way to the first of seven titles.
For the women it was even worse, a situation accurately summed up by a Spitting Image sketch which ran "Passer-by bt Jo Durie, Parking cone beat Anne Hobbs" and so on. Pity poor Laura Robson trying to overturn nearly 40 years of non-achievement in the women's game.
1977 also saw the emergence of the young John McEnroe the teenage qualifier who fought his way to the semi-final against Connors. I feared that might be his one shot at glory but of course he went on to three titles , gaining his revenge on Connors with an utter annihilation in the 1984 final, and oodles of controversy for his on-court tantrums. He introduced a new insult to the UK when he called an umpire "the pits of the world" in 1981. Like his friend Borg, McEnroe faded rather early , distracted by family life but is now the star of the BBC commentary team.
That is actually much improved from my early days with toffs like the crusty Dan Maskell "Oh that angle didn't exist" and the tedious Anne Jones a former champion who looked like the back end of a bus, Unfortunately we still have to put up with "Our Ginny" whose talent for stating the obvious is only leavened by her curious habit of putting the emphasis on THE wrong word. The best in those days was probably Gerald Williams. I remember being shocked in the early eighties when he came out from behind the mike to co-present the highlights programme with Des Lynam : never has the phrase "a face for radio" seemed more apt. He broke up the partnership when he moved over to Sky and since then we've had to put up with the slouching slug John Inverdale whose high reputation baffles me. I've hated him since his boring Drivetime show replaced the excellent Five-A-Side in 1993 ; it seems like I'm the only person who still holds a candle for the original Radio 5. I was rather hoping his comments about Marion Bartoli's looks would sink him but no such luck.
Besides being no oil painting himself Inverdale's comments were misplaced because on the looks spectrum of female tennis players Bartoli is actually somewhere in the middle. What on earth would he find to say about the overweight Lindsay Davenport, hairy Arantcha Sanchez-Vicario, jut-jawed Justine Henin or the sasquatch , Pam Shriver ? Yes of course it's a bit sexist to be discussing female tennis players' looks but how else could you stay interested in the women's game when for such long periods it's been so uncompetitive ?
Martina Navratilova actually seemed like a bit of a flake as a young Czech in the seventies when she rarely justified her seeding but once she'd defected, gone blond and muscled up she dominated the eighties and it was a welcome relief when Steffi Graff arrived to put a stop to that. Since her hey-day we've had to put up with the repellent Williams sisters and their supremely annoying father and I look forward to their retirement. I've tended to back under-achieving lookers - anyone remember Andrea Temesvari or Bettina Bunge ? - and I'm hoping current fave Sabine Lisicki can break the duck.
Talking of seedings why do Wimbledon slavishly follow the world rankings when they know that the grass courts render many players' past records redundant ? Hence you had the annual embarrassment of Guillermo Vilas , continually seeded three or four but always going out in the first round because he couldn't play on the surface. Mats Wilander was another top player who was absolutely wretched at Wimbledon.
There's no doubt which was my least favourite tournament - 1985. I absolutely loathed Boris Becker the boorish brute from Germany. There was an air of inevitability about his progress to the title despite injuries and match points against him . In the fourth round he twisted an ankle against Tim Mayotte, a man who seemed to put being the anithesis to McEnroe on court above actually winning anything. Becker was trailing and ready to quit but Mayotte was reluctant to accept his concession and lost the match when Becker resumed after lengthy treatment. He then beat Kevin Curren who'd removed the heavyweights, Connors and McEnroe, for him, in the Final. As sadly predicted Curren never made the final again. I'm grateful to Edberg and Stich for restricting Becker to three titles.
For all my gripes I'll still be watching avidly this June.
Friday, 3 April 2015
First watched : Summer 1973
Daktari was a US made drama series derived from the 1965 film Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion about a vet and his daughter working in East Africa. Both the ( human ) stars of the film Marshall Thompson and the leggy Cheryl Miller were on board for the duration of the series. It was made between 1966 and 1969 , largely on a safari ranch in California although stock footage was inserted to make it look more authentically African with occasional mistakes like tigers and Indian elephants creeping in.
BBC1 brought it back to fill out the Friday teatime schedule in 1973 after more than three year's absence. I must apologise to fans of the series that I have little recollection other than disinterest and boredom with it although my wife remembers it more fondly.
Short runs of episodes were used on holiday mornings for the next four years but it hasn't been seen since 1977. Both Thompson and Miller continued to act on TV in the seventies without achieving similar fame. Thompson died in 1992. Miller is still alive and her son is the magician Eric Seidenglanz.
Thursday, 2 April 2015
First watched : June 1973
This low budget cross between a school sports day and It's A Knockout proved to be a winner with a revival on Sport Relief as recently as 2010.
Hosted by po-faced athletics commentator Ron Pickering and a sporting celebrity guest, the programme featured three or four teams of sporty youngsters - aged around 11 or 12 - representing their schools in a series of challlenges ( usually similar to those on It's A Knockout in milder and scaled down form ) split between field and pool. Each school bussed in a load of other pupils to wave teddies and enviously cheer their school mates on .It famously concluded with Pickering shouting " Away you go ! " and the competitors jumping back in the pool as the credits ran.
Although school sports and PE were usually something of a nightmare for me I didn't mind watching this. My sister was a bit more interested in sport , if little more co-ordinated, so was the keener viewer.
The show barely survived the mid-eighties re-vamp of childrens TV on BBC1. After 1987 it was restricted to an annual one-off special and these continued after Pickering's death in 1991. Though he was already a smooth football pundit, the remaining shows through to 1995 gave Gary Lineker his first presenting gig.
Most of the recordings, even from the eighties , were dumped fairly soon afterwards so as far as I can tell no future sporting star has been identified as having been a competitor on the programme.
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
First watched : 1973
Hmm ... yes....well... what do we say about this one ?
Well it was one an odd proposition from the off, a variety-cum-chat show hosted by a professional eccentric , normally a disc jockey, and named after the slogan for a public safety campaign on seat belts that he was fronting. The show pandered to Savile's ego by giving him a chair-cum-throne to sit on with tacky gimmicks in the arms.
For obvious reasons there isn't too much footage around but you can find bits here and there such as Pan's People's appearance ( above ) which drew complaints from Mary Whitehouse about their revealing dresses. The selection of the Song for Europe in 1974 to be sung by Olivia Newton-John took place on the programme and it's notable how cowed and uncomfortable - though he was always clumsy when he had to engage in normal conversation - he seemed when interviewing a beautiful adult woman.
The other thing that strikes you about the interview extracts is how religious he was, with frequent references to "the Good Lord", particularly evident in a toe-curling encounter with a young Yuri Geller. You can't imagine any modern day host being allowed to proselytise so much. Cynics who say this was just a part of the "front" for his nefarious activities off screen know nothing about Catholicism. Jimmy Savile didn't run punishing marathons in late middle age just to throw people off the scent - there were far easier ways to do that ; they were an attempt to balance the scales with God, do enough good works to make up for his sexual weaknesses. We can't know whether it was successful.
The show lasted for two series before it morphed into Jim'll Fix It.