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9th-15th October 2021

Hullo there!


And welcome to Creamguide, back with you once again for more listings, letters and cock-ups, like the Tony Hart/Hall one last week. Corrections and clarifications to creamguide@tvcream.co.uk.

SATURDAY

9th OCTOBER

BBC2


20.55 Simon and Garfunkel: The Harmony Game
22.55 Simon and Garfunkel: Concert in Central Park

It sometimes seems as if the music pop stars make is in complete contrast to their behaviour off-stage. So many metal bands are renowned for being among the nicest and politest people you could ever wish to meet, while Paul and Art, who between them produced some of the mellowest and most harmonious music ever made, had a notoriously fiery relationship which led to many years of acrimonious break-ups followed by brief reunions and so on in an seemingly endless cycle. It’s fifty years since they got it together long enough to make the Bridge Over Troubled Water LP, and here’s a doc from a decade ago, followed later by one of their many reunion shows, the famous one in New York which still has one of the biggest concert audiences ever recorded of nearly half a million.

ITV4


10.30 The Big Match Revisited
Could there be a more cliched pitchside hoarding for an old football match than the one at Upton Park last week for the Barron Knights? Couldn’t be more ridiculously of-its-time if they’d cut to some kids in the crowd eating Spangles. We won’t see much action from the North West for the next few weeks because of a strike at Granada, but we do get Man U away this week at Palace. Of course because this show was still only going out in London and some of the smaller regions, it’s a bit of a disappointment for Villa fans for whom this was a very special season, but for the first time they get a bit more than one line in Jim’s round-up courtesy of ATV.

BBC Radio 2


13.00 Pick of the Pops
The performance by Bizarre Inc on Pops the other day was brilliant, superbly staged and directed, and it’s fascinating to think what would have happened had the show has gone in that direction and embraced dance music instead of heading towards the AOR hell we get for the next two and a half years. Still, we managed to make it through the Glamourpuss years and we’ll be reminded of that in the first hour with the hits of 1976. Then it’s a huge leap to 2005, though you’ll recognise a load of Radio 2 staples in it, and if Gambo doesn’t play the ace Rachel Stevens record in the chart we’re going to put our foot through the radio and send the BBC the bill.

BBC Radio 4


19.15 This Cultural Life
Radio 4’s arts programming has had a bit of a shake-up recently, the headline news being the discontinuation of The Film Programme after two decades. They’re adamant that there’ll be plenty of film coverage in the future, with a new programme presented by Mark Kermode coming up although, excellent though Kermode is, it might be interesting to have another voice of film on the Beeb. One other aspect of the new look is this series which sounds intriguing enough, in which John Wilson asks noted artists to reflect on their influences and inspirations. First in the hot seat is Kenneth Branagh to discuss, among other things, Boys From The Blackstuff.
20.00 The Men In White Coats
One thing we think is really missing from telly these days is a big pop science show of the kind James Burke used to do, or like Bodymatters, with a studio audience and a friendly boffin blowing stuff up, a bit like the Christmas Lectures we suppose but, er, not just at Christmas. Here’s Andrea Sella with a look at the image of scientists in popular culture over the decades, touching on everyone from Frankenstein to Bond villains, and pondering as to what it means for our attitudes towards science itself.

SUNDAY

10th OCTOBER

ITV


20.00 The Larkins
Well, this may seem a bit pointless, but it’s worth remembering that the last time we had an adaptation of The Darling Buds of May was thirty years ago, which is more or less as long ago as the original novel was when they made that, and it’s certainly not the only work that has been adapted for the screen at fairly regular intervals. Mind you, not so many adaptations were quite so popular, one of the most watched shows of the nineties, although it did rather run out of steam towards the end as they ran out of material. Hard to imagine this new incarnation escaping from its shadow, but it’s written by Simon Nye who is a fine writer indeed and there’s an impressive cast with Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlon as a handsome lead pairing, so at the very least it should be an enjoyable affair that will help banish all thoughts of Monday morning for another hour.

Talking Pictures TV


21.00 Secret Army
Damon Rose writes, “Surprised to see you mention the rather hidden away See Hear last week. As we all know, deaf people are at their most TV hungry at 8am on a Wednesday - I reckon they should turn their show into a kind of Big Breakfast format and go mainstream. Once upon a time I was the producer of the See Hear website – let’s gloss over the idea that a blind person being producer of a deaf website is a bit odd, I did other things too. But far more interestingly, one of the long-standing producers on the programme told me that Stephen Merchant had once been an Assistant Producer on the programme before The Office came about. A trainee I think. He says that he would often hear Stephen on the phone to Ricky working up ideas for the not-yet-aired comedy show. No amount of Googling backs this up. But the producer in question was really very certain. Why doesn’t Stephen shout about this more, huh?”

MONDAY

11th OCTOBER

BBC2


19.30 Mastermind
Much discussion again about the future of the Beeb this week, though we read somewhere that probably the only thing that kept the Government on side in the eighties was that they made Yes Minister which Thatcher loved. There’s a round on that here tonight, along with one on the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.
21.00 Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution
In case you missed it, Labour won. This second episode starts off in 1997, and for all the legacy of New Labour has been discussed since, it did seem absolutely huge at the time if only because for anyone under the age of about thirty, all they’d known was that a government minister was a Tory, and now suddenly they weren’t. There was a decent length honeymoon period as well – indeed, given the result was virtually identical in 2001 you can suggest it lasted the entire term – but as we’ll see, there were already cracks emerging behind closed doors.

ITV


23.05 Greavsie
Sad news the other week of the death of Jimmy Greaves, though it’s been nice in the tributes to reflect on his absolutely amazing playing career, setting goalscoring records that will surely never be broken, and all his peers saying he was the most talented footballer they’d ever seen, given his incredible ability to always be in the right place at the right time. For a while that was overshadowed by first his turbulent personal life and then his punditry career, although the latter is worth celebrating too as football was in pretty poor shape in the eighties and he did more than most to try and revive its fortunes and add some humour to proceedings, and there’s a generation who grew up with him as the face of football on TV. This documentary was made by BT Sport a few years ago to mark his eightieth birthday and it’s now happily getting a wider airing.




This week we’re reflecting on a show that was such a big part of Saturday nights for so long, and became a proper national institution, before running out of ideas and petering out in a rather depressing fashion. It’s...

BLIND DATE (1985-2003, 2017-19)
Blind Date was based on The Dating Game, created by US light entertainment giant Chuck Barris back in the sixties. There was also an Australian version, which went under the name of Perfect Match, and while he was on holiday, Des O’Connor saw it, thought it would be a good vehicle for him and pitched it to Philip Jones, Head of Entertainment at Thames. Unfortunately Jones, always a worrier, was too nervous about what might happen on the dates and said he’d only do it if the couples could go no further than Fortnum & Masons for tea. The next thing Des knew was that LWT had picked up the format, and piloted it under the brilliantly bad name of It’s A Hoot with Duncan Norvelle. Sadly for Norvelle, while very funny, the pilot was also incredibly rude and completely unbroadcastable, so never went any further. But LWT’s Alan Boyd was convinced it had legs, and decided that to ensure it was all good clean fun, it should be presented by the most sexless person he could think of. And so the call went out to Cilla Black.
Cilla’s career was undergoing something of a renaissance with Surprise Surprise being a big hit, and her approach was perfectly suited to the format, the kind of person who was happy for everyone to go out and have fun but would make sure you gave her three rings to let her know you were OK. The first series began on 30th November 1985 and Greg Dyke, then Controller of LWT, knew they were on to a winner when his mum told him how much she enjoyed it. And best of all from his perspective, it cost bugger all to make.

 
Here are the oldest episodes we can find, a double bill from the second series in 1986. We’re sure you don’t need us to remind you of the format – a bloke picks from three girls, then vice versa, then they come back next week to tell us all about how it went, and that was all it needed for seventeen years. One thing you’ll notice from these early episodes, mind, is that the contestants had to make up the answers on the spot rather than the one-liners in later years that were as spontaneous as Big Ben but at least a bit funnier, while for the first few years the dates were represented via stills.
Blind Date became very popular, very quickly, entering the Top 10 ratings almost immediately and in 1986 pulling in its biggest ever audience of 18 million viewers. Alongside Game For A Laugh, which it ended up replacing as LWT’s Saturday banker, it was also one of the first shows where the audience themselves were the stars, and very soon people realised that it was a pretty good shop window if you fancied yourself as a bit of a character. The first to really benefit from that was Paul Nolan, a “vision technician” (ie, window cleaner) who charmed the audience with his quick wit, was invited back on several occasions and got various other gigs off the back of it, including a stint presenting The Roxy, though he was a bit of a one trick pony and was back in obscurity a year or so later. Some other rather better-known people made their first TV appearances on Blind Date, though, including Jenni Falconer, Ed Byrne and Amanda Holden.
Here’s what the show looked like in 1989 – not that different to before, to be honest, but the budget had now stretched to send a camera crew on the dates with them. Blind Date was a hugely successful show for ITV, and one that managed to appeal to advertiser-friendly young people, for many of whom it was the perfect accompaniment to getting ready to go out, without alienating the older audience, which was the holy grail for the channel. Most of the contestants were up-for-it young people, though to be inclusive, every few weeks some older contestants would get a turn. Unfortunately, despite being a regular part of the show for its entire life, the general consensus seemed to be that despite some pleasingly frank opinions in the post-date interviews, old people on Blind Date were a teensy bit boring.
As was illustrated most weeks when they came back to tell us how they got on, Blind Date’s success rate in actually creating lasting love wasn’t particularly high, most of the contestants seemingly happy enough with fifteen minutes of fame on telly and a free holiday. But nevertheless various couplings did manage to work out, and three of them even went as far as marriage. Alex Tatham and Sue Middleton were the first in 1991, which was such a big deal the wedding was filmed and broadcast, captured here in appalling quality. Cilla came too, wearing a famously awful hat which became a running joke for the next decade.
By the mid-nineties, Blind Date was part of the furniture, running six months of the year, every year from September to March, the kind of long-running fixture broadcasters can’t get enough of. For most of that time it went head to head with Noel’s House Party, and while it took a bit of a knock when the National Lottery started, when the novelty of that wore off many people decided that they were happy enough sticking with Blind Date and waiting for the numbers to appear on screen, as they do at the end of this episode. Incidentally around this time Creamguide’s flatmates once attempted to play along with an episode by leaving the room during the introductions then sitting with their backs to the TV to be on a par with the picker.
By the end of the nineties, though, Blind Date was starting to look a bit tired, as it had gone through pretty much every type of contestant, every kind of date and every potential reaction from true love to absolute hatred, and despite regular updates of the set and remixes of the theme tune, it felt like it was going through the motions a bit. There were a few novelties around this time, mind, including one where the girl failed to turn up for the date so the bloke was sent on his own and it more or less turned into an episode of Streetmate as they tried to set him up, and one where the bloke was barred from going because he had a girlfriend. But the most famous moment was when contestant Nicola Gill turned out to be a journalist who’d wheedled her way on to the show so she could spill the beans about its contrivances for an article in Cosmopolitan, and she was ambushed by Cilla on air. Though to be honest, despite Cilla saying she’d taken the place of a genuine contestant, we’re not really sure what the problem was, as despite not playing it “properly” it’s hardly as if everyone else went on the show with the express intention of finding romance.
By the turn of the decade it felt like ITV were trying to curb their reliance on Blind Date a bit, but nothing else seemed to catch on, and in 2001 they had to embarrassingly parachute it back into its familiar slot when The Premiership died on its arse. But its audience was ageing and declining pretty fast, so in 2002 came – gasp! – a revamp. Unfortunately the format was so simple there wasn’t much else you could do with it, hence the introduction of the Date or Ditch twist, where if the contestants didn’t like the look of who they picked, they could have another go, with friends and family on hand to offer advice. This rather undermined the whole idea of the show, with the fun of accidentally landing yourself with a duffer now greatly reduced, and just complicated the whole thing. It also landed itself an ITV2 spin-off, while long-serving voiceover man Our Graham was shown the door. Sadly this revamp failed to attract a single new viewer, and even Cilla slagged it off in the papers.
A few other gimmicks were thrown at the show in this series, with a couple of surprise celebrity guests, and in January 2003 the first (and it turned out only) live edition, aiming to add a bit of spice to proceedings. And indeed that did turn out to be a particularly memorable edition, because as ITV Head of Entertainment Paul Jackson explains up there, they’d suggested to Cilla that it might be time to start thinking about new horizons, and so she decided to announce live on air she was jacking it in.
The series continued for the next few months, but it was a bit of a sad farewell for this once giant show, with the ropey new format. And while it had been the centrepiece of Saturday nights for so long, the rise of shows like Pop Idol and Popstars meant it was no longer the main attraction, so it started moving earlier and earlier in the evening to make way for more interesting shows and sadly petered out a bit, Cilla’s final show going out in the distinctly unhallowed slot of 5.30pm on 31st May 2003. ITV were at pains to point out that while it might be Cilla’s last show, it wasn’t Blind Date’s last show, and they were seriously intending to carry it on with a new presenter. But, er, they didn’t.
Other shows like Take Me Out and, er, Naked Attraction took dating on TV in a new direction in its absence, but there was still plenty of nostalgia for this evergreen concept and in 2017 it finally returned to our screens, courtesy of Channel Five. The new host was Paul O’Grady, a great friend of Cilla and a pretty good choice, while Date or Ditch was indeed ditched to return to the classic format. There were a few changes – same-sex couples took part, happily with no fanfare at all, and the foreign holidays were replaced with more silly dates that allowed the contestants more opportunity to express their personalities. The whole thing was a perfectly adept revival, entertaining enough and exactly as the original show might have looked if it had continued throughout. But in its absence Saturday night viewing had become increasingly fractured, and not many people looked at Channel Five for shiny floor entertainment, so most people failed to even notice it even existed and ratings were distinctly unimpressive. Five got two series out of it, which were probably just as good as the original, but they were met with absolute apathy, and after the final show of the second series was broadcast in 2019, they just quietly stopped making it, and nobody noticed.

The Channel Five revival never really caught the public’s imagination, but in its pomp, Blind Date really was a national institution, watched by everyone from seven to 107 and keeping ITV afloat on Saturday nights six months a year for nearly two decades. We’ll never see the likes of it again.

TUESDAY

12th OCTOBER

BBC4


22.45 Nothing Like A Dame
Another tribute here, this time to the director Roger Michell who died recently, best known for Notting Hill but also responsible for a number of fine works for television including The Buddha of Suburbia and the prestige adaptation of Persuasion. This is one of his most enjoyable productions, mind, as well as one of his simplest, as he simply gathers together a quartet of screen legends in Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins and gets them to swap stories for ninety minutes.

WEDNESDAY

13th OCTOBER

BBC Radio 4


11.30 What’s Funny About...
As Spitting Image has been proving this week, it’s hard to really capture what makes a comedy show such a sensation in its time. That’s certainly the case with Not The Nine O’Clock News, which was a proper national talking point in its heyday, but it’s quite hard to reflect that now as the original programmes are never shown and all we get are the not very good nineties compilations which cut a load of the sketches to ribbons. Perhaps we’ll get more of a flavour for it in this programme where Peter Fincham, a contemporary of Griff’s in Footlights, and Jon Plowman, chat to Pamela Stephenson and John Lloyd.

THURSDAY

14th OCTOBER

CHANNEL 4


22.00 Complaints Welcome
You may recall that we stopped billing Points of View in these pages a while back because we simply couldn’t bear to sit through it anymore, with so many of the comments being totally ill-informed, mean-spirited or just plain wrong, often enough to make you agree with Sid Vicious’ famous comment about “the man on the street”. Just broadcasting that doesn’t achieve anything and it’s just as important to challenge these opinions and explain why things are done as they are. So this is an intriguing sounding programme, like that ostensibly a platform for viewers’ opinions on television, but within the framework of a comedy show fronted by Tom Allen and Jessica Knappett, the concept seemingly being that along with their guests they’ll review these comments and decide whether they have a point - or perhaps not. Could be interesting, could be bloody awful, but worth a look perhaps.

CBBC


17.00 Blue Peter
As we say, an overzealous spellcheck saw Tony Hart’s named replaced by that of a former BBC Director-General last week, but the rest of the Vision On feature went down quite well, and inspired a letter from an old friend of Creamguide, Clive Shaw. “Interesting for me was that Vision On was discontinued in 1976, but I remember it well. I was only four years old at the time, but at that age my mind was like a sponge. I remember some business with a grandfather clock and a ferret type thing running up and down it. Not sure what that was all about, but I guess at the age of four, the more visual parts were why I remember it so well. Tony Hart seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Johnny Morris always seemed a bit more old-school. He always seemed to treat Terry Nutkins as his child. In fact, I am sure you have covered him already not long back. Unless I saw him singing ‘Gemini or Geminee’ somewhere else, which is total cringe.” Yes, that was our handiwork, Clive, but we’re glad you, er, experienced it.

FRIDAY

15th OCTOBER

BBC2


21.00 Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story
You’d have struggled to find anyone with a good word to say about Jackie Collins’ bonkbusters when she was writing them, but the sheer numbers speak for themselves as, despite critical derision, millions of people absolutely devoured them and they were a favourite of TV and film producers for many years. Although she never finished her autobiography before she died, she had all the source material ready to go as she kept a diary for fifty years and saved hundreds of photos and videos from her life, many of which we’ll get to see here.

BBC4


20.00 Top of the Pops
Here we go! We’ve made it to 3rd October 1991 and the start of a new era of Pops, and one you could argue was the beginning of the end – although there’s still another fifteen years to go so we’re only just halfway through the repeats. It was a real shock at the time, though, the most radical revamp in its history, and one met with pretty much universal derision, though it’ll be fascinating to see it all again. The most obvious change is the compulsory live vocals, which is a plain stupid idea and there are some pretty gruesome performances to come, while we also now regularly get new releases. This actually isn’t so far removed from when we arrived in 1976 when there was loads or obscurities like our old friends Glamourpuss that were nowhere near the chart, but the success of the new approach here is perhaps best illustrated by the Stevie Wonder exclusive we get here promptly getting to number 63.
20.30 Top of the Pops
New presenters as well, of course, although none of them were revealed before the new look show was broadcast and, when the opening link was done out of vision, we assumed that there actually weren’t going to be any on-screen presenters and it would all be done via voice-over. But no, and in both these shows we get our first glimpses of Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin who we’ll get to know very well over the next few months at least, Franklin in this one conducting an interview with Mick Hucknall that even Simon Bates might think was a bit inane. Don’t worry, just two and a half years to go before it gets half decent again.
23.30 The Old Grey Whistle Test
And if you’re still upset at the ending of that era of Pops, here’s a bit of a reminder of its imperial phase with a performance from some regulars from the Michael Hurll Golden Age, the Fun Boy Three, as captured in that venue of legends, the Regal Theatre in Hitchin, in May 1983. Good job the cameras caught them when they did as they split up a few weeks later, and indeed this concert was repeated to mark that in the bizarre slot (in 1983) of Sunday afternoon BBC1, after the farming programme.

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