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Month: December 2008

The New Year’s Honours List makes me wonder, as all honours list announcements do, about the relative values at work behind it. Is a lifetime of literary excellence worth the same as a few years of cycling quite fast? Even if you think Chris Hoy deserves his gong, why’s he getting it at 32, when Terry Pratchett had to wait until he was 60? And would Pratchett have had a sniff without the announcement that he’s battling Alzheimer’s? When she notched up her swimming double gold, I predicted that it’d be Dame Rebecca Adlington come December. Fortunately, a 19 year-old DBE was too much even for the honours selectors this time, so she gets the OBE – which is just about right, I’d say, but if she manages another gold in 2012, she’s a shoo-in, isn’t she? If forced to write about Kelly Holmes or Tanni Grey-Thompson, I would have to refer to ‘Dame’ Kelly and ‘Dame’ Tanni – so risible do I find their titles. So, the question is: Why do sports men and women get instant high-level gratification from the gong squad? It’s a recent thing. After Moscow 1980, Steve Ovett got an OBE, Sebastian Coe got an MBE. Coe’s later elevation was the result of his political career (political honours are a whole other can of worms, which, given time, we might well open). Does this indicate the devaluation of honours? Or am I guilty of doing a Rhodes Boyson?

There are other, subtler distinctions at play in the whole sideshow. Why is it Sir Mick Jagger, but only Robert Plant CBE? Sir Percy’s got a ring to it, no? Why is it Sir Tom Jones, but only Bruce Forsyth CBE or Ronnie Corbett OBE? Why do I care so much about this largely meaningless display of patronage? Stan Tracey had it right when he received the OBE (since upgraded to a C, but if anyone deserves an hereditary peerage for services to jazz, it’s Stan). Someone said to him that he must feel very honoured. He replied “Does it get me a discount in Sainsbury’s?”.

I’ve been watching and reading the numerous reports on the poverty-stricken abandoning their dogs with a mixture of distress and anger. It’s costing too much to feed the dogs, they claim. Bollocks. Utter bollocks. Good, healthy dry dog food – complete, not mixer – can be bought loose in pet shops for about a pound a kilo. A kilo lasts for about a fortnight in the case of my own, admittedly small, canine associate, supplemented, of course, by whatever she can get off my plate. That’s a pound for two weeks of uncritical adoration, and the distinct sense that not everything’s completely buggered. Dogs are life-enhancers, but it’s not one-way traffic. People who claim poverty need to look long and hard at their spending habits before abandoning the dog. How many of them spend a tenner a day on fags? How many complain about the price of their own food, but persist in buying pre-packaged crap and ready meals rather than buying ingredients and making it themselves?

Christmas is off to a flying start here, thanks to Gary Rodger, who alerted me to the following lines in Robin Askwith’s Wikipedia entry:

“Recently several internet sites – including the IMDB – claimed Askwith had played the lead in Oh No, Its Derek Anus, a 1972 LWT sitcom. However it has since emerged that this was an internet prank/hoax and no such TV show exists, the IMDB no longer carries a listing for Derek Anus.”

The trouble is that I now want this show to be real. It couldn’t be worse than Bottle Boys.

And so we reach the final window of the Cheeseford Virtual TV Nostalgia Advent Calendar, prising the flap open gingerly and wondering what in the name of Jesus H Cribbins we can expect to see. Oh, it’s a VT clock blackboard. How exciting. However, before you all demand refunds, let me tell you that this is the VT clock from studio A at Broadcasting House, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, now enjoying a very happy retirement. As a result, if any of you have timecoded Windmill Road windfalls of things like Vision On, Animal Magic, Jigsaw, Think of a Number, Leap in the Dark, Scoop, Take Hart, etc, this is the actual bit of blackboard that you see at the start. Not Rutland Weekend Television series 2, unfortunately, as though the shows were made in studio A at Whiteladies Road, they were given new, different clocks by the VT editors. Unfortunately, the accompanying Smiths clock became detached when studio A was taken out of commission, and is probably now in landfill somewhere under the M4.

As a special Christmas bonus, I have been alerted to the return of the ads for Mike’s Carpets to Yorkshire Television. These cheaply-made efforts, featuring a man in a roomful of synthetic rugs with something similar perched on his bonce are the kind of commercials that come to the fore in times of recession. During boom times, ITV lives high off the hog, and has no need of Mike’s advertising pound. However, when the chips are down and the Woolworths account has gone down the gurgler, the rate card goes out of the window and all money is good money, especially if it prevents ad breaks from consisting entirely of trailers for things starring Robson Green. Here’s some vintage Mike. I’m just off to record a couple of hours of YTV in the hope of catching one of the new ads. Merry Christmas to one and all.

In the penultimate window of the CVTNAC, we have a spread from a 1957 book on TV (I have no idea what it’s called, because it lost the covers and title page long before I got hold of it) about the building of the BBC Television Centre.

Having spent the majority of the weekend either recovering from a monumental hangover or trying not to emulate Rod Hull’s dying moments while attempting to capture two different satellites on the same dish (I gave up on Hotbird 13E, as there’s nothing of interest on it save for the odd Arabic test card and the surreal experience that is Tele Padre Pio – finally I managed to get the whole thing into a position where both Astra satellites came in loud and clear), we’re now playing catch-up.

So, for what would have been Saturday’s offering, have another end credit, this time from Morecambe & Wise’s 1976 Christmas show. This is, apparently, the only picture in existence of the boys with producer Ernest Maxin (the frantic pace of rehearsal and production left nary enough time for even a snapshot), and even then, Maxin is obscured. Perhaps they thought he was too handsome to share the limelight with them. Bunging this fine picture on here gives me a chance to alert your attention to the latest issue of the very fine Kettering which contains a piece by me on how video tape rescued the Christmas TV schedules, and a splendid dissertation on Sunday night ITV comedies by that nice Mr Norman, among other treats.

In Sunday’s window, we find one of the obscurer idents from the 2002-2006 BBC1 ‘Rhythm and Movement’ package, while for Monday, we return to 1993 for an edition of The Late Show about the new ITV contractors. The production credit for the programme was in the style of the idents used at the time by Carlton in London.

The 18th window of the CVTNAC springs open to reveal this floor plan of studio G at Lime Grove, the compact complex occupied by BBC Television from 1950 to 1991. Over the years, G was home to shows like Dee Time and Top of the Pops, but its rectangular shape made it less ideal for situation comedies. The first Hancock’s Half Hour TV series was made here, but the various sets had to be placed in a line along one wall, with the audience a few seats deep along the other, with a majority of audience members unable to see what was going on at any given time. It was never converted to colour and closed in the very early 1970s.

Tuesday’s Advent calendar window pops open to reveal a coaster advertising HTV’s studio and post-production facilities. The north Wales facility was reputedly very little used as news editors hated stories that were covered in Mold. Ay theng yew.