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Why didn't we realise TV was rubbish?


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This thread dredged up some long forgotten memories for me. 

 

Being dragged to see the Krankies summer show at the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth and Russ Abbot in Blackpool.  

 

 

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On 23/07/2022 at 15:48, Jammy said:

Not The 9 O’Clock News, Dave Allen, Spike Milligan, Reginald Perrin

 

All of which are great, but also a huge strain of misogyny, blackface, and homophobia present in all four (seriously, there's a reason that John Lloyd keeps a tight lid on NTNOCN and all you get these days are his edits*)

 

(* Still, the American Express parody is in my mind every time I use it - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF-U9nL9Ios# )

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I think a big part of this comes from the working men's clubs of the 1960s, and the values of that time.  Comedians would treat jokes as a free commodity, seeing a good sketch of act and saying "that's brilliant.  We'll do that".

 

This is captured in a documentary I saw some years ago when Little from Little and Large was being interviewed.  He said that one night they arrived at the Embassy Club In Manchester, a comedy club owned by Bernard Manning.  As they arrived and unpacked their stuff they could hear Bernard on stage doing their act.  At the interval, Did went over to Bernard and said, "what was that about, doing our act? What are we supposed to do now?" 

To which Bernard replied, "oh... Sorry lads, I won't do it tomorrow"

 

And this is the thing, in the 60s an act would tour the country doing the same jokes, the same one hour, over and over again and this would be a career.  TV came along, TV needs talent, and the talent of the time were these acts that had a successful hour long routine they toured the world with.  They appear on TV, all their material is used up by episode 2 and suddenly they have nothing for next week.  So you get Little and Large, a weak singer who met a Deputy Dawg impersonator, came up with an act and before you know it they're on TV and eddie only knows 5 impressions.  Les Dennis gets a big laugh going "I don't really know Vera' and so he keeps doing it.  Just imagine Breaking Bad as a prime time series in 1985, people would shit their pants.

 

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It's worth pointing out that the Morecambe and Wise "Andrew Preview" sketch had been broadcast eight years earlier in a slightly different form.

 

M'colleague up there makes the excellent point that these are very good performers who had an act that was worked on and refined over a couple of decades.  They were stuck with poor material and a bunch of writers who didn't really understand them.  (M&W only really clicked with Eddie Braben and part of their failure at ITV was due to him not going with them.)  Russ Abbott is quite a funny man and a very good actor, he just got lumbered with some atrocious material that no-one could actually make work.  As mentioned, there was very little where an act could work out the material in the clubs/music halls before bringing it to broadcast.  I believe that Ben Elton was one of the first to do that, touring the material for The Man From Auntie before it was put on the BBC.  Now entire routines are put through their paces before a series is commissioned, and even when writers are coming up with those off the cuff quips in Mock The Week or 8 out of 10 Cats, they've had at least two or three outings in a local comedy club before recording.

 

(I can thoroughly recommend Louis Barfe's excellent biographies of both Les Dawson and Morecambe and Wise to get an idea of just how much work those guys had to put in.)

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4 hours ago, dino_jr said:

I never understood how any ventriloquists acts got even vaguely famous.

 

Sooty/Sweep, Orville & the Monkey, Emu, Spit the Dog (wasn't even voiced! Bob Carolgees milked no talent like no other) should have come last in their respective Stars in their eyes episodes.

 

 

 

Nookie Bear always freaked me out as a kid.

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I think there's a fair bit to the idea that there just weren't that many decent people around, because it wasn't a thing that had been done before, and also the good ones weren't necessarily visible. It wasn't really that much of an option to make a living from comedy or TV or whatever, and now it very much is. It's why there are a load of old folks who did everything, or had careers that look frankly baffling now - there was no-one else around to do that better than them.

 

Now, you can find a hundred people on Youtube who would do a better job than some of the presenters back then. You could find a thousand better comics. I mean - you look at someone like Mike Yarwood who had his own show on prime time telly, and it's piss poor. Was anyone better available back then? Probably but how would you know about it? He was there, and visible, so got the gig. There were probably dozens of other comedians much better than him  who just never got noticed, because wrong place wrong time, never got noticed.

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40 years ago ted Rogers was foisting bins onto the unsuspecting public via poor riddles and “amusing” sketches

 

now ant and dec gurn their way thru incomprehensible nonsense and “amusing” sketches

 

the generation game had millions glued to their sets watching faintly awkward celeb-public games

 

now we have celebs wearing comedy outfits and singing

 

primetime entertainment has always been this way. It is broad and it has to be , some is good, some is bad. The age has nothing to do with it. You can argue that they are more canny now and use more writers to keep it “fresher” but I would argue that is turd polishing. The end result “feels” the same, hits the same marks make the same jokes.
 

there is comedy, drama, light  entertainment, children’s programmes comedians and all manner of programmes that were superb 40 years ago and a bunch of them that are superb now. There were/are shit ones too.

 

There has always been good and bad and it always amuses me when anyone says that the old stuff was shite, how did we put up with it. 
 

 

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I'm really genuinely surprised no one has mentioned Benny Hill... 

 

EDIT: Also (and I think this is more criminal) why are they showing stuff in stretched 16:9-o-vision? 🤦🏾‍♂️

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On 23/07/2022 at 17:13, Don Wiskerando said:

I hope you lot have never seen The Grumbleweeds.   Canon and Ball are Lee and Herring compared to that shit.

 

I have. I was just talking about them with a colleague this morning. I can't remember much about it other that I liked it as a nipper. I think we saw Little and Large and possibly saw Cannon and Ball at the end of pier shows. I  always loved Bobby Ball. When he would turn up at the door as Lee Mack's Dad in Not Going Out I would buckle. We definitely saw The Krankies.

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The other thing is that TV was produced and made differently.  There were very few channels.  The technology was very different and massively unwieldy.  The creative processes were different.  Generalising massively, but most of the people involved had come up via the stage and theatre and weren't really capable of figuring out what TV could do - that required a new generation who had grown up with TV.

 

Someone scoffed about Noels House Party above - convenient memory that for a while that was absolutely huge because it was pushing what could be done with live TV on a Saturday night.  Mixing live and pre-record, stuff like NTV, it could go wrong at any point in front of the second or third largest telly audience of the week and that was part of the appeal.  You couldn't walk that tightrope nowadays because, well, everyone is too good and the technology is too good for it to fail.

 

Also, it's easy to scoff at the past but Ant and Dec pranking celebrities is exactly what Edmonds was doing with Gotchas in the 90s or Beadle was doing in Game for a Laugh in the early 80s.

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I used to really like Noel's House Party, it was a good mix of stuff and Edmonds was pretty charismatic. Obviously the Blobby stuff was atrocious, but was also massive for a while and had a lot of opportunities for the Beeb's commercial arm. 

 

Never been a fan of Ant and Dec though, despite them doing similar stuff, as @Plisskennotes. But they are hugely successful at packaging cheaply made tv that has broad appeal, to the point of probably being the only real Saturday early evening show that has any real cache these days. 

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50 minutes ago, Gabe said:

Obviously the Blobby stuff was atrocious, but was also massive for a while and had a lot of opportunities for the Beeb's commercial arm.

 

The Blobby pranks were good in the beginning because they were believable. It was funny, slapstick "Candid Camera" type stuff. Once it became commercialised and Blobby became a mascot, with rubbish songs in the charts and merchandising everywhere, it just wasn't funny anymore.

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4 hours ago, Gabe said:

Never been a fan of Ant and Dec though, despite them doing similar stuff.


Not a fan of their evening shows, but they were bloody brilliant when they started out on SMTV.

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11 minutes ago, Jammy said:


Not a fan of their evening shows, but they were bloody brilliant when they started out on SMTV.

Yeah, I've seen bits of their SMTV stuff (I used to have a 'Best of' video and it was very good). I guess they had a bit more freedom back then as they didn't have the reputation nor the pressure of needing to cater to a prime time audience. 

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4 hours ago, Hanzo the Razor said:

I'm surprised no one was mentioned Norman Collier. He only had three routines, the chicken, the faulty microphone and the car window. I loved him as a kid. He was crap and he knew it which kind of made it funnier.

 

and not only was Norman Collier a bit shit but Lee Evans managed a huge career from just adding sweatiness to the microphone bit of the act.

 

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On 25/07/2022 at 10:37, Hanzo the Razor said:

I'm surprised no one was mentioned Norman Collier. He only had three routines, the chicken, the faulty microphone and the car window. I loved him as a kid. He was crap and he knew it which kind of made it funnier.

I still mention him on teams calls when someone's mic starts playing up. 

 

 

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48 minutes ago, Jammy said:

@GabeFor sure - some of the stuff they snuck in ‘for the grown-ups’ because it was live was brilliant.

 

It was, but to keep on the thread SMTV (and the much missed Dick and Dom) kept up the tradition started by Tiswas.

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3 hours ago, Plissken said:

The other thing is that TV was produced and made differently.  There were very few channels.  The technology was very different and massively unwieldy.  The creative processes were different.  Generalising massively, but most of the people involved had come up via the stage and theatre and weren't really capable of figuring out what TV could do - that required a new generation who had grown up with TV.

 

Another thing about that era that gets lost today is that there was more scope for things in some ways even within those limitations. You don't get a lot of sketch shows these days because it's expensive to have all those sets, all those locations, all those extras. You don't get complicated visual stunts like in Some Mothers… or The Brittas Empire for similar reasons. You don't have crazy experiments like the Play For Today episode (The After Dinner Joke) that is essentially an hour-long CSO-fest that makes Doctor Who look tame. You also don't have slots like Second City Firsts, Centre Play, etc for up-and-coming writers and actors, both in regional or London-centric versions.

 

(basically: there's some great and amazing TV in every era, I guess ;) )

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1 hour ago, Plissken said:

 

It was, but to keep on the thread SMTV (and the much missed Dick and Dom) kept up the tradition started by Tiswas.

 

Saturday morning TV is just bonkers. I showed my partner this clip and she's still horrified:

 

 

"So your Saturday morning TV gave a generation a sexual fetish with gunge and night terrors?"

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Yes, it's kind of interesting how TV has evolved from one-off stories and episodes to entire arcs over several series.  The art of writing a self-contained story to be told in 48 minutes is being lost.  Of course, that sometimes led to entirely templated shows (most US action stuff of the 80s)  but the idea that I have to start a show knowing that there are five more series to plough through keeps me away from starting quite a bit - I don't want to go in knowing it is a 60 hour commitment or being told I have to get through 10 hours before knowing whether it is right for me!

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1 hour ago, Plissken said:

 

It was, but to keep on the thread SMTV (and the much missed Dick and Dom) kept up the tradition started by Tiswas.


Indeed, and I deleted a line comparing it to Tiswas before I posted - dammit !

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That Barrymore video in the OP is amazing. Ended up in a bit of a rabbit hole with barrymore interviews. That's totally going to be a Netflix series one day isn't it? With a 83 year old Michael muttering to himself in the toilets with his mic still live in the final episode

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13 hours ago, Smoothy said:

I'm really genuinely surprised no one has mentioned Benny Hill... 

 

His early stuff was pretty inventive - that famous Morecambe and Wise 'breakfast' sketch? Hill did it first, on TV back in the 60s.

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I expect Harry Enfield's shows carry a warning for the frequent lazy racist stuff rather than the 1950s parodies.

 

I'm reading Harry Hill's memoir at the moment, there's a good bit about Little and Large (or was it Cannon and Ball? Acts of that 'type' anyway) admitting they knew their programmes were quite shit but they were so terrified of TV work drying up that they'd agree to anything.

 

Once Sky took off and there started to be a market for VHS of import TV shows it was the beginning of the end for this holiday camp / radio one roadshow crap.

 

There's a lot of Noel's House Party and that kind of stuff on YouTube, it's utterly bewildering to watch now. Items could go on for 10, 20 minutes with no jokes and no obvious point.

 

Of course we level the same complaints at Saturday Night Live now, which seems bafflingly terrible having gotten used to the Fast Show et al's way of doing things over here.

 

Also: it's really massively obvious in hindsight that comics and comedy writers leant on the lack of access to US TV to 'borrow' material up until the 1990s. The little wave of 'cool' sitcoms in the late 90s is basically a bunch of writers studying golden age Simpsons and directly applying that quickfire, everything-is-a-target writing style to the trad sitcom format.

 

Can't believe people are dissing Russ Abbot. The 'noise of the train' sketch is legit incredible, Two Ronnies tier. And they actually put some effort into the music hall songs, I can remember gags from some of them 35 years later. 90% of it was toss of course but he had the chops to just sometimes drop in something great. A pro, like Monkhouse.

 

...

 

Nice to see What's Up Doc? getting a mention. That, Lee & Herring's stuff, Johhny Vaughn era Big Breakfast and lots of early MTV Europe (e.g. Ray Cokes, who Chris Evans lifted his schtick from) were constantly putting crazy shit on air with seemingly no oversight. I remember Frank Sidebottom and John Shuttleworth turning up all over the place.

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