Saturday, 21 May 2022

I Took My VHS Tapes for a Walk in the Woods

I was a little bored today, so decided to do something absurd: I took my VHS tapes out for a walk in the woods. It was as much a treat for them as it was for me, as the poor old videos have spent the last 35 - 40 years either up on a shelf or shut away in a cupboard. So, coming face to face with some nature, as opposed to merely being used to record nature documentaries, would make for a wonderful outing.

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 www.amazon.co.uk

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.