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GOING BACK TO THE TV FUTURE

I'm a sucker for books about comedians. Not the dire, ghostwritten autobiographies hastily churned out for the Christmas market by the likes of Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre, which I wouldn't use as a doorstop let alone read, but proper, literate, well-researched, well-written biographies.

Over the years I've hungrily devoured books about, among others, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Fatty Arbuckle, Jerry Lewis, Peter Cook, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan and just last Christmas, Robert Ross's recent Marty Feldman: The Biography of a Comedy Legend, the first detailed look at the life and career of a hugely influential writer and performer who's been criminally overlooked in recent years.

I added another one this week: the 1998 biography of Morecambe and Wise by Graham McCann, which our eldest -- who, much to her old man's delight, has discovered for herself the timeless joy of Eric and Ernie -- bought online.

It's a terrific read for anyone interested in M&W and also in television in general in the 1970s, a golden age for the BBC.

In one chapter, veteran Bruce Forsyth tells McCann that BBC1 effectively owned Saturday night throughout that decade.

It's easy to see why with a line-up that usually ran something like this: Doctor Who, The Generation Game (hosted by Forsyth), a popular drama (The Duchess of Duke Street, for instance, or All Creatures Great and Small), The Morecambe & Wise Show, Starsky and Hutch, Match of the Day and Parkinson.



Peak

The days when a single channel could count on having the vast majority of the viewing audience in its pocket from teatime to bedtime are long gone, of course. Yet it's interesting to note how closely Saturday night television in 2012 resembles that of, say, 1976, when Eric and Ernie where at the peak of their powers.

Light entertainment, the broad umbrella under which comedy, music, variety and gameshows were gathered, has once again begun to dominate Saturday both in Britain and over here.

At the core of the BBC and ITV's Saturday-night schedules are The Voice and Britain's Got Talent, the closest things modern television has to old-fashioned variety shows, while the formula of still-popular old warhorse Casualty (BBC1) remains virtually unchanged from its early days. Match of the Day, of course, is still there, despite the proliferation of live Premiership football on Sky Sports.



Fabled

Either side of Britain's Got Talent, ITV has Keith Lemon's Lemonaid, All-Star Family Fortunes and The Cube, none of which would have looked noticeably out of place in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, on RTE1, Winning Streak and The Saturday Night Show also hark back in style, if not necessarily in quality or entertainment value, to two staples of the old days: the gameshow and the chatshow.

The continued popularity of new-style takes on old-style entertainment shows that mainstream, mass market television is not quite as dead as Rupert Murdoch wishes it were.

>> So Matt Groening has finally come clean. After years of winding up fans and the media about which Springfield was the model for the one in The Simpsons, he's admitted it's Springfield, Oregon, near his childhood home of Portland.

Now, if only someone could figure out which Dublin suburb Fair City's Carrigstown is based on. I've been to most corners of my hometown and I've never come across a single community with so many different accents, often within the same family.

As for those two kids belonging to Louis, who were supposed to be raised in America, I know there are 21 towns called Dublin in the US but I'm pretty sure their inhabitants don't talk like us.

>> If you do nothing else useful on the internet this weekend, get yourself to the Channel 4 website and check out Charlie Brooker's hilarious solo routine from Wednesday's The Ten O'Clock Show. It begins with Samantha Brick's notorious Daily Mail article about how other women hate her because she's so beautiful, segues into a look at some grotesque male sex toys and, um, climaxes with a riotously funny assault on the Mail's double standards when it comes to dealing with the female form. Sheer brilliance.

>> In the biggest TV non-story of the year, Sky has acquired the rights to show the entire James Bond franchise, including the upcoming Skyfall, on its movie pay channels.

So what? ITV began showing them in sequence in 1975. Ah, but wait: Sky will be screening them in HD. So now we can see the join in Sean Connery's hairpiece and the wrinkles on Roger Moore's face in pin-sharp clarity.


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