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

Whizz


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.