Thursday, October 11, 2007

A 1970s shopping list



"Ah, some things from the seventies are worth bringing back. No, not Bernard Manning. Wildcat strikes! Who’d have thought that it would be the screws to show the way, and the posties to take it…",
writes brilliant blogger Charlie Marks.
Which got me thinking: what else from the 1970s would we like to see brought back?
Here’s my little list- I'd be interested to read yours.

1. The Ellery Queen tv series (above).
2. Tony Benn as Secretary of State for Industry.
3. A government that actually included some people with principles.
4. A truly mixed economy.
5. It Ain't Half Hot Mum (not homophobic or racist as its ill-informed critics say but a very funny series)
6.Being able to smoke in an enclosed public place without being arrested.
7. Truly competitive football-where money didn't rule the roost- a world in which a small club like QPR could come within minutes of winning the title and Second Division sides like Sunderland could still win the FA Cup.
8. British Rail
9. Publicly owned utility companies that were there to serve the public, not rip them off.
10. Any comedy series with Arthur Lowe and Leonard Rossiter.
11. Chris Evert
12. Mannikin cigar boxes
13. Hamlet cigars tv adverts.
14. Upstairs Downstairs
15. Lesley Anne-Down.
16. Van McCoy
17. The Theme from Van der Valk
18. Bamber Gascoigne.
19. Reggie Maudling
and last, but certainly, not least
20. Red Rum.

19 comments:

thatcher 4ever said...

The three day week, Red Robbo, 30% inflation and The Bay City Rollers. Ah, halcyon days....

Charlie Marks said...

I take it back, Bernard Manning could be funny in the 70s before he got into the racist crap. There's some of his stuff from The Comedians on youtube which is passable...

Ah, thatcher4ever. I don't like inflation much -- nor do I like unemployment, as it happens -- but what's wrong with Red Robbo. And, erm... The rollers had some catchy tunes, no?

Neil Clark said...

thatcher 4ever: inflation rose to near 30% because of the oil crisis which followed the Yom Kippur war of 1973, which was not the government's fault. They had got it down to single figures by 1978,
only for it shoot back up again when your beloved Iron Lady came into power and increased VAT to 15% and raised other indirect taxes.
and charlie's right- the rollers did have some good tunes!

Darren said...

'It Ain't Half Racist Mom' was unfunny crap. Nostalgia has its limits

Neil Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Clark said...

Can you explain why you regard IAHHM as racist Darren?
Have you actually ever watched any episodes?
I abhor all forms of racism and I if I honestly thought IAHM was racist, I would not be such a fan of the programme. The joke is on the o.t.t. homophobic and undereducated RSM, played so memorably by Windsor Davies, and the silly arse officers. The Indian characters are among the heroes in the show, particularly Rangi Ram.
You can buy the whole series on DVD now, I honestly recommend you doing so and then reporting back to us. It's as least as funny as Perry and Croft's other masterpiece: Dads Army- and probably has more outright laughs in each episode than D.A.

Darren said...

Neil,

I grew up watching it. It was woeful, but not as bad in its crappy racist stereotyping as Mind Your Language, mind.

Most seventies sitcoms were garbage, but because our selective memories can only remember Porridge and Rising Damp, we think it was a golden age for comedy.

Btw Neil, if you think Half Hot has more laughs than Dad's Army, you've got a tin ear for comedy. ;-)

Neil Clark said...

"Most seventies sitcoms were garbage, but because our selective memories can only remember Porridge and Rising Damp, we think it was a golden age for comedy."

It's not just Porridge and Rising Damp, and It Ain't HHM and Dad's Army, Darren. It's Fawlty Towers. It's The Good Life. It's the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. It's Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads. It's Steptoe and Son. and I could go on and on.

Sorry, but I think it really was a golden age. What have we got to compare with series such as the above today? The IT Room? Little Britain? You're 'aving a laugh.

johnny speight's mum said...

What have we got to compare with series such as the above today? The IT Room? Little Britain?

Little Britain isn't a sitcom, so that's cheating. As for The IT Crowd, it's a very minor work by the man responsible for Father Ted and Black Books.

OK, so Father Ted was last broadcast a decade ago - but since then we've had The Office, Extras, dinnerladies, Phoenix Nights, I'm Alan Partridge, Peep Show, Green Wing, Nighty Night and The Thick of It (a work of near-genius that miraculously survived the incarceration of its original leading man). And that's just off the top of my head.

And in your itemising of decent 70s sitcoms, you're conveniently forgetting that sexist, racist, pitifully unfunny codswallop like On the Buses, Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language were ratings winners that ran for years. Golden age my arse, as Jim Royle (and there's another one!) might say.

Neil Clark said...

johnny speight's mum: no one is arguing that there weren't some duds around in the 70s too- (did anyone raise so much as a snigger at The Liver Birds?), but pound for pound there were a hell of a lot more brilliant comedy series around then than there are today. Fawlty Towers, Porridge, Rising Damp, The Good Life, Dad's Army, It Aint Half HM, Steptoe and Son, The Fall and Rise of Reggie P, were all classics of the genre. I agree with you that The Office, Extras and Alan Partridge are great series,(the 'Cheeky Monkey' sketch in the latter is, I think, one of the funniest tv moments of all time)but there is simply not the volume of great comedy shows around today as there was back in the 1970s.

Reg Varney said...

What was wrong with On the Buses?

johnny speight's mum said...

but there is simply not the volume of great comedy shows around today as there was back in the 1970s.

...despite the fact that I named more than you did.

Oh, and I forgot about Dylan Moran's criminally underrated How Do You Want Me?. Not to mention Spaced. And Nathan Barley was five years late but sometimes painfully funny.

Johnny Speight's Mum said...

pound for pound there were a hell of a lot more brilliant comedy series around then than there are today

Nostalgia's all very well, until the rose-tinted blinkers cause you to ignore the evidence.

The fact is that the period from roughly 1994-5 (The Day Today, Father Ted, Knowing Me Knowing You) to the present has seen at least as many great sitcoms as the 1970s in terms of quality - I listed several above, and there are many more.

(And that's just British sitcoms - there was also a significant increase in high-quality US imports along the lines of Seinfeld, Frasier, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Simpsons. What were their equivalents in the 1970s? M*A*S*H, I'll grant you, but what else? Happy Days? The Brady Bunch? You see my point?)

The crucial difference is sociological, not qualitative: because of the fragmentation of the television landscape since 1990, the nation is no longer glued en masse to the same small handful of programmes. And because more people have these shared memories, they con themselves into believing (against all the evidence) that the 1970s was somehow "better".

Neil Clark said...

the acid test is this johnny:
will the shows you mention still be playing to mass audiences on the tv when they are repeated twenty, thirty years from now?
I take your point about the fragmentation of the tv landscape though.

johnny Speight's Mum said...

will the shows you mention still be playing to mass audiences on the tv when they are repeated twenty, thirty years from now?

That's a red herring, since my whole point is that post-1990 sitcoms have generally been created with far smaller audiences in mind, and therefore won't have the advantage of a similar (and largely state-sponsored) grip on the collective memory.

This is quite apart from the undoubted fact that most of today's comedy writers actively shun the limelight, or at least try to make sure it isn't turned up too brightly - Ricky Gervais' insistence that BBC2 screen Extras after the BBC wanted it on BBC1 being a case in point. And if Julia Davis intended Nighty Night to appeal to a mass audience, I suspect she'd have written something so different as to be unrecognisable.

This is another great advantage of the post-1990 set-up - the budgets are lower and the opportunities for reaching mass audiences fewer, but there's far more scope to take risks. Granted, they don't always come off (that's the nature of risk-taking, after all), but it's impossible to imagine 1970s telly broadcasting Nighty Night, let alone Brass Eye.

And of course the other reason it's harder to reach mass audiences is that we have infinitely more choice - not just in terms of a wider range of programmes on offer, but also in how we watch them: the nation no longer sits down at the same time to watch whatever BBC1 happens to be doling out: they use VCRs and PVRs to timeshift, while the broadcasters themselves are far more likely to show quick repeats.

But the real irony about your original list is that you'd be on much stronger ground if you argued that one-off TV drama was stronger in the 1970s than now - comedy is a far more contentious issue.

cramerj said...

The best thing from the 70s was that they didn't use the word 'racist' every other word.

sasquatch said...

The best thing from the 70s was that they didn't use the word 'racist' every other word.

That's because they were too busy being racist, I suspect.

Face it, Neil, the 1970s was a vile decade for the most part: the mere fact that it culminated with the punk movement and Thatcher (both of which arguably needed to happen) speaks volumes.

I suspect I remember it more vividly than you, since you were barely out of nappies when it began and only in your early teens when it finished.

Neil Clark said...

sasquatch: I think saying the 70s was a vile decade for the most part is very ott.
ordinary working people were in so many ways much better off then than they are now: thing that people took for granted back then, like cheap train travel, cheap utility bills, are now major costs. The music was better, the sport was more unpredicatble and exciting (can you imagine a small club QPR getting to within 15 minutes of winning the title today)and the politics was immeasurably more interesting. And also, despite, JS's mum's valiant efforts to persuade me otherwise, I still maintain that the sitcoms were better too!

Anonymous said...

i think iahhm was class aswell as mind your language the word racist is used too loosely these days .lighten up people its a bit of fun.