There's So Much More In TV Times Part 13: Anybody Seen A Tea-Stained Cardigan?

If you've been following this series of cuttings from old issues of TV Times, then you're probably of the opinion that it's already got pretty odd at times. We've seen plenty that's best described as inadvisable, inappropriate, or just plain inexplicable. And that's just Tivvy. Every so often though, you'll stumble across something so baffling and beyond explanation that it causes you to double-take. No amount of reading and re-reading will bring you any nearer comprehension, and you do have to start wondering if poor old Brucie and his oversized comedy chef's hat had stumbled across some 'leftovers' in a scowling hippy's damp-sodden kitchen. If you can figure out what was actually going on with any of the below, you're doing better than us...

Before television actually started broadcasting overnight, there were persistent playground rumours of 'Secret Television', with scarcely credible reports of adverts running backwards at high speed and Jon Pertwee being menaced by Kronos The Kronivore in black and white suddenly leaping terrifyingly out of nowhere in the deepest darkest recesses of the small hours where even The Open University feared to tread. The obvious and logical explanation was that it was just the 'backroom boys' testing equipment with a bit of it escaping onto the transmitters whether by accident or design, but the idea that there was some hidden McDonald's Menu Hack-style unlisted schedule on the other side of the IBA Colour Bars that the likes of you were not allowed to see on pain of retribution from 'Girl' and 'Clown' was too tantalising a possibility to discount. So you covertly waited up. And never saw anything ever. Here's proof that it actually did happen, though what's really interesting is the editor's disturbingly over-robust 'Sincerely - Little Girl'-style response making it clear that you should all move on and that there was nothing more to see here. Which more or less rubber-stamps the idea that they were clandestinely putting out Sunday Night At The London Palladium - Too Hot For TV and 100% All-Nude Her Off Of Weavers Green Uncensored at two in the morning after all.

In case you thought you had simply, erm, hallucinated unexpected middle-of-the-night television, then here's some stark and sensible advice on the subject of illegal substances from those noted experts at TV Times. In summary, dangerous drug marijuana is smuggled into the country by a 'drug-ring' straight out of Paul Temple, is distributed by 'negroes', and partaken in by sneering snickering teenagers who would do well to jolly well listen to those influential hep cats at the British Medical Association. And it's all down to 'jazz', according to this article from the week of release of Rubber Soul. Anyway, kids - remember the important rules. One pill makes you larger. And one pill makes you small. And the ones that Brucie makes out of 'leftovers' don't do anything at all.

Meanwhile, if you're a teenager confused by this 'dating' lark, and are full of questions about how many hours beforehand you should brush your teeth and how many square feet away from the door it's appropriate to 'walk' her to and which blouses offer the sturdiest defence against 'wandering' hands, who would you look to for advice? Yes, that's right, sixtysomething naval racounteur and confirmed 'funny he never married' type Godfrey Winn. After visiting a 'jive session' and speaking to some seamen, Godfrey solicits the opinion of a handful of teenagers who, well, y'know, can take it or leave it really but it's nice to have the option to do a bit of 'necking' if you get bored during Bunny Lake Is Missing etc etc. Quite how many lovelorn teenagers took his advice to heart is sadly not recorded, though presumably a princess looking for a prince found it useful. A reference that about two and a half people will get. Moving on...

As the snow began to fall/or was it a pigeon on the aer-i-alllll? No, it's a handful of MPs having an 'hilarious' - i.e. 'not' - debate about whether homing pigeons might get confused by television aerials despite there being absolutely nothing they could possibly concievably do about either factor in the equation, a bit like that episode of Trumpton only boring and with no jokes. Still, better that than "what about disability benefits?" - "tut tut your tie is not done in Christensen knot on St. Biliwick's Day you scruffy ruffian", "For the many, but after I've finished enabling Hard Brexit and forcing my party to wave through the pissing bastarding Investigatory Powers Bill eh?", and "me party is making significant gains that we have not seened the likes of since me best selling album Brothers In Arms come out".

Never mind all those press reports about Mark-Paul Gosselaar signing up for the first passenger flight to Neptune or whatever it is, here's TV Times arranging an exchange visit to 'space' back in 1964! With the aid of Bachelors, two lucky winners who manage to correctly guess the contents of a sort of low rent equivalent of that 'golden disc' Carl Sagan sent into space with an episode of Captain Butler on it or something get to go to 'Mars' and 'Venus' - both of which, in true Doctor Who And The Invasion Of The Dinosaurs fashion, appear to look suspiciously like France. In return, two old-skool take-me-to-your-leader-mister-parking-meter Martians get to visit Blackpool, with a trip to the illuminations - that year featuring tableaus of The Voord, Ian And The Zodiacs and 633 Squadron - very much on the agenda. Chances are that they spent twenty minutes in a long queue crawling past occasional street lamps with two or three bulbs on them and then gave up and went back to Viltvodle VI.

You may well think that some obscure television programmes get covered on here, but even poor old Skiboy has nothing on The Hathaways, a sitcom about a family bringing up three chimps - played by Charlie, Candy and 'Enoch' - which has been so deservedly forgotten that until recently there was not a single mention of it on the entire Internet. Here's proof positive that it existed in all its revoltingly exploitative glory, though, with a profile of the three 'stars' who were apparently no strangers to ITV variety shows. Honestly, you might well scoff at Martin Clunes Meets The Sealions or whatever they put on in primetime instead of actual proper programmes now, but at least they're sodding nice to the animals. And to Martin Clunes.

One peculiar recurring feature in the letters pages in the mid-sixties was 'Pot Shot', wherein readers were invited to assemble kitchen utensils into a rough Stainless Steel And The Star Spies-esque approximation of a leading television celebrity. Here you can see one E. Teskey-King's take on Ken Dodd, who was no doubt 'tickled' by it. Hmm, wonder which other wholesome and well-loved small-screen stars also received the honour?


This would never happen now, of course. Nobody cares enough about writers to ask them to advertise anything.

A: No. Though if it does, please send Atlanta round to see me.

TV Times reporter Victor Edwards drops in on the production office of short-lived Anglia soap opera Weavers Green, set in a small rural community and featuring a young Kate O'Mara as a student vet. Here we can clearly see the sort of thrilling, contemporary, Mary Whitehouse-enraging storylines they traded in. Though apparently that one where a knight appeared on the village green and started rotating very slowly was a belter.

Get the TV Comic Holiday Special for forty eight pages of sitting eating fish and chips on a sort of kerb adjacent to the beach fun, thrills and puzzles with Supercar, Fireball XL5, Popeye, The Telegoons, and some sort of resigned-looking melting bespectacled cat with a propeller hat on. Or alternatively chase a walking Salt'n'Shake bag with a 'showbiz' straw hat on into a sort of newspaper-hued void. Or, failing that, join us again next time, when we'll be rocketing forward to The Eighties. The decade of Thatcher! Citrus Spring! And the 'Wacbada'...

If you've enjoyed this article, you can find lots more slightly more serious writing about fifties and sixties television in Not On Your Telly, which is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.