[…continued from Part III]
Nowadays it seems as if every successful TV detective has to have a quirk or a habit to separate them from the ‘ordinary’… Veronica Mars is a teenager, House is (essentially) a medical detective, in Lie to Me Tim Roth plays a ‘mannerism specialist’, Dexter is a serial killer, Monk suffers from O.C.D. and Rosemary & Thyme are…. erm… gardeners.
In 1973 the most extreme thing about the cops shows we watched was that… the crimes were solved in Holland!
Van Der Valk was a huge hit TV series that ran for five years in the UK. I was hooked on it.
The oft-gruesome storyline was always contrasted by the visuals of the show, which were stunningly beautiful. The location shots of Amsterdam – with its lovely rivers, barges and quaint little balanced bridges – stayed with me long after the show finished.
What has stayed with me longer however is the show’s theme tune, a magnificent earworm of a song entitled “Eye Level” by the Simon Park Orchestra. It sold over a million copies, reached Number 1 in the UK charts, and stayed there for four weeks in 1973.
It’s such an earworm of a tune, and so synonymous with the show, that when my wife & I were lucky enough to visit Amsterdam a couple of years ago I (sadly for her) spent much of the stay wandering the streets whistling it out loud. I’m sure I won’t have been the first Brit to do that… and I know I won’t be the last!
New Faces featured a presenter – Derek Hobson – and an industry/celebrity panel of judges who graded each wannabe performer in three categories; Presentation, Content and (importantly) Star Quality. The winners each week went through to the next round, pitting themselves against other successes until there was a series winner via a grand finale. (Sound familiar Susan Boyle?)
The snarky “Simon Cowell” of New Faces was songwriter Tony Hatch (who wrote many of Petula Clark‘s hits, the theme to soap opera “Crossroads” and was responsible for kick starting David Bowie‘s career). Just like Cowell he was considered ‘mean’ by the audience, especially when, during one memorable episode, he gave a particularly poor blues guitarist zero out of 10 in every category. One person’s ‘mean’ is another person’s ‘honesty’ I guess?
The show did give an important break to a variously-talented selection of performers. Comedians Lenny Henry, Joe Pasquale, Roy Walker and Victoria Wood all impressed the judges, likewise musical artists Showaddywaddy, Fivepenny Piece and Patti Boulaye.
Acts which the public subsequently probably wished hadn’t become stars include sad alcoholic ‘entertainer’ Michael Barrymore, the slapstick moronity of The Chuckle Brothers, average all-rounder screecher Marti Caine and hideously-racist comedian Jim Davidson.
One act which fell through the cracks – and astonishingly failed in his quest for stardom – is Stevie Riks, someone whom I have only recently become familiar with thanks to his relative ubiquity on YouTube. Riks is a – to me anyway – hysterical musical impressionist, specialising in sending up acts such as Bowie, Freddie Mercury, the Bee Gees and all of the Beatles. His low definition impressions are often grotesque but his mannerisms are always right on the money.
More recently Riks’ YouTube videos have become the subject of ludicrous”copyright restrictions” by (humourless) record labels and publishers, so they’re a little harder to find than they were, but searching his name will usually give everyone some funny clips to laugh (some really out loud) at.
A particular favourite of mine is this one, Riks doing Freddie Mercury singing Lieutenant Pigeon’s ‘classic’ “Mouldy Old Dough“…
I seem to remember New Faces being on around Saturday teatime? Was it 6 o’clock? Hardly prime time is it? Not like now, where (so-called) ‘talent shows’ invade our eyeballs with increasing regularity, the law of diminishing returns providing us with progressively average ‘stars’
Well, here endeth my personal dissertation about English telly in 1973.
Due to the the risk of possibly boring you all, I deliberately avoided talking about another (particularly guilty) pleasure of mine from the time; “Man About the House“. I will say this… it’s difficult, now, to imagine this show creating a public scandal. But that’s what it did back then…. because of its storyline of a bloke living with (but not married to either) two women.
It’s not as if it was ever pornographic. Paula Wilcox in a négligée (and at – quite possibly – the very height of her youthful beauty) excepted
The next few posts should return to my diary entries.. that is at least before I go off on any other ’73-centric tangents!