Saturday 30 July 2022


What's this? Astronauts? A sitcom written by Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden? And there's more? It was script edited by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais?

Yes, that's right, it's not April Fools Day at Curious British Telly, Astronauts is a bona-fide sitcom, one which is shot through with a comedy pedigree of such renown, it's a surprise hardly anyone's heard of it. And Astronauts is a series which has made a decent stab of establishing itself, with two series airing and a DVD boxset of the entire thing emerging in 2012. Nonetheless, a recent mention of it on the Curious British Telly Twitter feed resulted, mostly, in a procession of puzzled faces, punctuated only occasionally by someone who vaguely remembered it. So, Astronauts, what's it all about and what's it like?

Saturday 23 July 2022

Mug Review: Doctor Who (1987)

I originally received this rather splendid mug back in the late 1980s, and it provided me with drink after drink for close to 25 years. And then someone broke it. The culprit was never apprehended, despite a widespread police investigation and public appeal, but I eventually acquired a pristine replacement. Anyway, here it is, you may have had one yourself back in the day. In fact, you may still have one. Either way, it's a fantastic way to enjoy beverages hot or cold.

The design is typically late-1980s Doctor Who with the Sylvester McCoy-era logo taking pride of place at the centre of a tight, clean box which the strong, defined lines of a TARDIS are bursting through. John Nathan-Turner, no doubt, would probably have been horrified by its anti-gaudy aesthetics but, 35 years on, it remains a bright, punchy design which instantly sweeps you back, through the dimensions of space and time, to the classic-Who era. Sure, 1987 - in the Who universe - wasn't anything to write home about, but McCoy's tentative steps there would boldly grow into some of the best that the series took.

And as a drinking vessel? Well, it's a ceramic mug. My coffee tastes fine in it and I couldn't really ask for any more.

Friday 15 July 2022

Some Vaguely Interesting Loft Finds Relating to British Television

I recently asked my mother if she could search out my GCSE certificates - for some work-related thing - but, unfortunately, she couldn't find them. However, whilst she was sifting through the loft she did find a few folders relating to paperwork concerning my childhood. And, just to prove my long-term dedication to the cause, there were a few bits and pieces in there which related to British television.

Thursday 14 July 2022

Grange Hill Revisited

Today's post is, drum roll please, a GUEST POST! And it's all thanks to the inner workings of Elly-Mae Gadsby's noggin.

As a child I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of television. I am an only child and, as such, was pushed into each and every club available. Because of this I would treasure my televisual viewings, elevating them to something greater than they possibly were in some cases. Much of this I viewed with my late mum, and so although my experiences were somewhat limited, they were carefully curated.

I’m certain I didn’t appreciate this at the time, but I now see that the comedies, dramas, music shows and murder mysteries I viewed when I was younger made me develop a discerning eye where television is concerned. One programme which stood out for me was Grange Hill. It was unlike anything I had seen on television. Many of my peers were not permitted to watch, as some of the subject matter was deemed unsuitable; it was the opposite in my house.

Monday 4 July 2022

Book Review: Play School Annual (1985)

Back in the pre-internet age, parents knew there was one Christmas present guaranteed to generate a beaming smile from a child: the TV tie-in annual. A cheap, simple purchase, the TV tie-in annual provided a much welcome extension of children's TV shows and, more importantly, kept the children occupied whilst their parents cracked on with cooking Christmas dinner. And there were lots of them. At least 62,000. Probably. Anyway, with that brief overview in place - let's face it, we all know what an annual is, it's time to look at the 1985 Play School annual.

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.