television centre

Tales of Television Centre (BBC4)

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Normally when Twitter erupts with adoring tweets about a BBC4 programme, it’s at 9pm on a Saturday night and the subject is the latest instalment of a Scandinavian crime noir serial. But for once last week, there was an exception to the rule, as everyone seemed to be wallowing in the nostalgia fest that was Tales of Television Centre.

The BBC’s prolonged departure from its iconic White City headquarters in London proved a good excuse to raid the archives for a celebratory look back at the building which for many of a certain age – including myself – had been the very face of British broadcasting down the years. Its distinctive round shape enclosing the circular quad and its UFO/satellite dish-esque fountain is unlike any other TV company facility, and for that reason became forever linked with the BBC’s output through the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

The archive footage stirred those memories very well with a ton of programmes I remember watching when I was young, from the kids shows such as Swap Shop, Record Breakers and Blue Peter through to the panel quiz shows, comedies and drama programmes that I graduated to as I grew up. These provoked cosy and warm memories, and there was plenty of material new to the viewers as well. From outtakes and studio trims from the time through to newly shot interviews with people who worked in the building down the years both in front of and behind the camera who enjoyed sharing their anecdotes of post-filming drinks in the BBC Club, to David Attenborough recalling how – as controller of BBC2 – he once had to politely ask one of the production teams to show a little more discretion in what they were smoking as the distinctive odour was working its way throughout the building. There was Barry Norman remembering how he had to sober up before taping the film review show after over-indulging at a leaving do, only to end up with the most sober and hence dull programme he ever did. And there were three Doctor Who companions raucously agreeing with Jools Holland’s description of the Television Centre as a cross between showbusiness and a KGB interrogation centre. Read the rest of this entry »