10 Television Set Things

It is difficult to imagine a time when there wasn’t television and this Wednesday 2 November marks the 80th anniversary of the start of broadcast television. Television sets however have origins dating back to the 19th century and a tangled history of development. They’ve changed a lot over the years from chunky pieces of furniture to sleek screens and there have been some things about them that certain generations might never quite forget!
The remote!
We love our remotes (though some endlessly channel hopping people like them too much!) but consider just how people fared before they were invented. You actually had to get up out of your chair, cross the room and push a chunky button to change channel. This is why many people used to say they “only watched BBC” because they didn’t want to get up out of the seat. In the 70s people would create ingenious homemade devices to save them the mighty effort of rising from their beige sofas. Any long pole- a snooker cue perhaps or a brush handle - could be used to prod the buttons from a distance. This was in many ways the first remote. The actual first remote was attached to the set by a wire which could prove risky for Tiddles the cat if he didn’t see it or even short sighted Gran who’d be toppling over as she made for the sherry without looking where she was going.


The Great British Bake Off Final 2016

The Great British Bake Off final proved the value of the communal television experience now enhanced by social media. For all talk of on demand tv there is something to be said for everyone watching something unfold at the same time even more so if they can comment live to everyone else about it. Even this year’s twelve bakers watched it together despite knowing the result. Over all more than 14 million tuned in though anyone looking for clues about the show’s impending change of channel would have been unlucky as the final was filmed in June before anyone knew it would be the last BBC Bake Off. As for the result, unlike previous years, it was never really in doubt that steely Candice would take the crown though her reaction to the win was quite unexpected. 


My latest novel is now available!

I’m posting this though the book is not really aimed at adults (except perhaps those in the film industry, ha!) The Spectres of Winter is the third book in the Heart of the World series and can be bought from Amazon in either print or kindle ebook format. Below is a link to the pages.


Top of the Pops 29 Oct 1981

Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby.

Simon Bates, "Thursday night on BBC1. Welcome to Top of the Pops and also welcome to Clare, a movie star and a pop star with Altered Images."
Altered Images: Happy Birthday [2]. Simon Bates describes Clare Grogan as a pop stair. He also names the band Altaired Images which makes them sound like they escaped from Forbidden Planet. You'd have to be a really small-minded pedant to pick up on that kind of minor pronunciation flub. Legs & Co stand at the front of the stage and sway along, which is a surprise given that last time I described their dance to The Tweets as a swan song. Apparently I was wrong. Legs & Co are still swinging. But their days are numbered! Flick Colby is somewhere in the depths of the Acton Television Rehearsal Rooms auditioning their replacements.
Altered Images on the pop stair


The biggest threat right now is.....

All around us. I’m not talking about some apocalyptic meltdown or the often suggested idea of computers taking over and somehow getting rid of us. It is something more subtle than those scenarios, a slowly cooking stew that is gradually making our lives as they are now redundant.  Some will view this as a good thing, others as not but it is certainly a Thing that cannot be denied. Some will cite global warming, potential pandemics or war as more serious threats but these are all things we can potentially do something about. When it comes to technological development the plug will never be pulled. What we have to learn is how to live with it.


Top of the Pops 15 Oct 1981

Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby.

David Kid Jensen: "Hi there! After my being away for over a year I must say it is good to be back... But right now there's thunder in them there mountains." (John- Now Chris you're not going to mention the edit are you because....oh you are going to mention it. We'll be in trouble for this.)
Gary Glitter: And Then She Kissed Me [44]. Kid Jensen is now credited as David Kid Jensen, that time away in Atlanta working for CNN has matured him. If the introduction seems a little abrupt it's because there's something missing from this BBC4 repeat; Gary Glitter singing a song which limped to number 39. For posterity David Kid Jensen's introduction runs as follows: "Hi there! After my being away for over a year I must say it is good to be back and it's a big welcome back for Gary Glitter." (John- Before anyone moans consider the more alarming fact that GG's film is available on dvd shortly and advertised on Amazon)
Toyah: Thunder In The Mountains [5]. Toyah's not available for Top of the Pops this week. Here's a chance to see the video instead. Watch as Toyah escapes from a post-apocalyptic multi-story car park in a two wheeled horse-drawn chariot made from a cut down car. The shots of Toyah driving this thing around seem surprisingly dangerous. The chariot looks difficult to stop, and there's precious little head room for Toyah; especially with the puffed up orange fright wig look she's got going on. The rest of the video is a little more sedate although the plot is obscure. Toyah drives around on the runway of an abandoned airfield past a couple of nice looking forced perspective miniatures. Occasionally she is psychically attacked by the cruel overseer of the car park before there's some business with a gate. The video ends with her gathering troops by sending messages attached to arrows. The message being a picture of, er, an arrow. Best bit the reverse shot of the chariot, recorded as night falls, which reveals that her dangerous looking vehicle has fully working rear lights. Well, no one wants to be pulled over by the post-apocalyptic Police.
Toyah, on her way to Aldi yesterday.


My New Novel!

Although it's intended readership is young adults and children I thought I'd share the cover of my latest novel The Spectres of Winter. It's the third book in the Heart of the World series.
I'm really pleased with this cover whic has quite an impact and it was designed by Glendon Haddix who also did the covers for the previous book Living Things and the Doctor Who fan article compilation Saturday Night Monsters. I'll post a bit more on here about the story soon as I've been working alot on it this year so if there've been gaps in this blog, the book is probably why! 


Top of the Pops 1 Oct 1981

Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby.

Mike Read: "Good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops. And here's a chance for you to do something you've been wanting to do all week... dance to the Birdie Song with The Tweets."
The Tweets: Birdie Song (Birdie Dance) [7]. The lead singer - that's almost certainly not the right word- of The Tweets, the yellow one, has messed up his costume. At some point in rehearsal to avoid dying of heatstroke he pulled out the bib that goes down the front of the suit and he's left it hanging out. Shame on Jackie Southern, Costumes, and Floor Manager Tony Redstone for not picking up on this costume disaster. It's possible the pair did notice but had been driven mad by this song and didn't want to be the cause of a retake.
Godley &  Creme: Under Your Thumb [6]. Another chance to marvel at the fraught, twitchy performance by Godley -or is it Creme- who emotes like a first year drama student. If the strobe light and glass screen stage decoration seem familiar it's because they were also used on the last performance of this song; on the 17/09/1981 edition. John Coles is credited as Designer on both shows so presumably he just liked the way the set looked, but it's unusual to see such specific recycling between two different editions of Top of the Pops.