FIRST IMPRESSIONS: they count for so much, particularly if you're about to spend half an hour or so of your early evening in someone's company, and that someone is hailing you from a crappy covered market in Manchester. What, then, have been the crystal bucket's most magnificent opening sorties…but also those which have had you reaching for the hoofer-doofer before you can say "My name's Sharon Theodopolopoudos"?
#1: W12 7RJ
DEFINITION: What finer way of marking the arrival of another episode of the show than by "arriving" at Television Centre itself?
Referencing the greatest building in the world in the opening titles of a programme is a guaranteed winner, especially if there's room for a bit of business involving the hosts turning up at the gates of the BBC TV Centre, having trouble getting in, then hastening somewhat haphazardly through the car park.
A BIT OF FRY AND LAURIE (series 2) delivered all the goods here, prefacing the pay-off with a long sequence showing Stephen and Hugh making their uproarious way around London, attempting a bit of hapless rowing in the Serpentine and being shouted at a by a guardsman in The Mall before strolling, tatty shopping bags in hand, down Shepherd's Bush way towards the entrance to the Concrete Doughnut itself. We even got to see them press the two "open" buttons on the car park gate. An inspired escapade, almost matched in comedy timing by the start of THE ANT AND DEC SHOW, wherein our hosts rushed manically rather than dolefully towards TV Centre, enthusiastically kicking the camera lens before oh-so-knowingly catching sight of themselves on a giant billboard in the process.
You really need to see this whole process of steadily approaching and then gaining entrance to the building for maximum effect. Hoofing down a TV Centre corridor a la CARROTT CONFIDENTIAL is just teasing, even if we did get to see Bob doing double-takes at sight gags about that week's news. Similarly just think how even more imperial the start of GOING LIVE! could've been if it had featured not just Phil and Sarah joyfully throwing open to door to Studio 7 but prancing all the way through White City as well. What's lost through expediency can often, however, be repaired through a bit of hastily-drawn cartoon animation: to wit, the fantastic start of LITTLE AND LARGE, featuring a big-heads-on-little-bodies incarnation of Syd and Eddie brazenly parachuting into TV Centre from the air.
EXCEPTIONS: The original, ultra-smug opening to LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND, with the cloying clavichordist sliding up to TV Centre in a huge limo and scuttling through the foyer only to be stopped by a hassled receptionist who has a "telephone call for you, Mr Holland". "Sorry," mugs Jools, "I'll have to take that…(turns to camera)…later!"
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: the opening titles to WOGAN, with Terry making his urbane and decorous way across the plush verdant meadows of Shepherd's Bush Green, waving merrily at passers-by (cue shot of a baby suddenly crying in a pram), passing a newspaper vendor who hands him an issue with the front page headline "BREAKING NEWS: TERRY ON TELLY TONIGHT!", joshing with a sandwich board man whose sign reads "THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH…" before turning round to reveal the legend "…WOGAN BACK ON THE BOX", furtively paying the ageing security guard at the doorway of the Theatre to let him in, then arriving at what he thinks is his dressing room (cue crowd of whooping female fans) only to see the name on the door has been changed to "PHIL COLLINS" (or whoever's the big guest that night), and ending with him hastening towards the studio throwing comedy nervous glances at the camera.
SEE ALSO: AN AUDIENCE WITH DUDLEY MOORE, where the pint-sized piano man "arrives" at LWT studios in a taxi cab dressed as "Dud" in an oversized cloth cap and shabby coat, only to awkwardly mumble his unfunny way through the doorway to London Television Centre. They should've had Michael Grade dressed as a doorman.
#2: WILL THIS DO?
DEFINITION: They really shouldn't have bothered
Some of the most half-arsed and flimsy of title sequences have, it's true, topped and tailed some of the finest TV programme ever made. Neither DAD'S ARMY or RISING DAMP dwelt long on the business of showing their hand by way of suitably estimable opening titles, opting respectively for some amateurishly animated arrows pirouetting dementedly around a badly-drawn map of Europe (why did the German one loop back on itself mid-advance?), and somebody's front door.
Yet in some cases a tatty opening sequence has summed up precisely what's to come, and for this you need look no further than SOME MOTHERS DO 'AVE 'EM!: a supremely indifferent, thunderously bland and ultra-cheap effort - and the titles weren't that much better either. A wimpy strip of tickertape inching uncertainly across the bottom of the screen backed by a lone penny whistle rasping out a needling bit of nonsense was bad enough; but then came the proud proclamation "BBC Television Presents…"! What was this, a Royal Wedding Fireworks Party? That sort of thing doesn't belong on a BBC sitcom, no matter how "insanely loveable" its main star!
There have been plenty other tokenistic title triflings, but none so brazen or, thanks to endless repeats, so obviously antiquated. THE BOOK TOWER's ace carillon-chimes-and-door-bell opening fanfare, courtesy of Lord Lloyd-Webber, was rather dismally paired with a load of still photographs of a country house (where was the "Tower"?). THE ADVENTURE GAME went even more low-key, opting for a slow zoom-in on a BBC studio light. Perhaps seeking not to call too much attention to itself, all ELDORADO could offer up in response to a twirling map of the River Thames or a cosy portfolio of Manchester cobbles was, erm, a computer generated-sun rising over a computer-generated sea. Still, at least it only lasted 10 seconds.
Then there are those instances where the programme-makers have clearly thought themselves and their work "above" any such nonsense as a title sequence. I, CLAUDIUS was never in danger of overselling itself by opting for a shot of an ugly snake writhing over a load of badly-lit mosaic tiles over and over again. FACE TO FACE dispensed with anything moving at all, going for an even more badly-lit photograph of two BAFTA awards followed by some dog-eared line drawings of that week's guest. As for INSPECTOR MORSE, a few white-on-black captions was all Central TV could be bothered with - and even then they stupidly didn't include one that said "Inspector Morse".
EXCEPTIONS: We can forgive LARRY GRAYSON'S GENERATION GAME for choosing to open with a camera roving around a solitary colour slide that read "Larry Grayson's Generation Game", because a) it was in a jaunty font b) it was backed by a cheery ensemble announcing "Shut that door/And enjoy the Generation Game/What's in store?/The best of relations is our aim!/Larry Grayson is here to play, soooooooo…." c) at which point a silhouetted aperture opened in the middle of the slide, Larry's voice boomed out "Shut that door", the aperture duly closed, and the imperial fun and games could begin.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: BREAKFAST WITH FROST. A dull, no-nonsense bit of business involving some shots of Dave getting out of bed and making breakfast would've been far more appropriate than a breathless montage of the man pottering absent-mindedly around computer animations of world heritage sites.
SEE ALSO: PLEASE, SIR! Look, the school's in a street. It's right next to a power station! And there are some schoolkids - in the school playground!
#3: UP IN LIGHTS
DEFINITION: A generous helping of neon and nothing but
A distant cousin of the above, these particular title sequences boast a similar interest in the bare minimum of paintbox paraphernalia, but instead of making no effort whatsoever to spark our interest opt for a shameless wall-to-wall dose of electronic illumination.
Offering nothing but repeated neon legends of the titular conversationalist's name, RUSSELL HARTY is a textbook example here. The man's long-running BBC2 swanky soirees dispensed with all frippery, and over a Palm Court lounge-style quickstep welcomed viewers with a perfunctory, though nicely animated, statement of our host's moniker. And that was it. Not even a picture of Russell's face, let alone one of him wryly watching himself on television.
Clearly the thinking here was that, while the title sequence should restrict itself to the imparting of important information (it's a no frills show), there should be some concession to the promise of wit and whimsy (it's being hosted by Russell Harty). Hence the flashing neon lettering on a droll black background - the same approach adopted by the 1970s incarnation of MATCH OF THE DAY with its blocky illuminations and multi-coloured fonts making a welcome change from all the orange and brown you would've seen on the NEWS a few minutes beforehand.
Of course the comedy series has had its share of halogen-enhanced haberdashery. SORRY! is your touchstone, with all the usual on-screen fanfares (title, star, writers) reproduced in astonishingly bright neon script, interspersed for added value with similarly-rendered outlines of Ronnie Corbett's face and topped off with Ronnie Hazelhurst's infinitely hummable celebration of the wah-wah pedal. THE DAWSON WATCH also got the balance right: a pastiche of a current affairs theme tune, some urgent flashing illuminated announcements, then straight to business. THE TWO RONNIES, meanwhile, dabbled in the kind of neon "handwriting" that'd turn up on SORRY!, RUSSELL HARTY et al, besides throwing in some equally-fluorescent reading glasses for good measure.
Special mention must also go to ODD ONE OUT for spelling out its triple-headed title in giant neon text, each word accompanied by a different reaction from an illustrated version of host Paul Daniels: 1) curious puzzlement 2) thoughtful reflection 3) slack-jawed revelation.
EXCEPTIONS: HI-DE-HI! tried for the best of all possible worlds, combining HAPPY DAYS-style posed shots of the leading cast plus neon script all overlaid on dodgy 1950s newsreels. Too much!
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: OPEN ALL HOURS. Well, it worked for a solo Ronnie C., would've made sense (a neon sign = shop), and would've been 100 times better than boring freeze frames of a gurning Ronnie B and a simpering David Jason.
SEE ALSO: The gently lapping
water and see-sawing Brian Eno electronica of ARENA's neon-bottle-bobbing badinage.
#4: THE FUN'S ALREADY STARTED!
DEFINITION: Laugh along with a heavily-miked studio audience
Going along to watch the live recording of a TV show is always an exciting occasion, but to be frank no one ever journeys all the way to Shepherd's Bush Theatre or Television Centre in order to sit through some opening titles. You're saving your laughs for the main event, not the stuff you've already seen every week - or rather what you've seen in between decanting the tea bag, drawing the curtains or dusting off the last fondant fancy.
It was once the case, though, that patrons of the taping of a TV show would be expected to not only pay assiduous attention to the programme's title sequence - usually being screened on a tiny monitor suspended high in the studio ceiling - but, well, react. Loudly. Preferably in the form of blusterous laughter. Hence the way THE GOODIES always opened with the somewhat baffling sound of a audience in hysterics at the same shot of Tim falling in some water or Bill being blown up or a bowling ball being dropped through Graeme's stomach that turned up at the start of the show every single bloody week. Similarly there were always guffaws aplenty in evidence at the umpteenth appearance of the giant foot in the titles of MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS.
All these renewed gales of appreciation at stuff which the ordinary viewer had seen week in week never made for decent title sequences. It always felt like you were missing out on the joke. Was something extra going on in the studio that night, which only the live audience got to see? Was there some business going down involving the warm-up, or worse, one of the cast themselves? At least when you had titles that changed each week the giggling on the soundtrack seemed to make more sense. NOT THE NINE O'CLOCK NEWS got this practice down to a fine art, though even they resorted to variations on a theme (what unflattering image can we splice into footage of Mrs Thatcher giving a speech this week?) and the laughter itself was often drowned out by those endless squealing electric guitars.
Maybe it was done to make us feel like we were getting our full money's worth. Look, even the titles are funny, and here are people chuckling at them to prove it! You could never be sure, however, that the titanic outpouring of mirth at Richard O'Sullivan trying to start his moped yet again or Paula Wilcox dropping yet another object out of her handbag during the start of MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE hadn't been rustled up by some other means. Perhaps, though, the laughter was one of simple, good-natured recognition at seeing, say, your particular favourite version on the parasol-and-soft-drink TERRY AND JUNE teaser.
EXCEPTIONS: Hearing a politely-voiced BBC receptionist enquire. "Who is that fat bastard?" at the start of ALEXEI SAYLE'S STUFF was still funny after the sixth attempt. Just not the sixteenth.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: FRESH FIELDS, accompanying a montage of shots depicting Hester waiting at a bus stop and being splashed by a passing car; William eating dinner, going to put a forkful of potato in his mouth, only for the food to splatter back onto his plate and for him to look quizzically at the now defiantly-empty piece of cutlery; Hester and William squabbling over which sections of the Sunday paper to read; William standing in the garden wondering why the mower isn't working only for Hester to lean out of the kitchen window to gesticulate he hasn't plugged it in; and Hester looking amused at William's attempt to struggle into an ill-fitting paisley shirt.
SEE ALSO: The start of THAT'S LIFE!, wherein clips of previous episodes were mixed in with footage of the gang in self-consciously silly situations, usually Adrian and Gavin causing mayhem in a corner shop and Doc dressed up as a woman, with the audience tittering merrily along and saving their biggest laugh for the big when the name of the show would appear via letters falling off a big "THRIFTY SALE!" sign.
#5: LOOK AT THIS! (BUT NOT TOO CLOSELY)
DEFINITION: Action-packed antics which blatantly belie the programme's real content
It's the late 1970s. Viewers unfamiliar with the whimsical world of Langley, MacLeod, Foster and co, and who'd been watching NEWS AFTER NOON, left their TV set on but had moved away from the screen for some reason, would, on catching a burst of the opening theme to PEBBLE MILL AT ONE, have assumed BBC1 had cued in a blockbuster US action film set either in the tough streets of New York or the tycoon-infested prairies of Texas. They certainly would not have associated the bombastic, swaggering parping drifting through their living room as the cue for a polite mix of topical chat, consumer watchdoggery and cut-price cuisine.
In fact, anybody either hearing or indeed watching the programme's opening titles during the 70s - 'Mill veteran or otherwise - would've been lying if they didn't admit to finding them downright exhilarating: a formation team of motorcycle riders; a glimpse of a glamorous sports car; one or two pieces of glistening military hardware; a man being punched in the stomach; another man falling off a roof onto a pile of boxes; swooping helicopter shots of bustling cityscapes… All tremendously exciting and fun - and utterly at odds with the overwhelmingly cosy, cardiganed confection that followed.
Not that it made the show in itself any less of a worthwhile way to pass 45 minutes. Likewise NATIONWIDE, always value for money but blessed with an unashamedly over-egged cavalcade of sounds and images in its titles, from Michael Barratt stepping purposefully out of a swanky motor to a dizzying shot of the Severn Bridge to that bloke walking about with the "End Of The World Is Nigh" sandwich board to an urgent close-up of a power station to tons of spinning mandalas to the truly fantastic opening theme.
TV-am famously roped half of the country into making its opening titles, including four sky divers, 6000 citizens of Bristol, the entire crew of HMS Hermes and 917 pigeons, but was still shit. BREAKFAST TIME, on the other hand, opted for a far more dignified and underplayed start-up - everyday scenes of the nation waking up and preparing for the day - and was ace. DOOMWATCH, meanwhile, greeted viewers with a fantastic opening sequence: a globe-trotting travelogue of mayhem, outlining the show's premise of a world ravaged by plague. Which then cut to the inside of a tatty, badly-lit BBC studio where two characters dressed in rags were having an interminable discussion about the ethics of capital punishment. Next!
EXCEPTIONS: We've always had a soft spot for the mid-80s suite of BBC News opening titles: the sleek white "racetrack" for 'ONE, the busy-busy "filing cabinet" for 'SIX, and the intergalactic fish fingers for 'NINE. They always seemed vaguely preposterous when shown out of context on OPEN AIR or POINTS OF VIEW, but when coming just before an urgent dispatch from Phil, Sue, Nick or Moira made for thrilling TV.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: SIXTY MINUTES. It was supposed to be the ultra-dashing, cutting edge replacement for NATIONWIDE. Its title sequence comprised a segmented flying orange snake.
SEE ALSO: Children's programme
DR WHO - the lavishness of the titles being forever inversely proportional to
the quality of the show itself. We don't want to see the good Doctor winking
suggestively at us!
#6: HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
DEFINITION: The opposite of the "pot pourri" round on MASTERTEAM
Title sequences which forgo whistles and bells for no-nonsense erudite elucidation on what we're going to get if we stay tuned should, in theory, make for some of the most sober telly going. Fortunately, the combining of reams of information with the obligatory capricious fonts and toe-tapping theme tunes has actually made for some of the most demented telly going. And it's almost always been ace.
It's common sense really. After all, when there's fun to be had and - in particular - prizes to be won, why beat about the bush and keep viewers in the dark one second longer? Hence the mastery of CHAIN LETTERS, which not only dispensed with its entire premise in the first ten seconds but - brilliantly - did it through song. "Change a letter!" chirruped a jovial ensemble of mid-Atlantic voices. "Do it again!" they added, with increasingly urgency. "And you've got a chain!" they continued, in a statement of mellifluous matter-of-fact. Then came the pay-off. "That's how you play…" Yes? "…Chain Letters!" And with a triumphant flourish they kicked back with a few bursts of "Do-do, do-do, do-do", before teasing us with a "Woah-oh-oh" then signing off with a rousing, self-explanatory cry of "Here's Beadle!"
In the here's-how-it-works stakes nothing comes close to this. What other presenter would have themselves introduced only as a surname? What other title sequence has ever bothered to go that extra mile and actually point out "That's how you play!" And what other game show, on the face of it, was less in need of an orchestrated, fully-harmonised précis? It would have taken Beadle less time to explain the rules than it did the choir to sing them! But no matter, because it was fantastic. If only they'd done the same thing for TURNABOUT.
Of course, all this only worked to its full majesty while Jeremy was in charge, and not any of the, count 'em, five people who followed. Similarly CROSSWITS began its life a far cry from the colourful hum-along bonanza of its later years, initially doffing its cap by way of a solitary Acorn Computer graphic and the definitive as-it-is announcement: "CROSSWITS - the crossword programme that tests your wits!" THE KRYPTON FACTOR set out its stall with typical economy, ticking off its various rounds by way of a shape-shifting K (best incarnation: the Brucie-esque "thinker" pose), while by contrast CLUEDO dragged out its introductions with a load of scene-setting meet-the-celebrities palaver that only served to remind you of who'd been the murderer so far the series and therefore who it was likely to be this week.
Then there was FRAGGLE ROCK, which neatly set up the entire world of the eponymous scruffy Hensonites with a musical montage that comprised not just namechecks but, blimey, an entire adventure. Elsewhere the sit of many a com was succinctly etched out by way of its opening titles, none more so than GEORGE AND MILDRED's leaf through an oversized photo album showing the titular twosome's reliably zany route to married strife. Plus there were those series of BRUCE FORSYTH AND THE GENERATION GAME which began brilliantly with a collection of clips from previous editions superimposed with head shots of Brucie "reacting" to the goings-on as if re-watching all the shows on tape: cue nostalgic I'll-just-make-a-note-of-that expression.
EXCEPTIONS: The title sequence of BIRDS OF A FEATHER managed the double-whammy of not only telling viewers what they were going to get but also that it would be bloody awful. Two sour-faced women in white shirts taking a stride towards the camera, stopping, then taking another stride. What more did you need? Other than the sound of said women simultaneously attempting to find their way through the tune of the title song, and failing.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: Yes, it's children's programme DR WHO again. How much better the opening would've been if it had tried to basically sum up the whole show to date. Clippage of William Hartnell fingering his lapel while trying to read a cue card, Patrick Troughton doing Macca-style head-wobbling, Jon P'twee singing "Haroon haroon haroon", Tom Baker talking to camera, Peter Davidson bickering with companions in the TARDIS, Colin Baker just bickering, and the back of Sylvester McCoy's head would've been far better than, well, a load of wavy lines. Plus it would make clear that Dr Who never was and never will be "just the name of the programme".
SEE ALSO: Endless Gerry Anderson series, which always seemed to spend the first five minutes of every single episode joylessly recapping the entire history of the programme, including an earnest inventory of how the relevant secret organisation or superhero came into being, where it/he lives, what method of transport they use to get from A to B, then how the enemy came into being, where it lives, what method of transport they use to get from A to B… Enough! Just get to the bit when that giant metal fish leaps out of the water!
#7: BUGGER ALL
DEFINITION: There's a title theme, but no titles - the lazy bastards
It's so often the way. You go to all the trouble of commissioning someone, usually Ronnie Hazelhurst, to come up with a killer theme tune, and then find out there's no budget, or no inclination, to rustle up some similarly smashing titles to go with it. So what do you do? Run the damn thing regardless, of course, but over some busy-busy establishing shot of a cast member doing a bit of business, only silently, or of a piece of scenery doing nothing - and then hope the show itself picks up quick enough to make people forget it didn't even have a proper start.
The thing about these programmes is that more often than not they have great themes, some of the best of all time, but like David Butler without Bob MacKenzie or Tom O'Connor without Maggie Moone, you watch them and you never feel like you're getting the real deal. ARE YOU BEING SERVED? boasted a sublime theme with about three things going on at once (including Pink Floyd's 'Money') but it forever ended up playing second fiddle to the same tracking shot round the same Grace Brothers shop floor every week, then faded into nothing as the camera alighted once again on Mr Humphries adjusting a display of swimwear or Mrs Slocombe tumbling through the lift looking faintly out of breath.
Another David Croft-penned epic, 'ALLO 'ALLO, passed over the opportunity to decorate Ronnie's lilting accordion-led waltz with some spoof 1940s black and white etchings of uproarious French Resistance mishaps and instead plumped for, well, sod all - just a slow zoom in on whatever situation Rene would be "wondering" what we thought he was doing in, like inside a haystack or dressed as a woman. And as with …SERVED, the closing sequence was no better, the tune being buried underneath voluminous applause and that enduring David Croft trademark "You Have Been Watching…"
Lest we forget, BLUE PETER laboured under the absence of a title sequence for absolutely ages, the strains of 'Barnacle Bill' merely accompanying footage of whatever star attraction or bit of the homemade Dr Who theatre the team were preoccupied with this week. As if to highlight the fact you can have ace titles, an ace title theme, but rarely both at the same time, when BP did get a proper opening sequence it was backed by a version of the theme that sounded like your gran cleaning out her saucepan cupboard.
Other candidates include MASTERMIND, which perennially offset the 'Approaching Menace' of its theme with the approach of a bored-looking Magnus sitting in yet another boring University graduation hall. EDGE OF DARKNESS paired Eric Clapton's haunting guitar wankery with the words 'Edge Of Darkness' in tiny print superimposed over whatever happened to be the first shot of that episode. TRIANGLE, meanwhile, stuck a WORLD IN ACTION-style orchestral cacophony over a muddy-looking ferry moving ever so slowly through the English Channel.
EXCEPTIONS: PORRIDGE. It didn't even have an opening theme, let alone opening titles, while the knees-up at the end was the sort of "look, this is sitcom!" effort that only ever works best in stuff starring Sid James or Tony Britton.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: Imagine how easier it'd be to take PARKINSON seriously if the titles were just a shot of lights coming up on the man's conversational plinth, rather than yet another fussy montage of the grumpy one quizzing a million ITV stars or of dozens of tiny pictures of Hollywood celebrities magically coming together to form a mosaic of - why of course - Parky's charmless chops.
SEE ALSO: ELECTION '74, with its "groovy, doomy" theme backed by shots (on film!) of the BBC presenting team shuffling their papers, pointing at each other and generally looking like there's still only two weeks of coal left in the country.
#8: STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING!
DEFINITION: Big fuck-off brilliant bombastic bollocks
This is what we want. It's the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink jamborees that go overboard on flashing lights and electronic wizardry and go on and on forever. These unashamed, unabashed curtain-raisers of the premium kind are never backwards in coming forwards as regards that one extra musical flourish or crash zoom. Indeed, the undisputed king of this category, NAME THAT TUNE, had a title sequence that lasted around a minute and a half and managed to get through a run down of contestants (both names and professions), prizes, rules, guests, special guests and presenter without pausing for breath or asking the audience to stop clapping. It was a tour de force and demanded you stay tuned for what came next, invariably an old woman correctly identifying the open bar of 'Sugar Sugar'. It was also a masterclass in whipping up a frenzy using only shots of a giant prop wheel and a dinnerjacketed studio orchestra.
Anglia TV seemed to have a penchant for these kinds of cacophonous cavalcades, wheeling them out for both GAMBIT (a pack of cards and other gambling paraphernalia going mental to a galumphing 1940s dance band) and SALE OF THE CENTURY: surely the most decadent title sequence ever, with an endless parade of jewellery, electrical hardware, posh clothes and seaside resorts twinkling and twirling to the sound of yet another parping orchestra, this time augmented by some PIGEON STREET-styled electronic tom-tom tomfoolery.
THE TUBE always boasted suitably hysterical titles, usually involving its tatty-looking logo "appearing" amidst Egyptian pyramids or an Amazonian rain before splintering out the top of a nonplussed twentysomething's TV set. BLOCKBUSTERS went the opposite direction, opting for just one location (the Central TV foyer - and we can imagine no finer place) under attack from an army of hexagonal historical cut-outs.
The two most extreme cases of opening sequences of roustabout proportions being bolted onto button-down cardigan telly, however, have to be TREASURE HUNT and THE INTERCEPTOR. The former made out like the ensuing 60 minutes were going to be all about Anneka Rice repeatedly jumping into the sea and a camera flying upside down - a somewhat less than accurate prelude to Kenneth Kendall joking with some polytechnic lecturers about the collected works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As for THE INTERCEPTOR, its superlative titles were compromised as soon as Annabel Croft opened her mouth to declare "Welcome to what we *hope* will be another exciting edition of Interceptor."
EXCEPTIONS: Like pretty much the whole of the series itself, THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY went for a title sequence that meant well and looked good written down on paper, but looked shit when stuck in front of a camera and set to the same eerie futuristic hoe-down that bedecked the radio version. Though it's likely a tiny figurine of a spaceman falling through a giant letter O would've looked shit set to any kind of music, except perhaps the theme to EUREKA. "Until then - bye!"
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: the titles of OPEN AIR. After all, one of the best programmes ever made surely deserved more than just a cube floating glumly round the screen with various TV "faces" on it. They should've had a million TV sets marching up to M6 to Manchester, dammit!
SEE ALSO: The 1980s era
TOMORROW'S WORLD, which saw all the previous title sequence clutter of murky
plastic tubes, circuit boards and close-ups of that thing that comes out the
back of your tumble dryer junked for a regal procession of brightly-lit babies,
spinning globes and a jive-talking robotic head.
#9: THESE ARE THE TITLES
DEFINITION: er, these are the titles
We've arrived at those selfless yet self-aware sequences which helpfully advertise themselves as such by way of a bit of fulsome fourth-wall breaking. In other words, titles which are about the titles themselves.
It's a dangerous area in which to stray, however, thanks to the temptation to choose joyless in-jokes and clever-clever arseing about over a bit of harmless knockabout fun. WHICKER'S WORLD walked a fine line between the two, thanks to its titular host's suave and unassuming demeanour as Concorde casually taxied away from its berth to reveal the programme title etched on the runway in giant suave and unassuming letters. (NB This was, of course, the first incarnation of WW; the second one - with the thunderous brass-heavy theme - lost points for showing Concorde take off and Whicker purposefully striding in the opposite direction. That's not right.)
PLAY AWAY offered up a more definitive example: Brian Cant strolling through some provincial town or other in a sensible coat and hat, cheerfully assailing passers by for help in piecing together the show's title. Cue a string of simple yet unfailingly affable comedy encounters and double takes ("Give me an 'A'" "Eh?" "Give me a 'Y'" "Why?") before Sir Brian found he'd collected all the necessary letters and could hotfoot to the nearest local park and present them to some eager kids on the swings and climbing frame. Job done!
Indeed, children's programmes have gone down the route of here-they-are titles more than most. PADDINGTON had the opening lot scrawled on the wall of the eponymous bear's neighbourhood, and the closing lot housed inside the self same grizzly's travelling suitcase. In a typical piece of Hart-play, the caption announcing the start of VISION ON appeared on screen only to immediately flip onto one side and become a sort of miniature Sea Devil with giganticism. CAMBERWICK GREEN has its closing titles scroll upwards on a piece of parchment operated via by a very pissed-off looking clown.
You could never be sure if he paused so long between each turn of the handle to prove a point or because he couldn't be bothered. A similar device was later tried by MAID MARIAN AND HER MERRY MEN, only substituting a stroppy shop steward for a whole bunch of willing accomplices and a massive Heath Robinson-esque contraption. This failed because a) the machine operators were done as line drawings rather than mouth-less puppets b) they didn't have big heads and little bodies c) they were all upstaged by the gospel singalong theme and d) they missed a trick by having Danny John-Jules doing more of his beat poetry at the same time.
EXCEPTIONS: NOT ONLY BUT ALSO lands squarely in the clever-clever category by way of Pete and Dud's penchant for smug self-conscious "stunt-titles". Where will the piano be this week? Oh look, it's in the River Thames.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: Sure, it was the greatest game show ever, but BOB'S FULL HOUSE could've been the greatest show ever had it been blessed with an opening sequence featuring our dapper host manically leaping and jumping around a giant bingo card crossing out squares with a lifesize marker pen until the name of the programme was spelt out in huge luminous letters. At which point he'd "gather up" the letters into a similarly gargantuan wheelbarrow and proceed to try and squeeze them all through the front door of his home, from time to time glancing at the camera in mock-exhaustion. Do you see?
SEE ALSO: Millicent Martin's ever changing overture to THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS scored a hat trick: titles that were different every week, titles that were sung, and titles which were funny yet written by Ned Sherrin.
#10: CON, LAB, LIB?
DEFINITION: It's General Election night, and time to pull out the stops
KEY EXAMPLE: ELECTION '87
Staying up all night watching the results of a General Election on the BBC is one of the most fantastic things in the world: fact. Only ones on the BBC, of course. TV Cream's never watched any elections on ITV, so we can't tell you anything about them, other than they always cheat by announcing results before they've been officially declared, and they're mostly rubbish.
The greatest Beeb effort dates from 1987: hugely bombastic, tons of computer graphics, and it went on for ages. We always especially liked the simulated Houses Of Parliament, which we'd never seen done on TV before, and which the camera shamelessly fly around with artful acrobatic panache. Then of course there was the music. It wasn't the first time the BBC had deployed the majestic central theme from Sir Rick Wakeman's album 'The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table', but was definitely the best combination of its stirring brass and swooping strings with images ever. It was also a specially re-recorded version, adding - yes! - a full choir on top of the vast symphony orchestra. Swaggering, brooding, portentous: a fine curtain raiser for what was the first time Creamguide had stayed up any later than 1.00am.
It turned up again the following afternoon, naturally, closing proceedings somewhere round 4pm off the back of a long list of credits and the obligatory live feed from the Goodyear blimp somewhere above the River Thames. After which Children's BBC began with Phil and Gordon in the Broom Cupboard both wearing full three-piece suits.
Rick's opus made its debut for DECISION '79, though in a brutally shortened version that sounded like Dave had edited it himself on his home hi-fi stereo system. It backed a series of bustling clips intended to show, well, politicking, including some crap colour slides of a giant blue Margaret Thatcher and a giant red Jim Callaghan. "With only five minutes before polls close, you've probably left it too late to vote," cracked Richard Baker in the newsroom. "But you are in time to join David Dimbleby and his team in the BBC Election studio!"
Even this, however, was a huge step up from what had gone before. Until October 1974 none of the Beeb's Election night carnivals had proper opening sequences; in 1970 they made do with archive clippage from 1945 ("Sailors at Chatham ignored lights out to listen in!") albeit spliced together with exciting scrolling text ("AND NOW…COMPUTERIZED AND IN COLOUR…"), while February '74 used Copland's 'Fanfare For The Common Man' over shots of - for shame! - an empty studio. October at least had titles, and glossy ones too: a breathlessly edited montage of the team going about their business in the studio, somewhat lavishly shot on film, and set to "groovy, doomy music" that featured a ticking clock but - ominously - no tune. Rick knew what he had to do.
Special mention in passing for ELECTION '59, perhaps the oldest programme ever to appear in Creamguide, and which ended with a huge caption reading "A Team Operation involving not only those who have appeared on the screen but hundreds of BBC staff working in London studios."
EXCEPTIONS: VOTE 2001, when they binned off 'King Arthur…', the bastards. And can anybody remember what the new theme was? Exactly.
SHOULD APPEAR IN: every single election programme ever if they have any bloody sense.
SEE ALSO: ELECTION '64, which opened with Richard Dimbleby proclaiming, "It is 9.25pm on Election Day. The nation has voted - the count is on", at which point the studio suddenly filled with two great long lines of BBC staff snaking their way right around the set as everybody made their way to their allotted trestle table or "computer bank". Now that's how to do politics on TV.
#11: MEET THE GANG
DEFINITION: A traditionally tongue-tied exchange of pleasantries with hosts and guests
The art of making introductions is never an easy one. In fact it's very rarely an art at all, most of us getting by with a courteous nod or a half-arsed handshake. On TV, therefore, that self-same business of getting to know one another and breaking the ice can tax even the most linguistically louche linkman.
What better way of dispensing with all these awkwardly un-British social niceties, therefore, than to bung them all in with the opening titles? GIVE US A CLUE got this down to a tee, and just as well given it had seven celebrities to introduce every single time and quite frankly nobody wanted to wait one second longer than was necessary to see Lionel Blair fingers splayed and legs akimbo. And performing a mime, of course.
Hence the roll call of personalities was tidily incorporated into the show's theme tune, beginning by way of tipping the hat to the gaffer - "Give Us A Clue! Give Us A Clue! With Michael Parkinson…" - at which point the titular grump cracked a watery smile and jerked his head an inch forward in gruff salutation. Next came either "…Liza Goddard…" or "…Una Stubbs…" accompanied by the eponymous hirsute funster mouthing a jovial "Hello!" to camera, followed by "…and Lionel Blair!" at which point the self-same showman would raise a hand in greeting or flash a toothy grin from out of his great gob.
But even that wasn't the end! We'd then go back to Liza/Una for her to declare "And on my team today…", followed by the obligatory namechecks for Maureen Lipman and Rula Lenska/Eve Pollard, then over to Lionel for him to shout, with even greater gusto, "And on *my* team today…", followed by the requisite introductions to Christopher Biggins and Nigel Havers/Derek Griffiths. All to the tune of a cocktail lounge shuffle, and to the sound of relentless audience applause.
A model of efficiency, then, which no doubt pleased the host, and indeed might very well have been introduced on his request given the 'CLUE's earlier Aspel incarnation simply made do with nicking the GRANGE HILL theme tune. A similar strategy was deployed for BLANKETY BLANK, although here none of the guests were allowed to speak until a voiceover had completed the introductions and then either Terry had come on and eyed everyone warily or Les had come on and stamped on the floor.
GAME FOR A LAUGH tried a different tack by having its hosts introduce themselves not merely through an opening voiceover or being found seated ready and waiting in front of the audience, but running down the biggest flight of steps in the country. While this synchronised scampering suited the likes of knockabout Matthew Kelly and arch prankster Jeremy Beadle down to the ground, Henry Kelly masked his discomfort by hastily buttoning up his jacket as he half-skipped down the stairs, while Sarah Kennedy refused to run at all, merely tramping frumpishly step by step in a huge skirt.
The same principles have also been applied to shows majoring on members of the public. GOING FOR GOLD introduced British viewers not just to levels of pan-European intelligence, but also the many and varied continental ways of saying hello without actually saying hello - to wit: the breezy salute, the thumbs-up, the double thumbs-up, the friendly wink, the two handed wave, the mildly-aggressive fist-in-the-air, the regal bow of the head and many more. FIFTEEN-TO-ONE went the other direction, opening each edition with a roll call of the names and occupations of its contestants while they stood looking like prisoners about to be shot. FAMILY FORTUNES, meanwhile, pulled off the hat trick of brisk opening introductions, an equally brisk run through the prizes and a glorious stage entrance for its host by way of Bob's salute to us, the audience. All to the sound of a violinist wigging out. Perfect.
EXCEPTIONS: Mid-80s 5.35pm regular FAX got it all wrong by following up its tantalising voiceover trails ("Where do birds go to die?" "Was ration Britain a fitter Britain?") with its hosts doing GAME FOR A LAUGH-style run-ins…but with a difference. Hence when Bill Oddie was announced, we'd see co-host "Mr Trivia" Billy Butler standing in his place by "mistake". Or Billy Butler's foot. Or a cardboard cut-out of Billy Butler. Erinsborough couldn't come soon enough.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: ALBION MARKET. It had the ace theme tune; all it needed was for its sprawling cast to each do little a turn for the camera at the start and it would've run for decades!
SEE ALSO: THE PERISHERS,
with the eponymous animated rascals introducing themselves by way of enthusiastically
and endlessly marching on the spot around a giant caption reading THE PERISHERS.
Our one clue to their intentions? "Pe-er-er-er-er-er-erishing kids!!!"
#12: BIG HEADS ON LITTLE BODIES
DEFINITION: The art department add another line to their CV
Masterstroke of many an unmemorable offering, the animated title sequence elevated the mundane to the majestic and the sublime to the spectacular. It was also a neat alternative to shelling out an extra load of filming costs, of course, but frankly we'd take the cartoon version of Derek Batey over the real thing any day. Especially as the show in question, LOOK WHO'S TALKING, involved Mr Batey swapping boring celebrity anecdotage with repertory actors over the age of 85.
Lord of the line drawings is, naturally, BULLSEYE. The series essayed three separate attempts at opening credits, the first being a strictly no-nonsense effort involving an anaemic looking Bully leaping out of his pub sign, landing on the ground to the sound of a huge tympani crash, then sashaying into said hostelry to take part in a conveniently staged 'Darts Contest' while a busty barmaid joylessly served pints in the background. This dull montage suited the show's early years perfectly, which looked like they were being filmed in Jim Bowen's garage.
It was soon replaced, however, with the sequence everyone remembers: Bully behind the wheel of a cartoon coach giving a lift to six stereotypical fat darts players. Things quickly turn sinister, however, as the coach suddenly acquires a flying ability and enters a bizarre world of darts iconography, with giant metal-wire numbers and dartboards spinning past the windows. The human darts players point and look worried. Then a rush of blood to the bovine head causes Bully to press an "ejector seat" button on the dashboard, in turn launching himself clear of the coach. Our driver grabs hold of a passing dart and flies to safety, while presumably sending his six passengers and bus plunging to their demise.
Such a magnificent offering could never be bettered, but naturally it didn't stop Central TV having a try. For BULLSEYE's last series the entire thing was overhauled, depicting Bully ostensibly gaining unauthorised access to the building, bounding down the studio steps and sending adjacent audience members flying. He then gives Jim a big kiss (cue wavy-line face from Bowen) before seemingly losing it, hanging on to the Giant Rotating Dartboard Structure while it spins really fast, then attempting a big leap-frog across the studio causing Jim to dive for cover. Inevitably, this cavalcade of carnage turned out to be the best element of the whole re-modelled show.
Other animated spectaculars include MIND YOUR LANGUAGE, an instance where both the titles and theme tune (delightful ba-ba-ba Manhattan Transfer-esque noodlings) were roughly 275 times better than the rest of the show; YES, MINISTER, with Gerald Scarfe drawing caricatures of the cast in real time, albeit very very fast and with huge noses; and the original and best opening for GRANGE HILL with - gasp - multi-racial kids and - bigger gasp - cartoon drawings that spun round and round.
EXCEPTIONS: THE GOOD LIFE, which would've been a candidate for our earlier 'Will This Do?' selection were it not for it looking like a rip-off of ROBIN'S NEST, and a crap one at that.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: Every other programme ever.
SEE ALSO: The potent mix of soppy animation and brusque live action that made up the titles for CHALLENGE ANNEKA. Each week the titular skyrunner was seen embarking on another edition of "The Challenge Programme", pausing only to regenerate into a cyclone in order to repair a footbridge and to narrowly miss mowing down a family of bug-eyed hedgehogs.
#13: BACK OF AN ENVELOPE
DEFINITION: Hastily-realized whims and fancies
Title sequences conceived by millionaire multi-tasking celebrities or be-suited bigwigs invariably conform to a pattern that dictates the amount of time spent dreaming them up is inversely proportional to the amount of time it takes to get them onto the screen. The flimsier the premise, the greater the number of hours spent agonizing over how best do it justice.
And yet the end product still ends up looking rushed and half-arsed. We have to return, yet again, to SIXTY MINUTES to wonder why something that involved 18 months of planning and negotiation between virtually every BBC executive in every region in the country still ended up blessed with a title sequence that appeared to have been knocked together in 18 minutes. Presumably whatever the tersely delivered instruction - "make it something to do with a clock, it's called Sixty Minutes you know" - everybody was too busy either trying to make Desmond Wilcox look less shifty in front of the camera or coax Sarah Kennedy away from LWT to notice they were committing themselves to a logo that resembled a shitty luminous Rubik's snake.
TELLY ADDICTS went through a number of title sequences, each more shamelessly-orientated around Noel Edmond's face than the last. Its best and most well-known effort, a bouncing animated 1940s-esque TV set being mauled by various small screen characters and icons, committed the sin of drawing the ire of Michael Grade-obsessed DR WHO fans, furious at the bit where the TARDIS was zapped by the USS Enterprise. But there wasn't enough Noel in this sequence, hence it was soon replaced by a predictably fussy and exhausting montage showing the titular host superimposed in a variety of other famous title sequences. This belief that he himself was funny, rather than those situations he purported to orchestrate and stage-manage, would come to increasingly dog Noel's career. We didn't want to see Noel dressed up as a Thunderbird - we wanted to see guess the Radio Times entry competitions and the Collins family from Northampton having to Sing The Sig. Inevitably, though, in the end everything was junked from TELLY ADDICTS to make way for Noel running about and shouting. Equally inevitably, the programme was axed soon afterwards.
Having lured Roland Rat from TV-am with the promise of his own channel, BBC3 (ho ho), the Beeb proceeded to indulge the waspish rodent with a preposterous title sequence for ROLAND RAT: THE SERIES knocked together solely around the premise of him, er, "going un-un-un-underground" - as the Stock Aitken and Waterman theme noted - to entertain guests of the calibre of Dr Who Colin Baker. Ultimately the proto-acid house wankery of Mike, Matt and Pete couldn't offset the dreary spectacle of watching Roland bob his way through a car park week after charmless week.
Then there were those title sequences that mistook a producer's request stipulating whims and fancies for that of plain nonsense. THE TOMORROW PEOPLE and ACE OF WANDS fall square into this category, along with all other children's drama series of the 1970s (FOLLYFOOT and CATWEAZLE especially) and indeed any programme that involves posh kids in period costume being assailed by supernatural forces, hippies, greedy town planners or horse kidnappers. Three cheers for Quantel and Paintbox which helpfully culled these and all such demented chicanery in one fell swoop.
EXCEPTIONS: The supposedly Nazi-tinged BBC NEWS titles of the late 80s and early 90s which had the appearance of having been thrown together in the edit suites in half an hour by somebody on work experience, but which were assuredly pieced together second by painful second under the ubiquitous eye of Lord Birt himself.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: ASK THE FAMILY. Anything would've been better than a never-ending chequered tablecloth.
SEE ALSO: 3-2-1. Quick, let's make a flying YTV logo part of the titles! Brilliant! Then we'll just, er, have Dusty Bin bounce around a bit.
#14: SAVE IT!
DEFINITION: The money's run out
A poor relation (literally) to the previous selection, these titles invariably bless some of the finest shows ever made for TV - except not in the sense of being the finest opening sequences ever made for TV. Quite simply, there's an idea, there are good intentions, there are big names cheerily giving of their precious time…there's just not enough in the kitty to furnish them with anything else. Including, in most instances, a point.
Take the fourth and last series of THE SWEENEY. Presumably all of Thames's money for the year had gone on paying its roster of in-house faces to turn up in the fabulous last half hour of the MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE spin-off film. There certainly wasn't enough left in the ledgers to properly finish what were planned to be an exciting and fresh set of titles: Regan and Carter pursuing a villain through some shit-filled sidestreets to the sound of an old-fashioned policy bell, all shot through a none-more-70s triangular prism for the none-more-70s sake of it. Except rather than use trademark freeze frames for those moments when each cast member received their requisite billing, a presumably hard-up crew had to make John Thaw and Dennis Waterman pause suddenly as they got out of their cars and stand as perfectly still as they could manage. Hence they had to pretend they were in a freeze frame: a strategy rendered all the more lunatic by, in the actual version you see on screen, a gentle breeze wafting Waterman's tie all over the place.
A pity they couldn't have eked out the budget by a few more pennies to book that vital extra hour in the edit suite, but this was the 1970s and therefore a time of "prices". A similar deficit of petty cash seemed to hinder the appropriately named SHOESTRING from seeing its title sequence properly discharge some computer graphics that smoothly combined the pre-ordained themes of a) radio frequency waves b) bootlace ties c) looking miserable d) Bristol as crime capital of the Severn Valley. Instead it just looked like four things going on at the same time, which of course there were.
THE AVENGERS had the look and the ace music, but only a few boring shots of people standing about in an empty white studio to go with them. Later when ATV had scraped a few more shillings together, these were thankfully substituted with…a few boring shots of people running along a bridge and standing about in an empty field. Further back in time, the various QUATERMASS serials regularly failed to set out their stall in their opening seconds, prefacing thrilling psychological science fiction with tatty cardboard signs with smoke being pumped through them. There again, they had blown the princely sum of £50 on making aliens that looked like Cyril Sneer off of THE RACCOONS.
Elsewhere it's almost always the case that when a channel makes a big money signing they honour them with a bargain bin set of titles. The latest incarnation of PARKINSON is, yet again, a prime example; if you're going to get high and mighty about what time your programme is shown, at least make an effort to take an interest in how it's going to be shown. Meanwhile ITV never seemed able or profitable enough to do its various Brucie vehicles the justice they deserved. PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT had the cheapest opening going, HOLLYWOOD OR BUST didn't make sense, and BIG NIGHT was upstaged by Bruce singing about ITV regions, though naturally he blamed that all on the press.
EXCEPTIONS: EVER DECREASING CIRCLES. It's just ripples, but you can't see what's causing them. And they go backwards. In time to the music.
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: BREAD. Anything to take it down a peg or two. Besides, the programme was about people not having any money, for fuck's sake.
SEE ALSO: ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, one of the best sitcoms ever made but with one of the cheapest, half-arsed, penny-pinching title sequences ever concocted. It's the same piece of footage of a tortoise over and over again!
#15: YOU HAVE BEEN WATCHING…
DEFINITION: It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for
To conclude our grand survey of opening titles, what better subject to pick than, well, closing titles. But not any old farewell fripperies, you'll be unenlivened to hear. Nope, these are ones which stand out by dint of their being unashamedly more memorable and less pointless than their preambling cousins, in some cases scoring points by daring to riff on the whole reason for having titles in the first place.
That's not a description you can reasonably apply to our key example, of course. HI-DE-HI! gets the nomination not for any great claim to artistic innovation or self-deprecating cheekiness, but because it involves the greatest number of miserable characters in any sitcom. Yes, out of all the David Croft-patented 'You Have Been Watching…' endeavours, the farewell salute from the joyless staff of Maplin's takes the prize for not just going on the longest but also comprising the most indifferent, unlikable and sometimes downright ugly of all those "beauty parade" closing sequences trotted out by Croft and co. At least the participants of 'ALLO, 'ALLO hammed it up rotten, usually reprising one of the best moments from the preceding half hour (albeit in mime form, rooted to the spot and having engaged in a swift costume change from whatever ludicrous fancy dress outfit they'd ended the episode in). And at least they made an effort to look interested during the playout of ARE YOU BEING SERVED?, or just plain daft in IT AIN'T HALF HOT MUM.
As far as HI-DE-HI! was concerned, however, everybody looked pissed off during their credit cameo: Jeffrey Fairbrother was discomfited (ditto his replacement Clive Dempster); Gladys Pugh frosty; Ted Bovis arrogant; Spike pathetic; Peggy mithering; Fred absolutely fucked off with everything and everyone; Yvonne and Barry petulant; Mr Partridge soused; Sylvia devious; Betty boring; and the 'Yellowcoat Boys' downright creepy. Not one of them was happy at garnering the studio audience's generous plaudits. Not a single one! Sourfaced bastards. Still, it made for a damn sight more interesting sight than the opening titles, as already discussed here a few weeks ago, wherein Paul Shane's voice was upstaged by some black and white holiday prints.
Elsewhere, programmes which signed off with vastly more impact than they signed on include OPEN ALL HOURS (we always liked how Ronnie managed to switch off the last shop light in perfect sync with the end of the credits), THE BILL (two pairs of feet managing to outshine an opening sequence comprising almost entirely of close-ups of people shouting at each other) and BLACKADDER THE THIRD, which went for a simple scroll of names backed by the catchiest, most hummable version of the theme ever.
Then there's SECRET ARMY, which used the same sequence at its end as at its start (a series of roads, railway lines, rivers and paths into Germany) only in reverse, so where you'd begun the episode being taken deeper and deeper into the Third Reich, you ended it getting further and further away, ultimately arriving at the coast and, it implied, freedom. A neat twist on the ongoing plight of the titular "Army", who could help the British out of occupied Europe but never itself escape.
EXCEPTIONS: "Here's a list of cast and crew," warbled SMITH AND JONES to ever diminishing comic effect, "Christ alone knows what they do."
SHOULD HAVE APPEARED IN: Any programme without proper closing credits, frankly, as without them there really is no sense of, erm, closure. We don't want to go and have to look them up on the internet for heaven's sake (see JAM and everything else crap by Chris Morris), nor settle for a measly slide with one name on (which was the case, we were annoyed to see again the other day, at the end of the Beeb's ELECTION 97). And anyway, any cause that even Colin Baker feels moved to champion in his column for the local Buckinghamshire press is surely a cause worth fighting for.
SEE ALSO: Rod Jordan's superlative cartoons at the end of every THAT'S LIFE!, recapping the preceding jumble of japes and jousts with witty aplomb.