Saturday 2 December 2023

Philip Schofield's Final Day on Children's BBC

2023 was a disastrous year for Philip Schofield's television career and private life, and it remains to be seen whether he'll ever return to our screens again. However, back in 1987, life for Schofield was very different. Following two years presenting the Broom Cupboard sections for Children's BBC, he had quickly risen from an unknown into the hot future of British television. Going Live! was just around the corner and, by the 1990s, Philip would be cemented as part of the lineup of British television's primetime schedules. But what happened on his final stint in the Broom Cupboard?

Personally, I can't remember the pre-Broom Cupboard era - some of which I recently dug up on Betamax - even though I was undoubtedly watching. The Broom Cupboard, however, felt like it had always been there. And so did Philip. Even though it was 36 years ago, I can still remember, as a four year, feeling sad that Philip was leaving. Whether I caught his final afternoon on Children's BBC, I can't remember, but luckily someone's uploaded it to YouTube.

And isn't it peculiar? The opening sequence, which feels very downbeat, is quite unlike anything else seen on Children's BBC up until that point. The animated intro, all BBC Micro, for Children's BBC starts but a worried voice announces that Philip has been sent for a meeting with Michael Grade, head of programmes at the BBC. Grade, who puts in a surprisingly strong acting performance, informs Philip that Gordon the Gopher is to become the BBC's next big star, he could soon be starring with Selina Scott and the role of Doctor Who is his if he wants it. Meanwhile, Schofield is to take up a new position in the post room.

After Philip trudges morosely through the corridors of Television Centre, he emerges into the centre of Television Centre's outside area. Yes, the Broom Cupboard won't even be seen today. But Philip isn't alone as, already auditioning for his old role, Vince Purity (Colin Bennett) - host of You Should Be So Lucky! - is on hand to describe Schofield as a "burnt out specimen" for good measure. There's also time for some blooper footage, consisting of several takes from a sketch which was included in an edition of But First This from earlier on in the month.

After this, everything gradually returns to a sense of normalcy, with Philip introducing the afternoon's programmes and undertaking his farewell lap. Not only does Tony Hart send a pre-recorded good luck message, but the presenters of Newsround also pop by to bid farewell to Schofield. The newshounds are also joined by a youthful Andy Crane who, of course, is due to step into Philip's shoes as the new presenter of Children's BBC.

We're fortuitous that this footage has turned up, as most continuity was discarded as soon as it was broadcast. The footage appears to have originated from a home-recording, and full captures of an entire set of Children's BBC continuity is rare, so we're lucky this has been preserved. It felt, at the time, like an end of an era, but Children's BBC would continue to run quite successfully after Schofield left. Whether he ever returns to our screens is currently unknown but, as with most content featured on Curious British Telly, this footage acts as a reminder of simpler times for all involved.

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