1ST SEPTEMBER 2005
Listen and repeat after me…
Michael Grade is wrong. The problem, is not as the Chairman of the BBC claims, that the corporation shows too many repeats. It is that it doesn’t show anywhere near enough. The only reason I, and I suspect millions of others continue to cough up for our television licences, is to enjoy again the gems made in the golden age before television executives decided that watching people attend a car boot sale or decorate a house constituted ‘entertainment’. For us, the silent majority, repeats of Only Fools and Horses and The Good Life stand out like beacons amidst the dross of makeover shows, talent contests for the untalented and inane quizzes. But as welcome as Del Boy and Tom and Barbara will always be in our living rooms, why are their series the only comedies which the BBC ever seems to repeat on a regular basis? ’The Weaver’s Tale’, the episode of The Good Life in which Margo buys a spinning wheel, never fails to amuse, but it has been repeated four times in the past three years, (including again last night at 7.00), whereas no episode of ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ has been seen on BBC1 or 2 since 1995. Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s series- wrongly attacked by the pc brigade for being racist and homophobic, delightfully lampooned the attitudes of the British in India. Don’t today’s generation have a right to enjoy- as mine did- the hilarious antics of the Royal Artillery Concert Party and Windsor Davies’ definitive portrayal of a bullying and uneducated Sergeant Major- rated by Spike Milligan as the funniest comic performance he had ever seen? Richard Briers’ talent is there for all to see in the Good Life, but why do we never get the opportunity of enjoying this brilliant actor in repeats of Ever Decreasing Circles too? In the field of drama, more repeats would also be welcome. Instead of wasting licence-payer’s money on East Enders-style drivel like Cutting It, why don’t the Beeb repeat hugely popular series like The House of Eliot, which captivated viewers in the early 1990s? And for real life drama, what could be more gripping than watching again John Freeman's 'Face to Face' interviews with the likes of Evelyn Waugh, Gilbert Harding and Bertrand Russell? The BBC has one of the largest television archives in the world. So why on earth don’t we see more from it?
Copyright NEIL CLARK/THE TIMES NEWSPAPER