Friday 22 December 2023

New Print Article: The Birth of Teletext

A year on from my last published article, I’m back in the pages of Best of British with The Birth of Teletext.

Ever since I first laid eyes on Pages from Ceefax back in the mid-1980s, I’ve been a little obsessed with teletext. We didn’t actually get a teletext television set until 1997, so it always felt like an exciting world of information which was just out of reach. Sure, I used to see it at friends’ houses, as we caught up on the football news and played Bamboozle, but I couldn’t get my teeth stuck into it.

Saturday 16 December 2023

All the Slices of Archive TV Christmas Footage I've Found

Christmas television has always been a landmark event. Or, at least, it always was. These days, scanning through the Christmas issue of the Radio Times with a highlighter is more a novelty than a necessity. Times change, and so do our viewing habits. But, luckily, old video tapes full of home recordings offer up a fossilised view of the way it once was. And, as I've been scanning through old video tapes for seven years now, I've found more than my fair share of Christmas TV footage.

Now, I could show you the various repeats of the 1977 Christmas edition of The Morecambe and Wise Show alongside Blackadder's Christmas Carol and The Snowman, but they're currently all being shown 24/7 on some digital channel somewhere. So, instead, I've decided to gather together all the ephemeral slices of archive TV Christmas I've found over the years. Some are fascinating, all of them are intriguing, and it's unlikely you would have seen any of them since they were originally broadcast.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Philip Schofield's Final Day on Children's BBC

2023 was a disastrous year for Philip Schofield's television career and private life, and it remains to be seen whether he'll ever return to our screens again. However, back in 1987, life for Schofield was very different. Following two years presenting the Broom Cupboard sections for Children's BBC, he had quickly risen from an unknown into the hot future of British television. Going Live! was just around the corner and, by the 1990s, Philip would be cemented as part of the lineup of British television's primetime schedules. But what happened on his final stint in the Broom Cupboard?

Thursday 30 November 2023

Navigating Career Transitions: A Guide to Embracing Change and Finding Success

Career transitions are an inevitable part of professional life, and in today's dynamic job market, individuals often find themselves navigating through various changes in their career paths. Whether prompted by personal growth, economic shifts, or a desire for new challenges, successfully managing these transitions is crucial for long-term career satisfaction and success. This article explores key strategies and insights to help individuals navigate career transitions effectively.

A Mirror Into Society: The Good Life 1975 Series

Mentioning this archetypal film, The Good Life, brings smiles to many British Sitcom fans of the 1970s. The movie was developed by expert comedy writers Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, who wrote other series, including Ever Decreasing Circles and Please Sir. The Good Life featured characters like Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Richard Biers and Paul Eddington.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Betamax Find: In Front of the Children (1983)


There’s not a person in the country who didn’t love at least one children’s programme on the BBC whilst growing up. It’s an impossible proposition, the quality of the output was simply too high. And, no doubt, it’s equally as high now but it’s been a few years since I last tuned in. My daughter, you seen, has since transitioned over to YouTube for her entertainment needs, so I have no idea what the Twirlywoos are up to these days. Or Sarah and Duck. But Curious British Telly isn’t, thank god, about the present. It’s about the past.

That’s why I was delighted to unearth this 1983 documentary on the first 60 years of children’s programmes on the BBC. Found on a Betamax tape, In Front of the Children is presented by the dependable John Craven, in a fetching jumper and tie combination, as he traces the origins of children’s programmes on BBC radio up to contemporary hits such as Postman Pat. Featuring interviews with those who were there in the early days, and have long since departed this mortal coil, it’s a treasure trove of insights and history.

Monday 9 October 2023

The Book of Beasts - Out Now!

Beasts is one of the calling cards of 1970s British folk horror, and this is an unarguable fact. Unless, of course, you haven't watched it. And, in that case, you need to rectify this immediately. Each episode of Nigel Kneale's much lauded anthology series, which aired in 1976, is a chilling blend of intricate plotting, rich characters, social commentary and, of course, an atmosphere which causes the hairs on the back of your neck to spring to attention. It's a series which has been much discussed and pored over since it first aired, but there has never been a definitive tome on the series. Until now.

Monday 25 September 2023

Betamax Find: Claire Rayner's Casebook (Homosexuality)

Every now and then, I come across something on an old video tape which strikes a chord with people. At the weekend, I dug up a 1983 edition of Claire Rayner's Casebook, a series which looked at the various problems and hardships people faced in their everyday lives. Episodes ranged from divorced parents through to alcoholics and couples who couldn't have children. Rayner, of course, is well remembered as a beacon of hope and advice, so I was delighted to unearth, on a Betamax tape, the 10th March 1983 episode of Claire Rayner's Casebook, which focused on homosexuality.

Monday 18 September 2023

A King Rollo Comic Strip from July 1983

Digging deep into my collections of Buttons comics, most of which I picked up in a job lot off Ebay in 2021, I found this charming King Rollo adventure which I just had to share. It's from the 23rd July 1983 edition of Buttons and, as you can see, features King Rollo learning a lesson in gluttony.

Is it Time to Revive the British Superhero Classic Misfits?

British television writers are famous for offering their unique takes on classic themes, and the way that Misfits subverted superhero themes was a prime example of that. The black comedy from Howard Overman ran for five series between 2009 and 2013 but was ultimately cancelled due to falling ratings.

Monday 11 September 2023

New 'Old' Episode of Bric-a-Brac Emerges onto YouTube

In what can only be described as excellent news, Neil Miles (tape archaeologist extraordinaire) has captured a complete episode of Bric-a-Brac and uploaded it to YouTube. Starring the inimitable and highly charming Brian Cant, Bric-a-Brac focused on the wonder of phonetics and ran for two series in 1980 and 1982.

Friday 8 September 2023

Don't Forget About the Curious British Telly Substack


Just a quick reminder that the Curious British Telly Substack is alive and well. If you're not familiar with Substack, then read on. Substack is, in fact, many things: a newsletter, a blog, a website and, indeed, whatever you want it to be in terms of a publication. It can be read either online or you can sign up for all updates to sent to you via email. I've been fairly active on there recently, so there's all sorts of extra Curious British Telly bits on there. If you want to take a closer look then head over to

Remembering Paul O’Grady’s Cheeky Forgotten Sitcom “Eyes Down

Welcome to The Rio bingo hall in Liverpool. It’s where short-tempered manager Ray Temple (Paul O’Grady) tries to corral his lackadaisical staff and impress the elderly collection of customers who frequent his establishment. To top it off, this curmudgeon hates them all. All the while he’s dealing with self-loathing that produces outbursts that’d make Lily Savage smile from ear to ear. The Rio isn’t Ray’s Ritz and he’s quite disappointed about it.

Random Episode: Thinkabout (25/11/1985)

Over the many years that Curious British Telly has been running, I've covered plenty of children's programmes which have become obscured by the mists of time. However, barely any of these have fallen under the sub-genre of educational programming. You know the type, the programmes which you watched at school when the teacher would wheel out the TV in a caged fortress. So, today, we're going to take a look at a fine example of these in the form of Thinkabout.

Saturday 26 August 2023

Four Fantastic Minutes Straight from 1979

My ongoing quest to salvage ephemeral goodness from British television's distant past continues, and, once again, I've been able to dig all the way back into the 1970s. And it's all courtesy of the mammoth haul of Betamax tapes which I picked up back in June. These intriguing tapes all date from the early 1980s, but the owner had previously owned a Philips VCR and had copied several of these tapes over to Betamax. Previously, I had found some very brief BBC continuity for Top of the Pops, but I've now uncovered four minutes of footage which contain nearly everything you could want.

Sunday 13 August 2023

YouTube Pick of the Day: Tees Street Isn't Working (1985)

The Thames channel on YouTube is packed full of fantastic gems from the archive, and that's exactly where today's YouTube Pick of the Day comes from. The video itself is part of an edition of current affairs programme TV Eye, which aired between 1978 - 1986, and focuses on the socioeconomic problems blighting the lives of those living on Tees Street, Birkenhead.

Sunday 23 July 2023

A Bertha Comic Strip From September 1986

Digging through my pile of Buttons comics, which I picked up on Ebay a few years back, I spotted this exclusive Bertha comic strip and thought it would make a fine addition to Curious British Telly. It hails from September 1986 and features a quick story about fireworks which didn't feature in the television series. So, yes, being an official piece, this is part of the Bertha canon, an intriguing body of work which, no doubt, Disney will be snapping up in no time to milk dry.

A Peek Into the Secretive Realm of Farewell Ceremonies

Death is an inevitable part of life, and every culture has unique customs and rituals surrounding funerals and farewell ceremonies.

In the United Kingdom, funeral directors play a crucial role in orchestrating these solemn events. However, beyond the sombre facade lies a world of intriguing customs and traditions that add depth and significance to how the British bid farewell to their departed loved ones.

Friday 30 June 2023

I've Dug Up the 1976 Christmas BBC1 Ident

I wasn't aware, until the last 24 hours, that the 1976 Christmas BBC1 ident had only been preserved in a particularly poor picture quality. However, after I stumbled across some Christmas 1976 recordings... well... I was informed the version of the ident I'd found was a significant upgrade.

So, if you cast your eyes upwards, there it is. All the way from 1976, it's a clearer view - although faaaaaar from HD - of this 47 year old ident. In my opinion, it's far from knocking the daddy of the BBC Christmas idents off the top spot, with that position obviously taken by the 1977 rotating Christmas pudding. Nonetheless, it's a nice find and hopefully it'll tickle your fancy.

Monday 19 June 2023

Archive Tape Digging: June 2023 (Betamax Special)

It's been a long old time since I last did an edition of Archive Tape Digging, a situation enforced on me by a lack of tapes in the last few years. Sure, I've picked up a few in the last year, but in such small quantities there's been little to get excited by. Thankfully, following the purchase of my Betamax player, I've had not one, but two pickups of Betamax tapes.

As a result, I've now got close to 400 Betamax tapes to plough through. Progress, so far, has been relatively slow. But this is actually a good thing. You see, the reason that I've barely made a dent in this mountain of tapes is that they keep throwing up interesting finds. And these all need digitising in real time, so it's time consuming affair. The amazing payoff, of course, is that I've got a veritable bounty of finds to share with you.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Curious British Telly Enters the Betamax Age

Yes, the rumours are true, Curious British Telly has finally invested in a Betamax player. It's something I've wanted to get hold of for years, ever since I first started trawling through old VHS tapes. But the price of a fully functioning, excellent condition model had always been a little prohibitive. Okay, £175-ish wasn't exactly going to send me into a financial meltdown, but it was difficult to justify in the grand scheme of things. Luckily, the Substack I set up a while back has managed to secure a few paid subscribers and their funds have made this possible. Eternal thanks, once again, to them.

Saturday 29 April 2023

How I Wrote Lytton’s Diary: Writer Ray Connolly Tells All

Nearly four decades after its pilot episode aired, Lytton's Diary writer, Ray Connolly, remembers the series being a big hit with the very people it was profiling "All the journalists I knew loved it. We got Fleet Fleet as right as we could."

Sunday 16 April 2023

Curious British Telly Substack Subscription

Just a quick update to let you know that I’ve decided to try out the paid-subscription option on Substack to deliver exclusive Curious British Telly bits and pieces. You can find out more about the Substack here. There will, of course, continue to be free posts on the Substack and on here but I thought I’d see if anyone is willing to subscribe.

The articles behind the paywall will be similar to the articles featured in the now defunct Curious British Telly fanzine, and there will be at least one a week.

Any proceeds generated will go towards investing more money in the Substack and the main Curious British Telly e.g. trips to the BFI Archive and, as I’ve been threatening to for years, finally purchase a Betamax player and a mountain of old tapes to investigate.

However, there’s no pressure as I appreciate there’s a cost of living crisis hitting everyone and, well, archive television isn’t the most important thing in life. So, if you do want to subscribe - either to the free or paid version - then just click here.

Monday 10 April 2023

The EastEnders Cook Book and Wicksy's Cocktails

It's debatable if EastEnders, despite running for 38 years now, is still considered a hot property. Nonetheless, when it launched in 1985, it was accompanied by a huge buzz of excitement which lasted for many, many years. Not surprisingly, this popularity quickly led to a nice line in merchandise to generate further revenue for the BBC.

And, in 1986, the first EastEnders annual appeared. I looked at this annual in an issue of the now defunct Curious British Telly fanzine, but I thought it would be fun to bring two of its more curious sections to a wider audience: The EastEnders Cook Book and Wicksy's Cocktails.

Friday 7 April 2023

Looking at the Items in Brian Cant’s Bric-A-Brac Shop

As a preschooler, Bric-a-Brac was easily one of my favourite television programmes and it's a fact which remains true to this day. However, it's a programme which, despite being repeated for nearly a decade, has had very little of substance written about it. This isn't a surprise as, well, very little information is available and only a handful of episodes have ever surfaced on YouTube. But, luckily, a few years ago, I picked up a copy of the 1983 See-Saw annual, which contains the only official photos I've found. And it's going to help us look at the items in Brian Cant's Bric-a-Brac shop.

Monday 3 April 2023

Dramarama: Snap

By Scampy Spiro

With folk horror having become the subject of increasing cultural fascination over the past decade (fuelled, in part, by the spotlight it received in Mark Gatiss’ 2010 documentary series A History of Horror), one candidate that still seems curiously overdue for rediscovery would be Snap, a 1987 installment from the ITV children’s anthology series Dramarama (1983-1989).

Tuesday 28 March 2023

What Was It Like Presenting Why Don't You?

As a child, hearing the Why Don't You? theme tune meant two fantastic things: firstly, it was the school holidays and, secondly, that you were going to discover a whole new world of games, activities and crafts to get to grips with. Remember, this was in the days before YouTube and Fortnite (whatever that is), when television was the dominant source of information for children. Anyway, as we all know, the series was built around young presenters, all of whom had incredibly authentic regional accents. But what exactly was it like being a presenter on Why Don't You?

Saturday 25 March 2023

Regional Oddity: Sit Up & Listen

Much like the concept of ringing our friends on a landline for a chat, the TV closedown is another archaic reminder of a very different landscape where the rudimentary constraints of technology limited what was available to us. It was a world which, quite simply, went to bed when the evening’s programming finished.

This all started to change in the 1980s with LWT first pushing their closedown back to 2am in 1983 and then, in 1986, Yorkshire Television experimenting with 24-hour schedules. Before this, however, most channels went off the air around 12.30am.

The BBC would sign off in decidedly patriotic fashion by blasting out the national anthem as any remaining night owls shed a tear of unabashed pride. Meanwhile, many of the regional ITV networks followed a similar suit, often playing the music over a still of the Queen. There was also time, just before the closedown, for ITV regions to slip in a final scrap of programming. These were often peculiar, gloriously British and always low rent. An example which ticks all these boxes is Sit Up & Listen.

Monday 20 March 2023

Book Review: Travel Without the Tardis

Before you read any further, please prepare yourself. A statement which can only be described as a bombshell of epic proportions is about to follow. And that jaw dropping revelation is thus: fans of Doctor Who are a curious bunch. It may come as a shock, but the truth is that spending your days dreaming about grappling with Zygons, heading off for a pint with Duggan and solving the puzzles of the Exillon city are niche aspirations.

To put a positive spin on such a state of affairs would be to point to the clear evidence of a fertile imagination but – to so called normal people – Whovians remain a peculiar crowd. And I can say this without prejudice as I’ve been a lifelong fan of the series since 1986. Little did I know, however, that as I was digesting Gallifrey’s finest for the first time in Trial of a Timelord, one of the most eccentric helpings of Doctor Who merchandise had recently been released. It was a book unlike any Doctor Who book before or since. And that book was Travel Without the Tardis.

Friday 17 February 2023

The Life of a Runner on The Children's Channel in the 1980s

Around a year ago, I published an article about The Launch of The Children's Channel in 1984 and, in one of those wonderful this-is-why-I-started-this-website moments, it caught the attention of Charlie Bushell, who had worked as a runner on the channel in the late 1980s. Naturally, Charlie had plenty of insights of what it was like working for a channel which was still relatively young. Therefore, I decided to share his experiences and bring a little more backstory to the history of The Children's Channel.

Tuesday 31 January 2023


Ephemeral television, as is its nature, comes and goes without causing much of a fuss. Indeed, it only takes a quick perusal of the Curious British Telly archives to understand just how much of our cultural output falls in between the cracks of our groaning, much put upon memories. But, as I've been saying for well over a decade, thanks to the written word and permanence (we hope) of the internet, these brief dalliances with broadcasting can be cemented into the digital consciousness. And that's why I'm cock a hoop to finally breathe life into a true forgotten oddity: Bradley.

Thursday 19 January 2023

29/10/1984 - Let's Pretend: The Milk Float and the Racing Car

It's been a year and a half since I last looked at an episode of Let's Pretend and that's because not a single second of it has popped up anywhere. It's a continual source of frustration given that over 200 episodes were produced, but I guess there's worse things happening in the world (probably). Anyway, the good news is that Neil Miles, the intrepid tape archaeologist, has retrieved an episode from the clutches of a dusty old tape. It's an episode from the fourth series - titled The Milk Float and the Racing Car - which first aired in October 1984, although it appears this particular recording came from a mid-morning repeat in January 1985.