Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Top 50 TVTimes Genre Icons of the 1970s - Part Three

Firstly, a link to MediaGuardian’s tribute to Arena magazine, which is to close. A shame, as Arena magazine is/was good, except when they were being nice about George Lamb. We hope the three short articles by BrokenTV’s Mark X on their website aren’t somehow to blame. 

But enough about the past, let’s move on to, erm, even further in the past, with the next installment of TTFTVTGIOT70s.


One interesting thing to note (and your definition of ‘interesting’ may vary) about analogue TV transmitters is that freak weather conditions like storm clouds could cause each transmitter’s output to reach far further afield than could otherwise be expected. This is quite unlike today, where it only takes one distant crackle of thunder for everyone’s Sky boxes to go into a bluescreen huff. We can attest to the phenomena of Wandering-Broadcast-Radius; one time in the early 1980s, a tiny BrokenTV once picked up a crackly Day By Day – ITV Southern’s regional news, when we were expecting the more local ATV News. Events such as this had a clear impact on one franchise’s local round-up, with it being given a deliberately vague moniker of ‘About Anglia’.
(Reader’s voice: “What a stupidly long build-up for a shit joke. I’m taking this site off my favourites list.”)
Sorry. Anyway, look at what’s going on here. A scary cave with a striking miner hiding in it. Man with big hand leaves jammy thumbprint on wall behind landscape picture of the Phil and Grant Mitchell. Policeman’s eyes, nose and mouth stolen. It was all going on back in those days.


Now, we don’t know that much about Within These Walls, other than the one episode Granada repeated in the early 1990s once Prisoner Cell Block H went stellar. What we do know is that (a) it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the mighty Prisoner Cell Block H (Triv Attack! It was simply known as ‘Prisoner’ in Australia, but renamed for the UK to avoid confusing people into wondering when Number Six would wander into shot), and (b) Stone Park Prison probably didn’t have a policy of keeping the cell keys dangling ju-u-ust out of reach from the criminals. Otherwise, 70% of plots would have involved unravelling wire coat hangers.


It might be the 1970s, but Anglia know the value of branding. Here their “About [Region or Subject]” approach to programme titling was applied to a show about the gentler sex. What will the show involve? “TEA AND FLOWERS, THEN GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN.” It is possible Gene Hunt was Director of Programming at Anglia around this time. Director: A Bloke. Producer: Seemingly A Lady, But Could Be A Frenchman.


Crikey, those two look really keen to read the listing for the programme they represent. Or maybe once of them has just popped a contact lens.


This is what we want! It’s disappointingly rare to see a ‘Schedule B’ even when there’s a World Cup on these days, so to have a constant menu of alternate programming for weeks on end during the Switch Off Something era must have been a tantalising glimpse at a promised land. A promised land of Having A Bit More Telly To Watch. 

Between January and March 1974, the Heath-led campaign to conserve electricity meant that TV programming had to end by 10.30pm. This led to things like the midweek football highlights being cut back to a half-hour, in an early slot of 9.30pm, making way for The Candlelit News At Ten, and Sandy Gall telling you all to go to bed. Just to rub your nose in it a little bit more, a little box in the corner would be included, telling you that if the Three Day Week was over, you could stay up later to watch a whole hour of football, and then round it off with the European Figure Skating Championships (ice-skating being, implausibly, really popular at the time). No wonder the Conservatives lost the election a few months later.

As for the never-to-be-seen schedule up above, just look at that. A cartoon at 7.30pm! Why not just let Val Doonican sing an extra song. He could’ve had Richard Stilgoe pop in to drop some wry English about the current goings on. 

Interesting information that probably isn’t on the internet yet: The first edition of the TVTimes from The National Emergency (as they call it) to include this “look at what you could be watching if only it weren’t for that Heath/those miners” panel was: January 24, 1974. It says so in the TVTalk panel on page two, where they also apologise to their readers, whilst “not forgetting the news-agents who serve them so faithfully throughout the year”. 

Back to the National Emergency, the ITV schedulers seemed to buy into the whole austerity thing, too. In the crisis-riddled 8.30pm timeslot on January 30th of that year, Anglia viewers looking for a bit of escapism from the few hours of gogglebox afforded to them were treated with that light entertainment favourite… The World At War. It’s possible the intention was to remind folk that people had put up with far worse in the not-too-distant past, and if missing out on the occasional episode of Russell Harty Plus was as bad as things got, then they should be counting their blessings. The alternate schedule box did reveal that were someone else running the country, they’d be watching Des O’Connor Entertains instead.


“Des O’Connor Entertains? Quick! Evacuate the planet!”
(Reader’s voice: “Right, that’s it. I’m calling the police.”)

Oh, hush.


4 .:

Chris Hughes said...

I'm still reeling from the reference in the Wrestling billing to Masambula, the "witch doctor from Ghana whose forte is standing on his head in the corner".

For a start, he really probably wasn't from Ghana, was he? Not to mention the dubious 'well, he's black, let's make him a witch doctor' angle (see also any comic of the 1970s, where anyone who went to Africa ended up being boiled in a pot, standing up).

But how is "standing on his head in the corner" in any way a "forte" of wrestling technique? Even in a rigged bout?

Ta for the comments about the magazine formerly known as Arena, by the way.

John the Monkey said...

I read this in the morning, and am still chuckling at "LADY/TEACUP/FLOWER TIME".

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