Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A Choice of Viewing

All but vanished these days, the regional opt-out was a prime example of the sort of fallow spot that used to be worked into the national TV schedule as a matter of course, to allow television to catch its breath while assorted local have-a-go heroes held the fort. The sort of fluff the regions bunged on told you a lot about their population, or at least what the station controllers thought about their population. So in the spirit of sociological research, let's compare BBC1's regional offerings from a random opt-out: the post-Nationwide 6.50-7.20PM slot on January 30th 1979.

London: The Osmonds
Starting at the bottom, the capital can't be bothered to make its own programme, it seems, so parachutes in a chunk of Donny and Marie stodge to tide the masses over. Poor.

West: Sports Show
Worth a point for the no-nonsense title, which enjoyed its heyday in the late '70s. See also the likes of Asian Magazine and Tyne-Tees's legendary programme about hobbies, Doing Things.

Wales: Heddiw
After fifty minutes of current affairs, what else but... thirty more minutes of current affairs? But this time in Welsh, see.

Scotland: Songs of Scotland
No matter what region you're covering, there'll be no shortage of folk of a certain age eager to regale you with a dozen folk numbers of dubious provenance at the drop of a hat. All you have to do is point your equipment at them and get a round in afterwards.

North East: Looks Natural
Ah, wildlife, the early evening banker. Durham University alumnus David Bellamy gives added celeb points.

East: All Aboard for Flying Thesis
South West: Peninsula: Sixth Sense
The rural backwaters prove to be a haven of intellectual rigour, who'd have thought? A look at Cranfield College's aeronautics PhD is trumped by a bracing ten rounds with AL Rowse from St Austell.
4/10, 5/10

North: The Object in Question
About time we had a panel game, and here comes good old Khalid Aziz with a variation on the Going for a Song/It's Patently Obvious “identify the strange item” format.

South: Hey Look... That's Me!
Into the premier league now, with programmes people actually remember. This Southampton-based hotchpotch was a kind of regional Why Don't You..? with reports on local kids and their hobbies linked by grey-haired loon Chris Harris, touring Southampton and environs in a pink bicycle-powered caravan. Plenty of zero-budget wackiness, but points off for the often rather dull hobby stuff.

Midlands: Look! Hear!
This mighty local music show ran for nearly five years. Here it's still co-presented by Toyah Willcox, perched atop a variety of bizarre, unconformable pieces of furniture to survey “the contemporary scene”. The atmosphere isn't bad, sitting roughly halfway between the jaded frugging on Top of the Pops and Revolver's all-out pogo assault: there's a bit of a mosh at the end of the programmes, but this is still the BBC, so any breakages must be paid for at the end of the evening. It would give early exposure to future big names like Duran Duran, as well as countless new wave and heavy metal acts. Or, in this instance, Ricky Cool and the Icebergs. Still, Toyah!

North West: The Acting Game
The Radio Times billing for this one should need no elaboration: “Peter Purves hosts a knockabout tournament for amateur dramatic groups.” The north west wins by an innings.

1 comment:

  1. On a friend's birthday outing to see Superman in (perhaps) 1979 we saw Chris Harris. We irritated him by doing his tradmarked thumb wave throughout the film.