Wogan’s Guide to the BBC (1982)


Wogan’s Guide to the BBC is an entertainingly eclectic and idiosyncratic snapshot of the BBC circa 1982. Although Tel doorsteps some of the great and good – including James Burke, Frank Muir and Russell Harty – at the start of the programme (in order to winkle out some quick soundbites about what the BBC means to them) overall it’s a pleasingly unstarry sort of programme.

The two television drama productions covered – The Cleopatras and Beau Geste  – tend to concentrate on the production staff and extras rather than the stars (hard to imagine that sort of focus occurring today). It’s also noticeable that pretty much the same amount of time is devoted to both the BBC’s radio and television output.

For anyone who loves a dollop of Wogan whimsy, this is well worth your time.

Go Girl – Give Me A Ring Sometime

go girl

Go Girl was a thirteen part series from the early seventies about a crime-fighting Go-Go dancer (no really).  The show was beset by financial problems and never made it to air. Most of it was then wiped, with only the pilot episode now known to exist (this did eventually surface on VHS a decade after it was made and is currently available as a bonus feature on the UK DVD of Take An Easy Ride).

Luan Peters is the eponymous go girl, Carol.  Probably best known for playing an attractive New Zealand guest in Fawlty Towers, it’s obvious to see why Peters was cast – she’s perfect eye candy, capable of go-go dancing at the drop of a hat (and able to look remarkably cute in a bikini too).

It’s hard to work out whether Go Girl is a comedy, drama or something inbetween.  Events kick off aboard a boat, where a group of well-heeled guests are eagerly tucking into a generous selection of food and drink.  The direction favours extreme close-ups of the partygoers, which creates something of a claustrophobic feel.  Meanwhile, elsewhere on board somebody’s rummaging through a safe ….

Following the title sequence (“when she moves, she is out of this world, she has got to be a go girl”) we cross to a swinging discotheque, where Carol and her friends are go-going like mad to Slade’s Coz I Luv You.  After they take a break, a man called Juan (Walter Randall) trips her up and then plies her with champagne.

Long story short, he’s the man who’s stolen a pile of loot from the boat.  Carol may be blonde, but she’s not completely dumb and doesn’t buy his smooth chat up lines (“you must think I’ve just fallen off a Christmas tree”).  And the smile’s wiped off his face even further when he notices a man at the bar with a tattoo on his hand.

Juan disappears but he leaves behind an envelope.  Carol and her boyfriend Adam (Simon Brent) open it to find …. a treasure map!  They charter a boat to travel out to where x marks the spot, but by an incredible coincidence the boat is under the control of Rick (George Margo), who turns out to be the man with the tattoo (presumably Juan’s partner).  Oh, and Juan’s on board, he’s just very, very dead.

It’s a ridiculous plot twist, which suggests this is more comedy than drama.  The climatic fight on the very studio-bound island between Rick and Adam makes this even clearer.

Give Me A Ring Sometime is thirty minutes of gormless fun.  It was never going to win any awards, but there’s plenty of incidental pleasures.  Luan Peters is impossibly cute, medallion man Simon Brent (also the co-producer) is an effective sidekick whilst Randall and Margo both chew the attractive looking scenery with aplomb.  The way the live-action gives way several times to brief animated sequences is also an interesting touch.

Shot in Spain, it comes across as an exploitation-style take on a typical ITC adventure series and whilst it’s no lost classic, it’s diverting enough.

The Three Ronnies


One of the many joys of revisiting The Two Ronnies is the chance to hear Ronnie Hazlehurst’s iconic opening and closing music. It was just one of his many credits, as he also penned the themes for Are You Being Served?, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Last of the Summer Wine, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, To the Manor Born, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister amongst others.  Not a bad CV to have ….

The below recording comes from his album, Sixteen Small Screen Greats, and is a fairly close approximation of the original (albeit with a Piggy Malone/Charley Farley sidestep in the middle).

Few themes, especially the closing section, are quite so evocative.  It instantly conjures up a sense of warmth and security as the memories of decades gone by come flooding back.  Thank you Ronnie H.

Bob Monkhouse – Behind the Laughter


I’ve recently, after a long break, uploaded some archive bits and bobs to my YouTube channel, including this two part documentary from 2003.

Sadly part one cuts out early (presumably there was a late schedule change and the timer let me down) whilst uploading part two is proving to be rather problematic, since BBC Worldwide appear to have a block on even short clips of Tony Hancock’s BBC shows.  Quite why they should be so protective of him is a bit of a mystery.  I’ll have another go at uploading part two – I’ll probably just cut the whole Hancock section out to be on the safe side.

Although it wasn’t known at the time, Monkhouse was reaching the end of his life and this might explain the downbeat tone of the piece.  Heroes of Comedy this certainly isn’t ….

But whilst Monkhouse does dwell on the self destructive nature of some of Britain’s comedy greats, he also acknowledges their undoubted skills  – even if, as with Frankie Howerd, he also admits that he never understood his appeal.

Part one tackles Tommy Cooper, Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd and Ken Dodd.  There are no major revelations, since the frailties of Cooper, Hill and Howerd were already well known (had the recording not cut out I’d assume that the only living subject – Dodd – would have received an easier ride).  The most absorbing sections occur when Monkhouse relates his own personal experiences with his subjects.  Frankie Howerd, painted as an unpleasant sexual predator, certainly comes off worse here.

In part two, Monkhouse turns his attention to Morecambe & Wise, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock.  The character flaws of Sellers and Hancock were also very familiar, although again the personal touch from Monkhouse is of interest (he claims that Tony Hancock and Morecambe & Wise were rather condescending towards him).

Monkhouse’s comedy partner, Denis Goodwin, who took his own life at an early age, is also discussed, which fits into the general tone that comedy can be bitterly self-destructive.

Not always an easy watch then, but Bob Monkhouse doesn’t seem to have an axe to grind and – unlike some talking heads who have passed judgement on these people in other documentaries – at least he knew and worked with them.


World in Action theme by Shawn Weaver and Mick Phillips

world in action.jpg

I’ve recently been watching some editions of World in Action on YouTube (because that’s the way I like to roll) and the haunting theme music quickly captured my attention, just as it did all those years ago.

Composed by Shawn Weaver and Mick Phillips on the spot as an improvised jam, rather shockingly it appears that Weaver was diddled out of his royalties, as mentioned here.  That, alas, was one injustice which World in Action never investigated …..

CGI Reconstructions of the missing Doctor Who episodes on YouTube

I’ve been rather impressed with a series of CGI recons that have appeared on YouTube during the past couple of months.  At present, all of Marco Polo and the two missing episodes from The Crusade are up and the intention seems to be that all ninety seven episodes will be tackled in time.

There’s some undeniable rough edges which could benefit from additional work, but for now what’s been posted is certainly very watchable.  Below is episode one of Marco PoloThe Roof of the World.

TV50 (BBC 1986) – Quatermass and Doctor Who clips

That’s Television Entertainment was a three hour programme broadcast in 1986 as part of the BBC’s TV50 season (which celebrated fifty years of BBC television).

I’ve just uploaded to YouTube the brief section covering Quatermass and Doctor Who.  Ringo Starr and Cliff Richard discuss their love of Quatermass and whilst there’s no celebs on hand to talk about Doctor Who, there is a generous three minute selection of clips.

Most of the sixties and seventies footage is taken from the 1977 documentary Whose Doctor Who.  I’m not sure how they selected the post 1977 material (since it’s bizarre to see a clip of Mestor from The Twin Dilemma – hardly one of the series’ high-points!).

Today, this is a nice selection of clips, but nothing more.  Back in 1986 though it was a tantaslisng glimpse into mostly unobtainable Doctor Who history.  The VHS range was still in its infancy (only a handful of tapes were available).  Stories from the 1970’s were still airing in certain parts of the world (not in the UK alas) but everything that existed from the 1960’s was pretty much out of circulation.  There were pirate videos of course, but even those were fairly restricted then.

These three minutes of clips seemed to be the closest we’d ever get to accessing a large part of Doctor Who’s history.  The idea that everything that existed would one day be available at the touch of a button was mere science fiction back then.

Timeshift – Live on the Night: The Story of Live TV Drama

I’ve uploaded some bits and bobs to my YouTube channel over the last few days and one of them is this Timeshift documentary from 2004.

It tells the story of live British television drama – from the early days and then right up to date.  Covering programmes like the original Quatermass serials, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars and featuring interviews with Nigel Kneale, Peter Byrne and Brian Blessed amongst others, it ties neatly into some of the shows that I’ve written about in recent months.

Part of William Hartnell’s Desert Island Discs interview found


A section of William Hartnell’s 1965 Desert Island Discs interview (running for about 15 minutes) has just been returned to the BBC Archives, together with complete DID’s featuring the Reverend W Awdry, Diana Rigg and Louis Armstrong.  The Louis Armstrong DID was Armstrong’s own personal copy, whilst the others have been donated by listeners.

You can listen or download the Hartnell interview here or alternatively listen via the YouTube clip at the bottom of the post.

Although it’s a shame that the DID excerpt cuts off just before he talks about Doctor Who, it’s lovely to have this chance to hear the man talk.  Audio or film interviews with William Hartnell are incredibly scarce – and this, along with the short film interview included on The Tenth Planet DVD, offer a rare chance to hear the thoughts of Hartnell, the man.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, below is a transcript of the section of Hartnell’s DID that covers his conversation about Doctor Who.  The material in brackets was excised from the finished programme.

Hartnell: And playing this part, strangely enough, led to the part of Dr. Who.

Plomley: Yes.

Hartnell: Because it so ha.. turned out that after playing Dr. Who for several months Verity Lambert, my producer, [ a very charming and lovable person, ] tol… finally confessed to me that she’d seen the film and she decided that there was her Dr. Who.

Plomley: Yes. How long have you been playing Dr. Who?

Hartnell: Two years.

Plomley: Are they weekly instalments?

Hartnell: Yes, yes.

Plomley: This is pretty hard graft, isn’t it?

Hartnell: Yes. Rehearse all the week and tape them on a Friday.

Plomley: And children do you find the toughest critics?

Hartnell: I certainly do. [ This is where I love playing to children, because you can’t pull the wool over their eyes. And when they write to me, you know, it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. ]

Plomley: And it doesn’t worry you that after this you may be typecast again as absent-minded professors?

Hartnell: No, my dear boy even if it’s in a bath-chair for the rest of my life.

Plomley: [ Yes. Now this… this of course ] Dr. Who leaves you no time to do anything else.

Hartnell: No, it doesn’t.

Plomley: So this is it for the foreseeable future.

Hartnell: Yes, yes.

Plomley: For many years.

Hartnell: Yes, I think so. They’ve.. they give me pretty well carte blanche and as a matter of fact Verity has said that when the time comes we will give you a bath-chair free.

Plomley: LAUGH

Hartnell: So I said I might take her up on that one day.

Plomley: Right well in the meantime while we’re still young and active let’s have record number five.

Hartnell: Yes. Before I grow another white wig. [ Well now let’s.. let’s change the subject and the theme of music, shall we? I’d like to hear one of Louis Armstrong’s early records. I don’t know when he made it quite. But it’s a trumpet solo, and this.. this man I find fascinating. I remember him when I was quite young. And I think he’s what I call the king-pin of Jazz. And I think the, well I don’t know who else there would be to.. to.. to place in the same category. Anyway let’s.. I’d love to hear this record.

Plomley: What’s the number?

Hartnell: The number is – er –



Plomley: How long have you been playing Dr. Who?

Hartnell: 2 years

Plomley: Weekly instalments?

Hartnell: Oh yes.

Plomley: Well this is really hard graft, isn’t it, one.. an instalment of that every week.

Hartnell: Yes, but I enjoy it.

Plomley: Do you like playing to children?

Hartnell: I love them. I love children. Nothing gives me greater delight, because I.. I think they are the greatest critics in the world.

Plomley: Yes. Tough critics.

Hartnell: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. When they write to me they demand sometimes over and above what I can provide, but I send them a photograph and sign it and answer some of their letters. And one little child wrote to me not so long ago, which is rather charming, she said that how much.. she told me in her letter how much she liked the show, and she ended up saying when I grow up I will marry you – aged 4 and a half.

Plomley: LAUGH

Hartnell: Oh yes.

Plomley: Now does it worry you, Bill, that you may be type-cast again as an absent-minded professor?

Hartnell: No, I shall enjoy that tremendously. Even if a bath-chair goes with it. Which brings me to the point of where Verity Lambert, my own producer, said that when the time comes she said we will produce a bath-chair for you – free.

Plomley: Well this sounds as if you’re going to be doing Dr. Who for a good many years.

Hartnell: I’m afraid so.

Plomley: And of course…

Hartnell: Or am I afraid so? I don’t know.

Plomley: It leaves you no time to do anything else.

Hartnell: No, nothing at all – no. It’s once a week and we tape it every Friday.

The Crucible – 21 Years In The Frame (BBC 1997)

I’ve also just uploaded to YouTube this three-part series from 1997, in which David Vine looks back at the first twenty years of the World Snooker Championships staged at the Crucible Theatre (1977 – 1996).

Given that each edition is only thirty minutes, there’s rarely time to dwell in much detail on any match (although they do show all of Alex Higgins’ legendary break from his 1982 semi-final against Jimmy White) but it’s an amiable quick trot through twenty years of snooker history.

Play of the Month – Julius Caesar (BBC 1969) starring Robert Stephens and Edward Woodward

I’ve uploaded to YouTube this 1969 BBC Play of the Month production of Julius Caesar, which features a first-rate cast including Robert Stephens as Mark Antony, Maurice Denham as Julius Caesar, Frank Finlay as Brutus and Edward Woodward as Cassius.

Tony Hancock in The Government Inspector (BBC 1958)


In 1958 Tony Hancock was riding high as the star of Hancock’s Half Hour, which was running on both BBC television and radio.

On the evening on the 9th of February 1958 he gave a rare straight acting performance in the BBC World Theatre production of Gogol’s The Government Inspector.

Hancock was bolstered by an impressive supporting cast (including Wilfred Brambell, Peter Copley and Noel Howlett) and he acquitted himself well – although he’s still recognisably Hancock.  Indeed, it would be easy to believe that some of his lines were written by Galton & Simpson, which is possibly why it was felt that this play would be a perfect fit for him.

This was such an obvious extra to include on the Hancock’s Half Hour DVD boxset, released a few years back, that its omission was baffling.  The only time it’s surfaced in recent years was when it was one of the programmes offered as part of the BBC Archive Trial (an online test service) in 2007.

Given that the BBC seem to have no interest at present in making this commercially available, I’ve decided to upload it my YouTube account.  Hopefully it’ll stay there for a while, which will allow a wider audience to enjoy this unique Hancock performance.