More TV Memories – Match Of The Day.

Match Of The Day (BBC2, 1964-1966, BBC1, 1966-present)

This is one of the longest-running sport shows on British TV. After seeing previews on Football Focus, and the results come in on a Saturday afternoon on Grandstand, you would then have the chance to actually see some of those goals in the evening on Match Of The Day. As this is a show that has been around for much longer than I have, I’ll begin this review at around the time I started to watch.

And it was at this point that Match Of The Day was at rather a low ebb. In the early-90s, live coverage of top-flight matches were on ITV, and the BBC had the rights to the FA Cup, meaning that the show only appeared to cover those matches, with a The Road To Wembley suffix added. It was also around this time that the famous theme that had been used since the early-70s was changed, and this definitely didn’t last long! vlcsnap-00447

In 1992 though, when the Premier League launched, Match Of The Day returned as a highlights show. The host was usually Des Lynam, who was considered to be one of the best around at the time, along with analysis from various pundits. There would also be features including the Goal Of The Month competition, where viewers were invited to pick their favourites. Some highlights from previous seasons were also released on VHS. vlcsnap-00452

By the late-90s, there was something of a relaunch, as things came from a new virtual studio, and there was attempt to rename the show MOTD. There was also a monthly magazine available, and I was a regular reader for a few years. As well as featuring columns from various commentators and pundits about the state of the game, there would also be interviews with star players, and lots of other quirky features. And all this only cost £1! vlcsnap-00453

There were also weekly football magazines available for many years including Match and Shoot, but I didn’t read those as much. Did I keep all of them though? No, I didn’t, how daft of me. By 2001, the Premier League highlights moved to ITV1, so once again, the MOTD name was only usually used for coverage of various cups, and the magazine had closed by this point. vlcsnap-00454

In 2004, the highlights returned to the BBC, and remain to this day, Gary Lineker has now been the main host for over two decades, and commentators include Jonathan Pearce, who was poached from Capital Gold. As most high-profile matches now take place on a Sunday, there is an additional MOTD2 to cover all those. The magazine has also been relaunched as a fortnightly, but it now seems to be aimed at five-year-olds.

More TV Memories – Get Fit With Brittas.

Get Fit With Brittas (BBC1, 1997)

The Brittas Empire was one of my favourite sitcoms of the 90s. There were seven series with lots of memorable moments, even though the final episode really did have the most awful cop-out ending. But this wasn’t the last that we would see of the leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas, as played by Chris Barrie. There was actually one more series after this, although it is little-remembered by comparison now.

Get Fit With Brittas was a six-part series shown on Friday nights where every edition was just ten minutes long. This was a part-comedy part-education series where Mr Brittas offered advice on various types of fitness. A few of the other cast members also appeared, including the hapless Colin, along with various celebrities who spoke about what they like to do to keep themselves fit. vlcsnap-00418

So for example, Lesley Joseph of Birds Of A Feather fame was rather keen on aerobics, and encouraged Brittas to join in as well, so he got his leotard on. Also taking part in the series were various sportspeople who told us why running, jumping and so on, was rather a good idea too. And there were also features from various people on how they changed their lifestyle which helped them to get fitter. vlcsnap-00420

The basic idea of the show was to encourage viewers to have a go at trying something themselves, whatever level of skill and fitness they were at. And well, why not try going to a leisure centre. Preferably not the one run by Brittas though, where it was chaos. There were so many people running around at some points, that I got exhausted just watching this. It was proof that it was good to have a hobby. vlcsnap-00421

There was also a tie-in book released which offered more advice on information on how to get moving. Unlike the regular series, Get Fit With Brittas wasn’t ever released on VHS or DVD. There have been a lot of rumours, especially in the past few years, that The Brittas Empire will return to the screen one day. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but until then, this is the closest that we’ll get to an eighth series.

More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops 1991 Relaunch.

Following on from last week, there was a lot of anticipation for the new look Top Of The Pops. But things would be so different, this relaunch ended up being described as “Year Zero”, with the biggest changes in the show’s history to date. Some insist that this is the day that Top Of The Pops went rubbish, but let’s take a look at what exactly happened on 3 October 1991.

This was an attempt to finally bring the show into the 90s, with the new opening theme “Now Get Out Of That” (which was used until January 1995), which was definitely an attempt to embrace the “rave culture” that was about the sweep the singles chart. There was a new studio (no more neon lights now!), which was rather noisy and resembled a lively nightclub, and everyone had to sing live. vlcsnap-00413

And there were new features and a wave of new hosts, who weren’t also on BBC Radio 1. We begin with Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin, who had little previous TV hosting experience. There would be more new hosts introduced later, but these were the only two who lasted for a long time, until January 1994. Erasure had the honour (if that’s the word) of starting off this new era. vlcsnap-00414

And then there’s a look at the Top Ten, now featuring a short clip of the video instead of a still picture, and there was no voiceover announcing these one-by-one (this later changed to being shown nearer the end of the show, with voiceover, and 40-11 being shown over a video). Next is Voice Of The Beehive, what have they let themselves in for. They are followed by the soulful sounds of Kenny Thomas who is a big climber. vlcsnap-00416

Then there’s a look at the US chart. I don’t remember this feature lasting long, you’d think they’d concentrate on the UK. Belinda Carlisle is in the studio, and is briefly interviewed by Mark whilst looking mildly embarrassed. Then there’s an exclusive video by Stevie Wonder. Back in the studio, there’s Julian Lennon, who is also briefly interviewed by Mark, just let him get on with it! vlcsnap-00417

Then there’s a look at the albums chart, featuring Status Quo. I thought that this was supposed to be a show aimed at teenagers! Then there’s the Breakers (now with an introduction again) featuring Carl Cox and Monty Python. We finish with Bryan Adams, who is still Number One. “Bryan continues his bid for the Christmas Number One”, says Tony, making the show’s most amusing comment. vlcsnap-00415

There’s much more to come next week, I’m sure that people will be very eager for more. Tony then finishes off by saying “laters!”, definitely an attempt at a catchphrase. The credits are then shown over the closing sequence (this would later change to being shown over a video). And finally there’s a trail for Number One magazine which wasn’t too far off closing down at this point.

More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops 1991.

When did the 1980s come to an end? Well obviously it was 31 December 1989. Although if you watched Top Of The Pops regularly you might think differently, indeed you could’ve thought it was actually on 26 September 1991 (hopefully this edition will be shown on BBC4 soon!). Top Of The Pops was a show that had to be on BBC1 every week, all year round, there couldn’t be a break at any point because pop music always had to be covered.

This meant that its look got rather tired more quickly than other TV shows. Top Of The Pops did seem to have been stuck in the 80s by this point, still using “The Wizard” theme that had been introduced in April 1986, and an opening sequence introduced in January 1989 (although this did have minor changes by this point). And the studio was still full of pink and blue neon flashing lights. vlcsnap-00390

This was to be the final edition hosted by the long-serving Gary Davies (who by now was high up in the studio away from the crowd), and also the final edition before the big “Year Zero” relaunch the following week. There are a lot of songs squeezed into the 30 minutes, and the studio:video ratio is rather curious. We begin with PJB in the studio. Yes, PJB! Remember them? Not really. There are also plenty of silly graphics flying around everywhere. vlcsnap-00391

This is then followed by the video of the highest new entry, by The Scorpions. The Top 40 was only read out one-by-one by the host on the show for about a decade, by this point the 40-2 songs scrolled along the bottom of a video, someone clearly realised that you could fit in one more song this way. And we are also without Gary’s “and there’s a new entry at number furdy-four”-type comments on them which had become rather grating (this is why Matthew Bannister had to happen etc.). vlcsnap-00393

Next is Rozalla who sings live in the studio. I thought that rule wasn’t introduced until the relaunch, but this always seemed to be rather inconsistent. This is followed by videos from REM and Tina Turner. Then Bizarre Inc. are in the studio. Then there’s a video from Marc Almond, before Sabrina Johnston also sings live in the studio. This is followed by three Breakers with no introduction by Fish, Ozzy Osbourne, and Belinda Carlisle (this was still in the days when singles went up the chart). vlcsnap-00395

Bryan Adams’ very long run at Number One continues, and his video is shown. Then next week it’s new opening, new studio, new hosts, new songs, new everything. Gary says goodbye, and when BBC Radio 1 presenters returned to the show in February 1994, he had long gone. The “end of the 80s” feeling is emphasised by finishing off with the video for the final hit single by Bros, who had been huge barely three years earlier. vlcsnap-00394

Things would be very different the following week…

The YouTube Files – Noel’s Addicts.

Noel’s Addicts (BBC1, 1992)

Over the years I have followed the TV career of Noel Edmonds, and it has definitely had some ups and downs. For every success, there has been a flop. Rather oddly, I have no memory of watching this one at the time, but when I spotted that a couple of editions have been put on YouTube, I thought that I might was well take the chance to find out more.

The idea behind Noel’s Addicts was that Noel would meet various people who were fans and collectors of rather unusual things. This either took place in the studio, or on location, because it’s always good to have a hobby, isn’t it? Whether they were fans of things like pop music, films, or even more unlikely things like clothes, they were all given a chance to explain why they are so fond. vlcsnap-00004

Noel would also often ask guests 12 questions about their favourite thing, and if they get enough right, they really can be classed as an “addict”. There would sometimes be guest celebrities who would talk about their hobbies too, and Noel would also go to America to meet some people with interesting stories to tell. And there was also The History Of Addicts which was hosted by Willie Rushton and his voice, which was accompanied by some of his illustrations. vlcsnap-00006

All of this featured some rather silly captions that went on and off the screen like they did on Top Of The Pops in the early-90s, viewers were encouraged to write in if they wanted to share something about a hobby that they or someone that they knew had, and I couldn’t help but notice that the opening sequence was also rather odd too, with Noel turning into various things. vlcsnap-00005

It’s also rather intriguing that the description for the final edition includes “Nicholas Parsons has a very big surprise for Noel”. I suppose this was the usual end-of-series prank, but this edition isn’t online, I presume Noel had to admit to being a fan of something himself. What could that be? There was only one series of Noel’s Addicts, and rather oddly, the only reason that anybody is aware of the show now is because of the bizarre parody in The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer.

The YouTube Files – Snooker opening sequences.

Sometimes when you go on YouTube, you fall down the rabbit hole as they say. You plan to watch one video about something, and then you end up watching another, and then another, and you then realise that a lot of time has passed when you had planned to be doing something else. A while ago I wondered if there were any old snooker matches online. I don’t know why really, I just thought that I’d have a look, and I was surprised by how much has been uploaded.

I’ve never been any good at the game (or is it a sport?), but snooker became very popular with viewers for a while in the 80s and 90s. This was because most of the leading players were British and charismatic, and also because matches could easily fill hours of airtime and get good ratings. And of course the launch of colour TV helped somewhat too, marvellous. Every sport on the BBC and ITV seemed be introduced by a famous piece of theme music, along with a veteran commentator who was considered to be “the voice”, and in snooker’s case this was “Whispering Ted” Lowe.

There were also some memorable presenters including David Vine on the BBC, and Dickie Davies on ITV. An account that has uploaded classic frames and matches to YouTube called “mjt_snooker” has complied various opening sequences from over the years from continuity clips, and as the sequences often changed throughout the 80s and 90s, I thought I’d pick out some of my highlights. vlcsnap-00019

The World Championship has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield since 1977, but several other tournaments have been televised too. I imagine that with a lot of these sequences, the designers thought “how can we make snooker look exciting?”. The BBC’s most famous theme “Drag Racer” was introduced in the late-70s. By the early-80s a sequence cleverly featured the BBC2 symbol appearing on a ball. vlcsnap-00020

I liked the sequence used in 1981. This was still before computer animation was really possible, but it did feature some nice airbrushed effects as the balls went into the pockets. Meanwhile, ITV in 1982 had the very impressively-named tournament The Yamaha Organs Trophy, accompanied by the theme “Sprocket Shuffle”. Around this time, the sequences changed almost once a year as the technology advanced. vlcsnap-00021

By 1984 ITV were bringing us The Lada Classic, the one they all wanted to win I’m sure, and a lot of triangles. By 1986, ITV’s opening did feature some computer-generated elements, but this was in the days where the balls looked more like cubes. Also around this time the BBC briefly changed their theme music to “To The Unknown Man”, although that probably wasn’t a popular move. vlcsnap-00028

In 1987 ITV finally had a fully computer-generated opening sequence, with a mildly scary robot man who had things like “access risk” flash in front of his eyes, which was a memorable way to introduce The Mercantile Classic. By the late-80s the music had been changed, and snooker coverage was beginning to fall out of favour on ITV. By the early-90s, the openings became ever more elaborate. On the BBC, a cue on the camera effect was used. vlcsnap-00024

Around 1991 was when the first sequences that I remember were introduced, including on the BBC an unusual camera under the table effect, along with scoreboards flashing and a referee moving the balls around. This was then changed to a nice kaleidoscope effect, and by the late-90s there were people made out of balls and the music had been remixed. vlcsnap-00027

By the late-90s, the evolution to fully computer-generated openings was complete, and coverage could now be moved to the additional BBC and ITV channels, along with coverage on satellite channels including Sky Sports. This meant that ITV were back in the game, with an rather surreal opening sequence where the balls were floating around someone’s head as if they were planets while they pondered their next move, accompanied by “All That Glitters”.

The Comedy Vault – Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special.

Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special (BBC1, 1981)

I thought that I would review the first Christmas special of Only Fools And Horses, which was shown shortly after the conclusion after the first series on 28 December 1981 (the first special on the actual day was the third in 1983). This episode is rather significant because firstly, a lot people might not realise that they were making Christmas specials as early as this, and also, little did they realise that for the next 15 years or so the specials would be the centrepiece of BBC1’s Christmas schedule, doing increasingly well in the ratings, also extending in length, and featuring more ambitious ideas.

The first special “Christmas Crackers” might come across as very modest when compared to the later ones, and it was only 35 minutes long, but this was at just about the only point in the show’s history where its future was uncertain and believe it or not there was a small chance that this could’ve been the final episode. A successful repeat run confirmed we’d be seeing a lot more of the Trotters though. vlcsnap-00001

It’s time for Christmas dinner, although you get the feeling that Granddad would rather have his usual cheeseburger, because he doesn’t want too much fuss, and Del Boy and Rodney fancy having a right old knees-up down the pub. Everything is coming along nicely, the potatoes are really well done, there’s some “green stuff”, the gravy’s been strained, the turkey still has the giblets inside, and the pudding is all burnt. It’s the Trotter family tradition, and the only thing that gets Del through it is the thought that this time next year he’ll be a millionaire. vlcsnap-00002

Del then does what most people did late on in the day back then – fall asleep in front of the TV (or two TVs in this case) showing some circus thing with the Christmas Radio Times (the show appeared on the cover of the 1985 Radio Times double issue, along with NME, in what must be a unique double). Rodney can’t believe it and wants to go down The Monte Carlo Club. It might not be Jangles as far as leading early-80s clubs go, but people could still have a really good time. It’s either that or watch The Sound Of Music with a beer. vlcsnap-00003

Off smartly-dressed Del and Rodney go, insisting that they are “The Peckham Playboys”. Del bumps into a mate called Earl, even though I don’t think he was ever seen or referenced again (it is notable that there are no appearances from the regulars such as Boycie and Trigger in this episode). He’s been having some trouble after his dad was in the pub and the glasses went flying everywhere. Del is sorry to hear that, while everyone in the background is doing a dance to “Wordy Rappinghood”. Needless to say, their attempts at pulling a few ladies fail miserably. These specials will get more exciting as the years pass. vlcsnap-00004

Merry Christmas!

Game Show Memories – Turnabout first and final series comparison.

Turnabout is one of my favourite BBC1 daytime game shows. When I finally saw a first series edition online, I was rather surprised at how different it was to the more familiar format the show eventually settled into that became a success. Let’s do a comparison.

Scheduling. First series. In 1990, Turnabout was shown at 1.50pm, the slot where Going For Gold usually appeared, and the first two series also had a repeat the following day at 10.05am. Final series. By 1996, after appearing in several slots over the years, the eighth series was shown at 2.35pm.

Title Sequence. First series. The contestants appeared on one of the spheres on the board, accompanied by some rather funky music. Final series. The third sequence used featured some spheres flying through space, and again some rather unusual music. t1

Set Design. First series. The set was rather small and mostly blue, with the contestants stood at their podiums, accompanied by a small but enthusiastic audience. Final series. Much bigger and brighter from the second series onwards, the contestants now sat at their podiums, and there was famously a pool in the middle of the studio for no particular reason. I’m fairly sure that the audience was still more real than canned.t6

Rob Curling. First series. At this time Rob was also hosting the sport on Newsroom South East, so if like me you were in that region, you would see him rather frequently. Final series. Rob hosted all 239 editions, and even developed a few catchphrases along the way, including “can we Turnabout the timer, please”. t2

Contestants. First series. The contestants played as red, orange, and blue, and were introduced by an uncredited voiceover. There were two games played in every show, with the defending champion playing red. The nine highest scorers returned for the semi-final stage. Final series. They were now seated and from series two played red, green and blue. There was no defending champion and one game was played per show. Again the nine highest scorers progressed to the semi-final stage. t3

Sphere Game. First series. The red, orange, and blue spheres appeared on the board. However, the red spheres looked orange, and the orange spheres looked yellow. The on-screen timer was some pink lights around the board going out, accompanied by a ticking clock. Solve a word clue, five points for a row of three spheres, ten points for a row of four on the board, with plenty of sound effects. The sequence of spheres turning red/orange/blue also conveniently spelled out “ROB”, but contestants sometimes struggled to make their choice which was awkward, and they could accidently give points to their opponents. You couldn’t buzz in if you had no spheres on the board. Final series. The red, green, and blue spheres looked much clearer on the board, which now also featured an on-screen timer (with no ticking sound) and scoreboard. The confusing sequence had been dropped for the “the sphere turns to your colour” rule, making gameplay quicker and fairer. Scoring was the same. Buzzer noises remained the same too, but the board sound effects had changed. t4

Star Game. First series. Only the champion plays this. 16 word clues, try and get them all right in 60 seconds. Five points each, rounded up to 100 for all 16 correct. Final series. Now all three contestants played, and they could choose their game. The scoring system was the same, but now with 50 seconds to play. Also by this point there was the additional About Turn round and viewers’ phone-in competition. t5

Prizes. First series. I don’t think there were any consolation prizes for defeated contestants, but the overall champion won some audio-visual equipment. Final series. Contestants now took away consolation prizes including dictionaries and T-shirts, and all three finalists won a holiday, with the overall champion going on the trip of a lifetime to Australia.

The Comedy Vault – Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (BBC1, 1969-1973)/Monty Python (BBC2, 1974)

This is just about the most documented and celebrated comedy show in British TV history, so it’s rather hard to decide what angle to take on it, but I thought that I might as well add my thoughts. The basis for Monty Python’s Flying Circus (or Owl-Stretching Time or whatever you want to call it) was in the mid-60s when the cast appeared in various acclaimed comedy shows including At Last The 1948 Show, Do Not Adjust Your Set, and The Frost Report.

As well as the future Pythons, these shows also featured most of the other major players in TV comedy over the next few decades, including Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, David Jason, Bill Oddie, and so on. By 1969 the sextet who would star were established, and they would also write the sketches. Although the show was ground-breaking in its style, there had been some surreal comedy on TV before, usually provided by Spike Milligan, whose Q series had already launched by this point. vlcsnap-00423

The show played around with the idea of comedy on TV like barely any other show has before or since, with the opening sequence and credits being shown at the wrong time and sketches ending randomly being the start of it. There were plenty of original ideas, along with parodies of things including game shows, which will always go down well with me. There were also the famous animated sequences between sketches, along with the classic moments and catchphrases, you’ll know them all. There were 45 episodes of Monty Python that always pushed the boundaries. And this is where the story really starts. vlcsnap-00486

By 1974, the show was starting to be shown on TV channels in America, where it arguably caused even more of a stir with viewers than it did in the UK, seemingly making them ask “is this what passes for comedy in England?” as it was rather different to anything that American comedy was offering at the time. By this point there had been some merchandise including books and albums, and the cast had moved on to other comedy shows that would be a big success, including Fawlty Towers, Ripping Yarns, Rutland Weekend Television, and more. vlcsnap-00504

There were also some hugely successful films, so they decided to tour America, acquired a huge amount of famous fans, and were now comedy superstars around the world. The first time that I remember seeing the show was during a repeat run in the early-90s, I definitely found it all rather entertaining. Also around this time “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” was released as a single and wasn’t too far off being an unexpected chart-topper. vlcsnap-00501

After this, in 1999 BBC2 dedicated a night to celebrating their career for the 30th anniversary. And along with a musical, a few years ago there was a stage show at the O2 Arena where our heroes went through the big sketches one last time which was much celebrated. Knighthoods is the very least that we can offer them. The show and films have also been released on DVD, and they seem to be constantly repackaged, so look out soon for the Limited Edition Blu-Ray Remastered 3D Glow-In-The-Dark Special, priced at a very reasonable £495.

More TV Memories – Points Of View.

Points Of View (BBC1, 1979-present)

This is a show that has a rather curious history. First of all, it exists because it’s your BBC, who decided to create a show where viewers could write in with their views on what TV was on offer. This originally ran for a decade, but this piece will concentrate on when the show returned in the late-70s, after a long gap. By now it was hosted by Barry Took and had begun to establish the style that it would become familiar for.

This was back when you had to contact by post, and Barry always anticipated a bulging postbag every week, with the highlights being read out by various voices. The era that I remember the most though was the decade that was hosted by Anne Robinson. By this point the opening theme was “When I’m Sixty-Four”, although this had gone by the 90s, and the opening sequence now consisted of some weird letters with legs walking around that made no sense. vlcsnap-00862

Points Of View was often shown on Wednesday evenings, and usually only ten minutes long (but because of scheduling it could sometimes be five minutes long or even disappear for weeks). By now the show had settled down into various cliches. The commenters were not exactly all retired colonels to a bushy-moustached man, but most of them were definitely very middlebrow. vlcsnap-00854

Most people seem to think that all the letters began “why-oh-why” (although I don’t think any of them ever did), or consist of “I am furious”, getting upset about nothing, and “It was revolting. Can we see it again?”, before being shown over the credits that consisted of about three people. You’d never know what clip would be pulled out of the archive. Anne usually called the management “them upstairs” and was rather blunt and mocking to most commenters, putting this style to better use on The Weakest Link. vlcsnap-00852

As the years passed, there were more ways to contact the show, which became one of the first to use email. Also in the 90s there was CBBC’s Take Two, BBC Radio 4’s Feedback, and BBC1’s Biteback, a monthly show on Sundays that took a more in-depth look at the workings of the BBC, and usually featured a suit being questioned and having to defend endless repeats and the like. vlcsnap-00870

Points Of View more than most shows is an interesting time capsule of what we call “attitudes”, and there have also been several parodies, one of the most memorable being Jasper Carrott’s Pointless Views. When Robinson left, the show moved to Sundays and Terry Wogan became host, before Jeremy Vine took over. Now there is no in-vision host at all, the comments are as inane as ever, and if it’s moved any further back in the schedule, it’ll soon be shown before Breakfast.