A snatch of Mastermind, and a trailer for Gandhi precedes the 1988 Bafta Awards, live from the Grosvenor House Hotel. Can they not make up their mind whether they’re a house or a hotel?
Martyn Lewis makes a big deal about the corporate sponsorship by Shell. “Business backing the arts, or in this case backing Bafta to the tune of £3m over three years.”
Lewis’s voiceover for the arrival of the celebrities is a masterclass
“Arriving uncomfortably in one of the vintage cars, John Hurt.”
It really must be seen to be appreciated, so here it is.
My favourite quotes from this are:
“Queuing up like all the other personalities and backroom talent” I guess backroom talent don’t need personalities.
“On the right a moustachioed Ray MacAnally” Martyn likes his adjectives, perhaps to distinguishi him from the clean-shaven Ray MacAnally who came in earlier.
“Carla Lane who writes Bread” – that’s the sitcom Bread, she doesn’t just daub the same word on everything she sees.
“Lord Grade, minus the cigar but obviously still enjoying life” A subtle pro-smoking shout-out there. Don’t think we didn’t notice, Martyn.
“Peter Howitt from Bread. Seeing someone he knows” That would be “Carla Lane who writes Bread” then.
“Duke Hussey, BBC Chairman, with a bespectacled Dennis Waterman behind him.” Cut to Ludovic Kennedy taking off his glasses. “Getting rid of his, Ludovic Kennedy, doyen of broadcasters.” I bet there were high fives in Martyn Lewis’s writers room when they came up with that one.
“And Sir David Lean. Is it really three decades since they made Bridge on the River Kwai?” Did he just call David Lean a slacker?
The presenters for tonight are those two witty raconteurs who fill our Saturday evenings with laughter and tears, Anna Ford and David Dimbleby. Do you detect a pattern here? Was Children in Need cancelled this year, so they had to have something fun for the newsreaders to do? Or was this broadcast actually produced by News and Current Affairs? It’s directed by Michael Hurll, stalwart of Light Entertainment, but I wonder if News were running the show. Dimbleby even manages to get the phrase ‘Caucus Race’ into his introduction.
Please, spare us the serious and bring on someone we actually like. “He is a man who admits to a very special intimacy with a renowned world leader.” Oh dear, not Denis Thatcher, surely? No, thank goodness, it’s Barry Humphries. Panic over, showbiz is back on track.
Or perhaps not. There’s a horrible pause when Anna Ford forgets that it’s her job to read the nominations. And as she reads them out, I can hear a tinny sound, barely audible. I rewind, bash up the speaker volume, and I can clearly hear a female voice saying “Fourteen. Ten Next.” It’s the talkback from the gallery, somehow being picked up by the main audio.
The comics fan in me has to flag up the Watchmen poster on the wall in the clip from The Lenny Henry Show.
You can clearly hear the talkback counting out of the clips package in the quiet bit at the end. This is going to plague me for the rest of the show. I’m going to be listening out for swearing from the gallery.
In the meantime, An Audience with Victoria Wood won Best Light Entertainment.
Rula Lenska is introduced. Rock Follies is cited as a landmark programme, although today it’s rarely remembered. Isn’t it about time some enterprising producer remade it. There’s a cracking drama to be made about a pop band, manufactured by X Factor, and their rise and fall. Get on to it, TV.
A Very British Coup wins best drama – quite rightfully. It remains a high point, in my view.
They’re being fairly ruthless with the winners, not letting them make speeches.
Alan Bleasdale gives a stirring introduction to the winner of the writer’s award this year, the incomparable Alan Plater. “Well, I guess it proves if you buy enough tickets you win the raffle.”
Austin Mitchell MP, the Lembit Opik of the 1980s, presents the award for documentary.
Two speakers so far have made reference to the importance of Public Service Broadcasting – so I presume this was another time when the tories were threatening to squeeze the BBC and dilute the PSB remits of the independent channels. Probably no coincidence that this is around the time that Murdoch launched Sky.
Indeed, one of the few speeches by winners that have survived the edit was from the producer of the documentary Death on the Rock, a hugely controversial programme which upset Thatcher’s government rather a lot. “I just hope in this new world of television that is going to be beamed down to us that just occasionally the people who run these companies have the money, the time and the courage to do these sort of programmes. Just occasionally.” The deliberate inclusion of that speech definitely suggests it’s News running the show here.
Best Children’s factual or educational programme has an outstanding clip from Blockbusters. I loved that show.
There’s another fantastic clip from another children’s programme, Boudicca, featuring Toyah Wilcox and Tony Robinson marching down a muddy lane performing a beat poem about the warrior queen.
Here’s the clip.
It’s nice to see Victoria Wood get best Light Entertainment performance, and she doesn’t even want to give a speech. “The first winner to refuse the offer of a microphone” – meaning we’re getting the speeches cut, not that they’re not happening.
No such qualms for Thora Hird, winner of Best Actress in a drama, and at least we’re allowed to hear her speech.
More politics arises when John Mortimer introduces the winner of the Desmond Davis award. He talks about how the great era of Elizabethan theatre lasted only 30 years.
“30 years later Oliver Cromwell passed a law making drama illegal and making acting a criminal offence to be punished not by a Bafta dinner, but by a flogging and a long term of imprisonment. And our brilliant government appears to be planning much the same fate for British Television. So that work of the quality you have honoured and applauded tonight may be but a memory as are the plays of the Elizabethan theatre.”
So it seems the dark clouds brooding over the TV landscape are the deregulation around this time that allowed Rupert Murdoch to start Sky television, with the spectre of the inevitable diminishing of quality, and the eroding of public service broadcasting.
The film awards kick off with the Best Score, won by John Williams for Empire of the Sun, and rather wonderfully, he’s able to make an acceptance speech from America, presented to him by Dudley Moore.
As this programme draw on, it seems that the vast majority of the broadcast time is being taken up by the long, rambly introductions given to the presenters of awards, who then get to say almost nothing except announce the winners. Coupled with lengthy shots of the winners walking up to the stage, then walking back (we rarely hear the speeches) I can’t help thinking the production could be edited rather differently, and you’d be able to accommodate more speeches.
In Best Adapted Screenplay, it’s heartening to see a nomination for Who Framed Roger Rabbit – particularly since many people don’t think of animation as something that’s written. One of the looney tunes writers once told of being at a party, being asked by someone what he did, and on hearing that he wrote the scripts for Bugs Bunny replied “Really? Isn’t Bugs Bunny just funny on his own?”
In the event, The Unbearable Lightness of Being wins the award. Or The Unbearable Dullness of Watching as I’ve heard it described.
However, comedy wins for Best Supporting Actor as Michael Palin wins for A Fish Called Wanda, which is well deserved. “Michael has just made a documentary version of Around the World in Eighty Days for BBC Television. We’ll be seeing that in the autumn.” It seems odd that there was a time before he was famous for travel documentaries.
It’s always interesting to see films nominated or even winning that are rarely seen now. Maggie Smith wins Best Actress for The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.
A presenter arrives, and I missed the introduction. I look at her and think “is that Deirdre Barlow?” No, it’s Shirley Maclaine. Sorry Shirley. You’re welcome, Deirdre.
John Cleese receives Best Actor from Dudley Moore in the US.
Among the people John Cleese thanks are “Any Haydn Jones and her husband Pip, Gregor Mendel the founder of the science of genetics, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass. The Planet Saturn and its rings.”
Rather astonishingly, David Dimbleby now announces:
DIMBLEBY We now come, somewhat earlier than we thought, I think, to the last two awards so anybody proposing to make a speech now is welcome to and we may call back some of those who decided not to make speeches or were told that they couldn't under any circumstance make a speech. And if the worst comes to the worst, I'm sure John Cleese is still in Los Angeles and we can call on him. CUT TO: John Cleese in Los Angeles checking his speech notes. He speaks, but there is no audio.
Rather sweetly, though, after Charles Crichton accepts the Michael Balcon award for lifetime achievement, we do cut back to John Cleese, still reading his list, but who finishes with a heartfelt thank you to Crichton.
Alec Guinness is awarded the Bafta Fellowship by David Lean, and that’s it for 1988.
The British Academy Award is based on a design by Mitzi Cunliffe. And I really would like to know how she managed to get that prominent credit on every single Bafta programme. Her agent must have been formidable.
Following the Bafta Awards, an episode of Clive Anderson Talks Back. Roger Mugford, Britain’s leading animal psychologist, is the first guest. Jim Tavare is the comedy guest, complete with his double bass. The final guest is the now slightly controversial Chris Langham, but this was the 80s, so that kind of thing was acceptable.
Finally, back to BBC2 for one episode of Michael Palin and Terry Jones’ classic serial Ripping Yarns, Curse of the Claw.
After Ripping Yarns there’s a soft-spoken ALex Cox trailing the second series of the cult movie series Moviedrome. The recording stops here, and there’s a programme underneath which looks at the use of music as therapy with an organisation called Echo City making large scale tubular bells for the Glasgow Garden Festival. Then the programme returns to the studio to look at Cyrus lacemaking techniques. I’ve no idea what this programme might be, and the tape runs out before any credits that might give a clue.