"A Comedic Misinterpretation Adventure Playground" (TVTimes Icons III: Back In Training)

  • 2/10/2009 08:13:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

To the undoubted chagrin of at at least 80% of BrokenTV's audience, it's time for the third part of our 768 part series taking a look at programme genre icons from 1970s copies of TV Times. We can assure you, the remaining 20% of the audience all fall within our target demographic of embittered ident fetishists, and this is the sort of thing they really go for, so we're determined to carry this on for as long as possible. To the naysayers, we can assure you that today's offering is almost certainly going to convert you to the cause. If not, there's a splendid bit of YouTube clippery at the end, so stay tuned.

With eternal thanks to TV Cream's Steve Williams* (who we notice Amazon haven't listed as co-author on the paperwork edition of the book he co-authored, for some reason. You should go and buy The Encyclopedia of Classic Saturday Night Telly from Alibris instead), we've got some more TV Times genre icons for you. Due to the way our brains are like a gigantic Excel 2007 spreadsheet (the 2007 version because it's got a really annoying interface and it keeps crashing when we try to make it do anything interesting), we've been compelled to rank them in ascending order, as per usual. There are only three of them, but they're all really good. All killer, no filler, if you will.

(*And his mate Alex's scanner.)

3. Political Discourse With Posh Men In Fusty Suits Hour

This is like a comedic misinterpretation adventure playground! While the chap in the middle is speaking, it looks like the bloke on the left is yawning. Meanwhile, it certainly looks like the fellow on the right has taken out a bottle of Teachers in a brown paper bag, and is about to neck it. Man, that must be one dull speech on overseas affairs (or energy). On closer inspection, it's clear that the fellow on the right is meant to be clapping the speech on energy (or overseas affairs) enthusiastically, but the bloke on the left only has one hand visible, so he's clearly not applauding. The smaller grey blob is undoubtedly his tie, after all. Is he gasping with Conservative astonishment at the controversial approach to North Sea oil being proposed by the speaker?

Alternatively, have we missed out at the clever political nature of the icon? The man on the left is also on the political left, and as such is taken aback by the right-wing policy being advocated by the speaker. The man on the right, is (as you've guessed) taking the opposite approach, and is lapping up the "unlimited free biscuits for South African PM Balthazar Johannes Vorster" proposal. The clever thing about this approach is that one week later, as the Labour Party Conference swings into Blackpool, the icon can simply be reversed, meaning the clever political subtext remains intact. Why, it's almost as if the position of TVTimes Icon Bloke (a position we're now prepared to liken to the rota of Top Gear Stigs) was being filled this week by a young R. Bremner.

2. Big Coat Man Wallop / Semi Realistic Depiction Hour

Whoa! A revelation in TVT Iconography, as Icon Bloke pulls out several stops. A parked police car - good. One little icon bloke walloping another one in the face - brilliant. An actual attempt at drawing an actual character from the specific programme in question: off the chuffing scale. It's like when a band brings out a Greatest Hits set, and they've tacked on a 'new single' as the final track so that the fans who've already got all the other albums will go out and buy it, only against all logic the new track is really, really good. That's what is going on here. If this icon was an album, it'd be Pet Shop Boys' Discography, and the John Thaw sketch would be new track 'Was It Worth It?'. So, was this worth it? Undoubtedly. Today's third icon must certainly be going some to top this.

1. The Really Quite Disturbing News

Re-sult! What the ruddiest of hells is going on here, then? It's the news, but not as we've seen it before. The newsreader in the centre is absolutely textbook. Leave him there on his own, with lashings of white space either side, and it's job done. It's the news. That would positively scream "commentators and camera teams on-the-spot bring you the latest reports". But no, icon bloke won't rest on his laurels like that. He won the Rose d'Or (Programme Icon category) in 1975 and 1976, and he can do what he damn well likes. And if he wants to include four people of mixed ethnicity waving at the camera during a news report, he's damn well going to include four people of mixed ethnicity waving at the camera during a news report, no matter what Dave Lanning might say about it in the canteen. "He's losing it Lesley, have you seen his latest graphic for the 5.5 ITN News?" Screw you, Lanning! Golden Roses in 1975 and 1976... and that silver in 1973.

Quite what the intention here is, we're almost frightened to speculate. We're too young to remember any ITN broadcasts from around this time, so maybe ITN policy at the time actually did include a bunch of people waving at the viewer, so as to distract them from the antics of the Provisional IRA, Donald Neilson, Postmaster General John Stonehouse and Princess Margaret. Or maybe it was to try and deflect attention from the fact the full title of the programme is "Independent Television News News". Possibly on-the-scene reporters ended each report with a cheery wave, so pleased were they at not being just a photograph of a person on the phone next to a map, and this is reflected here. It could even be that ITN's relaxed security often allowed the newsreader's mates from the pub to wander on set at the end of the late bulletins. That certainly sounds like something the modern-day ITV News could re-introduce in order to boost audiences. Let's face it, it wouldn't be any more appalling than concentrating largely on the feelings of grieving family members, like they do now. "So, you've just witnessed your entire family splatting fierily into the tarmac of a runway. How do you feel?" It's quite lucky there isn't an icon bloke at TVTimes these days. It could even be that a sort of "Lesbians Invade The Six O'Clock News" thing is going on, but by people who are just really pleased to get on telly.

In summary: staggering. That makes up three different icons for the ITN News for the three times we've seen them used. It's almost as if Icon Bloke has got one eye on the 2009 eBay second-hand copy of TVTimes from the late 1970s market. He knows that all he has to do is come up with lots of different graphics for the news bulletins (as regular readers will remember, 'The Plasticine News With Morph and Chas', and 'The Dogme95 News Typed Live In Front Of Your Very Eyes' have previously been shown here), buy lots of copies of the TVTimes on publication, and wait 30 years for berks like us to wander along with £4.99 sitting in our PayPal accounts. Buy each copy for 13p, sell it for £4.99, and that's before the surreptitious mark-up on postage. That must beat inflation. Ker-ching.

The Icons Have Finished, You Can Come Out Now

Welcome back, iconophobes. So, time for that YouTube clip. And, in reference to a text link a couple of paragraphs ago, it's the scene where lesbians protesting against Clause 28 invaded the BBC News studio in 1988. However, quite thrillingly, this clip also includes audio from the production gallery. It simply has to be heard.

"On the air... oh fucking hell, we've got nothing [dialogue indecipherable]. Get them out!" Can anyone help here with the muffled bit of director anger?

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