It's all change for the mob at Associated Radiation as we inflict them on the provinces, and on you.
Starring (I use the word loosely):
Captain T N Brownlegg RN (Rtd)
The head honcho of a thriving media concern in London.
Augustus ‘Gus’ Brownlegg-Fearn
Director of Programmes at a thriving media concern in London and thug.
Ms Gloria Gaumont
Marketing manager of ITV1 (not that one).
Former director of programmes now living in a photocopier. So no real change.
Head of Customer Relations and a black belt in judo.
Head of Transmissions of all types.
Ahhh! A widdle pussy cat!
The set up:
Picture the scene if you will. The first meeting of the year, and the directors of the Brownlegg Media Group (incorporating the Associated-Radiation Digital family of channels, if you recall), are divided on a number of issues. Nothing unusual in that.
But, this time, there is. The Captain has had offers for the company, lock, stock and bucket, from the two opposing factions in Indefensible Television. Tempers are frayed. Faces are red. Violets are blue.
The yelling went on until the leader of the company banged the gavel on Spencer-Wells’ skull, thus rendering one of his opponents unconscious, and unintentionally waking young Carlton Loomis Gaumont.
Gus was banging his shoe on the table and began shouting “Unc! You can’t sell out! We’re almost at the stage of owning our own trademark!”
Suddenly quieter, he added “And what about ITV1?”
Gloria piped up, not for the first time, and said “Tommy, darling, we have to be independently owned now. You don’t like interference, do you?”
“Especially on television!” quipped Brownlegg. After several seconds of sycophantic laughter, he said gravely, “Look at our programme journal, the Radiation Times. Most of our programming is in-house, yes, but we don’t produce as much, certainly not as much as Crapton on a good day with the wind behind them.
“We need to acquire more studio space. We’ve got Studios 1, 4, 9 and 116, and we occasionally borrow the back room of The Worm and Spanner.
Swinging and with-it
“But they’re so small that the camera gets stuck behind the immersion heater, and Joan Kept-Woman says they’re not big enough to swing a cat in”.
Muriel stood up, incensed and said, “Yeah, and Pussy Cat Willum had to get stitches at the PDSA, and new kapok for his head. Ralph Hurried was kind to him, though, wafted him with his wobble board and blew his didgeridoo while he was getting treated, the poor liddle mite”.
Gus smirked. “Yeah, but it made great telly, didn’t it? And if you don’t mind me sayin’ so, the Tree House Family are gonna be starring in the next episode, so I’d love to see what Willie Wombat looks like when he drops a stitch”. Jean threw her pencil at Gus, even though it was attached by a chain to the table.
“You, Gus, are an inhuman brute, and typical of an ITV1 executive. What are you going to do next? Break peoples’ bones for money? It’s not like your days at Sky, you know.”
Gus reached for his pen, and noted it down. “Great idea! I’ll get my people to call your people, and then…”
Sound effect and visual not supplied
The voice of Captain T. Brownlegg RN (Rtd) rang throughout the room and a chill ran through the assembled board members, barking and wagging its tail.
“No wonder we can’t agree on anything I say. You all seem to have forgotten the first rule of democracy - it is only a democracy if I say so. And, frankly, while the company is performing well, with The CBoobies Channel and our new reality show “There He Is - Get Him!” bringing us press and audiences, and with income from Frogsleeper Aerials Ltd sending Gus’s family round to get the boxes back, you are not all performing well”
He got up and added, “We have to survey the land and how it lies, for after all I don’t want to be owned by another company, no matter how rich it may make me. I’ve decided to go all American - as nauseous as it may seem - for Gloria showed me a video called ‘American Piecrust’ all about a ‘road trip’, and it looked like a good bonding exercise.
“We’re going to see what all these ITV companies are actually like - I think they won’t know what’s hit ‘em - or who”.
There were murmurs of hushed excitement around the table. “Great idea, Unc! You want me to make arrangements?” asked Gus, his knuckle-dusters trembling with excitement as Brownlegg Senior nodded assent.
I hold in my hand a piece of paper
Half an hour later, everyone stood in the entrance hall surrounded by their luggage.
Gloria had packed everything into two huge travelling cases: Carlton was in his baby pouch, securely fastened to his mother’s heaving bosom. Muriel had her vanity case. Gus had his sports bag and stash tin. Brownlegg had brought his mobile bordello kit. Leslie Harblo had his do it yourself Madame Petulengro tent, with polycarbonate crystal ball. Jean had her Madame Petulengro costume.
Spencer-Wells, on the other hand, had his Spiderman backpack stowed securely in Tray 3 of the photocopier he had inhabited for the past few months for reasons that now escape me.
Brownlegg began to read a pre-prepared address to this loyal crew.
“We are going to lands far away, and some of you may not come back… Er…” He then turned his piece of paper over. “This is to be a great quest, to find the seat of power in ITV, and we all have much to learn. Spencer-Wells has sent every one of the companies a fax message, whatever that is, so we are expected. I hope you all will keep your wits about you. And now…”
Brownlegg paused, and looked far into the distance. “Yes? Yes?” enquired Gloria.
“To the Brownleggmobile!!! Dana dana dana dana dana dana dana dana…BROWN-LEGG!”
“You mean, a second-hand bus?” asked a voice from the photocopier.
“Yes,” said Brownlegg flatly.
END OF PART ONE
And now a brief glance at the world of the Deregulated Advertising Advisory Committee. This advert was recently submitted in script form:
A kindly old gentleman appears. He speaks.
You know, Beer at Home means getting pissed. And what better way is there than to order it from Devonparts? We’ve got the whole caboodle, and it’s all worth trying out. South African sherry is always popular, and what better than RSL - the drink for occasional radio broadcasters?
Takes glass, downs it in one
And if you like beer, we’ve got Guineas, brewed locally with that authentic Irish taste created by brewing it in peat bogs. It’s magic, too - watch as it turns your motions black!
He takes the entire pint down in one
Now, I’m getting really sloshed and need a bag of crisps, so why not try Golden Blunder, the crisps that are past their sell-by date?
Rips open bag inexpertly, drops contents in lap
Well, bleedin’ heck, would you credit it? Don’t forget that we at Devonparts offer a take-away delivery service too, so if you want chicken tikka masala, beef cashew nuts with fried rice and a sausage dinner, don’t forget to order one from us before your personal pub lets out.
And finally, what would make your evening complete?
Woman, not unlike Ms. Gaumont, appears wearing a bikini
Yes! Devonparts offer you Bints At Home too, at a fraction of the price, and all delivery charges are included. So if you fancy giving it the bifters, remember that Devonparts really can make your home into a pub!
You’re my best friend, you are. Really, I love you. Are you looking at my pint?
Voice-over: Devonparts accept no responsibility for you getting pissed, mashed, sozzled, or sloshed. No batteries are included. Please send £1 for terms and conditions. Do not pass go.
The Deregulated Advertising Advisory Committee reports: “Advert passed for production. Not that we have much choice. Why are you people keeping us here?”
We present: “A Town Called Ena”
The Brownlegg Bus headed down the motorway at a steady 69.999 miles per hour - the Captain had told every driver to go below the speed limit in case the crosswinds blew the sail the other way.
While Gus was taking a turn at driving the AEC Regent (ex-Liverpool Corporation Transport, no less!), Leslie Harblo was conducting a séance on the upper deck.
“Is there anybody there? Is there any… body… there…?”
The glass in the middle of the makeshift ouija board shifted uncertainly, and there was a faint whiff of cigar smoke in the air.
“Lew!” exclaimed the Captain, amazed at the manifest form of the greatest mogul ever in TV history.
Gratuitous violence and bitch-slapping
Gloria asked, in her best cutesy-pie voice, “Where should we go, to find where power lies in ITV? Go on, tell us you old git!”
Jean smacked her with her ring hand. “You’re talking to the man who gave a lot of people pleasure, and a lot of us employment. Show some respect you tart!”
The ethereal smoke continued to billow, and the glass moved from letter to letter rapidly, spelling out the word “Manchester”, and then, “It’ll cost you”.
“Thank you, Lew”, said Leslie, by now convinced that his correspondence course in the paranormal was well worth the 27 guineas he’d paid.
Meanwhile, John Spencer-Wells, in the photocopier’s spacious A3 paper tray, was using his voodoo doll to give Gus a hard time, by constantly jabbing it with a chubby screwdriver.
Stabbing pain in the back
Gus never said anything; he carried on driving, but wondered if his sciatica was playing him up. Eventually, the call went up on the tannoy system - “Land Ahoy! Embark! Embark!”
It was a murky afternoon in a strange northern town as they stepped from the coach station. Matchstick figures in clogs scuttled by, hoops were bowled, and ladies in shawls were passing slowly up and down the pavement, coughing up blood.
The neon sign high on the building was difficult to read in the smoggy atmosphere. And over the entrance, a washing line waved to and fro in the wind, carrying the tattered remains of someone’s smalls.
The Captain signalled that he wished for someone to knock on the door. The first volunteer was Muriel - after all, she knew the special knock!
Hello, my name’s…
A window opened on the top floor, and a shrill voice said, “Sidney isn’t in. Go away”. Brownlegg stepped forth, out of the shadows, and knocked on the door in a naval manner.
All of a sudden, the man in the window recognised him, and said, “Hello sailor, didn’t see you there! It’s me, Cecil, remember me? Hold on a mome, just get the door for you…”
Everyone was so relieved to hear the thundering footsteps of Cecil Burnsting run to the door, but not so pleased to hear the many locks, bolts and chains being unfastened and slid aside.
“How lovely to vada your dolly old eek again, Tommy! It’s been a while since I last saw you trolling around the Athenaeum, isn’t it?”
He waved them in to the HQ of Grandad Television. Cecil’s slightly festive manner had everyone curious. Was he alluding to something from Brownlegg’s past? Gloria, in particular, was curious.
…and this is my friend…
“‘Ere, Tommy, are you a member of the same club as he is? I hope you don’t bat for the other side!” Her beau was indignant. “What do you mean, Ms. Gaumont? I always played for The Central Radiation XI cricket team, and we once beat the Zoo Time XI at Deansgate. We went on to the final, against Radio Radiation Jamaica XI”
Spencer-Wells got excited and asked what happened. Brownlegg shook his head, sadly. “We lost. That’s part of the reason we went into television. We were no good at cricket or radio”.
Cecil, meanwhile, became bolder with every minute, and looked at Gus, knowingly. “Tommy, you’ve even brought some rough trade with you too. Oh, you’re such a treas!” Gus, meanwhile, said nothing, but characteristically let his knuckles drag along the floor behind him, a rare sign of embarrassment.
“Welcome everybody, to Grandad TV, Manchester 3. I’m known as Cecil to everybody, but you” - he addressed Gus - “can call me Cess”.
Nah, it’s too obvious a joke. Honestly.
It was at this point that, having arrived at the entrance of the executive suite, Cecil couldn’t find the security key in its usual place under the plant pot. “Oh bother! Never mind, dear hearts, let’s go down to the Raver’s Return!”
Studio 156, otherwise known as Consternation Street, looked wet, grim and miserable on that Wednesday afternoon. Cecil frowned, and Muriel and Jean asked him what was wrong. “Hold on a mome”, he said, taking out a mobile phone.
“Hello? Tony Wassup? Do something about this set, will you? Yes, I know it’s the North, and it’s a bit grim, etc, but this is show business! Get the kerbs illuminated! Put some coloured lights up! Ok, so there’s a murderer in the story at the moment - why don’t you dress him like a gangster and have a St. Valentine’s Day massacre? We want glam, not grim! And the same to you, too!” and with a twist of the wrist, snapped the phone shut, put it in his pocket and turned his face towards his visitors.
“Sorry, loves, just a teensy creative dispute, but I won that one. Let’s have a drink and the chats”. Safely sat in the snug - a little too snug for Gus’s liking - Brownlegg explained to Cecil what he wanted.
This isn’t rude. It’s you that has the problem.
“You see, Cecil old chap, ITV1 is becoming too fragmented, They’re still using company names on regional programmes. If we - not you and I, but Grandad and A-R merge - we can have our names on every programme”.
Mr. Burnsting said, “Hold on, Tommy, just ‘cause you heard a gun doesn’t mean you need to send for the army! Explain a bit more”.
“Think of it, Cecil, we’re heads of the two greatest companies on the network, Associated-Radiation and Grandad TV, and soul mates from the start. We’ve flirted before, so let’s make it a marriage”.
“Thomas, dar-ling, do you mean what I think you mean, there?” replied Cecil, one eyebrow raised. Brownlegg was getting a little, shall we say, irritated by this turn of events. “No, that isn’t quite what I had in mind, I just wanted to get hold of your big transmitter on Rivington Moor… I mean, I want to merge our two companies into something that will really see off Sir Low and Mr. Thomason”.
When confronted with this, Cecil let out a low whistle, and finally said “Sid makes all the decisions around here you know, but, what the hey? It might be a goer, I mean I suggested ‘World In Action’ and no one objected.
Okay, this next bit could be rude, if you want
Well, not until after I changed it from ‘Action In Chelsea After Nine’, and that was because Lord Dull of Ditchwater had a moan about it. Let’s go and find David Ploughman and Denis Chargehand around the back, in the theme park”.
Everyone walked around to the courtyard where an arrow pointed to a huge sign saying, “from the North, this is Grandadland”, and heard music playing, and banners waving. Cecil went ahead of them, through the turnstile, remarking “Don’t forget to put 5 one pound coins in the slot!”
After Grandad TV had been made a tad richer, they walked into to see the premier attraction of Grandadland, which was the two executives sitting on a pile of money, handing out large piles of it to producers wanting to make northern documentaries.
“What is all this, Cecil?” asked Brownlegg. Cess whispered, “Don’t worry, the money’s all faked, and the producers are out-of-work actors, paid to pretend to be northern producers to disguise the real state of things. Go on, you can ask them”.
His Nibs then said to the two men, “I’m from Associated-Radiation, London’s Television, and I would like to propose to you that we should join forces”.
Cash - accepted just about everywhere
Denis Chargehand was first in with the boot. “What’s this? Time for a laugh? Have you told anyone else about this? I bet you’ve been over to Didsbury, and told that bunch. This is all part of a plot, I’ll bet, and you’re going to get the Didsbury Mafia in, and they’ll drive out our solid, Northern grit and replace it with poncy Southern Northern grit! You know, they’ll get you in the end, you wait and see!”
The Captain spoke, a little shakily, but with authority. “Under no circumstances would I allow ABCDEF to merge with A-R, and if anyone suggests it, I’ll throw them in the Thames and write a stiff letter to the Times, or maybe vice versa. Anyway, it’ll make Grandadland even bigger!”
David Ploughman came off his pile of money and shook hands. “Okay, we’re convinced, we could make cost savings and merge presentation. What other suggestions do your team have?”
Gus was first up with an idea. “Why don’t we merge our programmes? We’d save cash, and keep the public entertained!”
A brainstorming session followed. Amongst the suggestions made were:
- Double Your Coronation Street - A gritty northern drama with Hughie Green and Minnie Caldwell standing in the Kabin handing out piles of money.
- Ready Steady and Dearest - Hylda Baker, Jimmy Jewel and Cathy McGowan jive to the latest hits in a pickle factory.
- No University Hiding Place - Raymond Francis and his sidekick Bamber Gascoigne in a detective series amongst tiers of brainy students.
- Riviera In Action - The tanned and hunky police of a Mediterranean resort tackle the urgent social problems of visiting Mancunian tourists.
- Stars and Garters - Dr. Desmond Morris, the famed people-watcher, turns his expert eye on scantily clad girls in smoky clubs.
- Five o’clock Club at 6.30 - Young people, music and games presented by Mike Scott and Stubby Kaye live from the Newsroom.
- What Pussy Cat Willum Says - The eponymous stuffed beast mimes the week’s headlines with the aid of Daphne Oxenford and Brian Trueman.
- Travelling Eye with Ollie Beak - the famous owl shows us burning warehouses the length and breadth of Salford.
- Lift Off This Week with Ayesha - A pretty young singer exposes crime on camera, and sings an obscure Roy Wood song that no one buys.
With all agreed in principle, the two negotiating teams made preparations to leave - Granddad’s team had to start dancing in cat costumes at 4.15, and Brownlegg’s bunch were about to get on the bus.
But Cess appeared hurt and distant. “What’s wrong, old friend?” asked Brownlegg.
“Well”, he said, bitchily, “Are you moving in with us, or are we moving in with you? I mean, you’ve led us on a bit, haven’t you?”
“Look, Cess, I’ve come up to this hell-hole in the middle of nowhere, and I’m not having the likes of you people wandering around Kingsway. I’d just assumed, like last time, we’d carry on as before, with you giving us most of your profits, like last time”.
Sticks and stones may break my bones
“No, no, no, Sid’ll not go for that, lovie, he’s developed quite a taste for money these days. He’s even redecorated the executive lattie - got rid of all that silly leather wallpaper and heart-shaped bed- it’s all chains, chrome poles and concealed lighting now, just like London”.
Gloria looked crestfallen and said, “But, London isn’t going through any fashion like that right now”.
Cess replied: “Sid said something like, ‘The type of places I go to are all like this…’”
After a lot of perfunctory goodbyes, and Cess waving to the bus as it pulled away while dabbing at his eyes with a hanky, Brownlegg beckoned everyone to the backseat while he had a sly smoke of his panatella.
“Well, what’s going on, Unc?” asked Gus. Spencer-Wells chipped in with, “Oh, come on, we’re all dying to know! Are we going North, or what?”
Where to, guv?
Gloria, Jean and Muriel said, “Well, we might go North, if there’s a good enough offer” - all the time thinking of chrome poles and tabletops.
Brownlegg unfolded a map, and said “Well, we’re not. Too many Northerners, talking about kitchen sinks and walking their whippets. If we’re going to find out what’s going on, we need definite, solid plans of action. This is a high-profile operation”.
He turned to Leslie Harblo. “Do us all a favour, Leslie - can you tell where we’re off to now?”
Leslie put his turban on, placed his polycarbonate crystal ball on the seat and watched the mist forming…