24 May 2004 4 comments. tbs.pm/2039
East of England 1959-2002 (Lost identity)
Knight in shining armour
Anglia – the station synonymous for most with the spooky ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, the quiz of the week ‘Sale of the Century’ and the highly successful ‘Survival’ natural history programmes, was also the first of three ITV companies to use a three-dimensional model for an ident.
This was considered innovative and unusual at the time, but the distinctiveness of the idea – a Norman invader on his mighty charger carrying Anglia’s standard – was always meat-and-drink to Anglia’s detractors, rivals, and any comedy programme worth its salt.
The initial appearance of the ident in 405-line black and white days, was of a static model, with changing camera angles and lighting, which today still looks impressive. When presented with the ‘limits’ of technology, pioneers of television always excelled in making more of what they had than their counterparts today dare.
The 625-line colour version looks less impressive, simply rotating almost endlessly, leaving one famous ident critic to point out its similarity to a toy on a record player. However, the Knight was the first three-dimensional ident in independent television, and for that deserves recognition and respect.
The follow-up ident introduced in the 1980s was of a capital ‘A’ built out of triangles, usually depicted on a flag. Launched with an innovative drum-beat ident and using an unusual device of parts of the flag disappearing and reappearing, it is a superb ident. The triangles of the ident all face east, and the breakbumper designed to accompany it featured the elements randomly scattering, with the final centre triangle dashing eastward at the end.
But for all this, the new flag ident was undistinguished against the Knight and never really achieved the cult status enjoyed by a man on a horse, slowly rotating.
For those who have only ever seen the colour version of the Anglia ident, the monochrome version is a delight – on seeing this, opinions on whether the Knight symbol was awful or brilliant melt away.
Firstly, the endless rotation of the colour knight is replaced by moody lighting and details of the statue.
The effect is quite charming and also very impressive – the ident stands out from the crowd and is simply unmistakable. As a demonstration of what could be done with monochrome television, this ident, plus the title sequences of ABC Weekend’s The Avengers, show the power of ‘the silver screen’
And then colour television arrived – piecemeal in the east of England – and a new version of the ident needed to be recorded.
With the drama – yes! – of the previous version, how could Anglia top it? They couldn’t, so they didn’t try. Instead of close-ups and dramatic lighting, we get a man on a gelding rotating on a turntable.
The problem with the colour ident is – even in the shortened network version – it is interminable.
It is clear that the statue is doing nothing but rotate – and will do nothing else. A very long time has been spent getting the lighting even, but this just adds to the tedium – nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary will happen here.
The whole thing looks dull – in colour, the silver knight looks more like pewter, and the whole thing looks like it was purchased from Innovations rather than Aspreys.
Let’s to spend some time with Anglia in the colour-Knight days.
First up is the standard card showing company symbol and regulator name over which the start-up music played.
Then it’s time for Anglia’s clock – evidently mechanical and interestingly old fashioned – like the face to a retirement-present carriage clock.
A menu, giving a run-down of a typically awful ITV Saturday night in the early 1980s, including such wonders as The Grumbleweeds Radio Show, The Price Is Right and – something not likely to be seen now – an American import, slap-bang in the middle of primetime at 2030. But a 15 minute news bulletin just before is even less likely to be seen now.
Finally, it’s time for a programme, and Anglia presents (and presented) a non-ITV production.
Take the model off the turntable and pop it into a pile of compost. Film it, and superimpose the words ‘Anglia Presents’. Add the short version of the Water Music ident. Behold one ident for use on important imports, films and ITC productions.
Of course, it isn’t as simple as that, and the use of the symbol – spoiled by colour in its elongated version – is certainly innovative, seeming to suggest that the Knight is real, stood astride a piece of eastern turf and dominating the (non-local) programme that follows.
Now a look at the successor ident. Highly innovative, the triangles of the symbol all point eastward. The flag ident is also unusual, with the flag itself disappearing, leaving the symbol, then the situation reversing, leaving a flag with the symbol missing. A fascinating and well-played idea.
Under the yoke of United and later Granada, the symbol slipped in popularity with the company – featuring only incidentally in this local promo.
Dick Graham – Chief Announcer at Anglia as well as primary voice-over talent on ‘Survival’ – gives one of the most comprehensive authority announcements heard on Independent Television.
As far as the rules can be established, mention of the region, transmitter names or channel was “pick one of the above”. Some companies were downright minimalist, others chose to be more enigmatic.
Anglia appear to have misread the rules – something they shared with that other 3D company, Westward – and go for the entire technical banquet.
Given that Anglia had one of the most comprehensive authority announcements in monochrome days, followed by a breathtaking colour announcement (“broadcasting a Full Colour service to the east of England”), the company still managed to be one of the first to junk the authority announcement when it became optional.
Having been one of the first to shorten the opening sequence – from the full 4 minutes or so down to a token two – the post TV-am handover here is incredibly short, used to bridge the gap between programmes for only a few seconds. It’s even played out a tad early – meaning we get to join it a few seconds in.