Friday 23 December 2022

New Article in Best of British (January 2023)

Although Christmas is still a few days away, I've already received an early present: an article of mine being published in the latest issue of Best of British. Following on from my debut in the March 2022 issue, the bods at Best of British towers have been kind enough to give me a couple of pages to detail the short history of Pay-TV - Britain's first pay television experiment which ran for a couple of years in the 1960s. If you're interested in taking a look, then just head to your local WHSmiths where it should be nestling on the shelves.

Thursday 8 December 2022

Christmas at the BBC 1972 – Dramas Out of Crises

By Jon Dear

The last couple of years have been rather tough, haven’t they? Starved of a functioning government and with Covid and Brexit stalking the land like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse after Tory cutbacks, plenty of people spent the long weeks of isolation in front of the telly. But the early 2020s don’t have a monopoly on bad times producing great stories. November-December 1972 produced some of the best regarded and well-remembered television, particularly in the field of ghost stories, and as we shall see, a lot of shit went down in 1972 as Britain had an identity crisis, went to war with a European neighbour over fish and there was a narcissistic liar in the White House. Hopefully we will never see these times again.

Saturday 3 December 2022

Bob Monkhouse: The Flip Side (Thirty Minute Theatre)

It's hard to believe that next year marks the twentieth anniversary of Bob Monkhouse's death. For decade upon decade, he was a resolute fixture in the schedules, and it almost feels as if he's still with us. In fact, if he popped up fronting a new quiz show tomorrow, no one would bat an eyelid. Such was his engaging warmth and expertly honed wit, it's far from hyperbole to describe him as a legend of British television. Oddly, he's never featured on Curious British Telly, but today that changes as I look at The Flip Side.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

1974: Ceefax Arrives (And Barely Anyone Can See It)

Teletext is unique, when it comes to British television, in that it’s universally loved. In a world where people grouse about Test Card F being creepy and the lack of modern ‘pace’ in programmes which are four decades old, it’s difficult to find something we all agree on. But I’m yet to hear a single dissenting word regarding teletext. In fact, any mention of teletext will instantly lead to excitably barked cries of “PAGE 302 for the football headlines!”, “Bamboozler!”, “PRESS REVEAL!” and the biggest smiles you ever did see. But what did society think of Ceefax, the world’s first teletext service, when it launched in 1974? And why did it have such a small audience?

Sunday 20 November 2022

Between the Lines: The Best British TV Police Show Ever Made

By G. Neil Martin

Up until September 4th, 1992, if you had wanted a fictional TV cop show or police procedural that really got under the skin of the police, one that really inserted a scalpel under the gangrenous epidermis of the boys (and it was usually boys) in blue, you would have to have looked very hard.

There had been the original Law & Order - written by Tony Garnett and GF Newman - a short, 1978 series which followed a criminal, Jack Lynn, as he went through the criminal justice system, and was unsparing in its portrayal of the conduct of police, lawyers, and the villains themselves. But apart from this, most British TV police procedurals followed a pretty well-rehearsed template: crime commission, crime investigation, villain banged up after either a succession of car chases and fisticuffs (The Sweeney, The Professionals) or stately detection (Dixon Of Dock Green, Juliet Bravo).

But it was Between The Lines, the show executive produced by Garnett and written by JC Wilsher, that changed all this. Between The Lines revealed the dark underbelly of police corruption and spawned a mini-genre of cop shows - The Cops and, more recently, Line Of Duty, are two obvious examples where police corruption and misconduct is the focus and core of dramatic tension.

Saturday 12 November 2022

The Prince of Denmark

It would be a foolish soul who argues against the importance of the pub in British society. Walk into any public house and you will be presented with every possible emotion and attitude which has ever been expressed in this fair island. In one corner you may find a couple of older gents arguing about the rules of dominoes. Another nook is almost certainly going to contain either a romance being made or broken over some dry-roasted nuts. And, last but not least, there will be lots of loud, drunken behaviour atop every square-inch of lager-stained floorboard. The pub is certainly a hotbed of hijinks, but does this translate into bona fide comedy? Let’s head for a quick half at The Prince of Denmark to find out.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Curious British Telly: Now On Substack

Don't worry, the Curious British Telly blog isn't going anywhere! However, I have decided to set up another avenue for its curious ways. Due to the general furore unfolding on Twitter at the moment, lots of people have been discussing various methods for keeping in touch and providing updates etc. I'm certainly not going to join Mastodon, but the Substack platform looks an interesting one. Essentially, it's an email newsletter and one where I'll be posting things about British television which are too short for this blog and too long for Twitter. I've never used it before, so God knows what will happen, but if you want to sign up for the newsletter then please head to

Sunday 6 November 2022

Regional Oddity: Mag is Mog

It’s very rare you’ll catch me writing about a television show I’ve never seen a single second of. For me, perhaps due to my lack of literary grace, I tend to focus on collecting solid facts and information together – that’s my USP. And, without footage of a programme, it’s difficult for me to paint a picture of what it truly was. However, it’s not a rule which is entirely set in stone. Just occasionally, I stumble across a television series which, for a myriad of reasons, is so irresistibly unique and obscure I have to investigate it. Even if any video evidence of it appears to have disappeared long, long ago. And a programme which falls perfectly into this narrow bracket is Mag is Mog.

Saturday 5 November 2022

Greenwich Cablevision: Britain's First Local Television Station

If there’s one thing which strikes fear into the heart of an audience, it’s local television. Blighted by budgets which make shoestrings look positively affluent, local television channels spend their time wading through treacle-like amateurishness and technological limitations. But there must surely be something intriguing within this package of mediocrity for the readers of Curious British Telly. And there is: Greenwich Cablevision.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

If You See God, Tell Him

Society has been bombarded with adverts ever since the first marketing guru climbed out of the swamp and tried flogging cheap holidays to trilobites. A rather whimsical take on the history of advertising, perhaps, but the fact remains that advertising has assiduously worked its way into every space where humans dare tread. And the rise of the internet means we’re now targeted more frequently and with a disturbingly tailored precision. The result of having this consumerist dream regularly rammed down our throat is that it’s very easy to feel insecure. Adverts promise us nothing but undiluted happiness and the answers to all of life’s little problems. So, why wouldn’t we hang on their every word? Well, perhaps the answer lies in Andrew Marshall and David Renwick’s excellent 1993 comedy If You See God, Tell Him.

Monday 31 October 2022

The Bizarre and Mysterious World of Miri Mawr - An Interview with Dafydd Hywel

G Neil Martin cocks his eye towards Miri Mawr, a Welsh language children's series from the 1970s which has to be seen to be believed - it also helps if you speak Welsh...

To non-Welsh eyes and ears, the name Dafydd Hywel will probably ring few bells. Mention his list of acting credits, on the other hand – 32 episodes of Stella, The Bill, Peak Practice, The Crown, Stanley and The Women, as well as a regular stint on Pobol Y Cwm – and bells might start ringing like testing hour at the Westclox factory.

A regular presence on television, with a distinctive, recognisable face which would place him easily in the world of the ornery, hard-boiled detective sergeant from a four-part murder series, Hywel is currently best-known for playing Glen Brennig in Ruth Jones’s comedy drama, Stella. He has also been the cover star of Radio Times when he featured in the drama, Out of Love

What is less well-known, and what will distract us here at Curious British Telly Towers, is his hinterland in 1970s commercial children’s television, specifically his role in the highly surreal and popular Welsh television series, Miri Mawr, broadcast by HTV Wales between 1972 and 1978, in which he played an enormous talking mole called Caleb for three years of the series’ run. 

Friday 28 October 2022

DVD Review: Come Back Lucy

Network continue their season of spooky releases with Come Back Lucy, an enchanting, yet equally chilling children's drama which was first broadcast on ITV in the spring of 1978. Not seen on British screens since a repeat run in 1980, the only way to view the serial in the intervening years was through a German DVD release which included an English language track. However, thanks to Network, it's now available in the UK and comes bundled with a fascinating documentary on the programme's production.

Sunday 23 October 2022

The Launch of Sky Channel in 1984

Sky has changed the British television viewing experience over the last few decades, but it started off as a single loss-making channel back in 1984.

Turn on your TV and, unless you haven’t paid your electricity bill, you should be confronted by close to 8,000 channels; there also won’t be anything worth watching. That’s not the grumblings of someone unable to accept progress, it’s fact. Sure, some of the best television ever made has emerged in the last 10 years, but the incredible amount of available programming means the quality to trash ratio is unanimously skewed towards shows like What’s in My Shed? hosted by Vernon Kay. Much of the changes to our viewing landscape have come about thanks to the multi-channel approach of Sky Television. Their dominance and ubiquity in our lives, however, wasn’t always the case.

Saturday 22 October 2022

NeTWork 21: The Story of London's Best Pirate TV Station

Ask most people in Britain about pirate radio and the majority will know what you’re talking about; the more culturally savvy will even exclaim “RADIO CAROLINE!” with great delight. But ask the denizens of this glorious isle what they know about pirate television and they’ll probably respond with “You what, mate? You mean like Captain Pugwash?”.

But this lack of insight is not without good reason. Pirate television is a relatively rare phenomena compared to the proliferation of pirate radio stations which have infiltrated our airwaves since the late 1950s. And, in Britain, pirate television has only hoisted its skull and crossbones on a handful of occasions. One of these was the forward thinking, almost political, art stylings of NeTWork 21 which emerged onto our airwaves in 1986.

10 Years of Curious British Telly

Yes, it was 10 years ago today that the very first post on Curious British Telly was launched into the digital stratosphere. 10 whole years of my life dedicated to unearthing curiosities from the dark, dusty corners of our memories and the archives. And today is the day I end it all. Goodbye, it's been fun, but it's time to move on.

Saturday 15 October 2022

DVD Review: Tales of Unease

Over 50 years since the original broadcast of Tales of Unease, ITV's chilling and unsettling anthology series finally emerges from the vaults to terrify us once again.

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Cartoon Crackers

Do they still show Looney Tunes cartoons on ITV? It always felt, when I was a child, that all you had to do was wait 15 minutes and, soon enough, Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck would be popping up on the screen. Sometimes these animated shorts popped up when there was a gap in the schedules, sometimes they were packaged together with linked presentation such as, uh, Rolf's Cartoon Club. Another programme which presented these cartoons in a similar fashion, and one which has a less dubious background, was the short-lived Cartoon Crackers.

Sunday 4 September 2022

Book Review: Tomato Cain and Other Stories by Nigel Kneale

Being one of British television's most innovative, forward thinking and fiendishly skilled writers, Nigel Kneale needs little introduction to the readers of Curious British Telly. However, whilst we're all familiar with Quatermass, The Stone Tape, The Woman in Black and, ahem, Kinvig, Kneale's 1949 collection of short prose entitled Tomato Cain and Other Stories is less well known. But this lack of recognition is less an indicator of quality and more a matter of circumstance, for Tomato Cain and Other Stories has been out of print for over 60 years. Luckily, 2022 has seen its pages (and a few bonus features) resurrected by Comma Press.

Saturday 27 August 2022

News at Twelve

Most children, at some point, pretend to put on their own TV show from within the junk-filled confines of their bedroom. At least, that's what they did in the pre-internet age. These days, all they have to do is jump in front of a webcam and, before they know it, they're broadcasting to millions and putting my lifetime earnings to shame by the time they're seven. As you can tell, I'm not remotely bitter.

Anyway, back in the late-1980s, there was, in fact, a minuscule chance of a bedroom broadcaster succeeding. Well, as long as it was based within the realms of fiction. And that's exactly what News at Twelve is. Wait a minute, News at Twelve? What on EARTH is that? Are you sure you're not thinking of News at Ten? You know, on at 10pm, the iconic bongs of Big Ben and Trevor McDonald's cooler-than-a-cucumber charm? Nope, I genuinely and ABSOLUTELY mean News at Twelve.

But I wouldn't blame you for thinking I was cracking up, for News at Twelve is perhaps one of the most obscure programmes this blog has covered (and, boy, have we covered a few). It's yet another programme where footage is hard absolutely impossible to find online, but, yet again, I've gone the extra mile for you and watched a few episodes at the BFI.

And, better yet, I've even tracked down the star of the show to dig up some deliciously insightful insights regarding News at Twelve.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Erasmus Microman

Ah, Erasmus Microman! Now there's a television programme I've been meaning to watch for years and years and years! Somehow, despite my love of time travel based sci-fi programmes, I completely missed it when it aired on ITV at the tail end of the 1980s. But what's life without a few mistakes, eh? Anyway, I've been determined to cover it for several years, and it was destined to appear in one of my books on children's TV, but this never quite happened. Redemption, though, is finally here, and it's time to tell you all about Erasmus Microman.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Random Episode: Our Backyard (19/06/1985)

In this edition of Random Episode, Ben Ricketts sniffs out an elusive episode of the mid-1980s lunchtime children's programme Our Backyard.

Produced by Granada Television for ITV, Our Backyard ran for 52 episodes over the course of two series between 1984 - 85. And yet, despite a healthy a number of episodes airing, very little is known about the programme. All that exists online are a handful of vague recollections and the opening titles on YouTube. But surely I, with my curious memory, remember Our Backyard and have a rich set of memories with which to expand on its story. Well, no. Although it's plausible I sat in front of the TV and watched it, I can't remember a single thing about Our Backyard.

Curious British Telly, however, doesn't like to leave its readers bereft of hard evidence and insights regarding forgotten shows. Therefore, I decided it was high time I dug deep and presented something on Our Backyard. Unfortunately, footage is scarce, very scarce. But not non-existent. I have, in fact, had contact with someone directly involved in the production, and they've confirmed they still hold copies of multiple episodes. At the moment, though, no copies have exchanged hands, but there's a chance something will happen in the future. Thankfully, the BFI hold a single episode in their archives and, yesterday, I headed down there to watch it.

Saturday 6 August 2022

Square Deal: Consumer Rights Advice from EastEnders in 1991

I've encountered some curious offshoots of British television in the last 10 years, but one of the most unexpected oddities to land on my desk is easily Square Deal. Produced by the Office of Fair Trading in October 1991, it was a publication put together with the aim of empowering the average consumer with a comprehensive look at their consumer rights. On it's own, it's far from a scintillating subject, but the Office of Fair Trading had an ace up their sleeve: they would sweeten the pill by roping in the cast of EastEnders.

Monday 1 August 2022

10 Hours of the Chock-a-Block Theme

I was rather bored yesterday, it was Sunday after all, so I decided to do something productive with my time. Not surprisingly, it resulted in a 10-hour video loop of the theme tune to Chock-a-Block. And, as I think you'll agree, the result was more than worth it.

Saturday 30 July 2022


What's this? Astronauts? A sitcom written by Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden? And there's more? It was script edited by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais?

Yes, that's right, it's not April Fools Day at Curious British Telly, Astronauts is a bona-fide sitcom, one which is shot through with a comedy pedigree of such renown, it's a surprise hardly anyone's heard of it. And Astronauts is a series which has made a decent stab of establishing itself, with two series airing and a DVD boxset of the entire thing emerging in 2012. Nonetheless, a recent mention of it on the Curious British Telly Twitter feed resulted, mostly, in a procession of puzzled faces, punctuated only occasionally by someone who vaguely remembered it. So, Astronauts, what's it all about and what's it like?

Saturday 23 July 2022

Mug Review: Doctor Who (1987)

I originally received this rather splendid mug back in the late 1980s, and it provided me with drink after drink for close to 25 years. And then someone broke it. The culprit was never apprehended, despite a widespread police investigation and public appeal, but I eventually acquired a pristine replacement. Anyway, here it is, you may have had one yourself back in the day. In fact, you may still have one. Either way, it's a fantastic way to enjoy beverages hot or cold.

The design is typically late-1980s Doctor Who with the Sylvester McCoy-era logo taking pride of place at the centre of a tight, clean box which the strong, defined lines of a TARDIS are bursting through. John Nathan-Turner, no doubt, would probably have been horrified by its anti-gaudy aesthetics but, 35 years on, it remains a bright, punchy design which instantly sweeps you back, through the dimensions of space and time, to the classic-Who era. Sure, 1987 - in the Who universe - wasn't anything to write home about, but McCoy's tentative steps there would boldly grow into some of the best that the series took.

And as a drinking vessel? Well, it's a ceramic mug. My coffee tastes fine in it and I couldn't really ask for any more.

Friday 15 July 2022

Some Vaguely Interesting Loft Finds Relating to British Television

I recently asked my mother if she could search out my GCSE certificates - for some work-related thing - but, unfortunately, she couldn't find them. However, whilst she was sifting through the loft she did find a few folders relating to paperwork concerning my childhood. And, just to prove my long-term dedication to the cause, there were a few bits and pieces in there which related to British television.

Thursday 14 July 2022

Grange Hill Revisited

Today's post is, drum roll please, a GUEST POST! And it's all thanks to the inner workings of Elly-Mae Gadsby's noggin.

As a child I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of television. I am an only child and, as such, was pushed into each and every club available. Because of this I would treasure my televisual viewings, elevating them to something greater than they possibly were in some cases. Much of this I viewed with my late mum, and so although my experiences were somewhat limited, they were carefully curated.

I’m certain I didn’t appreciate this at the time, but I now see that the comedies, dramas, music shows and murder mysteries I viewed when I was younger made me develop a discerning eye where television is concerned. One programme which stood out for me was Grange Hill. It was unlike anything I had seen on television. Many of my peers were not permitted to watch, as some of the subject matter was deemed unsuitable; it was the opposite in my house.

Monday 4 July 2022

Book Review: Play School Annual (1985)

Back in the pre-internet age, parents knew there was one Christmas present guaranteed to generate a beaming smile from a child: the TV tie-in annual. A cheap, simple purchase, the TV tie-in annual provided a much welcome extension of children's TV shows and, more importantly, kept the children occupied whilst their parents cracked on with cooking Christmas dinner. And there were lots of them. At least 62,000. Probably. Anyway, with that brief overview in place - let's face it, we all know what an annual is, it's time to look at the 1985 Play School annual.

Friday 1 July 2022

First Impressions: Crown Court

Lunchtime television in Britain is a peculiar beast, prone as it is to serving up peculiar fluff including half the features on Pebble Mill at One, forgotten oddities such as Raw Energy (see the clip I uploaded to YouTube for damning evidence) and a whole gaggle of preschooler’s television alongside equally ubiquitous gameshows. This is partly due to the scattered demographics watching: the retired, the stay-at-home parents and young children; a landscape which ensures that the vast majority of the public are rarely exposed to these shows.

Occasionally, though, some of these programmes make more of an indelible mark on our viewing habits. Doctors, of course, has been running for 22 years now, and I would argue my last shilling that most of the country have watched at least one episode. Another is Crown Court, a programme which ran for 12 years on ITV, and one which I had never seen a single second of. This would make it just perfect for another (assuming you've ever read the Curious British Telly fanzine) installment of First Impressions.

Thursday 30 June 2022

Greg Scott Talks About Life as a TV Warm-Up

Greg Scott is probably best known as one of the hosts of ITV’s Quizmania, but he’s also spent part of his career warming up TV audiences. I caught up with Greg to take a look at this little-known corner of the television industry.

Tuesday 28 June 2022


It’s easy to name iconic British sci-fi shows from 1980s; almost instantly, your average TV fan can pluck titles such as Doctor Who, The Day of the Triffids and The Tripods from the air. Readers of this blog, meanwhile, can also name programmes such as Captain Zed – Space Detective, Kinvig, Star Cops and Galloping Galaxies. But Whizz? What on earth, you may ask, is that? Well, it may not be iconic, but it’s British, it’s sci-fi, it's from bang in the middle of the 1980s and it has a cracking theme tune to boot.

Friday 24 June 2022

Board Game Review: The Bertha Game

The Bertha Game will confound you, frustrate you and confuse you, but stick with it and, providing that your idea of fun is flexing your memory muscles, there’s a half-decent game in there.

Bertha only ran for 13-episodes, but it’s one of those children’s programmes which feels as though it clocked up several dozen episodes. I guess childhood memories combined with a preschooler’s rather wonky perception of time as a relative concept (PARKLIFE!) partially explains why it felt as though Bertha was churning out the episodes. A quick look at BBC Genome also reveals that it was repeated extensively between 1985 – 1994, so it was either clearly popular or the BBC were intent on indoctrinating children into a socioeconomic system whereby capitalism was supported by a machine-based means of production (PARKLIFE!).

Personally, I was a huge fan of Bertha back in 1985; it had one of the most infectious theme tunes of its day, it came from the masterful hands of Ivor Wood and it featured robots – what more could a three-year-old want? Well, perhaps, just perhaps, they would also want a board game based on Bertha.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

Bedtime Stories: Jack and the Beanstalk by Nigel Kneale

A guest post by Jon Dear

The oldest hath borne most: we that are young shall never see so much or live so long.
    - King Lear, Act V, Scene 3

2022 sees the centenary of Manx screenwriter Nigel Kneale, best remembered for the Quatermass stories. There’s been panels and seasons from the British Film Institute, HOME in Manchester and Cambridge Festival, as well as a one day retrospective at the Picture House in Crouch End, London (full disclosure, that was organised by me). For this esteemed organ however, something a little more obscure is needed and so let’s have a look at Kneale’s final contribution to the BBC, his lost adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk, broadcast on 24 March 1974.

Saturday 18 June 2022

Mann's Best Friends

Outsiders and outcasts have long provided fertile ground for comedy. With their peculiar takes on the world, these square pegs desperately try to force themselves into society’s round holes with all the success of a hammerhead shark. It’s a popular trope, and one which has been responsible for much of the comedy I hold dearest to my heart. The Young Ones, The Inbetweeners and Peep Show have all dabbled, with hilarious results, in the art of the outsider and I dare say it will be forming the foundations of comedy for centuries to come. But it’s not always successful, not capable of imprinting itself on a time, a place, a demographic. Even if it is written by one of Britain’s greatest and most prolific scriptwriters.

Friday 17 June 2022

Watching The Young Ones as a Young One

A guest post by Tim Cook

By the time the first episode of The Young Ones aired on BBC2, I was only 10 years old but already a devotee of TV comedy. I watched every sitcom possible, be they good or bad; I doubt if I could tell the difference. So, I expected nothing more of this new programme than any other back then. I’d seen the rather unpromising trailer a couple of times (“This is a trailer for The Young Ones” intoned a grubby young man with long hair, pointing at a Matchbox toy), but nothing in my short life prepared me for that evening half-hour of November 9th, 1982.

Thursday 16 June 2022

A Trip Back to the BFI Mediatheque

Back in December 2019, I took my first trip down to the BFI Mediatheque on the South Bank, London. It was an important visit, as I was in the process of completing my final bits of research for a book I was writing on children's television. And I was quite, quite amazed at what was on offer. Not only were there 80,000ish individual slices of British film and television available to watch, but you didn't have to book in advance and, most importantly, it was free. I spent a couple of hours in there and vowed to head back soon. But then Covid-19 hit, and travelling down to London was suddenly off the table. But, last weekend, I finally returned.

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Good Morning: Breakfast Television is Served

Ever since TV-am’s Good Morning Britain and the BBC’s Breakfast Time went head-to-head in 1983 for the nation’s attention, breakfast television has had a ubiquitous presence on our airwaves. Moving on from those inaugural broadcasts, and in amongst mouthfuls of Sugar Puffs (other cereals are available), we’ve gone on to digest The Big Breakfast, GMTV, Good Morning Britain (the modern one with old Piers Morgan) and, uh, RI:SE and, double uh, Morning Glory. It’s quite the legacy, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that it’s not one which was laid down by TV-am or the BBC.

Thursday 26 May 2022

What's On These Scotch VHS Tapes?

It's not often I buy VHS tapes off Ebay, or indeed anywhere, as more often than not you're on a hiding to nothing. However, I couldn't resist these four Scotch tapes which recently popped up on Ebay. It's a classic case design, one which is almost certainly in my top three of all time, and also the earliest VHS tape I remember knocking about our house in the mid-1980s. Including postage, they cost £10.00 and they were just about worth it in terms of harvesting footage. But what exactly did I find?

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Thameside TV: The Broadcasts of London's First Pirate TV Station

In the last year or so, I've written fairly extensively about Pirate TV in the UK. First, there was my interview with one of the founders of NeTWork 21, next up was my article on the history of Pirate TV in the UK and, finally, there was a brief look at some of the channels in my piece on lesser known TV stations. Footage of these channels is, understandably, scarce - aside from NeTWork 21's content - and this was particularly frustrating when it came to researching them. I was especially irked by the lack of footage from Thameside TV, London's first pirate TV station who took to the illicit airwaves in 1984. But it turns out most of their content was already online.

Tuesday 3 May 2022

Lost Morecambe and Wise Episodes From First Ever Series On BBC Are Restored

A series of previously lost episodes of The Morecambe and Wise Show are to be released on DVD for the very first time by BBC Studios.

The episodes, from The Morecambe and Wise Show's first series for the BBC, are part of the Morecambe and Wise: The Lost Tapes DVD release that will be available at retail from 6th June and to pre-order now at

The Morecambe and Wise Show was first broadcast on BBC Two in Autumn 1968. It was one of the earliest British comedy series to be shown in colour and the first series included guest stars such as Bruce Forsyth and Matt Monro. That very first series was never archived as was standard practice at the time and all eight episodes of series one were disposed of in the 1970s, to make space in the BBC's archives for newer shows.

Following years of archive research and restoration, film copies have been found for four of the eight episodes of the first series, with audio-only recordings having also been located for the other four. All eight episodes are now being released on DVD together with a previously lost one-off Morecambe and Wise special from October 1970.

Saturday 16 April 2022

What's on Tim's VHS Tape?

Investigating the contents of VHS tapes can often be a frustrating, unrewarding and absolute waste of time. Several years ago, when I was eager to accept any old donation of tapes, I received close to 200 videos to delve through; I found absolutely nothing. Actually, I lie, there was a BBC2 closedown from 1992 but it was so dull I couldn't be bothered digitising it.

But you have to take the rough with the smooth when it comes to old video tapes. For every 50 tapes you find packed full of episodes of Family Fortunes from 1999 (apologies if that's the epitome of what floats your boat) you may just find a little curio which hasn't been seen for decades. Recently, one of my Twitter followers, Tim, got in touch to say he had found an old video of his with some recordings on from 1985. There was a broadcast of the Dr Who and the Daleks film and an episode of The Young Ones.

Whilst these recordings are readily available in numerous formats, the true intrigue of a tape is always what surrounds these recordings. Often, a tape would be left running and end up recording something ephemeral like a local news report or a trailer for that season's comedy lineup. Not life changing or of significant cultural importance, but interesting enough to take a peek at a few decades later. And, thankfully, despite only being a two-hour long tape, there were several things worth looking at on Tim's tape.

Thursday 14 April 2022

Book Review: Bagpuss on a Rainy Day

Unbelievably, there were only 13 episodes of Bagpuss produced, and yet it remains one of the most popular and endearing children's television programmes broadcast in these fair isles. With its otherworldly and slightly jittery stop-motion animation bringing to life an archaic, dusty universe packed full of idiosyncratic characters and stories, Bagpuss is unparalleled in its look, atmosphere and sound. But this curious world wasn't contained purely within the confines of a television series. There is, if you look hard enough, further adventures awaiting the nation's favourite saggy, old cloth cat.

Not only are there the recently uncovered mouse tales, but, back in the programme's heyday, there were also a couple of Bagpuss books released through the iconic Picture Lions label. Released in 1974, the year that Bagpuss made its debut on BBC1, the two books were Bagpuss in the Sun and Bagpuss on a Rainy Day. Written by Oliver Postgate and illustrated by Peter Firmin, these are far from cheap tie-in releases designed to make a quick buck; these are the real deal, 24-carat Bagpuss handcrafted by master Bagpussmiths. I covered Bagpuss in the Sun in issue three of the Curious British Telly fanzine, but now it's time to take a look at Bagpuss on a Rainy Day.

Saturday 2 April 2022

Curious British Telly Fanzine Issue 6 - Out Now!

It may be a little later than planned - thanks to a combination of other projects and a nasty bout of sinusitis - but the good news is that the sixth issue of the Curious British Telly fanzine is finally here.

If you've previously read a copy, then you should know what to expect; articles which probe into the more unusual crevices of British television, quizzes, artwork and, of course, a wordsearch. But, rather than provide just a vague overview, I'm going to grant you the respect you deserve and expand a little further on the contents.

Friday 25 March 2022

Bagpuss Plays Come On Eileen

Here's a very short mashup I created and posted on Twitter back in 2020. It features the characters of Bagpuss playing and dancing along to Dexys Midnight Runners global megahit Come On Eileen. For 23 seconds.

Sunday 27 February 2022

New Article in Best of British (March 2022)


I'm delighted to reveal that my first ever published article features in the March issue of Best of British. The subject of the article, titled Anarchy Over the Airwave, is one which is a particular favourite of mine: the history of pirate television in the UK.

From the very early days of City TV in the 1960s (which never got on the air) through to Caroline TV in the 1970s (which, again, never got on the air) and onto the glory days of the 1980s when several stations managed to, finally, start making illegal broadcasts, it's all here.

Friday 25 February 2022

7 British TV Channels You Probably Never Saw in the Pre-Sky Era

There was a time, before the emergence of satellite television, that Britain's televisual landscape was a much simpler, uncluttered place. Turn on your television today and call up the EPG and, well, you can scroll through the available channels until the cows come home. It's a vastly different world to the good old days of, at best, having four channels to watch. But, guess what? There were more than four channels available in the days before Sky.

Some of these were community channels, some required cable and, most excitingly, some were illegal. Regardless of the format they took, there was one thing that they all had in common: a relatively small audience. As a result, it's unlikely that most people reading this article caught these channels when they were on the air, and I include myself in that. Therefore, the time has come to take a look at 7 British TV channels you probably never watched.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

The Launch of The Children's Channel in 1984

British children's television in the mid-1980s may have been fantastic, but the amount of children's programming was limited. Across the BBC and ITV, there were roughly six/seven hour's worth of children's content available on a weekday, and around five hours of this was playing at the same time on Children's BBC and Children's ITV.

I was there and, well, I just accepted this was the way things were, a little bit of television for me and then the rest dedicated to Wogan, Pebble Mill at One and Cagney & Lacey. But there was more children's television available. You just had to have access to cable television, where The Children's Channel launched in 1984.

Friday 11 February 2022

A Mystery from 1981: Where is Smithy's Kaff?

I've never focussed on adverts when it comes to looking at the weird and wonderful corners of British television. Sure, I've highlighted a few ad breaks I've found whilst sifting through old VHS tapes, but little else. And maybe that's a mistake as, back in the days before streaming and on-demand viewing, adverts could quickly become cultural touchpoints, just look at the rapid rise (and descent) of Flat Eric. Most importantly, there are stories to be told behind these adverts. And there are none more mysterious than Smithy's Kaff.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Trouble in Mind Coming to Forces TV

Back in 1996, as a fledgling teenager, I was flicking through the channels on Sky when I stumbled across (on UK Gold, I think) a little programme called Robin's Nest. It wasn't a series I'd heard of before, I hadn't even heard of the more famous show it was spun off from, Man About the House. But there was something charming, funny and engaging about this series from the late 1970s, and it provided early evidence of my curiosity regarding archive television.

As a result of this early dalliance with Robin's Nest, I've always had a soft spot for all things Richard O'Sullivan. Therefore, as you can imagine, I was pleased as punch to discover that Forces TV are going to start airing his 1991 sitcom Trouble in Mind. It features O'Sullivan playing Adam Charlesworth, a psychiatrist going through a mid-life crisis and was written by Tony Millan, Mike Walling and Colin Bostock-Smith.

It's a series I know very little about, hence the lack of detail above, but one that I've been trying to track down for about 18 months. Thankfully, this unsuccessful endeavour is now at an end and, from Saturday 5th February, I'll finally be able to watch it. And so should you.

Thursday 27 January 2022

159 British Children's TV Shows From the 1980s You Forgot About

The 1980s was an innovative and exciting time for British children's television. Technology was slowly starting to make its mark felt, pop music was exploding like never before and the dawn of Channel 4 meant there was even more opportunity for children to be catered for. And all it takes is a quick Google of "British children's TV in the 1980s" to see that programmes such as Pigeon Street, Saturday Superstore and Button Moon were, indeed, magnificent. 

But there was much more for children to be tuning into than just these three shows. And much of it, well most of it, is now forgotten. Most of us have moved on and replaced these programmes in our memories with the bureaucracy of adult life. Thankfully, Curious British Telly is here to rectify this lack of recall. And that's why we're going to take a quick (actually... a very long) look at 159 British children's TV shows from the 1980s you forgot about.