Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Another Commercial Break

As, once again, I've completely lost the thread of what I was planning to write here today, let's cut to the commercial break, just like they used to on ITV in the seventies, whenever they encountered 'technical difficulties'.  (Such 'difficulties' tended to be Reggie Bosanquet being too drunk to read the News at Ten).  This particular selection, which I found posted on You Tube, look quite fascinating to twenty first century eyes, if nothing else for the kinds of things they were advertising in prime time back in 1970.  It seems inconceivable now that even as late as 1970 the UK had a coal mining industry so extensive and healthy that it had to run recruitment adverts on TV - nowadays you'd be hard pressed to actually find a working mine.  But these were the heady days before the Miner's Strike and when, despite the loss of British Rail as a major customer following the demise of steam traction in 1968, both industry and domestic customers in the UK were still largely dependent upon coal as a fuel source.

Equally strange - to contemporary eyes - is the lengthy advert encouraging people to emigrate to Australia, presenting it as some kind of fabulous land unknown.  But these were the days before we saw suburban Australia on a daily basis, courtesy of Neighbours and Home and Away, and the British public's impressions of the country were largely drawn from movies showing lots of deserts, nuclear tests and people herding sheep.  Consequently, they assumed that the only houses were broken down wooden shacks sitting in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by sweaty men in vests and wearing hats with corks on string dangling from the brim.  But if you wanted to stay at home, then clearly rail was the only way to travel - but only on British Rail's then new overhead electric services, (which only ran on West Coast services via the West Midlands in those days).  The locomotives and MK1 carriages might look quaint now, but back then, in 1970, they were cutting edge.  (Actually, the coaches weren't, they'd been superseded by the MK2 design in the late sixties, air conditioned versions of which were beginning to appear, making the choice of rolling stock for the advert rather odd).

These adverts are also a reminder of how fleeting fame can be: Fanny Craddock and her monocled husband/kitchen assistant Johnny were huge in the early seventies, but even ten years later were virtually forgotten.  She really was the original celebrity TV chef.  Indeed, like today's crop, she was also incredibly autocratic in her kitchen, making clear that hers was the only way to cook and constantly bullying and haranguing her underlings, (in this case, Johnny).  But she'd never do anything so vulgar as to swear on camera, though.  The commercial for the special On The Buses supplement is a reminder of just how big that show became, after only three series, making unlikely stars out of Reg Varney, Bob Grant and Stephen Lewis.  Watching repeats of the sitcom on ITV 4, it is hard to grasp the popularity the show once enjoyed.  Mind you, I'm sure that forty years on, people will be watching reruns of The Office and Miranda, say, and wondering why they were ever so popular.   

Finally, I have to make mention of the road safety film featuring Tufty the squirrel.  There seemed to be hundreds of these, but the one presented here, with the ice cream van, is the one I remember most vividly.  It made a huge impression on me as a child - like Tufty, I always told my mother where I was going and never went to the Ice Cream van unaccompanied.  Frustratingly, none of those kids who defied that advice ever got run over like Willie Weasel - most of them were complete bastards and I'd have loved to see them get hit by car, (but, like Willie, not severely injured, just left a bit humiliated).  It would have been Karma. But, sadly, as I learned, life isn't like public information films.



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