More TV Memories – The 1989 ITV Generic Look.

A while ago I looked back at the attempt to relaunch ITV in 1989 with the “Get Ready For ITV” campaign, and a generic ident that would be taken by every region… except it wasn’t and the idea was abandoned rather quickly (my region Thames/LWT did take this though). Now when idents are designed, I presume that there are some things that have to be done. There has to be a distinctive symbol, an animation that lasts about five seconds, and this has to stand up to being shown probably hundreds of times over.

But although I have seen this ident a huge amount of times, I have noticed that some rather unusual things seem to happen, and I still find it rather intriguing, so I thought that I would investigate what it’s about in… What is going on in the 1989 ITV generic ident? Are there any messages? Any secret codes? Well maybe. Now you might think I am overanalysing this, but this piece is not meant to be taken too seriously! vlcsnap-00001

There are five things that appear in the ident. Just like Channel 4’s original ident was made of five different-coloured interlocking things to showcase various genres, maybe this was an attempt at the equivalent of that. As the “I” appears, a dove flies along. I’m not really sure what this is supposed to represent though, that’s a good start, isn’t it. Maybe nature or documentaries? vlcsnap-00002

Then we see two people, one woman in a purple hat, and a man in a green suit with his back to us having an embrace, this must represent drama, and it all looks rather exciting. vlcsnap-00003

Then there’s the clock tower (the bell inside is called Big Ben), which is at 10 o’clock, representing news as the “T” appears. Of course, ITV’s main news was at 10pm in those days, it’s whenever they feel like it now really. vlcsnap-00004

Then there is a discus thrower, representing sport. This reminds me that there was some athletics coverage on ITV around this time, usually on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, but those days are gone. And why is his shirt number 26? vlcsnap-00005

And finally, as the “V” appears, there are two dancers, one in a yellow dress, and one in a blue dress, in front of some flashing red lights, who turn around, representing entertainment, although whether ITV ever did show anything like this I’m not sure. vlcsnap-00006

I do wonder how this was put together. Did people audition for this? Were they in a room somewhere and then someone said to them “and throw the discus… now!” whilst wondering how they would edit it all together? Well it’s one way to get on the TV I suppose.

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 YouTube Files – Pennis Pops Out.

Pennis Pops Out (ITV, 1995)

A while ago I reviewed The Sunday Show, one of BBC2’s attempts to produce some edgy comedy but in an unlikely afternoon slot. One of the most memorable features was with Dennis Pennis, a character played by Paul Kaye (with an American accent) who asked famous people the questions that nobody else dared to, and had something of an attitude. After a while he became popular enough with viewers to host a spin-off show of his own. I did find a small amount on a tape once, but as some full editions have now appeared on YouTube, I might as well do a review.

Pennis Pops Out (a title that isn’t easy to search for online) was shown late at night at the weekend on ITV (maybe only in the LWT region? Hopefully someone can confirm this). This was a show all about music, but not really the kind you’d find on Top Of The Pops, being closer in style to the likes of Later… With Jools Holland or The White Room. Every week, Pennis, who had a distinctive look including his red hair, glasses, and suit covered in badges, would introduce various bands. There was also an amusing opening sequence featuring Pennis playing the guitar. vlcsnap-00001

This show was made in 1995, which could be considered by some to be the peak of Britpop, and among the bands that performed live were The Lightning Seeds, The Charlatans, and Teenage Fanclub. Pennis would also do various sketches, and interview band members, all accompanied by a rather lively crowd. Who needs to go to a music festival when you’ve got this. If you were rather trendy and read Melody Maker in those days, I’m sure you would’ve loved it. vlcsnap-00003

There was even a phone-in competition to win a goodie bag if you could answer a rather easy question. I didn’t realise that such things were around on TV as early as that. I also spotted some interesting names in the credits. One of the researchers was Brendan “Steve’s brother” Coogan, and one of the executive producers was Danielle Lux, which made me do a double-take. vlcsnap-00004

There was only one series of Pennis Pops Out, and he did indeed go on to host an edition of Top Of The Pops in September 1996. Not long after this though, Kaye ditched the character, because he was becoming increasingly well-known and celebrities were soon trying to avoid his outrageous questions, he was a victim of his own success I suppose. vlcsnap-00005

Kaye did move on to further things though, including sitcom Perfect World, comedy game show Liar, and several drama series. Unfortunately though, Kaye never took the opportunity to team up with fellow comedians Peter Kay and Phil Kay for a fast-paced zany comedy sketch show that they could’ve obviously called… The Paul, Peter and Phil Show. Well I’m awfully sorry for that joke, I’ll go and sit on the naughty step for a while.

More TV Memories – ITV In The 80s (Part 2).

This is the second part of my look back at ITV in the 80s. ITV1

LWT introduced their red, white, and blue symbol in 1970, and then this was revised in 1978. A computer-generated version had been around locally since around 1983 (maybe the first one all of the ITV companies?), but the main ident wasn’t changed until August 1986, and there were two variations. They were rather classy, featuring another minor revision of the symbol, and they were still occasionally seen as late as 1992 (and survived on the endcap until 1996). LWT1

Scottish had used their “STV” look for a long time. This was then changed in August 1985 to a rather stylised “thimble” symbol. The colours of pinks and blues, along with the combination of spheres and cubes, made viewers think this looked a little like some Liquorice Allsorts. This was then changed in 1988, meaning that Scottish were on their second computer-generated symbol before some regions had barely established their first. This was used in various styles until as late as 2000. Scottish1

Thames had been using their famous “skyline” look since 1969. It was revised a few times, and it was still being used almost two decades later. Although it was a design classic, it really was time for a change. A new version of the symbol was introduced for the 21st anniversary in July 1989, and this was one of the biggest changes of any region. Also, Thames were the final region to inform us that their shows were a “colour production”. The fact that this endcap was still being used right up until the launch of the generic look in September 1989 is rather remarkable really. Thames1

TSW‘s ident at their launch in 1982 was a really strange mess of all kinds of mismatched things floating around for no reason. It might have been memorable but it was so odd. In May 1985 this was replaced by something more straightforward that formed together in a much more slick and pleasing style, although it was rarely seen by the late-80s. TSW1

TVS introduced their multicoloured symbol when they launched in 1982. Their new look came in September 1987, keeping their “shell” symbol, although it was now a rather cold blue colour. This was updated in 1989 and was used until the closure in 1992. One of the better ones. TVS1

Tyne Tees had been using their “TTTV” symbol since the early-70s. Many years later, this was still being used, and the ident looked very old and tired. There was finally change in September 1988, where droplets of rain on sand formed the symbol, which was now blue on yellow instead of yellow on blue (70s idents were very blue). Further variations were introduced in the early-90s, but by now the symbol probably had the worst case of old symbol/new graphics clash (even more than Granada and HTV), and along with the colour combinations, this looked horrible, frankly. A stop was finally put to this nonsense when an all-new (if less distinctive) symbol was introduced in 1992, but at least it looked like something designed in the 90s. TyneTees1

UTV were another region that didn’t go for very fancy graphics, being known for their not very expensive-looking “telly on a stick” symbol, or a static caption. Although by September 1987 there had been an upgrade, the unusual symbol dealing with the modernisation better than most did. Variations of this were used until the big relaunch in 1993. UTV1

Yorkshire were yet another region that had barely altered their symbol since the introduction of colour, with their rather creepy and static yellow symbol. They were another region to embrace computer-generated graphics early, and in January 1987 they went all the way, putting a lot of time and effort into a new ident… this time in 3D! Several computers worked overtime to create the “Liquid Gold” ident, where the symbol appeared from a pool of gold to fly into the air. This was definitely one of the better designs, and was used on local programming well into the 90s.Yorkshire1

In conclusion, it seems that the process of all the ITV regions changing over to computer-generated idents took almost five years. Grampian were the first, in April 1985, and Border were the last, in September 1989 (although Channel remains unclear unfortunately). The biggest changes came in the Anglia, Scottish, and Thames regions.

More TV Memories – ITV In The 80s (Part 1).

One thing that I find interesting about TV presentation from the 80s is when all of the 16 ITV regions changed to using a computer-generated ident, especially had many had barely changed their look since the introduction of colour in the late-60s/early-70s. Every region did this at their own pace, with all of them eventually getting a shiny new look from around 1985 to 1989 (BBC1 had already upgraded to their “COW” symbol in February 1985). Some regions kept their familiar symbols, while some took the opportunity to launch a new image altogether.

I will determine the launch on when the main ident was changed, even if computer-generated imagery had been used in locally-shown trails before this. It also reminds me that when frontcaps were abolished at end of 1987, the function of an ident in most ITV regions wasn’t to introduce the show with an out-of-vision announcer. Also around this time, every region gradually extended their programming to 24 hours. I will review every change region-by-region. I hope that all of the dates are correct, but if anyone has any more accurate information, they are welcome to provide it. ITV1

Anglia had been using their famous “Silver Knight” symbol ever since the launch in 1959. They were clearly proud of this, but almost 30 years on, this was beginning to look very old-fashioned. Anglia were one of the last regions to introduce a new look in March 1988, and it was arguably the most extraordinary change of them all. In came the blue and yellow “flag” symbol (it took me a long time to realise the shapes of the triangles made an “A”). This was a success, and this look remained on-screen well into the late-90s, outliving all the other idents from this era. Anglia1

Border is a region that there is little known about. Although they are one of the longest-running ITV companies, they are also one of the most anonymous. There is barely anything online of their presentation, but what there is shows that their ident was a static caption with no music. And that’s it really, this was seemingly used for years on end. So they might not have received a new look until the generic ident came along in September 1989. If they hadn’t used this, they would probably have still been using that caption until about 1997. Border1

Central were one of the bigger regions, and their original mildly creepy ident was soon replaced in September 1985 by the multi-coloured symbol known as the “cake”, and hundreds of creative variations on this look were created, with some being used as late as 1998. However, the earlier symbol was used on endcaps until 1988. Central1

Channel are the smallest ITV region, and there isn’t much evidence online as to when they changed their ident unfortunately, although it was probably around September 1989, making them one of the final regions to update. It didn’t look too bad, but their “CTV” symbol wasn’t as fancy as their original “a leopard playing Blockbusters” look. Channel1

Grampian had been using their “Scottish flag” symbol since the early-70s, and it seems that they were the first region to change in April 1985. This new look was also a pioneer in the “random shapes floating through space” idea, with various spheres and triangles everywhere before forming the symbol. This was used for many years after. Grampian1

Granada were another region that didn’t do fancy things with their symbol, preferring the static caption. Although it seems they did produce a special animated ident for their 30th anniversary in May 1986, but I don’t think that was shown nationally. By the late-80s, the caption was computer-generated, and this created a problem for me. Symbols that were introduced in the late-60s/early-70s were now being reworked almost 20 years later with all shiny 3D effects on them, which was a really jarring clash of eras (see the next region for further evidence of this). Granada1

HTV Wales/HTV West both introduced their familiar “aerial” look in 1970. But 17 years on, this was beginning to look rather old. So in September 1987 a new ident was introduced, featuring shapes floating around, and then creating the symbol (which remained the same), causing another clash of eras of a design created long before there was any computer technology advanced enough to animate it, now being used with added shiny bits. This was used until 1989. HTV1

The other eight regions will be reviewed in part two.

The YouTube Files – Stars In Their Eyes unaired pilot.

Stars In Their Eyes (1989)

Being a fan of Stars In Their Eyes (well the series hosted by Leslie Crowther and Matthew Kelly, let’s not think about the later specials and the revival), I had read that there was an unaired pilot made, and I have been interested in seeing that. The good news is that this recently turned up on YouTube, so credit goes to the uploader “Copied Right”.

The pilot is rather different to the familiar format that ran for over 15 years. Firstly, the host was Chris Tarrant. Now as much as I’ve enjoyed his hosting style over the years, I’ve never really been a big fan of his game shows (beyond Who Wants To Be A Millionaire of course), although he always puts a lot of energy into them. And of course, by the time the show did come to ITV in 1990, he had gone. vlcsnap-00001

The basic idea was the same, with ordinary people being transformed into popular singers, and the studio audience deciding who the winner is. There was a different opening sequence and set design, definitely not as classy or shiny as what we’re familiar with. Chris also insisted that this was the sixth edition of the series, although I’m fairly sure there was only one pilot made. Already into the final (supposedly) was Peter the plumber as… Frank Sinatra! vlcsnap-00003

This version was half-an-hour long, and featured four contestants, instead of the usual five. When the contestants were introduced, they stood on the stage, which featured some things that were linked to their work, as if to emphasise how ordinary they were, and that will make their pop star transformation all the more remarkable (this idea was also used in the early series). Just who will they be? vlcsnap-00004

One major difference in the format is that after they announce who they will be (with the catchphrase not in place yet), they then walk over to a rack containing lots of costumes that will help them complete their look. I very much doubt that this is as spontaneous as they make it out to be though. They then go through the doors (not particularly “famous” as yet though). vlcsnap-00007

Then they return, go down some stairs, and walk over to a rather small stage to sing live. Their behind the scenes transformation probably took much longer than it seems. Then the studio audience wave banners including “We Love You, Shirley!”. After all the contestants have performed, the studio audience then vote for their favourite (again, this doesn’t look very authentic at this stage), maybe if they got a full series they would install the proper voting technology (they could’ve borrowed the keypads from Chris’s other game show Everybody’s Equal). vlcsnap-00008

The winner progresses to the grand final, and finishes the show by performing again, as lots of people gather round to offer their applause. In the pilot, the winner was Carol as Alison Moyet (not the same woman was the overall series champion in 1993 as Moyet though). Can you believe it, just a few minutes ago, she was a plain old cleaner, now she’s tonight’s winner. Sometimes, dreams really can come true. vlcsnap-00009

This pilot of Stars In Their Eyes was fascinating to watch. I wonder why Chris didn’t take part in the series, but he did have lots of other shows on the go. Little did they realise at the time that the format (with a few changes that I think were for the better, creating a much more polished show) would be popular on ITV for so many years.

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special.

Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special (ITV, 1994)

It’s time to have a look back at another Christmas special, well it’s that time of year again. This special was hosted by Matthew Kelly, who had become the new host in 1993, and left in 2004. Although Stars In Their Eyes can be classed as a game show, this special didn’t contain a competitive element, as some of the most memorable performers were invited back to go through those famous doors again and bring us some festive cheer. It was much more interesting than the endless celebrity specials the show eventually got bogged down in. vlcsnap-00092

Matthew wore a rather spectacular waistcoat even by his own standards. It was clear that this was a special occasion, as there was a live studio orchestra, who usually only appeared for the series grand final. There were also plenty of decorations around, and the studio audience had their party hats ready. You’d be seeing musical stars perform together that you’d never previously thought possible, partly because they weren’t the real singers, but you’ve probably realised that. Here’s some of the highlights. vlcsnap-00094

As we’ll see, it’s not only the singers that we are going to see on stage, because one performance includes a nativity scene. This really is going to be an exciting show, and we are then offered the unique combination of Madonna and Cilla Black, it is a shame that they never really did do an album together, I’m sure many people will think after seeing this. Matthew promised us that this will be a special with all the trimmings, and it certainly seems like it. vlcsnap-00093

Then we have a Cliff Richard impersonator with his take on “Mistletoe And Wine”, which would you believe was the biggest-selling single in the UK in 1988. This was still many years before “The Millennium Prayer” came along. Then it’s time to get ready to rock as the likes of Meat Loaf and Billy Idol take to the stage to do their thing while Elton John whips out his piano, and everybody really is in party mood now. vlcsnap-00095

How can you finish off such a special? Well you bring on Elvis, the King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, being portrayed in his young pre-hamburgers days, alongside none other than Bing Crosby. Well they don’t really make them like that any more. And then everybody gathers round at the end to say a big thank you and wish viewers a Happy New Year, as Matthew opens a big bottle of champagne and promises us that he will be back with a new series soon, which is how all specials should end. vlcsnap-00097

More TV Memories – 60 Years Of Coronation Street.

As this month is the 60th anniversary of the launch of Coronation Street there has been a lot of celebration and reminiscing, so I thought that I would take a look back at another episode. The one I have chosen was recently repeated on ITV3, and although it didn’t seem like it at the time, this was actually a rather significant episode in the history of the long-running soap as things would never be the same again.

1996 wasn’t really a great year for Coronation Street. This was a time when although the cast were rather popular, they were beginning to age somewhat, and there wasn’t really much happening. I remember commenting at the time that the episodes weren’t exactly packed with excitement. Ratings were still good but they were much lower than about a decade earlier. In November, a fourth weekly episode was added, which didn’t exactly come at a useful time. You didn’t need to be a TV Quick critic to know that this entertainment had become moribund. vlcsnap-00074

In 1997 there was a rather crucial moment in the show’s development when Brian Park became the new producer, who would go on to cause a stir by making several big changes. There were a few indications of what was to come before this when a stuntwoman… er, I mean Judy’s mum Joyce was rather randomly fatally run over by Tony, and there was also what was modestly described by Jim as “your man with the shooter”, when the McDonald family were held hostage in their own home by some gun-waving gangster, before Jim saved the day. Well we’ve all been there. vlcsnap-00079

I have decided to review the episode that was shown on ITV on 14 March 1997, as this was the last one before Park was credited as producer and tried to move with the times. Looking back, it can now be classed as the end of an era, arguably the final “old-school” episode of the show. As far as this episode goes, some ongoing stories that weren’t incredibly exciting were rather abruptly ended, as if to say “that’s boring, stop it now”. vlcsnap-00076

Firstly, Ken was dating the headmistress at his school, Mrs Jeffers. In a meeting he is told that she has resigned and “she’s already gone, and she won’t be coming back”, so that developed no further. And Claire and her daughter Becky who were living with Des suddenly pack their bags too. Becky even says “so it ends? Just like that?”, which was an seemingly unintentional comment on the situation unfolding behind the scenes. Des did that parachute jump all for nothing. vlcsnap-00080

The changes after this reminded me a little of what Matthew Bannister did to BBC Radio 1 in the mid-90s, making the decisions to remove several long-serving and popular hosts because of a much-needed modernisation, even though it was going to be difficult. A sign of Park’s ruthlessness was to quickly get rid of the character of Derek Wilton. Although he and his wife Mavis were a popular double-act with viewers, their stories of the past year or two had consisted of little more than silliness about wellies, gnomes, and budgies. vlcsnap-00078

By the end of 1997, there had been several other cast departures, and younger characters were introduced, with more “hunks” including the recasting of Nicky, and the dysfunctional Battersby family moving in. Other changes included divorces and affairs between cast members that seemed to have been determined by picking names out of a hat at random, and there’s only so many times you can drop an exploding tram on the Rovers Return. vlcsnap-00081

Park definitely did change the show, even it did begin a slow detachment from reality, which led to some people calling the following era “the serial killer years”. If The Weatherfield Recorder (which was at the centre of one of the dullest ongoing stories of the mid-80s, as it mostly consisted of Ken sat at a typewriter and fiddling with his glasses trying to think of stories) was still going, they definitely wouldn’t have any trouble filling their pages now! vlcsnap-00075

Having completed his upheaval, in 1999 Park then went off to become the producer of Channel 5’s soap Family Affairs. Although the ratings were stable, they weren’t huge, and the show was attracting little media attention. So guess what, he decided to blow up the Hart family, the centrepoint of the show since that launch a couple of years earlier, and make a fresh start. But this time it made practically no difference to the show’s fortunes. Oh dear.

Game Show Memories – The Krypton Factor first and final series comparison.

The Krypton Factor was a long-running success for ITV. I was pleased when some editions from the first series in 1977 turned up online recently, making it possible to do a comparison piece. Now before you all start, I know that the final series of the original run wasn’t in 1993, but the 18th series in 1995 was hugely different to the more familiar format, and I’d rather forget it all happened really.

Scheduling. First series. Shown on Wednesdays at 7pm, and curiously, was just about the only primetime show on ITV that didn’t have an advert break. Final series. The show was now settled at Mondays at 7pm since 1980, and I’m fairly sure that the 17th series was the first to contain an advert break.

Opening sequence. First series. There wasn’t much of one really. Just the show’s title appearing on the screen, before the contestants were introduced with captions. The futuristic-sounding music (by 1977 standards) was by Mike Moran, and used until 1982. Final series. The familiar green and red “K” symbol wasn’t introduced until as late as the 10th series in 1986. The current opening was introduced in 1992, with the contestants now introduced by voiceover, and accompanied by a remix of the theme by The Art Of Noise also introduced in 1986.tkf1

Set design. First series. Rather plain and sparse. Not much beyond the contestants’ chairs, the monitors behind them, and the very much analogue scoreboard. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of a present studio audience though. Final series. This was a show that always aimed to use the latest technology, and the studio was now very shiny and blue. It still featured the chairs and monitors. tkf2

Gordon Burns. First series. Gordon had hosted various news shows before this. They didn’t even give him a desk to sit at. Final series. Gordon hosted the first 18 series, and by this point he was even credited as being among the team who designed some of the puzzles. He went on to host further game shows including A Word In Your Ear and Relatively Speaking. tkf3

Contestants. First series. People aimed to be the United Kingdom Superperson. The champion’s trophy was an unusual metal sculpture that was able to detect pieces of kryptonite. It’s rather surprising how many computer programmers seemed to take part, even in those days. The scoring system was ten points for first place, six for second, four for third, and two for fourth. There were 11 editions with eight heats, the winners went into the two semi-finals, and the top two in those progressed to the final. Final series. They now played for a gold trophy in the shape of an athlete. The scoring system was the same, and now revealed on a computer-generated scoreboard. They also wore colour coordinated polo shirts. There were 13 editions with three groups with three heats. The heat winners and highest-scoring runner-up went into the group final, and the winners of the group finals and highest-scoring runner-up in those made the final. tkf4

Mental Agility. First series. This was occasionally played as the first of five rounds, alternating with Intelligence. Contestants put their headphones on to hear clues and had to make the right choices, or give answers in a knockout format. Final series. The first of six rounds, contestants stood on a spotlight and were asked testing questions for 40 seconds, their correct answers converted into points. tkf5

Physical Ability. First series. Round two. Contestants were given a handicap. There were various obstacles which took just over a minute to complete in sometimes rather tricky conditions. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round four. Again there were handicaps, and there were now 20 tough obstacles, including the famous water slide. Surprisingly, they still wore no protection like helmets. tkf6

Personality. First series. Round three. Contestants had to perform a script they had written on a subject given to them to camera for about 30 seconds in one take. An independent panel then voted for their favourite. Final series. This round probably not surprisingly was dropped after the first series.

Response. First series. The round didn’t feature at this stage, being introduced in 1986. Final series. Round two. The plane simulator had been used for a long time by this point, but that’s because it was determined to be the ultimate in hand/eye/foot co-ordination. Again, Gordon provided commentary. In the final, they had to land a real plane. Crikey.

Observation. First series. Round four. Contestants are shown about a minute’s worth of a film, and then they are asked three questions on what they saw and heard for two points. There was also an identity parade featuring nine people. Spot the one who was in the film for four points. Final series. Round three. They now watch a short sketch specially made for the show. There are then five questions with four options, they select their answer by pressing the button on their keypad as quick as they can. The identity parade had long gone.tkf7

Intelligence. First series. Played occasionally as round one. Contestants had to complete a logic puzzle with various shapes in about 2½ minutes before the buzzer, although this seems to be slightly deceptive, as the round was more likely edited down to 2½ minutes for TV. There was also some bleepy background music. Gordon provided commentary. Final series. Round five. The puzzle solving was the same, but there was now no time limit as such, or background music. tkf8

General Knowledge. First series. Fifth and final round. Questions on the buzzer. One point for a correct answer, one deducted for an incorrect one. There was no fixed time limit, but the round usually lasted three minutes. Every question had a link to the previous one. The camera awkwardly zoomed in as the contestant gave their answer. Final series. Sixth and final round. Still questions on the buzzer, but there was now a fixed time limit of 75 seconds, and it was two points for a correct answer, and two deducted for a wrong one. Everyone was now shown close-up too. tkf9

More TV Memories – Terrahawks.

Terrahawks (ITV, 1983-1986)

This is another one from the 80s that I don’t remember from the time, but I found out enough about the show to decide I wanted to feature it here. There are a few reasons I became interested in Terrahawks. Firstly, it’s another science-fiction show that was created by Gerry Anderson and features puppetry in a similar style to the earlier and very successful Thunderbirds.

Then there’s the scheduling. This is another one that, just like ALF and The Smurfs, only ever seemed to turn up on LWT in the afternoon when viewers least expected it. But as we’ll see there’s another reason that attracted me. Terrahawks was set in the year 2020 (!), and Earth is somewhat in trouble. Aliens including Zelda are trying to take over the world, and there are only five people who can come to the rescue. vlcsnap-01038

They were led by Dr Tiger Ninestein, and the crew also consisted of Captain Mary Falconer, Captain Kate Kestrel, Lt Hiro, and Lt Hawkeye. Between them they are able to access various vehicles including cars and planes and use the latest technology when they are needed in an emergency. Also featuring are the Zeroids, small spherical robots full of flashing lights and twinkling eyes who always have something to say about the situation. vlcsnap-01036

I’m very grateful that they saved the world of course, but this wasn’t the highlight of the show for me. Kate Kestrel took some time off from zapping aliens and also had a side career as a famous pop star. We often see her in the recording studio at the keyboard working on another guaranteed discobuster. Kate also performed concerts to excited crowds, and her hair changed colour in every episode. This is another show that unexpectedly contains a blue-haired pop star from the 80s. Well that’s great! vlcsnap-01034

Her career was on the up, with her poster on every wall, and a huge fanbase, her song “SOS” was even released as a single, and they found some woman to play Kate with bright pink hair in the video. Incredibly, it flopped. Every episode ended with the Zeroids and Cubes playing Noughts And Crosses, and there was a different outcome every time. The combination of all this is very enjoyable. vlcsnap-01031

There were 39 episodes of Terrahawks in three series. The show featured regularly in Lookin, and characters hosted CITV in October 1984. Many episodes were released on VHS in the 80s, along with a computer game and an annual. The show has been released on DVD by Network in a generous nine-disc boxset. There are a large amount of extras, including features on the special effects, some audio episodes, as PDFs of scripts and the annual.