13 April

Will try to bring the current round of Doctor Who reviews to a conclusion this week. Seeds of Death better than I remembered.

Watched first two instalments of Tales from the Loop. I have no idea what it is about: is it simply going to be an anthology of weird stuff happening in a small town, or is the time travelling girl and the body swapped boys going to form part of some vast overarching narrative? I like the fact that it takes a very long time to get anywhere, and the main characters, mostly kids and teenagers so far, are terribly believable. 


There is a running joke that the TV that you grew up with is always the best TV, and any sense that the Beatles are only regarded as an especially good pop group because the so-called "boomers" -- the people who were teenagers in the 60s -- have fetishised the culture of their own era. 

This is not true. Culture goes through good and bad patches, and some people have to be alive during the good patches. It is a fact that the 1970s were something of a golden age of British kids TV and something of a desert for pop music. The Clangers and the Wombles just happened to classics of their kind; but hardly anyone looks back on Gary Glitter and the Bay City Rollers with much joy. 

I think that, even at the time, I was aware that I had somewhat missed the boat in terms of TV comedy. Monty Python was something which was revered, but which had very much already happened. It was respected; everyone knew the Parrot Sketch was a classic; but it wasn't surprising any more. I remember Morecambe and Wise's legendary Christmas shows, but even there one had a sense of coming in at the end, of witnessing the last days of an institution.

I never actually found the Goodies terribly funny; although as a child I did rather approve of the silliness. They always seemed a bit post-Python, a bit aware that they were doing jokes about King Kong rather than Proust. Maybe in a way that accounted for their popularity. There was a sort of playground joyfulness in taking a feeble idea like "what if the mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind were the hat of a Salvation Army lady" and spinning it out to a whole episode. The idea of Ballet Hooliganism is a lot funnier than the thirty minutes of TV they got out of it. 

Little and Large were outright bad. Or rather: they were a perfectly adequate pair of old fashioned comedians with a single "turn", forced by the economics of late 70s TV to front up a lavish show for an hour every week. I never ever forgave them for doing a Star Wars sketch without having seen Star Wars first. "Star Wars is about a big planet that wants to destroy a small planet". They referred to "Force Wands" rather than lightsabers so they could make a joke about "wait til you see where I force it."

Here is the thing, though.

The BBC was not merely one of a number of content providers: the BBC was pretty much The Television. And The Television was not one of a number of ways of passing the time; it was the place you went after school and for most of the weekend. (Our parents endlessly surprised us by talking about going to The Pictures or The Movies. They didn't choose a film, or even necessarily know what film was on: they just went to the cinema as a matter of course. We might have favourite programmes, of course; and occasionally a grown up might want to switch to BBC 2 for The Cricket or The Politics; and some of us even dared look at ITV, at least if it was Magpie or the Tomorrow People. But mostly, we watch The Television. It might be a good cartoon or a space story; it might be something educational about steam trains or water voles. We watched what was on. And what was on, very often indeed, was Supersonic Sid and the Funky Gibbon.

This was, incidentally, why the Jimmy Savile scandal hurt us so deeply: this wasn't just a famous guy getting exposed as a sex-offender; it was decades of our lives being overwritten.

The Goodies and Little and Large -- and Top of the Pops and Doctor Who and Blue Peter -- were as much a fixed point in life as school and church and gravity.

Eras seem to be ending all the time.

1 comment:

Louise H said...

I am quite taken with Tales from the Loop, though similarly unsure of what sort of thing it is going to turn out to be. It's difficult to do genuinely chilling without being a bit portentous with it but it seems to manage to be matter of fact, pretty and horrific simultaneously.