The Making of Hunchback of Notre Dame – Grease – tape 2319

This tape opens with some Newsroom South East. Then there’s a trailer for programmes later on, on this Bank Holiday Monday.

Then, The Making of Hunchback of Notre Dame, narrated by Father Dougal himself, Ardal O’Hanlon. I guess they wanted a catholic.

BBC Genome: BBC One London, 26 August 1996 13.15

There’s a trailer for The Great Antiques Hunt. Then a Tom & Jerry Cartoon, Royal Cat Nap. After a minute or two of this, recording switches, and we’re back with Hunchback of Notre Dame, but this time it’s the end of Summer Disneytime. presented by Michaela Strachan from Jordan.

Michaela Strachan

Then there’s a trailer for Multicoloured Saturdays.

There’s also a trailer for Roger Roger, starring Neil Morrissey.

Then, the big afternoon movie. Grease. A film I’ve never watched, and avoided watching all my life. When I was young, its stupid songs hung around the top of the charts forever, like a bad smell. John Travolta couldn’t sing. The dancing was stupid.

But, as a service for my loyal readers (both of you) I’m watching it now. I’m slightly cheating by watching it online, so I get a full widescreen picture instead of the horrible pan & scan TV showing (or, for the cartoon titles, horribly squashed. I bet Travolta wishes he were this thin now.)

Skinny Travolta

The entire cast of high-school students look so old that this movie is almost its own parody. Olivia Newton John was 30 in 1978, when the film was released. Travolta was only 24, but already looked like a grown-up.

I know musicals tend to exist in an alternative universe where everyone knows the words to the songs, and the steps to the dances, but this is stagey even for a musical.

It’s not even a good musical, really. It’s more like a very bad sitcom with some songs at random intervals. When Olivia Newton John sings ‘Hopelessly Devoted to you’ they even fade up the introduction. This is very poor.

By the way, have you ever noticed that you can segue from singing ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ into ‘Summer Nights’ during the ‘dum… dum dum’ bit in the former?

When Kenickie and Rizzo (Jeff Conaway and Stockard Channing) are smooching in the back of his car, and she says ‘Call me by my first name’ I half expected him to say ‘Ratso’.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but this looks like nothing more than a perfunctory assemblage of all the most cliched scenes from every high-school film we’ve ever seen. Even the obligatory car race is boringly shot in broad daylight, eliciting almost no drama at all.

Maybe the original musical had a little more coherence. Most of the big songs in this are new, written by other songwriters than the original show. And the title song, written by Barry Gibb, doesn’t even sound contemporary.

It’s just a horrid mess. It’s very hard to see why this is held in such esteem by an entire generation, to such an extent that it was voted the best musical of all time in a Channel 4 poll, although to be fair it might be the only musical that half the voters had ever seen.

I’m not even going to start on the weird gender politics the film presents because the film is so incoherent I’m not even sure what message it’s trying to give us. The leads fall in and out of relationships so quickly, with so little motivation, that it’s hard to care at all about them.

And can anyone explain the car flying off at the end?

BBC Genome: BBC One London, 26 August 1996 15.20

Following the movie, there’s a trailer for Muppets Tonight that on its own is better than anything in Grease.

After this, recording continues, which is a good thing because, to make up for the pain of having to watch Grease, now I can watch Multicoloured Saturdays – a look back at 20 years of Saturday Morning BBC children’s television, going from Swap Shop to the then-current Live and Kicking. Here’s John Craven and Noel Edmonds in what looks like a Premier Inn hospitality suite.

Edmonds and Craven

The programme also acknowledges the existence of Tiswas. “The BBC’s task was therefore simple. To rescue the viewer from a breakdown in society otherwise known as Tiswas.”

Phantom Flan Flinger


There’s a clip from a Star Trek sketch – not a bad set for a short sketch.

Swap Trek

When the programme turns to the other morning shows, here’s Mike Read (and crow).

Mike Read and Crow

Sarah Greene

Sarah Greene

There’s even a crossover.


Phillip Schofield tells of how he wanted to present Saturday Morning TV ever since he saw the first episode of Swap Shop.

Phillip Schofield and Gordon

Dame Judi Dench meets Trevor and Simon

Dame Judi Dench meets Trevor and Simon

As do Erasure

Erasure meet Trev and Simon

Live and Kicking even cause a flashback to Grease when they do ‘You’re The One that I Want’

Live and Kicking

But for all the clips of presenters’ last programmes, the saddest part of this documentary is the executive saying “I don’t see why it shouldn’t continue for another 20 years.” What’s on Saturday Morning these days? A cooking show.

Here’s the whole show on youtube

BBC Genome: BBC One London, 26 August 1996 17.05

Following the show, there’s a trailer for Children’s BBC. Then a trailer for Small Talk and Mastermind.

Then, an episode of Neighbours. I have nothing to say about this. BBC One London, 26 August 1996 17.55

There’s another trailer for Bank Holiday programmes, with a nice cut from the mine-cart chase in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to a rollercoaster scene in Eastenders. Top work from the editor, there.

Another trail for The Great Antiques Hunt.

Then, a news bulletin. It’s a slow news day when the top story is the banning of a video of real operations, following worries that the footage was not properly cleared. “Educational or sick entertainment?” BBC One London, 26 August 1996 18.20

There’s a trailer for a brand new look to daytime TV.

Then, a trailer for the new series of Telly Addicts.

Then, we have the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Possibly the lesser of the trilogy, but a film I love a lot. It came out when I was at University, and I think I must have seen it six times in the first couple of weeks. I can still sing along with Kate Capshaw to Anything Goes in Cantonese (or is it Mandarin?).

There’s not much of the film here, but it does include Harrison Ford’s cheeky look to camera on the line ‘Mummies.”


The tape stops about 15 minutes in to the film.




  1. As pointed out by The Golden Turkey Awards, the moral to Grease is that it’s better to be a slut than a virgin. Another reason not to like it much.

  2. I feel your pain about “Grease,” although I’ve never seen it either (strangely, though, I HAVE seen “Grease 2” aka “The Movie That Nearly Ended Michelle Pfeiffer’s Career”). Put money on either BBC1 or Channel 5 acquiring the upcoming TV rendition of the thing next year (although Vanessa Hudgens isn’t as offputting as Olivia Newton John by a long shot).

    We’d likely be better off if the tape had included all of “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom” and the first fifteen minutes of “Grease.”

  3. I am a regular reader and should say thanks for all the sterling work. All fascinating stuff.

    I have also never seen Grease and don’t intend to. It’s never appealed and judging by your write up, it never will.

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