Tuesday, 31 January 2017
First viewed : 15 February 1983
The critics weren't very kind to this either but in this case I think they got it wrong.
Masada was made in 1981, a four part US mini-series based on Josephus' ( now seriously questioned ) account of the tragic last act of the First Jewish-Roman War. It was shown over a fortnight in February 1983. I only saw one episode first time round but watched most of it with my mum when repeated in an earlier evening slot in the summer of 1986.
It was a good story, well-paced with high production values. One thing that might have got up British critic's noses was the clear segregation of the cast with the heroic Jewish resisters played by Americans and the brutal, bullying Romans played by trusty Brits. If you could forgive that though, the cast was outstanding. The producers scored a major coup in securing the services of Peter O Toole as the high-minded but ruthless general Silva while his main adversary Eleazar was played by Peter Strauss. You also had Timothy West as the Emperor Vespasian, Anthony Quayle as the veteran siege engineer and the architect of the Jews' downfall, David Warner as a ruthless Roman politician ( with Christopher Biggins as his sidekick ) and the gorgeous Barbara Carrera ( in some pretty skimpy costumes ) as Silva's Jewish mistress ( a completely fictional character but hey, no complaints from me ! ).
Monday, 30 January 2017
First visited : February 1983
Channel Four's first attempt at kids TV could hardly have proven more controversial with the programme, all 6 episodes of it, sill cropping up on all those Bad TV compilation shows.
Minipops was originally a kids troupe put together by Martin Wyatt as a showcase for his little daughter Jo. When their version of the old Connie Francis number Stupid Cupid was a big hit in France in 1982 , Channel 4 commissioned Supersonic's Mike Mansfield to build a TV show around the group and held auditions to expand the cast..
I only tuned in very briefly. I couldn't bear the butchery of the songs or Mansfield's painfully garish sets ; the deeper controversy passed me by entirely. It just didn't seem to have occurred to anyone that sex is a pretty large ingredient in pop and if you're going to have primary school tots performing contemporary material you've got to sift it pretty carefully. Video Killed The Radio Star was fine ( though musically an abomination ) but Sheena Easton's 9 to 5 was always going to be dodgy with that "Night time is the right time, we make love" line. When it was performed by five year old Joanna Fisher in a white bath gown with groping gestures to emphasise that line, it wasn't surprising that critics started suggesting that Channel Four was taking its brief to cater for minorities a little too far. The bosses took fright and cancelled the series after one season.
It was a trifle harsh on the guys behind the show, none of whom have been accused of any actual crime then or now and nobody protests about the screening of films like Taxi Driver or Bugsy Malone with Jodie Foster in jailbait roles.
The group itself survived the show's cancellation, toured Canada and released six albums before disbanding in the mid-eighties. Jo Wyatt is a successful voice actress while Joanna Fisher has made her mark in showjumping
Friday, 27 January 2017
First viewed : February 1983
This one isn't quite as notorious as The Borgias but it was the final nail in the coffin as far as attempts to replicate the success of I Claudius went.
The Cleopatras followed the fortunes of the successive queens of that name in the Ptolemaic dynasty from 145 BC until the last and most famous bearer of that name had her fatal encounter with a snake in 36 BC. However , any thoughts that this might make for great feminist viewing were quickly dispelled by the sheer number of bare breasts ( mainly those of dancers or uncredited extras ) on display. If the script was to be believed , most of the men in ancient Egypt were actually tits too so you had an orgy of nipples to look at until the Romans arrived and took over.
The sets looked like left overs from a Dr Who story and writer Philip Mackie decided to couch the dialogue in everyday language which ( along with not casting any venerable Egyptian actors who couldn't speak English intelligibly ) at least allowed you to follow the plot although it did give rise to some bathetic moments. It's hard to think Julius Caesar ever said anything that translated as "Oh these Egyptians are getting me down".
Robert Hardy actually played Caesar very well, capturing the monstrous ego of the man perfectly and Richard Griffiths added to his growing reputation as the grotesque Pot Belly in the early episodes. Michelle Newell played both the most famous Cleopatra and the third and was OK although not really beautiful enough to account for her illustrious conquests, especially when surrounded by such an abundance of alternative crumpet.
The critics were pretty unkind to it , disliking the campy approach to history, and the Beeb have chosen to bury it although someone has generously uploaded the entire series from their VCR tapes to YouTube.
Thursday, 26 January 2017
First viewed : 22 January 1983
This was a decent little programme from Channel 4 on a Saturday evening , looking at the workings of the music business by concentrating on a couple of artists each show. Because it was an hour long show on a commercial channel, the placing of the ad breaks meant that one artist got two thirds of the episode and the other just one.
The programme was devised and presented by one of Radio One's more cerebral DJs , the American ex-pat Paul Gambaccini and reflected his interests in more ways than one. Most, though not all, of the artists featured were at least of some interest to America and at least some of the episodes were broadcast there as well. Most of the artists were also reasonably well established - with one glaring exception. The first programme ( which I didn't catch ) featured Phil Collins - and Kajagoogoo.
Who ? Kajagoogoo were EMI's new signings and had only just released their first single. Were EMI sponsoring the show or something ? In promoting the programme, Gambaccini , a classic rock and soul fan, was gushing over this plastic haircut band* comparing them to the Beatles and other greats. What was going on ? When the band's single reached number one, the tabloids soon winkled out the truth. Gambaccini and the band's singer Chris Hammill ( "Limahl ") were living together. Both men were in the closet at the time and insisted it was a platonic arrangement but no one was fooled. The actual episode justified itself by interviewing EMI hacks about the mechanism of launching a new band on the market.
Nepotism aside, it was a well put together programme which was engaging even when you didn't have much interest in the artists involved. I'd never buy a Lionel Ritchie record but he was so articulate and engaging in discussing his music that he held my attention. On the other hand, Mark "I'm so laid back I'm not going to say anything coherent" Knopfler drove me up the wall.
The programme was fortnightly and alternated with Gastank , a televised jamming session memorably described by Mickie Most as "a bunch of old has-beens getting together for a singsong". I never bothered tuning in for that.
The show ran for two series in 1983 and 1984.
* Kajagoogoo actually made one or two decent records after bumping Hammill in the wake of his outing but it was too late for them to be taken seriously.
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
First viewed : 15 January 1983
I normally stuck with the charts on Radio One rather than the Sunday tea time classic serial on BBC One but I made an exception for this 10 part adaptation of the Dickens novel.
The reason was that six months earlier, during the school holidays, I had borrowed the book from Littleborough Library for a summer read, probably because I was conscious that my sister was becoming somewhat better read than me. I suspect I picked it for its relative obscurity , having no outstanding character like Uriah Heep or Mr Bumble to guarantee its immortality. As I was often wont to do at this time, I made a note of who I'd like to cast in each part in an adaptation..
I was pretty surprised when I realised that the BBC were broadcasting an adaptation so soon afterwards and gobsmacked when I saw that I'd called a major casting decision exactly right. I thought the part of Mr Carker, Dombey's right hand man who is slyly embezzling the company's funds while stroking his chief's considerable ego, would be perfect for Blake's Seven's Paul Darrow and someone obviously agreed with me.
In the other main parts , the dour. awesomely self-satisfied Dombey was placed in the capable hands of Julian Glover while his cruelly neglected daughter Florence was played by future sexpot ( but very demure here ) Lysette Anthony. I can't remember who I'd earmarked in either case.
The adaptation was OK, perhaps a little stiff, and, as always with Dickens, somewhat hollowed out with colourful but inessential characters excised altogether. I remember my sister being quite affected by the final reconciliation scene between Florence and her father which rather surprised me.
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
First viewed : 17 January 1983
Hot on the heels of Channel Four, another part of the modern TV landscape fell into place in the middle of January 1983 when BBC One launched Breakfast Time a couple of weeks ahead of ITV who weren't quite ready to go with their alternative. There were a number of naysayers around, including my mother , who said people would never have the time in a morning to switch the TV on. Mum stuck faithfully to her beloved Radio Four and never watched anything before 6pm on a weekday.
Curiosity compelled me to get up early and watch a bit of it. The main host was Nationwide anchorman Frank Bough in his comfy jumper, aided by glamorous newsreader Selina Scott poached from ITV and earnest law reporter Nick Ross, also casually attired. Perhaps having some inkling of its rival's business plan, the programme emphasised its cosiness and informality with all its guests interviewed on copious sofas. Though it didn't shy away from covering serious news, memorably filming the extraction of Norman Tebbitt from the rubble of the bombed hotel in Brighton, 1984, the show was on the whole pretty anodyne.
The initial carrot for me was the promise of a chart rundown on a Wednesday morning but when I realised this would only feature one song, I soon gave up on it and chose to stay in bed a bit longer.
Nevertheless Breakfast Time was a success. The travails of TV-am on the other channel have been well-documented with the head start enjoyed by BBC turning out to be the least of their worries. There are few better examples of disconnect between the political establishment and the ordinary population than the catastrophic failure of Peter Jay's "mission to explain".
Jim Callaghan's son-in-law put together his "famous five" - Parkinson, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and the less stellar Robert Kee , a dry old stick from Panorama , to helm a show pitched at Guardian readers. The viewing figures were dismal and Jay was unceremoniously dumped by investors led by Tory crook Jonathan Aitken. Ford and Rippon were sacked for publicly siding with Jay and replaced by Roland Rat. Newsnight took pity on Jay and found him a spot as their economics reporter.
Ironically, after the new downmarket version of TV-am had caught up with them in the ratings, the Beeb ditched the sofas and woolly jumpers in 1986 and went for a harder news approach with desks and presenters in suits. Ross already had a good life raft in Crimewatch. Scott survived making a terrible self-indulgent documentary about herself to carve out a career in the US.
Bough initially was switched to Holiday as a replacement for veteran Cliff Michelmore but in 1988 a tabloid scandal arose when he was alleged to be using prostitutes and taking cocaine. Frank's ill-advised mea culpa turned it into a sensation and even though he'd left Breakfast Time a year earlier it was surely no coincidence that the Beeb decided on a re-brand as Breakfast News the following year.
Monday, 23 January 2017
First viewed : 4 January 1983
Here's the little epilogue to The David Essex Showcase.
To recap from the earlier post, the overall winner of the talent show was Bowie-fixated singer Philip Jap and the prize was his own TV show. I bet they didn't tell him his 35 minute showcase would be stuck in a graveyard slot - 22.45pm on a Tuesday evening just after Christmas.
Philip got to perform his two minor hits of 1982 , Save Us and Total Erasure plus tracks from his forthcoming album. Peter Powell who'd championed him on Radio One ( almost invariably the kiss of death for any aspiring artist ) acted as his MC on the show. Kenny Lynch, Simon Ward and Fiona Richmond - an eclectic bunch to be sure- were the other guest stars playing parts in his pseudo-videos. I only watched a few minutes of it, Jap's music being resoundingly derivative and mediocre however much gusto he put into its physical performance.
The never-repeated ( there's a surprise ! ) show had zero impact on Jap's commercial fortunes. His next single and the album that followed bombed completely. To his credit Jap accepted the verdict, gave up on being a singer and went behind the scenes as a composer and arranger with his own production company, Audiofield.. He wrote the music for a series called The Glory Boys in 1984 and many commercials. He also wrote for briefly successful singer Leilani in the late nineties.
Sunday, 22 January 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
We'll leave 1982 with this one because it's marginally more likely that I saw an episode of this in its first season ( autumn 1982 ) than the second ( autumn 1983 ).
Barry Took chaired this celebrity quiz show where an ordinary person with some ( reasonably ) extraordinary secret was wheeled on and the celebrity panellists had to determine what it was by elimination questions. The in-the-know audience could applaud to let them know they were getting close. Jan Leeming. Chris Kelly and Alfred Marks were regulars on the panel.
The only one I can remember is a man who made a loophonium, an instrument made from a toilet. Hmm, no queue of people waiting to put their lips to that one.
It lasted for two seasons then I guess they ran out of secrets.
Saturday, 21 January 2017
First viewed : 30 December 1982
This has cropped up a little bit earlier than I expected. This is because the pilot was shown more than eighteen months before the first series aired.
Allo' Allo ! was the latest series from David Croft although it was a collaboration with his less frequent writing partner Jeremy Lloyd rather than Jimmy Perry. Lloyd and Croft's collaborations were generally more risque ( as in Are You Being Served ? with Mrs Slocombe's pussy) and Allo' Allo ! pushed the boat out further in that respect.
Allo' Allo' , at least at first ,was a surprisingly close parody of Secret Army. You could draw direct links between many of the characters , Rene was Albert, Michelle was Yvette, Herr Flick was Kessler and so on. Rene the hapless cafe owner was forced to work for both the Resistance in hiding two British airmen ( both completely useless upper class twits ) and the Germans, venal rather than evil here, in smuggling works of art. As well as that he was always juggling between three or four different women. who found him irresistible.
Allo' Allo! was therefore unusually demanding of its audience for a primetime sitcom with its absurdly complicated plots stretching over a number of episodes. This necessitated the recap from Rene that commenced each show. Gorden Kaye had been a journeyman actor for well over a decade , his nearest brush with stardom being a short stint in Coronation Street but he took this chance with both hands and as the fulcrum around which the storylines revolved, made himself a household name.
My mum's favourite character was Crabtree, the British agent posing as a French policeman. He was played by Arthur Bostrom who seems to have been in the audience at the Bolton Octagon every time I've ventured there.
The series had to take an enforced break in 1990 when Kaye was nearly killed in a freak storm in the South of England. I think I'd already drifted away by then and it was finally put to bed in 1992. A reunion show fifteen years later passed me by completely.
Thursday, 19 January 2017
First viewed: 18 December 1982
It's a shame there's not much trace of this tense little thriller about a convict ( Billy Murray ) who rats on his mates in return for conjugal visits from his wife Judy Geeson. When he gets out, he's a marked man. If I remember rightly he survives but the old lag who tries to help him cops it.
Apart from an episode of Tales of the Unexpected six months later , this was Geeson's last appearance on British TV before she permanently relocated to America ( though she did return for an episode of Boon in 1989 ).
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
First viewed : November 1982
This long-forgotten show was Channel Four's first attempt at "yoof TV".
Having the usual chat and music formula, the show was broadcast from the Ace Theatre, Brixton a decent-sized venue on the regular rock circuit. The band playing there - a reasonably big name like The Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers - would have a couple of numbers televised and then it would cut to an earnest discussion on unemployment or apartheid backstage with the muffled sound of people having rather more fun in the background. The relative proportions of the audience who tuned in for the music and the chat can easily be guessed.
The series was most notable for its acerbic host. Here began the slow climb to TV ubiquity of Keith Allen, previously best known as a naked ventriloquist on the alternative comedy circuit. As well as his provocative chairing of the discussions, Allen used the show to premiere his debunking of The Professionals with "The Bullshitters", depicting "Bonehead" and "Foyle" as a couple of gaylords obsessed with their underpants. It was funnier in concept than execution but his heart was in the right place.
Tuesday, 17 January 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
It's highly likely I caught some of BBC1's midweek sports magazine before the autumn of 1982 but this is when I became a regular viewer as they began following the progress of Britain's newest heavyweight hopeful Frank Bruno.
Sportsnight began in 1968 as Sportsnight with Coleman , the latter part of the name being dropped in 1972 when the conceited commentator gave way to Tony Gubba as main host. Although the programme covered most sports, primacy was nearly always given to football, mainly highlights from FA Cup replays , League Cup matches and European ties . It also ran with the football season, taking a break in the summer months each year.
Harry Carpenter took over from Gubba in 1975 ensuring that his own cherished sport of boxing got an increased share of the action despite a growing medical opposition to the sport. You couldn't help wondering when listening to Harry's commentary what he himself would be like in a fight. You suspected not very good from the look of him.
Bruno had only just turned professional in 1982 but was tipped for the top and was carefully managed. Bruno had a formidable physique and a lethal punch but was very endearing in person. Most of his early interviews with Carpenter lasted considerably longer than the "fight" he'd just been in as a succession of obvious inadequates were dispatched, usually in the first round. At the same time , the best British contender of the previous decade, Joe Bugner, was making a comeback . Bugner , never popular for his defensive style, less than total commitment and controversial defeat of national treasure Henry Cooper, was now an Australian citizen and there was a lot of speculation about when the two would meet. Before that eventually happened in 1987 , Frank had suffered two potentially derailing defeats against James "Bonecrusher" Smith and Tim Witherspoon in his first world title shot .
The Bugner match wasn't shown live on terrestrial TV. Characteristically, Bugner hadn't bothered to slim down to his fighting weight and Frank saw him off with a technical knock out in the eighth round. Two years later he was fighting the ferocious Mike Tyson ( the two men were friends outside the ring ) and after being too slow to follow up a dangerous left hook in the first round, took a heavy battering which was stopped in Round Five.
I think most people realised at that point that Frank wasn't going to reach the top of the profession but he did eventually snatch the WBC heavyweight title in 1995 with a points victory over Oliver McCall. He held it for barely six months before another mauling from Tyson in his first defence. He retired on medical advice immediately afterwards. By that time Carpenter had already hung up on the microphone.
As regards the football, it captured a number of memorable games. There was the League Cup tie between Everton and Oxford with the latter poised to win the tie and most likely put Howard Kendall out of a job before a suicidal back pass from the hapless Kevin Brock allowed Everton to equalise and kick started their mid-eighties glory years. Sportsnight also captured the 1985 Kenilworth Road Riot when Millwall supporters, their ranks swelled by thugs from Chelsea and West Ham it must be said, went berserk in their FA Cup defeat at Luton and wrecked the stadium , sparking the thankfully short-lived vogue for banning away supporters. Of the European matches I particularly enjoyed Red Star Belgrade's demolition of Rangers just before the Yugoslav wars destroyed the team.
And then of course Sportsnight were at Selhurst Park ten years later to capture the most infamous non-fatal football incident of all when a certain sent-off French striker decided to treat the crowd ( one or two of them being non-consenting, if not entirely blameless , participants ) to an impromptu kung fu demonstration as he left the pitch . This handed Blackburn Rovers what will almost certainly be their only Premier League title in my lifetime.
That was pretty much the programme's last big coup. The advent of live Champions League matches meant the loss of much of its raison d'etre and the brand was finally put to bed in 1997.
Monday, 16 January 2017
First viewed : November / December 1982
This is another programme where I only dipped in the once, I think towards the end of the series.
This lauded seven-part costume drama was an adaptation of the first two books in Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire which satirised contemporary politics through the sheanigans surrounding ecclesiastical appointments in a quaint cathedral town in the Home Counties. The series had a very strong cast including Donald Pleasance playing against type as the kind, unwordly vicar, Nigel Hawthorne, Susan Hampshire and Geraldine McEwan. However, it was a relative newcomer who stole the show with Alan Rickman superb as the obsequious social climber Obadiah Slope.
With all the plaudits the series received, including multiple BAFTA nominations , it seems strange that the Beeb let the other four novels in the series lie and never followed it up.
There was no great TV career ahead for Rickman either who returned to the stage for the next six years before his re-emergence as a major film star with Die Hard.
Sunday, 15 January 2017
First viewed : Autumn 1982
This is barely worth noting as I only saw a few minutes of this five part U.S. mini-series based on a 1975 novel by James Clavell about an English sailor shipwrecked in Japan who rises to become a samurai warrior in the closed feudal world of seventeenth century Japan. The novel was very loosely based on a true story.
The only reason it sticks in my mind is that the bit I saw had star Richard Chamberlain being urinated on for some transgression which was not normal fare in these sort of things.
First viewed : 29 November 1982
I'm pretty sure this was the only time I tuned into ITV's rival to Tomorrow's World . It was
however the TV event of the week as the programme was going to present some 3D images and special glasses were given away with TV Times that week to enable viewers to enjoy them.
TVS had poached Michael Rodd from the BBC to present the series alongside the mumsy Sue Jay ( and later Jackie Spreckley ) . It had a more thematic approach compared to Tomorrow's World's magazine style though the most intriguing scientific mystery of all, how not a single strand of Michael's hair had moved since Screen Test , remained unsolved.
The 3D episode, which seems to be pretty much the only thing anyone can now recall about the series, was something of a let down. The team had cobbled together some cheap effects to throw at you - a bull in a china shop coming towards the screen, a boxer throwing a punch, girl on a swing etc, then repeated them all at the end to eke out the time if you hadn't been disappointed enough the first time round. The rest of the programme was technical and drab; Rodd was an effective communicator but this stuff was a tough sell for a 7pm audience. The fact that 35 years later we still don't have 3-D television shows how effective the "experiment" was although the predictions about 3-D cinema eventually came true.
The Real World ran for three seasons before being ditched. Apart from a short series on Channel 4 in 1987, ( Circuit Training, which must have entirely passed me by ) Rodd hasn't had a regular TV gig since, although he's alive and well and still running the company he set up to advise businesses on new technology.
First viewed : 27 November 1982
I didn't see the first series in 1981 but word of mouth suggested I'd missed something so we tuned in at the start of the second.
Three of a Kind was a fast moving sketch show with a musical interlude. The title was . perhaps intentionally ironic, as its trio of stars could hardly have been more different in style. Lenny Henry was still primarily an excitable impressionist, David Copperfield ( real name Stanley Barlow ) was a young-ish but old style Northern club comedian and Tracey Ullman was a phenomenal comic actress.
Three of a Kind bridged the gap between Not The Nine O Clock News and the more established sketch-based fare served up by the likes of Dick Emery and Les Dawson. Being on BBC 1 it wasn't going to be as vicious and satirical as the former but there weren't going to be any sexist or racist gags either.
Some of the material was a bit tame but there were some classic moments, none more so than the Jenny Hill Show where Tracey turned the tables on Benny as a lewd and lecherous young woman on the rampage . I also remember one where she appears to be giving birth but the camera eventually pans back to reveal she's merely getting a new pair of jeans on , the climax of the sketch being her saying "Fine, I'll take them !". Henry used the opportunity to fine tune the comic characters, like the gross soul man, that would become the bedrock of his own future show. Copperfield's best-remembered contribution was Medallion Man. a welcome debunking of the Saturday Night Fever stereotype.
The show became very popular and Ullman overtook Pamela Stephenson to become Britain's favourite comedienne. Unlike Stephenson , she managed to successfully launch herself as a pop star although she rather outstayed her welcome particularly with her dreadful version of Madness's My Girl , Neil Kinnock exercising his usual sound judgement by appearing in the video with her.
By that time the show had already ended, the final episode broadcast being broadcast in October 1983. Ullman went over to ITV to do a sitcom before moving to the U S with her producer husband and there was no thought of trying to replace her. Henry was given his own show which in some respects was a continuation although without Copperfield who was allowed to drift back into clubland. Apart from a reality series in which he competed with other faded comedians in the noughties, he's rarely been on TV since.
Thursday, 5 January 2017
First viewed : 23 November 1982
This was the comedy series that replaced Not The Nine O Clock News in the affections of the young but not I'm afraid in mine. I remember seeing the episode where Madness appeared first time round but mainly I watched this fairly reluctantly on repeat in my hall of residence, among people who could anticipate whole sections of dialogue.
The series was written by one of its stars Rik Mayall, his friend Ben Elton and American girlfriend Lise Mayer whose father taught the two lads drama at Manchester University. It was based on the exploits of four students in grotty digs provided by eccentric landlord Alexei Sayle. Mayall played Rick a narcissistic anarchist . The others were Vivian, a psychotic punk , Neil an out-of-his-time hippy and Mike , a sharp-dressing jack-the-lad. Comic Strip buddies Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer played Vivian and Neil respectively. Peter Richardson was due to play Mike but , predictably, couldn't work with producer Paul Jackson and the role went to diminutive actor Christopher Ryan instead.
The show was ostensibly a sitcom but had many surreal elements such as talking vegetable puppets and incorporated a live musical performance in order to attract a variety show budget. The performance would normally be incorporated into the story in some way. Madness performed "House of Fun" in the lads' local. Rick asks them if they know Cliff's Summer Holiday to which Suggs replies "You hum it, I'll smash your face in", a rather ironic exchange given the quartets last outing.
Like I said above I didn't really buy into the over-the-top characters, the slapstick or the taken for granted assumption that everyone young is left wing in the writing. Like Fawlty Towers only 12 episodes were made but it was often repeated. The BBC suits were uneasy about some of the content but felt it was necessary for BBC2 to meet the challenge of the new channel.
The series ended in the summer of 1984 but Planer went to do an album as Neil scoring a big hit with a version of Traffic's Hole In My Shoe. Then two years later the gang reunited to do a Comic Relief record with Cliff Richard , a funny-for-one-play version of "Living Doll". As Sayle correctly predicted in refusing to participate , these musical outings ended up damaging the brand. Ryan went his own way as a straight actor after that but the others have reunited on other projects.
Wednesday, 4 January 2017
First viewed : November 1982
I only dipped into this two-part mini-series ( probably the second episode ) dramatising the life of the former Israeli Prime Minister.
It's notable for featuring the last screen performance ( and her first in four years ) of non-Jewish Hollywood legend, Ingrid Bergman, who had died of cancer a few months before it was broadcast. She played the older Golda ( Judy Davis was her younger self ). The producers were unable to insure their stricken star and at times it looked like the project might go unfinished as Bergman was often too ill to shoot but it was completed. Bergman won a posthumous Emmy and Golden Globe for her work.
Tuesday, 3 January 2017
First viewed : 5 November 1982
This was the main draw for me as far as the new channel was concerned, a 105 -minute live pop show at 5.15 pm on a Friday.
The show was made by Tyne Tees and broadcast from their studios in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The presenters were Jools Holland and a pregnant ( with Fifi Trixibelle ) Paula Yates. The idea was to have a mix of live interviews, pre-filmed features and comedy interludes and mini-sets from a few live acts . The biggest name among the bands would generally have the last half hour of the programme to themselves. With it being live , unpredictability was a key selling point.
The first episode scored a couple of coups with the first ever live performance by Heaven 17 and the last TV appearance by The Jam who'd announced their split a couple of weeks earlier. They did the last set with Paul Weller singing deeper and hoarser than usual.
I watched it regularly, at least until I went to university, but irritation soon set in. With it not being a chart-based show, the music selection was prone to nepotism. Squeeze's Gilson Lavis seemed to be the house drummer for the programme . Paul Young got more than his fair share of appearances on the programme due to working with Holland's former backing singers. The Christians got a leg up due to working with Squeeze's producer Laurie Latham . ZTT's eminence gris Jill Sinclair had a stake in the show so all their acts got a more than fair hearing. I'm presuming Glaswegian electro-funk outft Set The Tone had some connection with Muriel Gray , the skinny Scotswoman who took over when Yates became indisposed.
The other thing that gradually alienated me from the programme was the erosion of the musical content in favour of alternative comedy. At first you just had a poet called Mike Miwurdz whose material was 10% funny and the odd appearance by performance artist Wavis O Shave ( 0 % funny ) but then you had regular appearances by French and Saunders and so on. In later years it got very kitsch-y with appearances by sixties word-mangler Stanley Unwin. He was a "panellist" in a dreadful elongated spoof of Celebrity Squares compered by an unknown comedian who was so wooden and amateur-ish that I felt confident he'd never be seen on TV again. He turned out to be Vic Reeves. I'm sure this shift was the main reason for the show's declining ratings.
Still there were some memorable moments over the programme's life span -
- Two great singles I first heard on the show , It's Immaterial's Driving Away From Home and Thomas Lang's The Happy Man
- Muriel Gray fearlessly subjecting Mick Jagger to some hard questioning about the "controversial" video to Undercover of the Night
- Marc Almond's microphone conking out during Where The Heart Is
- Heavy metal hard man Thor blowing up and bursting a hot water bottle with suitable "don't try this at home" warnings
- Yates sparking off three decades of tabloid frenzy with her interview / seduction of Inxs's frontman Michael Hutchence
The show eventually came to grief in 1987. Holland referred to "groovy fuckers " in a live trailer for the show and it was taken off the air for three weeks as a result of the controversy. It returned with a penitent Holland still on board but the writing was on the wall for the show and it was axed in April 1987 after four and a half years.
Sunday, 1 January 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
I might have dipped into this series earlier but I'm pretty sure I saw the episode broadcast on 3.11.82 which dealt with the Shroud of Turin.
Q.E.D. was a popular science series beginning in 1982 as a shorter, more accessible alternative to BBC2's long-running Horizon. The episode about the Shroud was the second of the second season. The documentary was made six years before the radiocarbon testing of the Shroud which pointed to a fourteenth century origin for the relic. This has been generally if not universally accepted although debate continues on how the forgery was achieved.
The Q.E.D. branding was discarded in 1999. As with other long-running documentary strands , I will add to this post as we go.
The Horse That Doped Itself ( 24.11.1982 ) Kieran Prendiville looked into the science behind a racing scandal from the previous year where one of the horses owned by the Aga Khan failed a drugs test but was later declared by The Jockey Club to have internally manufactured the steroid itself. I can't remember what the conclusion ( if there was one ) was.
Round Britain Whizz ( 19.02.1986 ) This one used sped up aerial photography to make a flight around Britain's coastline fit the programme's half hour slot. It was technically impressive but not all that easy to watch.