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Frankly, we'd be disappointed

10th-16th July 2021

Hullo there!

And welcome to another Creamguide, in a week where the nation will be grinding to halt to watch a major piece of telly history - that’s right, Lindsey’s leaving Blue Peter. Plus there’s some football. Letters, please, to


10th JULY


21.30 Pavarotti in Hyde Park
And for those of you that don’t like sport, there’s... well, this does have a sporting connection, of course, in that the success of Nessun Dorma after Italia 90 is considered a major landmark in increasing popularity of opera in this country, and of course the Three Tenors appeared in concert to mark the World Cup Final on four occasions. And so in 1991 came this much-publicised concert, attended by the great and good and, we recall, one of the earliest exclusives trumpeted by the nascent Sky. Despite it pissing it down throughout, it emphasised that Pavarotti was as famous and as popular as any pop star at the time, so here’s Katherine Jenkins to reflect on that day and show us most of it.

BBC Radio 2

13.00 Pick of the Pops
We didn’t quite get Three Lions at number one last week both on this show and in the current chart, which is a bit of a shame, although for the last two shows Bucks Fizz have been the highlight by absolutely miles, New Beginning and Piece of the Action both sounding ace. No Fizz this week, alas, but 1978 brings us some ace Ken Bruce Pop from the likes of The Motors, Lindisfarne and Clout, and then it’s a bit of a preview of what’s to come on BBC4 in a few weeks with 1991. You’ll know what’s number one, yes.
21.00 The Films of 96
Radio 2’s Summer of 96 season continues here with James King looking back at some of the major movies of that year. Trainspotting’s included, especially its soundtrack, although the others he include don’t seemingly fit into any particular narrative about what was happening elsewhere in the world and are just here because they were big hits, which is fair enough, including Toy Story, Secrets and Lies and Sense and Sensibility.

BBC Radio 4

20.00 Thank You and Goodbye
It sounds a bit dodgy these days, but we’re afraid we used to enjoy reading the News of the World when we were younger, albeit we tended to skip past most of the actual “news” in favour of Charlie Catchpole, Cap’n Cash, Mystic Meg’s Messages from Beyond the Grave and the comic strips in the Sunday magazine. Those bits were obviously less problematic than the rest of the paper and it’s now ten years to the day that it folded. At the time, this felt like a pretty seismic event that could see the newspaper industry change dramatically but, sadly, a decade on, not much seems to have altered and indeed, even the paper itself is pretty much a going concern again in the shape of The Sun on Sunday. Here’s Jim Waterson to review its history and ask what, if anything, we’ve learned.


11th JULY


19.00 Euro 2020 Final
Well, that’s the intended start time, but obviously both channels are likely to come on much, much earlier, given it’s something we never thought we’d bill, and it’s going to be one of the most-watched things in the history of British television. Indeed, it’s been so long since the last one that Guy Mowbray and Sam Matterface will be the first people on television to commentate on England in the final of a major tournament since Kenneth Wolstenholme and Hugh Johns. Actually despite the mixed reaction to Matterface’s commentary the other night, we think both channels have been very good over the last month, especially as they’ve been doing it under obviously limiting circumstances, and despite its umpteen locations, they’ve actually made it feel like a tournament. And if you were wavering over who to watch, ITV have already shown their Big Long List of Credits twice, so that’s us done with it.


22.00 The Sky at Night
We’re not saying you need to switch over from the post-match celebrations, or indeed extra time, to see this, but this sounds quite an enjoyable programme to catch up with later, as this series takes one of its occasional jaunts through the BBC archives. This time it’s examining our endless fascination with life on other planets, as reported to us by the likes of Patrick Moore, James Burke and Carl Sagan.


21.00 An Audience with Ronnie Corbett
Billing things opposite the Euros Final reminds us of the bit on the Armistice in the week of England vs Germany in Euro 96, when all the papers were falling over themselves to be the most patriotic and roundly slagging off anyone or anything that wasn’t sufficiently supportive of “our boys”, and they pointed out that the Mail’s Pick of the Day in their TV guide on the day wasn’t the match but an episode of Wildlife Showcase on BBC2, the unpatriotic bastards. Anyway, we don’t suppose you’ll be watching this, but maybe worth a record as it hasn’t been on for a while, with Ronnie C in 1997 doing all his familiar bits of business with a host of stars including a surprise appearance by... well, you can probably guess that. The reason we’re seeing it now is because of some other Ronnage later in the week.


12th JULY


19.30 Return to The Cruise
Of course, if England win then you can probably write off most programmes on all channels for the next few days in favour of non-stop celebrations. If you’ve been desperately trying to avoid sport over the last few weeks, mind, a) don’t worry, it’s the Olympics in a week or so and b) you may have alighted on BBC4’s daily repeats of The Cruise. That’s ended now, but ten years after they caught up with the crew of the Galaxy to find out what happened next, and while we all know what became of Jane McDonald, the rest of it gives us a chance to find out what happened to a docusoap star when the cameras stop rolling. Actually this was part of a series that also made a return visit to Lakesiders which might be more interesting, but not this time, alas.

This week we’re looking at a show that went from baffling novelty to much-loved institution over its lifetime, followed by a revival a decade later which, as we’ll try and explain here, was actually quite good and not rubbish like you thought. It’s coming back again soon, albeit seemingly very different, so tonight, we’re going to be (reviewing)...

STARS IN THEIR EYES (1990-2006, 2015)
Stars In Their Eyes is originally a Dutch format which went under the superb name of Soundmixshow, devised by Joop van den Ende who later went on to run most of the world’s television as founder of Endemol. It came to the UK in the late eighties under the auspices of game show specialists Action Time, and it was picked up by Granada who produced a pilot introduced by television’s Mr Pilot, Chris Tarrant. Excitingly we’ve got a copy of that, and it’s not too far removed from the show it became - what with many of the contestants making return visits - although one thing that we lost, perhaps wisely, is the singers hastily assembling their costume from a collection of outfits on stage, making it resemble less a glamorous Vegas show, more Take a Letter off Crackerjack.
The pilot was suitably diverting for ITV to commission it for a full series, albeit just for six weeks in the summer of 1990. There was a new host as well, in the shape of Leslie Crowther, one of the great survivors of light entertainment. Les had already bounced back from a bit of a fallow period in his career when he hosted The Price Is Right very successfully for four years, though he was disappointed when it was axed and the first he heard of that was when he read it in the paper. Now he was back again, and this old-fashioned variety show was probably the perfect fit for him. Yet it’s fair to say it was greeted with some incredulity by TV critics at the time, considering this the strangest, most downmarket concept seen on Saturday nights yet. But there was something about it that couldn’t help appeal - whether that was the quality of the transformation or the genuine warmth behind the show, with Les referring to all the punters, without irony, as “star guests”.
Ratings climbed throughout the series, enough for it to come back the next year, where the final - in those days all safely pre-recorded and just ten minutes longer than the usual half hour - was watched by over ten million viewers. This was a bona fide hit show, and while Les probably hadn’t heard of some of the singers he was introducing, he was a real showman and absolutely got it and sold it all beautifully. This was the era of the show that really sold the transformations the most, with the contestants all being introduced in front of a backdrop that represented their occupation, and even having to wear their work clothes, all the better to emphasise the distinction between their dull real life and the glamorous lifestyle they got to experience for the night.
Les did three series of Stars In Their Eyes and was all set to do a fourth, when in October 1992 he was seriously injured in a car crash and his career was suddenly put on hold. But everyone was hopeful he’d return and, in the meantime, the Christmas show was hosted by Russ Abbott, seemingly just hanging around Granada and making a rare appearance as himself. In fact that wasn’t his only Crowther connection as he’d been considered for the Price Is Right gig but turned it down. Actually Russ isn’t bad here, fronting a special show in which everyone appeared as Elvis and all the different eras dueted with each other - and it was repeated by ITV in 1997 as part of an Elvis night, much to everyone’s bemusement.
And with Les still indisposed, Matthew Kelly took on presenting duties for the next series - officially still temporarily, but it soon became apparent that Les would never be well enough to return. And though Les did so much to establish the show, you’d have to say that this was the moment Stars In Their Eyes went stratospheric, with Matthew the perfect host. Certainly he always came across as totally genuine and determined to treat the contestants with absolute respect, making sure they were never made to look stupid and that they made the most of this opportunity to shine, confirming him as the nicest man in showbusiness. One other change with Matthew’s first series is that the grand final was now broadcast live, with the Great British Public able to have their say on who won.
And by the mid-nineties, Stars In Their Eyes was one of ITV’s flagship Saturday night shows, pulling in huge audiences, with the final enveloping an entire evening and broadsheet critics writing articles about it being a so-called “guilty pleasure”. But you didn’t have to watch it with a cloak of irony because, at its heart, this was a classic variety show, with live music and extremely high production values (although we always thought those acts who had backing dancers were at a bit of a disadvantage as they were something of a distraction). By this point pretty much every pop star had been portrayed on the show, some of them - notably Marti Pellow - several times, and indeed one of the great attractions for some was watching people appear as the most unlikely acts, some of whom, like Elvis Costello and Bjork, had no chance of appearing on primetime ITV themselves.
By 1999, Stars In Their Eyes was still going strong, while its Saturday night stablemates like Blind Date, Noel’s House Party and Gladiators were either declining or long gone, so its tenth anniversary was a real cause for celebration. Hence a Champion of Champions, which was able to welcome back all of its previous winners - including two Marti Pellows - and pulled in an absolutely enormous audience. Ian Moor as Chris de Burgh was the winner, and most of the finalists had all gone on to some kind of career in the music industry. A year later Granada also hosted a European Championships, bringing together winners from all the different incarnations of the show across the continent.
Around this time it was suggested that they could do a celebrity edition, although Matthew wasn’t very convinced by that at all, suggesting the members of the public were the stars. But he finally agreed, and though it sounds idiotic now every single game show has a celebrity spin-off, you’d have to believe us when we say the first few celebrity shows made for absolutely fascinating viewing, because the celebs were so obviously out of their comfort zone and it was great to see them absolutely petrified throughout the whole experience. Probably the best bit of this first one is something we didn’t see, though, when after the result was announced Frank Skinner threw a mock tantrum and walked off stage shouting “They may have stars in their eyes but they’ve got shit in their ears!”.
Unfortunately, as with many popular shows, ITV couldn’t resist milking it as much as possible, and at the turn of the century it was getting a bit over-exposed. Not only did we have ever more celebrity specials, but in 2000 there were two series in a year, which seemed to be diluting the talent pool a bit and making those live finals seem that bit less special if they were on twice as much. There were also a load more spin-offs too, including a special with child contestants - which then became a series in its own right. This incarnation did feature surely the show’s most successful contestant in terms of recording success, mind, with Aston Merrygold going on to have numerous hit singles as a member of JLS.
In 2003, real life abruptly intervened when Matthew was arrested, with Davina McCall stepping in to host a few episodes, but ITV stood by him and welcomed him back as soon as he was cleared of all charges. But Matthew was getting itchy feet, and having started out as an actor decided he fancied going back to that, and hence the series that year was his last. That wasn’t the end of Stars In Their Eyes, though, with Cat Deeley taking charge. Cat did her usual likeable job, but with shows like Pop Idol and The X Factor now accompanying it in the schedule, it was starting to look a bit old hat. Indeed, up there you can see Cat introducing the new series in 2005 by saying that they don’t have record deals to offer or anything, and it’s just supposed to be a bit of harmless fun. But it didn’t seem like people were as interested in that anymore.
And so in 2006, Stars In Their Eyes came to an end. It did so pretty quietly, as there was no new series that year but there were a few leftover specials that ITV eked out to fill some awkward gaps over the year (plus a couple they didn’t bother showing). So the last we saw of the original Stars In Their Eyes was a celebrity special at Christmas 2006. It went out in fine style, mind, thanks to the presence of Mark Radcliffe, who agreed to do it because a mate of his was on the production team, and promptly stole the show.
And that was it, until 2015 when it was back. But with both the Beeb and ITV devoting most Saturday nights to singing shows like The X Factor and The Voice, Stars In Their Eyes seemed to hark back to a rather more innocent age, and would doubtless have been blown off the screen done straight. So it was just as well it wasn’t done straight, as it was presented by Harry Hill, who started the first show by announcing winning it “won’t change your life... but it won’t ruin it either!”. It’s pretty obvious this was commissioned as a Harry vehicle first and a revival of Stars In Their Eyes second, much like Dick and Dom’s Ask The Family or Keith Lemon’s Through The Keyhole, with Harry’s gags and sketches much higher up in the mix. Unfortunately that was a distinction that seemed to be lost on much of the audience who assumed it would be like the old one and complained Harry wasn’t doing it “properly”. But it would never have been commissioned if it was just like the old Stars In Their Eyes and would have looked pretty old hat if it was, and as far as we’re concerned it didn’t matter who was being entertaining on the show, the host or the contestants (all of whom knew what they were in for and happily joined in) as long as someone was, and there were lots of funny moments in it. Though we would admit that we weren’t desperately broken-hearted when there wasn’t a second series.

Anyway, despite the reaction, it doesn’t seem to have killed it off for good as it’s coming back again later this year, albeit under the new name of Starstruck and with a tweaked format that includes a panel of judges. We’ve not seen a second of it yet so we don’t have a clue what it’ll be like, though we doubt it’ll be as popular and successful as it was in its pomp, when it was just a pleasure seeing a show with everyone being really nice to each other.


13th JULY

BBC Radio 4

11.30 Unreal: The VFX Revolution
Second part of this series where noted visual effects specialist Paul Franklin looks at how the cinema has gone to ever increasing lengths to dazzle and amaze. This week it’s a look at the pioneering use of digital technology, as first seen in the likes of The Wrath of Khan and Tron, the latter of which at the time seemed a bit like spectacle for spectacle’s sake, but these days is much loved, and it turns out that despite much scoffing, it’s become highly influential.


14th JULY


21.00 The Two Ronnies: Ronnie Corbett’s Lost Tapes
Although the title refers to both Rons, we’re not sure how much of Ronnie B we’re going to get here, as the main attraction is a host of footage from Ronnie C’s personal collection of home movies, seen here on television for the very first time. Ronnie C probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, as unlike Ronnie B he didn’t write any of his material and his solo work was resolutely middle of the road, but the fact his scripts were provided by most of the great comedy writers of the day illustrates the high regard he was held in throughout the industry, and they all wanted to write for him thanks to his exceptional professionalism and superb comic timing. Sounds like there’s some nice stuff in here, not just in the clips but in the recollections of his family, friends and fans.

BBC Scotland

20.30 Rewind 1983
Should be a killer soundtrack for this instalment as we’ve reached the high point of the Glaswegian indie scene, with an episode of Pops in March being pretty much a clean sweep of Scottish bands with the likes of Altered Images and Orange Juice riding high in the charts. As ever we’re likely to see some fascinating clips alongside it, some international stories we’ll know well and some Scottish stories that are news to Sassenachs like us tuning in.

BBC Radio 4

09.00 Soul Music
Some good stuff on Pride Hits at the BBC last week, with Pops from 1984 being a reach seam with hi-NRG and synthpop at its zenith. One of the obvious tracks, but no less welcome for that, was Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat and it’s the subject of the first episode of this new series of the programme that examines songs that have particular resonance with all kinds of people. Not hard to see why they’ve chosen this song as it really did change people’s lives, and among the contributors here is someone who suggests it’s Britain’s gay national anthem.


15th JULY


21.00 Diana’s Decades
Mention of the News of the World up there reminds us of buying the “3am shock issue” on the day Diana died, where the first three pages had been updated with the news, but none of the others had and there were plenty of stories and columns on them slagging her off. The eighties were the peak of the tabloid interest in Diana, with TV-am devoting most mornings to three hours of Anne Diamond pointing at pictures of her in the papers, though she certainly tried to use this huge exposure for good, this episode looking at how she championed a host of worthy and at the time often neglected causes.


17.00 Blue Peter
And so it’s goodbye to Lindsey, whose near eight year stint on the programme has rocketed her to number seven on the list of longest-serving presenters, overtaking Uncle Matt Baker. As we said the other week when she announced her departure, that’s particularly impressive given she was chosen by the public, and it’s testament to her skills and enthusiasm that she soon graduated from being “the competition winner” to a talented presenter in her own right. The kids seem to love her and she seems to be genuinely interested in what they have to say as well, so we’re sure she has plenty more to look forward to on numerous other shows. And to see her off we’ve got an extended forty minute show, hopefully with some familiar faces looking in to say goodbye.


16th JULY


20.00 Top of the Pops
If you liked Gonna Make You Sweat by C&C Music Factory, you may also like Here We Go by C&C Music Factory, which is the same. But there’s been some good stuff in recent weeks, we think, including some acts and songs we haven’t thought about for ages like Definition of Sound, who were great fun. Despite the presence of Campbell tonight this looks like being another fascinating instalment, what with Electronic, Vic Reeves and the debut of some chancers from Colchester.
20.30 Top of the Pops
Sadly we’re just missing the fun and excitement of two Paul Youngs on the same programme, with Mike and The Mechanics, featuring Paul “you know, the one from Sad Café who used to look like Chris Morris but doesn’t now he’s got a beard” Young, currently appearing on alternate shows to Paul “you know, the one from Streetband” Young. What a shame. As we mentioned, with Michael Hurll in charge for the next few weeks we’ll start seeing a few changes, but there are still some traditions to keep up, including our Song for Europe. We know this sounds a bit ropey so far, but the KLF are here as well.

Sky Arts

20.00 Guy Garvey: From The Vaults
Not sure this is the most intelligent bit of scheduling, serving up archive pop opposite the long-established fixture in the archive pop fan’s week, but they’re already all available on demand and repeated several times, so no great hardship. And as Joe Gibney points out, “I remember Creamguide being rattled with Guy regularly talking over the songs in series one. This time round, no such issues, with captions coming up during the songs instead.” Indeed, Joe, that’s a very welcome change and maybe in the next series they can stop cropping everything to widescreen. Lots of fascinating stuff to see, mind, from a TV as well as a musical perspective, the highlight of the 1980 episode being Gary Crowley attempting to interrogate Devo on Fun Factory. Looks like they’ve shuffled around the episode order, mind, as last week was actually 1983, rather than 1985 as we said. That’s tonight, as we suggested not our favourite musical year of the decade but we’re promised a delve into the Border archives for various clips from Muriel Gray’s Bliss.

And that's that...

But whatever happens, Creamguide will be with you next week.
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