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The Great BBC Titles and Idents Graveyard.

Some of you may have known the BBC had a brilliant bat-wing ident from 1953. I didn’t!

You may never intend to procrastinate. But if like me, the urge strikes you as naturally as does swimming to a fish, a two second dopamine hit can often become ‘Wonder of the Day’ in less time it takes to you to think: ‘Fuck it. It’s still early, I can spare a minute or two..’

Today that ten hour time thief is the BBC Motion Graphics Archive at Ravensbourne University. An archive of BBC program titles and idents that stretches all the way back to the iron age. What started as a momentary flick’n’click though it’s pages turned into a one way ticket aboard the nostalgia express.

Which for a bone idle bastard is the equivalent of taking the Inverness to Penzance train. A journey of some 20 hours and 20 minutes apparently. Although roughly about five pages of old TV titles in I realised that this wasn’t really a train journey but more of a Merry-Go-Round. Alexei’s Sayle’s to be precise.

Merry-GO! Merry-GO! Merry-GO-ROWND!

Titles! Thousands of Them!

Here’s the compulsive thing about the archive: It is a huge jumble of all the shows which had brilliant titles. Shows you might only barely remember but which had title sequences that were frequently more engaging than the content. Which for the period was really the whole point of title sequences. To get you excited that the next show might just exorcise the tedium of pre-internet life for thirty minutes.

From the Seven Ages of Man.

Now in the age of slashed production budgets show titles are often cobbled together post production after-thoughts. But in years gone by titles were frequently so dynamically creative in their execution, and so symbolically evocative that you felt almost honor bound to spend at least the next twenty minutes ‘waiting for the good bit’. Whilst you were actually watching a treatise on Edward Said or Mark Urban banging about politics.

It was a brilliant bit of bait and switch and I’m sure I wasn’t the only bitter eleven year old turned into an unwilling pseud by a clever bit of puppetry or animation. Take for example Ralph Steadman’s 31 seconds of blood-spattered nightmare for ‘Leviathan’, a satirical history show (with Mark Bloody Urban, of course).

-Leviathan Title Ident by Ralph Steadman

Even no-budget shows you have never heard of had beautifully surreal title sequences, Many of which stand alone as great tidbits of visual art. To choose one at random: ‘Archer’s Goon’ I have no recollection of whatsoever. Turns out it’s a science fiction show from 1993 aimed at kids.

There are also loads of titles that are seemingly so totally unrelated to the show’s premise that it becomes a fun guessing game. See if can you figure out what this show is about?

If you thought Post-Apocalyptic Romance you’d be a half right. Just kidding it’s a hospital comedy.

The Missing & The Idents

There are some glaring omissions however. ‘Further Abroad With Jonathan Meades’ is not there, Nor is BBC One’s ‘On The Record’ which had the houses of Parliament turn into a evil looking crocodile marauding over a map of the British Isles. The actual political discussion program bored me to tears but I’d watch the hell out of the title sequence.

I also searched in vain to find the original ‘Alexei Sayle’s Stuff’ title with Steamboat Fatty and the kids in the bald caps swearing in the theme song. However the archive does make a great jumping off point for shows you can’t quite remember and then look for elsewhere

It also allows you to compare idents throughout the decades, and see how far we’ve fallen come! A great example of this is the animated bat-wing logo from 1953 at the head of this article. Sure it looks like the crypto-fascist logo from an Alan Moore graphic novel but compare it the BBC One ident from 2018 below. I don’t know about you but I find the 2018 version way more dystopian. Something about the out-of-focus people, all of them with their phones out, gathered before a massive star topped tree while the slogan ‘One-Ness’ morphs into BBC One logo. It’s schmaltzy, pandering and sinister all at once. Give me the bat-wings and shifting eye circles any day.

Or how about BBC Scotland? Years ago we had ‘Around Scotland’, where the letters all flew about above a puddle of water like you’d collapsed in the gutter and were too pissed to catch them. When they finally resolved the O in Scotland was a big flaming ‘O’ ring. If you’ve ever been for a big messy night out in Glasgow it all makes perfect sense. What do we have now? A wee crystal jobbie laid out like a fucking dog’s egg onto some wet cobbles.

My favorite part of the archive though, is that finally I can see the full ‘Arena’ titles. Including the one with the Spitting Image animal puppets aboard Noah’s Ark, which is even darker than I remembered and makes the lame Spitting Image reboot look like Gordon the Fucking Gopher.

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Pulp Pourri

Masterchef The Professionals UK.

As Autumn turns to Winter and the days turn into nights about three o’clock in the fucking afternoon. So too does Masterchef the Professionals appear upon the screen like the seasonal spectre of Can’t-be-Arsed-Pour-Me-a-Drink TV.

You don’t intend to watch Masterchef, you end up marooned on it. Sure you can flick about on Netflix, or up and down the listings searching for something to watch while your horsemeat lasagna congeals on it’s little plastic tray. But you know you’ll settle for Masterchef just because it’s so easy! Perfect F.A.P fodder – Formulaic And Predictable. A televisual big old bowl o’ brown that slides down nice n’ easy.

For the minority of you who aren’t familiar with the format, it is basically of one of those food porn Marks & Spencers Xmas adverts masquerading as a competition. Whilst being as intellectually stimulating as a nuke-able Rustlers Cheeseburger bought from the reduced item shelf in the local Co-op.

It’s precisely this digestibility that makes it sort of semi-socially required viewing. The sort of show you can have a conversion with your Daily Mail reading Auntie about, before she goes off on a rant about the ‘greens and migrants’ again. There are three allegedly distinguishable variants of the show;

  • Regular, for the ‘foody’ amateurs who always take themselves waay too seriously.
  • Celebrity, which is comprised of AS SEEN ON TV clients of publicists, who once interned under Elizabeth Murdoch, daughter of Rupert and tyrant of Star TV which produces the show.
  • And finally there is Professional. Which is made up of purportedly professional chefs.

Anyways, this year we have same old buttery biscuit bollock brained Gregg Wallace. Michelin starred Marcus Wareing now looks like a knock off mascot lion from a sports tournament. As for Monica Galetti (rhymes with Alphabetti Spaghetti) she has bleached her hair yet again and could probably be either the baddie or the love interest opposite Christopher Lambert in a straight to DVD film.

Obviously serious Masterchef watchers like yourstruly don’t give a fuck about the finals or semi-finals. Nope. The early stages are where the good stuff is at, because that’s where you get the fuck ups getting chucked out early on a bed of their own toasted hubris! Pop-Up pricks who chuck shit at a wall before picking out the corn and serving it to you on mint smeared grease paper at £10 a pop. The delusional cafe/bistro hacks who slap dark chocolate in everything from duck to lamb to porpoise. And the ladder climbing ‘Executive Chefs’ who haven’t confit’d a spud since John Major was in power but they’re on the show “with something to prove!”

This season’s first episode has one in the latter category. The unfortunate Kuljit who not only buggered up the always tricky skills test with his deconstructed devilled mackerel. But also shit the bed big style in the ‘Cook Us Your Best Meal’ challenge by serving up fish and potato flavoured variations of the colour puce on a platter of despair.

This is the face Kuljit made when they said it was disgusting.

Anyway, every show is basically the same flavour. It gets kind of ridiculous week after week after week. But hey, if your life is going to shit it can be a welcome distraction and at the moment, who isn’t feeling the cutting edge of precipitous future? What I’m trying to say is I don’t begrudge people for watching and enjoying it.

What I do like to rip on are those deluded tuckfards that appreciate Masterchef. And like the show they fall into three distinct categories:

Dinner Party Despots. Love Islanders and Kitchen Confidential Coke Fiends. The second one proliferates all over the media landscape like Warhammer 40k orcs with tans and teeth whitening. They don’t require much explanation being your standard substandard schlebrity.

The Kitchen Confidential Coke Fiends I have first hand experience of. It happens like this: They take over a neat little neighbourhood cafe and turn it into a Fayne Dayning establishment with their mysterious financiers. Maybe they come to you for a bit of planning advice or a neighbourly chat about taking in their deliveries while they sleep off their hangover.

Almost like your new bestie in fact! So long as you are willing to front them two hundred quid for half a grilled lobster and chips. Failing that crucial first friendship test however now means they’ll probably dump goose grease down your drain and set fire to it.

If you really want to get under their skin mix up ‘celebrity chef’ over ‘professional’ and watch their eye twitch. Don’t worry though! Within six months they’re have legged it overnight leaving hundreds of thousands in debt and a wicked rodent infestation with a serious drug problem. Less Rasta mouse more meth mouse if you catch my drift.

Everyone knows a dinner party despot though! They stand over you in your own kitchen like some kind of poundland Gordon Ramsey and tell you how inferior your buttered toast is compared to theirs:

“Oooh don’t you want to warm the butter in a pan with a bit of harissa and muscovego? It’s so much more satisfying to spread that way. Mighty White? Oh please no! I only do sourdoughs with the yeast collected from a Cistercian nunnery where they have a 200 year old strain of candida running rampant..”

They are the same brand of petty snobs who try far too hard to ‘win’ on ‘Come Dine With Me’. I don’t mean the ones who are in it for a laugh and share the prize money. No I’m talking about those fusspots who insist they have food allergies to rare steak and make ice cream out of imaginary herbs their local ‘natural’ food shop grinds between selling packets of SPICE or K2. The majority of whom are narcissistic negging attention seeking wankers.

Not me though. Perish the thought.

Are you sure that oil is hot enough yet?