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Source: (consider it) Thread: Period Television
Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
# 619

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In a fit of late middle-aged nostalgia, House Firenze has lately been buying box sets of TV series from the 1960s.

Rewatching the likes of early episodes of The Avengers has been an odd experience. Only two and a bit survive from the first series, made in 1961 - none of which show the character (Steed) who subsequently became the principal.

The oddness to me though consists in seeing a depiction of a period which is now historical but also part of my own lifetime, made additionally strange by how much my own memories do/do not coincide with what I'm watching. The exterior shots - of unfeasibly uncluttered London streets - might be a Pathe newsreel. But the interiors, and, at this stage, clothes do not seem particularly of their time. Apart from a tendency of the men to wear hats more, they could pass for everyday even now.

To judge by the one episode so far of the second series, the sixties are beginning to become The Sixties. Female hair is starting to flick up at the end, and the Mcguffin is the roll of microfilm being sought by Unnamed Eastern European Powers.

Has anyone else revisited the 12" b/w (or similar) days of their youth? Both as TV and as social or personal evocation of the past, how does it strike you?

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Baptist Trainfan
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[Slight tangent: Several episodes of The Avengers were made at my school, which was conveniently close to the Studios. Sadly we were all kept well away from the filming and never caught a glimpse of a Lotus Elan or even a bowler hat! :Tangent ends].

[ 25. August 2016, 07:52: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Eutychus
From the edge
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quote:
Originally posted by Firenze:
Has anyone else revisited the 12" b/w (or similar) days of their youth? Both as TV and as social or personal evocation of the past, how does it strike you?

Not in black and white, but I'm utterly hooked on the short Rank films Look at Life, many of which are on YouTube. Particular favourites include City of the Air about London Airport - I grew up nearby and took my first flight from the airport not too many years after that film was made - and A load of pheasants about TIR trucking.

What strikes me is how overwhelmingly white and thin the UK population was, how many people smoked, and how sexist life was.

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Jerusalem is a city without walls

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
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Another watch was a now-excruciating The Mind of J G Reeder episode (c 1969). The villains include two Indians - transparently blacked-up Europeans, who speak in comic Babu accents.

And yes, people light up unfiltered cigarettes all the time.

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Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:

Have you noticed that modern TV dramas set in the 50s and 60s seem to make a point of having lots of people smoking? It's become a metaphor or shortcut for the period.

(At the same time, they often get make-up, hairstyles and the nuances of language woefully wrong).

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Penny S
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Not TV, but I have recently been sent a flyer for a Vintage clothes making function at the Ally Pally, with patterns from the pattern making companies from various periods. Goodness knows how one is supposed to fit in them, for starters.

But, given that they are genuine period patterns, there is a sense of not being right - even out of my own memory period. The 40s have no utility patterns - full skirts still. The 50s have New Look, but are very like the 40s. The 60s are still full skirted, or fitted with narrow skirts. And the 70s are not at all dissimilar. What happened to shifts? What happened to short skirts? What happened to kaftans, and A-line? I was there. I made clothes. The only reason I don't have my own vintage patterns is because they and I separated with regard to size.

Why don't young people ask the people who remember things? Giles Coren's programmes (back to TV) making families live through previous decades had my friend and I shouting at the screen. Wrong, wrong, wrongitty, wrongitty wrong.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Penny S:
Giles Coren's programmes (back to TV) making families live through previous decades had my friend and I shouting at the screen. Wrong, wrong, wrongitty, wrongitty wrong.

What was interesting was that my wife's memories were quite different to mine, and she, coming from a working-class Scottish background, found far more to take issue than I, from a professional southern England perspective.

Obviously I get annoyed when the wrong trains get used (especially as the preservation societies concerned will easily be able to advise the film companies); I also don't like the look of the seaplane in the new "Swallows and Amazons". My wife gets annoyed by wrong kinds of dancing. And one more pet hate of mine: white window-frames in urban Victorian drama - they were usually painted brown, because of the soot and grime.

But it can't be easy getting everything right!

[ 25. August 2016, 16:38: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Ariel
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# 58

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quote:
Originally posted by Firenze:
Has anyone else revisited the 12" b/w (or similar) days of their youth? Both as TV and as social or personal evocation of the past, how does it strike you?

Surprisingly dated. Wot no mobile phones, no internet, people smoking everywhere?

Entire storylines would have to be changed if some of the films were made now. "Brief Encounter" wouldn't have happened. The heroine wouldn't have got grit in her eye, there's no brandy to be had at the stations' coffee retail units, and Alec would presumably have texted her from his train and kept in touch on Facebook at the end.

Films were very much part of my young life and we always went to the cinema and kept up with the latest films. Looking back, those films are full of casual sexism - those women were so impossibly glamorous, but so often just an adoring, decorative chorus for the masterful male hero - yet many of us still aspired to look like film stars, until feminism arrived and threw out the glamour and forced us to work for a living.

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Ariel
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Apologies, I didn't watch much TV when growing up. But the principle of decorative women and masterful men (who were usually looking cool with a cigarette) still applies.
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Doone
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quote:
Originally posted by Penny S:
Not TV, but I have recently been sent a flyer for a Vintage clothes making function at the Ally Pally, with patterns from the pattern making companies from various periods. Goodness knows how one is supposed to fit in them, for starters.

But, given that they are genuine period patterns, there is a sense of not being right - even out of my own memory period. The 40s have no utility patterns - full skirts still. The 50s have New Look, but are very like the 40s. The 60s are still full skirted, or fitted with narrow skirts. And the 70s are not at all dissimilar. What happened to shifts? What happened to short skirts? What happened to kaftans, and A-line? I was there. I made clothes. The only reason I don't have my own vintage patterns is because they and I separated with regard to size.

Why don't young people ask the people who remember things? Giles Coren's programmes (back to TV) making families live through previous decades had my friend and I shouting at the screen. Wrong, wrong, wrongitty, wrongitty wrong.

I so agree!
[Disappointed] [Disappointed] [Disappointed]

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Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
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I have DVD collections of old TV shows, but many of them were never meant to be an accurate reflections of when they were made. The Addams Family, for example, was meant to not conform to contemporary aesthetics. Batman was intended to have a comic book feel.

However, I have recently been re-watching Remington Steele, from the 1980s. It occurred to me that the show couldn't be anything but from the 1980s. It would not have worked before then; it does not work since then. It is very much an artifact of its times. I am hopeless with clothes and hairstyles, but I do think it is a fairly accurate reflection of the Big Hair 80's

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"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Ariel
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The accents are another thing. "To speak like a BBC announcer" used to mean cut-glass, clipped posh tones. You only have to listen to someone reading the news back in the day to realize how much things have changed.
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Penny S
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# 14768

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Here is a link to the supposed vintage patterns.

sewalong

I do recall two things from Foyle's War, which my Sussex Dad had no quibbles with. One was a barbed war fence which had shreds of plastic bags on!

And the other, weirdly, was in the opening shot of an episode with the USAF arriving, when an old woman dressed in my Granny's coat and hat walked across the shot. Very period.

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Doone
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Thank you for the link. The choices seem all over the place to me! [Ultra confused]
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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
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The Reeder series I mentioned has a further layer of complication in that it is set in the 1920s. To me, the principal female character looks indubitably contemporary - ie late sixties. I think it's the hair - that is not a flapper cut but an early Twiggy lacquered bob. And the eyeshadow - that should be a more kohl-rimmed Theda Bara look.

In terms of drama, The Avengers holds up well. The series was always good at opening on some exciting and puzzling bit of action, which the episode would then explain. It's mild at the moment, but I recall later ones which would open on, say, someone found dead from no apparent cause in the middle of Wembley Stadium.

That said, the acting looks somewhat over-emphatic by current standards. Villains don't quite twirl mustachios and cackle but I did see an early sighting of a much-used trope: when the minor baddie phones Mr Big you see only an a hand wearing a large jewelled ring, issuing from a quilted satin sleeve, and fondling a small, beribboned dog, picking up the receiver. Later, of course, it was realised that white cats could do sinister much better than Airedales.

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cornflower
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quote:
Originally posted by Penny S:
Here is a link to the supposed vintage patterns.

sewalong


I had a look at that link..not that I know a lot about fashion...but I do wonder if some of those clothes might look a bit wrong because perhps they've been made up in modern materials? I think that what material is used can make quite a bit of difference to how clothing looks. There was alsoone item of clothing there from the 50's which actually looks quite modern
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cornflower
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quote:
Originally posted by Firenze:
The Reeder series I mentioned has a further layer of complication in that it is set in the 1920s. To me, the principal female character looks indubitably contemporary - ie late sixties. I think it's the hair - that is not a flapper cut but an early Twiggy lacquered bob. And the eyeshadow - that should be a more kohl-rimmed Theda Bara look.


I've not seen the Reeder series, but your comment about hair styles reminds me of how very annoyed I get when watching films, especially older ones. Whatever historical period they're set in you can tell the film was made in the fifties or sixties or whatever because the women's make-up, even hairstyles sometimes, is so of those periods.
Or maybe the ancient Roman or Egyptian or 17th century women all wore make-up just as worn in the 1960's. Nowadays at least they do seem to be better at making the characters etc more realistic (whether accurate or not, I don't know, but at least they seem more believable)

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M.
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Cornflower, I think they only look believable because we are contemporary with them. I bet in 50 years time, people will look at them and exclaim how they look like the early 2000s.

We've been watching the Avengers on tv recently (the boxed set seems a bit expensive and I'm not sure how many I could watch back to back) and I think they hold up well as silly entertainment. I'm enjoying them just as much as I did when I was a kid.

And perhaps because they do hail from the time of my youth, things look like they Ought To Look.

M.

[ 26. August 2016, 06:37: Message edited by: M. ]

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M.
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Sorry, I edited the post without changing anything! I had meant to add that some of the sets that are meant to be London streets are hilariously unconvincing, but I imagine they were meant to be. It's a very mannered programme.

M.

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Curiosity killed ...

Ship's Mug
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It depends when in the 60s though. My mother wore clothes like those patterns throughout the 60s. Mary Quant's minidress in the V&A dates from 1966, the Yves Saint Lauren Mondrian collection from 1965. I think 1967 when I think of Twiggy and everyone wearing miniskirts until well in to the 70s. The Emma Peel character was introduced into the Avengers in 1965.

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Mugs - Keep the Ship afloat

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
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It became mannered. But it started as a fairly standard crime-cum-espionage affair.

Speaking of which, who remembers The Prisoner ? That IMO was the high water mark of the dystopian fantasy that classic (ie, Emma Peel era) Avengers toyed with.

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la vie en rouge
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quote:
Originally posted by Penny S:
Not TV, but I have recently been sent a flyer for a Vintage clothes making function at the Ally Pally, with patterns from the pattern making companies from various periods. Goodness knows how one is supposed to fit in them, for starters.

My wedding dress was made (by my mother) from an original 1957 pattern. Before starting on the final dress, we made a toile to check the fit and discovered that it was going to need some very major adjustment. It was intended to be worn with extremely constrictive undergarments and the waist was miniscule. I am hourglass shaped - a size smaller in the waist than in the hips - and intended to wear hold-you-up-squeeze-you-in lingerie but even so, there was no way I was going to fit into it as was.

Fortunately for me, my best friend and chief bridesmaid works in fashion as a pattern cutter. She helped me to adjust the pattern so we could use it but it took three sessions, i.e. about 8 hours of professional work, to get it right. The original also had 1950s pointy boobs and in the end she ended up changing the design for a couple of pieces. No matter how many times she tried to recut them, the points just would not go away…

(Aside: the way pattern cutters work is really interesting. They work on the toile, not the pattern. Basically you keep adding and taking away fabric until you get something about right and then recut the pattern from that.)

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Firenze:
Speaking of which, who remembers The Prisoner ? That IMO was the high water mark of the dystopian fantasy that classic (ie, Emma Peel era) Avengers toyed with.

I think Portmeirion tourism did rather well out of it!
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Penny S
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I did think those patterns were for a particular age group. i.e. not the one I was in. I did have a couple of bought dresses with gathered skirts in the early 60s.

My father used to be very nitpicky about men's hair in supposed period programmes. The actors would not have their hair cut short enough. That has improved. And it doesn't take long for that hair to grow out to modern styles. (And given the effort put in to modify bodies for the part, the hair is minor.)

By contrast, I am now seeing supposed period programmes set in periods where women/girls had short hair where the actresses have long hair, often loose. Shots I have seen from Swallows and Amazons, for example. Shiver my timbers, Nancy Blackett with long loose hair? Not so easy to grow back for them, but what about wigs?

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Baptist Trainfan
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Indeed. I saw these photos and thought that the kids could be nothing but "modern". Even the facial expressions look wrong.

The Swallows look OK.

[ 26. August 2016, 09:05: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
[I also don't like the look of the seaplane in the new "Swallows and Amazons".

I don't like the *appearance* of the seaplane in Swallows and Amazons, let alone the look.

As a Ransome loyalist/perfectionist, the whole thing is that there is gunplay in only 2 of the books (Missee Lee and Peter Duck), and those are the two that, in the metanarrative that only the true Ransome geeks will know owing to the fact that Ransome eventually cut the prologues to both books, the children made up as stories to tell themselves while icebound in a wherry.

Seaplanes, spies, and guns shouldn't be in S&A.

Anyway....back to the subject, I was only born in 1980, but thanks to the excellent 1990s BBC2 evening policy of repeating classics at 6pm on weeknights I have a deep love for and working knowledge of:
The Avengers
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
The Professionals
The Sweeney
Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?
Steptoe & Son
Dad's Army
The Prisoner

I also love the Goon Show, Hancock's Half Hour, The Navy Lark and Round the Horne... Radio 4 Extra is my friend.

Was I born 50 years too late I ask myself.

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And is it true? For if it is....

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
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Popping back in my Host frock (with the ruching and lace inlay) to say that we have a Craft thread for the discussion of dressmaking.

Meanwhile, if we just lean out of the window with the aerial, we can get a picture (anyone remember that Hancock?)

Firenze
Heaven Host

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Baptist Trainfan
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Yes!
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M.
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Also yes!

And I remember The Likely Lads, not just Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads.

But then I remember the very first Doctor Who, although I can only remember 2 things about it - she lived in a scrapyard (I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful - when did Steptoe and Son start?) and it was bigger on the inside! (I had to ask one of my big brothers how that could be).

M.

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by M.:
Also yes!

And I remember The Likely Lads, not just Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads.


IMO (obviously) Whatever Happened to... is one of the few examples of a spin-off outclassing the original. It is my all-time favourite sitcom, against all-comers. There is something so perfect about Terry picking up essentially where the first incarnation left off, while Bob has moved on.

In real life, it's oddly mirrored by the fact that James Bolam is reluctant to have even any acknowledgement of the series made, while Rodney Bewes has a one-man show which makes money from talking about his experiences of it. Away from the series, it's Terry that moved on, and Bob that stalled.*

*James Bolam also famously hasn't spoken to Rodney Bewes since the film spin-off of the series came out nearly 40 years ago.

But all that aside, the episode with the cycle race to Berwick is one of the most perfect 30 minutes of comedy you will ever see.

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And is it true? For if it is....

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
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And will there ever be Likely Lads II? Since I notice they intend to remake Are You Being Served? Which is odd, considering what an anachronism the department store is nowadays. You have malls, you have concessions, you have enormous Primarks - what you don't have is shops where you go up to counters and ask for something. You bring stuff to them - very often the only staff you see are corralled behind a row of tills.

Which brings us back to the divergence between Life as we remember it and TV's representation of it as we remember it.

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Firenze:
And will there ever be Likely Lads II?

There has been a one-off.

It *starred* Ant and Dec and was an essentially shot-for-shot remake of the episode where they spend the day trying to avoid the football results.

Allegedly Mr Bolam vetoed it being revisited in the latest run of BBC spin-offs, although they are doing Porridge.

Sacrilege.

[ 26. August 2016, 10:51: Message edited by: betjemaniac ]

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And is it true? For if it is....

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Sarasa
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My favourite Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads was the one when they are trying not to find out a football score. I think what made it so good was the acting, specially from James Bolam.
I was also very fond of Handcock's Half Hour, but never quite got on with Steptoe and Son.
Away from comedy I loved Adam Adamant and a programme called Vendetta which was about the Mafia (I think, it was a long time ago!).

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Previously Gussie.
Newt fancier turned goldfish

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Fredegund
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How about Z cars for casual violence and sexism? Very much of it's period.

Slightly later - Butterflies. It used to make me cry.

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Pax et bonum

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Ariel
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Ah, the joy of "Blake’s Seven" revisited:

"Where’s Avon?"
"He’s reprogramming the computer."
Enter Avon triumphantly holding up a large screwdriver. "I've reprogrammed the computer."

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L'organist
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Bring back All Gas and Gaiters.

Updated, it could be even funnier than the original - after all the current house of bishops has so many members who are crying out to have their foibles and ticks brought before a wider audience. [Biased]

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Rara temporum felicitate ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
# 619

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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
Bring back All Gas and Gaiters.

'It's the Dean!' Has long been a catchphrase in our house.
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Paul.
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# 37

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Have you heard about "The Lost Sitcoms" that the BBC are doing? They are re-shooting episodes of classic sitcoms where no recording exists, with (obviously) modern casts. Look interesting.

My other observations for this thread are:

1) I trust my memory of previous decades far less than a recorded artifact like a TV program. Yes I was there but I wasn't paying attention and didn't realise there would be a test!

2) Always remember that if a show was shot in the 80s say, it will tend to have the main characters in the latest fashions but in the real world at that time a lot of people would still be wearing late 70s clothes. We don't after all throw out our entire wardrobes every few years.

3) One thing that's fascinating is the how the past is imagined at different times. I have collected a number of versions of adaptations of Jane Austen novels over the years and it's amazing how the 1972 Emma is different from the 1996 movie is different from the 2009 one.

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"[God's] not asking for your help. He's asking for you."
- The Cloud of Unknowing.

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Penny S
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# 14768

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And James Bolam reminds me - Anyone remember the Beiderbeck Affair and its sequels? I had the books of the three main series, until I had some building work done, when one of them disappeared.

But what puzzled me was the mysterious non-reference back to the other series with teh woodwork including complete standard lamps, and a mysterious yellow VW, and the woman teacher's missing husband. (Clarified by wikipedia. 'Get Lost', apparently.)

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Hedgehog

Ship's Shortstop
# 14125

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quote:
Originally posted by Paul.:
Have you heard about "The Lost Sitcoms" that the BBC are doing? They are re-shooting episodes of classic sitcoms where no recording exists, with (obviously) modern casts. Look interesting.

Along similar lines, Big Finish is doing audio recreations of the first season of "the Avengers", now largely lost, when Steed paired up with Dr. Keel. There are new actors doing the voices, and I assume there has been some editing has been done to the script to make it work on audio (after all, they can't very well say "Look at that!" without telling us what we are supposed to be looking at).

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"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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cornflower
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# 13349

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quote:
Originally posted by M.:
Cornflower, I think they only look believable because we are contemporary with them. I bet in 50 years time, people will look at them and exclaim how they look like the early 2000s.


M.

Well, that could be true...however, I do wonder if nowadays they make more of an effort to make things look as realistic as possible...but perhaps it deoends a bit on the budget? Obviously things like Up Pompeii aren't supposed to look accurate, a bit like children's Nativity plays
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Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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quote:
Originally posted by Firenze:
And will there ever be Likely Lads II? Since I notice they intend to remake Are You Being Served? Which is odd, considering what an anachronism the department store is nowadays.

When we first came to live in our current town in 2005, the Co-op had a large, long-established, well-loved but over-staffed and old-fashioned department store. About 5 years later it closed. We still mourn it.

Apparently even the staff called it "Grace Bros."!

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cornflower
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# 13349

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quote:
Originally posted by Paul.:

2) Always remember that if a show was shot in the 80s say, it will tend to have the main characters in the latest fashions but in the real world at that time a lot of people would still be wearing late 70s clothes. We don't after all throw out our entire wardrobes every few years.


Yes, that's true...my mother for example was wearing clothes in the 60's which I'm sure were late 50's or early 60's...basically probably, because having 6 kids, she couldn't afford to buy the lastest fashion. My great-grandmother, apparently, wore long black dresses well into the times when that kind of thing was no longer fashionable. I myself still have a top from 43 years ago, which I don't wear much (a little tight now but wearable, as stretchy), but I love the colour.
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cornflower
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# 13349

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Anyone remember Harry Worth? I used to love that programme as a kid where he stands by a shop window and raises one leg so that it reflects in the glass.
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Sioni Sais
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# 5713

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quote:
Originally posted by cornflower:
Anyone remember Harry Worth? I used to love that programme as a kid where he stands by a shop window and raises one leg so that it reflects in the glass.

We didn't often get to watch beyond that! My mum allowed that was funny but she found him so annoying that we rarely got to see much more.

Nowadays I understand her.

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If someone takes a shot at President Trump will his bodyguards shout "Donald Duck"?

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M.
Ship's Spare Part
# 3291

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That bit is all I can remember about Harry Worth! But Charlie Drake was popular in our house - Mr Pugh, was it?

And yes, the Beiderbecke Affair was wonderful.

M.

Posts: 2168 | From: Lurking in Surrey | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
# 619

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I can remember the show - it was all live at at time - in which his character kept being thrown out of somewhere and then coming back in. It ended rather oddly with people standing about - it later emerged he'd been concussed by the last pratfall.

I've heard various actors over the years reminisce about the joys of live TV drama. Peter Sallis, for example, on playing Pepys: as his character was, of necessity, in every scene, he had to hare round the studio. He devised two ploys for covering this - one was the 'I do but wonder' line for the other actors - 'I do but wonder where Sam is e'en now'. And the other was The Laugh - Aaahaahaahaa - to conceal the panting. Which was all right apart from the scene when another actor hissed in his ear 'We're supposed to be at a funeral!'

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Penny S
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# 14768

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I am now expecting a box set of Beiderbeck, plus "Get Lost" - in the last Beiderbeck, the husband reappears, so that will be necessary.

One thing about things set in period is that designers are often unaware of how many things from previous periods would still be about in furnishings and wardrobes. I have a sweater that I knitted in my teens (and, coming across a hank of the same yarn in Oxfam, now have a matching hat). I have a bureau that belonged to my grandparents. And a table and chairs from Charlotte Despard, an early suffragist, whose furniture was seized by bailiffs and sold to my grandparents. (This would have been in the last of a series of sales, when she told her friends to stop buying things back for her.) I have 1950s G-Plan from my parents' home. The newest thing is a set of sturdy sheesham nesting tables from Aldi, last week.

And I deeply regret the loss of Dartford Co-op, which had a really good fabric and haberdashery department.

[ 27. August 2016, 07:52: Message edited by: Penny S ]

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Firenze

Ordinary decent pagan
# 619

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I don't think designers are 'unaware'. But if they are told to do a 1920s interior they have to pile it on so that the viewer is clear THIS IS THE 1920s. It is part of the dramatic artefact, along with the costume and dialogue, designed to secure suspension of disbelief and engagement with the action.

If you cavill that 'real' interiors of period would have had a mix of objects, you are rather missing the point. In the absence of glaring anachronism, the least you can do is accept this as part of the story, as you would the scene-setting in a novel.

Posts: 17203 | From: Edinburgh | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Penny S
Shipmate
# 14768

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They don't do it with big houses with their own furniture.
I didn't mind it with Poirot - the stylisation is part of the performance.

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