Sunday 28 March 2021

What Did the Readers of Look-in Think of Television in the Mid-1980s?

Anyone who grew up in the 1970s and 80s should instantly recognise Look-in. Marketed as the 'Junior TV Times' it provided a wealth of features on everything that a youngster should be interested in. Comic strips infested its pages alongside interviews with pop stars and, of course, television featured heavily. Looking back at these magazines grants us a wonderful peek into the culture which was bubbling up at the time. It's almost as if they were custom made for the world of Curious British Telly. And, rather magnificently, around a year ago, I was sent a pile of mid- 1980s issues by a kind fan of Curious British Telly.

Aside from the nostalgic blast offered up by the gleaming smiles of Wham! and Paul Young's knitwear, the issues also brought a number of intriguing and enigmatic shows to my attention. Naturally, I'll be investigating them in more detail in the future. But what also caught my eye was the What's Your View? section. This allowed readers to write in and give their views on television. These opinions are decades old now, but I feel they represent an interesting glance at how children viewed television in the mid 1980s. And that's why I've decided to stick several of these features up here.

Saturday 20 March 2021

Ragtime Episodes Have Appeared Online!

The vast majority of television programmes are, unfortunately, out of reach for many of us. Collecting dust in the archives, these slices of cultural interest remain shrouded in mystery. All that remains in the public consciousness is a motley assortment of vague and conflicting memories. That's part of the reason why I put Curious British Telly together. If these programmes are to remain out of reach then perhaps I can put up some solid facts about them. 

Anyway, a show that I covered in my most recent book - More Curiosities of Children's Television - was Ragtime, and this fell squarely into the "out of reach" bracket for most people. The only way I'd managed to watch copies was by booking in at the BFI. But it turns out that several episodes sneaked online in late 2019.


We improvise almost continuously throughout the day whether it be stirring a cup of tea with a screwdriver in lieu of a spoon or thinking up an excuse on the spot when confronted by an angry partner over why the bins haven’t been put out. Improvisation tends to confound any expectations of normality and always takes things off on a tangent. I guess that’s why life is such a strange proposition. But improvisation, by way of this strangeness, is also a driving force for the hilarity that our lives are blessed with. And that’s why improv has been a crucial factor in comedy over the years. Two of the finest proponents of this are Tony Slattery and Mike McShane or, as they’re also known, S&M.

Tuesday 16 March 2021

L for Lester

The ordeal of learning to drive is a harrowing one for even the most confident individual. For a whole hour there’s the risk of slamming your foot on the wrong pedal and spinning out of control into a world of chaos and A&E wards. It’s rare this happens, but it’s a nicely dramatic way of making a point: driving lessons are unpredictable. These trials only last for an hour, though, so it’s not too bad for the pupil. But for the driving instructor it’s a literal non-stop rollercoaster of bangs, prangs, tempers and tears all day long. Accordingly, it takes a strong, calm and organised character to take on the role. And this is the complete opposite of what you’ll find in L for Lester.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Curious British Telly Fanzine Issue 2 is Here!

It's been three months since the first issue of the Curious British Telly fanzine landed, so it's about time for issue two. And it's now here! And, better yet, there's an extra four pages (for the same cost) this time around!

Once again it's packed full of features that should titillate anyone with even a passing interest in the stranger corners of British television. So, for example, there's a feature on The Last Train, a post-apocalyptic ITV series from 1999 that completely passed under the radar at the time. Oh, and there are fantastic write-ups by guest writers on the BBC shows Dead of Night (1972) and A Very Peculiar Practice (1999)And, if you're looking for even more obscure and untold stories, why not take a look at the articles on TX45 (1986) and Look Here (1986)? If you've heard of both of them then you deserve a medal.