Turn on, Tune in . ..
Too young to remember the 603? Let BBC2 ﬁll in the gaps with an entire day devoted to the blissed- out war-torn decade. Tom Lappin refuses to don the kaftan.
To paraphrase a popular saying, if you remember the 60s, you‘re inevitably a boring old hippy. For those of us for whom popular culture started with Slade and Heelor‘s House, there‘s an understandable tendency to get very irritated at that generation who keep telling us that we missed the greatest party in the history of the world, a natural reluctance to admit that The Beatles were any good, and a perfectly reasonable antipathy towards anyone using the expressmn ‘man'.
The main problem is that all those tumed-on, tuned- in telnporaril y dropped-out fortsomethings are now happily ensconced in positions of power in the media. where their vision of youth is still distinctly acid-tinged. That might have something to do with BBC2's latest venture into ‘special programming', a day entirely devoted to shows from that decade.
‘A perfect day of 60s programming' was the goal, according to producer Mick Conefrey. ‘There's been a debate about the legacy of the 60s, asking whether it was a great big party which ultimately resulted in what happened ill the 80s, a reaction against the permissive society. We touch on that argument. but basically the idea was to present a day of classic entertalnlnent.‘
Which you can‘t fault him on. Anyone with the slightest interest in the history of television will ﬁnd One Day In The 60s a veritable treasure trove. ‘We tried to find a cross-section of programmes,‘ says Conefrey, ‘a couple of classic comedies, a couple of
classic documentaries. detective series, Department S, a compilation of sporting highlights.’
The results include Galton and Simpson's brilliantly downbeat Steptoe And Son, a Marty Feldman special, the splendidly camp Department 5, the appallingly bumptious Robert Robinson presenting Ask The Family and the classic American weepie epic serial Peyton Plat-e. These were programmes that were in a sense national events. In an era when channel choice was limited to two, or latterly three, buttons, TV had the capacity to provide a nation with a common talking point that no longer applies in the current, fragmented broadcasting climate.
if many of the shows seem naive, simplistic and shoddy, it should be remembered that this was an era when TV was a new medium, and producers were still learning about its potential. ‘The 60s was when people had big ideas.’ says Confrey. ‘They thought it was possible to change the world, there was an excitement about the white heat of technology and all these radical views. Pop music was arriving in a big way. There was a rawness and excitement around. There was a whole new channel ill BBC2 which had to be filled. it was like when Channel 4 started, there
, s M “I; c H ‘ .
were new sorts of programmes, new people, because
there was so much more airtime to fill.‘
The perverser Utopian feel ofthe time (when a major war was escalating in Vietnam, and any politician with a liberal agenda tended to be riddled with bullets) fuelled television. Freshness was the order of the day.
‘There was show called The Whole Thing Goes, a
BBC teenage show from 1966 which was so exciting. The Who were there as an up and coming band, they
were asking who was going to be the face of I966, Spike Milligan and Lulu were doing a sort of problem slot. if you compare it to teenage programmes now there’s a sense of nobody cares that much any more, they've lost that freshness. Everything‘s so self-conscious.’
Like many of those bright young things ofthe 608 TV nowadays resembles a bloated middle-aged divorcee with a rumbling prostate and a huge overdraft. if you want to recapture those innocently sexy teenage years. take a day off on 30 August.
One Day In The 60s is on BBC2 on Monday 30 August front [1.45am—midnight.
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92 The List 27 August—9 September 1993