And welcome to another Creamguide, and with the Olympics over that means we’ve got to bill some boring normal programmes. But we’ve always got your letters, via email@example.com.
21.30 The Queens of Pop: Viva la Diva
22.30 Queens of Song at the BBC
A double bill of programmes here about the great female vocalists, first up with Ana Matronic picking five of her favourites and exploring what makes them so special, from Beyonce to Grace Jones. Seemingly she’s a bit arch in it but with people like Lucy O’Brien and Trevor Horn on talking head duty it should be a suitably entertaining affair. Then after that it’s further clips of the people you’ve just seen plus loads more from the sixties to the other year.
21.30 The Queen and Her Prime Ministers
This was supposed to go out in April but the death of Prince Philip put all royal docs out of bounds for a few weeks, especially ones as potentially controversial as this. That said, it probably isn’t going to have much concrete information to impart, as it’s something that’s famously conducted with the utmost secrecy and nobody who’s ever taken part has spilled the beans to any great extent. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have a bit of rumour and speculation about the Queen’s regular meetings with the Prime Minister, fourteen in all. There are some newly declassified documents to have a nose at, though we think juicy gossip about who she liked the best - and least - might be based around the vaguest of generalisations.
21.30 John Travolta: Dancefloor Star, Comeback King
We’d like to suggest that Travolta is very much the American Frankie Howerd, in that throughout his career he flitted madly between a hugely popular and successful performer and a washed-up old hasbeen with pretty much nothing in between. Certainly his huge success in the seventies was followed by a pretty barren eighties where he was totally typecast before he was rediscovered as a cult icon in the nineties. Sadly in recent years he’s suffered some family tragedy that means he’s taken on a lower profile again, as this programme will discuss.
BBC Radio 2
13.00 Pick of the Pops
Gambo skipping new entries by the Pet Shop Boys, Tricky and Black Grape to play Robson and Jerome slowly crawling down the charts at number 21 was a proper kicking-in-the-radio-and-sending-the-BBC-the-bill moment, although he did redeem himself by playing Stuck On U by PJ and Duncan, and it’s testament to Ant and Dec that they could probably afford to have all copies of that record destroyed but haven’t. 1987 first up this week, followed by a Pop Idol one-two from 2002, where we can marvel at Gareth Gates having a hit in August with a song that sounds exactly like Last Christmas.
21.00 Romesh Ranganathan: For The Love of Hip-Hop
We enjoyed the clip on Guy Garvey From The Vaults the other week of a bloke in 1978 saying sales of disco records were reaching an all-time high, if only because we could shout at the telly “If these trends continue... ayyyy!”, a la Disco Stu from The Simpsons. The concept of a hip-hop show in Radio 2 still seems a bizarre one, but of course it’s been around for so long that Rappers’ Delight could be played on Sounds of the 70s. Romesh is a massive hip-hop anorak and over the next few weeks he’ll be sharing his favourite tracks from all eras, from A Tribe Called Quest to Lizzo.
11.55 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony
Well, despite everything, we seem to have made it to the end of the Games in one piece and, while the people of Tokyo may see it differently, from a sporting perspective it seems to have gone as well as we could have hoped. There have been moans about the coverage as well, but there’s not really much the Beeb could do if the IOC decide to sell the pan-European rights to Discovery without letting anyone else bid and so every other channel has to do deals to grab as much as they can, and even with their slightly limited horizons, it certainly seems to have been a bit more successful than Eurosport with umpteen events featuring no commentary, or commentary in a foreign language, and stuff shoved behind a paywall while a channel screens 24/7 handball. But now it’s all over, at least for a fortnight or so before the Paralympics start, and of course it all ends with the high spot of the Games, the Big Long List of Credits. What?
20.00 The Secret World of Chocolate
Channel 5 have been running programmes with variations of this title on Sunday teatimes for what seems like a couple of years now, but this seems to be a bit more substantial than the endlessly re-edited clip shows they are, not least as it’s narrated by celebrity chocoholic Dawn French. And this first episode looks like it should be good fun, celebrating the golden age of the sweet shop and the rivalry between Cadbury, Rowntree and Mars to create the next big thing, which inevitably means loads of nostalgic chat about Aztec bars and the like.
21.10 A Change of Sex
This has been on iPlayer for a few months but BBC4 are screening this memorable series on telly as well for the next few weeks. Back in 1979 we met Julia Grant for the first time, who met with obstacles, legal battles and downright hostility when they decided they wanted to transition. But the cameras returned to follow her off and on for the next twenty years, and Julia’s own story also became a fascinating history of changing attitudes towards trans people over two decades.
17.55 The Big Match Revisited
That’s the end of 1979/80, then, the final programme of the series including Brian saying he wasn’t going to give away the results of the later matches in the programme because people write in to say they avoid them especially, and that he didn’t know how they managed to get to Sunday afternoon without hearing them - although we suppose if you got through Saturday night, a few more hours on Sunday morning would probably be manageable given there wasn’t any news on TV. Nice also to see a goal from the player with one of our favourite names in football, Pop Robson. Apparently we’re getting 1980/81 very soon, which given it was on Saturday night that season should be a real treat, but in the meantime here are the finals shows from 1976/77, last shown a few years ago, every night this week.
Well, last week’s Creamguide produced a record number of out-of-offices in reply (don’t worry, we’re not your boss) so we thought it was a particularly suitable week to look back at another show that was a schedule staple for so long, but has now been off our screens for over a decade and there doesn’t seem to be any equivalent. It’s...
The journalist John Carter devised the idea for a TV travel show, but when he pitched it to the Beeb, they initially turned it down, saying they already covered travel – by which they meant the explorations of Jacques Cousteau and Hans and Lotte Hass. But Carter didn’t mean that, he meant a travel show for the general public, with the rise of cheap air travel meaning many people were now planning for a holiday abroad for the first time in their lives. Eventually they were won round and the first episode of Holiday 69 was broadcast on Thursday 2nd January 1969, with Cliff Michelmore installed as host and the first resort report on Torremolinos – though Cliff hadn’t actually been there, and stayed in Shepherd’s Bush to read the commentary to go with the pictures the film crew sent back.
A bit NSFW, that title sequence. You’ll note in that clip of the first Holiday (the name changing every year, of course) that Cliff was accompanied by a bank of telephonists, like on Grandstand, and indeed for the first few years Holiday was as much about reassurance as it was inspiration. A foreign holiday was a huge investment for many people and there were plenty of scare stories about it all going wrong, so as well as providing ideas, much of the show was devoted to John Carter and his team of researchers with consumer advice about how to get it right, how it to get it cheaply, and how to sort it out if the worst happened.
For the first few years, Holiday shuffled around the schedules, on several days of the week, and in both pre- and post-watershed slots. But it was Holiday 76 that found the perfect spot, Sunday teatimes, where it would stay for the next decade. With the programme starting its run each year in January, it certainly provided a welcome burst of sunshine to some otherwise relentlessly gloomy evenings, although some kids grew to hate it as it signalled the end of the weekend and time to start doing your homework. But everyone loved the theme tune it acquired in 1978, Gordon Giltrap’s majestic Heartsong.
And here’s the news of the new series of Holiday 81. By now Cliff was allowed out of the studio to actually visit some of the places he was talking about, and the Director-General once suggested he had the nicest job at the BBC. Cliff admitted it was a lot nicer than his, but as all the Holiday presenters and reporters made clear – including Anne Gregg, who would stay on the show for many years – it was never as pleasant as it looked on screen as they tried to cram a typical fortnight into a day or two of filming. Indeed, one memorable Holiday series in the early eighties involved Frank and Nesta Bough travelling around France in a pea-green Ford Fiesta, which was serialised on the show over several weeks, to much grumbling from viewers that their licence fees were going on such an epic adventure, when in fact they’d dashed it off between episodes of Grandstand.
In 1986, Holiday left the Sunday teatime slot it had made its own, and moved to an early evening slot during the week. It was also the last year for Cliff Michelmore, who had done so much to reassure the nation that they could actually enjoy a foreign holiday without worrying if they were going to come home. In his place came an equally avuncular figure in Frank Bough, although he’s got a bit of a grim task in this programme with the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in the news. You’ll note a new theme as well, a Simon May composition used for the previous series not being very popular so the call went out to Gordon Giltrap again.
By this point Holiday wasn’t the only travel show on TV. Wish You Were Here had started back in 1974 on ITV, with Judith Chalmers in charge and the same mix of holiday reports from both the UK and overseas. This show always seemed a bit more glamorous than Holiday, as it eschewed the studio completely and Judith linked it all from numerous exotic locations, but also a bit more lightweight, and there was a friendly rivalry between the two shows, though most viewers happily watched both. There was some excitement in the mid-eighties when John Carter defected from Holiday to Wish You Were Here – although his Mr-Carter-lectures-his-pupils-about-his-field-trip-style presentation was a bit dated and he was later phased out – while one of their most memorable theme tunes was by, of course, Gordon Giltrap.
Holiday continued to float along happily, bringing sun and escapism to some miserable winter evenings, but there was a big shock in 1988 when Frank Bough found himself splashed all over the front pages. The Beeb considered his position on Holiday untenable and initially suspended him, pending further discussions. As Will Wyatt, Head of Factual Programmes at the time, later wrote, Bough nominated fellow broadcaster Bernard Falk as an intermediary to represent him, although apparently Falk was eager to point out that if Bough was being dropped, he was very much available to take over, Wyatt reflecting “Frank clearly chose his friends as wisely as he chose the parties he attended”. Anyway, in the end Bough was out, and his replacement wasn’t Bernard Falk but Des Lynam. Des did a good job of Holiday 89 but only lasted a year as he struggled to juggle it with his sporting commitments.
Des was replaced by Eamonn Holmes and, for one series, Anneka Rice defecting from Wish You Were Here, while there was some rancour when Anne Gregg was dropped, seemingly for being too old. In 1993, Jill Dando took over as permanent presenter, and by now technology had improved which meant they finally abandoned the studio and presented the whole show on location. This did cause some logistical problems, a late change to the running order on one occasion meaning Jill had to record a link intended for a show presented from Majorca while halfway up a mountain in the Alps, with a runner holding a hairdryer under her face so her cold breath didn’t give it away.
For many years Holiday would run from January to April. But in the mid-nineties, the start of the series was pushed back to November, and it became an increasingly year-round part of the schedule, with Summer Holiday offering last minute tips during the warmer months, and a host of spin-offs like Holiday Heaven, Holiday Memories and umpteen others, eventually meaning it was on pretty much every week of the year. The most contrived was probably Holiday: Fasten Your Seatbelt, a contrived series where the regular reporters were challenged to take on travel-related jobs, though once you’ve seen Toyah Willcox work as a holiday rep once, we’re not sure you need to see it again.
Jill Dando had left just before her shocking death in 1999, with the programme’s phalanx of reporters taking it in turns to host. As we entered the new century, though, much like Watchdog it felt a bit over-exposed – 7pm on BBC1 was pretty much commandeered by those two shows and their spin-offs – and as the public became increasingly adventurous and flexible in their travel choices, the concept of a televised holiday brochure started looking a bit old-hat. Hence the introduction of such concepts at Holiday: You Call The Shots, where the audience was invited via – gasp! – the internet to offer up their own suggestions for places to go, here tested out in Vegas by a trio of Jayne Middlemiss, Rowland Rivron and Joe Mace, who you’ve probably forgotten about now but who is a big cheese behind the scenes.
Eventually the spin-offs all came to an end and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen took over the main show. But storm clouds were circling, as ratings were dropping, it had featured pretty much every destination and type of holiday umpteen times over, and early evening BBC1 was looking a bit of a mess and required radical surgery. And so, with The One Show about to colonise 7pm five nights a week, Holiday came to an end on 19th March 2007 with a report from Bangkok. But earlier in that series, Laurence had been a bit closer to home with the glories of Birmingham.
And since then there’s been no real equivalent, but as so many of us are able to put together our own package holidays and do things on the hoof, it doesn’t feel like we need a travel show to tell us how it all works.
23.00 What We Were Watching: Summer TV Classics
The appeal of these programmes rather depends on how much you like Grace Dent, as they unearth some interesting clippage but the sometimes rather desperate attempts to weave them into some half-baked theory can pall a bit. But they’re worth a look and this is a repeat from last year looking at holiday viewing on the box, which means a motley selection of archivery from Seaside Special and, of course, Eldorado.
20.30 Rewind 1987
For years our absolute televisual holy grail was Nicholas Witchell’s Broom Cupboard Breakfast Time from the morning after the 1987 hurricane, as not living in the South a juvenile Creamguide was totally oblivious to the whole thing until about mid-morning, and we assumed it was unlikely to have ever been recorded - only for pretty much all of it now to be on YouTube. Indeed 1987 turned out to be a massive year for huge news stories, so there’ll be plenty to talk about here.
BBC Radio 4
11.30 What’s Funny About... Goodness Gracious Me
We were always very fond of Goodness Gracious Me, not least because just before it appeared on TV we went to a seminar with its writers and producers Anil Gupta and the much-missed Sharat Sardana, and when they showed us the pilot, an Asian girl ended up in absolute tears of laughter and said she’d never seen anything like it about her life on television before. What’s especially great is that it also became a big hit, breaking out of the minority programmes ghetto to become a hugely popular comedy show that appealed to all audiences, without compromising. Here’s a repeat where Peter Fincham and Jon Plowman, big noises behind the scenes of comedy of course, speak to Gupta and Meera Syal about how it all happened.
17.00 Blue Peter
Into the postbag (and not just all the out-of-offices), and regarding last week’s Emmerdale feature, Eddie Hutchinson says, “I admit I'm surprised you encyclopaedic types didn't know why Anglia kept Emmerdale at arm's length for so long. Firstly, Anglia produced the first rural soap for ITV, Weaver's Green (featuring a young Kate O'Mara) some years earlier, but the major regions refused to properly network it and the show was killed off pretty quickly. Secondly, one of Anglia's major transmitters based in Lincolnshire was handed over to the nascent Yorkshire, meaning Anglia lost a third of its viewers and advert revenue. No wonder they refused to give Emmerdale priority coverage.” Meanwhile, Jonathan Haw writes, “You reminded me of the brilliant Tim Hunkin poster depicting the Emmerdale studio at YTV which I owned as a teenager. Where some teenage boys had posters of pop stars, actors or that tennis player scratching her arse on their bedroom walls, I had this proudly displayed above my bed. I was a very cool kid.”
21.00 Comedy Legends
Surprising it’s taken Baz four series to get around to Hattie Jacques, such a familiar face in TV and film comedy for so long. It’s ultimately quite a sad story as despite her obvious comedic talents, she seemed to suffer from terrible typecasting as endless matrons and other battleaxes and didn’t get the chance to portray the rather more subtle roles she so badly wanted. She was so good at that kind of comedy, though, as we’ll see here.
Talking Pictures TV
18.30 The World of Budgerigars with Sid James
And from one Carry On star to another with a swift second outing for this fascinating programme, first shown the other week, which as you’ll recall appears to be Sid James’ last ever film before his death in 1976. To be honest, he’s not in it that much, with Peter Marsden, the self-styled “TV Budgie Man”, taking the lion’s share of the running time to extol the virtues of keeping budgies, and there are times when you may be reminded of Look Around You. But nobody seems to have budgies anymore, so if this gets one more person interested in them, it’s all been worthwhile.
20.30 Top of the Pops
Much discussion over Northside and Marillion getting on at numbers 41 and 42, although it really was a quiet week and pretty much the only other eligible act in the Top 40 who they could have got on were The Pixies, which would have been exciting but given they were on a world tour, it didn’t have a video and the song was not perhaps suitable for a teatime audience rather counted against them. They could always have given Flick Colby a ring, we suppose. The green screen backdrops for some of Goodiebags’ links got people excited wondering if there was a strike on or some technical issue but, as ever with changes to Pops, it’s just because they fancied doing something different. By now they’ll have become quite familiar, the hosts now regularly exiled from the audience, like the Reverend Mayo is here. Something else that will also become very familiar soon is the new entry at number eight.
21.00 Top of the Pops
And indeed this episode is pretty notable because it’s the last one without a certain song until the end of October, by which point things will be very different indeed. Despite that we’ve got fond memories of the summer of 1991 and there’ll be some fascinating tracks to enjoy over the next few months you won’t have heard for ages, this show featuring the debut of Saint Etienne - sort of.
And that's that...
But next week’s Creamguide will be our Holiday Special! Er, by which we mean we’re on holiday for most of next week and, while there will be a Creamguide, it’ll probably be on Friday, to give us time to unpack and everything. But it’ll be with you at some point, promise. Wish you were here!