Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Time's Nearly Running Out

So, if you've been thinking about applying to become the new controller of BBC One, get those entry forms in now.

In case you can't see that introduction to the advert, it's


Quite what that's got to do with the modern BBC One, considering they're making every effort to prove how modern, forward-thinking and not-that-bothered-about-the-past (unless it involves putting a repeat of Open All Hours up against Coronation Street, anyway) they are, we're not entirely sure. By mentioning ex-controller of BBC-2 David Attenborough, are the implying the role is a merely stepping stone to getting your own strand of nature documentary films? Well, seeing as Dave is about to record his swansong series, they might well be looking for someone else, and if they could get the controller of BBC One to do it on the side (in a salaried position, so they won't be putting an overtime form in), that could suit their new remit pretty well.

Gosh, aren't we the little Rory Bremners tonight, eh?

Anyway, if anyone here fancies applying for the job, or if they want to take a tip out of Lee & Herring about fourteen years ago's book and make a jokingly inept application for the position (and we were genuinely considering doing just that, you know), here's the link. Just promise us you'll show Night Of The Comet as the BBC One Friday night movie once in a while, that's all we ask.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Halloween Spookiness Special: Day One

There are a number of approaches used to influence people in public information films aimed at The Kids. You might take a sort of jokey, friendly approach (cf. "Charley Says", featuring special guest mewling by Kenny Everett), or you might prefer a personality-led tack (cf. Rolf inviting everyone down to the swimming pool with a jolly wave of his foot). The most interesting approach, even if it's the one most likely to give Richard bloody Bacon an excuse to pop up on a clip show to talk about it, is to try and scare the living bejeebus out of The Kids instead.

In the first part of an enthralling (disclaimer: may not be enthralling) two-part series, we're going to look at a PIF from each side of the Atlantic, and try and decide which effort is the most truly unsettling. Proper unsettling. Half-a-notch below Threads unsettling. Brr.

First up, a look at how youthful former colonials were terrified into talking care of their bicycles.

We first happened across this short film early one Sunday morning a few months ago, lurking in the darkest reaches of Sumo.tv's early morning schedule. As with much of Sumo's output, it's also available (in varying formats up to broadcast quality level) at archive.org, and it's genuinely something you need to watch at least once. For those who fancy dipping into it, it's also on YouTube.

Aaargh! Scary kids on bikes!

The plot? A group of children, all wearing inexplicably terrifying ape masks and curly tails, ride their bicycles to the park for a nice 1960s all-American picnic, with one unlucky child the designated carrier of everyone else's lunch bags. Of course, it's not just the sight of what would make a serviceable promo video for The Knife that's the alarming part. Heck, no.

As the film progresses to the sound of jaunty pre-ironic library music, the attention is focused on differing spooky ape-children. For example, first we hear about Rooty "Toot" Jasperson, who has the newest bike of all the monkeychums. Determined to cement his alpha male status, he races ahead of the pack. Voiceover Man states that he's a real "go getter", but notes that if you're so very determined to lead the pack, there are several things you don't have time for. Such as, those silly hand signals bicyclists must make when turning.

Aaargh! Aaargh!

Yes. Always make signals. (And aaargh!)

In order to rest his weary arms, he skips one signal as he turns left. Just one. And he is duly thudded into the tarmac by a car.

Try to not do this on your bike, kids.

Now, how best to convey the gravity of this situation to impressionable youngsters already in a permanent state of semi-panic over the twin threats of nuclear annihilation and international socialism? A comedy 'prang' sound effect, and a jaunty 'whoops' animation? Yes.


As the camera focuses eerily on the picnic bag that its owner won't be needing any more, Voiceover Man pipes up. "At this point, Rooty "Toot" Jasperson left the party." Thanks, Voiceover Man.

The crew of chums are mostly picked off in a similar manner, their callous disregard for basic bicycle behavioural protocol seeing them dispatched in various manners, including but not limited to: being flattened by a steamroller; falling down an open manhole; or smashing their simian face into an oncoming vehicle. Each one followed by a quick shot of their picnic bag, a quip from Voiceover Man, a cut back to the remaining chums, and a return to the jaunty library music.

It carries on like this for some fifteen minutes, with only one child meeting his unfortunate end in a non-fatal manner, mainly because he'd had his bike nicked. At the end, only one solitary tyke makes it to the picnic spot, thanks to his dutiful adherence to the Bicycle Laws Of His United States. As such, instead of mourning his deceased pals, he scoffs all their picnics instead. Hey, there's a Red Menace out there, it wasn't a time for sentimentality.

Quite strangely, on the Sumo showings of the clip, after each mishap the action cuts to monochrome footage of a scary laughing clown - and not 'ironic' scary, proper actual scary, but in the clip we've downloaded from archive.org there's just blackness and no laughter. We're finding it strange, because we haven't noticed Sumo re-editing any of the other archive material they broadcast, and it's not as if One Got Fat needs any tinkering with - it's disturbing enough already. But anyway, the whole affair is one that we can scarcely believe was shown to small child-people in 60's America, but, as the testimonies on archive.org site confirm, it blimmin' well was. We give it a Scary PIF Rating of NINE OUT OF TEN.

Aaargh! Aaargh! Aaargh! Aaargh! Aaargh! Aaargh!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Nothing But the Truth, then

According to Sky's PR monolith, "Hosted by Jerry Springer, contestants are hooked up to a lie-detector and asked a tailored set of increasingly personal and risqué questions about their life in order to win a jackpot of £50,000. The situation is made more embarrassing by their closest friends, family and partners being in the audience to witness their confessions." And, we have to say, it was pretty entertaining. But, we do have a number of petty gripes. Because we're as hard to please as a scouse postie.

Gripe one. We're willing to be corrected on this, but the impression we've got of this is that all the lie detecting is actually done during the backstage (off screen, and away from the family and friends who'd come along) Q&A session with researchers. All that is actually happening on-stage is that a selection of questions from the earlier session are read out (this part in front of the cameras, audience, Jerry, friends and family) and any answers given have to be the same as previously. The response to their replies is then announced, but all the lie-detecting was done previously.

This is slightly skirted over in Jerry's introduction, to convey an impression of everything happening on stage, in much the same way as Chris Tarrant used to pretend ...Millionaire was broadcast live by slotting some topical remarks to that day's news (which were actually recorded a day after the remainder of the show). Just another example of TEH HORRID TV LIE FACTORY? Not really, we can't help but feel the show would be enhanced by a team of boffins in the corner of the studio hunched around a polygraph machine.

Gripe two. Aside from the one about the taxi driver having a 'bit on the side', the questions asked were mostly rather tame. Asking a taxi driver if he'd ever criticised the government while driving his cab (HE DID!), or if he ever uses pornographic material (HE DOES!) isn't exactly going to get any grannies dropping their knitting these days. Now that they've used one of their best hands in the first episode -
"Have you ever thought about having a homosexual experience? [pause] Don't answer now, we'll be back after this break!"

[five minutes later]

"No, I haven't."

- they'd better be ramping up the awkwardness dramatically over the next week. And it's a bit of a shame they couldn't have used something more challenging if they were going to have lots of obvious "black cab driver" questions, such as "have you ever made a comment to a passenger that could be considered racist?".

Gripe three. It's all very slow. It's all very well to be full of suspense in these post-WWTBAM times, but over one hour and two contestants, we've yet to see anyone actually tell an untruth. Understandably, the prizes on offer have head to be kept low, just so there's a chance someone will risk a lie, but dragging out someone's chance of getting up to a mere thousand pounds to almost fifteen minutes is an almost glacial pace in today's modern short-attention-span society. Upping the prizes wouldn't really help - hell, we'd happily claim we fantasise about molesting seafood on national television if there was a million quid in it - so just get the trivial questions over and done with. (And we don't really have a piscine fetish. Not since the time we caught gonorrhea from that tench, anyway.)

Of course, we'll still be watching it for the next few days. Expect further reports, because we've made a vow to ourselves to update more often.

It'll never last.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

New MTV Channel Announced. A Nation Rejoices* (* Fails To Care)

From DigitalSpy:

MTV is to launch a new entertainment channel next month known as MTV R: 'Rated and Recommended'.

The broadcaster said that MTV R, which launches on November 8, will offer viewers "an opportunity to enjoy the iconic shows that made MTV famous".

Content on MTV R will include the first and second series of Newlyweds, Cribs, Laguna Beach and Pimp My Ride.

After dark the channel will offer up a selection of stunt-based shows, in the shape of Jackass, Wildboyz and Viva La Bam.

Now, consider us to be out-of-touch curmudgeons with unfashionable hair if you like, but isn't that pretty fupping well much what MTV is anyway? And that this whole affair is just an excuse to cram an MTV channel into the 'entertainment' section of everyone's EPGs in order to jump-start the unremarkable audience figures currently enjoyed by the rest of the MTV 'family'?

Mind you, at least it might distract them from such glaring anomalies as playing the (excellent) 'Homecoming' by The Teenagers in full at 1.55am in MTV2's ace "120 Minutes" strand, then following it up by removing bad words such as "pain", "bleed" or "gun" from their standard output of Bad NME-Friendly Rock five minutes later during "MTV2: Commercial Free".

(Two updates in one day! We're practically turning into Engadget!)

Dave: Stupid name, decent viewing figures. But anyway: numbers.

According to MeejaGuardian, UKTV's brave move to launch a Freeview channel with something worth watching on it (but with a really, really stupid name that a bunch of overpaid marketing yahoos are still probably quaffing celebratory cocaine over even as we type) seems to have paid off, with the channel ahead of BBC Three, Living and Sky One in the multichannel viewing share league table. While we're not sure cramming a channel full of Top Gear repeats is a viable long-term plan, it seems to be preferable to watching Price-drop TV, E4+1 or the smileTV "Programming starts at 3am" screen. And quite right, too.

Now, given the launch of a channel on Freeview that broadcasts lots of already popular programmes - as opposed to another shopping or time-shifted channel - was always likely to prove popular on a television platform preferred by 30.4% of the population, why aren't there more entertainment channels on there? Over on Sky, Paramount are really struggling for viewers at the moment, with their most-watched show (Scrubs, with 112,000 viewers for w/e 14th Oct) being out-watched by classic programmes such as History Channel's Ice Road Truckers (159,000 viewers), or ITV3's repeat of An Audience With Des O'Connor (223,000 viewers). If they'd put the channel onto Freeview, possibly by annexing the Bid-Up TV studios - well, it's worth a try - they'd be onto an advertising revenue winner, we're sure.

The same applies to Bravo, Living and Sci-Fi. For all their endless promotion and "flagship" programmes (or more accurately "help! We've spunked all our annual budget on one NBC adult drama that got got canned after eight episodes" programmes), they're hardly eating into the viewing shares of the 'proper' channels. Unless you're counting ITV1, but we're still convinced Michael Grade is trying some sort of The Producers-type tax dodge with that. We fully expect to see 'Springtime For Bin Laden' as part of their Christmas Day schedule.

This brings us onto another almost relevant point. There were a lot of channels that launched around the same time as Sky Digital that quite clearly cost a bit of money to keep running, and with the relatively tiny potential audience of the time, they would clearly be fighting an uphill struggle. Channels such as TaraTV (which showcased the best of Irish TV - The Late Late Show, Don't Feed The Gondolas, and live sets from the like of Tommy Tiernan) barely troubled the Barb number monkeys. This set of ratings figures from March 2001 reveal that exactly half of their fifty most-watched programmes attained a total of "0.00m" viewers (or, given that the totals are rounded off to the closest decimal point, less than 5,000 viewers) . Their top programme - Quiet Man - reached a Barb-extrapolated total of 40,000 viewers. Their top 10 most-watched shows were as follows:


That's an average of 150,000 viewers.

That might not sound like a lot, but let's compare it to one of the few other digital-only channels on offer at the time, UK Drama :

BADGER 0.02m

"Snapper" probably not being an adaptation of Acornsoft's Pac-Man clone, we're guessing. An average of 310,000 viewers.

So, in the grand scheme of things, Tara found itself not a billion miles behind a heavily promoted UKTV channel which was in a better EPG slot at the time (151 vs 178). Considering Tara had only launched on Sky Digital, contained mostly programmes the vast majority of the potential audience won't have heard of, and UK Drama was just the latest in the UKTV family of channels, that's not a bad showing.

One imaginary montage of clocks whizzing forwards and pages falling off a day-by-day calendar later, we find ourselves in Space Year 2007. Looking at the figures for the same week in 2007, how much have the fortunes of the UKTV channel changed since then? The ever useful Barb website has the answer.

SHARPE 0.107m

An improved average over the top ten programmes of 137,900 viewers. That's up 106,900 viewers on six years previous, or a whopping 349% for any percentage fans in the room. How would that relate to a possible top ten shows for Tara Television, given that we're going to attribute offensively stereotypical titles to each of the programmes in the rundown? It's okay, we've got Irish relatives, so it's not racist.

FECK! 0.07m

That gives an improved average of 50,000 viewers. Just to put that into context, that would see the channel comfortably ahead of VH-1, UKTV People, Trouble, Men and Motors, Discovery, and pretty much on a par with Challenge. And all with programmes that hadn't already been broadcast on any other British channel. Good going, we'd say. All of which makes it a shame Tara Television went belly up in 2002.

That's no reason why UK Play shouldn't make a comeback, though.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

A Really Quick, Rather Pointless Update About Nothing Much

Now, we kind of already know the answer to this, so there's no need to post a comment, but: if you're going to a produce a movie that even tinkers with the concept of 'having something to do with computers and/or videogames', why not try avoiding something as clichéd and obvious as having any computer used in your entire film being an Alienware laptop? We know you probably had a delicate choice to take between 'morality' and 'being a corporate shill', but really.

Yes, in case you hadn't guessed, we've just made the mistake of having 'Stay Alive' ("with "Malcolm in the Middle"'s Frankie Muniz in it", except he isn't, hardly) on Sky's Anytime TV in the background while playing (and losing at) internet poker, and even then it's the sort of technological shorthand for "we don't really know what we're doing" that really bugs us for some reason. And even then we had the sound turned down because we were listening to an iTunes playlist, and even then it offended us on at least two of our senses*. And now we've even got frigging Scary Movie 4 on in the background (thankfully drowned out by the sound of Frank Black's 93-03). We really need to cancel our Sky Movies subscription is basically what we're saying here.

(*It somehow smelled. Of wee.)

(Don't worry readers, we've just bought a copy of the 1950 BBC Handbook from eBay, so we're sure we'll be able to get a decent update out of that in the next few days.)

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A Very British Twenty-Four

It's October, which means it must be about time for BrokenTV's biannual stab at liking Spooks. We generally give this a go every other year, suspecting our natural aversion to anything being endlessly promoted by the BBC is blinding us to its charms. After all, Life On Mars was 'done' by the people who brought us Spooks, and it's endlessly portraying itself as a turbocharged amalgam of James Bond, 24 and The State Within (which was good, no matter what anyone else says).

Every year, we settle down in our special Watching Telly Chair, and every year we sit through at least two whole episodes. Every year, we walk away cursing ourselves for not remembering that the show is always too busy juggling so-called-'believable' plotlines (except they're not really), tedious exposition and characters trying to act achingly cool (in a very manufactured BBC One Drama Programme in 2007 kind of not really very cool kind of way, like in Hustle).

So, this year's findings? With the same sense of inevitability, it's still as much as a tedium-fest as ever, although this time it seems to be trying harder than ever to 'be' 24.

It's got slidey split screen inter-scene segments showing what the central characters are up to at any given time. It's got conspicuously inconspicuous agents in railway stations talking to their 'control room' via hidden microphones. It's got a bit where the viewers are expected to go "oh noes! A government insider is in on the whole thing! Erm, just like last time." It's got a large room full of people tapping at expensive computer keyboards and saying things like "Can you clean up those five pixels on that grainy mobile phone video footage into something more useful, like a gas bill with the full name and address of the terrorists on it?". All led by Unconventional Boss Woman Who Doesn't Dress Like Anyone Else, Because She's Unconventional Boss Woman, Of Course. And, in a very BBC One Drama Programme in 2007 kind of way, when something slightly surprising happens, the camera zooms in annoyingly on someone's astonished face, just to hammer that point home to everyone at home, in case they'd got confused.

The problem is, the last series of 24 had Jack killing his own brother as a result of an interrogation, a former president being killed by his screaming estranged wife, the current president being blown up and put into a coma (for a bit), and A NUCLEAR BOMB GOING OFF IN THE MIDDLE OF LA, and it was still the least impressive series of 24 so far. Spooks cops out of spending any money on the pivotal huge explosion scene by portraying it purely via the medium of several close ups, a window smashing, and a lo-res satellite imaging feed of the explosion.

We could have knocked that up in Deluxe Paint III.

Although it did have a terrorist who looked like he was going to blow up everyone, but it turned out he was cuddly after all, which is quite like the last series of 24. But then, at least 24 had the foresight to cast the part to an actor who looks like an arabic Wayne Coyne. Oh, and the exact same 'virulent massively toxic chemicals released in a huge city' plot as 24: Day 3. "We have two hours!" Really? Maybe you should have a ticking clock on-screen every few minutes, so we know how we're doing for time. Well, in place of that, we've got a running tally of "UK Infections", updated every time something happens. Not quite as good.

In place of CTU running around large crowded cities trying to stop nuclear explosions going off, we've got running around in forests. Well, have you seen the rates extras are expecting these days? Mind you, what Spooks lacks in proper explosions and Jack Bauery excellence, it makes up for in traditional British Gurning.

Top to bottom:
"I am concerned, this is my concerned face."
"I am concerned, this is my concerned face."
"I am shocked, this is my shocked face."

The close-ups on a computer screen every time someone needs to point at something on one is also worthy of comment. Instead of what in reality would be a gray and blue Windows screen with any picture or video on display contained purely within a plain oblong, with nothing more fancy than a faux-embossed three pixel border, every TFT monitor in Spooksland has to contain eighteen impossibly small perma-scrolling text frames, moving transparent green bars over the top of any pictures and transition effects whenever anything at all updates. Well, if you can't afford to make it look like James Bond in any other sense, why not crowbar in a garish desktop PC interface that might look quite good in the trailers, eh?

And what happens when someone transfers money over an internet bank account? Does it say "Click submit to confirm your transaction" then "done"? Oh-ho-ho-no! A red progress bar moves slowly accross the screen, as if it were downloading a file, of course.

Remind us never to move our account to Harcross Banking. They can't even spell
"transferring" correctly. Anyway, all ransom money should be sent to terrorists via Paypal.

It's the Torchwood van fisco all over again. Except at least Torchwood was supposed to be a bit of daft escapist fun for Doctor Who fans who like swearing, not the challenging and thrilling BBC One drama meant to ROCK the MINDSETS of the viewing millions that Spooks thinks it is.


24p, more like.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

New Target Audience For Ringtone 'Club' Scam Overlords

Now they're after Red Dwarf fans.
Red Dwarf is to return – but as an animated series for mobile phones.

Entertainement company Pitch has created cartoon clips to match audio footage from the original BBC Two series, for which subscribers will pay £3 a week.

That's £3 per week, or more accurately £12 per month. To put that into perspective, you can now pick up the DVD of each series of Red Dwarf for £6.99 from Virgin Megastores. So: for the price of two-and-a-bit video clips of animations of Red Dwarf scenes, you could get an entire series, on high quality DVD, which includes three hours of "clips" (i.e. entire episodes), along with tonnes of extras.

"But!", you may cry whilst idly brushing Pringle crumbs from your I Say Let's Get Out There And Twat It T-shirt, "as somebody who is part of the likely target audience for this mobile enterprise, I've already got the DVDs. What do you say to that, you idiots?"

Okay, cracking open the seal on our Christmas catalogue from Littlewoods (who we'd only signed up with because their 20% off your first order deal meant we could buy a cheap Xbox Live membership), here is a quick list of:

Other Things You Could Buy That Cost The Same Each Month As Some Rubbish Red Dwarf Animated Clips.

  • A Bart Simpson folding double door 32-inch LCD Television set (£10.66 per month)
  • A Samsung DVD camcorder (£10.87 per month)
  • A Nintendo Wii (£8.48 per month)
  • A new 80gb iPod Classic (£10.19 per month)
  • A 15.4" Goodmans HD Ready LCD TV and DVD combo with built-in Freeview (£11.47 per month)
(Before anyone writes in to say it, we know catalogue prices are artificially inflated and it's worth just going online if you want to buy stuff, but that just highlights the stupid price they're asking for some animated video clips of a programme you'll already own on DVD if you're that bothered about it. And that's not even starting on the prospect of anyone who 'needs' to carry some Red Dwarf clips around with them at all times, for some ungodly reason.)

To put it into even more simple terms, here's a graphical representation of the things you could buy for equal to or less than the amount you'd pay for some Red Dwarf mobile phone clips every month:

Of course, for the sake of humanity as a whole, we're hoping these mobile clips turn out to be a massive failure. Given that the stereotypical image of your average Red Dwarf fan is that of a geek, and given that geeks are supposed to be clever and good at maths, there should be no conceivable way this can succeed. Surely.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

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

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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