Monday 27 January 2014


Genre: Children's
Channel: BBC1
Transmission: 01/10/1980 - 29/09/1982

Bric-a-brac shops always held a certain allure for us as a child. First off, there was the alliteration of the name which rather tickled our speech receptors. Secondly, there was the strange clutter to sort through whilst we rummaged for Dr Who Target novelisations. Finally, there was also a small chance that we might bump into Brian Cant, the godfather of children's television and Bric-a-Brac.

Bric-a-Brac is set in a dusty old shop packed full of dusty old curios. Brian Cant plays the nameless, elderly shopkeeper who is wildly obsessed with phonetics.

Each episode sees a particular letter (and it's sound) becoming the focal point e.g. the first episode concentrates on the letter B (buh). Cant's role is to forage the store for items beginning with that sound.

The items are often piled high into bizarre combinations such as a bear wearing a bowler hat with bananas in its mouth as a bucket stands by with a brolly in it.

Cant's search usually unearths some ancient windup toys which whirr across the screen as the end credits roll.

13 episodes of Bric-a-Brac were produced over two series in the early 1980s. Michael Cole - with his Midas touch for children's TV - and Nick Wilson created and produced the show. Also acting as producer was Cynthia Felgate who worked on numerous children's shows during the 1970s and 80s such as Play School, Play Away, Stilgoe's On and Willo the Wisp.

The first series of Bric-a-Brac aired in 1980 and the second followed in 1982, both part of the much feted 'SeeSaw' roster. Episodes were repeated several times through the 1980s.

The set design differed slightly between the first two series; series one featured an open plan set whilst series two had a much more authentic enclosed set, complete with detailed exterior features.

Bric-a-Brac was a show that Curious British Telly were very familiar with. It whiled away many of the lazy afternoons of our youth. We'd mess about at the local playgroup in the morning with our mates, head home for lunch and then settle down to watch telly with our mother.

Bric-a-Brac was one of the shows, from that time, which remained embedded in our memory banks. We couldn't remember too much, mostly that there was an old man in a bric-a-brac shop. Being prime blog material, we began to investigate.

A series one episode - the letter D (duh) - is up on YouTube*, but we demanded more material and headed to the BFI archive to view the first and last episodes (buh and luh respectively).

It's pointless eulogising about Brian Cant's position as children's TV legend, it's all been said a million times before. As regards Bric-a-Brac, he's integral to it's success.

We've bemoaned one man shows on here several times as the lack of rapport for a solo performer treads a dull path. Cant however manages to bounce off the viewers at home, the objects in the shop and his own absentmindedness.

It never feels sluggish and Cant is constantly on the move trying to amaze the viewer with the contents of the shop.

The phonetics theme is put across simply, but it's a format which allows viewers to get involved and scream at the telly. It's educational, but the peculiar objects of the shop mean that the attention is held.

This is in stark contrast to the similarly monikered Choc-a-Block (from the same team) which featured rather mundane objects.

Bric-a-Brac probably didn't provide the most complete phonics lesson - only 13 episodes aired and some letters were repeated - but at least it got children thinking about the words gurgling out of their mouths.

We were thrilled to revisit another little pocket of youthful memories in Bric-a-Brac.

It's a charming show helmed by the grandfatherly figure of Brian Cant. Encapsulating a gentle world where nothing bad happens and a Werther's Original is never more than a few feet away, we can't help but love it.

It's a shame that more episodes aren't 'out there' for the public; we suspect many more children of the 80s would relish the chance to rewatch it. Hopefully something will surface in the near future.

***The episode up on YouTube has mysteriously disappeared, so no footage is currently online***

Saturday 25 January 2014

Dick’s Bar

Genre: Food and Drink
Channel: Channel 4
Transmission: 25/02/2000 - 28/04/2000

Our all time favourite cocktail is a fairly simple one. Half a pint of cider with a shot of absinthe in it. Most people recoil in horror when we mention this, but it's delicious. It really is. It's like drinking an entire pack of Black Jacks, but with the added bonus of not getting stuck in between your teeth. Unfortunately, side effects tend to include lurid and manic dreams coupled with 4am dashes to the porcelain telephone. Maybe we need to seek out something more sophisticated. Maybe we'll start at Dick's Bar.

Dick's Bar is a curious little watering hole manned by Dick Bradsell. Episodes are shot from the point of view of a boozy customer, indicated by the camera veering from side to side. Dick begins talking to the customer and a choice remark leads him to making a specific cocktail. This is concocted before our very eyes and then served to the customer. Dick then regales us with the history of the drink and any interesting side notes about it. The recipe is shown onscreen and then the bar closes down for the night. Some of the cocktails featured at the bar included: Bloody Mary, Mint Julep and French 75.

Dick's Bar was a Multi Media Arts production which aired in early 2000. 10 five minute episodes were produced by Mark Gorton and directed by Dinkesh Miesuria. It was part of Channel 4's much missed 4Later slot. Consequently, it aired very late, usually around 1am to open the 4Later programming.

Dick Bradsell is one of the world's foremost bartenders and was credited with revolutionising London's cocktail scene in the 1980s. A million miles away from Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan in Cocktail, Dick is a fairly ordinary, unassuming fellow from the Isle of Wight. However, his ability to blend spirits, liquers and practically anything else into sharp, sophisticated cocktails is second to none. His career started in the late 1970s in the Zanzibar club where he began to build up an encyclopaedic knowledge of cocktails. Creating modern classics such as the Espresso Martini has seen Bradsell shaking and stirring at fabled London watering holes such as the Groucho club, the  Atlantic Bar and The Green Fingernail. He currently runs The Pink Chihuahua in Soho.

There's not a scrap of footage online of Dick's Bar so we had to head to London for another visit to the BFI Archive; we watched the 'Zombie' and 'Martini' episodes. It's typical 4Later fare with it's woozy, late night feel and this suits Bradsell's style. At first glance, you could easily mistake him for a civil servant, but once you're acquainted with him, you begin to realise that there's something mysterious at his core. If you were to discover an old abandoned bar, you wouldn't be surprised to find Bradsell there, Boston shaker in hand. In the blink of an eye, though, he'd be gone. And in your hand, you'd find the perfect cocktail.

Anyway, the actual content of the show is... ok. Instructions for making the drinks are clear and simple, whilst Bradsell's history lessons act as a nice bit of trivia. However, it's not much of a show. A man mixes up a drink, tells us the story behind it and, before you know it, he's gone. In a book, fine, you can pick it up when you want and have a quick flick through. With TV, I doubt many people would have been tuning in for so little. The 'cocktail lesson' concept is, we think, better handled on Something for the Weekend, where Wayne Collins has a short segment involving the presenters and guests. It's a brief palate cleanser inbetween all the food talk and it works well. Summing up then, Dick's Bar, whilst no Sunday morning hangover, is not exactly a Saturday night absinthe and cider high either.

Saturday 18 January 2014


Genre: Children's
Channel: BBC1
Transmission: 17/02/1983 - 12/05/1983

Everyone has either had or has a Gran. Some people, particularly greedy people, even help themselves to two Grans. It's excessive behaviour, but you can see why.

Acting as beacons of warmth, cakes and useful for a £10 note on your birthday, they quickly establish themselves into the fabric of our younger years. Sometimes they're only fleetingly present in our lives, but the memories project far into our futures. Let us celebrate Grans the world over with a quick look at Gran.

Granny Knows Best

Gran (Patricia Hayes) is an elderly lady (obviously) living in an idyllic 1930s home complete with 70s wallpaper and art deco stained glass windows. Whilst she's not busy considering bringing her home fully into the 1980s, she's being visited by her grandson, Jim (Patricia Hayes).

Despite being of pensionable age, Gran is eager to live life like a youngster, often surpassing Jim's attempts at 'hedonism'. Judging by Gran's accent, they live near to the south coast - perhaps Dorset - so their brand of hedonism isn't exactly Ibiza hijinks.

No, they prefer digging up dinosaur bones, knitting and even hang gliding. Episodes see the pair interchangeably delivering the following catchphrase: "Haven't I got the most surprising gran/grandson?".

Family History

First shuffling onto our screens in 1983, Gran consisted of 13x 5 minute episodes transmitted on BBC1 under the SeeSaw banner.

Created by legend of children's television Michael Cole and his wife Joanne Cole, the series was brought to life by the inimitable stop motion of Ivor Wood. The series saw repeat airings in 1986 and 1982. Curiously, Gran was exported to the USA, being shown as part of Eureeka's Castle at some point between 1989 - 95.

A UK VHS release of 12 episodes was released by Castle Vision in the late 90s, whilst 2005 saw a UK DVD release for the entire series. This DVD is fairly hard to get hold of these days, but we have seen some Australian copies popping up on Ebay.

Watch with Gran(Mother)

The team behind Gran were very lucky that it was repeated in 1986 as it meant it was served up to Curious British Telly. It's yet another one of those SeeSaw shows which, for us, recall simpler times.

We hadn't quite got round to purchasing a VCR at this point, so that brief lunchtime period was when television was purely for us, where we could escape the dreary news and Cagney and Lacey.

Our memories of Gran were fond, but rather hazy. We recalled the Postman Pat style characters and that Gran was often wearing a headscarf. Apart from that we were drawing blanks. YouTube, yet again, provided answers as all the episodes are available there.

The first thing to grab your attention is the theme tune. Packed full of delicious funk licks and a sprightly bassline, the music reflects the young hearted nature of Gran. The vocals, provided by Duncan Cargill, aren't quite so funky, more Belle and Sebastian, but sum up Jim's love for his Gran and feel like one big hug.

The whole thing was composed by Bryan Daly who was, of course, the genius behind the Postman Pat theme tune. This composition doesn't quite match Postman Pat for hummability, but it's a cracker nonetheless.

Gran's adventures mix up the fantastic with the mundane to good effect. Although more typical of a Grandad, a quick kickabout with a football in the garden leads, inexplicably, to Gran playing in goal for the local football team.

Displeasure with the current TV output sees Gran, somehow, getting her own show commissioned and broadcast within a few hours. One episode even sees the hard hitting subject of pensioner heating issues being tackled - Gran resorts to knitting an enormous scarf round the house to keep warm.

The overriding theme of the show is the fun that comes with a lack of responsibility. Long since retired, Gran can get up to whatever she wants and Jim is but a young child. Their exploits are charming little slices of idyllic life and just perfect for capturing a child's imagination.

One thing that really puzzled us is the whereabouts of Granddad. Did he die in the war? Was he a briefly encountered American GI who promised nylon tights? Did he run away with Mrs Goggins and set up a new life in Greendale?! There are no photos of him present in Gran's house and she sleeps in a single bed.

Perhaps we're looking too hard at an innocent children's show, but some questions just have to be asked.

Grab your Headscarf!

Gran is a wonderful piece of work from the Cole stable. Coupled with Ivor Wood's canny knack of creating a magical pastoral world, it's a real winner.

We're surprised it wasn't repeated more often throughout the 80s as it's ticks pretty much every box for essential children's viewing.

On a personal level, we were delighted that 25 year old memories were unlocked whilst watching the hang gliding and dinosaur episodes. Despite the daily barrage of new information we were getting at the time, space was allocated to Gran and it resided there, untouched for decades, waiting to be revisited.

Not one to miss!


Radio Times, 12 - 18 February 1983

Saturday 11 January 2014

My Summer with Des

Genre: Comedy Drama
Channel: BBC2
Transmission: 09/06/1998

For men (and women) of a certain generation, Euro 96 is a pain that never ends. It was a tournament which celebrated our nation's favourite sport against a backdrop of jingoistic chants, nostalgia and, most damningly, the age old heartbreak of supporting England.

However, for a couple of weeks it genuinely seemed as if football was coming home as we were swept up on a tidal wave of outlandish skill and heroics from our beloved 11 boys in white. And this buoyancy of the nation's mood is best summed up in My Summer with Des.

It's Coming Home, It's Coming Home!

Martin (Neil Morrissey) is in a bit of a quandary. Still struggling to get over his ex Anna (Tilly Blackwood), his latest masterstroke in life is to call his boss "melon arse" and walk out of his job. Still, not to worry, Euro 96 is about to kick off. What better way to soothe his nerves than with the witticisms of Des Lynam and some rampant xenophobia?

His true salvation, though, appears to lie with the mysterious Rosie (Rachel Weisz) who glides in and out of his life like McManaman on the wing. As England progress through the tournament, Martin's relationship with Rosie blooms exponentially and she gradually drags him out of the doldrums to show him the joys of being alive.

And, then, four days before the semi-final against Germany, Martin, having realised Rosie possesses supernatural powers, begs her to take him to the semi-final now, whilst life is perfect. However, what will events on the pitch mean for Martin's future and his relationship with Rosie?

Who's He Playing up Front?! He Should Be on the Bench!

My Summer with Des aired on BBC2 the evening before the first game of France 98; The script was written by professional grump, Arthur Smith aka the bard of Balham.

The origins of the play started with Arthur being asked to compose a short piece of prose for The Independent on Sunday. At this point, it didn't feature the philosophy of Des Lynam pulling everything together, but concentrated on the magical love story between an England fan and an angel.

By a stroke of luck, the day after the story was published, Arthur was commissioned to adapt it as a feature length drama for the BBC. This wasn't Arthur's first brush with a football based TV play. 1994 had seen a similarly titled production called An Evening with Gary Lineker coinciding with USA 94. Someone had obviously been a fan and it's sequel went into production.

Arthur was due to appear in a small role, but not being confident in the production's handling, he buggered off to Barbados to watch England struggle against the West Indies bowlers. Cameos were, however, fulfilled by David Seaman and, maintaining a link to An Evening with..., Peter Shilton. Des Lynam's bon mots came from broadcast footage of Euro 96, but several wisecracks were specially written for the production.

A VHS of My Summer with Des was released shortly before it aired, but it has never made the leap to DVD.

 Post Match Analysis

The VHS of My Summer with Des is rather difficult to get hold of and usually quite expensive. With no DVD release in sight, we headed to YouTube. To our delight, we found it straightaway! Frustratingly, UEFA had blocked twenty minutes worth of it due to some concept called 'copyright'. We were furious, but called up some of our connections and soon had a DVD ripped from the VHS copy.

With three lions on our shirt, we sat down and prepared to be taken back to that heady summer. And the first thing that strikes you is that the casting is ABSOLUTELY perfect.

Neil Morrissey will always epitomise the mid-90s lad and we couldn't think of anyone else filling Martin's scruffy shoes. He's got that face which can at one minute be optimistically wide eyed and the next downtrodden and grouchy. Much like a toddler.

And, perfectly cast to lift Martin's mood, Rachel Weisz is drop dead gorgeous and encapsulates everything that's worth getting up for in the morning. One look into those eyes and you could deal with anything. She's the perfect guide to help Martin through his troubled summer.

Martin's flatmate, Cameron (John Gordon Sinclair), has a vague nemesis/friend feel, but he's stuck on the periphery of the story. He's not essential to it, but does provide some additional turmoil for Martin. Tilly Blackwood, again, isn't given much screentime and it's a fairly mediocre performance.

Des Lynam, of course, is nothing but a suave gent who can say a million words with just one twitch of his moustache. David Seaman and Peter Shilton are, of course, not actors and that's all you need to know.

In My Summer with Des Arthur Smith has composed a curious story which deals with love and philosophy, but this isn't your stereotypical mid 90s British romcom featuring bumbling gents and American beauties. Okay, it may appear to be a breezy, nonchalant affair on the surface, but look beneath the surface and you'll find a story packed full of pathos.

Martin is, clearly, a man in disarray. Still heartbroken over the breakup of his last relationship, Martin is stuck in a rut and struggling to cope with the thought that this is life. Storming out of his job may have felt like redemption for his soul, but drunken unemployment isn't exactly helping him hoist his sail towards a spiritual reawakening.

And Euro 96 is merely acting as a distraction from his problems. Sure, he's having a lot of fun, but it's very much an analogy for the drunken night before. If Martin's not careful then he's going to wake up with a long and painful hangover in the morning. Thankfully, though, help is on the way!

Equipping Martin for this period of necessary transition are the pearls of wisdom from Des Lynam and Rosie's joie de vivre outlook on life. And, despite never discovering who Rosie is - she could be an angel, she could be the ex lover of Eric Cantona or she may be Des Lynam's daughter - it doesn't matter. She sets Martin on a path towards happiness and performs this act with a jubilant and irresistible zeal.

Coming from the pen of Arthur Smith, you're pretty much guaranteed a riproaringly funny script, but it's also one which is laced with a series of questions about discovering happiness and salvation. And, whilst there are broad sex gags sprinkled throughout, they never feel cheap and the more cerebral gags never feel too exclusive.

It's just a shame that we all know what's going to happen when Southgate steps up to take that penalty...

Sick as a Parrot? No Chance!

My Summer with Des is probably my most favourite one-off comedy drama. It's an uplifting piece which touches on some deep themes, but never depresses. And, even if you hate football with passion, don't worry, it's a show whose central themes are integral to anyone's life. Football is merely used as a framework for this amazing narrative to unfold.

Special thanks go out to Arthur Smith who forwarded us an excerpt from his autobiograpy on My Summer with Des. 


Radio Times, Vol. 297 No. 3876 pg. 25 - 26 by Arthur Smith 

Wednesday 8 January 2014


Genre: Childrens / Arts
Channel: ITV
Transmission: 14/04/1972 - 01/01/1982


Don't worry, we're not betraying our name and straying into ill-advised movie commentary. We would never do that to you, but we're well within our rights to examine TV shows about cinema. And here to help us it the rather highbrow children's show, Clapperboard.

Clapperboard was an arts documentary series fronted by Chris Kelly. The series aimed to provide a true education in cinema. Episodes would see Chris Kelly investigating subjects such as the history of musicals, the goings on of EMI's carpentry shop and a look at the life and times of playwright/actor Robert Morley. Some subjects were explored over the course of one episode whereas some could spread over three. Of course, Clapperboard didn't entirely ignore contemporary film and there were often episodes dedicated to examining what was currently on at the multiplex.

Clapperboard first aired on Friday 14th April 1972 at 16.15 on ITV and was a Granada production. The first episode featured Chris Kelly and his guest, Leslie Halliwell (buyer of films for ITV), looking at "illusion in cinema". Depending on the series, episodes on various days of the week and always in the post 4pm slot. Occasionally, episodes were also aired as part of weekend morning TV shows such as LWTs Saturday Scene. The series was produced by Muriel Young who also, occasionally, stood in for Chris Kelly. In total, 254 episodes were produced over its 10 year history.

We were rather intrigued by the concept of Clapperboard. There was little information online about it, so we weren't really what to expect. Was it going to be an embarrassingly 'groovy' look at films or something more sedate? Luckily, two episodes are up on YouTube and, in particular, they look at  'Samuelsons' - a film facilities company based in Cricklewood. We couldn't resist, so grabbed a bag of popcorn and got streaming.

The show opens with a wah wah heavy theme tune accompanied by an animation featuring clapping hands, a camera and a clapperboard. It all felt rather "far out" and we pondered the tank top horrors that could be lurking within. And then something unexpected happened. Chris Kelly's professional and well spoken tone kicked in as he informed us we would be visiting Samuelsons. Before we knew it, we were in the office of one of the Samuelson executives detailing his rise in the production industry. What the hell was going on here? We thought this was a children's show and not the bloody South Bank Show. We checked our sources and, lo and behold, it was definitely a show for children - not people with beards and a penchant for naturism.

Clapperboard refuses to dumb down to its audience and, instead, respects their intelligence. For this it must be applauded. It really does feel like a show for adults, but for 10 years it ran as a children's show. This longevity can only confirm that children loved it and wanted to know about the inner workings of the silver screen. Episodes cover a lot of ground and progress at a good pace, but some of the interviews did feel rather dull and, as a result, can drag.

The depth of cinema that Clapperboard brought to the attention of children is quite staggering. A quick flick through the episodes throw up features on the early history of films in the North West, interviews with Ealing Studios directors and even discussing the Rising Damp film with Leonard Rossiter. It's a breathtaking sweep across the film world. We do wonder, however, just how many children enjoyed the episode at EMIs carpentry shop. Maybe it was the best ever episode, sadly we will have to assume it was rather plane (sic). You know, like a carpenter's plane. PUN.

Chris Kelly deserves a special mention as he's the very epitome of an arts presenter. A well dressed gent, he wouldn't look out of place at a film festival or examining brushstrokes in the Louvre. He presented the majority of the 254 episodes, so this highlights his dedication in educating the youth that there's more to life than Disney.

Curious British Telly were thoroughly impressed with Clapperboard. It feels so different to any other children's shows we've watched. The Pig Attraction was an arts based documentary, but nowhere near as mature as Clapperboard. It's indicative of the older audience children's TV used to attract. You certainly wouldn't see something like this on in the afternoon now.

We can't help but think, though, that a lot of children would have been put off by the adult tone. Many probably switched off and played football (or Pong) instead. Viewing it as an adult - with an interest in film - means that we invariably love it. A ten year run indicates it had an impressive fan base, so perhaps we're assuming too much about past generations. Anyway, we'll certainly be seeking out other episodes and suggest you do the same.

Saturday 4 January 2014

The Stone Tape

Genre: Horror
Channel: BBC2
Transmission: 25/12/1972

Curious British Telly has only ever had one ghostly experience. Lying on our bed contemplating teenage life, our eyes detected movement. Our bedroom door was opening, but everyone was in the kitchen! One of our childhood friends had recently died! HIS GHOST WAS SURELY COMING TO GET US!

Why he would want to exact revenge on us wasn't particularly clear, but we suddenly became unable to scream out for help. It was like something off the telly. And then, our mother walked in. Apparently she hadn't been in the kitchen, but lurking upstairs in the dark.

We were rather relieved, but definitely felt as though, if you will, a ghoul had been putting the willies up us. We're just glad we weren't part of The Stone Tape.

An Issue with Stone

Ryan Electrics are a company with problems as the innovative Japanese are surging ahead in terms of technology. The old Empire spirit isn't about to lose face, so a crack team of research wizards are assembled, led by Peter Brock (Michael Bryant). Locating to a derelict Victorian mansion - Taskerlands - they plan to dream up a new recording medium.

An early issue arises when Roy Collinson (Iain Cuthbertson) reveals that no work has been completed on the data storage room. Workmen have refused to get their hands dirty in there on account of it being haunted. The room is investigated and, indeed, certain members of the team hear a haunted scream. One member in particular, Jill Greeley (Jane Asher), seems strongly attuned to the haunting. She sights a ghostly vision of a petrified maid running up some stairs to her death.

Brock soon dismisses the phenomenom as a standard haunting. Thinking ahead, he hypothesises that they are witnessing a residual haunting. One where the stones in the wall have 'recorded' brainwaves and emotions to be played out again and again. Could this be exactly what Ryan Electrics need to sink the Japanese?

Setting the Tape

The Stone Tape was dreamt up by the masterful writer Nigel Kneale who had previously concocted the groundbreaking Quatermass and the Pit. The story was originally intended to be part of the Dead of Night anthology which aired during Autumn 1972. Produced by the Dead of Night team, The Stone Tape, instead, found itself broadcast on Christmas Day 1972 as a standalone Christmas ghost story.

Peter Sasdy - fresh from directing several Hammer horror films - was entrusted with bringing the nightmarish horror of Kneale's script to the screen. Desmond Briscoe and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop provided their signature soundtrack of electronic beeps and squelches. Exterior shots of the vast 'Taskerlands' were filmed at Horsley Towers, East Horsley.

A DVD of The Stone Tape was released by the BFI in 2001, but is rather difficult to track down. Thankfully, 2013 saw a 101 Films DVD release of the story and is readily available.

Playing The Stone Tape

Nigel Kneale raises many interesting themes throughout The Stone Tape. The clash between science and nature is very much at the forefront and this leads on to the choice of opportunity over safety. Kneale also managed to turn the haunted house cliché on its head by condensing the supernatural activity down to just one spooky room.

Although this limited haunting may indicate that safety is only a few feet away, the room's strong influence over those in the research team renders any nearby safety as resolutely mute. In fact, every time those heavy wooden doors are opened, you find yourself shifting in your seat wondering what will be revealed. The concept of residual hauntings on display is, in fact, so innovative that it has led to the 'Stone Tape Theory' which delights paranormalists to this day.

Peter Brock is a well constructed character who is central to the many plot strands running through The Stone Tape. No doubt a successful man, he's also portrayed as manipulative. An apparent family man, he hints briefly about a past dalliance with Jill and he is later discovered with a young lady in his bedroom. Although not unusual for the time, he's also a dedicated sexist, addressing females as "Love" and "Sweetie" repeatedly and demanding they make coffee.

The arrival of Crawshaw (Reginald Marsh), a wonderfully eccentric Einstein lookalike, as Brock's rival highlights his egotistical tendencies. This ego, in fact, is used to drive the opportunity over safety theme and results in tragic consequences.

The rest of the cast aren't given such deep characterisation. Jill Greeley is a curious individual determined to get answers, but sadly she's painted as fairly hysterical from the very first scene. A more gradual descent into madness would have allowed for a more interesting characters. Roy Collinson provides a dose of conflict for Brock to deal with and he also mediates Jill's grave concerns. The rest of the cast do not particularly have strong roles and tend to stick to the periphery of the main action.

The acting itself is of a very high standard for a BBC show of the time. There's very few dud performances, the only one that comes to mind is the rather simple minded Alan (Michael Graham Cox). The majority of the research crew all give good performances, even the fringe members who are afforded only a handful of lines.

Jane Asher isn't necessarily given too much to work with, but we still feel there was room for improvement in her performance. She dated a Beatle, though, so we doubt our opinion will bother her too much. Iain Cuthbertson is on fine form with a typically forceful and determined display. Star performance is, of course, from Michael Bryant who is given a fantastically complex character to tackle.

Final Thoughts

We were suitably impressed by The Stone Tape and feel its reputation is justified. Nigel Kneale has fashioned a strong plot which, in other hands, could have dithered and dragged, but instead retains an air of mystery and suspense. The acting on show complements the characters, so the viewer is kept nicely engrossed.

We don't, however, subscribe the view that it's the scariest TV show ever. Certainly, there's some creepy moments and Jill's final scene is particularly disturbing and trippy, but we found Stigma to be much more horrific.

Nonetheless, The Stone Tape is a good example of why the Christmas ghost story needs to be resurrected. Sure, Eastenders conjures up some bleak visions at Christmas, but lets trying really scaring people. In the mean time, we'll be keeping a careful eye on our bedroom door.