Brownlegg at Large: August 2001 

1 August 2001 tbs.pm/3052

Good day and welcome, once more, to the Assembly for Middle-England (incorporating the paramilitary wing of the Popular Television Association). As you by no doubt realise, my job – and believe me, despite my sedentary lifestyle I do have a job of damn hard work to do, just ask Gloria Gaumont after a nightshift – yes, my job is to restore peace and calm to the troubled waters of British Broadcasting. And I do it on less that a litre of whiskey a day, which is also very good value for money, I find.


I know people’s opinion of the Brits Broadcast Codswallop, but the BBC – the very models of pinkish fellow-travellers, every last one of ’em – have finally done something right. Miranda Messagetaker is now employed as a current affairs reporter. OK, she’s had no experience, but she can learn can’t she? And what’s all this nonsense about her being a “bimbo”? Angela Ripoff danced with Morecambe and Wise, didn’t she, showing her legs to every man in a dirty mac (although I swear I was definitely not there, officer. How dare you? Don’t you know who I am?) and Anna Fordka once sang protest songs to stir up trouble, so we’ve always had telly trollops! I mean, if you wish for intellectualism, just close your eyes and listen. For visual stimulus, keep your eyes open. As for me, I always watch her with the sound turned down because Gloria is at Pinewood filming “What Is This Thing Called, Love?” for J Arthur. She’s in a starring role as third stenographer with a line that is crucial to the whole film: “Just the one pound of lard, this week, he’s gone back on the rigs”. And I agree – I often find myself. Note to self: read that last sentence back, as it seems rude somewhere but I can’t quite find the offending porthole.


We all need a little pep-up now and again, I find. I think “This Week” could be revived with a few of these new breed of women reporters, like Neneheheh Cherry (a “nasty bitch”, I believe – a worthy replacement for Sir Robin Day) and Atomic Kitten singing the headlines. And for the children, “Jennifer Lopez’s Newsround”. Note to self: who are these people? And where is Margaret with my port? Who’s been playing with my rudder? It’s all distended.


I am also informed by Spencer-Wells (who for the last hour has been mowing the walls of the cottage, “Heave To!” – I must advise him to keep away from sniffing Blu-Tack in his condition) that the Indefensible Television Commissionary have decided not to give me my transponder yet (even though they should, because I’ve taken it out on hire-purchase). Instead, ITV Digital Sport will be launching. The two events are not linked, but I’m still entitled to pout – I have a permit from Cowcaddens. All you will be seeing are square balls, robot movements and third place playoffs, and you could still have the Huntin’ Shootin’ and Fishin’ Channel through Associated-Radiation Digital for the knock-down price of thirty-two and six for the next twenty-five years! Just think, all those game birds are waiting to be had on live television. Note to self: buy flowers for Gloria.


I looked in my kitchen drawers for some clues as to where the adastral – the mighty symbol of the A-R empire – could be. I thought I’d found it, except that it had the remnants of corned beef on it, and it became detached from the rest of the food processor. It was also very sharp, and could have done a living person a nasty injury. I’m going to sue the government. Damned socialists.


Whilst rummaging, I found the minutes of a long-forgotten meeting…

ITCA meeting minutes, 1963, taken by Captain Brownlegg RN (Rtd). Good meeting of the boozers of ITCA (It’s that clan again…) at Kingsway. Mitch struck 3 and Derby was right there, good man, to offer a little class. Always helps to have a bit of old money about the place, so unlike that prune-guzzling windbag we have to deal with at the ITA.

Poor old Derby’s got a bit of problem in Cardiff with the old telly-dew comery – I told him if he’s suffering from Mold I could get him a good deal with Rentakill. He says he has to spend a fortune making programmes in the old taff lingo. Told him, Derby old boy, play the English programmes backward – they’ll sound like Welsh at a fraction of the cost. Southern then arrived smoking his pipe and setting down gin-traps round the board room for foxes, which he insists are vermin – poor chap, always thinks he’s out of town. He nearly garrotted Honeybun in one last week; and of course that meant Westward took the hump and demanded Dorset. Understand how he feels, I’ll never forgive Southern for stealing Kent from us.

Mind you, Westward makes so much hot air in our meetings about needing a bigger patch that I told him he should bottle it and go into business – “Air Westward” does have a certain ring to it. Anyway I told Southern yet again that we don’t have foxes in Kingsway – but there may be some in Yorkshire. That alphabet television man and Grade then turned up – much to the disgust of our cleaning lady. They’re forever squabbling and scribbling on the back of our starched adastral napkins.

It was the budget for “Morning Service”, down to the last farthing for the communion wine last week – as if the cigar ash on the adastral-patterned Axminster wasn’t enough! The alphabet television man is a bit like a young curate to be honest – very sanctimonious about social responsibility and only works weekends. I told him it was a poor show – he’s just like the idlers in one of his Armchair Theatrics – and he sloped off back to Teddington. Locked himself in to his office – he told me he’d throw himself into the Thames one day, and then I’d be sorry. Can’t think what he means!

Old Grade fills so many ashtrays I’ve had to start an A-R Sea Cadet programme to get young urchins in to empty them. The first one that got the Adastral shilling was young good for nothing called Frost – he’s always looking through the keyholes. He won’t go far with an attitude like that, mark my words. And there’s nothing for him to see through my keyhole that’s for certain. Like our cook said, he’ll sink without trace… You know, I like old Grade, and he has a super car (a thunderbird), but he’s always getting in a tiswas about something – last week it was expense of the studios he shared with the alphabet television man. Apparently he said it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic. Or something.

Border turned up, insisting on bringing his own high-backed tan leatherette swivel armchair as usual. The bounder won’t run to our educational programmes – muttered some excuse to the effect that no one in the Border television area has a television yet. In fact, I’m told, the Border television area doesn’t have electricity yet, apart from a family in Selkirk who have a small generator. That’s no excuse I told him. Viewing figures are an irrelevance to true public service broadcasting. I await his response with bateyed breath.

The Granada twins arrived next, with their flat caps and whippets. They had brought two suitcases of money in used notes, so I promised I might just show their programmes in London for another five days. Rumour is this pair got their franchise by promising to live in a couple of terraced Anderson shelters on the roof of their studios. Not much room though, as they only have three studios – studio 1, studio 54 and studio 327. I told them, bribe or no bribe you’re not inflicting any more of Salford rep on my network and no mistake. Showing “Carnation Road” was concession enough to pleasing the Keir Hardie brigade.

Delightful young lady called Betty Hencoop arrived, said she’d swum the channel and was rather puffin. Delightful bit of totty but ITV is no place for women! Scottish sauntered in, reeking of hot metal. A new set of plates for printing Scottish banknotes no doubt. Had some daft idea about burning down his studios to bag the insurance money too. I told him to wait a few years, as he’ll have to gut them for AR-TV’s new 405-line VHF colour system then anyway. He went away with a thoughtful look….

Ulster came in presently, mumbling lines from Henry V. Had a worried look on his face – they’ve been going three years in Ulster, and have only made one regional programme. I told him not to worry – at Associated Rediffusion it is our proud boast that we haven’t even made that many yet, and it hasn’t done us any harm. Ulster then left, pursued by bear. Grampian arrived a quarter of an hour later, but I made him stand in a corner. Give them a chance to make a little schools programme for me and it was positively indecent. All those crude drawings – reminds me of my time in Indjah. As everyone knows I’m broadminded as they make ’em. I don’t mind showing newts at it, but those pictures were beyond the pale.

Grampian had shared a cab with Anglia – full of rubbish. You can always count on Anglia for tales of the unexpected. Trouble is that it’s so boring and flat on the fens you have to be a fantasist – all part of the survival tactics you need to get through it no doubt. Never pays much attention does Anglia – more interested in his farming diary or talking about bygones. Then at last the Tyne & Tees brothers finally arrived, stinking of Brown Ale and giving everyone black looks – I must admit I’m not madabout them. Had some shameful idea about “Topless Darts” being a real winner. After four years they haven’t shown anything more serious than “Double Your Money” yet, and judging by the state of the fellows they doesn’t intend to start now – too keen on razzmatazz. I told them like it is – it’s no good giving the audience what they want. The knack with television is to give people what they don’t want and then force them to watch it – it’s character building. BBC have been doing it for years…


Anyway, you tell me whether there are still characters in the world of broadcasting. I say, trenchantly, yes there are. Where, you ask? In the elephants’ graveyard of ITV – and I’m going to see if they can’t haunt a few of the present incumbents.


Briefly, as always, I should mention The Plan. The fight does not go well. As you know, we are currently stuck on stage one of the plan, namely wresting the adastral off Mr Lewisham-Smith. Last month’s attempt came unstuck due to the lack of a bar on the riverboat, so I have further revised The Plan to cope with this.

This month, we shall be laying in wait for Mr Lewisham-Smith in the doorway of his home, disguised as the cast of a Carry On movie. Margaret (Hattie Jacques) and Gloria (Babs Windsor) will impress him with their talents, whilst myself (Sid James) and lickspittle Spencer-Wells (Charles Hawtrey) will use the distraction to ransack his flat until we find the adastral we seek. Should we be disturbed, Spencer-Wells and I will hide in a wardrobe in our boxer shorts, smoking cigars. I’m sure this all makes sense to those of you truly committed to the cause. As for the rest of you, get lost. As I was saying to Gloria last week, I said, “Glo, for heaven’s sake, you’ll have someone’s eye out with those” which is even truer now, I find.

Your comment

Enter it below