Saturday, September 24, 2005

Just Like The Old Days

On Thursday evening The Bill, for just the second time in its history, did a special live edition. To emphasise the point they kept showing close-ups of a clock on the office wall. In case anyone still didn't get the message, an actor would say "It's twenty to nine."
All over the country, viewers looked at their watches and said "Bloody hell, it is too! Isn't modern technology amazing, Mavis? They can now broadcast a whole hour of drama live, in real time!"

Of course, in my childhood another police series, Z Cars, was broadcast live, as was just about everything else. Z Cars also had some pre-filmed sections that were slotted into the live studio stuff. But my memory of Z Cars is that the coppers spent most of their time sitting chatting in their patrol cars.

The Bill's live edition was a considerable achievement and included a modest car stunt and someone falling off a staircase. None of the actors dried and there were few things that the viewer could have identified as a cock-up. The only noticeable difference from the recorded episodes was that at the beginning of scenes the actors appeared to be in freeze-frame for a second as they waited for their cue. The most noticeable occasion was when two actors stood in arrested motion as they came through some swing doors.
I don't remember this ever happening in the old days, probably because television techniques were so different and there were far less tracking shots. In The Bill, actors spend a lot of their time walking along corridors in the police station, trying not to look at the camera or walk into a wall.
Right at the end, there was an Acorn Antiques moment when someone stood in front of a camera and there was also a moment when a crew member appeared to run across the back of the shot.

Broadcasting live gave it the excitement and edginess of live theatre and I bet it took the actors a long time to wind down afterwards. Although I only worked backstage in the theatre, when I stepped up to do a cue I got the same adrenalin rush after two years and eight thousand cues as the first time I did one. Knowing there are no second chances concentrates the mind wonderfully.


The Kipper Tie is legendary in the annals of fashion crimes. But do you remember the brief fashion for very thin ties? I've been spring cleaning (don't worry, I always spring clean in the autumn) and found this fine example. It's wool and bears a Carnaby Street label. I used to be very fond of it and wear it with a lurid, red, floral shirt that looked rather like the wallpaper that was common in Indian restaurants.
And if you were in an Indian restaurant at the end of the evening, slurping up a Prawn Biryani, a thin tie had the advantage that it provided a much smaller target area for food stains. You could even tuck it inside your shirt if it wasn't machine washable and there was lots of chilli sauce flying around.

I think thin ties were a feature of 'Mod' fashion but I stand to be corrected on that. Shock, horror! Gay man with limited knowledge of, or interest in, fashion!
But I know what I like. And for me this scrawny piece of neckwear has a definite feelgood factor.
I shall wear it to the supermarket today and dazzle the local chavs with a little bit of Sixties sartorial magic.


At 1:45 PM, Blogger Ben said...

I wasn't sure quite what the point of doing 'The Bill' live was, to be honest. There were always going to be minor cock-ups, and it smacked of the programme makers thinking of themselves rather than the viewer - "Look how clever and professional we are! We can do it all live!" It must have taken an awful lot of planning and organisation, and put a lot of pressure on the actors - was it really worth it? I'm not sure.

That said, I'll admit I was very impressed by how smoothly it went.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger cello said...

Ooh, thin ties. Guaranteed aphrodisiac. Just need a bottle of Hirondelle wine to complete teenage seduction memories.

At 12:30 AM, Anonymous asta said...

Thin ties. Spooky. Doing a house clean-out at my mother's, I discovered a stash of my father's old thin ties. Two of them were sufficiently flashy ( one was silver the other, black on black silk) to work as belts, and so I've brought them home with me.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

ben: I agree, in one sense pointless. But I suppose it was a good marketing ploy. It got a lot of coverage for them in the rest of the media.

cello: thin ties, Hirondelle, Watneys Party Sevens, Irish coffee with cream (as served at Berni Inns) - that's what we'll talk about in the old people's home.

asta: almost sacrilege to use them as belts! Silver would look good with a black shirt.


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