Yesterday, I had a very illuminating conversation with Harry King of BBC Radio Cumbria. On Monday evenings, he presents a weekly delve into entertainment nostalgia, and wants to feature Turned Out Nice Again on his show. Which is nice.
However, in a former life, Harry was a Border Television man, producing and directing programmes like Mr & Mrs and Look Who’s Talking for the ITV network. As ITV stands now, it’s astonishing to think that two popular network shows could come from one of the smallest regional companies. Having visited Border in the early 1990s when a friend worked there and seen the size of the studio they used for quiz shows and chat shows with a live audience, it’s even more astonishing. I’ve just hoiked Television and Radio 1984 off the shelf, and it says that Border’s biggest studio was 94 square metres. At BBC Television Centre, the old N1 news studio (now TC10, used for very small, simple productions) was 111 square metres. Sadly, the Durranhill studios are not long for this world, with the Border region set to be rationalised out of existence in the digital switchover.
They were good shows too, not parochial. Look Who’s Talking regularly got top entertainment names up to Carlisle for a chat with Derek Batey. Border also made some big shows for Channel 4, not least The Groovy Fellers with Jools Holland and Rowland Rivron – which was a truly great example of what can happen when funny people are sent off to apparently random places with a camera crew in tow. Streets ahead of Paul India in Merton, certainly.
Now, just about everything studio-based ITV show is made in London, Manchester or, to a lesser degree, Leeds. Gone is Anglia’s fine tradition of drama programming and Sale of the Century. No more children’s programmes from Southern/TVS. No more That’s My Dog from Plymouth. With the BBC determined to evict as much programming as possible from Wood Lane, London, W12 8QT, it seems odd that ITV is consolidating like mad and concentrating production in a handful of expensive bits of city centre real estate, rather than building on its regional expertise.