Friday, 25 June 2021

Puddle Lane

Magic is, as we all know, an illusion. But it’s a distracting illusion and one that we all wish was real. That’s why it’s perfect for the world of fiction. Anything is possible when the shackles of reality and physics are discarded. Cauldrons can come to life, dragons can be treated to never ending bottles of lemonade and magicians can transport grass cuttings across the universe. It may sound a world away from the blockbuster adventures of a boy wizard, but life is just as enchanting down Puddle Lane.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Curious British Telly Fanzine Issue 3 Has Landed!

Time flies when you're furloughed and in the middle of yet another lockdown, so it's no surprise that the launch date for issue 3 of the Curious British Telly fanzine is here. Yes, that's right, to prove that the first two were no flash in the pans, we're back with a third issue. And, dare I say it, it may well be the best one yet.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

A Curious BBC Engineering Test from 1987

Neil Miles is a man who, much like myself, enjoys delving through piles of old videotapes in search of long forgotten footage. And his excellent YouTube channel recently delivered an intriguing slice of late night television in the form of a BBC engineering test from 1987.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

A Chock-a-Block Mug?!

Chock-a-Block

In what can only be described as a ridiculous pursuit, I recently Googled "Chock-a-Block merchandise" in the hope it would reveal that there was a 1982 Chock-a-Block annual. But it didn't. As there never was any Chock-a-Block merchandise. However, the internet is full of enterprising and creative individuals, so there is some merchandise available. It may not be official, but this doesn't necessarily stop it being amazing. And this is best demonstrated by a particularly creative individual on Redbubble who has designed a lovingly accurate Chock-a-Block illustration.

You can buy it printed onto virtually anything: socks, posters and, I'm not even lying, shower curtains. Stepping out of a Chock-a-Block shower curtain isn't something I've ever considered and, to be truthful, I think it would be a folly too far even for me. But, nestled away in the listings, there was a brilliant mug which espoused nostalgic wonder and instantly had me humming the legendary theme tune. So, I bought it and two days later it was here.

You can find the mug - and all the other variations of the design - over here

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

18/08/1986 - Lets Pretend: The Singer Who Lost His Voice

One of my favourite television programmes as a pre-schooler was ITV's lunchtime children's programme Let's Pretend. With a firm footing in the world of imagination, Let's Pretend demonstrated how the mind could be unshackled to create anything. And in the 1980s, with no YouTube to rot the brain in a smorgasbord of toddler-based memes and toy promotions reviews, children had to rely on making their own entertainment. The show was a big hit with myself, but despite running for seven years between 1982 - 89, few people reference it in the wider discussion on children's television. 

Naturally, I jumped at the chance to write about it for one of my books - that specific section is reproduced here - and covered the outline of the series fairly comprehensively. So, there's not really any need for me to regurgitate that information again. However, when I wrote my book, footage of the series was curiously hard to source, despite just over 200 episodes being produced. I managed to track down a few at some television archives, but that was it. Thankfully, since then, a few have made their way on to YouTube. And this has provided me with an ideal opportunity to not only write a few, short articles reviewing them, but to also carve my Let's Pretend outpost of fandom a little more indelibly into the information superhighway's surface. So, on with the first one...

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Not With a Bang

Post-apocalyptic narratives have a tendency to be indebted to a catastrophic event. Popular choices range from deadly pandemics through to nuclear attacks and the emergence of zombie killers. These flashpoints need to be dramatic to leave humanity hanging on by a thread and create the drama required to hook in the viewers. It’s not a dynamic which immediately lends itself to comedy, but this doesn’t mean it should be off-limits. Comedy is capable of taking on each and every genre of storytelling and that’s why it’s such a versatile form. And maybe it can be achieved Not With a Bang but with a very British take on the genre.

Friday, 7 May 2021

50 British TV Comedies From the 1980s You Forgot About

We all know who the big hitters of British TV comedy were in the 1980s. Shows such as Only Fools and Horses, Minder and Spitting Image still elicit mass devotion all these years on. But there was so much more going on in the British TV schedules in terms of comedy. The majority of these have slipped our minds, but this isn't (well, not always) an indicator of their quality. Some simply didn't engage large audiences as well as others did. It's as simple as that. But I can assure you that all these other shows (well, most of them) deserve to be remembered. And that's why I've put together this look at 50 British TV comedies from the 1980s you forgot about.

Monday, 19 April 2021

The Memory… Kinda Lingers

G Neil Martin celebrates one of TV comedy’s finest double albums

It ended, in a way that didn’t really befit it at all, in a dusky power station, full of sinuous pipes, and shadows and angry gas and steam. As if HR Giger had been brought in to design satire. Four people - three men, one woman - and one monumental double entendre.

Series four of Not The Nine O’Clock News is the apogee of the series’ run. Broadcast in 1982, it led to the final of the NOT albums - this time, a double album (“Not The Double Album”, proper gatefold and all) which included a compilation of the best sketches and songs from series four on one disc and the group’s live Drury Lane show on the other. The CDs, which came later, were designed as two little 33 1/3 LPs. It is probably the greatest comedy double LP based on a sketch show ever produced.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Dogfood Dan and the Carmarthen Cowboy

Infidelity is a dangerous art to practice and one that comes pre-loaded with a weapons-grade risk. Nonetheless, it’s a perennial indulgence that mankind has been keen to nourish. A common joke, in the British Isles, is for an individual to jest that they will never stray from their partner within their post code. The rather feeble humour of this remark is that there’s less chance of being caught. Admittedly, there’s a logic what with the increase in distance reducing any visibility to the unknowing partner. Extend this to several postcodes and a national border and it should be ridiculously easy. But even with this on their side it’s far from easy for Dogfood Dan and the Carmarthen Cowboy.