"They've Rebadged It, You Fool" and "The Scientist Replies"

  • 10/02/2007 06:29:00 am
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones
  • 4 Comments

You’ll have to excuse the lack of updates of late, but BrokenTV is now back in college. It’s a lot less like Animal House than we’d anticipated, but we can’t pull out now, or we’ll have to give our employers their £1500 back. This, coupled with our six-day-a-week full time job and ever-present endemic laziness, have unfortunately prevented us from watching much telly worth writing about.

One of the greatest injustices we’ve faced in our course was the way the marketing tutor had originally given us a distinction on a piece of coursework, only to cross that out and downgrade it to a merit. He didn’t even try and hide this from us by using Tipp-Ex, he just put a line through it. Now, we’re not especially bitter about that (no matter what anyone says about that stuff we wrote on his car), but we feel compelled to prove to the reading dozens just how that was completely wrong, and how we’re actually marketing geniuses of the very highest calibre. And all without having to take copious amounts of cocaine, too. We can literally come up with marketing campaigns in our sleep.

During a fitful night’s sleep, we’ve just had a dream. In this dream, we were watching Virgin One (the newly rebadged FTN that we haven’t actually watched yet). At the end of a programme, an ad bumper appeared. The programme was being sponsored by Scottish Widows, and as such the break bumpers featured the company’s Scottish widow. You know the one, a young attractive woman clad in billowy black silk. Not only is she one strip of cloth away from looking like a ninja, but she seems to smile quite often. Far be it from us to cast aspersions, but she doesn’t seem that bothered about being a widow. We’re not necessarily saying she’s poisoned her elderly husband just to get her hands on his large personal fortune, but we’re sure she wouldn’t be quite so cocky if Columbo got involved in the inquest, that’s all.

As you may have noticed, there are pretty much two distinct types of ad bumper. Type one is where the advertiser tries to act all chummy and witty, and get the viewer on-side, such as the woeful Nintendo bumpers for Channel Four’s comedy output (“That’s my boy.” “That’s what you think.” Oh, shit off), or the interminable VC Poker playing cops that crop up on every other digital channel. Type two is the mercifully short bumper that knows you don’t want to like it, so it just mentions a product of company then pisses off, such as the adverts for Hyundi that you see during Dexter on FX (“Hyundi. We exist. Here’s your programme”, basically). The bumpers in our dream were the second type, as advertising ‘creatives’ who come up with deliberately annoying campaigns badly need to be killed with hammers. Killed with hammers while meekly yelping the words “but annoying campaigns stick in the mind more easily so people remember the name of the… gagh”.

Bumper one.

Close up on a pair of white mice in a shoe box. One of them is in a right old state, barely able to move, struggling to drag its dying body around the box. By comparison, Mouse Two is gambolling around the box with gay mousy abandon, just so that the audience can make a clear distinction between Well Mouse and Nearly Dead Mouse. Pan out to reveal a 1950s schoolboy (grey uniform, school cap, no flickknife) holding the box looking distraught. Pan out further to reveal the Scottish Widows Scottish widow has her hand on his shoulder in a comforting manner, and is also looking into the box with a concerned impression on her face. As the sound of a gentle piano sting plays in the background, a caption politely fades onto the screen: Scottish Widows Life Insurance.

Bumper two.

Close up on the same shoe box. The poorly mouse has now passed away, its lifeless body being nudged around the box slowly by its curious former boxmate, who is quite clearly oblivious to the concept of death. Pan out to reveal a crying 1950s schoolboy. Pan out further to reveal the Scottish Widows Scottish widow is trying to comfort the boy, her look seeming to suggest that she understands what he is going through, or possibly an expression which suggests “hey, don’t look at me. I had nothing to do with this one”. This time, the soundtrack is silent, like the clock at the end of the first series of 24, and the caption merely states: Undertakers. Now, we realise that Scottish Widows wouldn’t need to mention anything to do with undertakers, but it was a dream. Dreams don’t always make sense, you know. Anyway, if these bumpers were going to be used somewhere, they could always make them for Yellow Pages instead. It could just as easily be James Nesbitt in the widow outfit hugging the child.

But that’s enough of our moderately unsettling dreams. One thing we’ve just discovered about being a student is that we’ve automatically been given access to lots of academic websites from all over the country. One of these is Bournemouth University’s TVTiP site, and is quite wonderfully a searchable database of the TV Times from 1955 to 1985. Sadly, there are no full scans on offer, save for a few tiny images of covers, but all text is fully searchable and the site is very quick to use. You can even browse the listings by day, and there’s even the option to export a whole monthly schedule to a text file.






Using the database, here are just a few of the offerings made to viewers of the Light Network during its very first fortnight on air.

Friday 23 Sep 1955, 12:10 (5 mins)
Friday's Man

Every week at this time you have an appointment with an attractive personality who will entertain you.

Friday 23 Sep 1955, 19:20 (10 mins)
Friday's Girl

In this unsophisticated, informal programme Sheila Mathews will sing three songs of varying types - bright, point, and ballad - accompanied by an ensemble of piano, bass, drum, vibraphone, electric guitar and clarinet.

Performers: Sheila Mathews, Malcolm Lockyer and his Music

[Note: The following week this was rebranded under the excellent moniker “Melody Maid”. What’s not to like? And you’ve got to admire any programme which proudly declares itself as ‘unsophisticated’. Jeremy Kyle ought to take note.]

Saturday 24 Sep 1955, 19:45 (30 mins)
Colonel March (Episode 1. Passage at Arms)

A complete half-hour mystery story featuring Colonel March of Scotland Yard, Head of the Department of Queer Complaints. A wealthy widow named Martha is murdered - and the suspects include members of the English and French teams taking part in an international fencing tournament. The climax comes in a bout between a young artist and his English friend - with Colonel March of Scotland Yard as referee.

Monday 26 Sep 1955, 12:10 (5 mins)
It's An Idea

Each week someone will tell you about a useful idea that they have had and demonstrate how to carry it out. This week Jeanne Kent shows, in the simplest way, how to make a lampshade.

Monday 26 Sep 1955, 22:20 (30 mins)
The Scientist Replies

Why do men go bald? Will there ever be a three minute mile? Will atomic power ever provide economical electrical energy? These are just some of the questions to which the scientists on this programme will have to reply during the series. Viewers wishing to find the answer to a scientific problem are invited to submit questions.

Tuesday 27 Sep 1955, 11:10 (5 mins)
Are Husbands Really Necessary

John Blythe thinks they are, but his wife has her doubts.

Wednesday 28 Sep 1955, 17:00 (15 mins)
Rumpus Point

A weekly programme featuring Keith Smith and Alan Maxwell in a quarter of an hour of slapstick fun.

Wednesday 28 Sep 1955, 20:30 (60 mins)
Cavalcade of Sport

A weekly series which will feature professional tennis, Association and Rugby football and other national sports. We begin with a salute to the leading personalities in the sporting world, gathered in the studio for the first in the "Cavalcade of Sport" series. Our cameras then go to Woolwich Stadium to watch the second half of the Rugby League match between Wigan and Huddersfield, first of a series of games for the Rugby League Television Trophy presented by Associated Rediffusion.

Saturday 1 Oct 1955, 20:15 (45 mins)
Saturday Showtime

There is only one thing that can be said with certainty about this "Goon" programme - Harry Secombe - there he is on the right - will be there to introduce a series of artistes who will compete with him in "Goonery". And "Goonery" is a word already being added to the English dictionary. It means the art of introducing the unexpected. Look in at 8.15 and expect the unexpected.

Monday 3 Oct 1955, 12:15 (15 mins)
Small Time

A special programme for the under-fives. Rolf Harris tells a story with pictures and invites his young audience to help him in drawing the pictures with their "big black crayons" and enormous pieces of paper. Jean Ford tells her own stories.

[Rolf Harris! He must have been about six years old at the time. Cripes.]

Tuesday 4 Oct 1955, 12:10 (20 mins)
5th National Fabric Fair

Today the remote cameras go to the Royal Albert Hall, London, where Margot Lovell will be examining and showing some of the new fabrics which will be in the shops in the Spring. These beautiful fabrics are eagerly awaited by the world's leading fashion buyers. In the hands of the experts this material will grace the world's best-dressed women.

Now, despite all of you probably still sniggering up your sleeves at the thought of there being a Department of Queer Complaints, there’s one thing those programmes pretty much have in common. National Fabric Fairs aside, we’re saying there’s a large possibility we’d be tuning in to see the majority of those programmes at least once, if only for curiosity value. Compare that to the ITV1 of 2007, where there isn’t even a Cavalcade of anything, and pretty much no children’s television at all, much less ones that have the word Rumpus in the title. It’s all very easy to snort derisively at being told how to make a lampshade, but come on. What’s really preferable? Rounding off the broadcast day with “And so to Bed”, where "Kay Cavendish gives you glimpses of tomorrow's programmes and bids you goodnight", or ITV Play trying to trick slow-witted people out of their child allowance?

1955 WINS.

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