Saturday 27 February 2021

The London Weekend Show

The heartbeat of youth culture in the 21st century is the internet; it's a luxury that previous generations could have only dreamed of. This isn't to say they lacked the necessary cultural harbingers, there was still Radio 1, Smash Hits, NME and all manner of television strands dedicated to youth culture. But the precision with which every idiosyncrasy, of every individual, could be engaged was way off. Now, however, there's a YouTube channel, Twitter feed, blog or Instagram account for any whim that's ever fermented in a teenage bedroom. It's a seismic shift in dynamics and technology which has obliterated the monoculture right down to its foundations. It's even made the architects redundant.

Television programmes, in 2021, that are dedicated to youth culture are virtually extinct. But these prehistoric beasts, all currently becoming fossilised in various archives, provide a wealth of detail about the society of our recent past. And, at least for anyone who regularly loads up Curious British Telly, there's an intoxicating hit lurking within these programmes. The vibrancy of youth, juxtaposed with its various challenges, makes for an engrossing brand of social analysis. One of the finest examples of this is The London Weekend Show.

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Dramarama: A Couple of Charlies

Children's television can be a powerful format, one which holds no punches and holds up the grim reality of life as a child to the camera. Shows such as Grange Hill, Byker Grove and the somewhat overlooked Children's Ward all excelled when it came to peeling away the layers of innocence that society has been so keen to weld tightly to childhood. Another series of note is Dramarama. Running between 1982 - 89, Dramarama was an ITV anthology series which tackled numerous genres for a young audience. Whilst there was room for comedy, sci-fi and the supernatural, there was also time to tackle the harsh realities of life in powerful dramas. And one of these was A Couple of Charlies. 

Monday 22 February 2021

Lord Tramp

It’s comforting to dream about the all the possibilities that a sudden windfall could bring. One moment you’re struggling to stave off the wrong end of your overdraft and the next, well, it’s whatever you heart desires be it sailing a luxury yacht around the Med or buying rare comedy memorabilia such as the actual suit worn by John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. Yes, the process of rags to riches is an appealing one, but does it bring happiness? Are these transformations too swift and too unnatural for those individuals whose lives are suddenly turned upside down? Or can this sea change in life events pass them by and fail to temper their interest in a dustbin full of potential and a comfortable park bench? Let’s ask Lord Tramp.

Saturday 20 February 2021

Over to You

I may have written rather extensively on long forgotten children's television programmes, but it's impossible for me to know everything. And, when it comes to schools programmes, I'm barely even knowledgable. Despite my love of television from a young age I can hardly remember the programmes I watched at school. Sure, I recall gathering around the caged TV and VHS player to watch Look and Read, but that's about it. All my other memories are just of the teacher fast forwarding through the spinning ITV Schools on Channel 4 ident. A modern tragedy this may be, but at least it gives me plenty to explore on here. And today I'm going to look at Over to You.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Come Back Mrs Noah

Space is the final frontier and it’s one that has fascinated humans since they first crawled out of the primordial soup and cocked their eyes towards the Milky Way. This obsession has led to a pop culture littered with galactic adventures that form fantastical narratives out of the great unknown. And this popularity is seemingly endless. No one ever rolls their eyes at the prospect of yet another space-based narrative. Instead, we consume these interstellar stories with a ravenous passion. But a space setting alone doesn’t guarantee success. There needs to be a hook, an original hook. So, what about a housewife being accidental jettisoned into space? It sounds original but will it leave us shouting Come Back Mrs Noah?

Sunday 14 February 2021

A Small Problem

A short stature is not one that tends to be celebrated in our society. There’s a tendency to ridicule those who don’t conform to specific measurements and an unfair labelling of them as weak and ineffective. It’s all part of humanity’s kneejerk reaction to anything that’s slightly different. An approach to thinking which has been responsible for all manner of prejudices since humans took their first breath and started to eye their neighbour suspiciously. And a lack of inches is far from an endorsement of weakness, Mahatma Gandhi, for example, was only 5ft 4in. But prejudice takes no prisoners and it’s more than possible that height could cause A Small Problem.

Saturday 13 February 2021

Men of the World

Men, as we all know, have a tendency to strut, pontificate and make silly tits of themselves. It’s a misguided attempt to keep the embers of patriarchy flickering when all it really does is fan the flames of equality. But, deep down, men are aware of this. Because they do have feelings. And, as such, they need strong friendships and they need love. Nonetheless, these desires are insulated by thick coats of arrogance and delusion which make them perfect for comedy. Want a quick demonstration of these social dynamics in action? Just look at the Men of the World.

Friday 12 February 2021

Lame Ducks

Some people take to life like a duck to water. Their lives are full of social and professional successes and the only way, for them, is up. But not everyone’s life is an effortless triumph. The world may be full of round holes, but there are just as many square pegs out there, forever banging their heads against the periphery of normality. These are the lame ducks of life. They don’t mean any harm and, like everyone, they just want to be happy. But they’re not designed for the rewards of normal life. What happens, though, when they gather together into a flock of Lame Ducks?

Arena: Masters of the Canvas

Back in late 1991, I experienced my first taste of live wrestling at the King's Lynn Corn Exchange. However, rather than the WWF being in town, it was British Wrestling (yes, I'm capitalising that). A world away from the glitz and glamour of Vince McMahon's US enterprise, British Wrestling had, by 1991, been shunted off of television for a few years. Nonetheless, as it travelled around a succession of decaying venues, British Wrestling could still pull in adequate crowds. And one of its crown jewels was the presence of the masked and mysterious Kendo Nagasaki. Truth be told, he almost flattened me that evening in 1991 as he angrily sent a section of empty chairs flying in my direction. But this enigmatic man of intense fury was instantly fascinating. A few months later I would see him again, but this time he was the subject of the Arena episode Masters of the Canvas.