Tuesday 26 December 2017

Archive Tape Digging: December 2017

I worked out the other day that I must have worked my way through close to 1,000 VHS tapes throughout 2017 in search of interesting nuggets of British TV. Obviously, I don't scan every single millisecond of the tapes as that would be ridiculously time consuming, so the fast forward button helps me skip through the late 1980s editions of Blind Date and get to the interesting bits like ad breaks and whatever followed when the tape was left running.

Monday 25 December 2017

25th December 1977 - A Seminal Day in British Broadcasting History? Or Not?

Today's very special and festive blog is courtesy of Jonathan Hayward, a friend of Curious British Telly and a man responsible for many of the VHS recoveries on the YouTube page.

The above date has been thought of by a number of writers and commentators as the day, or perhaps more accurately, the evening when populist but universally accessible broadcasting reached its most dominant apex. Starting with Bruce Forsyth and The Generation Game, followed by The Mike Yarwood Christmas Show and climaxing with The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, the latter reaching viewing figures quoted as 27 million or even slightly higher at 28.835 million.

Sunday 24 December 2017


The Manchester United team of the mid to late 1960s was a stupendous collection of talents, personalities and, most importantly, winners. Their highpoint, of course, came in 1968 when they Benfica to become the first English team to win the European Cup (Celtic had taken the accolade of first British club to win the competition the previous season). 10 years on from the Munich air disaster, it was the culmination of an unenviable rebuilding process helmed by Matt Busby which sought to yield the ultimate fruit. And yield it did.

Saturday 9 December 2017

The Inimitable Johnny Jarvis Theme Tune

If you've never managed to succumb to the beauty of the Johnny Jarvis theme tune then there's a good chance that you're either stone deaf or beyond any sense of known help. And not only is the Johnny Jarvis theme tune an incessant earworm which refuses to evacuate your auditory system, but it also heralds the start of one of the finest British television dramas.

Sunday 3 December 2017

42 Lesser Known British Children’s TV Shows

I was flicking through one of those 'Greatest Children's TV Shows' things the other day and, yes, the shows it listed were indeed fantastic, but what about the other children's shows that were making up the schedules as Tiswas, Knightmare and Grange Hill were unfolding?

I'm pretty sure that they're still worthy of recognition in some way (even if they're forgotten for good reason), so that's why I've decided to pull together 42 lesser known British children's TV shows to give a fuller understanding of what children's TV is capable of.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Video Active

In 2017 you can film, edit and watch whatever takes your cinematic fancy within minutes thanks to the advances in mobile phone technology. And that's at an incredibly amateur level, if you want to film something with higher production values you can achieve this for several hundred pounds thanks to digital technology. Back in the 1980s, though, even if you wanted to film an out of focus wedding reception (not always a bad thing considering the haircuts) it was a much more testing and time consuming task. Thankfully, ready to lend a hand, was Video Active. 

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Wake Up!

Jonathan Hughes (Nigel Planer) and his wife Libby (Susie Blake) host the daytime magazine show Wake Up! from the comfort of their garishly 90s armchairs against the backdrop of an equally charmless 90s show home. Producer Jeff Shreeve (Stephen Moore) would love Wake Up! to showcase the chemistry of Jonathan and Libby, but they've been running on empty for some time now. Accordingly, the duo's life is characterised by a creeping sense of misery, compounded by the Jonathan and Libby brand they feel beholden to. Maybe it's time for them to Wake Up!

Sunday 12 November 2017


We're so busy rushing about that we're constantly looking ahead and worrying what's coming towards us. Sure, it's an invaluable skill to possess whilst driving and whilst trying to navigate your way through the Boxing Day sales, but there's a whole world beneath our feet and it's a shame that we miss out on the wonders below. And, if you were to cock your eye towards the grass and leaves, you might be lucky enough to glimpse some Windfalls.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

The 8.15 from Manchester

Going Live! Tiswas! SM:TV! Saturday Superstore! These are the shows that are regularly referenced as Saturday morning highpoints for children's TV (some may also mention Zokko! but, technically, that went out in the afternoon) but over the last 50 years there have been many more such shows. As you've probably guessed, I can remember plenty of these less iconic shows but, nonetheless, they still provided a little bit of excitement to otherwise mundane Saturday mornings. One that I remember catching, in particular, was The 8.15 from Manchester.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Past Caring

We all like the good things in life, I mean, why else would we get up in the morning if there was nothing worth pursuing? And, whilst I haven't quite reached the echelons of old age yet, I'm pretty certain that even when I've retired I'll still hanker after good times albeit with a lengthy lay-in each morning. Sure, there's the ever constant worry of colostomy bags, severely rationed pensions and not having enough bread to feed the ducks, but by then I'll probably be Past Caring.

Tuesday 17 October 2017


The inanimate state that dolls find themselves in severely restricts any sense of control or ambition they may harbour. At the mercy and whims of their human owners - who are acting out their most indulgent deity fantasies - dolls are left with little option but to be forced into various poses and bizarre crossover adventures (I mean, who didn't team up their Chewbacca figure with their sister's doll?). The psychological impact of all this hullabaloo is, of course, lost on the owners for, as we all know, dolls only ever come to life and display their feelings when no humans are around.

Saturday 30 September 2017

Pushing Up Daisies / Coming Next

Ah, the Great British sketch show, now there's a glorious helping of British comedy if ever there was one. Time was that they pretty much ruled the airwaves along with sitcom and, when I was a lad, you could open up a copy of the Radio Times, randomly stick a pin in and chances were it would stick into a listing for a sketch show - much to the chagrin of my Dad who prized his collection of Radio Times stacked in the garage.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Z for Zachariah

Hands up who loves a bit of alone time! That's right, everyone on this busy, congested celestial body comprised of land, water and incessant "HAVE YOU BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT?!" phone calls has to get away from it all every now and then. However, if humans had always been purely solitary souls then we wouldn't even have the option to now pick up a call from Accidents4UDirect. Our ability to socialise and build bonds with one another has allowed us to pool resources like no other organism on Earth and deliver remarkable achievements.

Saturday 16 September 2017


Back when I was a much younger man, the first pet I came to know and love was our cat, Tussy - a white Persian with one blue and one green eye. He'd been a family pet since long before I was born and, so my first memories of Tussy stem from when he was about 14. Therefore, he wasn't the most agile cat at this point and it was rare I'd see him do anything more strenuous than jumping on a worktop. However, I like to think that, when he was a much younger cat, he would get up to all sorts of adventures such as going to the moon, skiing and dealing with robots. Much like Doris.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Behind the Bike Sheds

School days, are they really the best days of our lives? All I seem to recall is endless mornings and afternoons spent staring out the window of either freezing cold or swelteringly hot portacabins at nothing in particular.

Okay, I could have paid a bit more attention and actually done some of that there learning, but education can be such a frightful affair at the best of times, particularly when it’s being enforced by a man for whom body odour and dental hygiene are foreign concepts. However, it would probably have taken more than a swift shower and glug of mouthwash to liven things up and get me fully on board. What I wanted was a little bit more entertainment and, if I had known at the time, it could probably have been found Behind the Bike Sheds.

Saturday 9 September 2017

A Frame with Davis

Whilst snooker still holds a dedicated following and racks up viewing figures that just about pot the black for the BBC, it's a far cry from the glory days of the 1980s when 18.5 million viewers tuned in for the 1985 World Snooker Championship. Interest in the sport was at an all time high and these rather unassuming players (Hurricane Higgins aside) were soon edging into the bracket of celebrity. And it was popularity which soon led to other celebrities wanting to play A Frame with Davis.

Friday 8 September 2017

27 Works of Art from Hartbeat’s The Gallery

Every child in Britain wanted to get their picture featured in The Gallery section from Tony Hart's Hartbeat and the BBC's mail room most probably had to hire in additional staff every time a new series commenced. Naturally, the quality and format of the work always varied wildly, but this was what made The Gallery so special as it rewarded inspiration and artistic endeavour. And, to help reward this work once more, I'm going to feature 27 works of art from Hartbeat's The Gallery!

Thursday 7 September 2017

Tony Sarchet on His Comedy Writing Career

What we find funny varies tremendously from person to person, so writing comedy is perhaps one of the hardest jobs in entertainment. I spent around five years writing a seemingly stratospheric pile of sketches and, by the end of that period, five of them ended up being performed in various stage shows in London. So, yes, it's a tough old game, but for every 10,000 failed writers there's one who bubbles up to the surface like a tasty carrot in a particularly indulgent broth.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Teddy Edward

Technology may advance at a rapid pace and fads may come and go, but teddy bears remain a resolute pillar of childhood; their furry, almost stately charms are hard to deny, so it’s understandable why so many children cling onto their beloved teddies in bed and well into adulthood.

And it’s not only in reality that teddy bears are cherished, fiction is equally as obsessed with these woolly-haired and adjustable limbed caniforms. Children’s fiction, in particular, takes great delight in transporting teddy bears into a narrative and children’s television has followed suit accordingly.

One of the lesser spotted teddy bears stalking through the vast forests of British children’s TV is Teddy Edward, a medal wearing and globetrotting teddy whose adventures are captured in Teddy Edward.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Hugh and I Spy

Everyone's watched James Bond (unless you've somehow managed to permanently avoid the Christmas TV schedules) and everyone has wanted to be James Bond. He's suave, he's sexy and he's got an ingenuity that's second to none. However, is this merely a glamourised take on the realities of espionage? After all, it surely can't all be martinis and kicking back with sultry, seductive femme fatales, can it? Well, providing a sharp contrast to the world of 007 is Hugh and I Spy.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Archive Tape Digging - August 2017

It's been a few months since I last shared the wonderful nuggets of British TV I've managed to dig up from old VHS tapes, but rest assured I've still been busy with this curious past time. I've received a couple of donations in that time and I even took a punt on some I saw for sale online - the cases looked pretty old and it turned out they had recordings go back to 1983, so paying out for a pile of unknown tapes does occasionally harvest something interesting.

So, without further delay, here's some of the more interesting finds I've captured!

Saturday 26 August 2017

Chatting TV Preservation with The TV Museum

Regular visitors to Curious British Telly will know that nothing makes me happier than digging through a box of old VHS tapes in search of programmes, continuity and adverts which haven't been seen for donkey's years. However, I'm rather limited in my search as I only have the equipment to view and copy VHS. I'd love to delve through obsolete formats such as Philips N1500/1700, Video 2000 and, of course, Betamax, but I have neither the technical savvy or money to invest. However, there are plenty of people out there who are equipped to delve through these formats.

Monday 14 August 2017

The Little Green Man

When I was about 3 I had a good gaggle of friends behind me: Jonathan Stone, Adrian Tearle and Craig Nelson. Between us, we could jump off things, go down slides and scoff Party Rings like no other - we were kind of like the pre-school edition of The Rat Pack. However, whilst my mates were certainly a slick bunch (Jonathan even had a Mr Freeze), they weren't exactly endowed with magical powers. And this was always a problem when we wanted to bring snowmen to life (Mr Freeze aside who was a cool character in his own right).

It was particularly frustrating as I knew it was possible for a young boy to have friends with amazing abilities which confounded the norm. After all, I'd seen it on television and, back then, if there was one thing that I was sure of it was that EVERYTHING on television was real and possible. And one little guy who seemed hellbent on stretching the boundaries of reality was The Little Green Man.

Sunday 30 July 2017

9 Pukka Slices of Rare Only Fools and Horses Footage

Only Fools and Horses was awarded the title of Britain's Best Loved Sitcom in 2015 and it was also voted Britain's Favourite Sitcom in 2004; it's no surprise, really, as it's packed full of likeable characters and plenty of gags which satisfy almost every demographic. It makes you wonder why there aren't more sitcoms which can engender the feeling of love that OFAH does, but I guess love and genius are rare commodities.

This passion for Del Boy, Rodney et al means that every household in the land either has the complete OFAH boxset or has access to GOLD (essentially the OFAH boxset disguised as a digital channel). As a result, people all over the country can recite huge chunks of dialogue and argue almost non-stop about which is the greatest episode. However, not everyone is aware of the unusual, mostly unseen and long forgotten snippets of OFAH which are lurking online with a whole 'new' set of laughs.

And this is why I've decided to gather together 9 pukka slices of rare Only Fools and Horses footage in one place. Some of them may appear to have been swept up by Trigger round the back of the Nag's Head, so the quality is variable, but as Del Boy would say "C'est la vie, mange tout!"

Monday 24 July 2017

Wyatt’s Watchdogs

Society simply wouldn't operate without a little bit of community spirit running through our veins. It's this sense of commitment to our fellow man which ensures we have peace of mind, security and, most importantly, a feeling of togetherness. Sure, there are always hermits and loners in amongst this throng of connected individuals, but at least community provides them with something to rebel against, so everyone's a winner.

And it was in 1982 - for the UK - that an upgrade to community spirit was delivered with the establishment of neighbourhood watch schemes. Based on similar practices well established in the USA, these schemes looked to foster a communal spirit by inspiring people to come together to keep a watchful eye on their communities and make them a safer place to live.

The scheme has been a tremendous success and it's now estimated that 3.8 million households fall under the jurisdiction of a neighbourhood watch, so this is a level of security which can't be ignored. However, with no specific rules or central, governing bodies in place, a neighbourhood watch can soon become somewhat of a wild beast and start to cause more trouble than it solves as evidenced in Wyatt's Watchdogs.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Unnatural Causes: Hidden Talents

Every now and then, an actor or actress strides onto a television show and, backed by quite magnificent writing, manages to not only define the series, but often a genre. And this is never more evident than with Pat Phoenix who played - as we all know - Elsie Tanner way back in the very first episode of Coronation Street. 

The original soap siren, Elsie Tanner was fiery, passionate and it was the combination of these two traits which led to achilles heel: a series of doomed relationships with the many men to tread the cobbles of Coronation Street. Away from her romantic dalliances, though, Tanner was a warm hearted and maternal soul which was demonstrated most acutely in the late 1970s as she took Suzie Birchall and Gail Potter (later Platt) under her wing.

Making her final appearance in Coronation Street in 1984, Pat Phoenix left behind a brashy, honest, incredibly Northern and soulful legacy which has yet to be matched in British soaps and, given the dire state of that genre in the modern age, it's unlikely we'll ever see such a performance again. Sadly, just less than three years later, Pat Phoenix had died following a battle with lung cancer.

Several weeks after her untimely death - Phoenix was only 62 - the final chapter in her acting career aired in the form of Hidden Talents, an episode from the anthology series Unnatural Causes which, ironically, had death at the very centre of it's narrative.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Let’s Pretend

Adults need all manner of material distractions to briefly escape from reality, but young children don’t have access to credit cards and, as a result, have to find joy in other places. Thankfully, children are blessed with the most wondrous creativity. And it doesn’t cost a penny.

With a fertile imagination at their disposal, children can begin to explore the world around them all from the comfort of their bedroom. And with a few household props they can create practically any environment they like; if they’ve got a dressing up box and like to sing then it’s even better!

Now, someone once said that “Talent borrows. Genius steals”, so it’s reasonable that children – little geniuses that they are – need a little bit of inspiration to cultivate their imaginative endeavours and, acting as the perfect creative springboard, they can find this in Let’s Pretend.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Get Up and Go! / Mooncat & Co

Even the most experienced of us find the simplest aspects of life a strange affair, so, combined with the number of us humans rushing around from place to place, navigating our way through this tumultuous landscape could easily appear impossible to someone looking in from the outside.

Just take the number of shops down your local high street, every single one of them has a purpose and it’s a function we’ve learned over time e.g. you know to buy your eggs from one shop and your electric drill from another shop. However, we’re certainly not born with this knowledge and, with our minds as blank canvasses, we have to gradually piece together how the fabric of the world is woven together, otherwise we’ll try and drill holes with eggs.

For an alien visitor, matters are more complex. There’s no prior experience to draw upon, so the habits, cultures and emotions of Earth’s inhabitants must result in an exponential sense of bewilderment – just imagine trying to explain the phenomena whereby a sock always goes missing in the wash.

In fact, a popular exercise set by school teachers is for their pupils to describe an activity in extreme detail for an alien who has descended from the skies. Whilst this is restricted purely to the imagination, occasionally an alien does come down to Earth and their curiosity is more than eager to Get Up and Go!

Saturday 15 July 2017

I Brightened Up the Modern World with Retro TV Presenters

Political uncertainty, the threat of terrorism and gloomy economic prospects aren't exactly making Britain a very fun place to live in 2017; it's at times like this that I find myself getting all nostalgic for simpler times when it seemed like all I had to worry about was what was going to be on TV that week.

And, in particular, I really miss the TV presenters from way back in the day. With their cheery smiles, regional accents and retrospectively hideous suits/blouses, you were guaranteed a regular dose of security and comfort every time you turned the TV on.

Whilst reminiscing about this bygone era, I suddenly had a brainwave. Why not use these delightful TV presenters of yesteryear to bring a bit more charm and security to these trepidatious times we live in. And that's why I brightened up the modern world with retro TV presenters.

Friday 14 July 2017


Back in the late 1960s, the mere concept of an electronic comic was laughable. In the 21st century, of course, we’re blessed with tablets which can quite easily hold an e-comic. In those swinging sixties, however, I guess the best you could hope for would be a piece of thick plastic with line drawings on and illuminated by a smattering of red LEDs.

Actually, that sounds like a magnificently retro helping of comicabilia and something that I would snap up at auction in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, with just one page, it’s not a comic. And it never existed…

That there television, though, it’s electronic, right? In amongst all the telly waves and cathode rays there’s definitely an electrical source as I’ve seen the plug. This certainly opens up the possibility of somehow getting a comic on TV and satisfying not only the criteria of being a comic, but also shifting from one section to another without endless stacks of unwieldy plastic and the emotionless red glow of an LED. And a TV version is exactly what you’ll find in Zokko!

Sunday 2 July 2017

Third Time Lucky

It's always tempting to revisit past romantic relationships as the potential thrills are already established in our minds. We know exactly what we're going to get, what's going to get nibbled and the best excuse for getting the hell out of there at 3am in the morning. However, our fiery lust is usually extinguished long before we reach the, as I like to call it, trouser slipping off stage.

And the reason for this is that we know EXACTLY what we're going to get: all the arguments, all the emotional heartbreak and all the threats of legal action over who gets to keep the Annie Hall DVD.

That's why, when you bump into an old flame, there's that little voice at the back of your brain which keeps repeating "Never go back! Never go back!" and, as it echoes around your skull, you decide that, yeah, probably best to invest your romantic riches in a commodity which isn't going to crash and burn yet again.

Not everyone adheres to this sound logic, though, as humans are a foolhardy bunch - just look at the continued existence of Ant and Dec on our screens - and this why we're occasionally prone to throwing caution to the wind. It's these flaws, coupled with the potential for conflict as two lovers reconvene, that sounds like the perfect scenario for a good old situation comedy.

And, as luck would have it, there's one in the form of Third Time Lucky.

Saturday 1 July 2017

David Claridge: Who Is the Man Behind Roland Rat?

A defining figure of British TV in the 1980s, Roland Rat first appeared on TV-am in April 1983 and soon become a phenomenal success taking in several TV series, records and more merchandise than Errol the Hamster could shake a leek at. Naturally, being a puppet, Roland was an inanimate object brought to life by a human and, in this instance, it was David Claridge.

But who is David Claridge? Well, uh, it's a difficult to say, but he's certainly enigmatic...

You see, despite being behind such a massive cultural event, Claridge managed to keep well and truly beneath the radar. Claridge, of course, isn't completely immune from Google and there are certainly a few whispers and titbits about him floating around online. Sure, there's a brief CV of his achievements to be found over here, but it misses many interesting facts and trivia about this intriguing man and his achievements.

Therefore, I decided it was time that I collated together everything I could find in order to give the world a better understanding of the life and times of such an intriguing individual.

Saturday 24 June 2017

Bringing Teletext Back to Life - Vol. 1

Back in March, I picked up a load of old VHS tapes which managed to yield a whole host of archive gems. However, in amongst the curios there was a lot of less interesting material - namely films. Whilst, yes, there were some fine films in there (a lot of Bond), they're all readily available in the modern age, so don't really fall under my remit of forgotten or rarely seen TV.

However, the thought of simply skipping tapes which went way back to 1983 seemed a bit of a shame. Whilst I had no use for them, surely someone else would, right? And, thankfully, yes, there's a wonderful man known only by his full name of Jason Robertson who is one of the authorities on retrieving teletext from old VHS and Betamax tapes.

Wednesday 21 June 2017

New Book Is Now Out!

Yes, at long last, my first print book 'The Curiosities of British Children's TV' is now available to buy over at Amazon! Essentially, it's a compilation of the first two e-books I wrote on the hidden gems and oddities of British children's TV, but with more insights and interviews. Oh, and just to add that extra bonus, there's five new articles on some shows which I think you're going to really love!

The full list of shows covered are:

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Archive Tape Digging: May 2017

This month proved to be a fantastic month for the archive tape digging activities of Curious British Telly. At the start of the month, I received an email from someone who had been enjoying the various features of the blog and just happened to have a collection of VHS tapes going back to the early 1980s. And would I be interested in them?

Suffice to say, I was soon on my way to Manchester to delve through this exceptionally kind donation of around two to three hundred tapes. Thankfully, I'm not starting to associate certain case designs with their year of manufacture (cool, I know) and this helped me speed through them fairly quickly and pick up some remarkably old tapes.

Monday 1 May 2017

Archive Tape Digging: April 2017

Another month, another mountain of tapes for me to sift through with all the fervour of a gold prospector in the Old West. I'm never going to make my fortune with old cases full of magnetic tape, but there's always the chance I'll uncover an episode of Conjugal Rites or maybe even Standing Room Only if I'm really lucky. One thing that I can almost guarantee to uncover is turn of the century WWF, but this falls far, far outside of this blog's remit. Anyway, I received three loads of VHS tapes in April, totalling around 200 tapes.

Monday 17 April 2017

QED: A Guide to Armageddon

Every couple of years there's an overblown reaction to the threat of nuclear war; it's usually the result of posturing by the major powers as one tries to goad the other, but the actual chances of an all out nuclear holocaust remain slim because even the most crazed megalomaniac is aware of the slim pickings on offer.

However, all this nuclear hysteria naturally causes a lot of consternation amongst the general public who are relegated to the sidelines and can merely watch, much like a set of girlfriends outside a kebab shop on a Saturday night as their boyfriends square up to each other over a perceived slight.

Sunday 9 April 2017

Tickets for the Titanic: The Way, The Truth, The Video

Tickets for the Titanic was an anthology of six 50-minute plays which aired on Channel 4 over the course of two series between 1986 - 1987. The series was produced by Regent Productions, an indepedent production company who were also behind the Channel 4 shows 15 to 1 and Johnny Speight sitcom The Lady is a Tramp.

The first play in the anthology - Keeping Score - was the only one which featured the porthole opening. The reason for this omission was due to the capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry which killed 193 people and occurred two days after Keeping Score aired.

Friday 31 March 2017


What passes for acceptable behaviour in society is constantly evolving and reflects the changing times we live in. And these, sometimes radical, shifts in decency and morals can horrify the old guard.

Where once, they had been assured of a landscape governed by a shared moral yardstick, they may suddenly find themselves adrift of society’s progress.It clearly creates a sense of discord between the generations, but you know what, discord breeds comedy. And sometimes it can be a real side splitter.

You only have to take a look at grainy 1960s news footage of old chaps shaking their heads and spluttering “Have you ever seen the like? A skirt which is miniaturised?! Dear heavens!” to see how the preposterous and sanctimonious guarding of moral decency is hilarious.

And, of course, the comedy doesn’t necessarily come purely from old fashioned values held up against the modern world. That, after all, would be rather one dimensional. The real comedy enters the equation when there’s a conjoined level of hypocrisy, so would we see this in Grundy?

Saturday 25 March 2017

Archive Tape Digging: March 2017

Another month has almost passed by and, here at Curious British Telly, I've been busy working on my first print book 'The Hidden Gems and Oddities of British Children's TV', so the blog has been fairly quiet. However, last weekend, I went to pick up around 130-ish VHS tapes which, I was told, stretched all the way back to the early 1980s. And, with this sort of prospect dangling in front of me, I couldn't resist exploring them and shoving my book to the side for a week or two.

Whereas the last haul of tapes I got only went as far back as 1989, and mostly consisted of tapes from 1997 onwards, this new batch went way back into the early days of home recordings so promised to contain some intriguing slices of British television - especially when this collection of tapes included Scotch 'rainbow' tapes and also a very early Ferguson Videostar tape. Sadly, I found that the Ferguson case no longer contained the original tape and, instead, had a bootleg copy of Return of the Jedi in it, but many others held some fascinating looking tapes.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Me, You and Him

Although not an exceptionally popular child, I could still lay claim to a decent amount of friends. However, over the years, I've lost touch with so many of them that I barely need one hand to count those I still speak to. It's not a surprise, though, as everyone starts drifting in different directions as they get older and, anyway, I'm not sure I ever really liked Stephen Watlington, James Pashley or Mark Ewings (an undeniable scroat who nicked some of my Monster in my Pockets).

The friends you do stay in touch with, though, offer not only a wonderful excuse for nostalgic meanderings and recollections, but also a firm friendship which promises to deliver plenty more adventure for decades to come. At least that's what you'd like to think, but there's always the chance you'll get lumbered with the type of associates you thought (and hoped) would swiftly disappear with the last vestiges of acne and teenage angst. A case in point is the situation comedy stylings of Me, You and Him.

Monday 27 February 2017

Archive Tape Digging: February 2017

A few weeks back, I reported on the haul of VHS tapes I had recently picked up and, since then, I've been slowly going through them when I've had half a chance. As expected, there's been an awful load of codswallop to wade through and, believe me Auntie's Bloomers doesn't get any funnier with age.

However, in amongst this mediocrity, there have been a few gems which are worth revisiting. They're not ridiculously old although they are between 20 - 25 years old which, rather disturbingly, is actually a bloody long time ago. Anyway, here they are:

Friday 24 February 2017

Animal Fair

Have you ever seen how excited children get when they're confronted with animals? It's like catnip to cats, but with, uh, cats to humans... Anyway, children love animals and I guess this is down to the fact that animals never shout "DON'T DO THAT!" and are prone to running around with a manic abandon, just like children.

However, there's a whole world of animals out there and, no matter where you live, you're always going to be limited to the furry, feathered or scaly critters you can encounter. So, how do you teach children about the diversity of our beloved planet's wildlife?

Sure, you could stick them in front of a David Attenborough documentary, but, whilst a world beater in the world of adult television, this type of documentary is perhaps a bit too sedate for over-excitable children. Instead, they want a bit of laughter, fun and song. And, luckily, this can all be found by taking a trip to Animal Fair.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Sharon and Elsie

When I was a much younger man, I worked with a much older man who frequently imparted wisdom to me such as "If you're gonna cheat on your girlfriend, mate, do not, and I repeat, do NOT shit on your own doorstep" and "You ever go to India, mate, don't you trust their water out there, they're used to all the bacteria, but you're not, so just drink whisky all day to be safe".

Now, even at the tender, impressionable age of 18, I realised that what he was talking was utter rot and borne from a lifetime of dishonesty and poor medical knowledge - two traits I despise in people. As a result, I've never cheated (unless dancing rather closely during the conga counts) and I've certainly never been to India, but God knows I've eaten a few.

However, perhaps my experience, as a young adult, was just a blip on society's advancement to a more learned state of existence; maybe, it's possible to find yourself paired with someone who's seen it all before and can tutor you in the pitfalls of the world and the behaviour of others. And, just maybe, a perfect example could be found lurking within Sharon and Elsie.

Saturday 11 February 2017

Did British 80s Kids TV Inspire the Facial Hair Craze?

Over the last several years, British men have been experimenting more and more with facial hair. Just head down to any Wetherspoons on a Saturday night and you'll find all manner of beards, goatees and, whisper it, moustaches queuing up for a bottle of craft ale. Alternatively, head to Shoreditch for any given millisecond on any given day and you'll be swamped in facial fuzz quicker than you can say "flat white".

Recently, I've been wondering what exactly started this facial hair craze. Was it a brigade of illuminati hairdressers wanting to dictate facial hair fads to distract us from their inexorable rise to global domination? Or had the charitable intentions of Movember not only helped fight cancer, but also gone some way to repairing the tarnished reputation of moustaches?

Well, maybe, but what really caught my curious gaze was that many of these bearded men were of an age which belied the fact that they grew up in the 1980s.

Thursday 9 February 2017

I’m Not Like Everybody Else

If ever there were a band perfectly placed to soundtrack the world of Curious British Telly, it would have to be The Kinks. After all, they sum up everything that Curious British Telly stands for: incredibly British with an idiosyncratic view of the world and, of course, devoted to the wonder of nostalgia.

And that's why I was absolutely thrilled to unearth a Kinks documentary in amongst the enigmatic pile of VHS tapes I recently had donated to me. It dated from December 1995 and only ever received one showing on BBC2, so it was a fortuitous recording and my eternal thanks go out to the original recorder.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Tickets for the Titanic: Keeping Score

Tickets for the Titanic was an anthology of six 50-minute plays which aired on Channel 4 over the course of two series between 1986 - 1987. The series was produced by Regent Productions, an indepedent production company who were also behind the Channel 4 shows 15 to 1 and Johnny Speight sitcom The Lady is a Tramp.

The first play in the anthology - Keeping Score - was the only one which featured the porthole opening. The reason for this omission was due to the capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry which killed 193 people and occurred two days after Keeping Score aired.

Saturday 4 February 2017

New Book is Here!

The latest edition in my series of guides on the more curious gems and oddities of British children's TV is now available on Amazon for the bargain price of 99p - that's cheaper than anything you'll find in Poundland, yet offers infinitely more value than a refurbished Chris De Burgh CD.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Further Adventures into the World of Used VHS

Last year, I decided to start hunting down old VHS tapes which people had recorded TV on over the years. My hope was to find some strange, and hopefully forgotten, TV shows which might make for some interesting watching. My first attempt at delving into a collection of random and unknown recordings wasn't particularly fruitful, but, for some inexplicable reason, I found trawling through the endless reams of ancient adverts and episodes of Sons and Daughters more than a bit enjoyable.

Saturday 7 January 2017

The Old Men at the Zoo

We're frequently reminded about the good old days of the British Empire when Britain truly ruled the seven seas - a somewhat rose tinted view of an era where social hardship, sexual inequality and cholera was rife. However, it apparently put the Great in Great Britain - a viewpoint that the far right are keen to share - but that was all in the past and we've since been incredibly polite and British by handing back our 'empire' to its rightful owners.

If, however, you had been strolling around London during the mid to late 1800s - at the height of the British Empire - there's a good chance that you would have had one thing on your mind. Yes, avoiding cholera, but apart from that you would have been cock-a-hoop at the prospect of visiting London Zoo - the first world's first ever scientific zoo - and meeting all manner of curious and exotic beasts.

Sunday 1 January 2017

17 of the Greatest Characters from The Bill

One of ITV's most successful and long running shows, The Bill managed to clock up 2,400 episodes in its 27 year history of tackling crime in Sun Hill. And, given this long lifespan and some amazing writing, The Bill was able to drive its narrative with a fantastic array of characters who, for better or sometimes worse, engaged us and left us dreading the moment that those iconic patrolling feet would appear and signal the end of an episode.

Even several years on from the end of The Bill, these characters still feel fresh in our mind, so I decided to revisit what I consider to be 17 of the greatest characters from The Bill.