Monday, 24 September 2012

A General amongst men... Nurturing the stars and the industry

 This week has seen the death of television producer Michael Hurll. From the tributes from my fellow tweeters in particular Mike Smith, a man who worked with Hurll on Top of the Pops and The Late Late Breakfast Show who said 'RIP Michael Hurll. TOTP & Light Ent legendary producer. A mentor to me and many. He let us be us. And he led like a General.' and also broadcaster Greg Scott said 'Television producer, Michael Hurll has died... The behind the scenes equivalent of a Wogan or Forsyth passing away. What a legacy.'

Hurll was born in 1936 in Twickenham, South West London. Educated at St Paul's School in Hammersmith, where one of his earliest directing jobs, you could say was directing future 'Beyond the Fringe' performer Jonathan Miller in a school revue. But it was when joining the BBC as a "call boy" later to known as a runner on the Billy Cotton Band Show that the start of his long career in television was to begin, though he was in good company on that first job with future film director Michael Winner as a fellow "call boy" on the same series. 

His touch for variety and also music was apparent, working with the likes of Roy Hudd, Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Noel Edmonds and Cilla Black. The list goes on and on, with each new series came a new set of challenges as he said himself in a 2007 interview to The Independent "I'm one of those people like the TV doctor: when the patient needs a bit of TLC I'm brought in," he says. "It's about trying to convince the performer they should be going in a different direction - or making them bloody well work. So many of them take it easy once they've made it. It's hard to get to the top but it's even harder to stay there." His guiding hand to productions from the late 1960's all the way through to the new millennium, his style of directing may seem out of place today but his style was the right one for the shows he did. For example, with the reboot of the Top of the Pops during the early 80's, the show itself seemed unchanged from the mid 70's onwards and though it had survived disco, punk and new wave, the show was looking out of place for the early 80's. With the atmosphere outside the studio in the nation less then a party, Hurll made it look like a party, so whenever viewers switched on a Thursday night, it looked like a neon wonderland.

Though one of his biggest experiences both technical and with the Radio One disc jockeys came through Seaside Special. With a weekly travelling show coming to town, the venue as such was a circus big top. The challenges of that, trying to set up a show in a venue which would test the best of producing talent, seemed like an easy task for Hurll. The stars were a part of the show, the disc jockeys were a part of the show, but it was the venue was the major star. Guaranteeing a summer season show coming to the resort, gave it prestige and the public from all around would always fill up the BBC1 Big Top. Coming from a place myself which had regular visits from Seaside Special during the 1970's and early 80's, this was entertainment coming out from London, Manchester, Birmingham and other major network centres to the coast, it was an experience and Michael Hurll always guaranteed a line-up of stars which the public was deserving of from the latest chart acts, big name comedians and the brightest new talents as well.

But his knowing as a young producer would give him one of his longest relationship with a performer, when relatively unknown Cilla Black turned up late for the Billy Cotton Band Show by his own words he gave Cilla 'A bollocking..' for doing so. Though it could be said that shake-up would make her more professional and by the end of that decade she would have her own Saturday night variety show and with only one condition with it, she wanted Hurll to produce it having seen he had dealt her in the same way as he had with Bill Cotton Snr. if guests were out of order on that show. It was this way which made the show a success for both Black and also for Bill Cotton Jnr. as well. For eight years he brought Cilla into living rooms all over the country, though at the same time he was in charge of some of the BBC's biggest one off events too.

In 1972, he produced the Two Ronnies in Christmas Night with the Stars, but such a big event meant that he had to organise other comedic efforts from other shows, such was the broad depth of the programme he recognised that the Two Ronnies being the centrepiece, was a good base to build the programme around. His dealing with the two Rons, Barker and Corbett was a good one, it was Barker who taught him the nuances of comedy, the timing and the rhythm such where Hurll had a firm grip over other shows he realised that Barker would have a firm grip on the show he was performing in and as such Hurll went along with what Barker wanted. By doing this, it allowed Barker and Corbett to perform tightly and work like clockwork with each other. Though seemingly this was good training for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest held in Brighton, which he was charged with producing, in lesser hands the contest could have flagged at any stage, but to be chosen amongst all his peers like Stewart Morris and Yvonne Littlewood was a great honour to be bestrode upon a person. Though now it those images of that contest are the most famous one, for not only launching ABBA onto the world stage but the style of the contest which had grown over the years to something bigger then ever before.

Later on during the 1980's, Hurll went freelance as a producer but coming back to produce the Late Late Breakfast Show. At that time from humble beginnings, the show was turned around into one of the BBC's best rating winners of the early 80's. With his tight leadership, allowed it to grow and grown making bigger stars of all who were involved in it. He had taken on ITV with Game For a Laugh and managed to spear it, much like Game For a Laugh had done to the Generation Game at the end. But Hurll did have links to Game For a Laugh, he had filmed a different version of it for the BBC at which time it was rejected and one of the presenters of the pilot by the name of 'Gotcha' took it away to redevelop it after Bill Cotton Jnr. said he didn't want anything as vulgar on his channel. That man from the pilot was Jeremy Beadle, later to become one of ITV's biggest stars. When Bill Cotton Jnr. got together some of his Light Entertainment department's bright brains to come up with something to rival Game For a Laugh, Hurll reminded that they did have 'Gotcha' and Cotton Jnr. had rejected it. 

Hurll set up his own production company, Michael Hurll Television later to merge with Unique Communications. But it was the setting up of the British Comedy Awards which was his legacy and by setting it up creating some of the most remembered moments from it including Julian Clary at the 1992 awards making a joke about the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, plus when receiving his lifetime achievement award, Spike Milligan calling Prince Charles 'A grovelling little bastard..' Thus moments are made when live television is made, from that Hurll made sure that the event was to become one of the biggest watched of each and every year owing to the reactions of the comics and also jokes being told not only by them by also by Jonathan Ross as well.   

Even after his passing, Michael Hurll's legacy will live on through the programmes he produced, the ones he set up and also the performers he helped nurture as well. No doubts, he will be remembered for years to come by not only those in the television industry but those who watched one of his shows, neon and balloons or not... He nurtured a whole world of entertainment and put the words into other people's mouths... Well, in the case of Bono and Paul Weller that is... But just those few seconds will be remembered by the people who watched that 1984 Top of the Pops Christmas Special. But his like were special and may he be remembered a general amongst men.

Michael Hurll (7th October 1936 - 18th September 2012)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

"You're Nicked!" The Sweeney... Its influence and the story of its longevity...

With the release of new The Sweeney movie in cinemas, now seems like a good time to look back at this ground-breaking series as before this, the police on television seemed from another universe let alone another age. The 1950's and 60's had brought Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars to the screen and influential in bringing Z Cars to fruition was Troy Kennedy Martin, but at this time his brother Ian was working for ABC Television on the military police drama Redcap starring John Thaw as Sergeant John Mann in one of his first ever television roles.

By the end of the sixties had seen a move to a more modern fresher style of police show with LWT's New Scotland Yard being a case in point, it ramped up the action by making the series tough and grittier then any before it with Dennis Waterman later to play George Carter in The Sweeney appearing in the earlier series. Though it influence could be felt, allowing shows to push boundaries and show crime as it is and was, tough and sometimes more violent. Where as people had expected entertainment from LWT, this was a departure from it. 

But The Sweeney doesn't also have police shows from this side of the Atlantic to be thankful for, since the mid to late 60's show like Ironside, Cannon, Hawaii Five-O and The Streets of San Francisco were all being broadcast on a regular basis by the BBC and ITV. Their look was totally different to the grey Britain which was being shown on the news at that time, the key difference was their filming style which made them into mini-movies each and every week. Though much of the attitude could drawn from Hollywood, during the the early 70's both Dirty Harry and The French Connection had taken the police to a new level, men taking risks to get results even with physical contact. The world away from Dixon's cuff around the earhole it seemed, but realism is what audiences wanted, almost the anti-hero getting results at any costs. For British audience this had been displayed in 1971's Get Carter, although dealing with the underworld of criminality, this showed audiences what was going on now, even under their feet. 

By 1973, there was a seed of an idea and Ian Kennedy Martin wrote a one off drama for the Armchair Cinema strand to be broadcast in 1974 called 'Regan' focussing on Detective Inspector Jack Regan, an officer originally from Manchester who had joined the Met Police several years before joining the Flying Squad. His solving of a case of a policeman killed by a gang of criminals takes up the original drama with Regan using his tough approach to get the results both for himself and also for the family of the dead officer. 

Though from this the seed of an idea took place for Regan to enter into the schedules, the development from one off drama to first series was not to be a smooth one. Ian Kennedy Martin who had wrote 'Regan' wanted the series to be a lot more studio based with more dialogue and less action sequences as was seen in such shows as Van Der Valk at that time. But Ted Childs the producer thought in the opposite way, that having a lot more filmed sequences would give a more gritty edge and the public's appetite for more action would count for something. This was Yang to Van der Valk's slower Ying, allowing The Sweeney to be fast paced and to be more matched to what the real Flying Squad were dealing with on a daily basis. The writers also used the real life experiences of the Flying Squad and used it in the series as well the criminal underground themselves, with each side becoming unofficial advisers of the series. Allowing procedure to be followed in the right way, similar cases to be used in episodes plus also their homes lives to be put onto the screen. Thus it becoming like a confessional for the officers, with the criminals they could secretly advice about how they would go about entering a place or what car they would use a getaway vehicle and their own attitude to a job as well.

When the first series was broadcast between January and March 1975, the promotional episode shown to the the press was "Thin Ice", this was a lightweight episode and more humorous then subsequent episode during the run itself. Though much of the first series deals with the relationship between Regan, Carter and their superior officer Frank Haskins. The tension shows as Haskins thinks it would be better if Carter was split away from Regan because of his potential to rise up the Met Force. Haskins own relationship with Regan is a frosty one with him wanting Regan to use conventional methods of policing to get results, but over time Haskins get used to these methods and admits they get results no matter how unorthodox they appear to be. 

By the second series, with Carter's wife Alison being murdered in the episode "Hit and Run" his character changes as he becomes more and more like his boss, by wanting to get results by any means how. Though during the second series, the episode "Faces" with an anarchist group undertaking robberies, is very similar to the German anarchists 'The Baader-Meinhof Gang' who had been doing similar things in Germany at that time. It shows The Sweeney took from the news the contemporary issues of the day and used them for their own effect and storylines. But also Patrick Mower and George Layton turned peformances as two cocky, Australian rogues in the episodes "Golden Fleece" and "Trojan Bus" as well. The latter coming about because the characters becoming so popular with the viewers, they were written another episode during that series let them appear again.

Each of the episodes took about eight weeks to film, with two weeks for location scouting and casting, two weeks shooting the episode, four weeks editing with the first two overlapping the shoot itself, two weeks sound editing and two and half days redubbing audio. Over ten working days itself, per day about five minutes of edited screen time would be shot with ten locations being used per episode and one a day being used. Two days would spent on shoot ten minutes of edited screen time on the office set at Euston Films headquarters at Collet Court, Hammersmith. Usually areas around Fulham, Notting Hill, Earl's Court plus Kensington and Chelsea would be used the most to film outdoor scenes. But from Wexham in Buckinghamshire, Twickenham and Wokingham, The Sweeney went all over London and the South East for locations during its run.

By 1976 the show was a constant rating winner and the show looking for new and different types of crimes to feature in episodes such as "Taste of Fear" taking a psychopathic criminal and using his experiences to turn to crime, plus "Tomorrow Man" featuring the clash of more modern technological ways of solving crime up against Regan's more traditional approach to come under scrutiny. Plus it was attracting some best acting talent that Britain had to offer, with performances from John Hurt, Hywell Bennett, Warren Clarke, Diana Dors, Maureen Lipman and even Janet Ellis with her modesty covered by only a German paratroopers helmet. It was an outlet for these talents to star alongside John Thaw and Dennis Waterman, making each episode special for their appearances. Though with the show's popularity came criticisms that it was too violent from the likes of Mary Whitehouse and that it was promoting violence and the criminal element to superstar status. For all this the show continued strongly and came into the final third of its life.

In 1977, a feature length Sweeney movie released to capitalise on the successes of the programme. In a reworked plot of the Profumo affair, fellow Euston Films actor Barry Foster more famous for playing Van der Valk took on the role of a con artist along the same lines as Stephen Ward who role in the real life affair forced John Profumo to resign. But for this John Thaw won the Best Actor award at the London Film Awards of that year, plus the movie itself though was scene as moderate success compared to the television series. But it lead to a sequel a year later where Regan and Carter go to Malta to investigate a criminal gang who were based there who came back to the UK to rob banks all over London to fun their luxurious lifestyles. Again this movie was seen with mild success, lead to attention to be switched to the television programme for the fourth and final series.

Around 1978 when the show came back for a fourth series, it was felt by the stars and the audience although it was still bringing in huge audience figures with even one repeat getting over 18.3 million people watching though it may have been helped by a one day strike at the BBC on the day it was broadcast. With the episode "Messenger of the Gods" being seen by fans of the show as being tongue-in-cheek, a parody of its self. It seemed like the right time to bow out after nearly five years on the air, with John Thaw taking the decision to leave first. Thoughts were given to if the show could continue with Dennis Waterman as the lead and a new actor as his sidekick, thus giving Carter a promotion. But Waterman thought without there was no Sweeney and took the same decision to leave the programme, with both its principal actors gone, it soon became apparent without them both that The Sweeney couldn't continue. So on the 28th of December 1978, the last ever episode was broadcast, called "Jack or Knave?" where Regan is arrested over allegations of corruption within the squad, seemingly his behaviour in getting the right results coming home to roost. However Regan is exonerated over these charges, but going through this he finds that he's had it with the squad and eventually resigns in disgust, thus ending the series. Leaving the viewer to wonder what will happen to Regan now.

Though during the final series, one of the memorable episodes involved two of light entertainment's biggest stars, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. Now Thaw and Waterman had appeared on their Christmas show on the BBC in 1976, so when Morecambe and Wise had signed for Thames in 1977 following the filming of their Christmas show of that year. They were invited to guest star in The Sweeney, not as a cameo but as a major part of the episode "Hearts and Mind", this would be last ever episode filmed but broadcast in November 1978. Their appearance during the episode makes for a strange atmosphere, with the usual style of the programme taking on a lighter edge to balance the episode, culminating in the final chase sequence where Morecambe and Wise are chased by the villains leading to Eric chucking boxes of frozen fish off the back of a truck to try and slow them down. This could be said that it was the swan song for the series by having two such big stars appearing and finally The Sweeney had been excepted into nation's conscientiousness.

The influence of The Sweeney has been such that other shows have taken their influence from it such as Life on Mars, with Gene Hunt seemingly trying to live The Sweeney lifestyle and approaching his police work much like George Regan, although the action takes place in 1973, the creator Tony Jordan has regularly said that The Sweeney was a massive influence on the writing of the show and also the look as well. But 1977, the BBC launched a rival called Target. Starring Patrick Mower, who had appeared in previously in The Sweeney played Detective Superintendent Steve Hackett, like The Sweeney the show relied on action, though it was said at the time that Target didn't have as much humour and lot more violence, but by the second series this was toned down. Where as the action in Target took place in Southampton compared to The Sweeney, it gave it a different angle. Though Target only lasted two series, it proved that other broadcasters wanted to make their own versions to try and knock The Sweeney off its pedistool. 

Repeats of the show on many channels, has kept the legacy alive. Allowing new fans to see why the programme was so popular, plus with DVD and Blu-Ray, the release of new remastered versions brings to the screen an age of television which has been kept for the ages. Thanks to Network DVD, this is now possible with their release on DVD and Blu-Ray of the remastered version of Series 1. Bringing a crispness in quality adds to the programme's depth itself, making the action clearer and the sound sounding better then ever before. But 2012 has also brought The Sweeney to the big screen as well, starring Ray Winstone and Plan B (Ben Drew) as Regan and Carter, transports the action to modern day London, a London seemingly with the same problems of the 1970's. The film takes the same style of the original show itself and not like other television shows which have been adapted for the big screen, takes the show and makes it feel new and fresh. By relying on modern techniques, adds to the film's quality. With the action being bigger for the cinema screen, the film's director took the lead from Top Gear for the film's major car chase sequence by getting the same crew who film the programme to film the sequence with Jeremy Clarkson advising on how the sequence could be done with the British Rally Champion Mark Higgins taking part in the action doubling for Ray Winstone behind the wheel of a Ford Focus and the villians driving a Jaguar FJS, much in keeping with the original programme with Regan and Carter chasing a Jaguar driven by the villains. 

The love for The Sweeney by the film's director Nick Love, who had previously filmed The Football Factory, Outlaw and also The Firm is evidence throughout the film. By taking the original characters created by Ian Kennedy Martin, he shows his appreciation for the TV programme and as such The Sweeney, up against a world of American action movies, that it can hold its own very well.

Even after nearly thirty-five years after the television programme, The Sweeney shows that no matter the time and place, it nicks the attention much like Regan would collar a villain...

Monday, 3 September 2012

"I wanna tell you a story... about a man who started out as a carpenter and carved out a long and varied career.." Max Bygraves - A Tribute

So another light in the galaxy of stars has been extinguised, with the passing of Max Bygraves on Friday in Australia, saw another performer of the variety theatres and also at the early age of Independent Television exit the stage. Bygraves who had moved to Australia to live with his daughter had been diagnosed with Altzheimer's disease in later life. As earlier this year his family put out in the press appeals to send Max postcards from fans of his work and general fans as they would remind him of his career and what he done.  late October, he would have been 90 and for nearly fifty years Max performed on stage at the leading variety venues throughout the country, also on television with various series through out his career as well as guest spots on other shows.

Max himself has born Walter William Bygraves in Rotherhithe, London in 1922 to his father a professional flyweight boxer Battling Tom Smith and his mother as well. He grew up in a council flat with five siblings, his parents and a grandparent. Attending St Jospeph's School in Rotherhithe, his talent of singing was apparent when singing with his school choir in Westminster Catherdral. 

After leaving school at 14, Max went and become a pageboy at the Savoy hotel, but this didnt last long as he was thrown out for being too tall. So he went and became a messenger for a advertising agency in Fleet Street, surrounded by the national press, this seemingly seemed like a fitting place for Max to start his working career with the fame he was to achieve. With the outbreak of World War II, he became a fitter in the RAF and also working as a carpenter, but it was here where Max met WAAF Sergeant Gladys 'Blossom' Murray in 1942 and they got married in that year, having three children Christine, Anthony who followed his father into showbusiness and also Maxine as well.

It was around this time, that Max put his talents for singing to good use by becoming a performer touring around the variety theatres of the time, as he went he added more comedy into his act with nod to comedian Max Miller, where he had taken his name to use as a stage name. Going from town to town, his popularity grew and grew before with the advent of commercial television that the huge variety performers of the day, combined touring with appearing on television. Appearances on Sunday Night at the London Paladium and also Crackerjack cemented with popularity to no end, so much that he appeared on no less then twenty Royal Variety Performances added to any number of appearances on The Good Old Days and other variety shows. But he had grown to one of the top performers in the country when television came calling again for him to be the star of his own shows and specials.

In 2010, three of Max's entertainment specials made for Thames Television were released onto DVD after many years of being in the archives. The first of which shows the pulling power of a star of Max's quality including George Burns, Jim Backus and Judith Durham from Australia as well. Add in Geoff Love and his Orchestra plus The Mike Sammes Singers, this entertainment of huge quality as well. Max starts off the show with great song introducing the participants in that week's show one by one, before going into a comedy routine, it may seem out of place today but Max's style keeps the audience laughing along with asides and silly jokes as well. This also gives Max the chance to perform some schitck with Geoff Love usually referring to his speech impediment or skin colour, considering the time that it was made in which was a different one to today which is just part of his act. But Geoff always dukes it out with Max to hold his own, now this takes the form of any front of curtain comedy which Max would have been used to on the variety stage whilst scene hands changed the scenery behind the curtains. But it takes his comedy and gives a use to hold the programme together and make it more then just a man singing for an hour on stage.

His friendship with Judy Garland shows Max's appeal not only here but in America plus with quality of George Burns appearing on his specials shows made them special in themselves, allowing the vaudeville stars from Hollywood to come over to London and do their act sometimes for the first time on British Television. But this led to Max going to America going to to perform his act over there, but it was Britain was his bread and butter. Max's series of this style of this show lasted for just over a decade from 1969 to 1980 in many forms and with many titles. During this even supplimenting this with many album releases to tie-in with the television series and apart from them. One of the most, not strangest album one which is a lot different from Max's usual ones is Disco-a-longa Max, trying to capture the disco wave that was taking place during the late 1970's with him performing several of his standards but with a disco beat behind them. Well, I susposed if Reginald Bosanquet can just speak over a disco track, then sure Max can have a go himself as most people had tried themselves.

Come the early 1980's the specials and series had dried up, but Max continued to record albums and make guest spots on other shows, when in 1983 a opportunity came up which not many people were to see coming at all. When Bob Monkhouse left Central after launching Family Fortunes in 1980 to go to the BBC in 1983, there was a host shaped hole in the middle of Family Fortunes and with Jon Scoffield, the head of Entertainment at Central had to fill it. Now William G. Stewart who had done the early Family Fortunes had left the show but when Bob Monkhouse left he had first refusal to come back to produce the shows, so he did but with an idea of who to get to present. William G. Stewart later on went onto The Price is Right where he used another variety performer whose career was bubbling under and bring them back to where they should be with Leslie Crowther, but before that he used the trick first with taking Max Bygraves who after his Thames shows had finished wasn't doing much and put him forward to be the new host of Family Fortunes, where Crowther had worked well, this was not to work as well.

From the first programme, where Max seems to be in his element, slowly over time that with the requirement to be a more straighter host then a entertainer, he does seem to be out of his depth a little. As the game slows down, he doesn't remember prize cues and seeming going too slow and costing the family the big money prize at the end. Although not a great host, Max was give three series and over time he did get better, but he is remember as the host on the now infamous 'Turkey' episode with Bob Johnston in the Big Money game the answer 'Turkey' to each question. But even before then, with the strange and silly answers flowing about more freely then usually, its little wonder that Max could keep the show going along at his steady pace. Though remembered for all the other reason, this is where he reaches his zenith as having finally settled into the role at last, Max just lets the game flow knowing that how bad it can get it will still make for a good television and great laugh for the people at home watching. 

After three series, Central decided to give Family Fortunes a break before coming back with Les Dennis in 1987, but Max kept the show going along when it could have easily been cut from the schedules when Bob Monkhouse left and did a decent job of presenting. 

Even after leaving Family Fortunes, Max kept on appearing on other television programmes as a guest and sometimes even singing as well, but he was never to have another weekly show ever again, but the story doesn't end there though. He kept on recording right into his 70's and even in 1999, tried for the Christmas Number One spot with Milly the Millenium Bug, sadly it didn't get there or even chart but this was a throw-back to Max's older songs but it sounded fresh and new, even though he wasn't on television any more and living his life down in Bournemouth, it gave a reminder of why Max was so good at his peak and brought some fun once again.

Max was sadly not to make his 90th birthday later this year, but the memories of his days as variety performer, singer, television star and gameshow host remind us of why he was one of the great performers to held up there with Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth, Des O'Connor, Jimmy Tarbuck etc. He memories live on through records, CDs, DVDs and through old recordings as well, he wanted to tell us a story and he did do and one of the greatest ones told of one of the great performers. So thanks for the memories Max, your place has been assured that your name will always go in up lights...

(Max Bygraves 1922-2012)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Election '74 - Burnett, Boundaries Changes and Beige, lots of beige...

Exactly, what can bring people together as a television event? I'm not saying the programmes with huge viewing figures like Only Fools and Horses, Dallas, Eastenders etc... I'm talking about events like General Election nights which come around only every few years, essentially these occasions should be very dry occasions as basically they are just a series of results much like the final football scores on Saturday afternoons. 

With the reverential way they are treated, it maybe important to know who's going to be the next government but the general stories of these nights are so different in themselves. From the 1997 election where Labour gained power after 19 years of Conservative rule to the two elections of 1974 where Harold Wilson came back to power in a coalition situation and increasing his mandate in the October of that year. As a tribute to the late Sir Alistair Burnett, on September 1st BBC Parliament reshowed the February election of 1974. Not just the night itself but the next day as well, a whole 15 hours of television only with a couple of hours break effectively.

Looking back at the coverage, it may seem simple in comparision with today's touchscreen affair but the facts are the only detail which matter, such as Robert Maxwell trying to become a Labour MP again in Buckingham, the days of Enoch Powell, the troubles in Northern Ireland in full effect. It may seem a dark time with the events which had happened to the country in the years previous since the June 1970 election. It was a point of turning, not by the events and how they panned out but how the election was covered. 
For the first time, this February election was the first one to be seen fully in colour with the 1970 Election being covered in colour plus black and white owing to some of the regions not having being converted to colour yet. Plus also with the technology of computer prediction as well, this was fully a techological election.
Sir Alistair Burnett, who had joined the BBC lead the election coverage similarly as he had done in years previous for ITN took over from Cliff Mitchelmore who had presented the 1970 election. His style, though professional as always seems out of place in the BBC setting used to the presence of a Dimbleby since 1955, with Richard Dimbleby passed on for about a decade and David still in his fledgling career taking over at the 1979 election. Burnett's informed approach worked as always informing viewers as the results came in, but his style allowed for the likes of David Butler and Bob McKenzie fit around him ably backed up with the ever sharp Robin Day interviewing the key politicians of the day.

Also during the breakfast hours Burnett, was given time off after the night before's action allowing Nationwide's Michael Barrett to take up the reins. With a more lighter touch it seemed, his style was perfect for the morning of what was a very interesting night just gone. This may have been seen as a step forward to towards breakfast television nearly a decade later, but with the results coming in on the first day, it was clear that after Edward Heath had asked the country's citizen "Who Governs?" They had given a clear and concise reply back to him "Not you..."

For all the figures, the anchor graphics system which was still fairly new at that time was the clearest way to show the results. First used in the 1970 election, it was a quick way to convey the results where before card and paper had been used before. A result could be put over the top a picture for anyone to see the reactions of the candidates and the awating public. So where a result may have been announced, it may have taken time for it to come to the screen but although it wasn't as instant as some people may have thought with the actual programming of the results, it certainly reduced the amount of time it took to get it to the screen. But in an other development, where as an on screen card superimposed over the studio scene may have been used in earlier years, the Anchor system allow graphics to be programmed to move. The movements may have been rudimentry, but it allowed a look never to been seen before to be used. From the opening shot of a model of the studio panning out to the real version itself, it gave a feel that even though basic this was something special. Elections since 1979 have used animated sequences with the introduction of computer graphics in 1987, but the simplicty brought by Anchor gave to something to the evening.

Now, satirists may appear to be ten a penny nowadays when ever a General Election is called plus such as celebrities on boats in the middle of the Thames giving their opinions. But one man stood head and shoulders above everyone else in 1974, that man was Mike Yarwood. Yarwood himself known for his Saturday night programme, had taken the world of politics into his show and embraced it with cutting humour as such maybe Spitting Image or even Armando Iannucci may have done in recent times. But where as Jon Culshaw may have done impression for the last couple of elections with satire included, Yarwood took these characters but didn't cut too deeply, some may say even with a blunt knife. 

Though Yarwood's addition, gave people weary with politicans' electioneering for the past three weeks almost a release that they still could be poked fun at not matter which ever way they had voted. This may have been a realisation that they could be made fun of, even the politcians didn't mind at all. The form of flattery, which was apparent raised major politicians profiles to a level not seen before. None were safe, but people knew who they were, such as Ted Heath, Harold Wilson and Denis Healey. Figures like James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher who would later go on to the top job were there and there abouts, Callaghan in the upper eleclons of the Labour Party with Thatcher at that time Education Secretary, most famous for taking away children's free milk was beginning her rise to power at this time becoming the MP for the new seat of Finchley after having been an MP since the 1950's. They would dominate the latter half of the decade, but it was still Heath and Wilson who had fought the 1964, 1966 and 1970 elections as leaders of their parties who were still the key figures.

Another key figure was Jeremy Thorpe, at this time a Liberal MP but not yet the leader of his party, much like the 2010 election when Nick Clegg was the deal breaker, the Liberals were holding the key to the February 1974 election. Now with the Liberals being a much smaller party back then, the exposure from election coverage was vital to them. With the concentration on the Liberals and their MPs as well, most of them being personalities in their own right. In as much as the Tories or Labour were exposed to hard questioning, the Liberals faced this for the first time with them being any key powerbrokers in a new government. Robin Day who had stood for the Liberal Party himself, was the perfect man to ask the questions of all three parties, perfectly understanding he had to get the right answers out not only for himself as the interviewer but fully knowing he had to do for the viewers at home. Day's approach which was dogged, was well capable in this situation allowing him space to be able to press the politicians and their associates as well.

It strange to think in today's cutthroat world of politics, that at one time even though politicians may have been on opposite sides to each other, they seem to have more respect for each other. Rather then fighting each other and even the presenters, they are magnanimous in either victory or defeat, to someone today this is an alien concept within politics. But maybe times have changed, even the set may have changed from plain beige and hiding everyone behind the scenes, now people working are in the open on these occasions giving a scene of clutteredness especially to the 2010 BBC General Election coverage.

1974, it may seem to the modern world, a world away... But in some ways, were are closer to it than we realise...