More TV Memories – Ten Sharp.

Ten Sharp (ITV, 1991-1992)

Pat Sharp first became well-known when he joined BBC Radio 1 in the early-80s, and he also hosted a small number of editions of Top Of The Pops. He then went on to shows on various satellite channels including Sky Trax where he hosted endless hours of music videos, and he also interviewed a lot of the pop stars of the time, isn’t he lucky. He then hosted ITV’s music show The Roxy.

By the late-80s he had moved to Capital, where apparently he played all the hits, although how he’d ever fit every hit single there’s ever been into a three-hour show is unclear. He teamed up with his Capital colleague Mick Brown for a few singles for charity, and one of these managed to make the Top Ten. This meant that he was arguably more famous when he was on a London-only radio station then when he was a national one. And then he hosted the popular CITV show Fun House.

In the early-90s he hosted a couple of TV shows that I’m fairly sure were only shown in the LWT region. Ten Sharp (not to be confused with Ten Sharp, a Dutch group who had a Top Ten hit single in 1992) was a ten minute-long show on Saturday afternoons (in Nicam digital stereo) where he floated along in a spaceship thing in a computer-generated world called The Tunnel Of Ten and he would recommend to viewers ten things to do over the weekend. Full speed ahead!

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This included things like films to go and see at the cinema, the latest hit singles to buy, events taking place around the region, and so on. This was all accompanied by some rather funky background music (I can’t remember if this was a hit single or made for the show though). There were also some great competitions with big prizes, don’t forget that details are on Oracle page 244.

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But another reason that I remember Ten Sharp is because I’m fairly sure that a boy who was in my class at school appeared in a feature alongside a WCW wrestler (not to be confused with the WWF as it was still called at the time). How fabulous. There were also some amusing end credits, such as people being described as “Sharp Shooters” and “At The Sharp End”.

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After Ten Sharp ended, Pat went on to host Sharp’s Funday (which I have already reviewed), shown on LWT on Sunday afternoons, and featuring old episodes of Batman and WCW, along with competitions. And then Pat hosted many other TV and radio shows, including CITV’s Saturday Morning funfest What’s Up Doc. And I did this piece with referencing his hairstyle once. Oh no!

More TV Memories – Days Like These.

Days Like These (ITV, 1999)

I thought that I would have yet another entry in my “were there any decent ITV 90s sitcoms?” series, and let’s see what the story behind this one is. In the 90s, ITV had some attempts at adapting American sitcoms for a British audience. The remakes of The Golden Girls (as Brighton Belles), and Married… With Children (as Married For Life) had already done fairly badly, but this didn’t stop them from trying again, and guess what happened.

The long-running sitcom That 70s Show launched in America in 1998 (and was briefly shown in this country on Channel 5 in the early-2000s), and in 1999, ITV decided to launch their own version. Now I am not as interested in 70s pop culture as I am in 80s pop culture (the spin-off sitcom That 80s Show that I reviewed a while back was a flop compared to the original though), but I thought that I would give this one a go. vlcsnap-01634

There seemed to be more hype around this one than most sitcoms, this was going to be a fresh and funny show, which should do well with viewers. Days Like These was set in Luton in 1976 (it’s odd to think that this was almost 25 years ago even then), and centred around the lives of some very groovy teenagers, including Eric, Donna, and Jackie, along with some of their parents (one was played by Ann Bryson, who was also in 90s ITV sitcom Sometime, Never). vlcsnap-00447

Most of the episodes were reworked from the American version, and were adapted by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (who would go on to work on Peep Show and various other comedies). There didn’t seem to be too many memorable moments though, and more effort seemed to be put in to trying to fit in as many 70s clichés as possible, such as characters wearing big brown flares, and space hoppers bouncing around between scenes. I wasn’t around at the time, was it really like this for the whole decade? They should’ve concentrated on the jokes. vlcsnap-00460

ITV were initially confident that Days Like These would do well, and the earliest episodes were shown in a Friday primetime slot. And then, after vanishing from the schedule for a short while, some episodes were shown in a much later slot, it’s believed that at least three episodes were never shown at all, and there has been no DVD release either. And another flop was added to the rather long list. days0001

More TV Memories – Record Of The Year.

Record Of The Year (ITV, 1998-2005)

In the late-90s, around the time when singles sales were on the rise, and there was a rather large turnover of chart-topping singles, it was decided that at the end of the year, there should be a special programme that would determine what the public’s favourite out of all of these were. This became Record Of The Year, a special show that was shown live on ITV on Saturday Night in December, in two parts.

This was planned to be a rather prestigious occasion, and record labels were soon hoping that their acts would have a chance of being nominated. There were lots of hosts over the years, originally there was Denise Van Outen, who was followed by Ant And Dec, and then Cat Deeley, and finally Vernon Kay. In the first part, the ten singles that were nominated were featured, and most of them were performed live on stage. record0001

These songs were always at the rather mainstream end of pop music, and even if the critics never really got that excited by them, the fans definitely did. At the end of part one, the phonelines are opened, and the viewers then had the chance to vote for their favourite. And then, about an hour later, in the second part of the show, there was the big reveal. And the way that the winner was announced seemed rather familiar. vlcsnap-00434

After the votes were counted, the songs were placed into order, with the one receiving the fewest votes scoring one point, and the one with the most scoring ten. This was announced for every ITV region, with the results being read out by someone such as maybe a local news or radio host. For example, in the Carlton Central (☹) region, the results were announced by Stephen Mulhern, who has been turning up on Saturday Nights on ITV for longer than people might realise. vlcsnap-00435

This was interesting because every region had their moment, would how they voted in Border be similar to how they voted in Anglia? The highest-scoring single was announced as The Record Of The Year, and the winners all rather eagerly ran on stage to receive a big trophy, making this come across as a cross between The Brit Awards and the Eurovision Song Contest, and there were some rather close finishes. vlcsnap-00436

The winners always seemed to be either Boyzone, Westlife (who won four times), or Busted, which says a lot about the public’s tastes. I wonder how many people will remember their winning songs now. Rather curiously, in 2005, the TV show came to an end, but the award continued, now only as an online vote, and this continued until 2012 when the idea finally came to an end.

More TV Memories – Tip Top TV.

Tip Top TV (ITV, 1994)

This is the kind of show that this blog was designed to cover, as this came and went from the TV screen rather quickly, and it was also rather weird. First of all, I’m fairly sure that this was shown in the post-The Chart Show timeslot on a Saturday afternoon, and there weren’t many editions, indeed this could’ve been a one-off. I also thought that this might’ve only been shown in the LWT region, but as this was a Granada/Carlton/Central co-production, maybe it wasn’t.

Around 1993 the comedy double-act of Kid Tempo and The Ginger Prince (so-called because he had a ginger beard presumably) started out on various radio stations, and then in 1994 they hosted Tip Top TV (not to be confused with that cream that you used to put on your pudding). Tip Top stood for “Totally Integrated Panoramic Transmission Of Pop”, oh right, if you insist. vlcsnap-00426

Tip Top TV was almost presented as if it was a pirate taking over the signal (there were some cases of pirate TV stations in London a long time ago, but they are much more rare than pirate radio). This show was presented by Kid Tempo in the studio, that consisted of a big desk, and lots of women at tape recorders, while The Ginger Prince was alongside the musical acts. First up were Let Loose, who really were a big group at the time. vlcsnap-00427

Other features included The Tip Toppers (who seemed to be rather familiar to The Banana Splits), Girls Today, who did a dance routine, The Pop Gallery, and a puppet that rather enjoyed Blur (I began to get a Doobie Duck off CBBC flashback from this one), and it by was point things were beginning to resemble a rather trippy retro edition of Top Of The Pops. vlcsnap-00429

And there were also performances from hot groups Echobelly (who appeared on the cover of Melody Maker, proof that they were rather fancy), Roxette, D:Ream, and Eternal. You could even join the Tip Top club. Yes really, you could, and you would receive a membership number along with a newsletter containing everything you needed to know. Lots of people were very eager to join and spread the word. vlcsnap-00430

Tip Top TV wasn’t the end of this though. From 1995-1996, there were two series of Radio Tip Top on BBC Radio 1. This was a mixture of comedy and music, and every hour-long edition was brought to listeners by the magic of Lunewyre Technology in Total Spectrasound. This came from The Starlight Ballrooms, and their aim was to put the fizz back into pop music. vlcsnap-00432

It seems that there were also various sketches, and Britpop was mixed in with many other genres of music. I don’t remember this at the time, but there are a few editions online, and I think that it could be a good idea to take a listen to them, as there’s a chance that this could be my kind of thing. And in 1996 they released a cover of M’s “Pop Muzik”, but this wasn’t a hit. After this ended, they vanished off the scene, but they definitely had a unique approach to presenting 90s pop music.

The YouTube Files – Planet Mirth.

Planet Mirth (ITV, 1997)

This is a comedy show that I don’t remember from the time, but I was interested in seeing this one because of its premise and its cast. Planet Mirth was a late-night comedy sketch show that was described by Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy (they never did do another volume of that, did they?) as “a waste of space”. Is that harsh? Well this can’t be any worse than Dare To Believe can it.

Enough clips of this show have now turned up on YouTube for me to be able to do a review (credit goes to “tdrury”). As well as being a sketch show, Planet Mirth was science-fiction themed (and was a co-production between Carlton and The Sci-Fi Channel), with a quartet of performers, and among the cast was Milton Jones, whose work on the TV and radio I have enjoyed over the years, and this was rather early on in his career. pm3

There were a few sketches that featured regularly. These included Every Single Morning, a parody of a daytime TV show that was supposedly watched by viewers on various planets, along with four people having adventures on a space caravan holiday. There were also aliens taking part in a game of Earth Invaders, and Susan Snape, who is originally from Venus, and is still trying to adjust to how things work on Earth. vlcsnap-00018

This show was done on location, and there was no laughter track. The problem with the show wasn’t because of the cast really, but it was clear that Planet Mirth was made on a small budget, and because of its timeslot would attract few viewers. There were also plenty of writers who contributed, but somehow all of these people couldn’t create anything that amounted to much. vlcsnap-00015

But surprisingly, there was only one series, and this ran to a huge 19 editions, meaning that many of the sketches were stretched too far. If this had been only six parts, maybe everything could’ve been better. At least they bothered, as there is very little original programming on TV late at night now, and it’s always good seeing Milton do his thing, however good or bad the show is. There has been no DVD release, and there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry.

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.