And welcome to this week’s portion of Creamguide, as ever freshly doled out by all your friends at TV Cream. But we couldn’t do it without you, so keep sending your correspondence to email@example.com.
21.00 Blankety Blank
It’s the return of this old warhorse, which seemingly went down so well as part of the Covid-secure Christmas Day line-up last year that we’re getting a full series, which also means it’s a Party Political Broadcast On Behalf Of Bradley Walsh as he’s on Beat The Chasers on ITV at the same time. If the Christmas one was anything to go by, Bradley, who we read this week did the warm-up during the Les era, is more of a Wogan-style host, rather than a Dawson or O’Grady, prepared to stand back and let the panel play up. The role of meddler-in-chief in that show was taken by Jimmy Carr and he’s back here again, although as before the seating arrangement is completely to cock, which seems a baffling production decision, though we suppose Joe Swash is a suitable occupant for the airhead seat.
21.00 The Spice Girls at the BBC
Been seeing a lot of the fab five on telly in recent weeks, but we’re well up for that because, as we said, they really were a breath of fresh air when they appeared, happily appearing on all the Saturday morning shows and mucking in with all the features. No doubt we’ll see a few clips of those appearances here, plus we’re also threatened some of their solo stuff, which is alright if it’s the majestic Maybe by Emma Bunton, but less so some of the other stuff like the Geri records which aren’t very good as there’s too much Geri on them.
10.30 The Big Match Revisited
Ron Atkinson’s appearances during Palace vs West Brom were entertaining last week, with his finger in his ear and the giant microphone which rather made him resemble a folk singer on the Old Grey Whistle Test. We think that was Terry Venables’ last match as Palace manager and indeed we also heard that Peter Swales was “backing Malcolm Allison”, who promptly left Man City two days later. Indeed the fact the closing credits always politely name everyone who appeared in the post-match interviews illustrates we lost the full interview with Swales, which is a bit of a shame and perhaps we’d rather see more of the features like Bristol Rovers getting a police escort to a fire-damaged Eastville than a few additional minutes of the matches. We’ve moved on another few weeks here to the night the clocks go back, with our first opportunities to see West Ham’s promotion campaign and hear Martin Tyler commentating for Yorkshire.
BBC Radio 2
13.00 Pick of the Pops
We always say 1979 is the best year to feature on this show, but 1978 isn’t too far behind, which makes it all the bigger shame that year’s Christmas Pops was so bad. Alright, so Travolta and Newton-John were at number one for as long as Bryan Adams, albeit with two records, but there’s plenty of brilliant Ken Bruce Pop lower down from the likes of ELO, Exile and ABBA with a song we don’t suppose they’ll do on their live shows as they hate it but we’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for it. Then it’s 1995, with Britpop at its height, though you may not realise with a top ten featuring Wet Wet Wet, Iron Maiden and Smokie.
21.00 Shaggy’s Reggae Hotshots
When we were young, and still relying on our parents’ record collection, one of our favourite LPs was The Wonderful World of Reggae, a compilation from 1970 on the Music For Pleasure label which, as the sleeve proudly boasts, featured “12 great tracks for only 14/6”. It must be among the best 72 1/2ps Creamguide’s dad has ever spent, packed with classics like The Liquidator, The Israelites and It Miek which we loved, although whether they were by the original artists remains a bit of a mystery. Hopefully Shaggy will be giving some of the spin over the next few weeks in this series, as he celebrates sixty years of Jamaican music, from ska to dancehall and everything in between.
14.45 Songs of Praise
A couple of anniversaries you may not have noticed this week, starting off with the sixtieth anniversary of this hardy perennial. Obviously it’s not the show it once was in terms of being a national institution, but it’s worth remembering that for the first half of it life it was required to be shown in primetime by law with a similar show on ITV at the same time so you pretty much had to sit through it, like it or not, and the fact it’s still going after another thirty years having to fend for itself is probably worth celebrating. Indeed because of the London Marathon it’s in one of its primest slots for a while. They’re celebrating with a special concert at Westminster Abbey attended by pretty much all of the mammoth presenting team they currently have, with the most familiar from the old God Slot days being Pam Rhodes.
21.00 Listening Through The Lens: The Christopher Nupen Films
Christopher Nupen is billed here as Britain’s first independent television producer, though we’re not sure what criteria they’re using for that, as Lord Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin were making the sitcom My Pal Bob through their own company for the Beeb as far back as 1958. But regardless, Nupen has been making films for over fifty years now and has long been regarded as one of the pioneers of classical music on TV, using a host of innovative techniques to bring it out of the concert hall and onto the small screen. His most famous work is probably the priceless footage he collected of Jacqueline du Pre, which you can see before this programme, but he also recorded pretty much every major name over the last half century, as will be illustrated here.
Well done to the bloke who answered questions on The Simpsons last week for wisely selecting Season 9 as the cut-off, and indeed for ensuring Clive had to read out some fantastic Troy MacLure film titles including, of course, “Lead Paint – Delicious But Deadly”. It’s been all Bond all the time on the Beeb over the past few days, including on this episode with a round on Bond villains, while for the second time in three weeks someone’s answering questions on Northumberland, in this case its castles.
21.00 Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution
This new series is from the same people who did the Thatcher doc the other year, so that should mean no narration and everything told through either candid interview or evocative archive footage. The two protagonists both take part, though it’ll be the latter that should be the most entertaining. And this first part should be the most fascinating as we join them as newly elected MPs in 1983, and examine the changing face of the party over the next decade.
It’s another much-cherished children’s series under the spotlight this week, and although it ended as far back as 1976, its spirit and many of its traditions lived on for another three decades or so, as did the career of the nicest man in kids’ TV. It’s...
VISION ON (1964-76)
There were many pioneers in the early days of kids’ TV but one of the most important was Ursula Eason, who helped develop so much of the childrens’ broadcasting we take for granted these days. She was particularly interested in the new medium’s value for deaf audiences, and in 1952 produced the first ever programme for deaf children. An inspired idea, though inspiration was less forthcoming when it came to the title, as it was given the ludicrously blunt name of For Deaf Children. Appearing once a month or so, this was a worthy but perhaps rather tedious and slow-moving series, heavy on tight close-ups of lips and long stretches of captions accompanied by silence, which was certainly a step forward for deaf viewers but for everyone else was a bit of a turn-off.
The deaf childrens’ programme continued on a regular basis for the next decade, but in 1964 Patrick Dowling took over as producer. Another huge name in kids’ TV, who went on to devise Why Don’t You and The Adventure Game, under Dowling’s watch it got a slightly more appealing name of Vision On. There was much discussion over what was the most suitable form of communication for deaf children, especially on TV where close-up shots for lip-reading meant you couldn’t see signing and long shots for signing meant you couldn’t lip-read. So why not just get rid of the words? On Vision On speech was kept to an absolute minimum and most of the show was a visual experience, which had the happy side-effect of making it watchable for deaf and hearing viewers alike.
Presenting the new Vision On was Pat Keysell, who though not deaf herself had a background in mime and worked extensively with deaf people. Also on board was Tony Hall, already a familiar face on kids TV, who created all kinds of artwork for the show. But Pat and Tony were accompanied by a host of artists, illustrators, inventors, animators and performers, all of whom were enthused by the new opportunities the medium provided, with the likes of Ben Benison, David Cleveland as The Prof, Wilf Lunn and Sylveste (as he was billed then) McCoy contributing films and routines, making Vision On a fast-moving, unpredictable miscellany of creativity. Indeed so valuable was Vision On in fostering creativity that a number of artists set themselves up in Bristol, where the show was made, and to this day it’s one of the world’s foremost centres for animation.
Although there were few words in Vision On, sound played an important part, with music and sound effects helping to determine the mood of the show. By 1970, the Radio Times had stopped even mentioning the fact it was aimed at deaf audiences at all, and other than Pat’s occasional signing, most kids probably didn’t even realise. This wordless approach also meant it was a completely universal series and the Beeb sold it around the world, a few captions to cover some on-screen text and you were sorted. Here it is in French, look!
The most memorable aspect of Vision On was the gallery, showcasing pictures sent in by viewers, accompanied by the unforgettable Left Bank Two. For talented kids this was a wonderful opportunity and in the seventies they were receiving thousands of pictures a week, though for less adept artists watching it was usually an opportunity for some snap critique of the items on display and working out which ones “definitely” had help from their parents. Pat would famously remind us that while they couldn’t return our pictures, there was a prize for each one they showed, though this bloke clearly wasn’t paying attention.
In 1976, Vision On came to an end, but most of the team, including Patrick Dowling, went on to create a new programme that continued to celebrate the visual arts and encourage the audience’s creativity, and still with the gallery intact. That was Take Hart, with Tony still in charge, but now speaking a bit more to provide a host of valuable tips and tricks. That said, he still didn’t say that much and there were lots of lengthy sequences where Tony would create some art accompanied by suitable music. As kids’ TV became increasingly frantic and noisy, Take Hart offered an appealing change of pace and was a suitably thoughtful and engaging series.
Take Hart wasn’t just twenty minutes of one man and his paintbrush, however, as it continued to feature new animation and short films to punctuate the show, famously including the debut of Morph who would go on to become a kids’ TV favourite in his own right. And a bit later in the run saw the arrival of Mr Bennett who would engage in a bit of comic crosstalk, with Tony as a suitably droll straightman.
By the early eighties, Tony had been on kids’ TV for some thirty years, there were some big changes on the horizon in the Beeb’s children’s programmes, with many long-running series like Crackerjack, Screen Test and Animal Magic coming to an end, the latter in rather rancorous fashion with Johnny Morris seemingly considered out of date. As a fellow veteran, now coming up to his sixtieth birthday, Tony might have followed him out of the door, but Tony was far more radical and innovative than his straight-laced demeanour would suggest, always happy to embrace new ideas. So in 1984, Take Hart became Hartbeat, heralded by a cracking new theme tune
Helping Tony move with the times on the new show were a host of young artists installed as co-presenters, the most regular being Margot Wilson who’s in the episode above alongside our favourite Joanna Kirk. With some new faces and some new ideas, Hartbeat embraced design of all kinds, while there were increasing trips out of the studio for large-scale stunts, to visit a gallery or to see how art appeared in everyday life via architecture or product design. Mr Bennett was still around for a bit too, and there was still space for the gallery as well, and Hartbeat ensured Tony was a familiar face on kids’ TV for another decade.
There’s a very strange Wiki page on Hartbeat which suggests that by the nineties it was “felt to have become a shadow of its former self”, possibly written by Colin Bennett’s agent. But kids’ TV always refreshes itself every few years for a new generation and some familiar formats get a new look, and so in 1993 Hartbeat came to an end and the next year came Smart – from the same production team, in the same slot and inheriting staples like the gallery. But this was without Tony, a new breed of artists headed by Mark Speight taking his place. Smart was much faster-moving and a bit sillier than before, but it was still underpinned by the same educational principles and high standards that had always been the case and it was still made with the intention of inspiring its audience, which it did so hugely successfully for another decade or so.
And that wasn’t the end for Tony either, as while Smart continued, Tony launched a new series of his own in The Artbox Bunch. This was a rather smaller-scale show, aimed very much at the younger end of the audience, but Tony’s avuncular approach was hugely appropriate for that age group and it was as entertaining as ever. A few more series followed over the next few years and in 1999 he was co-opted into the Smart brand in two series of Smart Hart, joining Kirsten O’Brien to share his knowledge, interspersed with classic clips from the archives. When that ended in 2000, though, Tony was 75 and went into semi-retirement, though made the occasional appearance before sadly enduring ill health in his later years.
With his gentle manner and sensible shirts and slacks, Tony Hart seems an unlikely telly pioneer but did plenty over fifty years on TV to inspire generations of kids to get creative, and certainly moved with the times himself to stay a relevant and popular personality into his eighth decade. It’s as part of Vision On that is surely his lasting legacy, though – a huge leap forward in accessibility and inclusivity that was years ahead of its time.
20.30 One Foot In The Grave
Been a while since we’ve seen this series on the Beeb, and not just here – in a pre-watershed slot, you note – but also with the entire run on iPlayer. It’s a series that probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves, an anarchic, literate, sometimes political (with a small P) and often quite moving series that did all that while pulling in, at its peak, some twenty million viewers. We absolutely loved it at the time and are still very fond of it, and if this repeat run doesn’t get that far do at least watch the majestic Timeless Time on iPlayer which absolutely blew us away when we first saw it. This first series doesn’t seem quite right, mind, if only because the house (and the phone number, of course) is different, but there’s still much to enjoy. And don’t forget, Richard Wilson was only 53 when they made it.
08.00 See Hear
Here’s the other anniversary you may have missed this week, another Sunday staple celebrating forty years on air. It seems bizarre to look back on Sundays from a modern perspective, before Sunday trading very much like lockdown every week, while it’s no surprise that the Top 40 was such an important show for a generation because it was about the only genuinely entertaining thing on all day. Sunday morning TV was certainly home to the ultimate examples of public service broadcasting, which is where See Hear was for many years providing news and views for the deaf community, and any kids who happened to be looking it after any kind of distraction. These days it’s in an even less hallowed slot but it’s still doing good work bringing people together, a perfect example of the Beeb doing stuff nobody else would ever do, and to mark the anniversary many of its past presenters will be returning, though we’re not sure if that includes the one everyone remembers, Richard Stilgoe lookalike John Lee.
17.00 Blue Peter
The big telly news this week seems to be the fire on Saturday night at Red Bee’s playout centre in London, from which much of British TV is played out and which affected numerous channels, the hardest hit undoubtedly being Channel Four which fell off air completely for an hour and even now, nearly a week later, is still struggling with frozen adverts, wonky captions, non-existent announcements and all kinds of problems. Least affected was the Beeb who switched straight to Salford in the blink of an eye, testament to what an important site it is for the Corporation now. Not least because of this show, of course.
21.00 Comedy Legends
Who’s appeared on Christmas Day on BBC1 more than anyone else? Well, there’s The Queen, obviously, and people like Brucie, but surely quite high up the list must be Tim Allen, given his starring roles in the Toy Story films and indeed all three Santa Clause movies, at least one of which has been on the 25th for most of the last two decades or so. He’s a big star in the US, though less so as himself here in the UK, and indeed we recall his stand-up show being shown on Channel Four in 1993 and scoring a rare example of a primetime audience so low it was rounded down to zero, and despite persisting for a long time, they could never make Home Improvement a hit. Better find out what his appeal is, then.
20.00 Top of the Pops
Good work from Goodiebags last time out, announcing the show was “hot and happening” with a straight face and surely being the least likely person ever to announce “let’s talk about sex”. We’re going to miss him, less so Campbell who presents his final show here. Bruno got very excited last week about there being two records at number 21, but Campbell gets an even bigger thrill of two Bryan Adams records in the Top 20. And yes, we’re going to hear both of them.
20.30 Top of the Pops
And so, to the end of an era. We’ve really quite enjoyed this programme over the last couple of months with its back to basics approach, but it all comes to an end tonight as we head towards surely the biggest change in the show’s history. So tonight it’s goodbye to The Wizard, to the Tower Of Power set, to Television Centre, to the entire Top 40 countdown, to the nothing-but-the-charts format, to the miming (gasp!) and to the Radio 1 DJs, with Gary Davies, the longest-serving of all the current hosts having made his debut back in 1982, getting the honour of drawing this phase of Pops to a close. And next week it’s all going to be very different. Good luck everyone!
22.30 Sight and Sound in Concert
23.30 The Old Grey Whistle Test
And if this is the exact moment you stop bothering with Pops, there are some other shows you may find more to your liking. No Radio 1 simulcast for the former, and while the Boomtown Rats were a bit of a draw at their height, this probably isn’t it as it’s from February 1984, promoting an album that failed to even make the charts, but it’s a nice chance to see a famous old rock venue in Goldiggers of Chippenham. Then it’s back to 1975 with Dr Hook at the Television Theatre, still just we think with the Medicine Show addendum and purveying raucous Southern rock rather than sappy Radio 2-friendly ballads.