Category Archives: Television

making a hash of things.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021

Silence.

Our parents would often demand it, but soon as they got it, they became suspicious. Worried, maybe.

And so it would be. I’d be playing quietly and thoughtfully in my bedroom on a wet and miserable day, and Mum would poke her around the door:

“You’re awful quiet,” she’d say, the distrust in her tone strikingly obvious even to a ten year old. “What are you doing?”

“Building a fort,” I’d reply in all innocence, draping a bedsheet over the two stools I’d earlier hauled up from the kitchen. Another blanket would be hanging over a couple of empty boxes, retrieved from the garage. “So’s I can repel the hordes of marauding raiders who are trying to steal my pots of gold.”

My vocabulary and imagination were infinitely better than my construction skills.

“That sounds like fun, dear.”

And it was.

For that’s how we rolled in the late Sixties and Seventies. It was the era of making our own fun.

It was the era for making everything.

From a very early age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to become involved with tending the garden.’ Modern day slavery,’ is how I think it’s now referred to.

We’d each be allocated a little plot to tend. We’d have to plant seeds, grow flowers and vegetables and learn the ethos and rewards of hard work.

I hated it! Rona’s plot always looked way tidier than mine. ‘Outside’ was for playing in, not working, was how I looked at it. I was rubbish.

Our garden wasn’t all that big, but my dad had it organised to maximise the space, and so we had a few rows of redcurrant bushes. These produced loads of fruit every year and of course my sister and I would be roped into the ‘harvest.’

With the berries collected, mum would then boil them and add ‘stuff’ then pour the mix into what looked like an old sock hung from the washing pulley in the kitchen. The smell was so sickly sweet, I wanted to barf for days on end.  Gradually though, over the next day or so, the liquid would drip into a bowl, then scooped into jars onto which a handwritten sticker was adhered.

‘Redcurrent jelly’ it said – as if we needed reminding.

To get away from the smell, I’d try to spend as much time as possible in the living room. But that wasn’t easy either. I’d have to tip toe through acres of tracing paper spread over the floor. And listening to the television was well nigh impossible. The volume controls back then barely went to ‘five’ never mind ‘eleven’ and so offered no competition to the constant ‘takka takka takka’ of the Singer sewing machine as mum rattled out another bloody home-made trouser suit for wearing to the neighbour’s Pot Luck / fondue party that coming weekend.

Crimplene was the favoured material, I believe.

I think I’m right in saying that girls at my school were offered sewing, if not dress making as part of their Home Economics course. Us blokes weren’t given the option – just as at that time, girls were not thought to be interested in woodwork and metalwork.

My four year old cousin, Karen, certainly wasn’t interested in my woodwork, that’s for sure. I made her a boat, all lovingly painted and everything. It sank in her bath. Sank! It was made of balsa wood for goodness sake!

It takes a special type of cretin to make a balsa wood boat that sinks.

And metalwork! Whose whizz-bang idea was it to have several classes of fourteen year old boys make metal hammers to take home at the end of term? The playground crowds quickly scattered that afternoon, I can tell you.

My effort was dismal.  

“Thanks very much,” said my dad, in a voice just a little too condescending for my liking as I presented it to him. But that was okay. We both knew I was total pants at making things.

Having evidenced my cack-handed attempts at simply gluing together several pieces of labelled and numbered bits of plastic to form the shape of a Lancaster Bomber, his expectations were naturally low.

I know – how hard can it be to assemble an Airfix model? To be honest, while I enjoyed looking at those my dad made on my behalf, I had more fun from letting the glue harden on my fingers and then spend ages peeling it back off to examine my fingerprints.

Yup – THAT’S how much I enjoyed making things.

It came as no surprise then, that Santa never brought me a Meccano set. By the age of ten, it had become obvious spanners and me would never get along – no need for me to screw the nut.  

For a while, I did consider there was something wrong with me. Every other kid I knew was into making stuff. It was The Seventies – it’s what children did; it’s what they (I’d say ‘we’ but I’d be lying) were actively encouraged to do.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

I tried that once. A Christmas decoration it was. A decoration to hang over the Christmas table; made from coat-hangers; and candles. And you’d light the candles. It would be joyous.

“Hark!” The herald angels would sing.

“FIRE!” The herald angels actually screamed.

I know NOW I should have used fire-proof tinsel. I’m almost sixty-three. I’m not stupid. But then I was ten. And impatient. Ten year old boys cut corners. And anyway, how was I supposed to make a surprise for the family if I was to give the game away by asking my folks if they had / could get some fire retardant tinsel?

At least they still got a surprise of sorts.

Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves had a lot to answer for.

Other than pyrotechnic Christmas decorations, they encouraged us to make models with Lego; less structured and more wobbly ones with plasticine; scrap books; hammocks for dolls; cakes for birds; puppets from old socks; pencil cases from washing up liquid bottles and even cat beds from washing-up bowls.

I did try, truly I did. But I was hopeless. A lost cause. Never has anyone said to me,

“Wow! That’s awesome!” when I’ve showcased my handiwork.

Just the other day, I prepared a meal. I threw some leftover corned beef, potatoes and onions into a pan and fried them through. I didn’t think it was burnt as such, but my wife screwed up her face and stared at it rather disapprovingly.

Without even the merest hint of irony she looked up and said …. well, I think you probably know what she said!



**********

Sidekicks

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, June 2021

The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Dorothy… fictional characters I grant you, but all universally feted and admired.

But they didn’t do it alone, and although we all know who their sidekicks were, no one talks much about them, because at the end of the day, they’re the flunky’s, and who’s really interested in the support act? Unless its Queen supporting Mott the Hoople at the Apollo…. and that was nearly 50 years ago!

The sidekick’s are the perennial betas to the main event’s alpha’s… the show-stoppers who always seem to have greater powers, more charisma, and most importantly, bigger ego’s, than the supporting cast.
Like a beloved pet the sidekick’s greatest attributes are typically noted as being devotion and loyalty.

Spare a thought then for the Tonto’s, Doctor Watson’s, Robin boy wonder’s and Scarecrow’s. In other words, the Diddy Kong’s of the world…..

There’s an old (and now probably, un-PC) saying that ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’ and the same can be said with sidekick’s, think about it for a second…. as great as he was, would Bowie have been as good and as cocksure in the Ziggy era without Mick Ronson?
Likewise, would Ricardo Montalban’s, Mr Roarke have been as suave and sophisticated without Herve Villechaize’s Tattoo ringing the bell tower whilst bellowing “The Plane, The Plane!” in Fantasy Island?  

As this is predominantly a 70s blog the aim of the exercise is to identify the most impressive 70s sidekick, fictional or otherwise, so I’ve listed 5 nominees below which you can vote for on our Facebook page as well as putting forward any of your own nominations…..
https://www.facebook.com/groups/onceuponatimeinthe70s

1) Kenickie Murdoch (Jeff Conaway) Grease, (sidekick to Danny Zuko)

In Grease, the movie, Kenickie was played by Jeff Conaway of Taxi fame and was part of the original Broadway cast of Grease – where incidentally he played the lead role of Danny Zuko whilst his good mate Travolta played Doody, one of the putzy T-Birds.

Although Kenickie was cast as the sidekick it could be argued that he was cooler than Zuko… borne by the fact that not only was he the proud owner of Greased Lightnin’, but he also didn’t mope about a kids swing-park greeting about getting chucked by someone who must have repeated 4th year 5 times!

Plus with a name like Murdoch he obviously came from good Scottish stock! 

2) Igor (Marty Feldman) Young Frankenstein (sidekick to Dr Frederick Von Frankenstein)

Played by the brilliant Marty Feldman, Igor was the hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant who when asked by the good doctor why his hump kept changing sides, answered “what hump?”.

‘Eye-gore’ as he liked to be known was Dr ‘Fronkenshteen’s’ hapless assistant and was responsible for the mayhem that ensued by collecting a brain labelled ‘Abnormal’ rather than the brain of the revered and brilliant historian, he was sent to secure.

If his star turn in one of the funniest movies of the 70s wasn’t enough, Feldman’s further claim to fame was that his ‘Walk this way’ line from the film was adopted by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who saw the movie, went back to the studio and wrote a song…. the rest as they say is history.

The Movie
The Song

3) John Oates Singer/musician in Hall & Oates (sidekick to Daryl Hall)

Hall & Oates were often described as…..
‘the tall, blonde, good looking one with the unbelievable vocal range and the wee guy with the curly hair and moustache’.

There’s no doubt then that Oates played second fiddle to Daryl Hall, but as sidekick’s go it was a pretty decent fiddle.
 
Oates wrote or co-wrote many of the pairs big hits including She’s Gone, Sara Smile, You Make my Dreams and I Can’t Go for That, and whilst he didn’t have Hall’s vocal range or stage presence, his harmonies, co-vocals and guitar playing were key to the band’s success (see clip below).

Hall & Oates may not have been equals in terms of talent and their partnership wasn’t as egalitarian as Lennon & McCartney, but Oates was certainly no Art Garfunkel.


4) Dennis Waterman Perennial sidekick: to Jack Regan in The Sweeney and Arthur Daley in Minder.

A seasoned thespian who performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at 13. Waterman was 27 when he appeared in The Sweeney as Detective George Carter, the hard-drinking, brawling, womanising, good-cop to John Thaw’s caustic Regan.

Waterman’s next big role in Minder, as a brawling, womanising ex-con who becomes a personal bodyguard wasn’t too much of a stretch then.

In a cruel twist of fate, Minder was actually devised post-Sweeney as a star vehicle for Waterman who relished the chance to shine after three seasons of playing the sidekick in The Sweeney.
Cole’s part as Arthur Daly was meant to be a secondary/supporting role, however after a few episodes it was evident that Daly’s character was playing big with the audience, so the scripts and storylines were revised, leaving poor Dennis to fall back into his customary role as a sidekick once again.

5) Chewbacca Wookie (sidekick to Han Solo)   

Enforcer, body guard and loyal soldier, Chewie is Han Solo’s co-pilot and best buddy.

The character was inspired by George Lucas’ dog so it’s no surprise that one of Chewie’s greatest attributes is the talent most associated with sidekick’s – loyalty.
Although he enjoys bringing the cocksure Solo down a peg or two every now and then, prompting the “Laugh it up fuzzball” retort, he is a faithful companion and would lay down his life for Solo…. a true sidekick!

Why are there no female sidekicks on the list??
I tried really hard to think of some but in almost all cases…. Sonny & Cher, Ike & Tina Turner, The Krankies, it was the bloke who was the sidekick!

I did think of one….. Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell but that was made in 1924.

teen heartthrobs – the page niners.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)

Views expressed in this article are of the author himself, founded more on observation alone and with no forensic analysis of statistics whatsoever. Please don’t send abusive letters and dog poo through the post, should you be offended by the non-inclusion of your favourite ‘Page Niner’- or indeed by the inclusion of one you consider a Front Pager.


(Other Teen Heartthrobs are – or at least, were – available.)

From what I read in my sister’s copies of Jackie magazine, my sister told me about Jackie magazine, I believe the most popular teen heartthrobs of the early to mid Seventies would have been, in no particular order: Donny Osmond; David Cassidy; David Essex, Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and each of the individual Bay City Rollers.

A weekly magazine featuring only those stars would still have sold in tens of thousands.

Who, though, were the others? Who were the stars that didn’t make the front, back on centre pages so often? Who were more likely, the Page 9 ‘fillers?’

OK – so we’re almost fifty years too late, but let’s show some love for the Teen Heartthrob ‘also rans.’

You can comment and vote for your favourite from the following list of ‘second division stars’ in the poll which features on the

Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s Facebook Group

DAVID SOUL

Attracting fame for his starring role in the hit Seventies TV series ‘Starsky & Hutch,’ he actually set out to be a musician. He first came to the attention of American TV audiences as ‘The Covered Man’ – a 1966 ‘Masked Singer’ feature on The Merv Griffin Show.

The TV detective series quickly established itself in USA and UK, and his partner in (anti) crime, Paul Michael Glaser also became a bit of a pin-up in girls’ magazines.

However, it’s David Soul’s additional musical output that sees him make our poll.

In total, David Soul spent fifty-six weeks in the UK music charts, hitting Number One in both the UK and US with ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’  and matching that in the UK with ‘Silver Lady.’ Both were released in 1977. In the same year, ‘Going In With My Eyes Open’ reached number two, and ‘Let’s Have a Quiet Night In’ managed number eight. The following year, ’It Sure Brings Out The Love In Your Eyes’ was held up just outside the Top Ten at number twelve.

PETE DUEL & BEN MURPHY

Ben Murphy (Kid Curry) (left) and Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes.)

Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes) and Ben Murphy (Jedediah ‘Kid’ Curry) were the stars of the hit TV comedy / western, Alias Smith & Jones. The series ran to fifty episodes over three series, though the final seventeen saw the character Hannibal Heyes recast after Pete Dual had sadly taken his own life at the end of 1971.

Merely watching the introduction in the following video reminded how much I loved this programme – I still knew it almost word for word.

Like ‘Starsky & Hutch’ and ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Alias Smith & Jones’ succeeded in harnessing cute looking actors to a dynamic and entertaining story-line, thereby appealing not only to teenage girls but to action focussed boys and adults alike.

Pictures of both actors will have adorned the bedroom wall of many a young girl. I may be wrong here, but my perception was that Ben Murphy slightly edged it in the ‘hot’ stakes?

SCOTT BAIO

Having already played the lead role (alongside Jodie Foster) in the film version of the hit kids’ musical, ‘Bugsy Malone,’ the now sixteen year old Scott was introduced to fans of the fantastic ‘Happy Days’ television series as Chachi Arcola, the young cousin of The Fonz. He then went on to star in the spin-off series, ‘Joanie Loves Chachi,’ in the early 80s.

It’s for the former role that I remember Scott … and why his Jackie or Look-in magazine photo adorned the bedroom wall of many a young girl in the Seventies.

PAUL NICHOLAS

Straight outta left field, this one! Although he had toured with Rocky Horror Show and appeared in ‘Tommy’ as Tommy’s vicious cousin, ‘Cousin Kevin,’ Paul Nicholas was largely unknown in UK … until he set out to conquer the UK music charts in 1976 with three single releases: ‘Reggae Like It Used To Be,’ ‘Dancing With The Captain’ and ‘Grandma’s Party.’

I suspect it was more his smiling, cheeky-boy looks than delivery of cheezy Seventies pop songs that prompted the swooning and cut-out photos stuck onto school jotters. For eight months in 1976 though, Paul Nicholas owned the pre-mid / post-mid pages of Teen magazines everywhere.

(Greater fame was of course to follow though, in the Eighties, when he concentrated on acting, starring first in the short-lived TV sitcom ‘Two Up, Two Down,’ and two years later in the hugely popular ‘Just Good Friends.’ And more recently, of course, ‘Eastenders.’)

BARRY BLUE

It’s very easy to be dismissive of Barry Green (real name) as a bit of a watered down version of ‘he that shall not be named.’ His two biggest hits, ‘(Dancing) On A Saturday Night’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ were both from 1973, his three other lesser successes coming the following year. Resultantly, he would have hovered around Page Nine of Jackie etc, for only a short period of time.

However, prior to that he had co-written ‘Sugar Me’ with Lyndsey de Paul and played bass in the rock band Spice … which later morphed into legends, Uriah Heep! And then, subsequent to all that, he wrote a million seller for Brotherhood of Man and penned hits for artists as diverse as Diana Ross and Andrea Bocelli.

ALVIN STARDUST

He may have been a good deal older than your average Teen Heartthrob of the time (thirty-one, when he scored his debut hit ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’ in 1973) but as I recall, he was all over the popular magazines throughout 1973 and ’74.

There’s a lot to be said for the leather and studs look, I guess.

SLIK

Formed initially as Salvation in 1970, they played the local clubs and bars of Glasgow, before changing some personnel and name to Slik around four years later.  I’ll bet I’m not the only one reading this who saw them play a least once in the famous Clouds Disco, above The Apollo venue.

Probably more famous now for being Midge Ure’s first band of note, they never-the-less scored a Number One hit with ‘Forever And Ever’ in 1976, followed later in the year by ‘Requiem.’

They were quite obviously targeted for the teenage girls market, but though I didn’t stare longingly and doe-eyed at a poster on my bedroom wall, like many lads of my age, I harboured a grudging admiration for Slik.

And there you have it – the Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s list of Teen Heartthrob also-rans. Is your second, third or even fourth favourite in there?

**JOIN OUR FACEBOOK GROUP TO VOTE IN THE POLL FOR YOUR FAVOURITE, ALMOST-FAVOURITE.**


(POLL CLOSES MIDNIGHT WEDNESDAY 23rd JUNE.)

oh how we didn’t laugh

Russ Stewart: London, 2021


70s British comedies. 

Pavlovian catch phrases.  
Class and race/ethnicity stereotypical themes.  
Telegraphed slapstick routines. 
Sexual innuendo from leering, creepy old goats.

Benny Hill, On the Buses…………….

The odd gem: 
Reginald Perrin, Dad’s Army and Fawlty Towers…. excellent although all fell back on lazy 70s comedy devices on occasion.

I live near a showbiz retirement home in Twickenham… I see odd 70s era characters venturing out to exercise their gums on Werther’s originals.   

Mad Frankie Fraser was a resident.  
Probably the funniest guy there.  He must have had an equity card to get in (from appearing in some sycophantic gangster worshipping TV show).  
My pal, ex mayor of Richmond borough, encountered Frankie during an official visit.  
Frankie eyed up his mayoral bling. 

I digress….

Contrast to US comedy of the 70s era. 
The Odd Couple, MASH, Taxi, Mork & Mindy, All in the Family, SOAP……..

US comedy had sharper dialogue, more nuanced themes and juxtapositions of pathos / humour.  
They had a phalanx of writers on each script and hence 3.5 jokes per iambic pentameter.

One imagines the typical two man UK comedy writing team collaborating, in their diamond Pringle pullovers, eying their watches for their afternoon golf appointment with Tarby, and hence agreeing to pad out a script with a prat fall and an unfunny one liner so they can meet the submission deadline and the tee off time.

A key characteristic of US comedy writing is sharp dialogue, which in turn is probably influenced by the strong Jewish presence in US showbiz. 
I have noticed it in US literature too.

For example:  I can re-read works by  Philip Roth, James Elroy, Elmore Leonard and Michael Connolly  due to the wit, menace and rich content of the dialogue. 

On the music front Steely Dan lyrics are as evocative as the music. 

I digress again… 
On balance there are some British gems.  Reginald Perrin hit the spot, genuinely sad and funny, albeit occasionally reverting to the catch phrase and the “catch image” (the hippo mother in-law was actually funny on repetition).  

Even Fawlty Towers could not resist the catch phrase and use of the ethnic comedy device, with the Man(uel) from Barcelona as the foil.  

The brilliance of Capt Mainwairing and Sgt Wilson’s exchanges, in Dads Army, were often interrupted by irritating repetitions of “we’re doomed” and “don’t panic”.  

UK comedy has evolved, in the context of so many great, current comedians. 
Steve Coogan, Paul Whitehouse and Ricky Gervais are the homo sapiens that have evolved from the primordial swamp that produced Bernard Manning, Mike Reid et al.  

The Office is a work of genius, albeit descended from Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap. 

Some say there are many funny UK sitcoms. 
I don’t believe it….

carry on campus (part 2)

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – March 2021)

“We’re ready for your close-up now”…the words any telly wannabe longs to hear.

And, as it turns out, the very phrase that was NEVER uttered in my direction thanks to two monumental cock-ups.

I’m holding my hands up for one of them, it was my bad. But I was totally blameless for the other.

To get the first one out the way, I was offered the chance to do a screen test at Scottish Television for a continuity announcer.

Remember them? They were the on-screen presenters who sat there, usually late at night, and gave you the cheesy link between one programme and another.

The date for the screen test, my golden ticket to the big time, came through the post – but it clashed with a midweek cup tie I was due to play in.

There was only one thing for it. I called them up, explained about the game and said I could come along another time – as long as it didn’t interfere with my football, obviously. Forty years later and I’m still waiting on them calling me back.

So, yeah, lesson learned with that opportunity being knocked out the park. But the other epic fail wasn’t down to me, not in the slightest.

The chance came during my eight-week journalism block-release course at Edinburgh’s Napier College in 1978 when we teamed up with the students who were studying TV and film.

The idea, I seem to remember, was to mix both classes in “a positive way to showcase the respective skill sets”. In reality, we were thrown together for two back-to-back projects more in hope than expectation.

We had a scenario where would-be reporters were asking questions of would-be drama students while being filmed by would-be camera operators.

There were two drama students – one male, one female – who posed as police inspectors to read out statements about imaginary crimes and then we got to question them about it.

Readers of Part 1 of this post will be somehow reassured to know that these make-believe offences also took place in poor old Oxgangs, the crime capital of the western world.

It’s fair to say there was a lukewarm response to this shiny, bright initiative so the college hierarchy fell back on the one thing guaranteed to get everyone’s attention – a juicy bribe.

We were told the videos of the top two interviews would be sent away to be assessed by STV and the best one would be…cue drum roll here…selected for a screen test.

That did the trick. You couldn’t get near the mirror in the toilets as everyone got ready for their big interviews.

When it came to mine, I found myself face to face with a Juliet Bravo-type who was pretty confident with the cameras rolling a few feet away.

She read out the bare statement – about a drugs bust in Oxgangs – in a professional manner and stepped back, in character, to await my questions.

Okay, Juliet, there’s something you’re not telling me here. “You say a quantity of drugs were recovered from the house,” I venture, “What kind of drugs and what was the quantity?”

“It was 10 kg of heroin,” she replies.

Now we’re motoring. “And what’s the street value for that amount,” I ask.

“About £250,000.”

“You must be pleased. Now, you mentioned the two arrests made at the scene came at the end of a lengthy operation. How long?”

“It was nine months.”

“Would it be fair to say there was an undercover element to the operation?”

There was a flicker across Juliet’s face before she replied: “Yes, that’s correct.”

I was on to something, I just didn’t know what, so I asked: “How many officers were involved in that?”

“There was one at our end.” Now the flicker on Juliet’s face has been replaced by a deep red beamer.

I’m all over it now. “You say ‘our end’…where was the other end and how many were undercover there?”

“Erm, it was in Amsterdam and two officers were involved there. But I’m not at liberty…”

“How many arrests were made in Holland?”

“There were three, at two different locations, but I can’t really…”

“So it would be fair to say this joint operation has smashed an international drugs ring?”

“Erm, yes it would.”

Boom! Job done. A few more questions for Juliet and then I went off to write my story.

It turned out I was the only one to get the scoop on the Holland angle and was told on the QT that I was in pole position for the screen test prize if I did a decent job in the second assignment. Bring it on. But if I caught a break with Inspector Bravo helping me with my enquiries for the first interview, then my luck ran out when I landed an Inspector Clouseau clone for the second one.

Inept doesn’t begin to cover it. The hungover drama student forgot to bring his crib sheet with him, so there was no further information forthcoming about an imaginary armed bank robbery in Oxgangs.

I tried my damndest with a scatter-gun interrogation technique which started with me asking: “Was it sawn-off shotguns or revolvers?”

“I just know it was guns.”

“Okay, how much was taken in the robbery?”

“Err, I don’t know…I mean, I can’t say.”

“What about the make and colour of the getaway car?”

“Erm, it was light – or maybe dark – and probably foreign. Or not.”

“How many robbers were involved?”

“Just what I told you earlier in the statement.”

“You didn’t give a number.”

“Ah, well, there you go.”

I gave up right there. I’d been left with a story which had all the clarity of a man puffing on a giant Castella in the middle of a pea-souper and, needless to say, there was no screen test prize for me.

Probably for the best. You know what they say about having the perfect face for radio…

nightmare on spey road

By Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2021

We’re all creatures of habit and I think it starts at an early age.

I remember my after-school routine at Primary School, it consisted of having a snack and watching a bit of tv before attempting to do any homework and waiting for my Dad to get home from work to have my tea.

This was well before my Crossroads days mind, so Miss Diane was just a twinkle in my eye back then.

The after school viewing options were all targeted at primary school children although by this stage (Primary 3) I remember thinking Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men were getting a bit stale and hankering for Tom & Jerry which was shown a bit later.

The post-school programmes I remember watching from this era were….

 Watch with Mother – Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men, entry level stuff that was starting to get a bit tiresome.

Animal Magic – good old Johnny Morris and his hilarious talking animals

Vision On – Tony Hart and his art, we all thought he was a dull version of Rolf Harris, little did we know!

Crackerjack – on every Friday, my favourite! what you wouldn’t do for a Crackerjack pencil back then

This particular day didn’t seem much different to any other, we were learning our times-tables, I’d gagged on the lukewarm school milk as usual, I’d walked home from school with my pals as normal looking for anything we could use as a football.
On getting home I’d given my Mum a hug as she served my daily aperitif and snack, orange Creamola Foam and a Lyons chocolate cup cake, and I was ready for some well deserved R & R after another hard day at the coal face.

As I settled down to watch my daily helping of kids tv I didn’t recognise the title on our black & white DER television screen – ‘Tales from Europe’…. maybe Johnny Morris had gone to a zoo in Bavaria or perhaps Tony Hart was going to sketch Caravaggio’s gruesome – ‘Salome with the head of John the Baptist’?

Actually, what followed was a lot more traumatising than the Caravaggio masterpiece.

This is my summary of the anguish that followed, so for any of you that forget the actual storyline of this gruesome fairy-tale, here it is, in all its macabre glory….

It all started off well enough with a fanfare and a handsome Prince on a horse.

He was on his way to a big castle to sweep a beautiful Princess off her feet and to ask for her hand in marriage – a classic start, this looked promising.

The Princess wasn’t for sweeping though, and it turned out she was a bit of a brat, cascading the pearls he had gifted her to the floor she demanded a grand gesture, not expensive trinkets – “The Singing Ringing Tree – Bring it to me!”

The Kings court thought this was hilarious, she was sending the poor guy on a wild goose chase, but undeterred and in true fairy-tale fashion the Prince was determined to win her hand and off he went to fairyland to find the novelty tree.

So far so good, but then 10 minutes in, a dwarf appears, scuttling around, stalking the Prince and looking a bit menacing.

Now you have to remember, any experiences of small people in my young life up till now have been pretty positive, the fun-filled dwarves in Snow White, the playful munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, the vertically challenged Tom Thumb and all the fairytale Elves and Pixies.
And not forgetting of course my favourite little fella – Jimmy Clitheroe, a 4ft 2in comic genius.

Charming little guys, the lot of them – so nothing to be scared of here.

But there was something instantly menacing about this little guy, he didn’t appear very friendly, plus he had magical powers which was a bit disconcerting.
Jimmy Clitheroe was cool, but he couldn’t turn a horse into a concrete statue by waving his hands.

The Prince being a bit giddy makes a deal with the dwarf – if the dwarf gives him the tree he will ensure the Princess falls in love with him by sunset, enabling the tree to truly sing and ring.
If he doesn’t achieve this, he will gladly let the dwarf turn him into a bear, yes you read it correctly – A Bear!

And he actually volunteered this forfeit himself!
Not the brightest Prince – too much in-breeding obviously…

Off the Prince trots, back to the castle, tree in hand to present it to his betrothed, only she’s not very impressed, with either the tree (it’s not very special for a magic tree to be fair) or the fact that it’s not singing or ringing.
When Princey says it’s up to her to make the tree perform by showing the love, she goes full-blown Mariah Carey on his ass and kicks him out of the castle for a second time, in a tumultuous diva meltdown.

Being the fickle sort however she decides a few hours later she does want the tree after all and manipulates her father the King to go in search of it. (daughters twisting Dad’s round their little fingers – who’d have thought!)

By this point the handsome Prince has been turned into Yogi Bear and the dwarf is now openly mocking the Prince, suggesting he should try courting the Princess as a bear.

Not best pleased ‘The Bear formerly known as Prince’ confronts the King who’s come to Fairyland to claim the tree for his disgrace of a daughter and makes a deal with him.

The King can take the tree back to the castle as long as the bear takes ownership of the first person the King meets when he gets there (oh I wonder who that will be???).
The King agrees.

The impatient Princess waiting for his return sees her father coming back to the castle in the distance, shoves the footmen down the stairs, trips up her maid, kicks the dog out the way and guess what – is first there to greet her father in order to get her tree.

To say she’s not best pleased to hear the deal Daddy made to get the tree is an understatement and she persuades him to send the Captain of the guard instead of her, to kill the bear.

Great plan except this bear is indeed smarter than the average bear, and now he’s really pissed off, so he kidnaps the princess, avec tree, and takes her back to Fairyland (which if you’re wondering is quite close to Anniesland).

Then for no reason other than to demonstrate Eastern Bloc special effects in 1957 a giant goldfish appears in a lake and the Princess true to form acts all diva-like, enabling the dwarf to change her appearance to match her distasteful personality.
Bizarrely he gives her green hair, and she now looks like Billie Eilish.

Distraught at her appearance the Bear tells her she’ll need to change her ways to regain her beauty, so, stripped of her privileges and looks, she starts to become a nicer, more gracious person – she’s kind to animals, particularly the goldfish and a random giant reindeer who appears in a snowstorm and she’s even nice to Yogi now.

Through being charitable and thoughtful, the Princess magically regains her beauty and comes back looking a bit like Holly Willoughby.

But just when things are looking up, she encounters the dwarf for the first time who’s a bit pissed off that kindness and compassion are alive and well in his kingdom.
He tries to poison her mind against the bear, but to no avail, she professes her love for the bear.

Cue the singing ringing tree which is now singing and ringing to its little hearts content.

The dwarf ain’t having any of this though and duly creates a ring of fire around the tree, (sadly, without the accompanying Johnny Cash soundtrack).
Undeterred the Princess channels her inner Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and walks through the tinfoil, ahem flames, to embrace the tree, and by doing so, expels the Dwarves powers, which sends him plummeting underground (we’re assuming to the big fire).

All smiley and in love she duly jumps onto the back of the horse with the Prince who’s cast aside his bearish charms and now looks like Phillip Schofield and they ride off into the sunset together to host This Morning (except for Fridays).

Now as crazy as this all sounds, unless Mum sneakily infused some magic mushrooms into my cupcake (and I wouldn’t rule it out, I used to be given whisky for toothache!) then that’s what went down, I know this to be true, because I have YouTube and Google.

It all sounds very silly so why did it traumatise so many of us?

Well like I said we were used to little people being charming and friendly so the fact that this little imp was so nasty, and evil was kind of a game changer.

Also, he had no ulterior motives, he was just f*cking with everyone for the sake of it and the irrationality of this was bemusing to an 8-year-old in a world where everything kind of happened for a reason.

The show lasted for 72 minutes but was serialised in 3 episodes to ensure that children everywhere had three sleepless weeks instead of just the one.

I can vividly remember being freaked out by the little guy, had he really been killed off like the Wicked Witch of the West, who had evaporated into a kale smoothie at the touch of water, or could he come back to torment us?


That’s what kept me awake, that’s what made me continually check my cupboards and under the bed, and up in the loft – that’s what gave me the frickin’ heebie-jeebies!  

Like most of us I’ve watched thousands of hours of tv (the average in a lifetime is 78,000 hours apparently) and there are certain things you never forget –

Bowie’s first appearance on TOTP

The ending in The Sopranos

Basil thrashing the car in Fawlty Towers

Archie Gemmill’s goal v Holland in 1978

And I would have to add this show and the evil dwarf to the list as it’s been burned into my psyche since I saw it. 55 years ago.

As Rita Cruikshank rightly says – “you never forget trauma”

naughty boy

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2021)

I will endeavour to present this article to you, the general public, without the use of quotes. Thank you.

“It’s !……………….” Ah, false start.

We kids of the 60s were brought up on a numbing TV diet of the crass and corny. Think “The Dick Emery Show”, “On The Buses” and “Steptoe & Son”. The bland – “Charlie Drake”, “Harry Worth”, “Hugh & I” and the innuendo strewn and mildly titillating “Carry On” films “Up Pompeii” and of course “The Benny Hill Show”. There were a few stand outs – “Dads Army”, “The Likely Lads” but on average our comedic viewing was……………………… well, average.

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” emerged from the ashes of “The Frost Report”, “At Last the 1948 Show” and “Do Not Adjust Your Set” in 1969 but didn’t come to my attention until a couple of years later. It continued the surreal elements of “Peter Cook and Dudley Moore” and Spike Milligan’s “Q”. It became an unexpected success.

“Nobody expects the Spanish…………………………….” No !

Five ‘Oxbridge’ dons and a Yank cartoonist wrote, created and performed a sketch show which stretched the boundaries of what we had previously known and witnessed. This was no traditional nor conventional comedy sketch show with a beginning, middle and end. Continuity was abandoned, chaos was unleashed and we teenagers lapped it up.

This was our generation’s comedy, our Beatles and Stones moment of hilarity and mirth and best of all……………………….our parents didn’t get it !

“Turn that rubbish off !”

“Isn’t there snooker on the other side ?”

I think the show went to air on a Thursday evening and on Friday morning, the registration class was a buzz with soliloquising falsetto voices. Come recess, a pit of 4th year Python prodigy would slither sideways across the playground in a great arc flicking it’s tail and baring it’s fangs at any stray juniors with a caustic Cleese like come down.

We would then curl up in a huddle to re-enact the previous evening’s episode. We must have looked like a convention of young Tourette sufferers with our silly walks and Gumby impressions. (Having a knitted tank top, I was half way there already !)

Cross country running was the staple of many a PE class. Off  twenty odd gangling teenagers would trot around Kilmardinny loch a few times, sufficient to fill a double period. A group of us would hang back and turn a sharp left up to Graeme’s basement for a few tracks of “Another Monty Python Record”, it’s cover a crude crayon scratching out of Beethoven 2nd Symphony in D Major, then rejoin the stragglers 15 minutes later in our Upper Class Twit of the Year personas.

“Simon-Zinc-Trumpet-Harris, married to a very attractive table lamp………..” Oops !

The 70s brought us the cinematic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the iconic “Life of Brian” with all it’s ridiculous accusations of blasphemy. What could be better publicity than rabbis and nuns protesting with placards !

Sadly the circus packed up and left town. Cleese to the equally iconic ‘Fawlty Towers’ then basically any film that required his cameo. Palin went off on his travels. Gilliam became one of the leading film directors of the time. Idle tried to revive some sketches on Broadway and Chapman and Jones left the stage altogether.

“’E’s expired and gone to meet…………………….”  Sorry !

The word pythonesque is now the standard bearer for anything deemed as ‘surreal comedy’.

Even today, when I pick up the axe to chop some fire wood, I can’t help humming to myself the first few lines of “I’m a Lumberjack”. Or maybe the smirk is because… 

“I cut down trees, I wear high heels

Suspendies and a bra

I wish I’d been a girlie, just like my dear Papa”…………………………..damn it !

Who can’t resist on hearing the final refrain of Sousa’s “Liberty Bell” blowing that squelching raspberry.

Or is it just me with my highfalutin ideas ?

Come on. I know you want to say it. In your best falsetto voice now……………

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy !”

oh, just one more thing…who loves ya baby?

(by George Cheyne – Glasgow, Feb 2021)

There seemed to be a disproportionate amount of TV cop shows around in the Seventies – and by my reckoning there could be only three reasons for that.

One: I’ve somehow blocked out all the tat from that era so that any good stuff gets more prominence in my memory.

Two: My dad must have liked the genre because he had full control of the telly scheduling in our house.

Three: Erm, there WAS a disproportionate amount of TV cop shows around back then.

Whatever the reason, it worked out well for me. There were more cop shows on in our house than you could shake a police baton at.

Like a lot of people in the late 60s and early 70s, I was introduced to police dramas via Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars. Well, when I say dramas…there didn’t seem to be anything dramatic going on.

Nonetheless, I remember being fairly excited to be sitting down to watch the programmes. Well, when I say sit down…I had to get up and change the channel first as my dad issued instructions from his chair which, incidentally, was slap-bang in front of the telly and the nearest to it.

Peering up from the telly pages of his paper, he’d say: “Z-Cars is coming on, son. Turn it over to BBC1.” Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the word “please” missing from that sentence. Welcome to my world as a human remote.

I plodded along (see what I did there?) with Dixon and Z-Cars, but the tame, procedural stuff was beginning to lose its appeal for a 16-year-old looking for a TV adrenaline rush.

Whoosh! Along came The Sweeney in the mid-70s and blew me away, along with any villains who dared stand in the way of Inspector Jack Regan and Sergeant George Carter.

There were dramatic car chases, shoot-outs, sex scenes, punch-ups and dawn raids. One of which spawned the classic line: “Get your trousers on, you’re nicked.”

This was more like it – you never saw this sort of stuff on Dixon or Z-Cars. The bar had been raised and, for a while, I was content to follow Regan and Carter as they took a battering ram to London’s underworld on ITV every week.

But I was hankering for something else, something different. So I turned my attention to some of the Seventies American cop shows which were flooding in to Britain at the time.

There was so much to choose from. Using my human doofer skills, I was soon turning through the channels to check out episodes of Ironside, Hawaii Five-0, Cannon, Police Woman, The Streets of San Francisco, Shaft, Charlie’s Angels, McCloud, Starsky and Hutch, The Rockford Files, Columbo and Kojak.

Using my own detective prowess, I quickly sussed there were different templates being used to make these shows successful.

First you had solo maverick cops – with a gimmick – who paid little or no attention to their superiors but still managed to catch the bad guys (McCloud, Shaft, Columbo and Kojak).

The double-act maverick cops who would go above and beyond to catch the bad guys (Hawaii Five-0, Starsky and Hutch, Police Woman and The Streets of San Francisco)

Then the former cops who still love to catch the bad guys (Charlie’s Angels and Ironside) and finally the former cops/cons-turned-private-investigators who always seemed to get a right doing before they managed to – you’ve guessed it – catch the bad guys (Cannon and The Rockford Files).

It took me a while, but I eventually whittled down my favourites to The Rockford Files, Columbo and Kojak. So props to James Garner, Peter Falk and Telly Savalas for bringing the characters to life.

It only took a few bars of the Mike Post-Pete Carpenter theme tune for the Rockford Files to draw you in, but you were hooked a few seconds later when the answer-machine kicked into life with the words: “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you.”

It was the same for every episode, a neat gimmick to grab your attention right from the start.

And Columbo wasn’t short of a gimmick or two himself. Apart from his crumpled raincoat, his cigar and his dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards demeanour, the show went the opposite way from most conventional cop programmes.

There was no “whodunnit” value because it started off by showing you the crime and the perpetrator – so the value came from watching Columbo piece the crime together.


And you knew, you just knew, he was about to catch his killer when he turned on his heels as he was leaving a room to say: “Oh, just one more thing…” Busted!

If Columbo looked like something the cat dragged in, then Kojak was top dog in the sharp-dressing stakes. The bald detective was always suited and booted and sucking on a lollipop as he tracked down the baddies on New York’s mean streets.

Sometimes bending the rules – but ALWAYS using his wisecrack one-liner “Who loves ya, baby?” – Kojak would invariably ferret out the perps and bring them to justice.

Rockford, Columbo, Kojak…these guys were certainly top of the cops. The telly detectives of the Seventies were held in high esteem and even featured in novelty records.

Whodunit by R&B band Tavares is a song about a guy searching for the love-rat who nicked his girl and name-checks McCloud, Ironside, Baretta and Kojak amongst others.

Then there’s King of the Cops by comedy impersonator Billy Howard. It’s a load of tosh, but it still reached number 6 in the charts back in 1975. 

Howard’s song, which features impressions of McCloud, Columbo, Frank Cannon, Ironside and Steve McGarrett, ends with his Kojak character busting them all and, with tongue in cheek, saying: “How do you like that.. police officers making records.”

Yeah, that would never happen – eh, Telly? As If!