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Classic TV Revisited: Juke Box Jury



Juke Box Jury was a long running panel show that featured assorted celebs listening to various discs and passing judgment on them. David Jacobs, Noel Edmonds and Jools Holland all compered its off-on run. It ran on BBC-1 from 1959-1990.

Ultra smooth compere David Jacobs played 45rpm discs on a juke box and a panel of assorted celebs said whether or not they liked them.Sound riveting?

Wait, there’s more.
If the majority on the panel voted a record a “hit”, compere Jacobs tinkled a bell.And for a miss he sounded a klaxon, a bit like a raspberry.

This was cutting edge television?
Look, it could get really exciting – when they slammed a record and the singer came on as surprise guest. And all this around teatime!

Hang on, what did you see on screen while the records played?
Well, nice Mr Jacobs smiling and the panel ditto.And if that got, well, boring then we looked at the studio audience, beehive hair-dos, winkle picker shoes and feet tapping out of time.

Did it last a fortnight?
Eight years, knowall. It was then revived. Twice.

So no klaxon for JBJ?
No, it was a huge hit. They were simpler times.

Who were the celebs?
A mix of industry experts and people who knew nothing.

So the experts got it right?
Hardly, pop pickers. Alan Freeman said Cliff’s one they call Living Doll “wouldn’t sell a copy”.

It made No 1 and sold a million.

Ah, JBJ boosted sales?
Did it ever. Just getting a record played was a huge coup – and being voted a miss often did its chances no harm at all.

When did the discs first spin?
In June 1959, with a panel of singers Alma Cogan and Gary Miller, DJ Pete Murray and “typical teenager” Susan Stranks.

Sue sounds familiar?
Yes, nine years later she hosted Magpie. Typical…

Any others I might know?
Well, one week in 1963 the Beatles were the panel, and in ’64 The Stones.

Juke Box Jury

Now, THEY might be worth seeing?
Ye-e-s – shame the tapes have gone.

What day was it on TV?
At first, Tuesdays, but success was so swift it moved to Saturdays.

Peak viewing?
It competed with ITV’s Boy Meets Girls – the “boy” was Marty Wilde, Kim’s dad. He’s still rockin’ in his 60s.

And those celeb guests?
How about Paul Jones of the Manfreds, actresses Susan Hampshire and Shirley Ann Field – and race ace Jackie Stewart. At least he’d know about 45 revs per minute.

Despite its strait-laced image, was there any controversy?
Well, Bunny Lewis a songsmith, and Wolf Mankowitz, a writer, attacked the records – and then bad-mouthed each other.
Then there was Lisa Gastoni. She was an actress who appeared in an off-the-shoulder low-cut dress that made her appear – gulp – starkers. Viewers galore rang in.

Did it have a memorable theme tune?
Two, in fact, but the best known was the aptly named Hit And Miss.

A hit?
Yes, It made the top 10 for the John Barry Seven, paving the way for a string of hit TV themes and Barry’s film music career. He scored Adam Faith’s hits.Oddly, Faith was on Drumbeat, the BBC pop show that ended in August 1959 to be replaced by – Juke Box Jury. What goes around, comes around.

When did it end?
First, in 1967, but it was revived twice, proving to have slipped from pop to flop.

When was this?
First, in 1979, with smooth, smarmy David Jacobs replaced by Noel Edmonds. A total contrast.John Lydon was on and rubbished it all, using some invigorating language. Exit JBJ.

The final spin?
In 1989-90, chaired by Jools Holland.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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