Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Extracts from Bob’s 1984 Diary… Volume 222

Thursday 9th August 1984

Woke up at 9.30 and got up at 10.00. I played on the videopac till 11.30 when I watched the Grumbleweeds. At 12.00 I started to tidy my room, and at 12.30 I had dinner. Then I tidied my room up all afternoon, and when I’d finished I came down and went out. 

Came in at 4.30 and played on the videopac, and got a Munchkin high score of 2896! At 4.45 I had tea and watched Starstrider and at 5.15 I went out and played football.

At 6.30 I came in and started to map Deathtrap Dungeon, then at 7.30 I watched Top of the pops. At 8.00 I watched Hi-de-Hi and at 8.30 I watched The paras. At 9.00 I went out and at 9.15 I went to bed.

Eat your heart out Torchwood! Yes, 25 years before ‘Children of Earth’, the 1984 equivalent of the Torchwood team were having their adventures ‘stripped’ across the TV schedules, with an episode being screened on Tyne Tees every weekday at 11.30am.  I’d actually quite like to see The Grumbleweeds take over at Torchwood for the next series, although I could probably live without the sight of Robin and Graham constantly snogging at the entrace to the Hub.

The Grumbleweeds were great, though… for the benefit of our younger readers, they were a manic comedy fivepiece that weren’t averse to pulling out the guitars and doing a few musical spoofs as well (including the above ELO piss-take, with bearded frontman Maurice inevitably looking more like Barry Gibb than Jeff Lynne). But their show was mainly a series of amazingly quickfire sketches, pretty much a proto-Fast Show for the Wham Bar generation. There are a few little snippets of their 80s TV shows on this showreel…

Tyne Tees TV on a summer holiday morning always had a delightfully laid-back quality to it, and a lot of that was down to the skill of the presenters. Yes, the old onscreen continuity announcers! Another bit of intimate, human loveliness that seemed to die out completely in the early 1990s. In the days before onscreen digital interaction and the ‘red button’, a succession of genial, honey-voiced men and women would plonk themselves before a pastel-shaded background and guide us in person through the day’s TV schedules.

The benevolent dictator of the Tyne Tees crew seemed to be the wry, curly-haired Neville Wanless, seen here performing some sensational early 1980s ‘closedown’ action…  

And our undisputed Tyne Tees sexbomb was the lovely Kathy Secker, the only woman in the world capable of making a series of mid-1980s Co-Op adverts the erotic equivalent of Last Tango In Paris…

Probably just me getting old again, but I miss all of this stuff. The Tyne Tees team felt like a little group of warm-hearted friends, recommending shows that I might enjoy and occasionally tipping me off about ‘Bring and Buy’ tables at the local churches and village fetes. I get the impression that the modern TV schedules are programmed every morning at 6am by a bloke wearing jogging bottoms, who then buggers off the for the day and lets the whole thing run automatically on Adobe Tellyshop 6.1.

Anyway, another quiet day spent mainly indoors, so I’m guessing it was probably tanking down again. So much for the endless, sun-baked summers of my youth. I spent all afternoon tidying my bedroom before passing an hour in the Deathtrap Dungeon, No 6 in the series of original Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and one of my favourites. Devised by the evil Baron Sukumvit, the Labyrinth of Fang was filled with Manticores, Pit Fiends and Blood Beasts, and therefore only slightly less perilous than the towering pile of Eagle comics that I’d stacked up in reverse chronological order underneath the bedroom windowsill.

Nothing really to scare the horses on Top of the Pops on this occasion, apart from possibly the uber-grumpy Radio 1 tag-team of Richard Skinner and John Peel. I imagine Tracey Ullman’s ‘Sunglasses’ just missed out on Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1984…

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes [Performance]
Hazel Dean – Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go) [Performance]
Jeffrey Osborne – On The Wings Of Love [Repeat Performance]
Laura Branigan – Self Control [Promo Video]
Rod Stewart – Some Guys Have All The Luck [Disc]
Tracey Ullman – Sunglasses [Performance]
Windjammer – Tossing And Turning [Performance]

I like the Youtube comments for this video, which include the enthusiastic compliment ‘Spanking thighs!’. I had a bit of a schoolboy crush on Tracey Ullman in the early 1980s, and I don’t suppose seeing this performance 25 years ago today did an awful lot to discourage me. I didn’t leave the comment, though. Spanking single as well, I think… I’m always a sucker for a bit of fake 1950s-style pop, and had spent much of the 1970s worshipping at the altar of Showaddywaddy. Unfortunately, we never got to see much of Dave Bartram’s thighs…



  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

The further north you go, the longer on-screen continuity announcers seemed to last. Glasgow still had them in 1993 (just about!) so they probably disappeared from Scrabster some time in 1989.
Perhaps there’s still one in Greenland, facing imminent redundancy but still aiming a slickly-rehearsed smile at his own joke towards just the right part of the viewfinder?

  Dr. Giles Parcel wrote @

I meant 1999 of course and not 1989.
I blame my clumsy lab assistant Kim.

  bobfischer wrote @

The lone continuity announcer barricaded into a remote TV station in Greenland is a belting idea for a sitcom.

‘From Nuuk, Gunnbjorn and associated transmitters on the Independent Television Network, this… is Greenland TV. And at 1.30 this afternoon, we pay another visit to Santa Barbara…’

Rob Brydon in the lead role, naturally.

  David Brunt wrote @

That’s been done with The Outer Hebrides* Broadcasting Corporation from ‘Naked Vidoe’, surely?

* And part of the Orkneys

  bobfischer wrote @

Arse, you’re right. Back to ’95FM’, my half-finished sitcom about a dopy local radio presenter with a bizarre Tracey Ullman fetish…

  bobfischer wrote @

Incidentally, it’s heartwarming to see that Geoff Capes loaned his favourite deckchair to the Top of the Pops team for the above performance.

  Chris Orton wrote @

Neville Wanless, Kathy Secker and Bill Steele were like some kind of holy trinity in Tyne Tees land. I remember seeing Bill Steele open a school fair in my home town once.

I was less keen when Jonathan Morrell started presenting the birthday slot and had a mute teddy bear as his assistant.

Do any regions still have on-screen announcers?

  bobfischer wrote @

Bill Steele turned up in Coronation Street in the mid 1990s, didn’t he? What a trouper!

I think all the on-screen announcers have vanished now… in fact, are there ANY real differences between ITV regions any more, aside from the local news? I remember, when I was a kid, looking at the evening schedules for Yorkshire and Granada in the Daily Mirror, and it all looked fabulously different and exotic… they had their own magazine shows! And showed different films! And got Minder fifteen minutes later than us! It was like looking into a parallel ITV universe.

I think it’s all pretty much the same across the regions now though, isn’t it?

  Chris Orton wrote @

Do you know Bob, I think that you are right about Bill turning up in Corrie. I think that he played the father of Glen Hugill’s character, but I could be wrong there.

ITV truly is in a sorry state compared to what we had. And that’s not just rose-tinted nostalgia talking!

  bobfischer wrote @

I don’t know much about Corrie at all, but it seems Bill played a character called Bernard McKenna, throughout a fair chunk of 1997. No idea if that’s Glen Hugill’s dad, you’ll know better than me! 🙂

According to Bill’s Wikipedia entry, on-screen continuity on Tyne Tees breathed its last on 16th March 1996…


Later than I thought actually, although admittedly I barely watched any TV at all in the 1990s.

  Drew Smith wrote @

I saw the Grumbleweeds live at Great Yarmouth pier. FACT.

  bobfischer wrote @

Were they actually performing, or were they just hanging around smoking fags and tripping up pensioners?

(Makes mental note to write a sitcom about a ‘Wild One’-style 1950s street gang starring The Grumbleweeds. All sporting quiffs and black leather jackets)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: