Saturday, 11 January 2020

The Saturday #247 - My top ten favourite 1970's TV icons

Why this list today?  I awoke with the 1970's firmly in my mind. I had a weird dream I was on the Marquee in 1979 watching the Vibrators and suddenly realised the reason it was so busy was because it was full of time travelling tourists from the future wanting to see what the place was like. I said to someone it was weird no one ever noticed and he replied ‘why do you think 5,000 turned up for Jesus giving the sermon on the mount?” As I ate my breakfast, this rather bizarre thought was buzzing around my head. It  got me to thinking about the 1970's. It was a decade of really strong icons. Bowie, Bolan, Rotten, Strummer in the music scene. Then I started to think about the TV personalities. So I thought I'd compile a little list of my favourite of these. I really enjoyed putting this selection together. The clips are well worth a view. They really don't make telly like this any more.

1. Jack Regan. The Sweeney was the best TV show of the 70's and Jack Regan was the man. I've been told that in later years Police training included the invocation to not "think you are Jack Regan". What was great about the Sweeney was it had a degree of realism. Sometimes they fitted villains up, sometimes they bent the rules and sometimes they didn't get their man. Regan was morally ambiguous, but you knew that he was the guy you wanted out there hunting the bad guys. You felt that Regan understood the dark side of human nature and was prepared to fight fire with fire. I once met John Thaw and was quite surprised that he was in no way a bit of a dodgy thug. He was however, a very fine actor.

2.  Bet Lynch. Coronation Street was the unchallenged no 1 show in the UK in the 1970's. The show was full of amazing characters, but for me the best of all was Bet Lynch. She was the barmaid you wanted at your local pub. Bold, brassy and blond. Sassy and feisty. The interesting thing about the Rovers return was that it was a matriarchal business in the 70's. Landlady Annie Walker was like the Queen. Betty Turpin  kept things on track, Hilda Ogden kept the floor clean but Bet Lynch was the face of the pub. My mum being from Oldham loved the program. She took it very seriously, later in the mid 1980's I worked with an old West Indian called Israel Watts, who educated me and made me realise it was all comedy. Most of the best comedy moments involved Bet Lynch. When Eastenders was first broadcast, they nicked the idea of the pub. Try as they may, they never recreated the dynamic of Bet, Annie, Hilda and Betty. Den Watts and Angie ran an institution that you'd walk a mile to avoid. Anyone who likes a beer and is of my age, secretly wants Bet Lynch to pull your pint for you. This clip is Bet at her very best

3. Michael Parkinson. Parky was the king of the TV chat show. He got the best people on his show and if you were invited on to Parky's show, then you'd made it. The likes of Muhammed Ali, Bette Davis and Tony Curtis would be guests. The A list of A listers. Sadly I think the interview that will be most remembered was the one with Rod Hull and Emu. Somehow Parky was never the same again. There is no comparable chat show these days. Graham Norton is perhaps the closest thing, but it  is not quite the event that the big Parky interviews were. This is probably the greatest clip of all from Parkies show

4. Tony Blackburn. Top of the Pops was the no 1 music show, probably in the world, in terms of influence. There were many Radio 1 DJ's that fronted it, but Blackburn was always the king of them. Unlike the rather repulsive Jimmy Saville, Tony always recognised that it was the bands and not him that were the stars. For Tony, it was clear that there was a love of the music. He was the only one of the big Radio 1 DJ's that wasn't a narcissistic, irritating berk when they presented the show. That is probably why he's still presenting a great music show on BBC Radio London to this day. Here's Tony doing what he does best

5. Jacques Cousteau. I doubt anyone under 45 will have a clue who Jacques Cousteau was. He made amazing films about the aquatic world. These days David Attenborough has taken on the mantle, but Cousteau was the first. Until he came along, no one had seen coral reefs or sharks in their natural habitat. He was in some ways the man who first made us aware of the environment. His films were perhaps the first to fully exploit the potential of colour television, as they just wouldn't work in black and white. Cousteau was a serious bloke who was someone many of us aspired to be like. My only problem was I couldn't swim.

6. Wolfie Smith. "Power to the People". The leader of the Tooting Popular front. I think anyone seeking to understand the current predicament of the Labour Party would be well advised to watch the series. Wolfie was the antithesis of Jack Regan. A deluded dreamer, who achieved nothing, but who's heart was always in the right place.The real tragedy of Wolfie was that he was too nice for anyone to tell him he was completely clueless. As a teenanger, I desperately wanted Wolfie to win. As a cynical 57 year old, I now know why he never had a chance.

7. Hughie Green. Opportunity knocks was the iconic talent show, responsible for all manner of new personalities. Hughie Green was the charismatic front man. I don't think any talent show since has been as much fun or as honest as Opportunity knocks. There was the clapometer which measured the audience response, but that meant nothing. The audience voted on who'd be in next week. We didn't have to listen to the banal pronouncements of the likes of Simon Cowell, so sometimes you'd get bizarre acts winning for weeks on end. How it should be.

8. Benny. While Coronation Street was the no 1 show, Crossroads was a rather bizarre show based on a motel in the Midlands. Perhaps somewhat interestingly, this was also a Matriarchal business, run by Meg Richardson. I never got Crossroads, there never seemed to be any customers or any action, until Benny came along. Benny was a bit of a village idiot character, famous for his hat. At FCHS, to be labelled "Benny" was a terrible insult, but he actually made the show vaguely watchable.
9. Fanny Craddock. These days TV chefs are sophisticated and the shows are taken very seriously. The first of these was the rather bizarre Fanny Craddock.  My Mum would watch the show and get very cross as she thought Fanny Craddock was a fraud and couldn't cook. I asked her why she watched it and she said "Oh. she's entertaining and it gives me ideas for recipies". Generally though, we'd still get egg on toast for tea.

10. Angela Rippon. Angela Rippon was the first female BBC news reader. She was seen as a rather stern and sensible figure. This all changed when she appeared on the Morecombe and Wise show. When this was shown, my Dad spat out his Guinness in surprise and exclaimed "She's got legs!". My Mum called him an idiot and asked what he thought she'd had. But I think Dad's response was mirrored by just about every man in the country.  This clip is worth a watch! -

Click here to watch on the BBC iPlayer
.Who were your favourite 70's icons?


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