Thursday, 30 June 2016

430 The Enigma Files


First  viewed :  Spring  1980

This  is  one  I'd  forgotten  about,  a  precursor  to  other  cold  case  cop  shows  like  Waking  The  Dead  or  New  Tricks .  Tom  Adams   from  General  Hospital   played  Nick  Lewis,  a  Detective  Chief  Inspector   whose  unit  specialised  in  re-opening  unsolved  crime  cases.  This  being  the  era  of  Mrs  Thatcher,  he  had  a  female  boss  who  changed  from  Sharon  Maughan  to  Carole  Nimmons  halfway  through  the  series.  Yorkshire  comedian  Duggie  Brown  provided  some  light  relief  as  the  unit's  lab  technician.

It  was  on  BBC 2  at  9.30  pm  on  a  Tuesday  night  and  I  doubt  I  caught  more  than  a  couple of  episodes,  without  getting  much  involved. Adams  was  always  the  blandest , least  interesting of  the  doctors  on  General  Hospital   and  was  more  of  a  supporting  player  than  a  leading man. He  was  also  getting  on  a  bit  for  the  action  scenes . The   series  wasn't  recommissioned   after  15  episodes  although  it  was  repeated  in  full  as  part  of   BBC1's  Friday  night  schedule   in  1982. Adams  wouldn't  lead  a  series  again  and  as  time  wore  on  you  were  more  likely  to see  him  doing  adverts  for  DFS  than  TV  drama. He  died  in  2014.

Contrary  to  what  wikipedia  currently  says, there  was  a  DVD   of  the  series  but  it's  hard  to  find  now.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

429 Armchair Critics


First  viewed :  12  April  1980

This  only  lasted  for  six  weeks  on  a  Saturday  night  on   BBC2   but  there  are  some  interesting  aspects  to  it.

It  was  a  TV  review  discussion  programme   in  which  three  critics  ( unfortunately  not   identified  by  Genome )  discussed  three  shows  broadcast  that  week, usually  one  each  from BBC1  , BBC2  and  ITV. That  in  itself  was  highly  unusual  at  the  time. Nowadays  we're  well used  to  the  channels  plundering  each  other's  archives  for  clips  but  this  was  the  first  show  I can  remember  where  the  BBC  acknowledged  ITV  even  existed.

The  host  was  Susan  Hill  who , I  recall, looked  like  a  librarian. On  the  balance  of  probabilities  I  think  she  was  the  same  person  as  the  successful  novelist  but  I  can't  find  any  definite  proof.

As  you  might  expect  I  only  tuned  in  when  they  were  discussing  something  I'd  watched  so  I only  saw  three  at  the  most  including  the  first  when  they  discussed  Yes  Minister  (  which  I hadn't  watched  at  that  point   but  this  encouraged  me  to  do  so ) , Rebecca  and  Death  of  A Princess. If  it  is  the  same  Susan  Hill,  it's  worth  noting  that  she  later  wrote  a  sequel  to Rebecca. I  also  definitely  saw  the  one  where  they  discussed  Not  The  Nine  O  Clock  News and Coronation  St  in  the  same  episode.

The  show  was  superseded  by  the  longer -running  , more  ambitious  Did  You  See  ?  later  that  year.



Tuesday, 28 June 2016

428 Dr Hook


First  viewed :  7  April  1980

This  was  an  Easter  Monday  Special   giving  the  good  time  US  country  rock  band   a  50  minute  showcase   - though  at  22.05  pm - for  their  musical  wares.

I  was  never  a  great  fan  of  the  band  though  their  first  hit  Silvia's  Mother  is  a  good  tune   and  only  tuned  in  towards  the  end, almost  certainly  hoping  to  catch   special  guest  star  Kate Bush  ( unsuccessfully  as  it  turned  out ).

Instead  my  sister  and  I  just  caught  the  last  couple  of  band  songs,  the  second  of  which was  a comic  number  about  the  perils  of  marijuana  "  I  Got  Stoned  And  I  Missed  It "  which  at  that time  neither  us  really  understood. At  the  end  of  it, there  was  a  coda  where   Ray  Sawyer  ( the guy  with  the  eyepatch  demanded  the  audience  jump  up  and  shout  "I  Got  Stoned " on  the seventh  drum  beat.  Without  any  form  of  communication  passing  between  us  both  my  sister and  I  did  as  we  were  told  which  is  a  testament  to  the  charisma  of  the  guy. Without  that   shared  silly  moment  I  very  much  doubt  this  entry  would  be  here.

Dr  Hook  were  in  the  Top  10 at  the  time  with  Sexy  Eyes   but  this  show  turned  out  to  be  effectively  their  last  hurrah. For  the  full  story  check  out  my  charts  blog  Hello  Goodbye.  

Monday, 27 June 2016

427 The Gentle Touch


First  viewed  : 1980

The  first  series  of  this  followed  Vega$  on  a  Friday  night  but  as  mentioned  in  the  previous  post  that  was  the  cue  to  going  to  the  chippy  so  my  first  glimpses  of  it  would  be  snatched  while  eating  my  supper  before  going  home. Later  my  mum  got  very  keen  on  it but  it  never  really  caught  fire  for  me.

The  Gentle  Touch   concerned  a  serious  crimes  unit  in  London  led  by  Detective  Inspector  Maggie  Forbes  ( Jill  Gascoine ) . The  crimes  she  investigated  were  similar  to  those  in   The  Sweeney  but  the  series  marked  a  switch  in  cop  shows  on  both  sides  of  the  Atlantic  from  focusing  on  the  investigation  of  a  case  to  the  life  of  the  cops  outside  of  work  which  usually  had  no  relation  to  the  case. This  was  not  a  development  I  welcomed. Maggie's  husband  was  killed  in  the  first  episode  and  she  subsequently  had  to  deal  with  a  wayward  son  and  ageing  father  as  well  as  do  her  job  so  there  were  many  episodes  when  the  case  seemed  to  go  on  the  backburner.

Also,  unlike  The  Sweeney  which  was  all  on  film, much  of  The  Gentle  Touch  was  shot  on  videotape  with  harsh  lighting  and  minimal  make-up  which  gave  it  a  rather  dowdy  feel.  It  certainly  didn't  do  any  favours  to  William  Marlowe  as  Maggie's  superior  who  had  such  bad  skin  you  wanted  to  look  away  when  the  camera  came  in  for  a  close-up. There  was  a  practical  reason  for  shooting  so  much  of  it  on  VT; Gascoine  couldn't  drive  which  made  filming  outdoor  scenes  more  complicated.

I  didn't  fancy  Gascoine  with  the  Leo  Sayer  perm  that  made  her  look  like  Kevin  Keegan  in  drag  and  the  rest  of  the  regular  cast  was  all  male  including  a  first  regular  TV role  ( up  to  1982 )  for  Casualty's  Derek  Thompson  who  had  his  own  bubble  perm.

The  series  finished  in  1984  although  Gascoine's  character  was  moved  into  a  new  series  C.A.T.S.  Eyes   which  I  enjoyed  rather  more.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

426 Vega$


First  viewed :  Winter/Spring  1980

This  was  shown  in  different  time  slots  by  the  ITV  regions  so  it's  impossible  to  track  when  I  first  caught  it. I  always  associate  it  with  Friday  nights  at  my  gran's, its  end  titles  a  cue  to  go  to  the  chip  shop  for  my  supper. Just  hearing  the  theme  music  again  makes  me  salivate  so  it's  associated  with  happy  times.

Vega$  was  a  detective  series, its  hero  a  PI and  Vietnam  vet  Dan  Tanna  played  by  Robert  Urich, one  of  the  vigilante  cops  in Magnum  Force.  He  drove  a  distinctive  red  Thunderbird   down  the  strip  or  through  the  desert and  was  assisted  by  a  couple  of  showgirls   and  a  young  guy  called  Binzer  who  usually  provided  comic  relief.  Greg  Morris  played  irascible  cop  Lt  Nelson, the  obligatory  friend  on  the  force.

Vega$'s  USP  was  the  setting  . The  pilot  episode ,  the  only  one  written  by  its  creator  Michael  Mann ,  and  first  series  featured  Tony  Curtis  as  night  club  owner  Roth  but  he  was  gradually  edged  out  of  the  picture  and  some  real-life  entertainers  were  worked  into  the  storylines  including  singer  Wayne  Newton, one  of  those  stars  whose  name  appeared  in  the  opening  titles.

Otherwise  Vega$  was  pretty  formulaic  and  a  little  vacuous  which  is  why  I'm  struggling  to  recall  specific  episodes. I  remember  a  toecurling  guest   appearance  by  naff  seventies  duo  The  Captain  and  Tennille   and  that  an  episode  where  Dan  was  on  the  trail  of  a  rapist  was  darker  in  tone  than  usual  but  that's  about  it.

The  series  ended  in  1981   partly  because  Urich  wanted  to  move  on  and  felt the  scripts  had  deteriorated. He  later  took  a  similar  role  in  another  successful  series,    Spenser :  for  Hire   which  basically  typecast  him  for  the  rest  of  his  career. He  died  of  cancer  in  2002.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

425 Death Of A Princess


First  watched : 9  April  1980

This  ultra-controversial  docudrama  made  the  cover  of  TV  Times   that  week  and  certainly  made  a  few  headlines  in  the  days  immediately  afterwards.

Death  of  A  Princess  was  a  dramatisation  of  the  enquiries  made  by  journalist  Anthony Thomas into  the  public  execution  of  a   19-year  old  Saudi  princess  and  her  alleged  lover  in  1977.  Because  the  subject  matter  was  so  sensitive,  Thomas  decided  to  go  down  the  docudrama  route  to  help  obscure  the  identity  of  witnesses. His  conclusion  was  that  the  princess  was  killed   for  defying her  grandfather, a  brother  of  King  Khalid,  and  the  pair  were  never  tried  in  court, the  execution  being  entirely  extra-judicial.

The  Saudis  were , as  expected  , apoplectic  both  about  the  intrusion  into  the  private  lives  of  the  royal  family  and  the  harsh  glare  of  the  light  shone  on  law  and  practices  in  the  strictly  Muslim  kingdom. They  claimed  the  whole  thing  was  based  on  gossip  and  fabrication  but  Thomas  himself  said  that  he  had  received  conflicting  information  from  different  sources  and  never  claimed   the  drama  was  100 %  accurate. Lord  Carrington, the  Foreign  Secretary  crawled  to  them  saying  he  found  it  "deeply  offensive"  and  that  seemed  to  be  enough  to  stop  them  breaking  off  diplomatic  relations  with  the  UK . In  any  case  they  had  bigger  fish  to  fry  as  it  was  going  to  be  shown  in  America  - the  film  was  part-funded  by  a  US network - the  following  month  and  their  efforts  switched  to  trying  to  prevent  that ,unsuccessfully  as  it  turned  out.

Thomas  himself  was  played  by  Paul  Freeman  who  reportedly  got the  part  of  the  main  villain  in  Raiders  of  the  Lost  Ark  on  the  strength  of  it.  

 I  thought  it  was  interesting  but  there  wasn't  quite  enough  substance  to  the  material  to  justify  its  two  hour ( with  commercial  breaks )  length.  You  certainly  didn't  get  much   insight  into  the  personality  of  the  poor  girl  at  the  centre  of  it .  

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

424 Tales of the Unexpected


First  viewed :  29  March  1980

I  was  interested  in  this  - originally  titled  Roald  Dahl's  Tales  Of  The  Unexpected  -  from  the start,  having  a  long  affection  for  Dahl's  work,  but  it   was  on  so  late  - 10  pm  on  a  Saturday that  I  didn't  see  any  of  the  first  series  ( missing  out  on  Pamela  Stephenson  in  a  wet  bikini   in  the  first  episode )  in  1979. I  never  understood  that; there  was  never  really anything  in  the content  that  justified  such  a  late  slot; many  of  them  were  just  as  suitable  for  mid-evening   viewing  as  the  likes  of  Armchair  Thriller.  

The  series  was  originally  based  on  the  short  stories  of  Roald  Dahl , some  of  them  tweaked  to  provide  the  sort  of  closure  TV  viewers  did  expect.  Dahl  did  Alfred  Hitchcock  -style  introductions  at  the  beginning  of  each  episode  though  these  were  rarely  very  illuminating. Dahl  had  never  found  the  short  story  form  very  easy  so  once  a  second  season  was  commissioned  there  was  an  immediate  problem  in  the  shortage  of  source  material  and  Dahl  had  no  input  in  four  of  the  second  season  episodes.

I  came  in  at  episode  5  of  the  second  season, a  story  called  "Poison"  in  which  a  recovering alcoholic  in  India  played  by  Andrew  Ray  wakes  up  to  find  a  krait  ( a  deadly  poisonous snake )  is  having  a  kip  on  his  stomach . His  friend  and  an  Indian  doctor  try  to  blow  it  off   and  succeed,   if  it  was  there  at  all. Curtly  dismissing  them , the  guy  decides  one  drink  won't  hurt  but  guess  what's  lurking  in  the  drinks  cabinet  ?

I  watched  other  episodes  in  that  season  but  somehow  it  never  became  required  viewing  for  me. Inevitably  the  ones  I  recall  best  are  where  there  was  some  female  talent  on  show  like  Susan  Penhaligon  in  spray-on  pants   as  a  policewoman  posing  as  an  easy  lay  to  trap  a  serial  killer  ( "Decoy"  1982 )   or  the  not - usually - very - sexy  Elaine  Paige  revealing  a  great  pair  of  legs  ( "The  Way  To  Do  It" ,1981) .  The  last  one  that  I'm  reasonably  sure I  saw  was "Have  A  Nice  Death"  with  Simon  Callow  as  a  writer  who  rubbed  feminists  up  the  wrong way. That  was  in  June  1984.

Dahl's   introductions  became  very  occasional  from  the  third  season  onwards  and  his  name  was  removed  from  the  title. Anglia  produced  the  series  originally  but  as  it  became  popular  accepted  money  from  the  States  so  many  of  the  episodes  were  filmed  overseas. It  attracted  many  big  name  stars  over  the  years  including  Joan  Collins, Janet  Leigh, George  Peppard, Denholm  Elliott  and  Don  Johnson. The  1982  episode  "Stranger  In  Town "  captured  the  screen  debut  of   a  nine-year  old  Jennifer  Connelly. Many  actors  appeared  in  more  than  one  episode; Andrew  Ray  was  something  of  a  regular  in  the  British-made  ones.

The  series  did  suffer  from  a  contradiction  at  its  heart. If  you  make  something called  Tales  of  the  Unexpected   a  regular  series  then  the  twist  ending  is  what  the  audience  is  going  to  expect  and  they're   going  to  become  increasingly  expert  at  guessing  what  it  is. So  it  was  that  the  series  came  in  for  a  fair  bit  of  mockery, wags  renaming  it  "Tales  of  the  Amazingly   Predictable"  and  so  on.  As  audiences  waned  the  seasons  slowly  got  shorter  until  the  axe  fell  in  1988. I  wonder  if  they  saw  it  coming ?    

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

423 Therese Raquin


First  viewed : 12  March  1980

This  BBC 2   three-part  adaptation  of  Emile  Zola's  bleak  tale  of  adultery , murder  and  revenge  from  beyond  the  grave  was  so  good  it's  hard  to  understand  why  it's  not  more  celebrated.

I  have  to  admit  it  was  the  nudity  that  got  me  and  my  best  friend  Michael  interested  in  this at  the  time  although  as  with  The  Mallens  there   was  actually  less  than  I  "remembered".  It was  the  first  time  I  saw  a  full  frontal  nude  though  she  was  just  an  uncredited  extra  lying motionless  in  one  of  the  harrowing  morgue  scenes. I  thought  there  was  one  where  an  artist's model  walks  out  to  take  her  position  and  recall  excitedly  remarking  to  another  friend  "you could  see  the  black  triangle ! ". On  a  second  viewing  , even  with  the  aid  of  the  pause  button, it's  cleverly  staged  so  that  you  don't.*  Not  that  it would  have  bothered  the  actress  , Zoe  Hendry, who  had  done  a  fair  bit  of   nude  modelling  in  men's  magazines  and  made  revealing  appearances  in  one  or  two  sex  comedy  films. As  for  Kate  Nelligan  in  the  title  role, all  you  got  was  a  quick  shot  of   barely-lit  buttocks  and  a  lot  of  breast - shielding  in  the  bedroom  scenes.

After  the  scene  with  Hendry  halfway  through  the  middle  episode,  there  was  nothing  and  it  was  easier  to  concentrate  on  the  story. Therese  is  an  unhappy  young  woman   who  has  married   Camille,  her   sickly  and  self-absorbed  cousin  who  helps  his  doting  mother  run  a  backstreet  shop. The  highlight  of  her  social  life  is  a  weekly  game  of  dominoes  in  the  parlour  with  their  friends, mainly  boring  old  men. Things  brighten  up  when  Camille's  colleague  Laurent  joins  the  circle  and  starts  taking  time  off  work  to  bonk  Therese  in  the  afternoons. When  his  boss  stops  this  Therese  proposes  they  murder  Camille  which  they  do  but  neither  are  prepared  for  the  psychological  consequences.

Though  subject  to  budget  constraints  this  is  marvellously  staged  with  the  dark  poky  sets  mirroring   emphasising  Therese's  feelings  of  being  cooped  up. The  appearances  of  the  dead  Camille  are  absolutely  terrifying  and  a  tribute  to  the  make-up  artist  Jean  Speak.

The  cast  too  is  brilliant. Besides  Nelligan  , it  had  Brian  Cox  as  Laurent,  Kenneth  Cranham  as  Camille  and  a  young  Alan  Rickman  as  Laurent's  arrogant  artist  friend. Pride  of  place  though  must  go  to  Mona  Washbourne  as  the  mother-in-law.  She  discovers  the  truth  after  suffering  a  paralytic  stroke  and   so  can  only  act  with  her  eyes  in  the  final  scenes  but  is  absolutely  riveting.

* In  my  defence  I  was  watching  that  episode  bereft  of  my  glasses  which  had  been  lost  when  I  was  knocked  to  the  ground  after  attending  a  gig  by  the  school  punk  band  the  previous  Friday.

Monday, 20 June 2016

422 Points of View


First  viewed : February /March  1980

Points  of  View  was   returning  to  the  schedules  after  almost  a  decade's  absence  having  run  from  1961  to  1971  as  a  five  minute  space  filler  where  some  luminary  read  a  selection  of  extracts  from  viewers'  letters. Even  in  the  less  cynical  sixties  there  had  been  some  suspicion  that  the  Beeb  had  written  the  letters  themselves.  That's  not  likely  to  have  been  true  but  some  gatekeeping  must  have  taken  place, not  aggravating  tetchy star  talent  - I  don't  remember  much  criticism  of  Esther  Rantzen making  it  through  - or  highlighting  attacks on  programmes  they  wanted  to  axe  anyway.

The  programme  was  first  revived  as  a  regional  feature  on  BBC  London  then  went  national  as  a  ten  minute  filler  before  the  Nine  o  Clock  News   on  Fridays  from  the  end  of  February  1980. The  host  came  with  it.

Barry  Took  had  an  impressive  c.v.  as  a  comic  scriptwriter,   working  extensively  with  Marty  Feldman  on  shows  like  Round  The  Horne  and  The  Army  Game,  but  going  in  front  of  the  cameras  did  him  no  favours. Leaning  back  in  his  chair  with  middle-aged  spread  to  the  fore,  he  came  across  as  dull  and  dessicated  as  fellow  old  bores   Frank  Muir  and  Dennis  Nordern   with  his  sarky  put-downs  and  mock  shock  at  criticism.  While Took  was  just  about  respectful  to  most  of  the  correspondents,  the  over-theatrical  reading  of  the  gobbets  suggested  that  the  producers  regarded  even  the  little  old  ladies  who  had  nothing  better  to  do  than  write  in  about  how  much  they  enjoyed  Hinge  and  Bracket  with  the  utmost  contempt.

In  1986  BBC  One  Controller  Michael  Grade  publicly  denounced  him  as  "boring "  and  axed  him  from  the  programme. Barbaric  as  that  was,  it  was  difficult  to  find  much  sympathy  for  Took  who  retreated  to  radio. His  replacement  was  acerbic  Daily  Mirror  journalist  Anne  Robinson  who'd  made  an  impression  as  a  panelist  on  Question  Time. Although  prone  to  irritating  digressions  like  responding  to  an  inane  query  about  her  ear-rings  ( not  great  when  you've  only  got  a  ten  minute  slot )  she  was  an  improvement, at  least  giving  the  impression  of  being  independent  rather  than  a  smug  lackey.

She  left  in  1997  to  concentrate  on  her  other  show  Watchdog . After  brief  stints  from  Carol  Vorderman  and  Des  Lynam  it  went  to  Terry  Wogan  for  eight  years  and  now  Jeremy  Vine  although  I  must  admit  I  hadn't  realised  it  was  still  going. I  think  I  may  have  caught   the  odd  Wogan  episode  but  otherwise  I  think  I  lost  interest  in  it  during  the  Robinson  years.  

Sunday, 19 June 2016

421 Lennie and Jerry


First  viewed : February / March  1980

The  "only  comedy  duo  with  two  straight  men"  line   has  been  used  so  often  it's  become  a cliche  to  avoid. I'm  not  sure  of  its  provenance  but  I  can't  think  of  anyone  to  whom  it  could be  more  fairly  applied  than  this  pairing. Even  Cannon  and  Ball  on  the  other  channel  were more  entertaining.

They  were  actually  on  their  third  and  final  season  here, after  a  brief  three  show  run  on Saturdays  in  the  summer  of  1978  then  a  longer  stint  on  BBC2  on  a  Monday  in  1979. Quite how  they  managed  that,   I  don't  know  having  been  fortunate  enough  to  miss  them  before they  got  the  post-Top  of  the  Pops  slot  at  the  end  of  February  1980.

It  would  be  easy  to  assume,  given  that  he  had  the  longer  career  that  Lennie  Bennett  was  the "funny  one"   but  that  wasn't  the  case. They  were  both  equally  bad  , their  banter   stilted  and embarrassing. When  you  find  yourself   longing  for  guest  stars  of  the  calibre  of  The  Barron Knights  to   provide   some  light  relief  you  know  it's  desperate. In  fact  the  Knights  dropped  to the  same  depths  with  a  barber  shop  quartet  routine  whose  only  concession  to  humour  was the last  line "We  will  always  be  around  to  come  and  take  the  piss". Well  thankfully  not.  A regular  turn  on  that  season  was  professional  Yorkshireman   Albert  Pontefract  who  was  a  sort of  proto-Al  Murray  but  not  very  funny  either.

It  has  to  be  said  that  the  material  was  terrible  too. Of  the  five  credited  writers  on  that season only  Lennie  Bennett  himself  has  an  entry  on  wikipedia. It's  as   if  the  whole  show  were  a receptacle  for  the  cheapest  "talent"  available. I  remember  one  episode  used  Jerry  Stevens' supposed  Italian  background   as  an  excuse  to  trot  out  all  the  old  jokes  about  Italian  war heroes.

I  say  "supposed"  because  there's  precious  little  official  information  about  Jerry  anywhere. His last  appearance  on  TV  was  a  walk-on  role  in  In  Sickness  and  in  Health  in  1987. A  trawl through  some  chat  sites  reveals  that  his  real  surname  is  Pinder  ( hmm, not  very  Italian sounding ) he's  divorced  and  worked  for  the  Variety  Club  organising  golf  days  for  many years. One  interesting  comment  said  he  and  Lennie  "hardly  knew  each  other  at  all. They  were thrown  together  by  LWT  as  a  comedy  duo "  which  would  make  sense,  given  how  poor  they were  in  tandem.  Bennett  of  course   found  work  as  a  host  of  lower  grade  gameshows   for  the next  decade  but  he  too  was  off  screen  by  the  mid-nineties. He  died  following  a  fall  at  his home  in  2009.



Saturday, 18 June 2016

420 The Little and Large Show


First  viewed : February  1980

Ah  yes  the  critics'  favourites - I  jest  of  course; Clive  James  early  on  described  their  show  as "like  watching  two  men  share  one  parachute "  and  they  were  consistently  reviled  throughout  their  television  career.

The   duo   of  Syd  Little  ( Cyril  Mead )  and  Eddie  Large  ( Edward  McGinnis  ) worked  their  way  slowly  up  the  ladder  after  starting  out  as  pub  singers  in   the  early  sixties. Gradually  shifting  their  act  towards  comedy  they  got  their  big  break  on  Opportunity  Knocks   in  the  seventies  and  then  became  regular  variety  show  guests  and  had  a  stint  presenting  Crackerjack.  Their  first  TV  series  was  for  Thames  in  1977  but  they  switched  to  the  BBC  in  1978. Timing  is  everything  and  someone  at  the  BBC, rocked  by  the  defection  of  Eric  and  Ernie  ,  saw  them  as  potential  replacements.

Hence  their  appearance  in  the  Saturday  night  schedules  from  February  1980  onwards  although  generally  in  an  earlier  time  slot  than  Morecambe  and  Wise. I  don't  think  they  were  quite  as  bad  as  they're  usually  made  out  to  be; there  were  worse  comedy  duos  and  we'll  come  to  one  shortly.  Syd , perhaps  genuinely , still  wanted  to  be  a  singer  and  was  an  endearingly  useless  straight  man  while  Eddie  went  through  his  repertoire  of  not  quite  up  to  the  minute  impressions. Even  James  conceded  in  the  same  article  that  he  was  "a  gifted  impersonator ".  They  were  crap  yes but  that  was  part  of  the  appeal.

The  show  featured  star  guests  and  the  duo  always  looked  genuinely  pleased  to  receive  them. For  the  first  two  series  they  had  a  regular  dance  troupe  of  eight  girls  known  as  Foxy  Feeling  who  pushed  the  boat  out  even  further  than  Hot  Gossip  for  a  pre-watershed  show. I  remember  them  doing  a  slow  routine  to  Captain  and  Tenille's  Do  That  To  Me  One  More  Time  in  skimpy  bikinis  and  there  was  another - I think the  song  might  have  been  The  Gibson  Brothers'  Cuba  - where  they  frolicked  around  with  a  giant  banana. Producer  Michael  Hurll  dropped  them  in  1981  at  the  same  time  that  Legs  &  Co  were  ditched  on  Top  of  the  Pops.
Shame.

I  don't  think  I  watched  it  much  after  that  first  season  but  it  survived  for  a  decade  in  that  slot  before  moving  to  Friday  nights  for  a  final  season  in  1991. The  duo  were  rarely  on  TV  after  that  and  you  get  the  impression  the  Beeb  would  prefer  you  to  forget  they  ever  broadcast  the  show.

Little  and  Large  had  to  split  up  in  2003  when  Eddie  had  a  heart  transplant  and  could  no longer  gig  regularly . He  maintains  a  light  schedule  of  cameos  in  comedy  dramas  and  after dinner  speaking  near  to  his  home  in  Bristol . Syd  appeared  on  Trust  Me  I'm  A Holiday  Rep   in  2005  where  he  came  across  as  a  thoroughly  nice  guy. He's  also  worked  on  cruise  ships , been  active  in  Christians  in  Entertainment   and  since  2012  has  run  a  restaurant  in  Fleetwood.

Friday, 17 June 2016

419 Winter Olympics 1980


First  viewed  :  January  1980

I  didn't  watch  much  of  this  tournament  but  do  have  vague  memories  of  Robin  Cousins   and how  different  he  was  to  John  Curry  four  years  earlier,  substituting  athleticism  and  power  for Curry's  feline  grace.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

418 Play Your Cards Right



First  viewed  :  February  1980

Play  Your  Cards  Right  was  given  a  big  build-up  as  the  return  of  Bruce  Forsyth  after  a period  spent  licking  his  wounds  after  the  disaster  that  was  Brucie's  Big  Night.  

The  show  was  based  on  the  American  show  Card  Sharks  and  basically  required  contestants  to  guess  whether  the  next  giant  playing  card  was  going  to  be  higher  or  lower  than  the  one  before. That  was  it  really, no  skill  or  knowledge  required  , just  guesswork  and  a  lot  of  luck. That's  what  all  the  hype  about  Brucie's  big  move  had  come  down  to ,  host  of   the  crappiest  game  show  on  TV.

Of  course  he  had  the  catchphrases  , the  slightly  sadistic  banter  with  the  contestants  and   the young  dolly  birds  turning  over  the  cards   but  that  could  never  compensate  for  the  game  at the  heart  of  the  show  being  utter  shit. The  ratings  were  good  but , you  know , sometimes  the   viewing  public's  just  plain  stupid.

Brucie  was  stuck  in  this  purgatory  for  seven  years  until he  found  an  escape  route  in  America  hosting  Bruce  Forsyth's  Hot  Streak.   He  returned  to  the  UK  to  host  You  Bet  for  a  couple  of  years  then  returned  to  the  BBC  for  three  years  re-installed  as  host  of  The  Generation  Game .  ITV  lured  him  back  in  1994  for  a  relaunch  of   Play  Your  Cards  Right   which  lasted  for  the  rest  of  the  decade. Bruce  had  a  new  toupee  for  this  which  makes  dating  stills  and  clips  a  bit  easier.

The  show  was  revived  again  in  2002   but  now  the  show, the  host  and  most  importantly  the  audience  were  tired  and  it  was  axed  after  12  episodes.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

417 The Eddie Capra Mysteries



First  viewed : 28  January  1980

This  was  launched  with  a  two  hour  pilot  episode  "Nightmare  at  Pendragon's  Castle"  featuring  Robert  Vaughan  as  a  powerful  and  sadistic  millionaire  with  his  own  Excalibur  sword  that  only  he  could  pull  out  of  a  boulder  in  the  grounds  of  his  mansion. He  has  some  people  over  for  dinner  and  what  do  you  know ? He  ends  up  getting  murdered. Instead  of  calling  for  Colombo  it  falls  to  defence  lawyer  Eddie  Capra  played  by  Freddie  Mercury  lookalike  Vincent  Baggetta  to  solve  the  mystery  and  get  his  client  off. When  he  does, he  gets  his  own  series. Vaughan's  Excalibur  turned  out  to  be  an  electronic  device  which  recognised  his  fingerprints.

Although  I  often  get  this  one  mixed  up  with  Petrocelli  because  the  titular  protagonists   were both  attorneys  and  it  went  out  in  the  same  Friday  night  time  slot , this  was  really  a  re-badging  of  Ellery  Queen.  It  used  the  same  device  of  challenging  the  audience  to  identify  the real  murderer  before  Eddie's  revelatory  speech  and  actually  adapted  some  of  the  scripts intended  for  the  cancelled  series.

The  main  thing  I  recall  ( with  a  shudder )   was  that  his  girlfriend  Lacey  ( Wendy  Phillips ) was  a  single  mum  with  a  ghastly,  precocious  daughter  Jennie  ( Seven  Anne  McDonald, daughter  of  Country  Joe  McDonald  of  Fixing  To  Die  Rag  fame )  who  set  my  teeth  on  edge. I  like  to  think  the  show's  cancellation  after  just  one  series  was  down  to  the  audience's rejection  of  her.

Baggetta  will  pop  up  again  before  long  in  a  similar  role  while  McDonald  has  had  a successful  career   as  a  writer  and  rock  manager.  

Monday, 13 June 2016

416 Family Fortunes



First  viewed : January  1980

On  into  the  big  brash  eighties !

I   didn't   watch   the  first  episode  of  this  new  game  show  as   The  BBC  Shakespeare   was  doing  Twelfth  Night   which  we'd  studied  in  English  the  previous  term  ,  starting  at  the  same  time  but  I  may  well  have  caught  the  second  one.

Family  Fortunes  was  based  on  an  American  game  show  Family  Feud   and  allowed  Bob Monkhouse  to  move  on  from  the  now  rather  stale  Celebrity  Squares.  Combining  elements  of the  Generation  Game  and  Blankety  Blank , it  featured  two  teams  of  five  from  the  same family  battling  for  cash   through  guessing  the  public's  most  popular  answers   to  categories   put  to  them  in  a  previous  survey. The  show's  supposed  computer  "Mr  Babbage"  would   give them  a  ping  if  they  got  one  right  and  an  electronic  uh-huh   if  their  answer  didn't  figure. Three  questions  wrong  and  the  other  family  got  a  chance  to  steal  the  round.

Monkhouse  hosted  the  first  four  series  and  it  wasn't  long  before  they  had  celebrity  editions. I  remember  a  DJs  edition  featuring  Tony  Blackburn. I  had  presumed  from  his  radio  persona  that  he  was  a  complete  airhead  and  was  genuinely  surprised  when  he  turned  out  to  be  a  bright  bloke.

Monkhouse  went  to  the  BBC  in  1983  and  the  always-challenging  task  of  following  in  his footsteps  fell  to  the  much  kinder  Max  Bygraves. His  two-year  stint  was  not  regarded  as  particularly  successful  but  will  always  be  remembered  for  the  episode  where  a  Bob  Johnson  seemingly  had  a  mental  breakdown  and  answered  "turkey"  to  the  first  three  questions  in  the  Big  Money  Round  including  the  opener  "Name  something  you  take  to  the  beach". Max  did  well  to  hold  it  together  but  the  best  bit  was  the  cutaway  to  Bob's  family  where  his  son's  brother-in-law - who'd  set  him  up  well - seemed  to  be  saying  something  extremely  unfraternal  about  him.

Max's  stint  was  while  I  was  away  at  University  then  it  was  rested  for  a  year  before  Les Dennis  took  it  on. By  that  time  I'd  lost  interest  and  rarely  saw  it. Dennis  had  a  long  15  year stint  which  finally  ended  in  2002 , around  the  same  time  as  his  marriage  to  Amanda  Holden. Dennis  was  unhappy  with  the  proposed  move  to  an  afternoon  slot  and  his  judgement  proved  correct  as  the  next  series  with  Andy  Collins  only  lasted  a  year.

The  show  was  revived  with  Veron  Kay  as  All  Star  Family  Fortunes  in  2006  and  though  on  hiatus  at  the  moment  is  set  to  return  in  2017. By  a  fantastic  coincidence  the  only  one  I  ever  tuned  in  to , randomly  in  2009 , featured  somebody  I  knew  from  work, former  Barnet  goalkeeper  Steve  Berryman  who  is  related   by  marriage  to  TV  host  Paddy  McGuinness   and  gave  a  good  account  of  himself.  I  saw  him  the  day  after  the  broadcast  and  the  first  question  I  asked  was   "Are  they  real ? "  referring  to  the  mammary  glands  of  McGuinness's  girlfriend  ( now  his  wife ) Christine. He  said  he'd  never  dared  ask  but  found  them   impressive  nonetheless.  
  

Sunday, 12 June 2016

415 Bernie



First  viewed : Autumn  1978

Scrutinising  the  first  week  of  1980  in  TV  Times  jogged  my  memory  regarding  this  one  but,  as  it  clashed  with  Top  of  the  Pops,  it  must  have  been  the  first  series  I  saw  which  went  out  on  Mondays ( I'm  presuming  straight  after  Coronation  St )  in  the  late  autumn  of  1978.

Bernie  was  of  course  Bernie  Winters ( originally  Weinstein )  , who'd  just  ended  a  decades long partnership  with  elder  brother  Mike  who  disapproved  of  his  brother's  affair  with  a  much younger  woman. As  the  comic  half  of  the  partnership , Bernie  was  the  better  equipped  for  a solo  career   and  to  add  insult  to  injury , replaced  his  brother  as  straight  man  with  a  dopey-looking  St  Bernard  dog  named  Shnorbitz.. His  own  chubby,  gormless  appearance  was  an asset.

I  recall  enjoying  the  show  and  tuning  in  regularly  but  not  much  of  its  content  and  there's  nothing  on  YouTube  to  jog  my  memory.

Bernie  was  almost  50  by  the  time  the  second  series  ended  and  the  tide  was  going  out  for  his  style  of  comedy. The  show  wasn't  recommissioned  but  he  remained  on  TV  as  host  of  Whose  Baby ?  and  a  regular  panellist  on  things  like  Blankety  Blank  and  Punchlines.  He  died  of  cancer  in  1991,  leaving  Shnorbitz  to  his  friend  Richard  De  Vere , although   the  average  lifespan  of  a  St  Bernard  strongly  suggests  it  wasn't  the  same  one  from  the  TV  series.




Saturday, 11 June 2016

414 The Strauss Family


First  viewed  : Uncertain

This  period  drama  about  the  Austrian  composer  family  was  first  broadcast  on  ITV  in  1972. I'm  absolutely  certain  I  didn't  see it  first  time  round  as  I  would  have  had  no  conception  of the  Austro-Hungarian  Empire  or  familiarity  with  The  Blue  Danube  as  reference  points  at  that time. I  think  instead  I  saw  a  repeat  of  the  series  on  Sunday  afternoons  sometime  in  the  late seventies  although  I  can't  be  more  precise  than  that.

Mum  would  be  watching  it  for  Stuart  Wilson  as  Johann  Strauss  the  Younger  but  my sympathies  went  towards  youngest  son  Eddy.  The  first  Johann  had  a  very  colourful  private life,  having  more  bastards  than  legitimate  children,  and  didn't  want  any  of  his  sons  to  follow in  his  footsteps  so  the  potential  for  a  spicy  family  drama  was  obvious. Though  I  can't find any  common  personnel,  the  series  had  a  very  Upstairs  Downstairs  feel  to  it  from  the   opening titles  onwards .

413 The Night The Animals Talked


First  viewed  :  Uncertain

We're  almost  done  with  the  seventies  but  first  I  need  to  include  a  couple  of  programmes  which  I  can't  date  with  any  precision.

The  Night  The  Animals  Talked   was  a  Christmas  perennial  on  ITV  in  the  seventies. It  was  based  on  a  Norwegian  Christmas  legend  although  Animal  Farm   was  another  influence.  The  half  hour  animation  sees  the  stable  animals  of  Bethlehem  suddenly  acquiring  the  gift  of  speech  on  the  night  of  December  25th  . At  first  they  use  it  to  argue  about  status  and  hierarchy  but  learn  humility  through  witnessing  the  birth  of  Jesus  in  their  stable, their  new  gift  slipping  away  shortly  afterwards.  It  was  absolutely  charming  and  became  a  regular  feature  of  our  Christmas  viewing  for  a  few  years  though  as  I  said  I  can't  put  a  start  or  end  date  to  that.  


Thursday, 9 June 2016

412 Kate



First  viewed :  28  December  1979

I  must  admit  I  wasn't  completely  into  Kate's  music  at  the  time  this  was  first  shown  - it would  take  the  divine  trinity  of  singles  from  Never  For  Ever   to  open  the  door -  and  only caught  the  tail  end  of  it  waiting  for   a   highlights  show  from  the  first  series  of  Not  The   Nine  O  Clock  News . 

This  Christmas  special  featured  Kate  performing  songs from  her  first  two  albums  plus  other  yet-to-be-released  songs, some  of  which  appeared  on  her  third  album  Never  For  Ever  nine  months  later.  She  also  had  Peter  Gabriel  as  a  special  guest  performing  a  solo  piano  version  of  Here  Comes  The  Flood  and  a  duet  with  Kate  on  Roy  Harper's  Another  Day  which  I don't  think  has  been  released  in  any  other  format.

Kate  performs  three  of  the  tracks   live  at  the  piano  but  on  the  ones  where  she's  dancing  she's  clearly  lip-synching  as  she's  not  miked  up. She  largely  avoids  the  hits  apart  from  Man With  The  Child  In  His  Eyes  , picking  songs   for  which   she'd  developed  interesting  new  routines. Given  her  decision  not  to  tour  for  the  next  35  years,  this  is  the  only  place  to  see  Kate  perform  some  of  these  songs.

Oh  and  she  looks  pretty  fetching  too !


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

411 Suez 1956


First  viewed  : 25  November  1979

This  was  a  massive  dramatisation  of  the  Suez  crisis  which  took  up  most  of  a  Sunday evening , 3  hours  and  10  minutes  in  total. I  watched  a  portion  of  it, surreptitiously  sniffing  at the  collar  of  my  shirt  for  a  last  lingering  trace  of  the  greasepaint  from  the  night  before.

The  play  was  written  by  Ian  Prince  Regent  Curteis  and  sought  to  present  the  events  of  1956 in   a   light  sympathetic  to  the  Prime  Minister  Anthony  Eden  whose  career  they  brought  to  a premature  end. Curteis  did  not  seek  to  produce  a  definitive  account  of  the  crisis  that  ended Britain's  pretensions  of  being  a  world  power  and  thought the  finished  product  was  more  of  a docudrama  than  he  intended.

I  only  had  a  very  vague  idea  of  what  happened  and  didn't  watch  enough  of  the  play  to  get the  full  picture  but  did  pick  up  some  useful  information  such  as  the  fact  that  Israel  was somehow  involved  in  the  conflict  and  that  it  distracted  the  world  from  the  contemporary events  in  Hungary  where  the  Soviet  Union  was  violently  suppressing  the  revolution  against the  policies  it  had  imposed.  

It's  quite  easy  to  see  how  this  led  Curteis  to  his  infamous  Falklands  Play  a  few  years  later.

Monday, 6 June 2016

410 Chronicle


First  viewed :  20  November  1979

I'm  not  sure  I  want  to  admit  to  this  but  yes  there  was  a  time  when  I was  taken  in  by  all that  Da  Vinci  Code  rubbish  and  here's  where  it  begins.

This  is  one  of  those  instances  where  I  can  recall  the  exact  circumstances  in  which  I  watched  the  programme. It  was  a  Tuesday  and  we  had  the   decorators  in  at  home  so  for  a  second  night  I  was  staying  at  my  gran's   10  minutes  ' walk  away.  It  was  also  a  very  foggy  day  and  either  the  bus  company  or  our  headmaster  determined  that  the  bus  taking  pupils  back  to  Littleborough  would  leave  early  at  3pm. However  I  had  a  dress  rehearsal  that  evening  for  the  play  I  was  going  to  be  in  at  the  end  of  the  week  ( David  Shellan's  Perfection  City  ; I  played  Jackson  and  Anthony  Mooney  who's   now  a   reasonably  successful  TV  actor  played  Deadbeat  )  so  I  stayed  put.

I  was  resigned  to  missing  the  final  episode  of  Not  The  Nine  O  Clock  News  that  night   but  there  was  a  bit  of  hope  when  Sean  Kearney  ( a  regular  truant  whose  casting  was  a  calculated  risk  )  didn't  show  up. However  Perfection  City is  only  really  a  playlet  and  so  was  double-billed  with  the  very  different  Burglars  ( David  Rudkin ) . Therefore  the  rehearsal  for  that  went  ahead  first  and  I  got  made  up in  the  hope  that  Kearney  would  still  show. He  didn't  but  it  was  still  touch  and  go  whether  I  would  get  back  in  time  as   returning  to  Littleborough  out  of  school  hours  required  two  buses . However  by  happy  chance  the  drama  teacher  Mike  Fitzpatrick  lived  in  Littleborough  himself  and  gave  me  a  lift  and  so  I  got  back  with  half  an  hour  to  spare.

I  immediately  turned  the  TV  to  the  right  channel  in  preparation  and  caught  the  second  half  of   that  week's  Chronicle  , BBC  Two's  flagship  history  and  archaeology  series  that  had  been  running  since  1966.  That  episode  The  Priest  , The Painter  And  The  Devil   was   the  second  in  a  series of  three  documentaries  presented  by  Henry  Lincoln  which  developed  from  a  local  mystery  he  discovered  while  on  holiday  in  the  south  of  France.  What  the  programme  didn't  tell  you  was  that  Lincoln  was  not  a  professional  historian  but  a  former  scriptwriter  for  Dr  Who.  His  investigations  were  inspired  by  a  book  he  read  about  a  lowly  parish  priest  Sauniere  in  the  French  village  of  Rennes-le-Chateau  who in  the  late  nineteenth  century became  inexplicably  wealthy  after  discovering  some  mysterious  coded  parchments  during  church  renovations. Lincoln  ran  with  the  story  and  in  this  documentary  postulated  that  Sauniere's  discovery  was  linked  to  the  thirteenth  century  Cathar  heresy  which  held  that  the  world  was  created by  the  Devil  and  that  he  became  a  secret  adherent. It  was  Lincoln's  "discovery"  of  occult  symbolism  in  Sauniere's  church  and  a   Poussin   painting  linked  to  the  mystery  by  one  of  the  parchments   that  really  grabbed  me, an  enthralling  subject  for  a  straight  history  series.

But  there  was  more. It  turned  out  at  the  end  of  the  programme   that  it  was  actually  a  repeat  dating  back  to  1974  and  Lincoln  was  going  to  present  his  subsequent  discoveries  in  a  new  documentary  the  following  week !  I  made  sure  I  watched   Shadow  Of  The  Templars. In  the  intervening  years  Lincoln  had  been  mysteriously  directed   to  documents  supporting  the  existence  through  the  centuries,  of  a  secret  society  the  Priory  of  Sion. Lincoln  seems  to  have  been  utterly  bereft  of  the  professional  scepticism  a  real  historian  would  have  brought  to  all  this   and  his  researches  were  now  aided  by  US  novelist  Richard  Leigh  and  New  Zealander  photo-journalist  Michael  Baigent. The  latest  documentary  was  somewhat  confusing  mixing  undisputed  history  where  the  Templars  were  concerned  with  Lincoln's  own  mystifying  geometrical  speculations   and  provided  no  real  answers.

Three  years  later  it  was  all  tied  together  in  the  book  Lincoln  wrote  with  Leigh  and  Baigent  The  Holy  Blood  and  the  Holy  Grail . Baigent  who  seems  to  have  had  an  anti-Catholic  agenda  had  come  up  with  his  own  hypothesis  that  the  Priory  of  Sion  existed  to  protect  the  knowledge  that  Christ  had  married  Mary  Magdalene  and  their  descendants  were  the  Merovingian  kings  of  France  whose  line  still  existed  today. Both  the  Vatican  and  the  academic  world  condemned  it  as  rubbish.

I  had  a  dilemma. I  wanted  to  read  the  conclusion  of  the  story  but  didn't  want  to  defy  the  Vatican  ban  so  I  started  reading  it  a  couple  of  pages  at  a  time  whenever  I  passed  through  Leeds  railway  station. Of  course  I  was  nowhere  near  finishing  it  when  it  disappeared  from  the  shelf  and  in  any  case  one  of my  tutors  at  Leeds , the  acerbic  Dr  Loud  , peremptorily  dismissed  it  as  "Crap !"  which  sowed  the  first  seeds  of  doubt in  my  mind.

After  I  graduated  in  1986  I  returned  to  Littleborough  and  found  it  in  the  library  there  which  provided  another, better  solution  to  buying  it. However  I  jumped  towards  the  end  and  found  a  passage  where  they  say  how  can  you  trust  the  Bible  when  Matthew  talks  about   shepherds  visiting  the  nativity  and  Luke  about  three  kings ?  At  that  point  I  realised  it  was  illogical, ill-researched  rubbish  and  never  opened  the  book  again.

Even  before  the  book  was  published,  a  French  writer  Jean-Luc  Chaumeil  had  contacted  the  writers  to   warn  them  that  his  investigations ( inspired  by  Lincoln's  documentaries )   had  uncovered  that  the  whole  Priory  of  Sion  thing  was  an  elaborate  hoax  by  a  trio  of  Frenchmen  led  by  a  convicted  fraudster  named  Pierre  Plantard . Plantard  had  actually  been interviewed  by  Lincoln  in  Shadow  of  the  Templars   because  he  had  inserted  his  name  at  the  bottom  of  a  Merovingian  family  tree  copied  from  a  magazine  and  then  deposited  with  France's  National  Archive  service.  On  publication  of  the  book  Plantard   was  quick  to  deny  that  he'd  ever  said  the  Merovingians  were  descendants  of  Christ  which  was  true  but  he  wasn't  a  Merovingian  either. Another  of  the  trio  Gerard  de  Sede  was  the  author  of  the  book  on  Sauniere  which  set  Lincoln  off  on  his  quest  but  that  was  all  lies  too. Sauniere  had  made  a  lot  of  money  but  it  was  from  collecting  donations  for  more  masses  than  he  could  physically  say, a  nasty  fraud  but  of  no  historical  significance.

Chronicle  ended  in  1991  but  the  broadly  similar  Timewatch  in  1996  devoted  a  programme   to  purging  the  BBC's  embarrassment   by  debunking  the  whole  myth  and  allowing  Chaumeil   to  forensically  annihilate  every  document   upon  which   Lincoln  and  co  had  relied. Lincoln   was  devastated  and  protested  that  his  geometrical  "findings"  were  still  valid  ( a  clearly bemused  Plantard  had  said  "I  can't  answer  that  "  when  Lincoln  brought  them  up  in  his interview ) .

None  of   the  three  authors  has  ever  fully  admitted  to  being  taken  for  a  ride  with  Baigent  in  particular  still  insisting  it's  all  still  plausible.  It  all  flared  up  again  in  2003   with   Dan  Brown 's   airport  trash  bestseller  The  Da  Vinci  Code  which   made  liberal  use  of   the   ideas  in  The  Holy  Blood  and  the  Holy  Grail . In  2006  Leigh  and  Baigent  ( notably  not  Lincoln )  sued  him  although,  as  The Guardian  pointed  out   at  the  time , Brown's  publishers  and  theirs  were  owned  by  the  same  parent  company,  suggesting  it  might  be  a  cost-effective  way  of  advertising   the  forthcoming  film  rather  than  a  genuine  suit. Brown  won  it  anyway  and  Leigh  died  shortly  afterwards. It's  unclear  to  what  extent  Brown  himself  believes  in  the  Holy  Grail  hypothesis.

This  all  prompted  another  debunking  documentary  from  Tony  Robinson  on  Channel  5  which  essentially  made  the  same  case  as  the  Timewatch  film  a  decade  earlier.  

 
 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

409 Kelly Monteith


First  viewed  :  November  or  December  1979

This  series  isn't  much  celebrated  these  days  but  it  ran  for  five  years.

Kelly  Monteith  was  a  reasonably  successful  American  stand-up  comedian who'd  presented  a short-lived  variety  show  in  1976. In  the  late  seventies  he  came  to  Britain  and  became  a popular  chat   and  variety  show  guest  particularly  on  Des  O' Connor  Tonight . The  Beeb sought  to  capitalise  on  this  by  offering  him  his  own  show  with  a  British  supporting  cast.

First  broadcast  on  BBC2  in  November  1979  the  show  was  a  strange  hybrid  of   Saturday Night  Live  and  Robin's  Nest . Kelly  played  a  version  of  himself  , a  slightly  manic  TV comedian  who  lived   with  a  British  girlfriend  Jill  ( Gabrielle  Drake ) . He'd  start  the  show  by breaking  the  fourth  wall  and  addressing  the  audience  directly  with  a  lengthy  monologue  and then  drop  himself  into  a  more  conventional  sitcom  situation.

I  saw  a  small  snatch  of  the  first  season  on  BBC  2   where  Kelly  had  a  mishap  in  the  shower  and  was  hopping  around  the  flat  starkers  ( not  the  last  time  he  was  nude  in  the  series ) . I  thought  that  was  pretty  funny  so  when  the  series  was  repeated  on  Sunday  nights  on  BBC1  in  the  spring  of  1980  I  made  a  point  of  watching  it.

Not  that  much  of  it  has  stayed  with  me  to  be  honest. The  episode  I  remember  best  is  one where  Kelly  and  Jill  have  a  great  dinner  party  at  their  flat  with  an  older  couple  and  accept   a  return  invite  that  wasn't  really  meant. Accordingly  they  turn  up  at  their  hosts  when  they're about  to  go  to  bed  and  muddle  through  a  joyless  evening, Kelly  desperately  cracking  lines   which  just  die  in  an  acute  case  of  social  embarrassment.

I  must  have  watched  at  least  some  of  the  second  season  because  I  remember  the  appearance of  animal  impersonator  Percy  Edwards  as  a  fellow  guest  on  a  chat  show  featuring  Kelly. I don't  recall  watching  any  of  it  after  Drake  was  dropped  allowing  Kelly  to  start  dating  again. This  was  probably  partly  down  to  BBC  1  putting  the  repeats  on  in  a  progressively  later timeslot  perhaps  through  nervousness  at  the  increasingly  risque  content.

Kelly  doesn't  seem  to  have  done  very  much  since  the  series  ended  in  1984- the  odd  chat  show  appearance, a  few  obscure  films  - which  is  a  bit  of  a  shame.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

408 Something Else


First  viewed  :  15  September  1979

This  was an  influential  show  but  has  largely  been  forgotten , so  much  so  that  yours  truly  created  the  wikipedia  page  for  it   back  in  2010 ( it's  still  there  but  messed  around  a  bit ).

Something  Else  was  the  start  of  "yoof  TV". In  typically  BBC  language  it  was  an  "access  programme"  produced  by  the  Community  Programme  Unit. The  brief  was  to  have  the  programme  devised  and  presented  by  unknown  under-20s  from  around  the  country  focusing  on  issues  important  to  them,  interspersed  with  musical  performances. After  a  pilot  show  in   March  1978  went  reasonably  well  five  more  were  commissioned  for  the  autumn  of  1979 broadcast  monthly  on  a  Saturday  evening.

I  remember  glancing  at  the  first  one  of  these   from  Manchester   which  had  The  Jam  performing  what  would  become  their  breakthrough  top  10  hit  The  Eton  Rifles  and  then  drifting  away. So   first  time  around ,  I  actually  missed  the  series'  crowning  glory, the  one  thing  that  ensures it  will  never  be  completely  obscure , the  only  nationally  broadcast  TV  appearance  by  Joy  Division   performing  "She's  Lost  Control "  and  "Transmission " . The  sound  is  a  bit  tinny  as  you'd  expect  but  they're  very  tight  and  at  the  centre  of   it  you've  got  Ian  Curtis  and  his, um, unique, contribution  to  the  terpsichorean  art. There  would  actually  be  more  of  his  manic  ducking  and  weaving  had  not  the  film  editor  decided  it  was  more  interesting  to  see  a  statuesque  Bernard  Sumner  concentrating  intensely  on  his  fretwork  during  many  of  the  instrumental  passages. There's  still  enough  there  to  show  what  a  uniquely  mesmerising  performer  he  was  and  of  course  it's  desperately  sad  to  watch  in  retrospect.

After  a   further  one  off  show  from  Skelmersdale  in  May  1980   heralding  another  monthly  season   which  never  materialised, the  series  returned  as  a  weekly  programme  on  Mondays  in  the  autumn  of  1980.

A  third  season  began  in  September  1981  but  it  had  switched  to  Fridays. There  was  a  gradual shift  towards  more  issue-based  programmes  rather  than  basing  the  show  in  a  particular locality. At  the  end  of  that  season  there  was  a  highlights  programme  featuring  just  the musical  performances.  In  the  fifth  and  final  season, in  the  autumn  of  1982  these  were  mostly dropped  as  Riverside, The  Tube  and  Oxford  Road  Show   ( all  shows  which  owed  a  debt  to  Something  Else  in  their  format  and  presentation ) were  adequately  catering  for  the  live  music  audience. There   was  a  fair  amount  of  music  though  on  the  show  broadcast  on  1st  October  which  was  given  over  to  a  bunch  of  Brighton  arts  students  led  by  semi-famous  performance  artist  Ian  Smith   who  made  sure  their  queasy  art  rock  as  Birds  With  Ears  got   a  generous  slice  of  the  programme. Unless  I'm  mistaken,  Smith  is  the  only  person  who  was  able  to  use  the  series  as  a  launching  pad   to  greater  things  although  Boy  George  and  Martin  Degville  featured  in  an  earnest  discussion  about  style  wars  early  in  the  first  season.

That  final  season  concluded  with  four , more  formal  debates  over  a  week  in  October  1982  on  family, equality, politics  and  war  then  a  highlights  programme  covering  the  four  years  of  the series. Then  it  was  over  and  started  slipping  away  into  the  mist.