Category Archives: Television

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!