Tuesday 13 October 2020

Time-Capsule TV II - John Noakes interviews Ronnie Barker

Ask anyone about John Noakes and they'll talk about elephants relieving themselves in the Blue Peter studio, climbing Nelson's Column on a rickety wooden ladder and Shep. But there was a lot more to him, Blue Peter and children's television in general, back in the 70s, as this clip illustrates. There's so much to love here, from John rocking up at Elstree in a grubby white Marcos Mantula, having a chat with the uniformed security guard on the barrier, having a tour of the Porridge set and finally sitting down to interview the comedy genius that was Ronnie Barker. I think what's most noticeable, for me, is that John didn't talk down to the Blue Peter audience - this could just as easily be a piece for an adult magazine show (and is certainly more watchable than the dross that gets served up on The One Show and similar). Also, note how there was no need to drown the piece in intrusive backing music, as is usually the case on kids' TV these days.

What else? Aside from John and Ronnie, there's Richard Beckinsale, Fulton Mackay, Ronald Lacey and, behind the camera, Sydney Lotterby. All gone now, of course, but then this was 1977.

Forget kid's TV, I'd watch this now. And keep watching, and listening carefully, around 7m15 - John asks Fulton if he gets any reaction from prison warders, not anything else, however it might sound...


  1. Fascinating stuff. And the "any reaction" line made me snigger.

  2. Lovely stuff, thanks for giving us this. You're so right - no talking down to us, which seems to be so prevalent now even when not aimed at a younger audience. And no irritating music, oh thank god. Comparing then and now in this context really illustrates the meaning of 'dumbing down'. We've been watching some old documentary progs lately (such as Man Alive) and those two things are very obvious (as well as a lack of oversentimentality - it doesn't feel as if the programmes aimed for a specific reaction from the audience, they didn't line us up to feel sad or whatever with a dramatic narrative or music - as a result I actually found they had more emotional impact).
    I'm glad you prepared me for the "any reaction" bit here, though!

    1. I had to listen to "any reaction" half a dozen times before I could be sure what he said.

      My other bug-bear with modern factual TV is excessive recapping, where they start each section recapping what they just said, sometimes mere seconds earlier, in the previous section, the implicit subtext being that we, as viewers, have zero attention span.