Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Blog Gold: Dr No

So it seems I haven't posted here for over three months.  Hello!  Hope you enjoyed the summer.  Thanks to a new role at work and the small matter of buying a flat (more on that story later) I seem to have forgotten to write anything.  Or not had any time to do so.  So, until I get round to it, here's a blog I wrote two years ago but never published - partly because I wasn't confident enough at the time in what I was saying, partly because I just couldn't be arsed arguing the point with those who disagreed (and there were many).  But reading it again it it's worth publishing from a historical viewpoint, and certainly as a (somewhat downbeat) way of linking into Doctor Who's 50th anniversary in a few weeks' time.  I wrote this in October 2011, shortly after transmission of The Wedding of River Song.  And given the intervening period, the first line is especially prophetic!  Enjoy...

First off, a bit of time travel.

I became interested in Doctor Who after the 1996 TV Movie, which really caught the imagination of the twelve-year-old me, if not the US audience it was aimed at.  With the help of the Radio Times supplement I became interested in the rest of the series, and picked up some cheap VHS releases from our local Co-op.  The first full story I bought was The Dominators so it's nothing short of a miracle I came back for more (not really - The Dominators is amazing, everyone who says it isn't it mistaken!).

The next four years were spent buying the videos, reading the magazine, getting my poor Uncle to tape episodes from UK Gold on Sunday mornings and nagging parents to take me to the Llangollen exhibition.  By 2000 however my interest had started to wane - partly due to running out of material to watch, partly due to it being a bit of a depressing time to be a fan (a run of repeats was curtailed due to low ratings), partly due to being completely uninterested in the audio stories which had just been launched and were being heavily hyped, but probably mainly because I was getting older and perhaps "growing out of it".  My interest was reignited a few years later by the superb DVD range, which was just getting going in 2003 and contained much on the making of the show, as well as clips from the likes of Blue Peter and Breakfast Time.  I'd always been as interested in the making of the show as the show itself, and luckily enough shortly after this came the announcement that the show was to return to TV.

Like millions of others I've watched every week since that relaunch in March 2005 (you can see Kate and I reviewing the return of the show on YSTV here from 7.30 in - don't be too alarmed that I appear to be attached to a cable - it's my mic lead, I don't run off mains power).  There have been good episodes and bad episodes in the years since but as a whole it's been a pretty brilliant series.  Along with the X Factors and Strictlys of the world it has helped to bring the family audience back to Saturday nights and paved the way for the likes of Robin Hood, Merlin and Primeval to do a similar thing.

But I've a confession to make.  The most recent run just hasn't worked for me.  I've tried to like it, I really have, and having had it signposted from the start that the storyline would run through the entire series I've waited until the end before writing this.  It's been remarked upon numerous times in the press that the storylines have become "too complicated".  I don't think it's necessarily that they're too complicated, more that you begin to tire after a while of the trick of witholding the facts just to string you out through the series.  That's not sophisticated storytelling, that's just the dramatic equivalent of saying "I know something you don't know".  It didn't work for Lost and it certainly doesn't work for Doctor Who.  Dramatic tension is now almost entirely centered around revealing the solution to topsy-turvy plotlines.  It's also become a bit obsessed with itself.  Too many stories are about how much of a legend the Doctor is, about Amy and Rory doing something or other we don't care about, and River Sodding Song turning up every five minutes to phone in another pantomime-esque performance.  Everything else seems incidental. 

Splitting the series into two - assuming it wasn't to account for delays in the production of the programme, as has been reported - was also a bad move.  The first half of the series accelerated towards an artificial climax halfway through, towards the big revelation - River is Amy and Rory's daughter!  Um, OK.  Now Melody has been kidnapped and we've got to find her.  Except, we haven't, because she's there, fully grown and fine.  Then after the break, the storyline seemed to be completely forgotten for a few episodes with Amy and Rory not seeming at all concerned at the disappearance of their daughter.  It's rumoured that A Good Man Goes To War was originally intended to go much nearer the end of the run (which makes sense given the lack of references to it's events in much of the second half of the series), and that the decision to split the series into two led to it being pulled forward to create a cliffhanger climax.  All in all, a bit of a mess.  The best episodes this series - The Doctor's Wife, The Girl Who Waited and Closing Time - were all the most continuity-lite stories, and were all the better for it.

But it's not just the episodes themselves.  There seems to be a slightly grouchy element to the series and it's defenders at the moment.  Those complaining about the storylines are more or less told that it's they who have the problem and they should keep up.  The days of Russell T Davies jovially dismissing problems seem long gone.  This is matched by some of the writers and "super-fans" on Twitter who seem to have forgotten the concept of an "opinion".  The aggressive reaction to the Private Eye story (which incidentally appears to have been mostly true) shows that they're completely unwilling to tolerate any criticism of the show - a big turnaround from the early days of the relaunch when the success of the show was never assumed to be guaranteed.

This is shown by the constant harping about the ratings by the programme's cheerleaders.  The second half of the current series has been beaten by ITV1 a number of times on overnight ratings, first of all by the launch of Red Or Black.  When it emerged that the game show had beaten the good Doctor, the vitriol poured on the show and it's viewers on Twitter and the forums was quite unprecedented.  And for what?  That show had a hell of a lot of publicity - yours truly was heavily involved in the countdown clock that kept popping up on ITV1 in the days prior to launch - so is it any surprise that quite a few people wanted to see what it was all about?  Was there any benefit to all the energy poured on rubbishing it when it is very unlikely to run for the 48 years Doctor Who has and certainly not endeared itself in the same way?

More worrying was the show being beaten a couple of times by All Star Family Fortunes in the overnights.  For all that Doctor Who eventually regained the lead thanks to a hefty amount of people watching their recordings later in the week, that shouldn't be happening, and anyone who says they aren't bothered by it should be.  The BBC brought the show back to get a big family audience all watching TV on a Saturday night, and talking about it in the playground or around the watercooler on Monday morning.  If the storylines have got to the point where you don't mind catching up at a late date rather than watching the instant it is available and are watching Vernon Kay instead, then we're in trouble.  The idea that the figures for the programme should include iPlayer viewings and BBC Three repeats, as some are suggesting, is ridiculous - how on earth can you ascertain how many of those people are not watching for a second time?  Probably trying to work out what on earth is going on...

Obviously all of this is my view - there are plenty of people who seem to love the series as it is, and good luck to them.  I just don't feel I'm watching the same show as them.  As things stand we're at a turning point for the show, as the mid-noughties Who empire is this autumn crumbling.  I'd be very surprised if Torchwood returns after the disappointing American seriesThe Sarah Jane Adventures is ending for altogether sadder reasonsConfidential has been axed.  The signs are that the next series of Doctor Who will be spread over a much longer period than the current one.  It's unclear what effect the BBC's cost-cutting will have on the programme (if any).  It seems that the show as a whole will have a smaller prescence on television as it approaches the big 5-0.

(TARDIS sound effect)

So, two years later, how does that sound?  Not far off the mark to be honest.  Series 7 was indeed broadcast over a much longer period, despite vain attempts by the publicity team to convince people that they were two separate series.  This means that since the start of 2011, we've essentially missed out on a whole series of the programme.  This in itself is not necessarily a problem - belts are being tightened all over the BBC and I wouldn't blame them if they wanted to make a very expensive show last a bit longer.  But the complete wall of silence over the reasons - cost or otherwise - doesn't give much encouragement.  

And the show itself?  The first broadcast section of series 7 was a massive improvement, and was actually marketed as five distinct "blockbuster" episodes, all largely self-contained, which was hugely refreshing after the continuity-heavy series 6.  The second part of the run - broadcast six months and one day after the conclusion of the first section - was less sure-footed, featuring a worrying number of "duff" episodes that were so unmemorable I'd struggle, six months on, to tell you anything about them.  One bright part was the introduction of Jenna Coleman as Clara who gave a refreshingly sparky performance, but had some rather patchy character development (and let's not even mention the entirely pointless episode where the children she babysits for are taken on an adventure).

What's rammed the point home for me is re-watching the Russell T Davies years again.  I travel to Leeds for work every week and I'm passing the time on the train by watching episodes from 2005 onwards, in order.  And it's so, so refreshing.  You actually come away from an episode saying "so that's what it was all about" rather than feeling you should have paid more attention at an undefined point in the past to understand it more.  You also have one or maybe two dodgy episodes a series, the rest generally rather good - a statistic that has pretty much reversed in recent years.  Matt Smith is superb but has been given some terrible scripts.  I'm optimistic though - the show has been through peaks and troughs in the past and the prospect of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor is very exciting.  I'm looking forward to the next two landmark episodes: the 50th anniversary and the regeneration from 11 to 12 at Christmas.  I just hope the quality and indeed the scheduling of the series becomes a bit less erratic and I'll be able to write something more positive in 2015!  

Monday, 22 July 2013

Overheard at Latitude

We've just got back from the Latitude Festival in Southwold, Suffolk (yes, I had to look it up too).  Latitude was the first proper festival that either Kate or myself have been to, having previously only been to one-day affairs such as Radio 1's Hackney Weekend.  We figured that with the big 3-0 fast approaching it was high time we crossed this off from the life "to do" list and spent some time slumming it in a field.  Within reason, of course.

We chose Latitude mainly because of the wide variety of entertainment on offer, particularly the comedy.  As we're not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year we thought it would make a nice substitute.  We're also middle class Guardian-reading north-Londoners so it's pretty much the law that we go to Latitude at some point.  We also chose to stay at the Pink Moon Camping enclosure on the site - not particularly out of a desire the avoid the masses but because we don't own a tent or sleeping bags, and buying them especially would cost a fair chunk of the fee we paid to stay there.  In that nice enclosure with its own toilets, showers and bar.  Mmmmm.
The Pink Moon campsite.  Hundreds of identical tents.  Good luck finding yours after 6 pints of Tuborg.

And guess what - we really enjoyed ourselves, despite the somewhat eccentric weather (scorching sun on Friday, cloud and showers on Saturday and somewhere in between on Sunday).  We loved the huge variety of events on offer and the type of music on offer on the big stages was more-or-less spot on for us.  Having seen a Reading and Leeds 2007 t-shirt while we were there, it could have been so much worse.  I think the 6 Music stage came off quite badly though, among others housing Texas, Rudimental and Disclosure over the weekend, none of whom I imagine trouble the radio station's playlist much.  But for us, the highlight had to be Pappy's, who as in Edinburgh last year stole the show for us with their effortless act.  Unlike many acts they had prepared a special show loosely based around "A Christmas Carol", with spot-on parodies of Florence (without her Machine), Kraftwerk and Daft Punk as the "ghosts".  There was also an amusing amount of scorn poured on the admittedly questionable decision to headline the first night with Bloc Party and the aforementioned Texas, neither of whom are really in their prime.  As Pappy's pointed out, "who's booking this festival, Chris Evans?  Look out for the Ocean Colour Scene secret gig at the i Arena tomorrow!".

I'm not sure it's really a substitute for Edinburgh though, comedy-wise, given how you drift in and out of each of the performances and most of the comics aren't performing a show as such, just a few of their favourite routines to fill the slot.  The comedy arena is no way near big enough either - the moment someone even remotely popular was on you couldn't get near.  There's also the slightly odd decision to end the comedy programme at about 7pm each night to clear the arena for dancing later on - which means a genre mostly performed at night is pushed into random berths such as the literature tent after dark.

There are also two (or more) Latitudes.  There's the one that you'll read about in the Guardian and see on The Andrew Marr Show which is all very cultural and intellectual and so different to those other noisy festivals.  There's also the Latitude which is pretty much like any other festival, complete with people getting stupidly drunk and all sorts else.  I noticed the huge presence of children too.  Some really young ones with their parents, which should really know better carting their sleeping offspring around in little trolleys in order to see late night gigs, others a bit older  let off the leash for the first time pretending rather badly to be grown ups.  And standing around chatting during Kraftwerk, which was pretty damn annoying.  Kraftwerk were another highlight of the weekend - if not exactly the typical headliner - because of the quite impressive 3D effects behind the ground (and the equally impressive distribution of 3D glasses around the site on Saturday.  If you didn't have any you must have been under a rock all day).  Since the heady days of Children In Need 1993 I've experienced various attempts at 3D outside of Hollywood films and this was certainly one of the better ones.

But there was one thing we noticed.  Our positioning in the Pink Moon campsite, on the end of a row, meant we heard a lot of people chatting as they walked past, but usually only a sentence or two of conversations.  Some of these were bizarre to say the least.  Here's a selection with some others we heard around the festival site:

"I like to think of myself as an alcohologist"

"I actually think that not having sex with someone is more powerful than having sex with them"

(in the poshest female voice imaginable) "Find My Friends?  What's my Apple ID?!  Upper or lower case??!!"

"Look at the shower queue now.  Snoozers are losers"


"Order number 118, pick up your burger now or it's going in the bin"

"Is that the shower queue?  Let's just get in it, we'll only sit here talking about the shower queue otherwise"

"I HATE Blackpool"

"Did you snog him?" "I shagged him!"

"I'm talking about the prostitute killer of course, not the Radio 2 DJ"

And finally one we'll nick from Marcus Brigstocke, who said this is the most Latitudey thing he's ever heard said at the festival:

"Oh hi Nigel, anything happened to you lately?"
"No, not really.  Oh no hang on, I've been made chair of the Forestry Commission"

Monday, 27 May 2013

When You're With Me It's Always Summer

I'm starting to type this as we fly to St Lucia on the final leg of our epic honeymoon.  With a mere 8 hours 15 minutes to kill (not including the delay caused by late boarding passenger Alex Fruger, who they had the courtesy to name and shame) it's probably a good time to address mine and Kate's wedding, which took place on 27th April.  I'm now in the position where I feel we've banged on about this for long enough and that we're probably boring people, but in time honoured Jonablog tradition there's probably a blog left to wring out of it before we wrap this one up!

Long-term readers will remember me writing about our engagement nearly two years ago. We knew from the start we'd probably be getting married in Spring 2013, due to needing to save up and us both being quite keen on a Spring wedding.  Despite this I think we both found that first ten months or so a bit of a struggle, and the finger of blame for this can be pointed at Islington Council.  Since she moved to London in August 2005 Kate had always said she wanted to get married at Islington Town Hall, after moving into a flat in the local area and seeing couples emerging from the building when going past on the number 30 bus on a Saturday morning.  Unfortunately for us, the council operates a strict "year in advance policy" which means it is literally impossible to book your ceremony until there is a year or less to go, which in the world of wedding planning is a little restrictive as it means you then can't book anything else for the day until the venue is confirmed.  So we had the best part of a year of being asked "how's the wedding planning going?" with the answer being that it wasn't really going anywhere.

Luckily Kate managed to fill the time with heavily researching anything and everything to do with the wedding.  I was very lucky to have a fiancée who not only had a pretty good idea of what she wanted from the ceremony but also had rather excellent ideas that chimed with my own! I think there must be a gene in women that is unleashed the moment they are proposed to (or in some cases, before...) that contains all this vital information.  Put it this way: I wasn't much use when it came to choosing the "wedding colours".  She also became absorbed into the world of wedding blogs, the modern equivalent of those whacking great glossy bridal magazines, so much so I believe she has now read them all.  There are none left.


By the time our preferred date had rolled around (minus a year), we were ready to pounce on Islington and then to book all our suppliers in turn.  Luckily 27th April 2013 at 1pm was free, but I was amazed to find out that when I rang up on 28th April 2012 - ie. one day into the booking window - the midday and 5pm slots had been taken on our chosen day already! So we weren't the only ones.  Now the real prep could begin - and save-the-date cards were sent out at the start of September accordingly, accompanied by some superb artwork by Kate's brother Lee depicting us in the style of Lichenstein.  Full invites followed in January, and I have to give credit to Kate again for creating wonderful innovative fold-out invites that were so incredible they are hard to describe.  So here are a couple of pictures.

The buildup to the wedding itself was a bit of a blur. After the first 18 months feeling like a small ice age, the final furlong from January flew by.  At the start of March we had a "pre-wedding shoot", a service offered by our photographer (the peerless Eliza Claire), which by fluke took place on a rare dry and sunny day.  We held the shoot on the Parkland Walk, a former railway line-turned-nature reserve local to us which we're lucky enough to be able to walk part of our daily journey to work on.  Eliza produced some really impressive shots, although one was unplanned - local gigantic-bear-dog Winston out for a walk trying to get in on the action, nose-to-nose with me!

Two weeks prior to the ceremony, on the same day were our stag and hen nights.  I think both of us were touched by quite how many people turned up, many of whom travelled to London especially.   Credit is due to my Best Man Tom who masterminded a brilliant afternoon of the Thames Clipper, followed by the British Music Experience and then climbing the O2 in the pouring rain - which felt like one hell of an achievement! After a curry we then went onto a club in Angel, later being joined by the hen party, which was a fantastic end to the day given we don't really split our friends down gender lines in any case.  It was also just down the road from where we'd be getting married a fortnight later...!

Although Kate can rightly take credit for the vast majority of the wedding ideas, I was quite proud of one of mine.  We'd talked for some time about themed table plans at the Wedding Breakfast but not quite nailed something right for us.  Eventually I suggested: why not numbers 1 singles from various points in our lives?  There were bound to be some duds in there but they would undoubtedly make great talking points as well as confirming my chart nerd status.  We decided to have tables themed around Kate's birthday (Only You by The Flying Pickets), my birthday (Hello by Lionel Richie - perfect!), the date we both started at the University of York (some Will Young and Gareth Gates duet, how very 2002), the date we started going out (Obviously by McFly - because she's out of my league!), the day we moved into our first flat (Crazy by Gnarls Barkley) and the day we got engaged (something by Pitbull - my timing not especially romantic here).

For all these Kate managed to get hold of the original vinyl or CD from eBay, the artwork from which would be on the table plan and the discs on the tables themselves.  We took a huge gamble though by saying the the top table would be whatever was number one on the day we got married - ie. announced the Sunday before, giving us not much time to arrange it.  Thankfully virtually no singles are released on CD anymore (I'm amazed we got hold of the 2011 Pitbull one) which meant all we had to do was print off the artwork and label up a CD-R for the table.  Throughout April we nervously watched the charts and at various points thought we might end up with "Let's Get Ready To Rhumble" or "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" as the lead record.  The last week saw a battle between a dire Bieber collaboration and a nice enough Rudimental track.  Thankfully the latter won, although we wished Daft Punk's epic Get Lucky had been released a few days earlier as we both love it!

Our last day at work was Wednesday 24th April. I'd arranged for some flowers to be delivered to Kate at the Google fortress a few streets away, but I was then surprised by cards from both the London and Leeds presentation teams and bubbly in the office, which was a great way to start our longest ever holiday! 

Before we knew it, it was Friday 26th April: t-minus one day, and quite an epic day of organisation.  We always knew that having the wedding in London in two different venues would be quite tough given that a huge chunk of our guests would be visiting London especially and hardly anyone we know has a car.  Luckily my sister bucks that trend and so we spent Thursday picking up the six hire suits from the tailor in Barking, and then Friday dropping our wedding night suitcase off at our hotel, greeting our family off the train, shuttling all the suits, the dress and the ceremony stuff to my hotel (with Kate's stuff then taken from there to her hotel by taxi) and finally taking all the reception decoration to the pub where it would be held.  And while all this was going on, Kate was getting her nails done.  Not that we were conforming to gender stereotypes, you understand.  After a quick run through at Kate's hotel of all the details in the "bible" we'd put together with all the horrendous detail I won't bore you with about who needed to do what when, with most of the bridal and groom parties, Kate and bid farewell and I headed to Islington for some drinks with already-arrived guests.  And then, to bed...

The day of the ceremony is always said to be something of a blur.  I think the presence of a photographer is required not only to immortalise the day but also to remind you what actually happened! Given the huge amount of coordination I'm delighted to report everything went pretty much to plan.  After much nervous checking of the weather (which remained stubbornly stuck on "showers" throughout) we were relieved that not only was a was it dry when it needed to be, there was beautiful sunshine around the time of the ceremony! With my ushers, best man and a number of other guests in tow we walked the ten minutes along Upper Street to the Town Hall.  We'd been told by Islington Council that there was a fairly tight turnaround between ceremonies and so we'd need to make ourselves scarce fairly promptly after our ceremony avoid getting in the way of the 2pm booking.  Sadly that message hadn't filtered through to the midday party, who were stood on the steps having every combination of photo lineup under the sun taken, until we decided we would have to edge past in order to get the council chamber ready.  It was then we found another party on the grand staircase having more photos that needed to be navigated past.  It was like some sort of wedding-themed computer game.  I was half expecting to find an end-of-level baddy at the top of the stairs.

The previous group delayed us by about ten minutes in the end but eventually the ushers got everyone inside and we were ready to go.  The Council Chamber is an incredible space, as you can see from the photos.  The amazing thing about it is that everyone is sat around you in a semi-circle, so you can really see everyone as you're sat there.  Thanks to the previous group I didn't have a long wait but it's a lonely position, sat in the the middle of that room on your own!  I knew that the bridal party would be entering before Kate and her Dad, but I didn't want to turn around too soon and end up staring down the aisle for a long time.  In the end this was made easy for me when I heard Kate's Grandma say "oh, isn't she lovely"!  The moment I saw Kate in her dress for the first time is captured on camera but I was genuinely blown away by how incredible she looked.  Nothing can quite prepare you for the arrival of your bride in the dress you've been forbidden from seeing for months, looking more beautiful than she's ever been before. 

The ceremony was brief but really, really lovely.  My sister Laura read John Hegley's Beliefs and Promises and Kate's brother Lee read John Cooper-Clarke's i wanna be yours,  both wonderful poems that mean a lot to us.  We chose some of our favourite music for various parts of the ceremony.  While guests were arriving we played Digital Love by Daft Punk, Two Doors Down by Mystery Jets and Make Me Feel Again by Edwyn Collins.  Kate walked in to TrueLove Ways by Buddy Holly and we signed the register to Something Changed by Pulp and I Love You by The Pipettes and then, before we knew it, we were married!  We walked out to Don't Falter by Mint Royale, a track that wasn't a massive hit when released but both of us loved independently at the time - it encompassing both of our musical tastes, with the dying embers of Britpop coupled with the big-beat sound popular at the turn of the century.  After some photos on the grand staircase and the confetti shots outside the town hall (in glorious sunshine!) we were off!

We'd solved the issue of transporting people from one venue to another by hiring a Routemaster bus, continuing the London feel.  We'd asked that the bus go to the reception venue via Alexandra Palace, partly to drop us off their for some photos but also to extend the journey and give some of our northern guests a taste of north London.  This worked really well, as everyone had a good chinwag whilst sipping champagne that Kate's parents had kindly brought back from France.

While we were being photographed at Ally Pally - lest we forget the birthplace of what had brought us together, television - a little girl and her mother approached Kate and asked her if she was a princess, as they'd gone to the palace but the princess wasn't there!  Quite a sweet moment.  Before we headed to our reception - at a lovely pub called The Prince Albert in Camden Town - we had some more photos in the pretty streets nearby, before entering the venue.  Nothing can quite prepare you for the high of walking into a room with everyone cheering you - I know this sounds weird on your wedding day but you do forget sometimes that everyone is looking at you two!

After some amazing food - that pub really do food well! - we had the speeches. I'd had a good idea of what I wanted to say for some time - mentally writing it in my head when swimming, mostly! - but had a few nerves about it in the weeks before the wedding, rewriting it a lot. In the end, it went down quite well.  I was hugely encouraged by the reaction to Kate's Dad's lovely speech, and how everyone reacted to mine once I got going.  I did worry I would lose it at some of the more sentimental bits about Kate - and also in particular the section about my Gran not being able to be there - but one of the advantages of reading over it so many times in advance is that you become so used to the words that, to you at least, they lose some of their emotional weight, which did have the advantage that it was the guests who ended up blubbing, not me! Tom also gave a touching best man's speech.  Well, touching apart from the washing machine bit.  If you weren't there, that's all I'm saying.

Kate had decided she would give a speech too, at the evening reception.  I loved this: so few brides do it, and it really gave her a chance to shine.  Although she won't admit it she's really, really good at public speaking, and knowing Kate as we all know her it wouldn't be right for her to go the whole day saying little more than "I do". Plus she said some really nice things about me, so that was good too!  She received so much praise not only for making a speech but for how brilliant it was, and rightly so.

A long time ago, before we decided much else, we had chosen what our first dance would be.  We both love Dusty Springfield's I Only Want To Be With You so, so much. The lyrics are pretty much spot on for how both of us feel about each other, the sound is so evocative of the 60s look that Kate was keen for, plus it does have the bonus of being quite short! Neither of us are particularly any good at dancing but we did really want to do the first dance. We kept the song choice a complete secret: only our DJ James knew about it, but Tom nailed it when he said that the lyrics pretty much summed up what we'd both said in our speeches.  We rehearsed it quite extensively, but neither of us are convinced it was that great on the night.  Still: looks good in still photos, and what a tune!

I was tempted to not do "thank yous" in this blog having done them at the time and privately since, but so much of the day was a result of the fine work of so many wonderful family and friends.  So, very quickly: both sets of parents, Steve & Sandra and Anne & Les, for all the financial, creative and general wonderful support they gave; our siblings Laura, Lee and Nick for the readings, design work and general organisational help with the big day; the bridal and groom parties: Tom, Rowan, Dave, Vanky, Graham, Morgan, Claire and Oliver for generally being ace and supportive and making the day go without a hitch, our witnesses Chris and Jamie for returning the favour we did for them at their Civil Partnership a few years ago, the staff of Islington Town Hall and The Prince Albert for giving us such a wonderful, flawless day, Dunns Bakery and my new Grandma Audrey for the tasty cakes, our superstar DJ James for keeping everyone dancing until 1am, Jack Bunneys and Butterfly Vintage Brides for our outfits and finally our wonderful photographers and videographers Eliza, Hannah, Frances and Becky (girl power!). I'd also like to thank everyone that came, particularly from outside of London.  So much of the amazing wedding atmosphere was down to have such a great group of guests who all genuinely seemed to have a great time which meant a lot to us.  We're also very grateful for all the numerous and generous donations to our honeymoon fund.  We had the most incredible three weeks in St. Pancras Renaissance, Berlin and St. Lucia that we simply would not have been able to do without everyone's generosity, so once again: thank you.

I said in my speech but I'll say it again here, the biggest thank you for the day has to go to Kate.  So much of the vision for the day, the style, the look and the feel was down to her incredible taste and general scarily good sense for what works and what doesn't.  I'll admit that a lot of things I rolled my eyes at when they were suggested (giant illuminated letters?!) really made the day.  She could easily go into a career doing this sort of thing.  That she managed to do it largely off her own back is of huge credit to her.  She's currently writing an entry for an influential wedding blog who want to feature the wedding, which is really flattering.

So now it's all over, and the honeymoon we were on the way to when I started writing this has been and gone.  We're yet to have the infamous "wedding blues". I think this is mainly because the day was so, so wonderful and everything that we wished for.  It's a cliché but it's true: it was the best day of our lives, and not only that but we're so excited about everything the future holds. We've nothing but good memories about the whole day and are so grateful to everyone who made it possible.  I still get a buzz out of calling Kate my wife, and I've a sneaking suspicion that's not going to change any time soon!  I'll end slightly on a slightly soppy note (hey, it's an occasion when I'm allowed to do so), with the lyrics to the chorus of Don't Falter. It's essentially "our song", and given that against all odds the sun came out for our big day, wonderfully appropriate.

Hey, don't falterYou know we ought to be togetherStrange, I saw yaI sort of knew it was for ever

Please stay with meAnd never miss a chance to kiss meBabe, I love yaWhen you're with me, it's always summer

Sunday, 7 April 2013

No More "I Love You"s

That title got your attention didn't it! we are.  Less than three weeks to go until the big day and Kate and I tie the knot.  We're both very very excited - the sort of excited that makes you need the toilet if you think about it too much - but we are currently knee-deep in wedding admin, the equivalent of coming home to do homework every night for three weeks.  Forms for this, forms for that, writing up information for this and that person, and so it goes on.  One thing we're having to decide on is the music we will be having during the ceremony.  For a laugh - and to relieve the tedium of form-gate - we decided to try and find the most inappropriate songs to play at a wedding.  Enjoy!

Annie Lennox - No More "I Love Yous"
R Kelly - Bump 'n' Grind
The Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up
Atomic Kitten - See Ya
Busted - You Said No
Oasis - Stop Crying You Heart Out
S.mouse - Poo On You
Spice Girls - Goodbye
Tomcraft - Loneliness

Whigfield - Another Day
Cee Lo Green - Forget You

Honeyz - End of the Line get the idea with that.  If you can think of more then pop them in the comments!

In fact in among all the HILARITY we've managed to come up with quite a few songs that mean a lot to us, the first dance in particular.  This is probably the biggest secret of the whole day - only three people know what it is: me, Kate and our DJ James.  It's spot on for us in so many ways so I look forward to you either hearing it on the night or when I inevitably babble on about it here afterwards!  

It's nearly two years since I proposed.  We didn't really have a lot of choice with the length of engagement - we needed to save and we wanted a Spring wedding.  But even with that in mind the first year was pretty frustrating as we found we were unable to book our ceremony until a year before the due date, which of course meant we couldn't book anything else off the back of it in case the date didn't come through, meaning we had eight months of being able to do very little but talk about what we wanted to do.  I had to take a deep breath every time someone piped up with "how's the wedding planing going?" in the kitchen at work.  But then all the prep kicked in and didn't stop!  I'm not quite sure what we're going to do with our time once it is all over!  (oh that's right, buy a flat, I remember now...)

But now the day itself is almost upon us - the dress and suit are both in our possession (must make sure the bags don't get mixed up), the stag and hen dos are imminent (and sound suitably epic) and the rings sit expectantly on the table (waiting to be lost at the last minute).  So I better stop wasting time writing ultimately unnecessary blogs and get back to my speech instead, which rather scarily will not only be recorded but presented to us on Blu-Ray afterwards, so at least if it's rubbish I can console myself that the picture quality is excellent.  

It's tempting to see the wedding as the end of a countdown that began nearly nine years ago when Kate popped round to my student house to watch a DVD and has taken in university, jobs, flats and holidays along the way, but in fact it's the start of so much more.  I'm so excited about everything that is still to come: 27th April is the first day of the rest of our lives.

With so many more "I Love You"s...

Friday, 15 March 2013

Farewell to the Concrete Doughnut

I can't claim to have any great association with BBC Television Centre other than, like most, a long-term viewer of output from within its walls.  But in a way that's the best association of all - you feel like you know the place inside out despite having only visited on a handful of occasions.  So, like any self-respecting telegeek, I'm more than a little sad that this month sees Auntie bidding farewell to the good old Concrete Doughnut.

Growing up and watching too much telly, TVC simply looked like the most fun place you could hope to work.  Saturdays in particular showed it at its best, starting the day with the imperial behemoths of Going Live! and Live & Kicking making the most of their studios and indeed the whole building.  Grandstand then straddled the entire afternoon with a backdrop apparently of the bustling sport department hard at work.  Saturday night entertainment - either the Generation Game, Noel's House Party or The National Lottery Live - would show the larger studios at their best and finally Match of the Day would round things off.  And I haven't even mentioned news, weather or continuity yet, all of which was in the mix too.

Particularly for my generation the building was made into something of an icon by the title sequence of Live and Kicking, which turned TV Centre into a pinball machine.  Every Saturday morning for seven years the image of TV Centre was placed into the minds of millions of children.  Not only was it one of the best title sequences ever created, it ensured that no-one could miss where the programme was being made.  That iconic shot of the ball bursting out of the wall of TC1 signals the start of the weekend to many twenty-and-thirty-somethings.

I first visited TV Centre in September 2002 with my good friend Chris.  We'd booked to go on the famous guided tour of the building.  Famous mainly because it wasn't that good, and because it barely changed in the decade it operated for.  Like most, I have to admit that when the famous facade first appeared into view as we arrived on the Central Line I was a little underwhelmed.  You forget that on Children In Need night every spotlight in West London is pointed at the frontage to make it look glitzy, and that there was an awful lot of post-production on that famous Live and Kicking title sequence.  It just didn't look that....big, which is ironic because the site is famously huge.  You can read about our trip here.  I have to admit that the 18-year-old me was a little economical with the truth about the tour, mainly because the tour guide I mention was keen to get a good write-up.  I also don't mention that due to joining the wrong queue Chris and I almost ended up on an early edition of Dick and Dom in da Bungalow! Unsurprisingly the tour groups were kept away from most actual TV, so the most interesting bit for me was standing in the viewing gallery of TC6 watching The Saturday Show's set being dismantled (that Saturday morning obsession surviving my childhood!).  A depressing amount of time was then spent showing off a demonstration chromakey green screen (is there really anyone left who doesn't know about that?) and finally a tedious quiz in a box room away from anything telly-related.  But still - you got to go inside, and that was good enough for me.

Perhaps the best way to visit TV Centre was to go to a studio recording, which by definition meant you got to get close to actually telly.  When Kate and I first moved to London we decided to take advantage of our location by applying to go to a fair few of these.  The first was Grownups, a BBC3 sitcom (remember that?  nope, thought not) which mainly involved sitting there for three hours watching Sheridan Smith fluff her lines.  After that experience we decided to try and see something live so went to The National Lottery Jet Set, only to turn up to an edition where Eamonn Holmes had pre-recorded most of the quiz sections earlier due to other commitments (lunch? tea?).  Still, we were some of the last to see the live lottery draw before Fathers for Justice disrupted it from the audience and it was locked away at the BFBS studios instead.  Next up was The Late Edition, an entertaining BBC4 Marcus Brigstocke comedy programme.  Kate fulfilled a childhood ambition in 2008 by attending the Top of the Pops Christmas Special ("Girls Aloud are very thin" was her insight from this occasion), late in 2010 we witnessed a recording of Harry Hill's TV Burp and finally towards the end of 2011 we saw the first Frank Skinner-hosted Room 101.

The holy grail though was a wander round the building unattended, which I finally got to do in the summer of 2007 when Kate got a job at the BBC and shamefully abused her position by signing me in as a guest.  And guess what?  It's a working building, with lots of busy people getting on with their jobs.  I think this is the slightly sad reality of it being such an avid TV fan as a child - you take it for granted once you work there.  I remember waiting outside the ITN building on Grays Inn Road in September 2005 before my ITV job interview, seeing employees walking in and out and wishing I could be one of them.  For the last eight years I have been, and yet I do take it for granted because most of the time, it's a job, and a job that has its fair share of frustrations and gripes.  You can see a similar contrast between the TV Centre presented on screen to millions as the glamorous, shiny, exciting home of popular telly and the TV Centre of reality that's a bit shabby, full of asbestos and miles away from anywhere in west London.  It's quite telling that whilst celebrities are lining up to bemoan the loss of the studios, those who have actually worked in the offices all day are less complimentary.

The BBC deciding to leave the site has prompted much derision.  Whilst sad to see it go I'm not sure I totally disagree with the decision.  It's true - in many parts it is a building that's not particularly great to work in, built for a different era and difficult to modernise.  You can see a similar situation on a smaller scale at ITV.  The former LWT tower on the South Bank has terrible lifts that can't be fixed and nasty shoebox-sizes offices.  On another point, the closure is largely the result of other decisions.  News has quite rightly been centralised in New Broadcasting House - TV, radio, online and World Service all under one roof in central London for the first time.  I've written about the move of sport, children's and Five Live to Salford before, but suffice to say it's a move I support.  All of this means there is far less of the week-in-week-out TV programming that kept the centre busy over the decades.  

But it's not all bad.  In fact, TV Centre is coming out of this far better than many other iconic studio closures over the last few years.  Tyne Tees Television on City Road in Newcastle is now dust, all that's left of Central TV on Broad Street in Birmingham is a set of multi-coloured railings and BBCs Pebble Mill and Oxford Road are both history too.  Not only is TVC getting a superb send-off - from Richard Marson's superb 2012 documentary Tales of TV Centre to BBC Four's Goodbye Television Centre night on 22nd March and everything else in between - it will in essence survive. Studios 1-3 will be retained, presumably on the same sort of model as The London Studios operates, although there is some concern that there will not be enough studios and that the right ones are not being retained.  BBC Worldwide will move into the former news centre, with the corporation vacating the soulless White City and Media Village site up the other end of Wood Lane (in itself a reversal of the property strategy of the past decade).  The rest will be an as yet undefined mixture of homes, hotels and whatnot, bringing a new meaning to the phrase "studio flat".  Don't get me wrong - it's terribly sad that so much will be lost, but TV will still be made on the site and the front-facing facade will look more or less the same.  In today's unsentimental world that's quite a result.

It doesn't stop the exit from the site for redevelopment work to begin being unbearably sad for us anoraks.    Before Kate left the BBC we once again abused her staff status for a wander round the building, which even last year was very quiet.  We took a look at the former Blue Peter garden, now dark and empty.  Studio 9, facing the garden, was amazingly unlocked, and I couldn't resist a quick look inside.  It was the home of CBBC continuity for a decade and lived out its last few years housing the final incarnation of live Saturday morning children's TV, TMi.  Now it was stripped of all equipment and in a very sorry state given how it was the face of children's TV for a generation.  Wandering around the scene dock I was amazed to see a painted mural outside TC6 dating back to a Live and Kicking phone-in game in the late 1990s was still there!  And I have to admit that I did something of a pilgrimage to find where the broom cupboard would have been.  OK, it's not there anymore - the whole area has been redeveloped into offices - but I couldn't resist wandering up to where it would have been.  I have a very patient fiancée.

It'll be a sad week as the last parts of the corporation move out.  Comic Relief is the last large-scale live studio production and news leaves at 1pm on Monday afternoon.  Friday sees the on-screen farewell, starting with The One Show followed by BBC4 dedicating a night of programming to the site including an outdoor concert by Madness.  The vast majority of BBC activity on the site will cease at the end of March.  Farewell, concrete doughnut - for now at least - and thanks for the memories.  

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Children's ITV: Back to the Old Skool...

Happy 30th birthday, Children's ITV.  And what a celebration.  If you've been anywhere on Twitter or Facebook this weekend, and were a child in the 1980s or 1990s - or know someone who was - it won't have been able to escape your attention that we've just been treated to the televisual equivalent of stuffing ourselves with birthday cake for two eight-and-a-half-hour periods over a weekend.  In a somewhat unprecedented move, the CITV channel has aired what it called an "Old Skool Weekend" - in layman's terms nothing but archive programming from 9.25am through to close at 6pm for two days straight.  And it's been incredibly popular.  It's also been a very long time since I raced to the TV at 9.25am on a Saturday morning!

It's no secret that CITV's resources are limited compared to CBBC's so it's been great to see the anniversary get a full-hearted celebration.  A primetime ITV1 documentary (availabe to watch above) aired at the end of December looking at some of the most fondly-remembered Children's ITV programmes.  It was somewhat light on the continuity front but no matter, the 20th anniversary programme made up for that and is also available to watch (and in truth there isn't a lot more to add on that front from the last ten years).

I thought I'd blog about each programme, but before I do some disclaimers.  As a child I think I was more of a Children's BBC kid, but there was definitely a period between about 1990 and 1993 where I watched "both sides" more or less equally, and ITV definitely had the upper hand with the imperial younger-kids lunchtime slot which beat Playdays hands down.  Although he wasn't that popular with the audience I really liked the laid-back style of Tommy Boyd as a continuity presenter, and when he was replaced by a load of naff animations it was a big turnoff for me.  This means that my Children's ITV memories (and it was always Children's ITV, not CITV when I was watching) more or less cut off in 1993.  So bear that in mind as I take you through the weekend, programme by programme...


Mike and Angelo

Oh dear...maybe could have stayed in bed for another twenty minutes.  Everyone but everyone knows that Mike and Angelo was shit, and yet it ran for eleven long years..  I thought that was an American import when I was young - the production seem to do nothing to distract from this, being full of American accents and even the picture quality looking a bit ropey.

Super Gran

Aha - something I was a bit too young for at the time but have always been keen to see.  Highlight of this episode was seeing Super Gran racing around the Newcastle quayside which looked, erm, slightly less flashy and generally a hell of a lot more grimy than it does today.  And let's not dwell on how "super" Super Gran actually is, seeing as she generally seems to run around at normal pace but with a white outline drawn around her.  Incredibly, actress Gudrun Ure is still around today at the grand old age of 86.


The other end of the spectrum now - something I was slightly too old for when it was around, although was fairly familiar with anyway.  The theme tune is something else though - did they deliberately tell everyone to sing it slightly out of tune?


Um, yeah.  Not too familiar with this one and having sat through twenty minutes of it I still have no idea what it was all about.

Engie Benjy

Of course, as much as we'd like it to just be 1980s and 1990s archive there had to be a bit from the last decade too.  This one from 2004 is still being aired today, mainly thanks to the vocal contributions of Ant and Dec.  And that's about the most interesting thing I can say about this one.

The Raggy Dolls

From 1994!  From looking at this it could be ten years older.  A bit of lefty social engineering for kids TV here (coming from someone who thinks that's a good idea) - trying to teach children about tolerance and acceptance of those who have disabilities, or indeed "made imperfectly" as here. 

Puddle Lane

One of shows I was looking forward to the most.  My parents recorded numerous episodes of this on video in 1987 meaning that the lifetime of the show long outlasted it's original transmission period for my sister and me.  We also had lots of the spin-off books and even named our cat Tessa after one of the characters in the show.  Tessa died in 2003 meaning the programme's influence lasted over our whole childhood.  It hasn't aged particuarly well but the central concept of a magician casting spells and telling related stories still works a treat.  The magician in question was played by none other than Neil Innes who as well as being the "seventh Python" seems to have carved quite a career in children's TV in the late 80s, being almost single-handedly responsible for the afrorementioned Raggy Dolls too. 

Count Duckula

Another classic from the Cosgrove Hall powerhouse but one that still feels fairly familiar.  You all know the title sequence so special mention is reserved for the end credits, which are totally bonkers.

The Sooty Show

Probably the most famous incarnation of Sooty and certainly the one I remember from my childhood.  I think perhaps because Sooty has been around so long you forget how good it can be - the episode shown was actually genuinely funny to this 28-year-old.

Art Attack

Controversial viewpoint:  I was never that fond of Art Attack.  I think I always preferred the more sedate Hart Beat.  But the fact that this ran and ran until the point where it couldn't anymore due to ITV stopping making children's programmes is incredible.

The Big Bang

Not familiar with that one at all - having begun in 1996 I suppose I was slightly too old for it, but must have completely missed it through my "watching kids TV in a cynical it-used-to-be-better-than-this way" years too.  A slightly more scientific version of How 2, it seems.

Finders Keepers

I'd been waiting for this one.  Much of the attention of this repeat weekend has focused on Fun House, and rightly so given it was one of CITV's most popular shows.  But the hype around that over the years has somewhat unfairly meant that Finders Keepers lost out somewhat in the nostalgia stakes.  Indeed, it's been reported that, after inheriting it from TVS, Scottish TV axed it in 1996 as it was too similar to their own Fun House.  I think I would stick my neck out and say that Finders Keepers is actually better.  They get straight into the action in the main set - none of this messing about with games or go-karts - and Neil Buchanan is simply wonderful as the host.  I'd go as far as to say he's one of the most underrated children's TV presenters of all time, having occupied Saturday mornings for a decade in the 1980s, then the afternoons throughout the 1990s and most of the 2000s with Art Attack.  And Finders Keepers can probably be said to be his best work - such a great format that it was even brought back for a series in 2006.  It probably says much for my upbringing that it's only now, having moved to London, I hear any trace of a scouse accent in his voice!  He didn't half keep a lot of confetti in his house though...

Fun House

The big one that everyone was waiting for...but having been on a loop on Challenge TV for years it doesn't feel unfamiliar at all (although the episodes shown this weekend are slightly older than the Challenge ones).  It also feels like a show of two halves: the three gungy games at the start are fairly forgettable.  Things improve with the Fun Kart Grand Prix but that's still fairly dull to watch.  It's not until the Fun House itself that the show really springs into life, but it is still genuinely exciting and well worth the wait.  That said, it deserves credit for being so consistent over a decade's run.  The format of the show didn't change one bit, the theme tune was identical, the titles only had minor changes and the main presenters and voiceover were the same throughout.  The Fun House itself  had cosmetic changes but at it's core was very similar for most of the run.  As a result other than the prizes it has aged fairly well, and the last couple of series could easily be repeated on CITV now without looking too out of place.


Another favourite of mine - this last triple bill comprising probably my three favourite Children's ITV shows of all time.  Let's mention the elephant in the room - the computer graphics don't look great, but then it would be amazing if twenty years on they looked good.  That said Knightmare was always about the story and the game rather than flashy graphics.  I loved the way Tommy Boyd used to tell you to draw the curtains and turn the lights off when it started!  Coming into this mid-way meant this was quite hard to get into, although does deserve special mention for making the teenage boy contestants continually talk to pretty girls.  That's hard enough in real life, let alone when you think a giant saw is going to swing at you through the wall at any moment.

Fraggle Rock

Jim Henson, Muppets, etc.  Might be blasphemy to some, but hey: boring.

The Worst Witch

From 1998, seemingly a Poundland version of Harry Potter, but ran for three series so must have been successful enough.


A great show, although how they managed to get so much mileage out of a boy changing into a dog I don't know.  Maybe by changing the boy and the dog every few years...


A series of standalone dramas, this one led to Children's Ward.  Thanks.

Press Gang

Famously Steven Moffat's first TV work although again one that I was a bit too young for at the time.  The Sunday episode featured a young Lucy Benjamin, looking exactly the same as when she was in EastEnders.

The Tomorrow People

Huh?  Was this dodgy remake of a dodgy show so fondly remembered?  Could do without seeing any of this...

Children's Ward

Another long-runner, although we seem to have been lumbered with two episodes from the dying days in 2000 when, like Byker Grove and Grange Hill a few years later, the format was clearly being tinkered with to attract a younger audience. 



Despite this being right in my prime years of Children's ITV-watching I have no recollection of this at all!  Apparently it was quite good.  If you say so.

Huxley Pig

I was aware of this but don't think I'd seen an actual episode.  And now I have.


One of the most famous ITV children's programmes of all, which of course began eleven years before Children's ITV itself.  It hasn't aged amazingly well but that doesn't matter - Rainbow is beyond criticism.

Button Moon

Not ageing well is one thing, but this one always looked a bit clunky.  Then you remember it's about a spoon landing on a button.  Because of this Button Moon kind of goes full circle and looks quite good in a timeless quirky sort of way.

The Riddlers

The main thing I remember about The Riddlers is that one of the main voices was Toby the Spell Dragon from Puddle Lane, which at that age was quite confusing.  This was quite a downbeat episode (with one "riddler" talking about her dead parents), which is unusual as I remember it being a bit more fun!

Rosie and Jim

Another biggie for me.  As we owned a canal boat until I was seven my parents were ALL OVER Rosie and Jim, whether we liked it or not, which is good because we did.  John Cunliffe is quite charming as he's clearly not a presenter by trade and isn't making much of an effort to be one, but the smart positioning of his Postman Pat books at the back of the boat shows his real talent.  As it's just puppets and canals it has barely aged a day and could easily be re-run now, although preferably the early episodes with Fizzgog and not the various numpties who replaced him later on.


Another iconic one that doesn't feel like it's ever gone away - most recently having a BBC Two repeat run.

Sooty and Co

Not the same show as Saturday, this is the Granada programme that was launched after The Sooty Show ended when Thames lost their franchise.  It's a bit unfamiliar to me for obvious, oft-repeated age-related reasons but what struck me here is simply how good Matthew Corbett is.  You can't accuse him of not putting his all into every episode.

How 2

This one started around the same time as Art Attack and ended about the same time too.  A sequel to the original "How", it eventually overshadowed it.  Watching this again it's such a simple format, but I think the key element is that the presenters don't claim to know it all.  Each "How" is set up as one presenter sharing some information with the other two, so it feels like we're dropping in on a conversation between friends rather than being lectured by a bunch of clever cloggs.  And full marks for choosing an episode that featured the iconic original theme tune.

Finger Tips

As much as this may feel like yesterday it's now ten years old and littered with archaic references to things like where to store your VHS tapes.  I'd never really watched this properly before but it's actually a pretty good make-and-do show in the tradition of the likes of Bitsa.  And as much as Fearne Cotton gets a lot of stick, I always thought she was pretty talented and endearing as a children's TV presenter.  It's also important to remember it was GMTV and CITV that gave her initial exposure, before CBBC swooped in to nick her in the same year this was broadcast.

Jungle Run

This is a programme I can tell I would have loved if I was the right age, basically being a rip-off of The Crystal Maze.  Curiously though it was hosted exclusively by ex-CBBC presenters, initially Dominic Wood (while waiting for Da Bungalow to be built), then here with Chris Jarvis (waiting for CBeebies to be launched) and finally by Michael Underwood (waiting

My Parents Are Aliens

Well, it had to be here somewhere I suppose, given this has been shown non-stop since it began in 1999.  But given it ended in 2006 it's a wonder the tapes have worn out yet, and it would have been nice to use the slot for something else.  But it was a great show (so I'm told), so fair enough.

The Rest

Lots of programmes from Saturday also had another run today. Mike and Angelo, which no-one needed to see any more of, was at least from a few years later. Fun House gets another episode from the following year, Knightmare was a continuation from the Saturday episode (although I have absolutely no idea what was happening at the end), and another not-as-good-as-everyone-remembers Fraggle Rock. Woof was from 1993 with the second lead actor, another Dramarama from the following year and the last episode of Press Gang followed. Finally another double bill of The Tomorrow People and Children's Ward finished the weekend off.

Saturday's programmes rated very well, with Finders Keepers topping the ratings at 411,000 (somewhat proving my theory above) followed by Fun House, The Sooty Show, Art Attack and Knightmare all above 350K.  The general reaction to the Old Skool Weekend has been incredible, and as much as CITV are saying it is a one-off, they'd be mad to not consider some select runs of programmes that can still appeal to today's children, especially given how few new programmes the budget runs to.  The praise directed towards CITV via social media has been quite overwhelming and shows there's still a lot of fondness for the brand, despite everything it has been through in the past few years.  Full credit is due to the channel management and planning in London, the scheduling, content and transmission teams in Leeds and presentation in Manchester who all put more effort than you'll ever know to make it happen.  And although I had but the tiniest of roles (those correct aspect ratios?  that was me) it was great to be a small part of something that made me feel really proud to work for the company.  They didn't have to do this, remember: it might not even have been acknowledged, but we ended up with a hour in primetime and a whole weekend of archive.  It's brightened up one of the most depressing weekends of the year as the Christmas decorations come down; and certainly kept me glued to the sofa for two days straight.  Maybe I wasn't so much of a Children's BBC child after all...