This is Your Life

BlogEamonnAndrewsThere were many television programmes in my childhood that I took for granted and only appreciated once they were gone. ‘This is Your Life’ was one example of a show that was simple on format but very enjoyable when the surprised guest was right. Throughout the seventies, I was aware of this programme, presented by Eamonn Andrews.  He had actually presented it in its initial British version from the 50s to 1964 and then again from 1969 until he died in 1987.  Michael Aspel took over for a time in the late 80s until it finished in 2003.  Although I saw some of the Aspel programmes it is Eamonn Andrews I remember well, along with the music of Thames Television’s audio ‘ident’.

Back in the 70s, with a limited number of television channels, each programme was guaranteed a very large audience so television series as this were known to most of the country.  Watching a famous person being surprised by Eamonn Andrews was part of the fun; the ‘victims’ were never in the know but they knew what seeing Eamonn Andrews meant, especially when he had a red book in his hands.

The episodes I remember best of all were Frankie Howerd’s when he cried, made especially poignant when it later turned out that his partner in life was discretely placed across the stage; heterosexual couples sat side by side!  I also remember Reg Varney from the phenomenally successful sit-com ‘On the Buses’ looking alarmed when his rehearsed spot was interrupted by the red book.

It was classed as popular entertainment but, like much of television from that era, it treated the audience’s intelligence with respect.

Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

I loved this television comedy series from the 70s, broadcast on BBC television.  There were only two series of ‘Whatever…’ but there had been a series before that called ‘The Likely Lads’.  I was too young to see that so only knew the characters Terry and Bob through the later version.

Set in Newcastle, the series was about two friends who took different paths in life but maintained a friendship.  As was the way with 70s sit-coms, the comedy came from the pretensions of Bob, the aspiring middle class one, and Terry’s down to earth views on his friends new place in the social order.  The first series started with Terry returning to Newcastle from the army.  Bob is about to marry Thelma, someone who isn’t keen on any continuing friendship with the uncouth Terry.

The series were broadcast between 1973 and 1974. There had been about a six year gap between ‘The Likely Lads’ and the return to see what had happened to Terry and Bob. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were the writers of both versions.  I also liked the theme tune called ‘Whatever Happened to You’ which was co- written by La Frenais.  James Bolam played Terry and Rodney Bewes played Bob.  Brigit Forsyth was Thelma.

The programme had a strong theme of nostalgia for lost youth which appealed to me when I was young.   Looking back, that seems odd- and the characters themselves were not that old.  They were, though, on the cusp of settling down to mortgage and marriage so perhaps that is the rite of passage that set off the nostalgia.

‘Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

 

Film 74

The announcement at the weekend of the death of Barry Norman was another sad passing of someone from my early years who played a significant part in building the person I am today; my interests were formed in my teenage years and have strengthened over the years.  Barry Norman was on one of the first experts I came across who talked to me about film.

As I remember it, Film 74 was a fortnightly programme broadcast by BBC television on a Sunday night.  Each other week, the book programme ‘Read All About It’ was screened.  I liked both!

The format was simple but effective.  Norman sat in a studio and talked to the camera about the releases of the week and clips were shown.  This was enough for me.  His comments were cogent and his tastes were mainstream but the idea of someone, who knew more than I did, telling me about something I wanted to know more about was just the sort of thing I needed.

I read in his obituaries that Barry Norman presented the programme from 1972 until 1998.  The title of the series made the small adjustment with each new year.  I first became aware of it in 1974 and watched until the late 70s when I left for university.  The programme became weekly at some stage and, although I still watched occasionally, my time in front of a television diminished and I found other experts on film to turn to.

However, Film… was part of my growing up.  It was one of the first places I realised that ‘foreign films’ were worth finding out and, each New Year, his programme of his favourite films of the year was a must see.  In essence, this is what made him the very best of critics:  he talked about what he liked and why and was unapologetic about the idea that the list was personal.  One person, talking to camera- amazing television.  They should do that again.

Paddington Bear

The death this week of Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, marks another part of my childhood passing away.  I loved the books about the bear from Peru who comes to London, where I lived as a boy, as a refugee and who learns how to fit in with the British. The first book was published in 1958 and I read many of them in the 60s.  Yet, it was an animated version broadcast by the BBC in the 70s that seared an image of the bear in my mind.  With the late great Michael Hordern as the voice of Paddington, the series of short programmes was the definitive interpretation of the stories.

The greatest animation of all time must surely be ‘Paddington Bear Goes to the Movies’ when the young bear performed a version of ‘Singing in the Rain’. Sublime!  Thank you Michael Bond.

World in Action

This documentary series, broadcast on ITV, was an important part of my education in current affairs and politics when I was growing up.  The 30 minute programmes opened my eyes to global issues as well as the social situation in Britain.  It ran from the early 60s until the 90s but I was most aware of it during the 70s, a decade when some of the most amazing programmes were broadcast.

BlogWorldinActionThe programme was created by ITV when it wore its regional and federal structure with pride, a situation that meant that different television companies contributed their best ideas to the network knowing there was competition in intellectual terms from the other companies in the ITV group.  Maybe this is why ITV has dumbed down over the years at the same pace as it has become one company rather than a federation of regional franchises.  Granada was the company in the Manchester and north-west region.

I encountered some of the most important journalists of my youth on this series, John Pilger the most notable.  His films about Vietnam were excellent.  I also remember programmes about the far right National Front party which was growing in the 70s and Gay Pride, a film from 1979.

This series was broadcast at a time when television treated its viewers as grown ups.  It is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

 

Blue Peter

The news today of the death of John Noakes was so sad to hear as he was such a big part of my childhood.  With Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton he was what made Blue Peter great.  I know that his time on the programme coincided with my childhood, and that each generation probably has its own special presenters, but he joined in the 60s when I started watching and left after I had grown away from children’s television so he was always there.

John, Val and Pete were the line- up for my generation.  Lesley Judd and Simon Groom came after I moved on and presented with John Noakes and I vaguely remember Christopher Trace who, with Valerie Singleton, presented in the early 60s when he joined the programme but it was the three of them who formed a background to my London early years.

 

The Evacuees

This 1975 television play by Jack Rosenthal was a wonderful example of what BBC television did so well back in the 1970s.  His story of brothers who were evacuated from inner city Manchester to the coast during the Second World War was sweet and poignant.  The drama came from the misunderstandings of the childless host family who did not see why the two Jewish boys shouldn’t do what they did in a Christian home.

Jack Rosenthal’s dramas always used comedy to make serious points and there were many wonderful moments in this play, especially when three boys had only two pairs of roller skates between them and decided they had to share to run away.  Yet the serious moments are here too.  The anxiety of the mother, played by Rosenthal’s wife Maureen Lipman, when letting her children go is clear.

The elderly couple believes they are doing the right thing but the punishments increase and when these include withholding letters from the mother to her boys it seems unbelievably cruel.  The boys struggle with the desire to return home and the need not to worry their mother unnecessarily.  When the truth emerges it is in the most uncomfortable situation but handled brilliantly by the writer.

I saw this programme in 1975 when the BBC first broadcasted it and I have never forgotten it.  That is why is it in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?