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There are more questions than answers

17th-23rd July 2021

Hullo there!

Welcome to another Creamguide where we’re pleased to say that less than a fortnight after the Euros we’ve got the Olympics on the horizon. A few more days to get through first, though, so keep us occupied by writing to


17th JULY


18.30 Dad’s Army
The film, that is. After we billed England in a major football final last week we ended up pondering how many other huge historic events we’ve yet to feature in Creamguide, and we think it’s probably only the Coronation and another moon landing that we’ve not seen over the last two decades of churning this out, though if you have any other ideas, do let us know. As someone mentioned to us, though, we’re not looking forward to the fantasy schedules about them on DigitalSpy.


10.30 The Big Match Revisited
Well, if new football let you down, maybe old football will help, and indeed with this series resuming after a break for the Tour de France, it should manage to fill that awkward three week gap before the new season begins. We’re back in the last few weeks of 1980, although we’re skipping the FA Cup semi-finals, perhaps sensibly given Arsenal and Liverpool drew 0-0 and it wasn’t settled until after a million replays. So instead we’re off to Stamford Bridge to see if Chelsea can get back in the top flight.


21.00 French and Saunders: Funny Women
Despite it being sold in some places as a fully-fledged French and Saunders reunion, it’s pretty much just a clip show, though a superior one at that with the pair returning to their familiar sketch show surroundings to record some inevitably idiosyncratic links. The aim is to celebrate the greatest women in comedy, from their influences like Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller, to some of today’s new names like Rosie Jones, and there should be some amusing and intriguing clips for our perusal.

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops
And it was all going so well at the start of last weekend as Gambo played all the records from 1978 we hoped he would, and he even ventured outside the Top 20 to play City Boy at number 34 to add to the already heavy quotient of Look-In pop, so it’s well worth catching up with it. What a difference two years makes as it’s a fairly pedestrian 1976 in the first hour here, although we should get some memories from the first few months of the Pops repeats (which do now seem a million years ago) from the likes of Liverpool Express. Then it’s 1988, which seems to come around this time of year every year, with some fairly familiar tracks.


18th JULY


21.00 An Audience with Jimmy Tarbuck
Looks like we might be getting a few of these, though this one is perhaps a bit less interesting than the Ronnie C one last week as it was on Channel Five over Christmas. It’s less good as well, to be honest, as Tarby may have managed to survive the cull of variety stars in the eighties like Bob and Brucie via his game shows, but unlike those two, despite appearances on the likes of Have I Got News For You and Room 101, he never quite managed to reinvent himself. They certainly tried their best, too, with this honour in 1994, but it’s not particularly memorable and the most famous moment is probably not any of his stand-up but a jam session with loads of his old pop mates, including most of the Moody Blues. They don’t do Ride My See-Saw, alas.


19th JULY


20.00 The Car Years
Well, the light channel and its spin-offs are certainly helping to fill these pages this week, and as well as this they’re also supplementing the “new” episodes of the Big Match Revisited on Saturday mornings with another outing for the 1976/77 season most teatimes this week. Meanwhile here’s it’s Vicki Butler-Henderson and Alex Riley paying tribute to some memorable motors in two back-to-back episodes, with 1975 in the second half but first it’s a spin in a Ford Capri from 1969.

As the summer of sport continues, this week we’re featuring what we think is the longest continuously-running quiz on British TV, having run without a break for over fifty years - seemingly literally, given how it seems to be on every week. It’s about to get a completely new line-up, but it’s undergone many changes over its life. It’s...

Although there was a pilot on BBC North in 1968, the first episode of A Question of Sport was shown across the UK on 5th January 1970, produced, as it always would be, out of Manchester. There had been sports quizzes before, but as original producer Nick Hunter pointed out, the big difference is that this was a quiz made for television and the questions would be based around clips of sporting action - and in these pre-video days, the opportunity to see these moments again was as much an attraction as the quiz itself. David Vine fronted the first show - and every show until 1978 - with Henry Cooper and Cliff Morgan the captains, but unfortunately only a photograph exists of this programme, and indeed most of the early years have long been wiped. But never mind, because we do have a burst of what we think is the second theme, introduced some time in the mid-seventies, which remains hugely memorable to this day and they should probably bring back.
The show ran successfully for the rest of the seventies, with most of the nation’s top sports stars taking part and Cooper and Morgan making way for other captains including Fred Trueman, Brendan Foster and Gareth Edwards. But the biggest change yet came in 1979 with a new chairman. David Coleman was a legend at BBC Sport, presenting and commentating on all manner of sports with great distinction, and he was well aware of his value to the corporation - to the extent that he would spend extended periods off air while he argued over his contract. In the late seventies he was off air for over a year due to a protracted contractual dispute that ended up in court, and when he finally returned he took over A Question of Sport. Although a notoriously serious man off camera, this new role showed a new, lighter side to Coleman, and he took it to new heights.
Surely the golden age of A Question of Sport began in 1984 when Emlyn Hughes returned for his second spell as team captain, where he faced off against Bill Beaumont. Hughes’ permanently upbeat persona and boundless enthusiasm contrasted brilliantly with Beaumont’s droll, deadpan demeanour and they became the classic combination. Together, the show continued to attract the biggest names in sport, most of whom jumped at the chance as they considered appearing on the show a sure sign they’d made it. The show was recorded on Sunday afternoons and one of the great traditions was that before the show all the guests, and their families, joined the rest of the team to have Sunday lunch - which always broke the ice and helped ensure a suitably relaxed atmosphere during the recording.
The show’s most prestigious guest appearance, though, came in 1987 when Princess Anne joined the panel - and nineteen million people tuned in. Paired with Emlyn, he tried his hardest to avoid breaking royal protocol by endlessly touching her, as he did with all the other guests. Given the other one was It’s A Royal Knockout, we can safely say this was Anne’s most successful light entertainment performance of the year.
Of course, it didn’t really matter who won A Question of Sport, and the main attraction was the chance to see sports stars outside their natural habitat - with Coleman always taking the opportunity to stop the game and ask the panellists how they were getting on with their training (to which the reply was always “yeah, I’ve had a few injuries but I’m ready to go”). Yet the guests’ natural competitiveness meant it was always going to be taken seriously as a quiz, with Coleman giving an update on the series scores every week, and for sports fans it was a satisfyingly tough challenge. The familiar rounds became much-cherished, with What Happens Next, the Picture Board and the Mystery Guest, though our favourite was always the One Minute Round, and specifically the “All of these sports stars are Welsh towns” style of question, where one team member would be assigned to spend the rest of the minute shouting out answers. One other tradition was the annual viewers’ competition, backed by There Are More Questions Than Answers by Johnny Nash.
A Question of Sport was such a consistent rater for the Beeb that ITV wanted something similar, and in 1987 they finally came up with a competitor in Sporting Triangles. Initially presented by Nick Owen, this was a hugely convoluted quiz with a million rules that had none of the wit and charm of A Question of Sport, and Jimmy Greaves referred to it as “Snoring Triangles” - and he was one of the captains! It carried on for a few more years and caused a stir when it poached Emlyn Hughes to become a captain, while Nick Owen was swapped out for Andy Craig, and while it got a bit better, it was always going to be second best to the original on the Beeb. While this was going on, the Beeb also launched a spin-off in the shape of A Question of Entertainment, and although it only lasted one series, a year later it was rebooted as That’s Showbusiness with Mike Smith and went on for ages.
Ian Botham replaced Emlyn as captain on his defection, and while he stayed for eight years himself, he seemed a bit too similar to Bill Beaumont in terms of his approach, so it wasn’t quite the same. But they weren’t mad at Emlyn for too long, and as we entered the nineties the show started to celebrate its long history with special shows for its twentieth, 21st and 25th anniversaries, which usually involved bringing back all the old captains, including Emlyn, all of whom were as competitive as ever.
By the mid-nineties, though, A Question of Sport was looking a bit tired, with Beaumont and Botham having long retired from their sporting careers, and the cosy format perhaps not quite dynamic enough for primetime BBC1. Worse still, They Think It’s All Over had started, which despite being best tolerated in very small doses, was a big hit and made it look even duller. In 1996 the captains were changed, with Ally McCoist and John Parrott at least still regularly playing top level sport, and that year David Coleman decided to call it a day. He’d missed a few weeks of the series due to ill-health, with Sue Barker filling in, and she was chosen to fill his shoes full-time.
Sue bonded well with the captains and the show did seem a bit fresher, but there was a big change in 1998, when the familiar studio set was replaced by the panellists now in front of the audience, and a rather more light-hearted and, you would perhaps have to say, lightweight approach, with an emphasis on banter rather than brainpower. In addition the sports stars were regularly accompanied by commentators, comedians and other celebrity sport fans. It seemed a bit like a desperate final throw of the dice, but it seemingly did well enough and that’s the approach that’s allowed it to carry on for another two decades.
In this period there was another spin-off as well, in the shape of A Question of Pop. Taking the format pretty much wholesale, Jamie “Theako” Theakston presented with Suggs and Noddy Holder, officially the Nicest Men In Pop, as the captains, and it ran for two series on Saturday teatimes in 2000 and 2001. And it was a pretty good show, all told, because we love a pop quiz and it made for amiable viewing. However a second spin-off in A Question of TV with Gaby Roslin was a bit of a step too far, with a host of Z-listers answering tedious questions, the level of inspiration rather illustrated by the fact A Question of Sport had “home” and “away” and A Question of Pop had “A-side” and “B-side”, this one had, er, “easy” and “difficult”.
A Question of Sport, meanwhile, kept on going. In the mid-noughties McCoist and Parrott bailed out, to be replaced by Matt Dawson and, later, Phil Tufnell, and while it was never the must-watch it was in the mid-eighties (not least because they kept booting it around the schedules), it was a reliable rater for BBC1, who doubtless appreciated it being one of the few shows that could happily play in any available slot, pre- or post-watershed. It also managed to keep it fresh for thirty weeks a year, finding endless variations on the theme of sports quizzing. Alright, there was a bit too much laughter at nothing, but rather that than boring old Ian Botham, probably.

A few months ago, though, the Beeb announced big changes with a new line-up taking over, to much controversy, although Sue has presented it for almost longer than the other two hosts put together, and Dawson and Tufnell are the longest and third-longest-serving captains of all time, and it’s not like they haven’t changed the personnel several times before. Paddy McGuinness, Sam Quek and Ugo Monye are taking over when it returns later this year, and while Paddy is obviously far removed from David Coleman, the fact it’s still going after half a century and sports stars still queue up to go on it is testament to its continued appeal.


20th JULY


20.00 Secrets of the Museum
This series going behind the scenes of the V&A not only provides another dose of that favoured TV genre in these tough times, that being of people very slowly mending things with great care and attention, but also features some fascinating items undergoing some TLC, given the museum’s aim to showcase iconic designs from all eras. Hence as well as a wax model made by Michelangelo, equal care and attention is given here to a lurex suit donated by Jim from Slade.

BBC Radio 4

11.30 Unreal: The VFX Revolution
Last part of this series, which has now reached the nineties where special effects could now be trusted to be an integral part of the storyline rather than just a bit of gimmickry whacked on as a spectacle. The ultimate example of this is surely Jurassic Park, perhaps the most heavily promoted film of the entire decade, and probably rightly so.


21st JULY


21.00 Les Dawson: The Lost Tapes
We were talking about Tarby’s attempts to move with the times earlier, and one comedian who doubtless would have been able to do that was Les. He was certainly well aware of the need to branch into new directions, being brave enough to appear in the serious drama Nona and venture onto the new breed of panel shows on the long-forgotten Brain Drain, and we’re sure if he’d lived he would have gone on things like Have I Got News For You and QI. Sadly it wasn’t to be, but his legacy seems to remain intact and this doc, seemingly part of a series, will showcase his family life and his great love of writing as much as the gurning and the game shows.

BBC Scotland

20.30 Rewind 1984
Highlight as far as we were concerned last week was the clip from Superscot, which ran for seven years in Scotland but us Sassenachs had never seen so much of a second of it until now. We’re unlikely to see anything from BBC Scotland’s most famous show of 1984 in this one, given it was the notorious Live Into 85, but there should be plenty more to enjoy, including Glasgow’s Miles Better.


22nd JULY


21.00 Diana’s Decades
We’ve heard a lot about Diana’s nineties in recent weeks, though the final part of this series will also look at the other royal interview of the nineties, Charles’ chat with Jonathan Dimbleby in 1994, which was broadcast on ITV in June 1994 and was a bum-numbing two and a half hours long, and we remember Chris Evans on The Big Breakfast the next morning talking about how many times they’d shown the same Ford advert during it - “It was as if they’d sponsored the programme!”. And we all know how this series ends, with the programme trying to put into some sort of context surely one of the strangest weeks in our lifetimes.


17.00 Blue Peter
We’ve yet to see Lindsey take her leave, but we’re sure she went out in suitably befitting style. Of course for many years Blue Peter would have long headed off on the expedition by now, but today’s show is happy to run all year round and remain a rock in our lives - although this is the first of a series of “summer specials” which is usually code for some pre-recorded shows largely made up of repeats. Still ace, though, of course.


23rd JULY


11.20 Olympics 2020
And the Great Summer of Sport continues with fifteen days of round-the-clock action, and as it’s on the other side of the world that always means the fun of your schedule being turned upside down with loads of the action taking place in the small hours. Unfortunately if you enjoyed staying up late to watch Dan Walker’s Copacabanter last time round you may like to know that to see him this time round you’ll need to get up at 5am. Things are going to be a bit more low-key this time round, for obvious reasons with a vastly reduced broadcasting presence in Tokyo and everyone else UK-bound, and indeed on the Beeb it’ll also feel a bit like the old days because thanks to the new rights deal there aren’t umpteen streams as they’re now behind a paywall on Eurosport. But the Beeb are still allowed to show anything they like across two channels, and as they’re on pretty much non-stop for 24 hours a day we shouldn’t notice too much difference, and it’ll all be covered wonderfully as ever.


20.00 Top of the Pops
Not too many radical changes yet under Michael Hurll, aside from rushing through the breakers in about sixty seconds, including the much-hyped Transvision Vamp comeback single which died on its arse. The Cypher graphics match for Strike It Up by Black Box was an artistic triumph as well. But there are more changes to come and we’re sorry to report that tonight features the final appearance of a much-loved item... oh no, it’s the album chart, hooray. We say that, they will keep on trying to bring it back over the next decade and a half, but that’s it for now. And for all we discussed Ken Bruce Pop earlier, in this one Gaz introduces the ultimate Ken artist in Beverley Craven, though sadly not with Woman To Woman. And then...
20.30 Top of the Pops
Despite Bruno being in charge, this one’s an episode we’ve been really looking forward to, and one we have vivid memories of watching at the time, most obviously as it features the one and only studio appearance by New Kids On The Block, but unfortunately it’s probably about a year too late as the dumper is beckoning, and because they’re now serious artists they sing completely live and it’s awful, possibly hastening their decline still further. But there’s some good stuff elsewhere, including from a personal perspective the last ever single we bought on vinyl.

Sky Arts

20.00 Guy Garvey: From The Vaults
A pretty Tube-centric episode on 1983, which was interesting enough but that show really has been anthologised a lot and some of the clips, especially Tina Turner’s comeback, are a bit familiar, and we’ve already seen enough U2 in this series, really. Much more exciting were the few clips from Razzmatazz featuring Eurythmics and especially Blancmange, both acts clearly having a great time performing to the hyper audience of kids ensuring for a brilliant atmosphere, and if anyone wants to do a two-hour compilation entirely of Razzmatazz clips, that would be some top viewing we think. No Razz tonight, alas, though fortunately no U2 again either, as it’s 1978, as Pick of the Pops illustrated one of the great years for pop, which they’ll hopefully reflect here.

And that's that...

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