The Big Newsround Roundup Collected Comics Bound Volume Bonanza (*Ask Your Newsagent If Space Spinner Is Missing)


I don't know, you wait ages for a new article by me, and then six come along all at once!

In case you'd missed the poster campaign, the skywriters flying over Jeremy Corbyn's conference speech and the sidebar ads with Kate Thornton, I've now got a new website which you can find here. There's all kinds of new content and some brand new articles, but most of you don't seem to have realised that it's actually there, so I'm going to be handily linking to all of them below. Starting with...


We Know That You Can Hear Us, Earthmen...


Why The Mysterons Theme is a much better piece of music than the b-side of a hastily-conceived inferior reworking of a children's TV theme has any right to be.


There's Not An Ounce Of Curiosity In Me!


I try to do something I've long threatened to, and attempt to make it to the end of early Doctor Who story The Sensorites and actually remember what happened in it.


Take Five Really Swings!


Why do so many awful television shows insist on using Dave Brubeck tracks as their theme music? I'm determined to find out, or get bored trying.


All That I Can See With My Mind's Eye


A review of Jon Savage's excellent book 1966 - The Year The Decade Exploded, accompanied by musings about psychedelia, revolution, and Polly wearing Doctor Who's hat.


All Fall Down And Lost In The Mystery


I preferred The Beach Boys' SMiLE when it hadn't actually been released, and this is why.


I've Heard Of Politics But This Is Ridiculous 


The bizarre story of how, as a youngster, I found a That Was The Week That Was book in a charity shop, and they almost wouldn't sell it to me.


Meanwhile, if you're looking for something to listen to, I was on the Radio 1 Vintage pop-up station the other day talking about Armando Iannucci, Lee And Herring, Chris Morris, The Mary Whitehouse Experience and more. You can hear it here. And of course you can still get Fun At One - The Story Of Comedy At BBC Radio 1 from here.

Anyway, I'll still be posting the occasional update or bit of news on here, but in the meantime, you're probably going to be wanting to head for the new site. There's lots of exciting stuff coming up including more Looks Unfamiliar, a new book, and absolutely no new instalments of It's Still A Police Box, Why Hasn't It Changed?, goodness me no...


62-39 Was His Number


According to Smash Hits, Elvis Presley made about three million films, all of which were called either Elvis Has A Kiss-Up In Hawaii or Elvis Says It's Swinging, Pops. And, if you watched BBC1 during the school holidays, didn't you just know it.

Presumably as much on account of their cheapness and indeed sheer volume as it was due to tweedy old shirts behind desks thinking that Elvis was what 'young people' liked, Double Trouble, Fun In Acapulco, Girls! Girls! Girls! and all two thousand nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety seven others of them, some of which Elvis probably didn't even realise he'd actually made, rolled round again and again and again alongside Why Don't You...?, The Monkees, King Of The Rocket Men and all of the other decidedly convenient holiday morning entertainment staples. Oh and Play Chess.

You'd be forgiven for assuming that youngsters came to resent this hip-swivelling intrusion into the schedules where the cheap swines could at least have put on Help!... It's The Hair Bear Bunch! or something, but actually they proved quite popular; hardly surprising when you consider that the movies had the same sort of combination of pop-fuelled hi-jinks and exotic retro allure as The Monkees and The Banana Splits. They were of course especially prevalent around the Christmas holidays, to the extend that an entire generation now associate sleigh bells and tinsel with a glorious technicolor Elvis in a loud Hawaiian shirt even by Hawaiian shirt standards being comforted by some youngsters on the stairs after momentarily losing the girl of his dreams.

There was, however, one very notable exception to this. Jailhouse Rock never seemed to find its way into these repeat seasons, presumably due to a combination of its black and white nature (not that this ever stopped them flinging out endless Edgar Kennedy 'shorts' nobody asked for), the slightly violent theme underpinning the storyline, and the fact that it was somehow seen as more serious and 'worthy', and the preserve of brow-furrowed Whistle Test spin-off 'Rock Goes To The Movies' theme nights. As absurd as it may sound, you usually had to ask to 'stay up' to watch Elvis Presley's most famous film.


Now, however, you can just roll up to the cinema to see it. Jailhouse Rock is a staggering sixty years old - although, weirdly, now seeming far less culturally remote than it did back when Elvis films were a school holidays staple - and to mark this occasion has just been re-released in a restored and staggeringly high quality print which makes those crumbly photocopy-esque bits of footage they used to use in things like The Rock'n'Roll Years feel like they came from another film entirely. What's more, you can get an authentic flavour of those tabloid-alarming dancing-in-the-aisles times by watching it in a packed auditorium full of so many over-excited first-time-around Elvis fans that you start to worry that you're about to see a re-enactment of Monty Python's 'Hell's Grannies' sketch; fortunately there were no vicious gangs of Keep Left signs to go with them, but at least they might keep bloody quiet during the film.

Jailhouse Rock is a film that stands up far better than anyone might not unreasonably have expected it to. It may well have been a quick production-line effort rushed out to cash in on the international success of someone who said 'well' a lot whilst TV cameras studiously avoided showing anything south of his shirt buttons, but those are just the literal specifics of its circumstances. It's tightly directed with convincing sets, is underpinned with a rock-solid script where the numerous musical numbers actually form part of the storyline (and for different reasons each time too), and despite essentially playing an even more exaggerated version of his stage persona at the time, Elvis acquits himself well as an actor, to the extent that you sometimes lose sight of the fact that you're actually watching an Elvis Presley vehicle rather than simply a good film from the time. It's also worth considering the fact that it runs to an economical yet packed ninety minutes, and that the main plot is set up in less than three minutes; something to bear in mind the next time you're covertly looking at your watch while waiting for the latest film that everyone says you 'have to see' to actually get started.

There were funnier, weirder and more socially aware pop movies to come. There was a brutally effective inversion of the upbeat music biz shenanigans it explores in Slade In Flame, which is in many respects a much more interesting film. And there was Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, which people still think you're making up if you try explaining it to them. Jailhouse Rock, however, remains a potent and effective - and surprisingly mature - effort from the very dawn of both pop music and youth cinema which probably few at the time would have expected anyone to care about even six years later, let alone sixty. Yeah, see you at the re-release of The Wayward Bus, then.

Of course, Elvis wasn't alone in those schedules, and there was also a similarly unending procession of George Formby films on hand for the schedulers to fill time with. It's no wonder Play Chess seemed so comparatively tolerable.




If you've enjoyed this article, you can find lots more about old films and early pop music in Not On Your Telly, which is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.

We Love TV (But We Don't Love We Love TV!)


Basically, more or less everything about We Love TV was just plain wrong. A light-hearted quiz show about all things televisual, it ran on Friday nights on ITV between 1984 and 1986, and is sometimes described as ITV's 'answer' to Telly Addicts. If it was, then the question must have been 'how can we do a show that's essentially the same as Telly Addicts yet the exact polar opposite in terms of quality, wit, imagination, choice of archive clips and overall enjoyability?'.

We Love TV adopted the same sort of baffling yet widely-accepted 'TV=Fifties' stylistic trappings as Telly Addicts - a conceit that would doubtless appeal to mouth-frothing 'opinion-makers' now, providing they continued to enjoy blissful ignorance of the fact that for most of the fifties television was on for about three hours a day, two hours and fifty nine minutes of which were that London To Brighton On A Potter's Wheel thing followed by about three seconds of Billy Cotton introducing Neddy The Dancing Horse - with opening titles featuring Alexandra Palace-evoking newsreel-esque transmitter-based graphical antics and cut price suspiciously session musician-sounding Beverley Sisters types chirruping "No doubt about it/can't do without it - We Love TV!" over the top. It then promptly dispensed with these trappings entirely by cutting to a none-more-eighties pastel-shaded set and questions with a suspiciously heavy slant towards recent ITV big hitters. It featured two teams of ordinary everyday members of the public paired up with vaguely television-affiliated celebrities of some description, but normally this description could be summed up as 'couldn't really care that much one way or the other about anything that they're being asked questions on', leading to a memorable for all the wrong reasons incident in which a post went-to-Thames-at-the-end Ernie Wise was asked "In The A-Team, what does B.A. stand for?", and spluttered "Big 'Ead" in response. Above all, it was presented by Gloria Hunniford, who would surely have been more at home posing questions about films that are for your eyes.


We Love TV wasn't quite the worst of the surprisingly large volume of eighties entertainment/nostalgia-based quiz shows, but it came close. So, what was the worst? Well, here's a clue courtesy of a certain all-too-familiar public figure, based on a round in Ben Baker's new TV Quiz Book Remotely Interesting (which you can get from here, and which has a foreword and a bonus quiz round by me, if that helps persuade you). Answer at the end of this article...


Surprisingly, but not exactly sadly, there seems to be very little of We Love TV out there on the Internet, although the few rogue clips that have escaped feature such taxing posers as "Do you know what show J.R. was in before Dallas? And what was the surname of The Flintstones' neighbours?". Even on the basis of this fractional amount of evidence, it isn't difficult to see why nobody can really remember anything about it beyond the last couple of bars of the theme song. There is no real interaction or even sometimes correlation between the clips and the actual questions, the uneasy combination of traditional contestant who just wants to be on any game show and celebrity who just wants a couple of quid for not really having to do much results in them not really engaging with the questions or the clips, and although Gloria is a likeable and competent host, her factual summations of the question-inspiring programmes have that distinct aura of someone else's words being read off a card despite not having been written with actually being spoken in mind. More to the point, there's no real form or identity to any of the rounds. Telly Addicts on the other hand carefully selected teams of people who at least showed some competence and aspiration towards wanting to be on there, based questions directly on the fragments of archive footage, relied on quips from Noel Edmonds - both pre-prepared and spontaneous - to enliven the historical detail, and above all else took the actual quiz element entirely seriously whilst not actually taking itself seriously in any way whatsoever. The difference could not have been more marked. There was no doubt about it - we could do without it. We didn't love We Love TV.


Once a regular sight in every bargain bin in every now defunct newsagents chain, the semi-official tie-in quiz book Gloria Hunniford's TV Quiz Challenge, published in 1988 and inviting you to "take on Gloria in a 100-quiz contest of TV-viewing knowledge", was a densely-packed eye-hurting collision of all too obvious questions and weird newsprinty iconographic renderings of the likes of Paul Shane, 'Lofty' from EastEnders and the legs from the end credits of The Bill. Hilariously, you needed to score between 1700 and 2000 to 'outpoint' Gloria, though in all honesty, while probably nobody has ever actually made it all the way through it, this might not be as difficult as all that. For example, there's a round on shows with four main characters that asks you to name all of The A-Team. Well, that's easy - Hannibal, Murdoch, Face and Big Ad.


The answer to the presidential poser was A Question Of Entertainment, a deservedly forgotten BBC1 one-series wonder from 1988 in which a group of severely mismatched celebrities sat on a semi-circular couch and steadfastly refused to acknowledge anything that host Tom O'Connor said to them. If you're looking for a better kind of television quiz, here's that link for Remotely Interesting again...