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5th-11th June 2021

Hullo there!

And welcome to another Creamguide, fresh back off a bit of a Bank Holiday mini-break and refreshed enough to return firing on all cylinders. Do let us know about your summer plans too, via


5th JUNE


20.40 Tina Turner at the BBC
21.45 Tina Turner: Simply the Best
22.30 Tina Live!

Tina Turner actually hasn’t done all that much in recent years, what with her being in her eighties and having retired from performing from over a decade ago, but there’s been increased interest in her remarkable life in recent years, what with an acclaimed documentary, the successful musical and a couple of autobiographies, so this evening of programmes is fair enough. The first one should be the most interesting, with all kinds of oddities, and that’s followed by an encounter with Will Gompertz from a couple of years ago and then one of her final concerts from 2009. All very good, though we’ll unfortunately have to fast forward through The Best because it’s a bloody horrible song.


21.00 It’ll Be Alright on the Night
All the familiar sights and sounds are happily returning - and that includes this awkward week when all the shows that began at Easter have ended and the springtime fixtures like the Cup Final and Eurovision have been and gone, but there’s no point starting anything new as there’s a football tournament around the corner, hence a pile of fillers and repeats. This is one of the former, although we’re sorry to say that the last instalment of this at Christmas was the first one ever we couldn’t be bothered to watch, as we feel this show is not quite the draw it once was. We know with a couple of episodes a year you have to stretch the material you have as much as you can, but it would be nice if even a single clip could be allowed to play out with David Walliams popping up to explain what the funny bit is, in case you can’t work it out for yourself.


13.00 Pick of the Pops
A couple of people suggested that Noel Gallagher was probably better at presenting this show than Gambo, certainly dispensing the tedious chart facts with all the gravitas they deserve, ie none, though then he went and spoiled it by skipping Sparks, the dick. Gambo’s back this week, in a hail of syndrums as it’s 1985 first off, and then it’s 2000 which is great news for Louis Walsh with Buffalo G and two solo members of Boyzone in the charts.

BBC Radio 4

11.00 School for Communists
Alexei Sayle certainly made a splash when he started on the stand-up circuit with his unique family background, so he’s well-placed to present this programme marking a hundred years of the Young Communist League. He was a member and he’ll recall how familiar teenage rites of passage were underscored with intense political discussion, and finding out what happened to some of his fellow comrades, including one who went on holiday to North Korea and decided that capitalism did actually have some quite good points, thank you.


6th JUNE


19.00 The British Academy Television Awards
The BAFTAs were among the first of the post-Covid award shows last year, and did a pretty decent job all told, in the days when Zoom-based programmes were still a bit of a novelty, while the lack of a live audience meant we didn’t have the usual embarrassment when the host’s jokes die on their arse, and it also got darted through pretty sharpish. Sadly now normality is resuming we’re back to the full two hours and stars actually at the venue, but we should still have our two favourite bits, the obits (obvs) and clips from obscure BBC3 programmes on primetime BBC1.


21.00 Our Cilla: The One and Only
If BBC4 can hang on until 1993, one of the highlights of an otherwise grim year for Pops is the appearance of Cilla Black, promoting her comeback record after many years on TV, as apparently she was so unpleasant behind the scenes the crew made no attempt to improve the quality of her rather shaky live vocals and it sounded horrible and the single was a flop. Indeed there does seem to be a large number of behind the scenes stories about Cilla that suggest she paid little heed to the maxim about being nice to people on the way up, which explains why not much happened for her on screen after Blind Date. For a while she didn’t need to bother about all that, though, when she was the highest-paid and most famous woman on TV, which this new documentary will more likely concentrate on.


7th JUNE


08.55 ITV Football Classics
There’s unfortunately no Big Match Revisited this week because of the French Open Tennis, though BT Sport are repeating episodes from previous seasons at all hours of the day and night, and ITV are getting us in the mood for the imminent Euros by repeating pretty much all of their recent shows about old football over breakfast time this week. This is the series that ran during lockdown last year, and this one’s a particularly relevant one as it features one of the few occasions when England beat The Curse Of ITV and thrashed Holland in Euro 96.

The news that Holby City is coming to an end after 23 years reminded us again that there are a lot of old programmes on TV these days, so this week we’re taking a look at one of the longest-running comedy shows on British TV. It’s...

Have I Got News For You really is a terrible name, but it’s a bit too late to do anything about that now. It wasn’t the first attempt at a topical news quiz on TV, with Ned Sherrin and his mates doing Quiz of the Week on BBC1 in the late sixties, while Barry Norman and Richard Stilgoe both hosted a series of Scoop on BBC2 in the early eighties, but neither came to much. Most of the personnel in the latter show were also involved in The News Quiz which had run successfully on Radio 4 since the seventies, and there were other attempts to transfer that to the telly. In 1990, thrusting new independent company Hat Trick had a go, and though it’s only “inspired” by The News Quiz - as a quiz about the news isn’t much of a format - at the time the fact other successful radio comedy shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway, After Henry and Up The Garden Path had all transferred to TV under the auspices of independent companies and other broadcasters led to much pondering as to the Beeb’s inability to hold on to its formats. In any case, Hat Trick made a pilot on the hottest day of the year, with the respected comedy producer John Lloyd as chairman, going under the name of, yes, John Lloyd’s Newsround.
As you can see, that pilot wasn’t very good, but a series was commissioned - but without John Lloyd, who was far happier behind the scenes. In his place came Angus Deayton, best known at that point as a comic actor, including a long spell as Rowan Atkinson’s straight man, and writer and star of Radio Active and KYTV. He brought impeccable comic timing to the mix, while Private Eye editor Ian Hislop brought the current affairs knowledge. But the masterstroke was the casting of the third regular in Paul Merton. Merton was approached by Jimmy Mulville after a string of memorable appearances on Whose Line Is It Anyway, but Merton initially turned it down as he wasn’t that interested in the news and didn’t do any political stuff in his act. Mulville said that was exactly what he was after, and Merton made for a wonderful contrast to his Oxbridge-educated co-stars - lest we forget, CSE metalwork (ungraded) - and his surreal excursions stopped the show becoming what could have become a load of blokes sniggering about how clever they all were.
That said, the first series of HIGNFY in 1990 didn’t get a great deal of attention, with apparently the only review of the entire run coming from the Evening Standard which had little to say on the contents of the show but opined that it featured “some of the ugliest people on television”. But over the next year or so, the ratings started to increase and it became a genuine word of mouth success, with people stumbling across it - helped by the Friday night broadcasts being accompanied by a Saturday repeat which would shuffle all over the schedule, often well before the watershed - and indeed up there is the first episode we ever saw, in 1992, via the Saturday repeat. This was a show much ruder and more irreverent than any topical comedy show had ever been before. Alongside producer Harry Thompson, Angus provided the sharp scripts, while Ian had the inside story and Paul provided the belly laughs, and much like Spitting Image had done a decade earlier, it did more to tell you who was who in British politics than watching the news. It also helped that there was plenty to go at with the government seemingly in permanent disarray.
The three regulars were the main attraction, and we recall an interview around this time which suggested talking to them was very much like watching an episode of the show, with Ian and Paul bantering away, while Angus sat back and then, at the perfect moment, came out with a wonderful line. There were two other people on the show each week, though, and it became an important shop window for new comedians, many of whom, like Frank Skinner and Tony Hawks, made early appearances and got a kick-start to their careers. Some veterans appeared too, not always successfully, though it played a vital role in re-establishing Bob Monkhouse as a relevant comic for the nineties. Despite the show making some valuable satirical points, and always worth watching when there was a big story, it was the laughs that came first, and Paul’s tour de force came in the famous Tub of Lard episode where, without a team mate, he did battle with a foreign language Missing Words round which was just the funniest thing. “Some of those letters are upside down!”
Although many comedians enjoyed great success after appearing on HIGNFY, for politicians it was a more mixed picture. After the first series, the Beeb suggested they’d been too left-wing in their choice of guests, so they invited every single Conservative MP, all of whom turned it down apart from Edwina Currie. But as the show became more popular and influential, more politicians ventured on, though not always successfully, and Paul said that some would appear having written little routines that they’d want to shoehorn in. It did work for some politicians, however, and while Charles Kennedy would later be criticised for his numerous appearances, it clearly worked wonders for his personal popularity, while those who were no longer holding high office, such as Neil Kinnock and Cecil Parkinson, were relaxed enough to join in, take the jokes at their expense and get a few laughs themselves. Others worked less well. Teddy Taylor was a memorably eccentric booking, but the most notorious was Sir Rhodes Boyson, who appeared to have no idea what the programme was about, bickered with the regulars, refused to laugh at any of the jokes and seemed to think he was on Question Time, with his only contributions being extended bursts of political rhetoric.
Boyson seemed oblivious enough to consider his appearance a success, but some others didn’t have a particularly good time on the show, and for a while there were regular stories in the papers - often citing the views of guests who had died on their arse - that the whole show was completely scripted. Obviously Angus’ monologues were all on the autocue, to ensure each round ended on a laugh, but by this point Paul wasn’t even bothering to read the papers before the recordings. In true HIGNFY fashion, however, they inevitably sent up the whole idea on a special VHS episode released in 1995.
In 1996 came the first big change to the show, when Paul took a series off, saying he was getting a bit fed up of the whole thing and wanted to concentrate on his other projects. But he was adamant he was going to be back, and indeed this series illustrated the importance of Paul to the show, as without him the vital chemistry wasn’t always there, and some episodes were a bit bleak, Ian going off on a rant without Paul being on hand to bring him back down to earth. Indeed it was something of a rehearsal for what would happen a few years later, as the show varied wildly each week, with the most famous instalment featuring Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey alongside Clare Rayner in an incredibly raucous and vulgar episode which included a round where the panellists had to fill in the speech bubbles in Deirdre’s Photo Casebook. Very funny (if perhaps a bit grim these days) but not much to do with the news.
That series did, however, include surely the most notorious guest appearance of all, in the shape of Piers Morgan. Even Rhodes Boyson had a bit more self-awareness than Morgan, who possessed no sense of humour, repeatedly died on his arse, argued with Ian and Clive Anderson and was clearly loathed by the audience. In fact, we’re amazed that this appearance didn’t spell the end of his television career, especially as he appears to have learned absolutely nothing from it. Still brilliant, though, Ian’s “But people like him!” the most wonderfully vicious putdown imaginable, surely one of the greatest examples of sheer undisguised contempt in TV history.
Paul did return for the next series and things continued much as before, but it started to feel like HIGNFY was getting a bit tired - the same guests would come around with increasing frequency, Paul started phoning it in a bit, and because the show was now so popular (some weeks pulling in some ten million viewers over its two showings, by some distance BBC2’s biggest show), everyone knew what it was about and there was little chance of any Rhodes Boyson-esque loose cannons springing a surprise. What’s more, it was now accompanied in the schedules by umpteen other panel shows, all going for the same guests, and while HIGNFY was still the original and the least contrived - there were always new stories to have a go at and new people to mock - it was all getting a bit familiar. Nevertheless, it was still a big surprise when in 2000 it was promoted to BBC1.
BBC1 didn’t make much of a difference to HIGNFY, but then in 2002 came the biggest change yet. Over the years there had been plenty of running jokes about Angus being “TV’s Mr Sex”, and he’d long been a favourite of the tabloids who had frequently splashed stories about his love life. An episode following his appearance on the front page of the News of the World was a memorable one, but increasingly it seemed like he was in the papers most weeks and the jokes about his antics from Ian and Paul were a bit more pointed than before. It’s been said that the last straw was when Christine Hamilton took issue with his description as her husband as “disgraced”, which suggested he was now the story and was an unsuitable figure to be slagging off others, although it’s also been suggested that the other two didn’t like him much and there were various tensions behind the scenes, so they didn’t fight very hard when it was decided to get rid of him. In his place came a number of guest presenters and, nearly twenty years later, that’s still the case.
You’ll find many people who’ll argue the show hasn’t been anywhere near half as good since Angus left, and certainly it’s nowhere near the national talking point it used to be, rather going through the motions. As far as we’re concerned, it will never hit the heights of its golden age but, like The Simpsons, we usually look in most weeks and it makes us laugh a few times, even if we can’t imagine ever really loving it and repeatedly watching it like we did in the past. The guest hosts add a bit of spice, even if it does mean the quality wildly varies most weeks, though there have been some hugely memorable ones. Brucie is the obvious success, and despite everything we enjoyed Brian Blessed, because challenging Gerry Adams to a fight does genuinely seem quite dangerous.

HIGNFY still does a valuable job as a shop window for new comedians and joke writers and with a regular set of hosts it’s probably not that much different to the Angus era - especially as Alexander Armstrong has said that even now, nearly two decades after his departure, Angus was so influential he imagines all the scripts in his voice and unconsciously keeps on doing Angus-isms (“is the right answer!”). And despite Paul clearly having spent the last decade and a half phoning it in, we’d probably rather it was there than not. No change there, then.


8th JUNE


20.00 Yes Minister
20.30 To The Manor Born

As mentioned up there, the big telly news this week is that Holby City has been axed, and while it still seems to us like a fairly new addition to the schedule, by the time it finishes it will have been running for 23 years. That’s a remarkable run by any programme’s standards, with Dixon of Dock Green having run for 21 years and Z Cars for eighteen, and those two were complete anachronisms when they came to an end - and of course Z Cars also had two spin-offs that were running at the same time as well. Although it’s been a very useful training ground for new talent it does seem to have run its course and ratings aren’t all that much, and these programmes at the same time are probably far more interesting.


9th JUNE

BBC Radio 3

22.00 Free Thinking
A rare excursion for Creamguide to the Third Programme here, as Matthew Sweet talks to surely one of the most influential women in television comedy, the great Beryl Vertue. She actually managed to get into television pretty much by accident, as she started out as a secretary at Associated London Scripts in the sixties, a co-operative which included pretty much every major comedy writer at the time, and from there she became an agent and then a producer, with a stack of hit shows to her name and the absolute respect of everyone in the industry - and is still going strong at the age of ninety.


10th JUNE


17.00 Blue Peter
So to the new theme, which reminds us a bit of the Yes No People’s rendition of it a quarter of a century ago, though not quite as tuneless, while the good news about the opening titles is that all the presenters are in them so presumably they’ll all be hanging around for a while if it’s a bit of a faff to change them. Time this week for one of the familiar aspects of the current calendar, the launch of this year’s sport badge, with a suitably big star on hand to reveal it.


11th JUNE


19.00 Euro 2020
No, we’re not going to bill them all, but after three years we’re glad to see a major football tournament with all the associated bells and whistles attached, which has the happy side-effect of sending the schedules haywire for a month. This was always going to be a very different tournament, mind, with no single host nation but instead matches played all around Europe, and what with the current climate it’s perhaps not surprising that we’ll be pretty much studio-based on both channels. The Beeb are certainly flying out of the blocks, with the opening match here and then Wales, England and Scotland’s opening fixtures on consecutive days, but ITV are involved as well, you’ll be thrilled to know.


20.00 Top of the Pops
Unfortunate that when the show was truncated to 25 minutes the number one was four hours long, but so far we’ve had loads of fun from 1991 with plenty of top stuff. The Gulf War’s affecting other aspects of the show as well, albeit indirectly, as Kylie recorded a performance of What Do I Have To Do - her best single, we reckon - a few weeks ago but a preponderance of CND logos mean we only get the video, as we’ll see tonight when we spend Valentine’s Day with Gaz.
20.30 Top of the Pops
And then it’s good news for Simon Bates as in this episode Goodiebags introduces a double helping of that quality pop we were all looking for in the shape of Chris Rea and Oleta Adams, although like most pop kids we were more excited by faceless dance, here represented by DJH and Xpansions.

And that's that...

But get your wallchart ready for next week’s Euro-tastic Creamguide.
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