ITV 59 - All Your ITV Favourites (And Under The Same Sky) Part Three: More Idents

Following some technical difficulties - i.e. the picture sort of ground up in the middle of Hardcastle & McCormick and there was some music over a continuity slide for about forty seconds - our celebration of almost but not quite sixty years of ITV inter-programme hoo-hah continues with the second part of a look at some of the network's regional idents (ASFDFGHDGF!). Last time, you may remember, we concentrated on what were once familiar sights for viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; this time, we're going to be heading off in our regional tax-funded Thames TV's 'Magpie' Van to take a 'bias'-free look around some of the more English-centric regions. And if that leads to any Farage-type characters looking in blabbering something about 'national pride', then do please keep reading. You won't end up being insulted or threatened with a hairbrush in the face at all, honest.

We'll be skirting around the West Country, as they technically had more or less the same idents (NO YOU MUSUT NOT ALLOWED) as HTV, only with the odd extra word slapped on to designate the geographic diversion, so instead it's straight on to London and the cut price washing powder-tastic imagery of their original frequency incumbent Associated Rediffusion. There's not much to say about this early loser-out in the notoriously fickle world of ITV regional franchise reshuffles, other than that they made some fascinating-sounding programmes that are now almost entirely wiped and a load of old dross that now almost entirely survives in full, and that the rights to the name were later bought up by media terrorism wheel-inventer Victor Lewis-Smith, who still uses it at the end of all his Discovery Channel documentaries about Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Ten Best Harmoniums or whatever it is. Bibbly bome?

The hapless AR-TV's regional usurper, for weekdays at least, was Thames, regarded by some as the most successful, prolific and consistently high quality ITV broadcaster of all time, which of course made it the prime candidate for being replaced by Carlton in suspiciously political circumstances and for belief-beggaringly spurious 'reasons' in a move that pretty much resulted in the long-term collapsing in on itself of the whole of ITV. The iconic buildings-rising-out-of-the-water sequence and London-Bridge-is-falling-down-gone-copyright-averting jingle were there from the outset, and they of course proved to be eminently parodyable by the station's more anarchic stars; witness the numerous intrusions by Dick Emery, Kenny Everett et al, the never-amusing "Here they are now/Morecambe And Wise" gambit, and the one we've chosen to illustrate the point here, taken from one of Pauline Quirke's innumerable 'kids go crazy!!' unbroadcastably unfunny sketch shows. Plus they never did a Bob Cryer Rising Out Of The Water one for The Bill, so we really don't care, frankly. Possibly more of interest is the 'Thames Goes Midnight' variant originally used to bookend legendarily younger viewer-freaking anthology series of Faceless Nun/Shadow Sitting In Chair Opening Titles infamy Armchair Thriller, and subsequently adapted with genre-denoting splurges of blocky text for movie presentations such as Tough Guys, Murder Mystery & Suspense, the League Of Gentlemen-championed Appointment With Fear and the brilliantly tin-say-doer The Hollywood Movie. Sadly the projected seasons of A Bit Like A Carry On Film But Really Badly Directed, Zombies Cannibal Psycho Lesbians And Things Ripped Off From Alien But Not Closely Enough So Laywers Would Notice and Them Films Like Hollywood Shuffle And Nice Girls Don't Explode That Everyone Got Out On Video In The Late Eighties But Nobody Can Remember Anything About Now never made it past the drawing board.

Meanwhile, from 7pm on Fridays it was Party Time, as London Weekend Television took over the reins for forty eight and a bit hours of fun (AND Blind Date!). The inaugural 'supermarket own brand fizzy orange' design soon gave way to the familiar toothpaste doodle and accompanying accelerated bingbong fanfare,which presented the logical paradox of clearly signposting to the viewer that a couple of ad breaks' worth of energetic zaniness was in the offing, albeit to such an extent that most of said purveyors of energetic zaniness didn't consider it neccessary to indulge in any additional Thames-style tampering. One rare and notable exception to this was the late seventies take on Just William, seen here being 'anarchic'.

Anglia's programming was of course introduced by this notorious revolving flag-waving pewter knight on horseback, interminably rotating to the strains of the 12" Extended Megamix of Handel's Water Music, which may well have lasted for longer than the actual editions of Sale Of The Century and Tales Of The Unexpected that it prefaced, but unfortunately nobody has ever been able to check as viewers have invariably gone off to allieviate the effects of time appearing to stand still by enjoying a seven course meal interspersed with showings of the original rough cut of Dune by the time it finishes. And yes, if you chisel away all of those appended hallucinogenic deviations, this is indeed a joke that has been made dozens of times before; that's the problem with the 'big hitter' ITV idents (NO THEI PROBELM IS A DIFRDENT PROBLEM PRLBLEM), as they're so overexposed and widely comically riffed upon that it's hard to come up with anything new or original to say about them. What we need, really, is something totally obscure, forgotten, and logistically bewildering, and it's not like one of those is about to come sailing in on a great big boat or anything.

The aptly-named Westward manned the ruralist-pluralist transmitters during ITV's earlier days, maintaining a shadowy off-radar presence that rarely made itself known to the wider world outside of those listings at the back of Look-In, and indeed is still fondly spoken of in hushed tones to this day by mouth-frothing planks who blame the BBC and 'mosques' for the accidental editing of three seconds from an ad break still on the DVD of The Complete Incomplete Two In Clover. Their logo was a Those Biscuits Posh Relatives Always Have-evoking sailing ship design in no way influenced by Tony Hart's Blue Peter logo honest, later bolstered by the addition of what appears to be Captain Halley's Galleon from Star Fleet.

Westward's successor, TSW, made an immediate splash with a celebratedly disastrous and oft-clipped opening night spectacular, and then went on to do absolutely nothing of note at any point whatsoever, with the notable exception of a couple of Saturday morning shows which, if we're being honest about it, only served to paradoxically prove the 'absolutely nothing of note' maxim. Whether this was in any way reflected by their humdrum eucalyptus leaf-themed insignia (IT IS STILML AN IDNEFT) is something that decency prevents us from speculating on.

Meanwhile Channel, who were pretty much the dictionary definition of 'get the transmitters working then go home' (not that there would be much competition for that definition, mind), produced so little in the way of original programming that their idents (THFS IS HAS GONE ON LONG ENIUFG ENOUGH) remain a mystery to the mainland people and their mainland ways. With that in mind, we are proud to reveal here that they deployed, in chronological order, what appears to be a leopard playing Blockbusters, and subsequently a bisected Blue Riband rearranged into letter-resembling shapes. A side of Channel Island life that was not really captured in Appointment With Venus.

Southern, in contrast, straddled the entire spectrum of excitement levels, from plucky mod-attired sub-James Bond teen spy antics with Bill, Terri and The One With The Hair in Freewheelers, to the mind-numbing tedium of sluggish clipclopping horse and dreary clipclopping acoustic guitar-heralded Jack Hargreaves-fronted arts and crafts interminablism Out Of Town. Somewhere between came Jon Pertwee banging on about a fishwasher or something. And, for no readily obvious reason, they chose to introduce all of their output with the above quasi-religious imagery in a sequence that appears to have provided the entire inspiration for Look Around You.

Southern's short-stay replacement TVS went for this 'WH Smith for all your printer needs'-style iconography that cleverly evoked both the 'T' and the 'V', but not, erm, the 'S'. For a while they were the number one go-to provider of bewildering weekend afternoon programming that you probably thought you'd just imagined, from The Boy Who Won The Pools, The Witches & Grinnygog, On Safari and Knights Of God to Mr Majeika, A Beetle Called Derek, The Selling Of Noddy and, but of course, Ultra Quiz. Then they lost the franchise and their archive changed hands several times until it wound up with Disney, who promptly trashed all of the paperwork preventing anybody from obtaining clearance to repeat or release any of it, and have reportedly more recently started trashing the tapes. If they've been anywhere near Henry's Leg with a big magnet rest assured I will personally break that bastard mouse's legs and use his face to scrape the rust off the carefully hidden prints of Uncle Walt's less than racially-enlightened animations. How's about that for 'facts'?

Hang on a minute... Parky? What's he doing here?! Don't start adjusting your set just yet - unfortunately, despite extensive research, it's proved impossible to find any motivation to do anything other than break this particular massive long post in two, so Mr. Parkinson has generously agreed to appear as an illustration in its place. Anyway, that's the last we'll be seeing of him.







If you've enjoyed this article, you can find lots more about stuff you just don't see on television any more in Not On Your Telly, which is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.