Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 143

Tuesday 22nd May 1984

Woke up at 7.50 and got up at 8.10. First at school we had hymn practice, then I did some language and maths till 12.00, when I had dinner. After dinner I started to sketch a plant, but me and Ozzie went in the library because we both had a headache.

Came home at 3.15 and typed till tea, and after tea I went outside and played round the garden on the Strika. When I came in I started to draw a picture of all the Doctor Whos but soon got sick and at 7.10 I watched Blankety Blank.

At 7.40 I watched Sorry. After that I started a Doctor Who record, and at 8.15 I took an interest in watching the last episode of Dallas. Bobby Ewing got shot at the end… Splat! After some supper and a glass of lemonade, I went to bed at about 9.00.

Wahey! You can see where this is heading, can’t you? ‘Me and Ozzie went in the library because we both had a headache’… I can remember distinctly that this impromptu outbreak of crippling, debilitating migraine occured approximately twenty minutes after we’d discovered that Richard Horseman and Jason Tuck were absent from school that morning because (altogether now) ‘there’s a bug going round’.

Ah, the power of suggestion!!! Especially when there’s the possibility of a day or two on the sofa at home watching Pebble Mill at One and Crown Court. I wonder if my sketch of a plant was ever completed? I presume this was some vague attempt at still-life drawing, probably initiated by Mrs Keasey who, after five years of teaching me, was ready to throw me headfirst through the Middle Band window if I presented her with YET ANOTHER felt-tip drawing of Tom Baker or Peter Davison leering from the TARDIS doorway.


You’ll note how ANY attempt to drag me kicking and screaming from the unhealthy influence of Doctor Who instantly made me physically ill, and – once I was home – I had to instantly strap my snake-loop belt around my forearm and indulge my addiction with ‘a picture of all the Doctor Whos’ together. It was Patrick Troughton that was the bugger to draw, he always ended up looking like a slightly wonky Ringo Starr.

Some fine bits of TV history here, as well. Blankety Blank was now in its legendary Les Dawson era, and essential viewing on a wet Tuesday night…

It was around this time that I began to formulate my Theory Of Celebrity Positionings On Blankety Blank, namely that each seat on the panel was designed for a very particular type of guest star. So, in a nutshell…

Top Left: THE NOTED WIT… an old stager who could spin a good yarn… Barry Cryer, Willie Rushton, Russell Harty, etc. 


Top Middle: THE DOTTY OLD DEAR… a matriarchal British comedy figure… Mollie Sugden, Irene Handl, Dora Bryan, etc.

Top Right: THE YOUNG PRETENDER… a blow-dried, younger light entertainer… Steve Wright, Kid Jensen, Les Dennis etc (although I’m not sure how John Junkin crept into the spot in the above clip, he must have been double-booked with Roy Kinnear)

Bottom Left: THE THINKING MAN’S CRUMPET: An attractive younger woman who gave as good as she got… Sharon Davies, Linda Lusardi or – indeed – Kirsten ‘Allo Allo’ Cooke, and no woman has ever looked more attractive in a beret and white socks.

Bottom Middle: THE JOKER… A wacky, laugh-a-minute gag merchant guaranteed to raise havoc… Russ Abbott, Keith Barron or – indeed – Kenny Everett, whose appearances on the show were legendary and usually ended with Terry Wogan’s bizarre, lolly-stick microphone being brilliantly and hilariously twisted. A bit like the mighty Kenny himself.


Bottom Right: THE DOLLY BIRD… a giggly girly type who would more than likely have to resort to ‘drawin’ a picture, cos I couldn’t spell it’. A position so epitomised by the brilliant Lorraine ‘Luton Airport’ Chase that I hope her high-backed chair is shrinkwrapped in plastic sheeting somewhere in a Broadcasting House storage room with an English Heritage plaque screwed to the back.

I had a lot of time on my hands, didn’t I?

Good to see a mention for ‘Sorry!’ as well, Ronnie Corbett’s long-running ‘trapped at home with the parents’ sitcom whose theme tune was once performed so loudly and relentlessly on the school bus that Gordon, our grizzled Scottish driver, actually asked myself and Philip Slack to stop doing it because he couldn’t concentrate on his driving… 

And Bobby Ewing shot!!! Crikey, who saw that coming? Well, actually, everyone, seeing as the Dallas production team had pulled exactly the same stunt with JR Ewing only four years earlier and managed to persuade the entire population of the solar system to watch. In this cynical, multi-media age, it’s amazing to contemplate just how obsessed the world became with the identity of Larry Hagman’s would-be assassin over the summer of 1980. I swear, at one point, at least 40% of Middlesbrough’s population were wearing ‘I SHOT JR’ T-shirts as they queued to buy Westlers hotdogs and watch The Empire Strikes Back. I even remember the subject being discussed at length at my eighth birthday party on Saturday 15th Novenber 1980, a week (I think) before the culprit was unmasked.

(And, the following Saturday, I stole a march on my anxious Mum and Gran by buying the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette from Mr Murray’s newsagent round the corner from my Gran’s bungalow. The show wasn’t being broadcast until the evening, but the Gazette had cannily promised to reveal the culprit’s identity in their early edition. And they did! And there was actually a queue stretching from the shop doorway as I shambled over to buy one…) 

Blimey, all this excitement… I can feel that headache coming back…  (places back of hand over forehead and swoons)


  Chris Orton wrote @

I tell you what strikes me about these old telly schedules the most – the fact that so many programmes used to to start at odd times…

I mean, a show starting at 7.10pm and not on the hour or half hour would be unheard of these days on a prime time week day.

The closest we have now in probably The One Show, which starts at 6.57pm without fail, despite it not being scheduled too.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The British enthusiasm for the ‘Who shot J.R?’ storyline took everyone in broadcasting by surprise. Programmes like Nationwide discussed the characters and stories concerned as if they were real people and situations for possibly the first time.

Newspaper editors learned that they could suddenly shift a significantly higher number of copies if they mentioned the story somewhere on the front page. By the time that the answer to this mystery was revealed, they were already looking around for new TV storylines to milk in this way, preferably home-grown ones.

Tying Ken and Deirdre’s wedding in with Charles and Diana was a successful move for the producers of Coronation Street and so the famous, unprecedented coverage of the Ken, Deirdre and Mike affair began.

The BBC’s response to all of this, as my learned colleague Professor Miriam Schedule postulated in her groundbreaking treatise ‘Poodles, Mash & Gunning Down Your Family: The Rise and Spread of the Mope Opera’ was to demand its own slice of the pie and unleash EastEnders onto a world still agog at the notion of programming before noon.

Of course the mania for news coverage of fictional storylines and people has continued unhindered and there are now several weekly magazines available devoted purely to developments in the worlds of the soap opera.
So thank you Mary Crosby. It was all your fault!

  bobfischer wrote @

I think the TV schedules back then were worked out on the back of fag packets. Rothmans for the daytime schedules, Benson and Hedges for the more sophisticated primetime slots.

And wise words as ever, Dr Parcel. We were very much a Daily Mirror household, and I remember them going overboard with the Deirdre/Ken/Mike storyline in Coronation Street. Was there even one edition that ran with ‘KEN TELLS DEIRDRE – GET OUT NOW!’ as their MAIN FRONT PAGE HEADLINE, reacting to events in the previous night’s episode? Astonishing.

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

That rings a bell with me too although I can’t say for certain – the only paper taken chez Parcel in the 1980s was the Frinton Argus.

Disastrously, those early BBC ‘daytime’ schedules from 1986 were formulated on the back of a packet of John Player Specials and almost impossible to interpret down at the VT library. This led to random episodes of Poldark and The LIver Birds being shown at wildly varying times.

  bobfischer wrote @

Stop it, you’re making me want to take up the filthy habit again!!!

(Watching daytime TV, that is)

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

Pshaw! It is well known that you have never really given it up.

  bobfischer wrote @

Yikes, I’ve been rumbled. Alright, I admit it – I often slope off in the afternoons for a crafty bit of Car Booty.

And sometimes I watch the telly afterwards.

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