Forgotten tv – Dear Heart

8. DEAR HEART (BBC2 1982-83)

Words:Tim Worthington

In the early eighties, BBC2 made a short-lived attempt at filling the notorious scheduling wasteland between 6pm and 7pm with all manner of sophisticated teenager-slanted entertainment. Numerous high-concept dramas, sitcoms and pop music shows came and went in a flurry of cheers from the target audience and jeers from disapproving parents, but concepts never came higher than they did with bizarre comedy sketch show Dear Heart.

In a logistically ambitious gambit, Dear Heart took the form of a parody of problem pages from teenage girls' magazines, with alternately drippy, unlikely and just plain weird fictitious teenage hangups ("please help Dear Heart - you're my only hope!!") addressed by the all-knowing Super Advice Person. Punctuating all this were sketches about acne cream adverts and and rainbow-mohicaned punks disregarding Keep Off The Grass signs, and performances by real-life pop acts in 'photostory' backdrops. And, amazingly, Dear Heart wasn't the only series at the time to adopt this unusual format - Channel 4's S.W.A.L.K., which featured Prunella Scales as the advice-doling Aunt Patty and a delightfully stroppy sub-Altered Images theme song, ran pretty much in tandem with it.

In a neat bit of audience-enticing, Super Advice Person was played by post-punk popster Toyah Willcox, then in the middle of a run of massive chart hits but also one of a baffling wave of 'they can also act a bit' punk rockers (see also Adam Ant and, erm, Sting) that emerged around that time. Also involved at various points were Trevor Laird, Colin Jeavons and Bob Goody, then well known to younger viewers for his stint as Mel Smith's comedy partner in anarchic literacy-promoting ITV children's sitcom Smith & Goody.

Dear Heart was, to all intents and purposes, an attempt to give those troublesome youngsters their own legitimate equivalent to The Young Ones, Not The Nine O'Clock News, and all those other late-night BBC2 comedy shows they weren't supposed to be watching. As a result, it tended to feature (actually relatively tame) 'outrageous' material that provoked many an irate letter to Points Of View. It also, despite spending most of its time sending up the latest trends, took a very fashion-conscious post-New Wave/New Romantic approach, from the endless use of 'neon'-style video effects to the Jona Lewie-esque vocoder-heavy synth-pop theme song.

Said theme song was released as a now very collectable single by BBC Records, backed by cast member Nicky Croydon singing Full Colour Guy, and there was even a tie-in spoof magazine at one point, but Dear Heart was to prove just as ephemeral as the fads and fashions it so mercilessly mocked. Super Advice Person's thoughts on how to stay remembered by the general public are, sadly, not recorded.

Next Time: Comedy's Next Big Thing that wasn't...

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