My Tribute to Television Centre
Originally published on my personal blog on the 18th of March 2013.
Though a sight-seeing staple of any trip through London W12, I have actually only visited BBC Television Centre twice. And frankly, neither occasion was especially fruitful.
My first trip to TVC was for my first ever job interview. I vividly remember waiting in reception wearing a wool blend suit, sweaty palms, and somebody else's legs. After inevitably losing out on my dream first job, I later returned to the iconic building to take part in the quiz show The Common Denominator. A fun day out, for sure, but not exactly profitable considering I lost £1,000 (and my dignity) in the time it takes to boil an egg.
So beyond laughter and life lessons, I haven't taken anything away from Television Centre when I've turned up in person. But as a viewer of Blue Peter, and Only Fools and Horses, and Fawlty Towers, and Noel's House Party, and so much more besides… I have taken memories of its output that will endure for a lifetime. I find its closure simply heartbreaking. If you'll forgive my self-indulgence (it's my website and I'll cry if I want to), here are just a couple of TVC moments that I know will stay with me down the years.
Noel or No Noel?
To a degree, the spirit of Noel's House Party has been recaptured by Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway on t’other side. It features the sense of organised chaos that defined Edmonds’ 1990s ratings behemoth. However, there is one element of Takeaway which disappoints compared to the House Party, through absolutely no fault of its own. In an age of digital broadcasting and satellite delays, interacting with members of the public on location is stilted. In the halcyon (and analogue) days of Crinkley Bottom, Noel could make a viewer appear live from their living room on NTV, in the time it took to click his fingers.
As soon as the NTV interstitial aired, seven-year-old Chris would pull the ghastliest face he could muster in anticipation of his impending stardom – much to the chagrin of his mother.
“…and here's a memory I made earlier.”
As a child, Blue Peter was my must-see TV. Aged just six or seven, I remember arguing with my father on a trip to the local branch of FADS. (Remember them?) He wanted me to choose wallpaper for my soon-to-be redecorated bedroom. I was concerned that he had asked me to do so on a day when Blue Peter was on the telly. Our fractious conversation concluded with my father's words: “Even if we get home in time for Blue Peter, you're not allowed to watch it!”
But despite occasionally coming between us, Blue Peter was more often an opportunity to bond with my Dad. When one particular edition overran and they were forced to drop an item about how to make your own personalised mouse mat, it was my Dad who encouraged me to write to the Blue Peter production team and ask for a fact sheet. In lieu of such a document, I instead received a far greater form of recompense: the fabled Blue Peter badge. (Sadly I lost it, for a second and final time, on Brighton beach one day in the late noughties.)
One Blue Peter memory could only have happened in the days when the show was broadcast from Television Centre. Presenters Matt Baker and Simon Thomas, dressed in their finest lederhosen, were supposed to open the ceiling-high “elephant” studio doors to welcome a traditional German marching band into TC7. However, the doors were heavier than anticipated. Try as Matt and Simon might, they just couldn't get them open! Stagehands upon stagehands piled into view to try and force open the unwieldy doors, as Matt and Simon – and me and my father – fell about laughing. When the crew finally prised the doors apart, a backlog of band members haphazardly entered en masse. Only at Television Centre.
And so on the day of the very, very last news output from BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane, London, I pay my respects to its hallowed bricks and mortar. Its days may be numbered, but Television Centre will have a home in this viewer's heart forever.