Christmas With Wogan
I think this could just be the greatest piece of television ever. Things start sedately enough, with a song from Carl Wayne and Penny Lane (oh, their names rhyme) but after that the fun really begins.
Recorded on the set of Lunchtime with Wogan (all of which sadly seems to have been wiped) you can see that they’ve attempted to get the audience into the Christmas spirit by handing out some party hats. But since there weren’t enough to go round, the camera tends to focus on the handful of lucky souls who do have one. The audience shots are fascinating by the way (average age seems to be about eighty).
This segment is a celebration of ATV, so Crossroads naturally features quite heavily. The sight of Amy Turtle (Ann George) pushing a tea trolley would surely melt even the hardest of hearts whilst Nurses Price and Shaw (Lynda Bellingham and Judy Buxton) from General Hospital also shuffle on.
The fun just keeps on coming as Peggy Mount, Hugh Lloyd, Leslie Crowther and Sylvia Syms appear as two ordinary couples who have been pulled out of the audience to play a game. The sight of Crowther and Wogan attempting to shovel Mount’s ample form onto a high stool is something that will live long in the memory.
Larry Grayson, resplendent in a black cloak and mask, is brought on as the mystery guest. He has to recite his most famous catchphrases whilst the others attempt to guess his identity. Simply sublime.
And just when you think things can’t get any better, Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) arrives …..
Easily worth the price of the DVD alone, this is a rare Christmas treat. Indeed, had the whole show come from the Wogan studio I would have been quite happy (although had this happened no doubt it would have been wiped along with the rest of his shows).
The Wandsworth School Choir are up next, entertaining Jimmy and the studio audience with The Holly and The Ivy. Then Jimmy gets in the act and joins them for a trot through Do-Re-Me. Bob Todd, as a drunken milkman, causes a little havoc for Jimmy.
On The Buses
Like Love Thy Neighbour, On The Buses was one of those programmes which pulled huge contemporary audiences but hasn’t (in critical terms) aged well. Although unlike Neighbour it does run regularly on ITV3, so clearly somebody still seems to enjoy it. Like a number of later episodes, this was written by Stephen Lewis (Blakey) and Bob Grant (Jack). Reg Varney is conspicuous by his absence, but he seems to have left the show after the 1972 run.
If you enjoy broad slapstick and incredible feats of mugging to the camera then this should appeal. The story – a goose has been left on the bus and they have to stop it escaping – is the cue for everybody, including Olive (Anna Karin) and Mum (Doris Hare), to get covered in soot and flour. For me, a little of On The Buses goes a very long way, so this is another series that I don’t have in my collection (but I don’t feel I’m missing out).
Jimmy welcomes David Nixon, who restores a touch of class to the programme. It’s a mystery why Nixon’s existing magic shows aren’t available on DVD as he’s such an affable entertainer. He does the eggs in the glass party trick which Tommy Cooper also attempted on his 1973 Christmas Show. Tommy managed to get two out of four eggs in the glasses whilst David went one better – three out of three.
Les Dawson is on fine monologue form here. “I bought my mother-in-law a nice fireside chair which cost me twenty five pounds and the first time I plugged it in, it fused”. The Syd Lawrence Orchestra and Les’ dancers (Les Girls) also get in on the act. The band are clearly all professionals as the sight of a group of attractive young ladies leaping about in silk pyjamas doesn’t put them off, not one little bit.
A moustachioed Tony Jacklin has a chat about golf with Jimmy. They also sing ….
The Fenn Street Gang
Spun out of Please Sir! after it became painfully obvious that the actors were no longer convincing as schoolchildren (they were well into their twenties by this point) The Fenn Street Gang followed their misadventures, post school. Never as popular as Please Sir!, possibly due the fact that the characters no longer had a reason to be together and therefore the plotlines had to be split up, it still racked up an impressive thirty eight episodes. This sketch has a good excuse for a reunion – Christmas dinner – and it passes the time nicely enough, although it’s not exactly an all-out showstopper.
Jimmy leads everybody, including Moria Anderson, Rod Hull & Emu and David Nixon, in a rousing singalong of White Christmas. A traditional end to a real selection box of a programme – not every chocolate is especially tasty, but luckily there’s only a few hard centres.