Funny the things, eh?
Earlier this evening, in order to keep our hungry minds busy while cooking our dinner, we clicked on a Twitter link containing a ranked listing of every Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror Segment In The History Of Ever. From there, via a chance comment from Sweeping The Nation’s S Tyers, and us being followed back on Twitter by the co-writer and co-star of Adult Swim’s Fat Guy Stuck in Internet and NTSF:SD:SUV, we got thinking about just where we discovered a lot of our favourite classic British comedy programmes.Too young to remember the likes of Dave Allen At Large, Monty Python’s Flying Circus or It’s Marty when they first went out, we must have got into them from somewhere, right? But… from where? And there we remembered. It’s all down to the work of one man.
Okay, not actually Griff Rhys Jones, but rather the person he’s parodying in the above clip from Alas Smith & Jones. Step forward former member of Esther’s nancies on That’s Life, sometime stooge of Dave Allen and (slightly surprisingly) the fleetingly glimpsed warmup for one of Paul Merton’s BBC Four documentaries on silent comedy, Mr Chris Serle. Back in the mid-to-late-1980s, Serle hosted a modest little show going out on BBC2 during Sunday lunchtimes, which was called Windmill. It might seem a little strange now, but in those days the concept of TV nostalgia was a pretty alien concept, with Windmill (the name taken from the location of the BBC-tv archive - Windmill Road, Brentford) offering one of the first delves into Auntie Beeb’s Big Box Of History the British public would ever get to see.
With the wealth of whatever-hadn’t-been-taped-over-yet to pick from, along with the “here’s a budget, now bugger off and make sixty minutes of whatever” ethos still present in Television Centre at the time, it made for a dizzying mix of enlightenment for a youthful television blog such as we. This was an innocent age where we’d been fooled into believing Copy Cats or The Grumbleweeds on early evening Granada was the pinnacle of light entertainment, so when we were confronted with the likes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, It’s Marty, Dave Allen At Large, Not Only But Also or Ripping Yarns, our tiny minds were literally blown away (not literally).
Sadly, it seemed the ephemeral nature of such a show would mean it no longer existed in any form. Surely? Hey, the clips themselves are now readily available in the form of the original broadcasts, why bother keeping footage of a guy in a jumper talking about them? NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF TELEVISION GEEKERY. Wikipedia contains a wonderfully concise episode guide of Windmill, and better yet, several segments of the show seem to have surfaced on YouTube. Such as: this lovely chat between host Chris Serle and Michael Palin taking place on the then-new Docklands Light Railway in east London. Splendid.
And to think, we got around to all that, just because we decided to busy ourselves with an article on The Simpsons while our dinner was OH BLOODY BOLLOCKING HECK.