Friday, 6 February 2009

"Damn you, FACTU!" (TV Times Icons from 1978: Part Two)

(Part one: here.)

By semi-popular demand, it's time to kick off another look at some TVTimes programme icons from 1978. If you want to play along at home, this batch are all from the June 3rd-June 9th 1978 edition. ATV region, Lee Remick and Rock Hudson on the cover. But before we kick off, there's just time for an advert. Specifically, an advert for that most 1978 of household items, the rented telly. Note the frenzied attempt to tie it in with the World Cup, much like every single company tries to do nowadays:

Even now, spending that much a month would surely bag you a reasonably sized high definition LCD set on credit. Anyway, just feast your eyes on that space-age remote control. Two buttons!

Channel up, and channel down. And this in an age when there were only three channels to choose from. Surely they could have put on an extra button, so you could switch directly to each channel? Or give the option of adjusting the volume? We just don't realise how lucky we are in Space Age 2009, with our dedicated buttons for adjusting the aspect ratio and the like.

Onto the icons, then. Just the nine to choose from, and in a break from tradition (if something you've only done once before counts as 'tradition'), we're going to show you the best icon first, and leaving you to guess which programme it's for. The answer will be at the end of the list.

Quite a good one, isn't it, but what is it for? Those people seem to be carrying placards, so surely it's for a discussion programme based on the striking unions. Maybe it's a Union protest against invisible people with side partings. Or maybe the presence of some kind of panel suggests it's for a consumer affairs show. ITV have probably made at least one stab at recreating That's Life, and this could be it. Could it be that the people on the right are supposed to be opening ceremony standard bearers, as you might find in the opening ceremony of the Olympics? Only it was a World Cup year, so maybe it's for the Commonwealth Games?

All will revealed later on. On with the rundown, beginning with, as the copy of TVT we've found only has so many icons not included in our original update, number nine.

9. Child-Based Programming

Some childish scrawls to get us going. Fairly standard stuff, meaning we can't even think of anything suitably acerbic to say about it. Wonder what the postman's unusual present was.

8. It's the World Cup (and The Derby)

Such is the paucity of HOT NEW ICON ACTION in this edition of TVT, we've included one that doesn't quite fit into the kitschy icon canon that we're trying to cultivate. But, as it's related to the 1978 World Cup, we've decided to include it, and we're not even going to mention Joe Jordan's handball cruelly depriving Wales from taking part in the thing.

Oh. Anyhoo, we like the way ITP Ltd have co-opted the official FIFA logo for Argentina '78 (pictured on the right somewhere), and chucked in the World Of Sport logo. It's the kind of thing that companies could get away with around that age - see also the BBC-1 globe 'borrowing' from the heavily copyrighted IOC logo for the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. All this from an age where the phrase 'brand identity' would possibly have had more to do with a portly astomoner's passport (yeah, weak reference there, sorry everyone) than splashing a corporate identity over any bit of 4:3 safe zone that isn't nailed down.

What we also like about this listing: two completely disparate sporting events lumped together in the same listing. Hate football, but love racing? Well, you're probably going to need to sit through the highlights of Mexico vs West Germany if you really want to be sure of getting the latest odds. It's things like this, and the demented way programmes could be listed as starting at 6.57pm that make us wish we'd paid more attention to television when all this was going on. Instead of, well, eating rusks and deficating in our pants, which is what we were probably doing at the time. And that was just the teachers! No, hang on, we've got that punchline wrong somewhere.

7. Antipodean Wartime Recurring Drama

Going by Wikipedia, who we're quite sure would never lie to us outside of a Big Brother launch night, The Sullivans was "an Australian made drama television series produced by Crawford Productions which ran from 1976 until 1983 [which] told the story of an average middle-class Melbourne family and the effect World War II had on their lives." As far as we were concerned it was a hugely annoying blight on our post-nursery television viewing, as it meant we'd have to wait another twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes for another instalment of Charlton And The Wheelies, and it had a bloody depressing sepia title sequence. And anyway Mum, Choc-a-bloc's on the other side, aww mum, come on, Fred Harris is on it this week... gah.

Oh right, the icon. Well, it's pretty generic stuff, which could just as easily be used for any television drama ever. Note how it's the black heart that is the one breaking, which might suggest the tear is more to do with a blocked artery than any emotional turmoil it's owner is going through at the same time. Or maybe the bloke's just dumped the woman for having a really pointy chin and no fingers, the bloody body fascist.

As for The Sullivans, as we grew older it momentarily got 0.02% more interesting when we realised Mrs Mangel was in it, but that didn't last very long.

6. Week-Centred Factcasting

Man with a microphone. A silhouetted city of London. A giant, but not very specific calendar. There aren't even any days of the week on there, let alone the month, uplifting tidbits of information like "it's more important to be right, than to be seen to be proved right", or even pointless trivia like "Feb 6th 1910: The first Monopoly set goes on sale". Whether this is down to shoddy standards on the part of the calendar makers, or just that the calendar firm's team of fact-gatherers were on a union-led strike again ("Damn you, FACTU! We can't afford a 20% raise, and that's that!"), or just that TVT's Icon Bloke was in a hurry for this space filler, we can't be sure. Either way, this a certainly a good example of a programme-specific icon.

5. Chair-Originated Gobshitery

"Look, Mr Amorphous-Blob-in-a-Suit, I happen to think you're completely wrong about the Baader-Meinhof Group." "As I've said repeatedly, Mr Amorphous-Blob-not-in-a-Suit, you're fully entitled to your opinion, it's just that I thought their second album was rubbish". Ah, seat-based discourse, you can't beat it. We can't help but feel a little disappointed that Brian Walden isn't the same at the top of the billing, though. Meanwhile, "a stimulating and entertaining half-hour about people, places and issues"? A little bit presumptive, isn't it?


What could it be? We shouldn't need to be Clive Doig to work it out. Possibly they aren't placards at all, they're huge fish-slices. Or, really tiny people holding regular-sized fish-slices. And they're being exploited in the chip shops of 1978 Britain, and a panel have been invited to discuss the matter. Or maybe, the tiny people are carrying huge fly swats, and they're going to belt the two side-parting men and the big haired woman about the face with them? Ooh, It's A Knockout! Oh, wrong channel. Tsk. The answer in a moment!

4. Chair-Originated Gobshitery: Lady Edition

Ladies' Night. A programme for, by and about, ladies. Director: A bloke. Producer: Another bloke. But who will get to sit in the MYSTERY CHAIR?

3. Surprisingly Early Afternoon News

We love this. It's News at One - hour an hour earlier. As such, they've somewhat been caught on the hop, and Sybil the secretary is still working on the script, just off-camera. Oh noes! Will she be able to keep pumping out the stories quickly enough to get them straight to Peter Sissons? With the added pressure, will she make any rudimentary typing errors, such as accidentally listing the Secretary of State for Social Services as "David Anals"? Why, all of this could make for a brilliant Typing Of The Dead-style videogame.

2. Programming For Those In School

Quick everyone, into the hall, where the school's only television is! Yes, we had to kill the first seventeen minutes of the lesson with pointless banter, because 'What Should We Do?' doesn't start until 9.47, but at least now the class wag can make themselves the centre of attention by pretending to eat the disappearing pips on the countdown clock while teacher isn't looking. For this listing TVT's Icon Bloke has employed the style of his famed Crossroads icon, and just filled an oblong with any school-based doodles that come to mind. A blackboard! An attentive pupil behind a desk! Some test-tubes, because they're piss easy to draw! A, er, gramophone? This is the sort of demented artistry that makes us want to get on eBay and pointlessly waste another few Paypalled fivers on aged listings magazines. And surely, surely, all of these old schools programmes should be somewhere in the public domain by now? They were usually shot on film, so they must exist somewhere, surely? We really want to see that episode of Looking At Television. Oh, it's meant to be a microscope!

Well, it's time to reveal the identity of the mysterious programme icon from earlier in the update. Consumer show? Political discussion show? Tiny people with spatulas? Well, it turns out you were miles off, as it was in fact...

Yep, the Nickel-Arsed Parsons, and The Quiz Of The Week! What the bloody hell? What on earth does that have to do with... oh, to hell with it.

More confusingly inaccurate late-1970s TV Times genre-icon japery soon, readers!

11 .:

Simon said...

There's almost too much to ask about Ladies' Night. How much of a "bearpit" does one person qualify as? How does one attain the position of "compiler"? Isn't this the same description as Loose Women?

Doughboy said...

The Sullivans was a blight on my life. Terrible. And weirdly people would ask me if I was Australian. Or if my family came from Australia.

Dimwits. Dull programme. I'd rather watch a box set of Sons & Daughters

Mark X said...

I think 'compiler' is the meeja equivalent of 'quantity surveyor'.

LF Barfe said...

Channel up and channel down? Waste of a good button. Those 2-button remotes were programme (i.e. channel up, and as there were only 3 channels to spool through, it wasn't too long before you were back at BBC1) and sound, which we'd know now as mute. My grandparents had the same Radio Rentals Baird set as we did, and when I went to stay with them, I took our remote and tucked it away by my side, making my grandad wonder why the sound kept going off and the channel kept changing.

simon h b said...

I can corroborate the evidence of LFB, for that television is the very set which we had; and, yes, ours came from D=E=R. In fact, my Dad was still renting his television from the company when they finally gave up altogether. It's not just the idea of renting a TV; it's the incumbent once-a-month trip to London Road to pay the money for the TV, isn't it?

But, yes: Change channel, and mute.

To be fair, though, although there were only three channels broadcasting, the set did offer the opportunity for *six* whole channels - the long-promised ITV2 and... well, two others. A world with six channels in it? Some said DER were crazy. Crazy dreamers.

Also one other thing about the TVs - DER replaced the Thorn branding with DER symbols. But they couldn't think of any way to cover up the giant Thorn logo on the remote itself. Presumably, they'd hope we just thought it was for pointing at the TV.

Derek said...

"Suitable acerbic" tsk. Funny how TV rentals don't seem to be much of a thing these days. Must be because the common folk can buy crap TVs for next to nothing these days. And credit being a bigger thing. I had a grandad who used to work for Radio Rentals repairing TVs. This meant that he was required to fix any TVs in the street that broke down.

Mark X said...

'Suitably acerbic', of course. Now corrected. I was too busy being pleased that the inline spellchecker confirmed I'd spelled 'acerbic' correctly, clearly. Boh.

Quasi-relatedly, after adapting a brilliant piece of social commentary from the first series of Sean Lock's 15 Storeys High ("You middle class ponce!" "I'm not middle class!" "Yes you are, your telly's not on!") to my own ends, I go by the following theory: If the TV in your front room is the most expensive one you can afford, you're working class. If it's a more modestly sized set, even though you could clearly afford a bigger one, you're middle class. All of this means that I'm avowedly working class, which is clearly correct.

There's even a subset involved: if you or your family have ever had a television set where you needed to put 50p coins into a slot on the side (and we're talking 1970s/1980s here), then you're 'proper' working class. Respect. Extra bonus points on offer if Eldest Son has 'hacked' the coinslot so that you don't need to put any money in.

roy rocket said...

I, and several others, used to rush round to a nearby mate's house during school luunchtimes to listen to the Ramones & the Specials and watch The Sullivans.
Cult viewing for young punks; as Prisoner Cell Block H would be the essential show for nocturnal stoners.

We did have a 50p slot tv.
And I know someone now who has a tv & sky box running on a £1 meter!
Do I win a prize?

Mark X said...

Quite a few childhood friends had slot TVs, and so did my sister just after she'd moved away from home. In a quite puzzling way, I kind of envied not having one, though I'm sure I would have soon gone off the idea each time the meter ran out in the middle of Think Of A Number.

Clearly, in that day and age, remote control tellies were solely for the bourgeoisie. Decadent scoundrels! (Well, until we got one in our house, anyway.)

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