Sunday, 28 February 2010

Take Your Earmuffs out, It's a Johnathan Ross-Free Zone, it's Film...with Barry Norman

Barry Normans Films of the 80s part 1

UK TV Nostalgia on Youtube's first foray into film via Barry Norman's Film (followed by whatever year it is, be it '89 or '90). This is an end of decade special, featuring Norman's critique on what he believes to be the Top Ten movies of the 1980s. So it's a 5 part feast of fine film quality and cinematography. I'm not going to give anything away, but you can bet actors like Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman will feature. Norman presents the show in comfy looking pink V-collar jumper, in his usual soothing vocal tones. This was broadcasted on the last week of the decade, now over 20 years ago. Makes you feel old.

The full title of the show is "The Film Programme", as to describe the show as a whole. It began in 1971 with a range of TV presenters including Barry Norman, hence "Film '71". "Thinking Man's Crumpet" Joan Bakewell, also presented in the early days of the show. However, Norman became the full-time host from 1974, onwards to his retirement from the show in 1998. Since then, the programme has been presented by Johnathan Ross, who, alright, is a more calmed down version of what he is on his chat show, and is fanatical about film himself. He is set to quit the BBC this year (2010) and, the most likely replacement I think is Mark Kermode, who already does similar material on BBC2's "The Culture Show".

Barry Norman transferred to Sky and had a brief film review show on one the Sky Movies channels. I recall it being a rather muted affair, as Sky wouldn't want to curse their own products to hell and back. Norman still appears on TV as a "talking head" for movie chart shows, like the 100 best *insert genre* movies ever, ever. Has appeared on recent daytime chat shows like ITV's "Loose Women" and BBC's "The ONE Show".

Please Allow Me to have 3 of the Earth Minutes and 51 of You're Earth Seconds for these Important Messages!

Cadbury's Smash Adverts, 1960s/1970s

It's a collection of 7 of the Cadbury Smash adverts. Most of which show the appearance of the famed metallic aliens, the Smash Martians guffawing at Earth's primitive ways to make mashed potato with the grueling peel and masher kitchen utensils. In an age, when fast food technology was growing and it's industry becoming more accessible and appealing such as ready meals when folk were beginning to buy freezer's, and the famed martian ads here, came out in the same year as the first McDonald's branch was to opened in the UK (1974).

"Smash" was instant mash once added with boiling water. Not real mash, but a mash substitute. Think along the line of "Quorn" burgers, which contain no meat, but plant/vegetable extracts.

The advertising campaign was an enormous success. The exaggerated extent to which the martians unleashed a humourous and mocking attack on ordinary mash, and the workings of such a trivial task was a piece of great marketing. The jingle for the product was effortlessly simple with a few piano keys, "For Mash Get Smash". The laughter of the martians are almost contagious. These adverts, especially the first one of the martians to feature in this video, is always, always featured in any best ever UK ads compilation shows and online polls. It's constantly near the very top for the best ever UK ad including 1st! The Smash Martian adverts were devised by British advertising agency "Boase Massimi Pollitt". The product still sells well today.

The first ad in the video is one from the 1960's and featuring humanoid spaceman, and is rather ordinary compared to what lies ahead. The Martian ads seem to be in chronological order, but I can't confirm that. The later ads seem slightly more elaborate and expensive compared to the earlier ones, enabling a first sighting of the Smash Martin household and a Smash Martin cat. My favourite of these ads, is the second one (the most famous of the campaign) and the sixth one, over-seeing a martian married couple kissing and the Martians rolling about laughing on the settee at an Earth TV channel's cookery show.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

A Feast of Lycra and not-so Lycra Men/Women in Snow and Ice 1972-2002

Alright, we end our Winter Olympics special with this rough, but brilliant highlighting music video of recent Winter Olympics bar 2006 and 2010, of course. Some really good footage of the earlier Olympics which are hard to find on Youtube. The Sports genre will take a break, but we'll be back to good ol' football and more.

List of Winter Games shown:

1972 -Sapporo, Japan

1976 - Innsbruck, Austria

1980 - Lake Placid, USA

1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina)

1988 - Calgary, Canada

1992 - Albertville, France

1994 - Lillehammer, Norway

1998 - Nagano, Japan

2002 - Salt Lake City, USA

It's a very good highlights video with small clips of each Games opening ceremonies, and the features the most awe-inspiring and most excelled athletes of the games, so we see the likes on Torvill and Dean for '84, Alberto Tomba for '88 and so on. Also, period music of the time from each Olympics, If you want to know what the songs are, well, I'm horribly bad at naming these earlier ones. I've heard the 1972 one loads of times, I just can't put a name to it?

1972 -???

1976 -???

1980 -???

1984 - Irene Cara - What a Feeling

1988 -Erasure -Give a Little Respect

1992 - Snap - Rhythm Is A Dancer

1994 - Whigfield - Saturday Night

1998 - ???

2002 - James Williams - Call of the Champions

Billy Webb's Amazing Fib About His Broken leg?

Alfonso Bonzo (final episode - part 1 of 3)

The last ever episode of this obscure but memorable and surreal CBBC show, adapted from the 1986 book, created by Andrew Davies. A chirpy, cheeky but likeable boy named Billy Webb. the episode seems a bit of an acid trip, but a good romp, as Billy gets transported into playing a game of snooker on the TV, playing miraculously well to squabbling with his older sister over meeting a creepy man, and then entering his living room, now turned into a Wild West Saloon, his dad leering up another woman, his dog starts talking. It all get weirder and weirder. This all links to "Alfonso Bonzo", the title character, a mysterious and magical Italian man posing as an Italian exchange student. Both Billy and Alfonso enjoyed swapping items, However, Alfonso Bonzo wants to do the ultimate swap, he wants to swap bodies as he likes having his family and being a brother to his older sister, and that's where things start getting a little creepy and sinister...

Each episode Billy Webb (Scott Riley), who in realtime, had already sustained a broken leg, tells his story to journalist Trevor Trotman (Mike Walling), and tells him through these flashbacks of how he broke his leg, with such an unbelieveable and long-winded story, you wonder if this is just all made up! He could be a pathological liar. You find out at the end of this episode in 3 parts! Well, maybe! The show had a fixed cliffhanger, of simply the storyteller keeping you wanting more, in the episodes running up to this last one.

A spin-off was made called "Billy Webb's Amazing Stories", not including "Alfonso Bonzo", however from memory, I'm actually not too sure and whether he appears at the end of the series. Both programmes only lasted for 1 series though. The boy was played by Scott Riley, and has appeared in a few other roles such as minor characters in "London's Burning" and "The Bill" in 1992 and 1991. Seems to have left the acting business now?

Alfonso Bonzo was played by Alex Jennings, who is now a rather esteemed actor, appearing as Prince Charles, Prince of Wales in the award winning 2006 BAFTA Film "The Queen". He has also appeared in the 1997 Oscar-nominated film "Wings of a Dove" alongside Helena Bonham Carter, but not in a starring role. Theatrically trained, he has appeared and has been nominated for awards, playing in such legendary theatres like London's "Old Vic" and the "Royal National Theatre". So the boy done good.

Other roles of the show to note is Billy's older sister, played by Fleur Taylor who starred as bully Imelda Davis in "Grange Hill" in 1985-87, before being expelled from the school for good. She has now left the acting business, and runs an Estate Agents.

Mike Walling appeared on quite a few children's Comedy/Drama on both CBBC and ITV around the time of the early-mid 90s. For some, he is most well known as Eric from BBC sitcom "Brush Strokes" (1986-1991). He has also appeared in Coronation Street recently in 2006, as short-lived character Clifford Ford, Before his TV "fame", he was a comedy double act with Mo Foster, who wrote parody songs including "The Papadum Song" in the early 1980s, which was meant to be released into the charts, however in a case of bad timing, the records never reached the shop due to industrial strikes. Mmm, I'm interest enough to youtube that!

Another worthy to note actor is Brian Hall, who play's Billy's father in both serials. He's best known as Terry the cook from renowned comedy sitcom "Fawlty Towers", starring John Cleese. He had a long career with many credits in British dramas and comedies until his death in 1997.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Beatlemania Explodes!

The Beatles Mersey Sound 1963

"The Mersey Sound" was a one-off BBC special documentary profiling none other than the legendary 4-man band "The Beatles", and in this clip, well it shows The Beatles singing live a cover of the 1962 "Top Notes" song "Twist and Shout" to an audience of manic, screaming teenage girls, but not only that, fascinating coverage of the masses of people running and wanting to touch any one of the "Fab Four". Unbelieveable. 1963 was The Beatles at this stupendously stage of uber-popularity, reaching not only in their hometown of Liverpool and the UK, but reaching the far corners of the world, including breaking in America. Then we hear one of The Beatles (and Britain's) biggest ever single hits "She Loves You"...along with more hysteria. This live act footage was filmed at the Little Theatre, Houghton Street, Southport.

This documentary was originally shown on October 9th 1963, and was a 36 minute special, not only featuring The Beatles cast of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, but the film also covers 2 much lesser known rock/pop bands, "Group One" who were the opening act for The Beatles, and also "The Undertakers".

As regard to "The Beatles", Lennon and McCartney were the brains of the band, who plied their hand into writing all of their original songs such as "She Loves You". The Lennon/McCartney wrote a whopping 180 songs between the period of 1962 to 1969. However, they mostly worked by their own, writing the music and words, each song more relating to one rather than the two, however a double team effort was always needed to push that song as "all clear" for the band. They had been writing songs together since their teens. There is of course the infamous dispute of in the writing credits of whose name should come first! Naturally Lennon would come first, if in alphabetical order, but in the early days they would be reversed too, but this issue has angered John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono's wife after his death, as McCartney seemed to lean on having his name first on all the Beatles songs, and claiming it wouldn't have bothered Lennon in the first place. Although McCartney now says, he's over it, he still bloody does to this day...

The members of the band each had different roles of course, with McCartney on vocal, I can't say lead vocal, as Lennon was heavily involved with the singing too. McCartney would also be on bass guitar, Lennon on rhythm guitar, while George Harrison was the backing or harmony vocal with the lead guitar, and lastly Ringo on the drums, as we see on the clip.

Bong...Another Heaping of Tory Sleaze, it's the 1990's of Course

ITN News at Ten - 1995

"News At Ten", the flagship news programme from ITN produced for ITV, enjoyed one of it's most popular and well-remembered runs in the early-late 90s, presented by Britain's first black newsreader Trevor McDonald, who began with ITV back in 1973. McDonald became the premier newsreader , when he became the sole newsreader for "News At Ten" 1992. This ear is much remembered also for the dramatic intro, using aerial flying camera footage of Big Ben over looking the Thames, and the almost frightening but you-know-this-news-is-going-to-be-important Big Ben bongs or dongs. Since it's shock axe and Trevor along with it, it has struggled to find it's feet after hundreds of schedule changes several times over and many beggings to bring back McDonald, made even harder by the BBC moving it's flagship news to "10 'O Clock" in 2000.

The clip begin with some ITV continuity for London Weekend Television including actor John Shaw in the forgotten police drama "The Chief", and London-only show "Richard Littlejohn Live and Uncut". The main story for "News At Ten" is a predictable one, which entertained viewers to no end. If it wasn't sleaze in John Major's cabinet or elected MP's, it's friends of the MP's or cabinets. Nothing new there. Also, unneccessary force from American police officers, bringing comparison to the Rodney King police beating murder inquiry, which led to the 1992 LA riots. The clip only involves the Trevor McDonlad links, not the detailed reports. Other headlines include a disabled rights protest at Westminster and Seagull expert and French footballer Eric Cantona stays with Manchester United. Horah! We also see more continuity later from GMTV, celebrating 40 years after VE Day (Victory in Europe Day -from Hitler and the Nazis and such), no doubt Eammon Holmes and Lorraine Kelly are the best people for that occasion.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Keep Your Head Down...and Skate!

Speed skating Men 10000M Oslo 1952 Winter Olympic Games

We're doing the rounds from the Winter Olympics again, with something a little different each time. We focus on the 1950s incarnation of Speed Skating at the Oslo, Norway Winter Olympics. Commentary is in Norwegian, but there is plenty to watch in this short clip. Speed Skating, a sport now dominated by lesser countries accustomed to the Winter Olympics like the Netherlands and South Korea and adorned in the latest very tight and aerodynamic lycra, taking place on artificial ice in an indoor arena.

In this clip, it shows a Norwegian (Norge) skater winning 2 races, going on to win the Gold medal in the 1000m event. The losing skater who unuckily slides off track is, hard to tell, telling from the flag in black and white, could be German. What we see here is a form of long track speed skating.

Speed Skating has been part of the Winter Olympics from the start, from the inaugural 1924 Games held in Chamonix, France. The roots of the sport go back a few centuries but official races were first set up in the 19th century in Norway. The race and movements for this sport are rather complex. The most notable movement is the "Double Push" which is trying to skate as a straight as possible by pushing alternatively on each side, giving a swaying effect, with the head down, and the arms or arm carrying the momentum in its swing. The skaters also sometimes just skate, but not really sprinting, where the their hands are behind their back. This does looks rather laid back, but probably to conserve energy for the corners and final dash at the end. The races in long-track speed skating are usually fought between two competitors, and after 400 metres, they swap lanes in a straight run section of the ice rink.

The differences between now and the clip are massive. Skates were firmly fixed to the shoes, while in the 1990's what's called a "Clap Skate" was invented, which would detach from one side of the shoe, when lifted off the ground. No more woolly hats, but athletes are now consumed by lycra and now wear goggles too.

Norway dominated the 1952 event with 3 Gold medals in 3 of the 4 various length events, including 2 Bronze medals to go with that. This was in great thanks to Hjalmar Andersen, as seen in the Youtube clip.

Norway went to claim top spot in the overall medal tables with 7 golds and 16 medals in total, with the United States and Finland in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

What is this Mess?

Fiona Corke & Peter Vroom on Motormouth

A star-filled, Pantomime-themed quiz section of the -I think- second series of ITV's Saturday morning "Motormouth". Here we see Andy Crane, sneakily jumping ship from the BBC Broom Cupboard to CITV, dressed as a pirate, talking to Yvette Fielding, no it's not, it's Fiona Corke (you may know her as Gail Robinson, nee Lewis, main squeeze of Paul Robinson at the time, from Australian soap "Neighbours"). So Corke and "Home and Away" actor Peter Vroom (played Lance Smart) against Frank "That's a cracker!" Carson and yes it's a man in drag impersonating Margaret Thatcher, how distinctly accurate. That man was Steve Nallon, who voiced the Maggie Thatcher puppet in the adult political satire "Spitting Image" in it's 80s heyday. Gameshow "God" and "Krypton Factor" presenter Gordon Burns asking the questions. A quite anarchaic, good-humoured mallett-chugging quiz ensues between the main presenters of the show. The celebrities hit the presenter on the head with a mallett if they get the questions wrong, it seems. A little under-utilised on the celebrities behalf, and done much better by Timmy Mallett...Bleurgh.

The main presenters of the show we see participating are Gaby Roslin, who would go onto greater fame presenting with Chris Evans on Channel 4's "Big Breakfast", Steve Johnson and Neil Buchanan, who in the same year of 1989 piloted a little-known show called "Art Attack".

"Motormouth" was a successful ITV Saturday morning show which ran for 4 series, between 1988-1992. The show took it's name from the motorised large mouth, which featured on the set. Coming after the axed "No.73", it ran on a schedule from Autumn to Spring. It wasn't as set-in-the-stone as the BBC's "Going Live!" was in terms of format, as it evolved and improved in later series. It had however, a great set of American-made cartoons, the ones that bribe your parents to buy the toys, like "The Real Ghostbusters", "She-Ra: Princess of Power", 60s favourite "Scooby Doo" and the Japanese parody of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "Samurai Pizza Cats".

Top to Bottom, Up and Over

Words and Pictures - Noisy Neville - Part 1

Great uploads from a Youtube user here, uploading quite a few "Words and Pictures" full episodes from mid-80s era of presenter Vicky Ireland along with her animated sidekick Charlie, set in a book library. This, along with "Look and Read" was one of the BBC Schools flagship shows, and the most fondly remembered too. The series would later focus on phonics, and use and sound of certain letters, however, here there is a focus on one letter and a themed around a word that starts with that specific letter. Here it is "N" and the theme is "Noise".

Of course, the iconic part of the show was "The Magic Pencil". It was a floating pencil with a sort of guiding light at the very end, slowly showing how a letter should be written, but all that "flick" nonsense, isn't completely neccessary! However, here it is "Top to Bottom, Up and Over" as voiced by the homely Vicky Ireland off-screen for that part of the show, as the orange levitating pencil - nobody holding it, honest-in a black background.

Charlie is the little man who will pop out of nowhere to talk to Vicky or associate himself with the group of strongly multi-ethnic children. The fluidity of the animation on his face now seem rather strange, it doesn't look computer generated or stock animation, you just know it's been developed slowly in any case. This era of "Words and Pictures" was superior to what followed, which feels more detached with less child attachment and no Charlie. Vicky Ireland would later be replaced by Stuart Bradley and cat puppet Nutmeg in 1990, followed by Sophie Aldred in 1992, of "Doctor Who" fame, and the animation sections were made by the same people (Alan Rogers which brought you the early 80's children's classic "Pigeon Street".

The show began in 1970 under the guidance of Gabriel Woolf and under a different name entitled "Up in the Attic". Gabriel would summon a magic lamp to bring out various puppet characters. Then it came under another name from 1972-73, called "Sam on Boffs' Island", a 20 episode storytale about little puppet men named Boffs, a huge host of characters like What-Boff, Paper-Boof, Sell-Boff. This also starred a young Tony Robinson and Miriam Margolyes. By 1975, it was "Words and Pictures" presented by Henry Woolf and the beginning of the Magic Pencil.

This website is my reference here, and there is alot of information about those early years of the show especially. I'll add this website to my blog links soon.

The show still runs in some form, with it's last series screened on the satellite channel "CBeebies" in 2006 named "Words and Pictures: Fun with Phonics". It also has it's own BBC interactive website. Why do you want to see it, heehee, the average age of people coming here is probably 30! It is still a widely used material used by schools today.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Le Resistance on Le Wogan with Nasty Gerries!

'Allo 'Allo on Wogan

A rare stage-version of the classic British comedy sitcom "'Allo 'Allo" featuring on the biggest chat show of the 1980s, "Wogan" presented by Irish radio & TV broadcaster funnyman Terry Wogan, who never seems to disappear from Britain's screens! This sitcom was set in France during the Second World War created by David Croft, who had produced a few other very successful, war-themed sitcoms like "Dad's Army" and "It Ain't Half Hot Mum". The show lampooned the French and German stereotypes, along with nods to British and Italian stereotypes. Cue silly accents from a British cast, and humour taken from culture differences. Although the subject matter of it being the Second World War and the Nazi's fascist regime and grief they caused for real, the humour did not step over the line, but was something all the family could enjoy.

Here we see a small part of the live stage version of the show, featuring the main couple of the show, René Artois (Gordon Kaye) and wife Edith (Carmen Silvera) staying in character talking to Wogan, posing with a faux French moustache. Also featuring are the Artois arch enemies Herr Otto Flick (Richard Gibson) and Private Helga Geerhart (Kim Hartman) who amuse the audience with some great but odd physical comedy in the form of dance. Herr Flick pulls out a wicked breakdancing move at one point! Near the end, we hear the cast out-of-character, with their natural English accents, which of course feels odd, if you've grown up with it.

Godawful 90's Dating Gameshow, Women May Cheer but Men, Look Away Now!

ITV Saturday Evening 01.06.1996 - 'Man O Man' with Chris Tarrant

This tacky gameshow was like Blind Date's embarrassing and uninhibited younger sister, but it's not a dating show! Presented by Chris Tarrant, who's been a dab hand at presenting and smutty or anarchaic shows undeterred, like the adult version of "Tiswas" in the early eighties, "OTT" and "Tarrant On TV" which showed outrageous TV clips from around the globe. To be fair, Tarrant makes an ideal host here, as he takes it all in his stride, neither crude or saint-like. It was in an age of "Girl Power", where in the media, it was becoming allowable for women to get the upperhand over the men.

"Man O Man" began in 1996, with this faux-tropicana set starring a boisterous audience of hot-blooded women, but not exactly to "Chippendale"-like levels. This clip features the first round of the contest for men to impress the female audience, and the swarm of gorgeous female models, non-dateable of course. This was merely to find the most attractive man on all fields, not just looks. However having looks helps in this first round, which is both the worst and most memorable part of the show, the first impressions round. So all 10 men stand with a swimming pool behind them. If you're an average Joe or have a face that could break a mirror, then you're in trouble! The men who are saved for the next round are kissed by a different model, but the unlucky 2 are teased, then pushed into the pool. Arrrgggh! Feel sorry for those guys!

Also, one of the models featured in the clip who pushes one of the guys, you may know as glamour model Nell McAndrew, probably most well known for appearing in ITV's first ever series of reality show of living it rough in the Australian jungle, "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here" in 2002.

The later rounds consisted of more of the remaining men's personalities coming through to impress the women. The show was a moderate success, and the format was taken from a European show, but didn't match the original's success. The second elimination round was personality, then "party-piece", "chat-up lines" and another cringeworthy moment being having to undress to their undies in the final 'hunks in trunks' round. After all that, the prize they are given is a real cheap token of manhood...a motorbike? If I was voted the most desirable man in the local vicinity, I would would wanting a prize that "gives back" to reward my radiant splendour.

Son, Get Yourself up that Attic and Fix that Water Leakage, Then You'll Know How I Felt Working in the Loom Mills Boy!

Pipe Bursts (1969) - UK Public Information Film

Late-sixties Public Information Film addressing how a family should check up on any burst water pipes in their home. A rather feeble matter, but still awe-strikingly important in an age drinking stale milk could've become a Public Information Film. We first see a family having a spot of Breakfast to some nice, soothing Elevator music, when all of a sudden water pours from the ceiling onto the father's bespectacled face, and no, the Eric Morecombe similarity is not not lost on me. Although the film promotes public safety in a way, a more modern concoction wouldn't show the kid -despite looking the eldest- on his own, fixing a pipe in the attic! Lazy dad.

Just when you think this is quite genteel for a PIF, the well-spoken voiceover gives the family a verbal slapping of the wrist, for not checking water leakage beforehand, and the creepyness factor is restored, the usual and sometimes effective mood of PIF's of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, when the family are just staring and smiling at the camera in pure unadulterated silence, after the announcer's bitter tone of words!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Oh, Big Boy! Watch me Ride (hmmm) the Pony

THE PIPKINS - Hartley Hare visits the dentist

Oh, this is hilarious. Hartley Hare is a scruffy, wavy-armed looking puppet thing, with a camp but witty tone of manner, not to mention, he's got a bit of an ego, and a little off-the-wall. Watch, if only for him riding the rocking horse, in the Dentist waiting room! Here we see sweet tooth Pipkins go with his friend Johnny (played by Wayne Laryea) to the Dentist. Surely one of the best kid's shows from the 70s! This was suppoesed to be a pre-school programme. Seems quite advanced compared to what you have now. The Dentist gives a running commentary of what he's doing as the tiny puppet sits in the dentists chair, including cleaning and washing his teeth. It starts cut off from the beginning, but contains most of the episode. Nigel Plaskitt, who would later lend his voice in such programmes like "Spitting Image" and 2005's "Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet", is the voice of Hartley Hare.

The programme focused on a group of puppets who lived in a puppet workshop with their maker. Hartley Hare is the most remembered, along with Pig, Tortoise (as shown in this clip), Topov the Monkey and Octavia the Ostrich. The show began in 1973, originally called "Indigo Pipkins", in reference to the elderly puppet maker of the same name. However the actor for the role, George Woodbridge died during filming of the second series, so the title just became "Pipkins". It ran alongside "Rainbow at the lunchtime hour on weekdays.

What was influential about the programme, was it referred on-screen about the death in 1974 as he was central to the show, becoming the first children's programme to make reference to death, long before "Sesame Street" did in 1983. It was also the first children's TV programme to feature regional accents, like Black Country and Cockney. The show ended in 1981, when multi-regional producers ATV(Associated Television),was dismantled to make way for Central Television, and replaced with "Let's Pretend". "Pipkins" was popular though, right to the end.

Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! COOL RUNNI...Did they Actually Say That Though?

Jamaica Olympic Bobsled team 1988

We now enter Bobsleigh territory in our Winter Olympics season, once again from the Calgary 1988 games. Yes, it's the first ever Jamaican bobsleigh team, a tropical country with no snow/ice whatsoever, that became famed for their glorious failure (which could've turned to tragedy, mind you) which embodied the spirit of "The taking part" under the Olympic banner, not just winning that counts. Of course, the event would be even more well-known after the based 1993 film "Cool Runnings" starring one of my favourite North American actors, Canadian comedy actor John Candy. Anyway, this is perhaps a good time to seperate fact from fiction..later on.

The sport of Bobsleigh (made a winter sport in 1924) is a trecherous, horrendously fast slide down narrow ice chutes that turn and slope, reaching possible speeds of 118 mph. There are 3 divisions of Bobsleigh in the Winter Olympics, the 4-man bob, 2-man bob and 2-woman bob.

First of all, it's annoying to find out, the Jamaican bobsleigh team were not setting the standard before they crashed. No world record pace here. They did though impress, with some fast starts. However, real footage was of the crash was shown on the film "Cool Runnings". The Bobsleigh goes to one side, and one or the men could've broke their neck as the their helmets are hitting the ice as it continues to slide around 2 more turns pretty fast! But they were lucky.

The four men were not accurately portrayed in the film, but they were sprinters, just not Olympic-standard ones, but from the army. However, the idea of a Jamaican Bobsleigh team was inspired by pushcart racers, from which the American backers of a Jamaican team saw. The names of the real Jamaican Bobsleigh team were Devon Harris, Dudley Stokes, Michael White and Samuel Clayton. They had a team of coaches, not just one coach. John Candy's Irving 'Irv' Blitzer was a fictional character, and there was no connection to any cheating scandal, and there was no hot rivalries from other countries. Everyone wanted to see the Jamaicans do well.

They didn't carry the Bobsleigh to the finish line like you see in the clip. Would be too heavy I guess. Instead it slid to the finish line, with the men walking along. But what about some of the catchphrases of the film like "Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! Cool Runnings!" they guys' chant as they begin to dash with the Bobsleigh? What about one of the characters who kissed a lucky egg? Did they sing "Jamaica have a Bobsleigh Team!"? Still unanswered questions, but I think it's likely to be from the film only!

Well, It was a Good Idea at the Time!

BBC Town Planning Programme circa 1961

Short clip of a rare documentary, on the future of town/city planning, focusing on the Barbican Estate area of London, which was the most heaviest bombed area of London during the Second World War. It talks of an expanding city, but the general consensus in the 1960s was, expanding and constructing upwards was the key to solving the problem of overcrowding and the general population rise from the "baby boom" era of 1945 and onwards. This was the age of the high-rise tower block, for which most have lived in infamy and are no longer with us, due to ill-planning or have descended into council sink estates, unloved, despite an air of security, unless you lived on the ground floor. However, not the Barbican Estate in central London, I'll get to that in 2 paragraphs time.

The programme is presented by Michael Calthrop. Not much about him on the net. That's all I know. Not seen in the clip, was also taking part were American Historian Lewis Mumford, who I guess would be discussing about his idealism about "organic cities" as quoted from his book at the time "The City in History"(1961) and Percy Johnson-Marshall a British town/city planner, who the following year, planned the University of Edinburgh's Comprehensive Development Area in the 1960s, who was a lecturer there himself, and taking from the credits, helped produce this documentary too.

The Barbican Estate area was and still is, an in-demand place of earnest living, and expensive. It's in the very heart of London, the district of The City of London, so it's crammed full of facilities like an Arts Centre and shops. Unlike similar examples of "Brutalist Architecture" (raw concrete buildings) elsewhere in the UK, which became no-go areas because of a lack of facilities. The most know towers like Shakespeare, Cromwell and Lauderdale have all become Grade II listed buildings, infact the whole estate is Grade II listed.

Monday, 22 February 2010

1950s Grace, Splendour and Mirth in the Golden Days of Variety - Full Episode

Sunday Night at the London Palladium 13-4-58 Part1

"Sunday Night at the London Palladium" was the ratings powerhouse for ITV in the 1950s and 60s, which can be compared of the same ilk as modern ventures like "X-Factor" and "Strictly Come Dancing", but this wasn't some format manipulated or tampered with to garner viewer's votes! This was true variety, not just singing and dancing, but comedians, puppeteers and ventriloquists. This glitzy extravanganza was for ITV produced by regional midlands super-outfit ATV. the programme is best remembered for song, dance and gag man Bruce Forsyth in his early days (early days?) learning his craft and also hosting the show on occasions. The show reached a peak audience of an astonishing 20 million viewers in 1960, shown live.

The link above is the 1st part of the whole show, and this is an ashtonishing and rare upload to have a 1950s show in it's full entirety on Youtube. Also add to that, only 5 episodes of the show's original run survived the "achive wipeout", a common feature in the 1950s. There seems to be a couple more full episodes of the show from the 60s here too.

The show was headlined and presented by Val Parnell (Valentine Parnell) from 1956 to 1965. He was also a big figure in the world of theatre, and is thought to have introduced Julie Andrews (singing star of "Sound of Music" film)into acting fame. He was the managing director of ATV at the same time.

This episode does not star Bruce Forsyth, who would later be a pillar for the show's success. It does feature American Jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, The Tiller Girls, comedian Tommy Trinder American guitarist and singer Marvin Rainwater, American comedian Dick Shawn and er..string pig puppet singing sensations Pinky and Perky! Singing an Everley Brothers covers of "Bye Bye Love". Along with a host of other puppet animals featuring an Elvis Presley singing cat puppet guitar strummer!

Tommy Trinder also presents the "Beat The Clock" gameshow section of the show. This was later Forsyth's baby too. The format of the gameshow was simple, complete a given task in under 60 seconds and hence, you have beaten the clock! It was originally an American show that ran solo from 1950 and enjoyed a very long run over there. This ran the whole length of the famous variety show, which eventually ended in 1967. The show was asked by TV chief at the the time, Lord Grade, which he later regretted.

Both "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" and "Beat The Clock" enjoyed 80s revivals individually, the former being renamed a few times from "Live at the Palladium" to "Live At Her Majesty's". This lasted for most of the 80s 1982 -1988. The latter in 1987 presented by radio DJ and "Top of the Pops" presenter Mike Smith, for a less impressive run.

Variety died out for a while by the late-80s and especially well into the 90s and 2000s, after another revivial spooned by Bruce Forsyth flopped. However, you could say it's back in a big way now, depending on who you talk to, as you now have "Britain's Got Talent", which suppoesedly cater for all the styles of entertainment you used to see, but not as innocent in it's previous form, taking a winner-takes-all-mentality. I wonder if a plate-spinner will ever win "BGT"?

Heartbreaking & Hard Hitting Drama...No Joke

C/-\T-Y C0/\/\E -0/\/\E 1 1966

"Cathy Come Home" although now 44 years old, is still one of Britain's most highly-acclaimed dramas. This one-off episode (split into 8 parts on Youtube)adapted for the BBC's "The Wednesday Play", a precursor to "Play for Today", featured a non-serial play for each week with a new set of characters and storytelling, however "Cathy Comes Home" sticks out a mile. It's the worst scenario you could ever hope for, for a young aspiring family with a newly-born child. Despite the relaxation of laws and prejudices in the 1960s, the programme was revered as shocking and profiled such issues that were before swept under the carpet, such as homelessness, right to child custody and unemploment. It also shows a lack of care from the state, who feel that Cathy (played by Carol White) and partner Reg (Played by Ray Brooks) have only themselves to blame.

This is a must-see for all lovers of nostalgic UK TV. The programme starts with a blossoming and aspiring relationship between Cathy and Reg. Cathy is much like the young women of that generation, a sense of adventure and freedom, but still with a strong set of morals. Also there is a Seeing her being quite stroppy about Reg's swearing-which we don't hear- is a facet of changing times today, but that is a given, being 44 years old. Reg is happy-go-lucky but arrogant about making it big, and making big money, but this heightens the part of the programme where it all comes crashing down. The Youtube clips have English subtitles, this is extra helpful though.

12 million viewers were with baited breath as Reg suffers an injury after their child is born and is unable to work. They are unable to pay the bills and the dreaded bailiffs evict them from their home. The social services see Cathy as unfit to keep the child, as they have no secure form of shelter, as they illegally squat in empty houses out of sheer desperation.

This was very near-the-knuckle and gritty for it's time, and it is still sends a powerful message today. Directed by then unknown, now critically acclaimed British directer Ken Loach, this was what Loach did best in TV drama, social realism. The play was also written by Jeremy Sandford, and produced by Tony Garnett. The programme was charted in 2000, as the second, yes, the second Greatest British TV Programme of all time! So don't just read my blurb, watch the bloody thing!

Reality and fiction became blurred, as British actress Carol White, who played Cathy, saw her acting career go downhill through alcholism and drugs, after the 1960s. She also appeared in the film "Poor Cow" (1967), an almost mirror image to her previous role, and another 1967 film "I'll Never Forget What's'isname" with cast of the highest order starring Oliver Reed(which she had a relationship with) and Orson Welles, which takes a look at the world of business in advertising. Carol died in 1991 from a suspected drug overdose at the age of 48.

Opposite Carol White, Ray Brooks went on to even greater fame, being the narration behind the 70s animation classic "Mr. Benn".

The Beginnings of the Spinning BBC Globe...

BBC GLOBE pre BBC2 1963

A short and sweet clip, of the first incarnation of the spinning BBC Globe ident from 1963. I'm not sure if this is the exact first appearance of the globe from November 30th September, but obviously pretty close. The globe theme lasted up to 2002, with the spinning globe really ending in 1997, replaced by BBC globe hot-air balloons shown in outdoor locations soaring above. The idents after 2002, became more human-orientated appealing to a multi-cultural society. Oh...pour me a drink...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Weekday Morning TV Finds a Pulse...Helped by 917 Pigeons in Trafalgar Square

the 1st tv am

From the 1st February 1983, TV-AM breaks onto our screens, 2 weeks after the BBC's first ever foray into plush, cosy sofa and woolly jumpers which was "Breakfast Time. Before then, there was absolutely nothing on daytime TV, never mind breakfast TV! In the very early days it was blank, then came along the test cards and ceefax pages. It felt almost brain dead, not forgetting the no-frills Open University programmes, perhaps interesting for bores like me, but terribly twee and boring for some.

In this clip, it's genuine continuity featuring a long version of the TV-AM theme. If you want to to just go to the iconic TV-AM intro, go to 2 mins 15 secs into the youtube video, and also see those first words by one of 5 presenters for the show, the main, main anchor of the show, David Frost. The team of five were interviewers David Frost and Michael Parkinson and newscasters Angela Rippon, Anna Ford and Robert Kee. The famous five were also shareholders in the TV-AM franchise, believe it or not. The intro is done on a large scale, really pinning down the fact this is a must-see evolution/revolution of Breakfast TV. Frost gives us a lowdown on all the particiapants that helped form the slogan of TV-AM "Good Morning Britain". Parachutists/sky divers, the people of Bristol, the British Navy and "917 pigeons of Trafalgar Square". How do they know that? And how did they get them to form the word "Morning"? Alright, probably carefully designed metal cased lettering frames with snacks in them. Mystery solved.

Now, there is no Anne Diamond or Nick Owen here at this point! This first version of the show was well, you couldn't say a flop with such distinguished stars of the show, but there was no chemistry between the presenters, and Parkinson and Frost, perhaps too stuffy for what was suppoesed be a more relaxed form of news and lifestyle output. TV-AM ran from 6am-9.15am originally, but extended to 9.25 am later.

4 of the 5 presenters were dumped, the exception being David Frost, who would be moved from main presenter to the more familiar territory of Politics. TV-AM still struggled financially and with ratings but gradually improved in 1984 under Diamond's and Owen's chemistry. The best Breakfast TV shows always seem to be the ones where the main male and female are good at fabricating themselves as a married couple, bickering but never awkward for a moment together.

So this is when TV-AM improved, with of course Roland Rat and later Timmy Mallett's "Wacaday" for the kids, and you had a real good cast of some strong presenters like Richard Keys, keep-fit extradinaire Lizzie Webb, Chris Tarrant in the summer, creepy Jeremy Beadle in his "Today's the Day" section, David Icke in the sports department, before he went mad, the bubbly Lorraine Kelly near the end of the franchise's run, Ulrika Jonsson as the weather girl, and who can forget cheerful, mustached Mike Morris, who seems to have disappeared from TV since TV-AM lost the right to broadcast, after being outbidded by GMTV (Good Morning TeleVision)?
TV-AM lost their franchise beginning from New Year's Day in 1993, their last edition the day before. This was also the day Thames Television lost their franchise of ITV's London region, but whose programmes were also known nationally, replace by Carlton Television. The result of this also saw a more centralised ITV as some regional TV regions were merged or their output was reduced.

I hear it all the time, many say TV-AM would've been doing a much better job than GMTV, which is now less news-focused and more about showbiz and entertainment news, but it is now a long time ago over 17 years since TV-AM, when "zleb" culture did not carry about the "famous for nothing" mantle. Who knows?

Don't Ask Daft Questions, Michael!

Shirley Temple on the Parkinson show June 1972

and the second smaller clip:

Highlights and the first part of an early "Parkinson" interview with one of the most famed Hollywood child actresses Shirley Temple. By 1972, Temple had quit the movie business with only sparse appearances on TV chat show after her 1958 TV vehicle flop "Shirley Temple's Storybook".

This clip features host Michael Parkinson questioning Temple on more serious issues like depression and about being married at the age of 17 to American actor John Agar and divorced at such a young age. Interlaced between that are more -jokey-trivial matters, like were the sets made deliberately bigger to make Shirley the child look even smaller, and how did she prepare to "cry" as child actor. Annoyingly, it's part one of interview on Youtube, the second part is nowhere to be seen in the related videos! I will check later and bring the second part here, if I can find it.

"Parkinson" was a popular BBC chat show from the 70s. Michael Parkinson's non-attention seeking, laid-back and working class heritaged manner went down well with many viewers. Parkinson was born in 1935, in the coal mining village of Cudworth, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. Although a son of a miner, Parkinson performed well at school, and became an active cricketer (played in the same club as legendary cricket household names like Dickie Bird and Geoffrey Boycott) and news reporter, establishing himself in the journalist market, and impressing enough to get into Tv presenting and his own chat show. That's how they did it back then! The first run of the show was from 1971-1982. He left the show for his unsuccessful short stint on "TV-AM" on Channel 3, the other side. For a while his broadcasting career was a little in the doldrums, far from the heights of "Parkinson".

In 1995, people started to remember how memorable the chat show was, including some of his funniest interview with legendary Boxer Muhammad Ali, Entertainer Rod Hull with his puppet Emu, and numerous ones with Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. A "Best of.." retrospective was shown, and "Parkinson" was soon revived in 1998 on the BBC. Things were going well until forced schedule changes of the show, thanks to the return of "Match of the Day" on Saturday nights in 2004, and the show limped on, on ITV of all places, now with adverts (BBC don't have commercial advertising as they get their money from the "TV licence" bill and Government funded.). Michael Parkinson retired from the role and so was the show, in 2007.

Sabotaged American Figure Skater Returns with a Flourish at Lillehammer

Nancy Kerrigan - 1994 Olympics LP

On to ice skating now, in our Winter Olympics section, as the present 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics rumbles on. Although she never won Gold medal, the American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is considered one of the greatest never to have won the Gold. Only a month before, Nancy Kerrigan was purposely smacked by a combustilble baton on the knee, which was disturbingly planned out by Figure skating American rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, and her bodyguard, Shawn Eckardt. They ordered a man by the name of Shane Stant, to make the hit on Kerrigan. Harding was not completely guilty and actively tried to cover up the plot. In cruel fashion, Harding won the US Championships while Kerrigan was out of action.

A media frenzy ensues and a court case was taken out against Harding on February 1st, 1994, where she pleaded guilty, but still maintained her innocence, in perhaps a selfish attempt to not receive a jail sentance. Controversially, Tonya Harding was still allowed to participate in the Lillehammer 1994 Olympics, however her career floundered thereafter, and was then banned from figure skating for life, after these events. Harding finished 8th while Kerrigan, not quite the fairytale, but ended in second place for the silver medal, with one of her greatest performances on the ice. Kerrigan was lucky to have recovered from the incident in time for the Winter Olympics.

More off-topic, what was odd about the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics in Norway, was it only came 2 years after the previous 1992 Olympics in Alberville. This was to stop both the Winter and Summer Olympics clashing in the same. They would never of course clash directly, but the thought was, with the close proximity of the looming Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics, not quite the ratings-winner as the Summer ones, was felt to be overshadowed by it.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Lovely Christmas Day Viewing in Famed Eastenders Fare

Arthur has a breakdown on Christmas Day - EastEnders - BBC

In the last of our Eastenders appreciation during it's 25th anniversary celebrations(and now after), here is another unforgettable and iconic moment from it's early days. It's from the same episode of the "Den's Divorce Papers", and it the aftermath is featured in this clip. Forgive me for not vastly expanding time periods of the clips in our Eastenders special, but I have never seen someone who is virtually at the end of their tether so brilliantly performed by Bill Treacher, who plays the honest-working but suffering Arthur Fowler. Hassled by the law, wife Pauline (Wendy Richards) and mother-in-law Lou Beale (Anna Wing).

Arthur suffers a mental breakdown as he is flailing to support the family and his health deteriorates. In his desperation, although known for being warm and reliable, he steals the residents Christmas Club money. The "Chritsmas Club" was a programme stemmed by bank sing the 1930s Great Depression, a desposit for savings to be unleashed and spent every Christmas. Anyway, this was a brilliant slow-burning storyline that results in Arthur, completely losing his rag and everything in that living room needs postage for air mail. This was watched by 30.1 million viewers, a soap all-time ratings best.

Pet Shop Boys? Boring? Never!

Pet Shop Boys-Being boring

"Being Boring" is a great little song from the musical duo of the Pet Shop Boys, with this hit at the turn of the decade, after their peak in the mid-late 80s with big hits like "West End Girls" in 1985, Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) in 1986 and an Elvis Presley cover song "Always On My Mind" in 1987.

From their 1990 album "Behaviour", this song witnessed a calm down from the cheery 80s synth, and was a more subdued effort from singer/speaker Neil Tennant and keyboardist Chris Lowe, however it's also a very personal and emotional account of friends and colleagues who are no longer with us, in their case, friends and colleagues who had died of AIDS, which was a sexually transmitted disease that came to the UK's shores in the 1980s. The song conveys an almost chronological history of a life beginning from the 1920s to the 1970s and the 1990s.

In this November 1990 act on TOTP, singer Neil Tennant hosts an inquisitive and detective looking long, leather coat, glasses and a small hat, passing the era when large round hats were in fashion in the late-80s (think Pete Waterman's babes "Mel and Kim").

We're Not Alright Kinnock, You've Lost - The 1992 BBC Election Coverage, the Full Thing on Youtube

Election 1992 - Part One

An absolutely brilliant upload here. This is certainly the "jewel in the crown" for our politics genre. And we'll see more here hopefully, in the months leading up to the 2010 UK election in May/June. However, not the only election "up" on Youtube. 52 parts in total. That must be about 8 hours of coverage on Youtube. Amazing! This features the Election Night, running into sunrise.

David Dimbleby anchors the show along with the steely mouth Jeremy Paxman to grill the politican mouthpieces who appeared in the studio as the night began. The best reporters would be stationed around the country and at party headquarters and polling stations, as you'd expect. Political satrisist Rory Bremner was on hand to pass comment on proceeding out-of-studio throughout the night, with the odd impression of the campaigning leaders. Also we have the legend that is John Snow to present from the most up-to-date computer graphics of all the statistics on the election on a giant TV screen, profiling the target seats for each party, regional breakdowns and so on. An enthusiam that was hard to contain from John, and leapt to viewers' attentions.

The main comparison between this and our upcoming election, is this will be the first closely contested election since 1992, with the prospect of a "hung parliament" still in the air. This mean the party with the most seats has not reached a certain number to claim a majority, and will have to share the power with another party or parties, who, added together, can break the number barrier for majority territory.

In the build up to the 1992 election, polls were pointing towards a change in government, and a possible Labour majority govenrment under Labour leader and Welshman Neil Kinnock. Come the time of the infamous Sheffield Rally, the celebration for Labour's "looming" election were already under way, and Kinnock, perhaps taken in too much by the enthusiasm of the crowd, exclaimed "We're Alright, We're Alright". Well in the aftermath, the party were left with pie in their face, along with the official BBC exit polls, saying the best Conservative party could do, was a minority government. Also add to the fact, that the UK were in a worsening economic recession. Well, well, it was a turn-up for the books...

In this hugely important election, after voters had suffered or sailed under Margaret Thatcher's drastic reforms on free trade, manufacturing, property and privatisation in the 1980s, Thatcher had become increasing unpopular and became increasingly dictorial, the party rebelled against her. The thought was the next, this time unelected PM John Major, did not have the charisma and speaking prowess of Kinnock, but the catch was, many voters did not trust the man to run a country. A somewhat hysterical and blairy-mouthed individual, it was understandable. Major came across very differently from Thatcher, appearing gentlemanly and honourable.

In the end, the Tories tallied up with 336 seats, and were left with a surprising 21 seat majority. Kinnock's Labour gained 42 seats to a lacklustre 279 seats. The newly merged Liberal Democrats, after the late- 80s failure of the SDP-Lib Alliance, struggled to make a mark with leader Paddy Ashdown, losing 2 seats, down to 20 seats. The movement under the Nationalist parties like Plaid Cymru and SNP (Scottish National Party) stood solid with only Plaid gaining 1 seat. The Conservatives bubble was to burst 5 years later, with all worthwhile parties happily scrambling for seats in the next election.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Celebrating Eastender 25th Anniversary: The 'Enders Highest Rated Cliffhanger!

EastEnders / Dirty Den gives Angie divorce papers for Christmas - EastEnders - BBC

Oh, you should know already! The most talked about as they say now "duff, duff" moment was when Dennis "Dirty Den" Watts shocked the unbeknownst Angie Watts by handing over those divorce papers after 20 years of marriage! This was the climax to the already heated, thunderous and argumentative relationship between the 2. despite the fact Den had a mistress in early 1986, being the name of Jan Hammond, he was a popular character, and the viewers wanted to see Angie getting a come-uppance after blatently lying about the fact she was dying from cancer and only had six months to live. This was her twisted plot to keep the marriage alive. Den was skeptical at first, but was taken in by Angie's ill...and suicidal behaviour. The famous scene on Christmas Day 1986 that took place in the narrow back hall of the Queen Vic pub, was set in stone, once Den discovered, on holiday in Venice, Italy with Angie, having overheared her admittance to the cancer being all one big lie!

Despite the fact Eastenders had only ran the year before, and even if you take into account everybody only had 4 channels. The success and media press of the show at that time that helped catapult their initial viewer ratings of 17 million, to nearly double that, for this Christmas special episode. It achieved 30.1 million viewers, the highest ever achieved by a British soap, and still is the record. It's amazing, it's up there with the death of Princess Diana and the '66 World Cup! The gritty realism that was displayed in Eastenders, helped many viewers to be able to relate to the characters very much so.

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread for Teaching Drama in the UK...

Three Looms Waiting Part 1

A memorable episode of the long-running arts and culture programme "Omnibus" (1967-2003), about a teacher. Just a teacher? Not just any teacher, this was someone who helped evolve drastically the way of teaching children drama. It was about the teacher becoming more harmonious with the children, and not be stooped on a higher platform, trying to think of acting like a theatrical director. Instead a more involving and a lack of hierachy, would help children be enthused to act, to act as another person in a more natural process. This process even had a name, it was called "Mantle of the Expert".

This teacher's name was Dorothy Heathcote, a former Mill worker (the clue's in the video title) from West Yorkshire. As she reiterated dreams of to be an actress, the mill boss, Charlie Fletcher exclaimed "that if it didn't work out there would always be three looms waiting for her at his mill." Hence the title. Although a talented actress, she was turned down for not having the right look. For Dorothy, fair to say she wasn't a pretty girl, was plucked out of nowhere to become a drama teacher, in a career change, in 1951. At first, her style of teaching was looked down on, but she then became raved about in her teaching success, spanning into a fan base outwith her local school, and other amenities she used to teach, such as village halls in Yorkshire, and the Bradford Civic Playhouse.

This episode is an celebration of her work, who was now a university lecturer, split into 8 parts on Youtube. Dorothy Heathcote is still alive to this day, in her 80s now.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Best Skier of All-Time?


Continuing our special focus on the past Winter Olympics from the 20th Century, it was only a matter of time, before we turned to quite simply, the most premier of the Winter and Alpine sports which is skiing. Now Skiing is broken up in different styles of event, featured in this short clip, is one of the most powerful and impressive skiers of all time, Italian Alberto Tomba, at the ultimate peak of his career, winning the gold medal for the Giant Slalom event, and the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Although the commentary is in Italian, that is only second fiddle to the visual aspect of "Tomba la Bomba", mastering the course with great skill in this nice, short clip.

Alberto Tombo, from Castel de Britti, near Bologna won 2 gold medals at the Calgary Olympics for both the "Slalom" and the "Giant Slalom", following a decent Bronze from the 1987 World Championships. He later won another gold medal for the Giant Slalom event and a silver at the regular Slalom, at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. His career declined after this year, and only just managed to win a silver for the Slalom at the 1994 Lillehammer event. He peaked once again 1995, with an impressive winning streak and won the World Cup title for the Giant Slalom. Afer a dismal performance at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, including a non-finish (crashing), he hanged up his boots for retirement.

Although it's pretty much the same aspect as Skiing down a hill, there is some difference between the Alpine sports of Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom and Mogul Skiing.

Downhill is one of the faster disciplines, starting from the mountain top or "piste", and make your way through the "Gates", which are the gaps between 2 level flags on a flexible pole-like thingy. The ski lengths are larger, hosting more exhilarating speeds than "Slalom".

Slalom is means to zigzag between obstacles. The course is much like Downhill, but the gates are more plentiful and smaller gaps between the gates, so the turns are more trickier. Men's Slalom has more gates than women's skiing.

Giant Slalom is simply the same as Slalom, but the gaps between gates are slightly larger. There is also "Super-G Slalom"...well, that's easy to find out for yourself!

Mogul Skiing is a mix of freestyle and downhill, but this is nowhere near as fast as Downhill. The skiers perform 2 jumps in the battle for points, which involves aerial skills and acrobatics. They then land of very bumpy terrain, and the important factors are not only speed, but keeping your balance.

Alreet, Going Doon the Toon for a Reet Ol' Crack

Geordie Comedy From The Late 1970s - Part One

An 8 part obscure wonder of bygone times. We focus yet on again on regional comedy, this time from the North East of England or Tyneside region, from which the classic "Geordie" tag originated, especially referred to people born in the city of Newcastle. If you like your comedy, working class, northern, old school, and swear word-free, then you might very well enjoy this massive compilation of not only North East comedians, many you might never have heard of, but Scottish and Irish comedians too. This is from an obscure regional programme produced by Tyne Tees Television called "What Fettle?", and ran only for over a year between 1977-1978. The show took place in what looked like your typical comedy club,with some wiry 70s garb in the background, and the ever-so-slightly Americanised, small intimate tables with over-sized lamps! Featuring interview segments and some off-location clips. Also, marvel at the sheer ease of stand-up Bobby Thompson, puffing away on his cigarette as he fires off his stories and jokes about life in the North East.

Also, look 31 seconds into the first part, a man in audience looks a lot like future Tory MP,and member of the Tory sleaze club, Chelsea football supporter David Mellor? I could be wrong, but it's quite hard to believe!

"What Fettle?" is a Geordie expression, best described by the "Urban Dictionary":

"A greeting , mainly used by older members of the community in North East Mining communities, latterly bastardised by younger members of the community to signify the achievement of the physical act of love,when such topics are discussed in a public house etc."

The cast of comedians and entertainers include: Bobby Thompson, Billy Martin, Bobby Hooper, "Rab C. Nesbitt" look-a-like Alan Snell, the "charming" evening-gowned Scarlet O'Hara, Bobby Knoxall, Bobby Pattinson, Lambert and Ross, Peter Mitchell, the Dixielander and Walter Gee. Phew.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

80s Advert Icon Hated by the Suits Upstairs, but Loved by the Public

Hofmeister - Sportsman - 1986 - UK Advert

Those were the days! When cheap lager appealed to kids! However seriously, this was an exceptional though very dated series of adverts, that very much continue the staple of the best 80s adverts being the funny ones. Back when beer was highly regarded as man's drink before the virtue of certain liberalism that was the ladette culturee in the mid-90s, here was a costumed up bear with a post-modern, "Madness"-inspired pork pie hat, and causal yellow jacket, who is a real jack-of-all-trades, but seemingly, master of everything! The character in question is called George the Hofmeister Bear, who in this, shows off his football skills, and some great camera trickery (or string pulling) of a beer pint glass being kept in the air using numerous parts of his body, and the editing is well executed too.

Beating David Hasselhoff to the nickname "Hofmeister", the slogan of the ad was, to "Follow the Bear", and for some time people did and bought Hofmeister beer. The advertising campaign was pulled after complaints about the bear appealing to children. Sadly Hofmeister lager, made in Britain was discontinued in 2003. This had been growing preference for stronger but paler beers/lagers from the continent since the 60s/70s long before the famous advertising campaign. However, the ad remains unforgotten, usually found to be appearing in the Top 100 UK Ads ever-type show, and appearing in people's personal favourites. There's even a Facebook fan group, displaying the bear as a legend:

Bawdy goings-on in an Eastenders off-set Episode...

Eastenders in Spain 1995 Part 1

A real treat here, with a full episode in 7 parts of an Eastenders 1995 special, special as they're on holiday in sunny Espana. Featuuring the Mitchell Brothers, Phil and Grant (Steve McFadden & Gary Kemp), with more hair, and Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen), son of Frank, with even more hair. This is an exclusive focus on 6 of the cast members also overlooking David Wicks (Michael French), Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer) and the the lesser-known Steve Elliot. The episode begins set on the plane towards Terremolinos, Spain.

Basically, the episode sets the standard for the the recent phenomonom (at the time) for badly behaved Brits abroad, labelled the "18-30 club" culture or the "Loaded Generation", primarily to get laid with the opposite sex. Maybe many times over on one holiday. However, this is of course a family show, so a much more tamer version of what you see on reality/voyeur/fly-on-wall late night programmes.

So what were the background to the characters back then? Ricky and Bianca are having a rough ride in their relationship, but shortly marry after the holiday. The Mitchell brothers do some searching for their little sister Sam, who had been missing from the soap for 2 years, after leaving Walford after her marriage break-up with Ricky, and being a constant pain in the neck. It was really because the soap's ratings were falling and the producers were bringing back some of the bigger characters. David Wicks history was Bianca was a weird one. After entering the soap in 1993, he made a pass at the young Bianca, but both later find out, from Carol Jackson, that they are father and daughter. Steve Elliot was played by Mark Monero from 1991-1996. The character did not have an on-screen family, and was known for being unlucky with women. He had recently bought a slice of income from the Bridge Street Cafe, which put him into a business rivalry with Ian Beale.

Monday, 15 February 2010

East vs. West on Ice

1960 Winter Olympics USA vs. USSR

In 1960, many people around the world, feared the nuclear arms race between the 2 superpowers the USA and the USSR would likely culiminate into the war that would end all wars, before being nuked into oblivion. Thankfully the only contest fought between the 2 were taken place on an Ice Hockey rink. Taking place before "The Cold War" really peaked, with the rise of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the "Cuban Missile Crisis" in 1962, here we witness the sporting rivalry between the 2 nations, that expanded into a fight for the most gold-winning nation of the 1960 Winter Olympics held in Squaw Valley in California.

In this match, the USA defeat the Soviet Union 3-2. Compared to other games played in this tournament, this was a pretty low-scoring game. The USA won all their games from group qualifiers to the final five group to claim the gold medal. They defeated the likes of other giants of the game such as, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden. Canada eventually claimed silver, and USSR claimed bronze, winning both preliminary games, but only winning 2 games in the final five, including one tie game.

Looking at the bigger picture, the roles are reversed, and it was the Soviet Union that came out on tops in the overall medal league with seven gold medals, 3 over the second placed Germany, while the USA lie in third place with 3 gold medals.

ITV Lobs It's Head Off the Pillow after a Nice, Cosy Nap

News at 545 with Leonard Parkin (1979) Part 1

This was the first ITN broadcast after the infamous ITV blackout that occured for an eye-shattering 2 months from August-October 1979. This was the early years of ITN's(Independent Television News, which has provided news content for ITV from the very beginning -1955- to the present). evening news programme that used to begin at 5.45pm. This features Leonard Parkin with a magnificent combover. A well-liked news presenter, he began presenting the "News at 545" in the same year until 1987, sharing his position with such great stewards of the presenter garb like Peter Sissons.

This is a 2 part full edition of the evening ITN news. The ITV blackout was surprisingly not the top storyline, but it was British airline entrenpeneur and Laker Airlines owner Sir Freddie Laker's fight to bring dirt cheap (in those days) planes rates to Europe, prompting threats of increased competition and decreasing production quality. Also on the headlines, former Prime Minister James Callaghan faces a challenge for the leadership, from the left wing of the party, which did invariably win. Michael Foot became the next leader of the party. Other headlines of course include the ITV 2 month blackout, plus the upcoming British-ruled Zimbabwe-Rhodesia elections and rising cases of truancy in Birmingham. As said by the user who uploaded the video, 3 minutes in, we have a BBC report on the ITV fiasco blackout shocker. Part 2 of this edition, highlights the ITV event. We see the premier cream of news presenter market being previewed as hosting the upcoming "News at Ten", with Alistair Burnett, and Anna Ford, rather angrily typing on a typewriter. This forwards with report on the set of Coronation Street, and filming their reaction to their glorious return, featuring Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch) and Peter Adamson (Len Fairclough) . Can imagine 2 months without Coronation Street? Bliss for some I suppose.

The infamous blackout was a 10-week industrial dispute after pitiful wage increase for staff including electricians. ITV was entrely blacked out, with no TV programmes for those 10 weeks, with only viewers in the Midlands being able to see Central Television programmes, from which they were fear the regional company would be run out of business, if the strike reached their shores.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

All the Best Eddie!

Calgary 1988 Opening Ceremony Highlights

If you have recently enjoyed the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, then why not compare and contrast with the last Winter Olympics in Canada? Also situated in the west of the country, Calgary welcomes the world to all favourite quad-annually portions of Downhill Skiing, the Ski Jump, Slalom, Bobsleigh, Speed Skating, Ice Skating, Biathlon, the Luge and Curling. I'm sure I've missed a few others.

We're sure they have full explainations, but the Opening Ceremony highlights consist of dancing dinosaurs breaking out of eggs, Canadian cowboy drum/percussion bands, celebrating the heritage of the state, you know, some more cowboys, Native Indians and not forgetting lasso artists. Balloons of every colour rage into the sky. You can tell by now, compared to recent Opening Ceremonys, are alot more linear, less artistic in production, but dammit when you think about, these tough sports don't really need fluff around the ears to advertise them really.

12 year old figure skater Robyn Perry, lights the Olympic flame. Of course, she did not compete in the actual competition.

Held in Calgary, Alberta the 15th Winter Olympics was held at McMahon stadium. The stadium wasn't built exclusively for the Olympics, as it has been a Canadian Football stadium. Canadian Football is somewhat similar to American Football -they cheat with their hands- but has a larger playing field and a different number of men in a team.

These are highlights of the Opening Ceremony, however also on Youtube, some wonderful person indeed, has uploaded it, in it's full entirety, 33 parts infact. Now I only want to whet your appetite, because I will posting quite a bit more about more Winter Olympics videos in the days and weeks to come.

This is an highlights clip of the opening ceremony, which is not as impressive as Canada's recent effort, but still here for archives sake. The 1988 Olympics contained some amazing achievements, not forgetting the fact, that the host country failed to win a gold medal. However, us Brits think about the tail-end, or the bottom rung of the talent in this edition, our Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, Britain's best ski-jumper at the time, and the celebrated but unlucky Jamaican Bobsleigh team.

"Aye, Aye, What's Going on Here Then?"

28 feb 1985

So what will it be Lofty, Sharon or Angie? From the 4th episode of the East-end London's soap first year in 1985, first off, we see a very frisky (and permed) 17 year old Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), adopted daughter of Dennis "Dirty Den" and Angie Watts, whose epic arguments were very much the bread and butter of Eastenders in the 80s. Here we a fleeting, not-well-profiled clinch between Lofty or rather George Holloway -nicknamed for his tall stature- and Sharon in the Queen Vic pub. Mother Angie catches this playful behaviour between employee and daughter. However, at the scene of this late-night party taking place behind the scenes and not in the actual pub, once Dirty Den has his "eye off the ball" as they say, Angie is making a play for Lofty! Lofty had only just appeared for the first time in the previous episode, and being really the only young male in the serial, and well, the pond wasn't very big!

"Lofty" was an affectionate but isolated character, whose physical-looking awkwardness matched his social attributes. Depicted as weak and vulnerable, he was bullied by his boss Dirty Den. he would soon fall in love with teenage mum Michelle Fowler, although, that wasn't always returned. A reluctant marriage ensued, while Dirty Den continued to make Lofty's life a misery, by discovering he was the father of Michelle's child, and he paid to abort Michelle's next baby, via Lofty's handiwork. Lofty became a distant and bitter but still participating in the local community, however, he couldn't stand the sight of Michelle any longer in his life, so left for Bedfordshire in 1988, to work as a handyman for a children's home. He never came back.

You Chose That?

Blind Date - Pilot Episode 1985

Valentine's Day themed post time! Here is a newly uploaded rare clip of the pilot version of ITV dating show "Blind Date" from 1985. It's our "chuck" Cilla Black at the beginning of the peak of her powers shortly before "Blind Date" became a Saturday night primetime ratings jauggernaut. Forget about her singing career in the 1960s and 70s, this was her definitive moment. The user says there was an alternative version of the show being piloted, presented by comedian Duncan "Oooh, chase me" Norvelle. I think we're all glad who took the upper hand there. The clip begins with continuity from the old LWT ident (London Weekend Television).

The one major change between the pilot and the regular series, is the relatively nice, glazed-looking pink set with the magical door, is replaced with a terrible, placid dim brown with a streak of darker grimy brown stripes under a sky blue luminary above, and then there's the middle elbowing out, with an outline of a man's hooked nose. Also add to that, a catchphrase-less, slightly more subdued looking Cilla Black (less egomaniacal?) in a black transparent, silver frock. Now that sounds more exciting the way I've said it, but no.

It's believe by the owner of the clip, that the pilot episode was never fully shown on ITV, only highlight clips, presumably on nostalgia-reminiscing shows.

"Blind Date" was ITV's jewel in the crown from 1985-2003(18 series) for most of it's run. At it's peak in the 80s, the programme garnered 18 million viewers. The show was inspired by similar dating shows like "The Dating Game" in the US. Each episode would star a single and unattached male and female over the course of the show. They would seperately ask 3 members of the opposite sex questions, sitting on the other side of the sliding door. The choice of questions would be extremely flirtacious but good-natured. Question could be "If you were a flavour of ice cream, what would you be". Cue someone witha terrible pun. Were these answers scripted or thought-on-the-spot, that's what I would like to know.

The single man/lady would choose who they like the sound of best, and then suck in the joy/despair, as they their identities are revealed to one another. The couple would pick a card at random from Cilla, to choose their holiday, and would come back next week to tell the usually cringeworthy and incompatible goings-on, however for a few, it was the case of "Mr Right Meets Mrs Right". Cilla would try to tempt more out of the couple, after they confess the truth in a pre-recorded confession box-style interview, being shown to the other partner for the first time, with a camera on his/her face to show their reactions. Their time on holiday would What we all wanted to know was "Did you kiss?", as queried by Cilla. I can't put my finger on it, but why did all the couple only seem to kiss on holiday? Some couples must've had a good hard sh...

Cilla Black was not alone as the furniture of the show. We also had off-screen announcer Graham Skidmore, who would sum up witty comments about our 3 contestants who are trying to get lucky, ending it with the catchphrase "The Choice is Yours!"

By 2003, the show had run out of stream, was no longer seen as edgy light entertainment, and Cilla blurted out live on TV, it would be the last ever series. The show did try to modernise, with the "Ditch or Date" option, maybe that guy/woman she/he chose were more akin to breaking a mirror, however, it was a horrible new element to the show, but these were the times now. It felt though, like it was crapping all over the legacy of the show, and it didn't feel right with our Cilla on board. There were plans for a new presenter at the end of the run, but that's like trying to rip a shell off a Tortoise. Cilla was the show.