Wednesday 23 November 2022

1974: Ceefax Arrives (And Barely Anyone Can See It)

Teletext is unique, when it comes to British television, in that it’s universally loved. In a world where people grouse about Test Card F being creepy and the lack of modern ‘pace’ in programmes which are four decades old, it’s difficult to find something we all agree on. But I’m yet to hear a single dissenting word regarding teletext. In fact, any mention of teletext will instantly lead to excitably barked cries of “PAGE 302 for the football headlines!”, “Bamboozler!”, “PRESS REVEAL!” and the biggest smiles you ever did see. But what did society think of Ceefax, the world’s first teletext service, when it launched in 1974? And why did it have such a small audience?

Sunday 20 November 2022

Between the Lines: The Best British TV Police Show Ever Made

By G. Neil Martin

Up until September 4th, 1992, if you had wanted a fictional TV cop show or police procedural that really got under the skin of the police, one that really inserted a scalpel under the gangrenous epidermis of the boys (and it was usually boys) in blue, you would have to have looked very hard.

There had been the original Law & Order - written by Tony Garnett and GF Newman - a short, 1978 series which followed a criminal, Jack Lynn, as he went through the criminal justice system, and was unsparing in its portrayal of the conduct of police, lawyers, and the villains themselves. But apart from this, most British TV police procedurals followed a pretty well-rehearsed template: crime commission, crime investigation, villain banged up after either a succession of car chases and fisticuffs (The Sweeney, The Professionals) or stately detection (Dixon Of Dock Green, Juliet Bravo).

But it was Between The Lines, the show executive produced by Garnett and written by JC Wilsher, that changed all this. Between The Lines revealed the dark underbelly of police corruption and spawned a mini-genre of cop shows - The Cops and, more recently, Line Of Duty, are two obvious examples where police corruption and misconduct is the focus and core of dramatic tension.

Saturday 12 November 2022

The Prince of Denmark

It would be a foolish soul who argues against the importance of the pub in British society. Walk into any public house and you will be presented with every possible emotion and attitude which has ever been expressed in this fair island. In one corner you may find a couple of older gents arguing about the rules of dominoes. Another nook is almost certainly going to contain either a romance being made or broken over some dry-roasted nuts. And, last but not least, there will be lots of loud, drunken behaviour atop every square-inch of lager-stained floorboard. The pub is certainly a hotbed of hijinks, but does this translate into bona fide comedy? Let’s head for a quick half at The Prince of Denmark to find out.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Curious British Telly: Now On Substack

Don't worry, the Curious British Telly blog isn't going anywhere! However, I have decided to set up another avenue for its curious ways. Due to the general furore unfolding on Twitter at the moment, lots of people have been discussing various methods for keeping in touch and providing updates etc. I'm certainly not going to join Mastodon, but the Substack platform looks an interesting one. Essentially, it's an email newsletter and one where I'll be posting things about British television which are too short for this blog and too long for Twitter. I've never used it before, so God knows what will happen, but if you want to sign up for the newsletter then please head to

Sunday 6 November 2022

Regional Oddity: Mag is Mog

It’s very rare you’ll catch me writing about a television show I’ve never seen a single second of. For me, perhaps due to my lack of literary grace, I tend to focus on collecting solid facts and information together – that’s my USP. And, without footage of a programme, it’s difficult for me to paint a picture of what it truly was. However, it’s not a rule which is entirely set in stone. Just occasionally, I stumble across a television series which, for a myriad of reasons, is so irresistibly unique and obscure I have to investigate it. Even if any video evidence of it appears to have disappeared long, long ago. And a programme which falls perfectly into this narrow bracket is Mag is Mog.

Saturday 5 November 2022

Greenwich Cablevision: Britain's First Local Television Station

If there’s one thing which strikes fear into the heart of an audience, it’s local television. Blighted by budgets which make shoestrings look positively affluent, local television channels spend their time wading through treacle-like amateurishness and technological limitations. But there must surely be something intriguing within this package of mediocrity for the readers of Curious British Telly. And there is: Greenwich Cablevision.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

If You See God, Tell Him

Society has been bombarded with adverts ever since the first marketing guru climbed out of the swamp and tried flogging cheap holidays to trilobites. A rather whimsical take on the history of advertising, perhaps, but the fact remains that advertising has assiduously worked its way into every space where humans dare tread. And the rise of the internet means we’re now targeted more frequently and with a disturbingly tailored precision. The result of having this consumerist dream regularly rammed down our throat is that it’s very easy to feel insecure. Adverts promise us nothing but undiluted happiness and the answers to all of life’s little problems. So, why wouldn’t we hang on their every word? Well, perhaps the answer lies in Andrew Marshall and David Renwick’s excellent 1993 comedy If You See God, Tell Him.