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Just got the nod from Planet 24

19th-25th June 2021

Hullo there!

And welcome to another Creamguide, all wrapped up in the Euros of course but still ferreting out the week’s top telly and radio just for you. Telegrams to


19th JUNE


20.30 Paul Weller at the Barbican
22.30 Weller at the BBC

As we’ve said before, Paul Weller is often cited as the ultimate exponent of “real”, ie lumpen and plodding, music by radio stations that play guitar-based rock and turn their nose up at everything else, but Weller himself has certainly taken inspiration from everywhere and been far more innovative, and in the late eighties he even recorded a house music LP his record company refused to release. Here he is again looking to something new as he performs new material and old songs in new arrangements alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with Boy George among those providing guest vocals. Then later it’s something that sounds like it’s part of the series of clip shows we’ve had in recent weeks but is actually from 2012, though it hasn’t been repeated for a while.


10.30 The Big Match Revisited
Highlight of last week’s show was of course the hoarding at Selhurst Park for The Clash. We seem to be seeing Manchester United most weeks on this show, and that’s the case again here on the Easter weekend, although their match against Liverpool is a top-of-the-table encounter. In recent weeks LWT have happily run with other regions’ matches as the main feature if the London one’s been a bit boring, but that’s not the case this week so the potential title decider plays second fiddle to QPR vs Birmingham.

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops
Well, colour us surprised when last week Gambo did go for The Imposter over George Benson, and while we didn’t get Fox we did get what appeared to be the twelve inch version of Disco Stomp, which we enjoyed. Two very familiar-sounding charts this week which seem to come around this time every year, not that there’s much wrong with either of them, first from 1970 at the high water mark of anonymous session musician pop with both Christie and Mr Bloe in the top three, followed by 1984 with double Frankie in the top five.


20th JUNE


22.05 Mark Lawson Talks To Jimmy McGovern
Jimmy McGovern’s new series Time may have seemed a bit bleak for mass appeal but it’s certainly done the business for BBC1 with some impressive figures. We’re pleased to see that too because McGovern is seemingly more aware than most writers of the value of popular TV and how it can be a very useful and important vehicle for dealing with serious issues - and his daytime series Moving On has done loads to promote new talent and bring quality drama to the widest audience possible. That’s perhaps not surprising for a former soap writer who did so much to make Brookie the big show it was in its earliest days, so despite this interview being a few years old and with a pretty resistible interviewer, it’s worth a watch.


21st JUNE


19.30 The Cruise
It’s easy to sneer at the great docusoap craze of the late nineties, and there probably were too many, especially on BBC1, but like all genres there were good and bad ones. Indeed, we loved Driving School so much that we set the timer for two episodes when we went on holiday to France. The Cruise was one of the good ones as well, with director Chris Terrill coming from the Forty Minutes school of documentary making, and it was an absolutely huge hit as well. And now we can relive it all, four nights a week.

This week we’re looking at a show which is remarkably nearly thirty years old, and was certainly hugely influential for a generation because in its pomp, every kid in Britain was talking about it. Unfortunately it reached its peak after a year on air and then had another eight and a half of increasingly diminishing returns. It’s...

Channel Four’s impact at breakfast time was pretty limited for its first decade on air. Up until 1989, it didn’t broadcast any programmes at all, and then came The Channel Four Daily. Although possessing a brilliant theme tune, this was a pretty dull affair, a dizzying array of pre-recorded items (the timetable took up a whole column of the TV Times!) that was impossible to navigate and was never showing what you wanted when you tuned in. Over its three and a half years on air, it slimmed down a bit and eventually became a fairly upmarket news show, a bit like a breakfast edition of Channel Four News with an emphasis on business and the arts, likeable enough but blown off the screen by its competitors. With the channel selling its own advertising from the start of 1993, it needed to be making more of a splash, so Michael Grade started the search for something better, saying “Whatever it is, just make it stand out”.
With a commission for ten hours a week, 52 weeks a year up for grabs, it’s not surprising that Channel Four were inundated with submissions, though most of them were pretty bland. But then, stuffed in a cereal box, came a tape from Planet 24, Bob Geldof’s company, with the pilot of a show filmed in a real house, with Geldof and his wife Paula Yates appearing alongside Chris Evans, a big star in London on GLR but pretty much unknown in the rest of the UK besides brief stints on BSB, TV-am and Radio 1. The pilot was amateurish, silly and loud, but there was clearly something about it, and it really was different from the alternatives at breakfast, so they went for it. But it was a bit of a panic to get on air, as seven weeks before the programme started the house was in complete disrepair, and the response from focus groups to the pilot was so bad that they had to lock the doors to stop them walking out.
But at seven o’clock on Monday 28th September 1992, The Big Breakfast went live, initially only to a small audience of curious kids, some of whom, like a juvenile Creamguide, had doggedly hung around until the dying days of The Channel Four Daily. And what’s fascinating about this first programme is how confident it all is, and how much of the format was in place from day one - already it was a show that was bursting with confidence, and Evans and Gaby Roslin (a last minute replacement for Emma Forbes who’d pulled out) were the perfect hosts. The house looked amazing on screen and bursting with life, some contrast to both its predecessor and its rivals Breakfast News and the last days of TV-am, and its laid-back presentation style was a revelation. Within a few weeks the nation’s kids were already hooked, and increasingly their parents too.
By the end of 1992, The Big Breakfast had established itself as the freshest and funniest show on the box, with more and more people tuning in each day, and the show absolutely brimming with ideas, while Chris Evans especially became a huge star. And it wasn’t just the on-screen talent that were becoming well-known, but so were the production crew. It wasn’t the first time the crew had been seen and heard on TV, with Kenny Everett and Going Live frequently smashing the fourth wall, but never had they been so prominent, with floor managers, cameramen and researchers all regularly appearing on air and the likes of Val, Ronnie, Sean, “Psycho Cam” Rob and the rest becoming as familiar as Chris and Gaby. It really felt like it was deconstructing all the formalities of British TV, and with the location of the house no secret, you could even turn up there and wave at the fence. It was such a sensation that it was Channel Four’s choice to see in 1993.
One other side-effect of The Big Breakfast’s phenomenal success is that it completely spoiled the launch of TV-am’s replacement GMTV, as all the kids and parents they’d expected to tune in had been lured away - although it was a rubbish show at the start. By the summer of 1993, Channel Four had gone from a distant third in the breakfast market to the outright leader, a national talking point and the first choice for every celeb, and generating money by the truckload. Chris and Gaby were a brilliant pairing and it had amusing and original ideas coming out of its ears.
Here’s a first for breakfast TV - a VHS release! The Best of The Big Breakfast is a wonderful compilation of some of the highlights of the show’s first twelve months on air, with such features as Invention Corner and One Lump Or Two getting another outing. And there’s plenty of Zig and Zag, first seen on RTE of course - and who travelled from Dublin every other week to record their bits, convincing Planet 24 to rent a massively swanky apartment for them even though they only stayed for one night a fortnight - who alongside Chris were an absolute must-see with their endlessly stupid games and interviews and would be the talk of the playground every day.
There was plenty to celebrate at Christmas 1993, after a brilliantly successful year, though it was the first time the house wasn’t a hive of activity at 7am as they did a week of pre-records, made up mostly of clips from the year. But there are some crackers here, including National Bunsen Burner Day and Chris, Zig and Zag’s attempts to make a chocolate cake which is just the funniest thing. And you’ll note that, again, all the crew are on screen just as much as the actual hosts.
It felt like the show had an infinite supply of ideas, but as we went into 1994, it turned out that there was a finite amount of inspiration and things started to get a bit dull. And by this point, Chris Evans was now the most famous man in Britain and his attention was inevitably turning elsewhere, most notably Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. The show had always struggled a bit without his force of personality and, despite some memorable stand-ins like Danny Baker and Bob Monkhouse, as he made more sporadic appearances, the show seemed far less sure-footed, not hanging together quite as well and seemingly running out of ideas a bit, and the ratings seemed to reflect that. But it was still good fun when the Chris and Gaby dream team were together and there was still plenty to amuse. Here’s the 7 O’Clock Spot, where a member of the public would be invited to showcase their talents at the part of the show where the audience was at its lowest.
But it became obvious that sooner or later the classic line-up would break up, and so Chris Evans departed in September 1994. There had been much gossip in the papers that the enthusiastic, charming young man of 1992 had become a monster behind the scenes, bawling at the team and making unrealistic demands, and indeed he apologised for that on air on his final show, but it was very much the end of an era and, for a show so based around the personalities of its presenters, what now?
Who could follow Chris Evans? The answer was, er, nobody knew, and for the next eighteen months came a revolving door of presenters, with Mark Little, Paul Ross, Richard Orford and Keith Chegwin all taking a turn opposite Gaby, and while perfectly adept presenters in their own right, the obvious problem was that they weren’t Chris Evans. Increasingly the show seemed to be treading water, repeating the items they did in the past with increasingly diminishing returns, and the audience had now dipped below that of GMTV - and with Chris Evans arriving on Radio 1 in April 1995, ratings fell still further. From being the most fashionable show on TV in 1992, by 1995 it seemed like yesterday’s news - doing the same stuff it was three years ago but without a strong personality holding it together, and while the whooping crew was a revelation at the start, now even shows like This Morning were doing it. By the summer of 1995 they were touring the regions on the back of a truck for two hours of shakily-conceived outside broadcasts.
After Gaby left in early 1996, the endless presenter shuffling was seemingly at an end with Zoe Ball and Mark Little the new regular hosts - but alas, they hated each other and after six months of zero chemistry, Little was dropped and Zoe was looking for a way out. And by the summer of 1996, The Big Breakfast was in a right state, as with all its founding fathers long moved on, it looked the same as the show of 1992, but with none of the confidence, chutzpah or innovation, just going through the motions, while the kids who embraced it so much at the start had all got bored of it. So a radical revamp was required, although what we got in September 1996 was even worse. With the unlikely pairing of Rick Adams and Sharron Davies in charge, the new Big Breakfast remodelled the house to make it, er, not look much like a house, and added a load of crappy lifestyle items, many of which could happily have been done on GMTV (and indeed chef Ross Burden did indeed take his slot wholesale onto there after a few months). This alienated all its existing viewers and didn’t attract a single new one, and the ratings reached their lowest point.
At the start of 1997, most of the changes were dropped, the house looked more like a house and it pretty much reverted to how it was, making it one of the least effective revamps of all time. Sharron Davies, who had brought absolutely nothing to the table and spent the entire show just reading stuff off her clipboard, was swiftly dropped and Denise Van Outen, who had joined as weather presenter in the revamp, got a promotion to main host. Things looked pretty desperate, but then in the summer of 1997, Johnny Vaughan hosted the show for a week - and finally, the show found a big personality in the mould of Chris Evans who was funny, clever and quick and could make even the dullest content shine. He immediately bonded with Denise and was offered the job full-time. Though the ratings didn’t go up again, they certainly stopped dropping, and Johnny and Denise were the most convincing combination since Chris and Gaby, and the show started to become talked about again.
Increasingly Vaughan became even more important to The Big Breakfast than Chris Evans was, coming up with hundreds of ideas and the show seemingly always flagging when he wasn’t on screen. Unfortunately, this did mean that like Evans he began to dominate proceedings and towards the end of his time he became increasingly self-indulgent, with endless in-jokes making it somewhat impenetrable to the casual audience. After Denise went, Kelly Brook was a short-lived replacement and then Liza Tarbuck successfully paired him for a year, and while it was never the huge show it was in its golden age, it was certainly distinctive again.
But as with Chris Evans, the problem with basing your show around a big personality is what happens when they leave, and on Johnny’s departure in 2001 the show again completely lost its way. Another revamp saw another attempt to take the show upmarket, bring in a team of presenters and make the house less prominent, and inevitably was a huge flop and within three months we were back to, as ever, two hosts in front of the French windows trying desperately to fill two hours. Although The Big Breakfast had managed to revitalise itself once, there had been three years of hopeless flailing around before they managed to find something and there wasn’t the time to go through all that again. With ratings now on the floor, the inevitable happened and the show was axed, the final episode going out on 29th March 2002. And bloody awful it was too.

Hard to remember now what a huge show The Big Breakfast was in its heyday, but the main reason why it doesn’t seem quite so spectacular now is because it influenced so many other programmes. But for its first year or so, we honestly thought about little else and it was the most exciting television programme we’d ever seen. It’s coming back soon as a one-off with Mo Gilligan, but it will never be able to replicate the excitement of those opening twelve months.


22nd APRIL

BBC Radio 4

14.15 Mr Waring of the BBC
Here’s a fascinating story which we were, until now, pretty unaware of. It’s the life of Peter Waring, who in the late forties, was one of the biggest stars on radio, a magician, comedian and raconteur who was something of an overnight sensation,  charming audiences with his droll and deadpan style, which was certainly something of a departure from the bawdy style of the time. But as well as that, he was also a crook, fraudster and thief, and when this was revealed, further work was unforthcoming and it all ended rather unhappily. Here’s the story as realised by Freddie Fox as Waring, in a drama that also features Robert Bathurst as Frank Muir.


23rd JUNE

BBC Scotland

20.30 Rewind 1980
It’s the return of BBC Scotland’s reboot of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Years, which we’re pleased to see because it’s always an evergreen format, and while this comes from a Scottish perspective it also features news from around the world so it wouldn’t look that out of place on the network. After the nineties and noughties, the gang rewind back still further to the eighties, which should be great fun. The 1981 episode was actually shown a few weeks ago as part of a theme night, but we’ll get that again in its proper place next week, and first of all it’s the year of Sheena “two records in the charts” Easton who that autumn was endlessly talked up on Top of the Pops for having, gasp, two records in the charts. But even though she had two records in the charts, as Peter Powell announced a few months later, Kelly Marie had actually been voted Scotland’s singer of the year. No wonder she buggered off to America!


24th JUNE


21.00 Imagine: Mel Brooks Unwrapped
22.10 Blazing Saddles

The big media news this week was of course the launch of GB News, which very quickly became a national laughing stock with its appalling standards, but then which rather unfortunately has led to every commentator rushing in with their hot takes. Sadly that included P**rs M*rg*n who, inevitably, made a tit of himself on Twitter with his views on comedy which, as anyone who recalls his appearance on Have I Got News For You will be aware, is an artform he is woefully unsuited to analyse. Apparently Blazing Saddles is a film the “woke” “lefties” wouldn’t be able to handle and wish to “cancel”, despite that fact a) it’s very clearly a parody of racism, and b) here it is on that proudly working class unwoke channel, er, BBC4. In fact it’s part of a mini Mel Brooks season, with a repeat of an Imagine doc with his old mate Alan Yentob to kick it off, and The Producers on BBC1 tomorrow.


17.00 Blue Peter
Into the postbag, and Ian Lambeth writes, “Thanks for pointing out Stewart Lee’s Archive on Four this past Saturday on unreliable narrators. If you’ve not already done so, I think you might enjoy the ‘presenter’ photo used to illustrate the programme on BBC Sounds. I think you could argue this qualifies as performing a purely visual joke on the radio.”

Sky Documentaries

21.00 Terry Venables: A Man Can Dream
Obviously memories of Euro 96 are bubbling up, 25 years on, so this is the perfect timing for this new biographical film, fronted by the man himself. Actually for all his legendary status as one of the great England managers, it’s pretty much accepted now that the national team were pretty lucky throughout that tournament, and his managerial career doesn’t amount to that much really, winning a solitary FA Cup with a star-studded Spurs side and undistinguished spells in charge of Leeds, Portsmouth and Australia. But his clubbable nature means that he enjoyed an enormous honeymoon with the press and everyone who played for him said they’d run through brick walls for him because he was so charming and likeable. He’s had an interesting life outside football too, inventing the Thingummywig and co-writing Hazell, which apparently he really did make a proper contribution to and didn’t just get his name on the cover. Hopefully we’ll get some of that on this programme as well.


25th JUNE


21.00 Glastonbury in the 90s
For the second year running we’ve got a virtual Glasto - although we do love how they’ve scheduled it again like a normal one, even moving Newsnight to seven o’clock - but there’s some new material this time around in the shape of the live sets that were recorded a few weeks back. That’s later this weekend, but tonight it’s nostalgia from the decade Glasto went from muso gathering to the gigantic event it is today, with live TV coverage for the first time, on Channel Four from 1994 and then the Beeb from 1997, the year The Shirehorses played just before the stage sank into the mud. An hour of clippage here is followed by vintage live sets from Radiohead and REM, while it’s Al Green on BBC4.


20.00 Top of the Pops
The performance from DJH last week was probably the most Italian thing ever committed to film, especially as it seemed like they were just making the song up on the spot with whatever effects they could find on their keyboards. As well as all the dance music it’s been a right indie disco in recent weeks, and after Ned’s Atomic Dustbin it’s Ride and the Mondays this week. It’s also Comic Relief week so there are some familiar faces joining the Reverend Mayo...
20.30 Top of the Pops
...and after plenty of exposure on the night itself, the official song becomes probably the least distinguished number one of the decade on this episode. 1991 is a great year for one hit wonders, with Soho and Nomad already coming up with top hits that they unfortunately failed to follow up to any great extent, and we’ve got another one this week with Anthea introducing the Banderas. Some familiar faces from the eighties make their first appearances for a while as well.

And that's that...

Creamguide returns in seven days’ time, for Schedule A and B fun.
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