The funniest thing on tv this year since Peter Pan Went Wrong! Mischief Theatre have tapped a rich vein with their anarchic take on theatrical traditions and this translates well into the television environment too. Here a Derek Jacobi fronted version of the festive classic is hijacked by the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society in their usual manner. The result is pure fun which unlike a lot of modern humour does not try to poke fun at the text rather at the production process. So while the story more or less follows the familiar route it’s safe to say you won’t have seen an interpretation quite like this one!
9 Dec 1982. Watched by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "Welcome to BBC1 on a Thursday night for an action packed Top of the Pops. We've got Shalamar to kick off with, over here at number 19 with Friends."
 Shalamar: Friends. Top of the Pops must have some money left over from the budget because this performance uses both dry ice and smoke. Unsurprisingly the effect is to gradually obscure the studio while Shalamar do their best to penetrate the fug. Shalamar singer Howard Hewett is wearing a smart Darth Vader t-shirt, and seems to be going for a Han Solo look in general with a holster slung low on one thigh. Watch out in the background -at least until it's obscured- for the bloke wearing the same white slit top as the lead singer from Blue Zoo a few weeks ago. It's possible that it is the lead singer from Blue Zoo. Damn this fog.
|Shalamar wonder if the buses will still be running in this fog|
For about 45 of these 60 minutes `Twice Upon A Time` only occasionally sparks. The scenario is rather thin, the gags slightly laboured, the visuals a vague mashup of familiar looking things. For something shown at the heart of Christmas Day there is a distinct lack of fun. The performances are excellent but it feels as if the actors are doing their best with flimsy material. Then the final segment delivers the sort of emotion, hope and symbolism we might expect from something as momentous as a Doctor’s finale topped off by one of those to -be -treasured Peter Capaldi speeches. And then a new Doctor! Hopefully people stayed watching that long…
Unless a franchise is refreshed every so often it will become stale and, great though The Force Awakens was, even its biggest supporter would surely agree that the film was something of a greatest hits package. A better indication of how to develop Star Wars for a new generation lay in the standalone Rogue One which added a satisfying edge to this normally airbrushed universe. While The Last Jedi doesn’t quite go that far it is a refreshing take with director / writer Rian Johnson adding splashes of contemporary narrative and a visual palette that is far more inventive than any film in the series. The results appear to have upset some fans but for the less committed this is a strong film that in taking risks rewards viewers with something that feels different.
Warning- Major spoilers in the rest of this review
18 Nov 1982
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "You can call me an old silly if you like but I think this is the best line up for Top of the Pops we've had for a very long time indeed. Laughter and melody and lots of good clean fun. Here are Modern Romance".
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "You can call me an old silly if you like but I think this is the best line up for Top of the Pops we've had for a very long time indeed. Laughter and melody and lots of good clean fun. Here are Modern Romance".
 Modern Romance: Best Years Of Our Lives. Modern Romance are in their pomp. Six of their eight songs have started Top of the Pops since they first appeared in September 1981. There were other, bigger, and better groups but no one else was so clearly favoured by the show. Watching Modern Romance perform Best Years Of Our Lives you can see why. It's sets the mood of the programme; fast paced, energetic, and a chance for the crowd to cut loose and show they're all having the best possible time. I just wish I liked Modern Romance. How do all their songs manage to be both bland and earworms?
|"Hey mate, R2D2's behind you!"|
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for that thing I did that time, you know the thing I mean. There are no excuses for that sort of behaviour except to say that I had spent the previous half hour being chased by a moose. But that’s no excuse. Apologising has become a Thing. From celebrities being caught doing or saying something they shouldn’t to entire nations atoning for events that may be centuries old, a good sincere apology seems to be required. It’s now as much a part of the public relations choreography as smiling to photographers at film premieres. However does it really mean anything? Isn’t it just a tactical move to try and draw a line under something uncomfortable?
Now released in yet another different format, `Shada` has always attracted more attention than it really deserves due to its status as a half made story and the fact it came from the pen of Douglas Adams. Those who’ve already seen it in the several different releases its had previously will be aware however that large parts of the story are not really Adams operating at his best. Those who haven’t may find this definitive partly animated version heavy going. Despite Adams’ babble of great ideas the overall narrative is extremely laborious, some of the acting is as arch as any of this story’s season bedfellows and the end result is somewhat lacking in energy.
Season 15@40 I remember when this was first broadcast finding it uninteresting and too wordy because of course I wanted monsters and action and had no knowledge of taxes so somehow the narrative of the first couple of episodes just never connected with me .Forty years on I find `The Sunmakers` much more interesting as a tax payer and also oddly prescient in terms of writer Robert Holmes’ depiction of a society where additional taxation is used as the answer to everything. In 1977 with a Labour government of course this was probably the order of the day yet now both main political parties tend to use it as a way of getting out of the mess they themselves have made. `The Sunmakers`, despite its grandiose title, is not really that interested in science fiction ideas rather Holmes concerns himself with government and society. In fact save for a few passing references the six Suns that have been made to transform Pluto’s environment are ignored.
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David Jensen: "Good evening. It's my turn to introduce you to the big musical numbers and this week we kick off with Blue Zoo and Cry Boy Cry."
 Blue Zoo: Cry Boy Cry: We've skipped a show presented by Mike Smith (for boring rights reasons rather than anything salacious) and so there's a degree of repetition between this edition and the last one repeated on BBC4. Blue Zoo have been promoted to the top of the show slot. The lead singer is wearing his split top again (it looks draughty) but he's lost the red tabard which covered it last time. The hat-wearing guitarist is still doing his own complicated private dance routine but he's left his hat at home. Apparently he was given a choice and preferred the dance over the hat.
 Dionne Warwick: Heartbreaker. A second song from the 28/10/17 edition. Dionne Warwich, unlike Blue Zoo, doesn't do return engagements and so she appears in repeated footage. (John- But does she have the tabard and the hat?)
Teen Peaks! This is a strangely absorbing series even if it often strays into very familiar territory. The drive takes the first season through a series of curveballs and false starts while refining characters in a believable way contradictions and all. You’re never quite sure of the intent. There are times when it skews so close to cliché that you wonder if its all an elaborate spoof. Other times the turn of the plot results in something dramatic, exciting or delightfully barmy! Plus it has an all night diner- who doesn't love an all night diner! One thing is certain- it will keep you watching.
Nutritionists and health experts hate them, people love them and there’s even a song about them. Chicken nuggets or `nugs` as those in the know call them are breaded or battered chicken pieces which are deep fried- usually in vegetable oil these days. A lot of people imagine it was MacDonalds who invented what they call McNuggets in their usual McWay. In fact Nugs were invented back in the 1950s and it wasn’t until 1980 that McDonalds launched their McVersion. In fact Nugs were the creation of Robert C Baker, a food scientist working at Cornell University.
Watched by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "Hello. It's Halloween night on Top of the Pops so we've got a party here. Why not join us? Here's three ladies from New York called Raw Silk and Do It To The Music."
In 1982 Halloween fell a mere three days from the traditional Thursday night slot of Top of the Pops. What better excuse for a zany Halloween themed show? Producer Brian Whitehouse sets the tone by having Simon Bates burst out of a sarcophagus. It takes two people to open the sarcophagus for him and the process startles a woman dressed in white who jumps as the disc jockey emerges. Evidentially she was expecting someone else. (John- Or she was amazed that an ancient Egyptian King looked exactly like Simon Bates!)
 Raw Silk: Do It To The Music. The audience are dressed as witches, and ghoulies, and draculas. It's bonkers! One audience member is carrying 1982's must-have accessory, a cardboard werewolf on a stick. Several members of the audience are dressed in long flapping white sheets as ghosts. This is a bad idea in a space filled with trip hazards and swooping camera's bristling with bits to snag loose fabric. Simon Bates' open sarcophagus (not a sentence I expected to write this year) can be seen rocking backwards and forwards behind Raw Silk as it's jostled by the dancing crowd. It looks disturbingly like someone is trapped within and trying to escape. Which is at least appropriate for Halloween.
One of the main aspirations a lot of people apparently have today is to become famous. Sometimes they’re not even sure what they would like to be famous for just that they covet the idea of celebrity and it’s no wonder. We celebrate celebrity like never before but it is a double edged sword for those we deem to have reached that plateau. Yes you can become famous for not very much these days but if you put one step out of line, if you Tweet something controversial or even worse do something controversial you will find your platform of celebrity whisked from underneath you by a welter of public outrage. That coupled with people’s generally lower attention span and desire for new things means that for many celebs- especially those without any discernible talent other than their personality- the journey is swift, the rise meteoric, the fall brutal.
|The 2017 I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here stars: Does anyone know them all though?|
Considering all the flak Justice League had had hurled towards it my expectations were fairly low however while far from perfect this is an enjoyable enough big budget movie best seen in a cinema. It still seems far too soon for these avengers to assemble when only one of them has had their own film but given those limitations the results are better than expected with some interesting script ideas and well delivered action.
Spoilers past this point
It’s about the BBC but really W1A’s pin sharp observations of corporate behaviour would fit many a business. Set mostly in the bizarrely colourful New Broadcasting House which is replete with gaudy impractical furniture and rooms named after television icons, the series follows the travails of Ian Fletcher the BBC’s head of Values as he tries – in the benignly careworn manner only Hugh Bonneville is so skilled at conveying – to steady the accident prone Corporation through the choppy waters of a landscape it is ill suited to exist in. There is a lot of truth in the narrative of the show if you choose to notice but it is also gloriously funny.
Watched by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hello! Welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops! We've got Toyah! We've got Bauhaus! We've got Kool And The Gang! And we've got a new number one! But for openers it's The Piranhas and Zambezi!"
 The Piranhas: Zambezi. Top of the Pops is in full wacky party mode tonight. Check out the audience cheerleader dressed early for Halloween as a skeleton. The Piranhas are keen to join in for their first studio appearance in two years. Lead singer Bob Grover is dressed as Dennis the Menace, complete with a copy of The Beano sticking out of his pocket. The backing singers are done up as school girls. And the drummer is wearing a magnificent colourful budgie costume, lovely plumage. It puts to shame the lousy dead-eyed efforts The Tweets wore in 1981. (John- Brilliantly the lyrics include the line “Zambezi, Zambezi, Zambezi, Zam.”)
Well I’m not sure I get the new one actually. So child imagines monster under the bed, then becomes friends with it, then imagines he’s going to get it for Xmas and then gets something else and he’s fine with that. Mmm, its not a patch on that penguin one nor as playful as last year’s bouncing dog one. I sense a sixth album syndrome kicking in where expectation outweighs anything that anyone could possibly produce. I can also visualise a more surreal version where it turns out that this is all in the head of the monster and the last frame is of him opening a present in which there is a model of the child. Or is that too creepy for Xmas?
Watched by Chris Arnsby. 23/09/1982
John Peel: " Hello millions of humble admirers and welcome to another Top of the Pops. We've got a lot of treats for you, one rather a special treat. David Christie doesn't sound like a very French name, but French he is, here he is at number nine."
 David Christie: Saddle Up. The director (this week it's Brian Whitehouse again) has worked out a kind of walk-down routine for some of the Top of the Pops cheerleaders. At the start of the show they stand adoringly around John Peel and then as the camera pulls back they follow it and dance down to where David Christie has been set up on a podium. The move has a theatrical look that seems a little too stylised for Top of the Pops. Still, it's a very swish camera move. The crane pulls back and around David Christie to give us a wide shot of the studio. Eric Wallis is on Lighting, and he gives us a studio filled with pools of light and shadow. It looks great. Unfortunately someone has positioned the Zoo dancers (wearing skimpy cowboy outfits, natch) in shadow so their efforts go largely unseen.
 Fat Larry's Band: Zoom. Fat Larry has been hitting the rhyming dictionary hard. Boom/moon (a bit of a cheat). Rang/sang. Away/play. But wait. What's this? Bloom/wonderland. Why that doesn't rhyme a bit. Luckily the next line is whack/back and the natural order of things is restored. Wikipedia tells me this song was featured in the 1982 Only Fools And Horses Christmas special Diamonds Are For Heather, which would probably have started production around the time this episode aired. Someone is playing around with the caption generator at the end of the song. They've rigged the band name to appear vertically one word at a time with each word a different line; each word is also repeated horizontally across the screen. Unfortunately this means the first thing to appear is FAT FAT FAT FAT FAT.....
The previous two Thor films struggled to match their Marvel contemporaries seeming over reliant on eye popping CGI effects and mythological gobbledegook while being somewhat portentous. They were great to watch on a big screen once but didn’t leave much of a deep impression afterwards. This third outing lightens the mood considerably bringing fun into the franchise and hurling our hero into fresh territory. The dialogue is zingy and packed with amusing asides meaning the film is never at risk of taking itself too seriously. This all does mean it is somewhat similar to Guardians of the Galaxy but that’s a good thing right?
Spoilers beyond this point
There’s nothing worse than winners taking every opportunity to take a pot shot at the losing side but the levels of abuse handed out to anyone who publicly now expresses views supporting anything less than the hardest possible Brexit says more about the abusers than their target. The number of times over the past 16 months I’ve seen the term `Remoaner` tiredly dragged out yet again makes me feel these people don’t understand at all what happened. Yes we had a referendum in which the side wanting to leave the EU won though not by a massive margin. That’s all it was. There was nothing in that referendum question about the nature or speed of our exit. In fact it was only because David Cameron was foolish enough to state he would abide by the outcome that we were more or less forced to trigger our departure so soon. Now we have triggered it there is a process in motion which doesn’t seem to be quite exciting enough for some Leavers. Did they think we’d be leaving the week after the referendum or something?
A few decades back this time of year in the UK was all about Bonfire Night. People would attend large fireworks displays where there would also be a huge bonfire. Local inhabitants would have been piling up unwanted furniture and other items to burn for weeks and would gather in large crowds to watch. The sky was alight with fireworks of all sorts. Often people had their own bonfires or would buy fireworks and set them off. Millions walked around with sparklers and the media was full of warnings about the dangers of fireworks. Halloween was there of course but it was comparatively minor by comparison and seen mainly as an American thing we saw in films where people donned costumes and embarked on trick or treat trips. Now things are different and while Bonfire Night is less significant Halloween has become a huge event.
You know how there are tv programmes that generate enormous attention like Game of Thrones or Line of Duty? Well there are far more that don’t and it is these that fill up the scheduled tv channels and lie dormant on demand somewhere. So here’s just ten of the hundreds of these programmes that most people don’t watch….
Money for Nothing
Not a Dire Straits bio-drama, this afternoon show sees the extraordinarily chirpy Sarah Moore bothering people who’ve gone to the local tip to chuck out things they don’t want. Just as they are breathing a sigh of relief that their flea ridden sofa is finally gone from their lives along she trots to take it from them. She and a seemingly limitless team of craftspeople will then transform the item into something that looks brand new. So you end up with lamps made of old pipes, a cabinet made out of chairs or a helicopter carved out of a desk. Narrated drolly by Arthur Smith, we see the priceless expressions as Sarah arrives at the den where such craftspeople hide out with something faded, rusted or dull and tells them her plan. Amazingly these items usually sell and in the oddest part of the concept, she goes back to the person who was chucking them out to give them the profits. Thus they have money for nothing.
|Money For Nothing: In two days time this will be a car.|
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hello everybody! Welcome to another party! It's Top of the Pops! We've got Gillan, we've got Dire Straits, we've got... Shalamar, and we've got Shakin' Stevens! But for starters we've got one Evelyn King and Love Come Down!"
 Evelyn King: Love Come Down. "Baby you make my love come down." Is this really a good thing? The song is upbeat, and down is a negative word. It seems to work against the intent of the lyrics. Then again I'm aware that the lyrics are also meant to work as a low level innuendo (about 3.7 on the Croft-Lloyd scale, say equivalent of Lieutenant Gruber inviting Rene into the back of his little tank) with the word love acting as a synonym for something else (use your imagination). So changing the chorus to "love rise up" wouldn't necessarily work and might also accidentally make people think of being sick.
A clever, genre hopping 2016 film that refuses to settle into the pattern you expect it to. Refreshingly dark with splashes of black humour, interesting mis-directions planted in the narrative and an utterly surprising ending. In the small town of wonderfully named teenager John Wayne Cleaver has been diagnosed as a sociopath with homicidal tendencies and a morbid interest in death, not entirely unexpected as his mum works in a mortuary and he even helps out. So when a serial killer seems to be stalking the increasingly terrified inhabitants, John’s interest soon stretches beyond the normal response into a strange fascination with the processes the killer seems to be using.
Spoilers past this point..
A film that steps back from the frenetic pace of most modern blockbusters Blade Runner 2049 is both a satisfying sequel to a classic yet also a strong movie in its own right. I would caution that it’s probably not for those who find sci-fi films slow because its runtime of two hours 43 minutes will test the attention span of the uncommitted. However if you do go with it you’ll find it to be an absorbing and surprisingly human glimpse into an alternative future.
Spoilers beyond this point
Violin instead of guitar, two titles and covers, songs about lizards, nuns, yellow fever and the cat’s eye! Welcome to Van Der Graaf’s 1977 gem `The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome`
Back in the days of record fairs, I discovered an album that looked a bit different. It had two titles and two covers one of which was unsettling because the sweaty violinist with the scowl was given centre stage as if he were very important. It turns out to be because the album has no guitar and is instead largely led by the sound of an often aggressive violin. Fluid bass and drums up front in the mix and the thick, dramatic vocals of Peter Hammill weaving in and out. By the time I bought a copy it was already more a decade or more old and someone had clearly had enough of it as it was an bizarre album to find in the sort of sales that normally house greatest hits.
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "Hello there. In our line-up tonight we have Haircut 100, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, and many, many more. But we kick off with Modern Romance with the original golden horn of the legendary Eddie Calvert performing Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White."
 Modern Romance: Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. Modern Romance present more music for wine bars. The bass and percussion remind me of the song Christmas In Heaven from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I looked up Eddie Calvert on Wikipedia. He's a 1950's English trumpeter. Eddie Calvert led me to the Wikipedia page for the song Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, which led to the page for Modern Romance, which led to led to the page for John Du Prez (he's the bloke playing the trumpet), which by one of those odd coincidences led to the page for 1983's The Meaning of Life. It turns out John Du Prez scored the film with Eric Idle but that work didn't include Christmas In Heaven. Who'd have thunk it?
I really like this film which is fun, irreverent and at times over the top but I wish it had just been a bit shorter and slightly less scattershot. It begins in terrific fashion with a sequence based around a taxi that is as thrilling as anything in a Bond movie. It would be enough for the climax of a film yet is only the beginning setting the tone for what is a whirlwind of action, gadgets, kinetic peril and mayhem.
A recent report reckoned that the UK is near saturation point when it comes to coffee shops. Short of opening one on every corner and despite the fact that they always seem to be crowded, the theory is we won’t need any more within three years. However this means that the sector will have to evolve. They could get bigger- how long before they start calling them Coffee Hubs? Just as some fast food outlets have hundreds of seats, perhaps some coffee shops will grow in a similar way.
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby: John Peel: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops. Who's sold out then? To start the programme yet another one of those ensembles that has a funny foreign name."
 Toto Coelo: I Eat Cannibals. Toto Coelo -or, if you are more cynical, someone in Toto Coelo's record company- has done a lot of thinking about how to look good on Top of the Pops. The group is distinctively dressed in multi-coloured bin bags, and they've worked out a dance routine which works well on camera. There's a lot of hip-swaying and stamping on the spot but not too much moving around which allows for shots to be well framed, and makes life much easier for Vision Mixer Carol Abbot when she wants to cut between cameras. Toto Coelo's second and last Top of the Pops appearance is available on YouTube (it's embargoed on BBC4, D*v* L** Tr*v*s), along with the official video, and it turns out Toto Coelo only have one dance routine for this song. This reminds me of The Brotherhood of Man who also used to devise one cringy routine per song and then plod through it on multiple Top of the Pops (sample example: Angelo, where the band assumed Flamenco-like positions while singing the ANGELO! bit of their cheery song about teen suicide). It should be noted that I Eat Cannibals is infinitely more fun than anything by The Brotherhood of Man. Toto Coelo won't be seen again. Their follow-up single Dracula's Tango (Sucker For Your Love) reached 54 in the chart. This is something of a relief for me as I'm finding their name very hard to type. My fingers keep rendering it as Toto Coleo. Oddly enough The Brotherhood of Man gives me the same problem; it keeps coming out as The Brotherhood of Mann.
|Toto Coelo fail to spell their name|
We’ve all heard of football but what is futsal? I was thinking that it was just a word for football in another language but it turns out to be a different sport altogether. By no means new it seems to be increasing in popularity yet there are a lot of people who’ve never heard of it. The word roughly translates from Spanish as “mini football” and is played mostly indoors on a hard pitch or court that is smaller than a football pitch. It has been growing in popularity since many top name footballers credit futsal with helping them develop playing skills.
|Futsal in full effect|
You might think online shopping is newish but in fact it was predicted 46 years ago by Peter Fairley who was the science editor for ITV’s version of `Radio Times` which was called `TV Times`. He didn’t call it online shopping of course but he did pen the article when many were lamenting the demise of small family shops as supermarkets started to take over. What he describes may sound a bit odd but essentially he is talking- in 1971- about what a lot of us do now which is order shopping in a device from the comfort of our homes.
|"Now what's trending on Twitter?"|
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "Live from the Television Centre in London welcome to another Top of the Pops and we have a tremendous line-up of live acts for you tonight kicking off with Madness at number four with Driving In My Car."
 Madness: Driving In My Car. If you asked someone to describe an idealised Madness performance it would resemble this one. There's staccato dancing, loads of mucking around with props -a ventriloquist dummy, a skeleton used for percussion, a Policeman with a blue light on his hat, playing two saxophones at once- and a general sense that the song is considerably less important than having fun. There's also a dirty great car parked in the middle of the main studio performance area. How are Cecila Brereton and her army of scene shifters going to cope with that in a live programme? The answer is disappointingly simple, you can spot the moment Suggs releases the handbrake and then the boys push the Maddiemobile out of the studio. Only one question remains, what happens to the hat with the blue light on it? It disappears without a trace during a change of camera.
There’s a survey for me to find out how posh my school was posted a couple of years ago somewhere and still zooming around online like a speedster. My alma mater scored a mere 28 out of 50 which is sort of half posh. Of course poshness does have different connotations depending on whereabouts in the UK you live. In Liverpool being posh is using a knife and a fork (ha- just kidding scousers) whereas in Surrey it involves someone specifically employed to cut up your carrots with gold plated knives. Anyhow I thought I’d examine some of the criteria this survey associates with posh schools and see how it fits in with my experiences.You have to tick off the things your school had and there’s a nice picture for those people who don’t know what they are because you can be posh and simple of course. Here we go then-
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Hello gang. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Terrific show lined up for you tonight, lots and lots of fab artists starting off with Dexy's Midnight Runners and Come On Eileen."
 Dexy's Midnight Runners: Come On Eileen. Where's Mike Read been? He last presented Top of the Pops in February. Why is Kevin Rowland the only person allowed to wear a shirt under his denim dungarees? How repulsed are the audience that Dexy's Midnight Runners are performing with no shoes and the raised stage places their stinking feet at face level? So many questions with no answer.
 Yazoo: Don't Go. An endearingly bonkers video in which Vince Clarke (and his stupid hair) makes a Frankenstein, and then dresses up as Dracula to menace Alison Moyet. The relevance of all this to song is tenuous but it looks like everyone is having a great time raiding the dressing-up box.
When is a Toblerone not a Toblerone? That is the question currently being asked as the makers of the world’s most impractical but apparently "legendary" chocolate bar launch court action against budget store Poundland’s proposed if rather inaccurately named Twin Peaks (I counted twenty peaks on it). Will David Lynch also sue them for using the name of his soporific tv series?
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "Hello and welcome to the party. It's studio eight at Television Centre with a live Top of the Pops. A great 35 minutes. And to kick us off, The Belle Stars and the Clapping Song."
 The Belle Stars: The Clapping Song. Simon Bates? Presenting a live Top of the Pops? I might doubt his ability but BBC Genome proves me wrong. It turns out he's quietly become Top of the Pops' backup live TV guy. The first eighties edition broadcast live (or at least the first one flagged in the Radio Times) was the 900th edition of Top of the Pops shown on 09/07/1981. Peter Powell had a go next in September, before David "Kid" Jensen arrived back from CNN and handled the Christmas Eve edition and the first of the next cycle of live editions on 04/03/1982. Simon Bates follows with one on 11/03/1982. The pair then alternate as presenters and live shows settle into a pattern of one each month. Away from the dizzy whirl of Top of the Pops Simon Bates also shares presenting duties with Gloria Hunniford on a late night BBC1 show called Saturday Live (that's original) which ran for six weeks across the summer of 1982. Thanks for that BBC Genome. That's really helpful. I only have one last question; why did you also flag episode one of Fanny By Gaslight (24/09/1981 Fanny fans) in my list of Simon Bates search results? Meanwhile, on stage The Belle Stars do a really good job of getting this edition of Top of the Pops started.
|BBC dressing rooms were not large.|
I never laughed at television as a kid as much as I did when Bruce Forsyth was doing The Generation Game, at least that’s what my mum tells me. She could hear me and my brother laughing away each Saturday evening and I remember that programme too. A basically silly idea of getting adults to do awkward though not impossible tasks would have been amusing enough on its own but with Brucie hosting it was brilliant. What you can see now as an adult is his ability to communicate with members of the public, a rarer gift than you might think- how many politicians would love to have that at their command? Brucie did it by never mocking or belittling contestants, rather he laughed with them, commented on what they were doing and pulled an expression that made you smile. What I never knew then was the extraordinary career he’d already had before the show, a career that lasted for seven decades.
Its funny how things come round. Back in the Seventies of course Mum looked after us. Now in the past five years I’ve been increasingly looking after her and Brucie was back in our lives again on Saturday nights. Now I don’t know much about ballroom dancing but do you know what, Brucie made Strictly Come Dancing a great show, still in command, still showing his skills. Sometimes he’d even tap dance, in his mid 80s.
He seems to have been with many generations, going right back to his early successes in the Fifties and then post Generation Game, those shows like Play Your Cards Right which I’ve never seen but know the catchphrases for anyway. Brucie was always a bonus whatever show he was on, the last of the great all rounders. Nice to see him? It was brilliant to see him!