That Wacky Redhead

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Brainbin, Nov 18, 2011.

Loading...
  1. Threadmarks: The Thrill of Victory

    Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Location:
    The British Empire
    The Thrill of Victory

    Crookback Castle.jpg
    Historic Alnwick Castle, seat of the Duke of Northumberland, and primary setting of location shooting for The Crookback, in early 1983.

    British television had been broadcasting regularly scheduled programming since before the Second World War, giving it the longest history of any national television broadcasting industry in the world. This longevity, when combined with the tremendous prestige accrued by the state-owned BBC, unsurprisingly fostered an atmosphere of elitism and conservatism within the highest echelons of that industry. Private broadcasters were only (and belatedly) introduced by legislative fiat, rather than by free enterprise as had been the United States, and even these were carefully regulated, though they were dependent on advertising revenue as was the case for most private broadcasters. The BBC, by contrast, was funded not only from allocations by the Exchequer, but also through the television licencing scheme, giving viewers (and critics) a personal stake in the quality, variety, and modernity of the service’s programming. ITV was less directly accountable to viewers, but counter-intuitively owed more to their loyalty; advertising revenues based on their viewership figures were more fickle than the licencing revenues, which were forwarded to the BBC no matter what.

    When it became clear that a fourth television service was finally and definitively going to begin broadcasting in the early 1980s (as a result of the Broadcasting Acts passed through Parliament in 1979 and 1980, fulfilling a campaign promise made by the governing Conservatives in the 1978 election), the question of how to fill the newly-vacant airspace – one-third-again what had been available previously – dominated the planning process for executives at ITV, who were due to be awarded the fourth service (to be branded ITV-2) in 1982. Game shows were quite popular in this era, and could be produced both cheaply and quickly, but a channel could not be built on game shows alone. Delivering on the consistent – and insistent – demand for regularly-broadcast league football games was rightly seen as an avenue with vastly more potential. The notion of there not being enough room for them on the schedule, an overriding concern in the 1970s, had evaporated. Thus, negotiations commenced between the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which operated both ITV channels, and the Football League, which governed the sport in the United Kingdom, for broadcast rights.

    Association football was, even by 1980, the most popular sport in the world – but television coverage of the beautiful game had been surprisingly sparse in its homeland up to that point. The quadrennial World Cup had been available starting in 1954, and broadcast live from 1966, but regularly scheduled top-flight league programming – already a reality for most sports in North America by this time – remained largely unavailable into the 1970s. League highlights were broadcast on the Match of the Day program each Saturday evening starting in 1965, but these merely served to whet the appetite for a feast which was years in the making. It was only the commencement of broadcasts by ITV-2 which finally brought an end to this famine – and, surprisingly, the more established and mainstream (and obligingly-renamed) ITV-1 found itself getting into the act as well, though only for marquee Football League matches. The first major league football match broadcast on ITV-1 was the 1982 Football League Cup Final, on March 13 (a Saturday). Aston Villa defeated Nottingham Forest to win that Cup; they also won the Football League Championship that same year.

    Each ITV-2 affiliate station carried matches played by prominent local teams, particularly where such teams were members of the First Division. Where this was not possible (due to the lack of First Division clubs in the region), Second Division matches were carried instead, giving the clubs belonging to that cohort some much-needed exposure with regional audiences, and allowing them to enlarge their fanbase. On occasion, special matches between a First Division club and a club belonging to a lower-flight division were carried, where such matches had great significance within the region, or to the specific First Division club in contention. In general, the following ITV-2 stations broadcast matches involving the following clubs:

    • Tyne Tees: Sunderland, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough
    • Yorkshire Television: Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Rotherham, Barnsley
    • Granada Television: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Stoke City
    • ATV: West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Coventry, Nottingham Forest
    • Anglia Television: Norwich City, Ipswich Town
    • Thames Television: Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United
    • Southern Television: Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion
    • Westward Television: Bristol Rovers, Bristol City, Plymouth Argyle, Bournemouth, Exeter City
    • Border Television: Carlisle United [1]
    The various ITV-2 affiliates were not allowed to broadcast games on Sunday evening, which was when ITV-1 broadcast their flagship “Sunday Night Football” program, carrying a Football League match between two First Division teams. In addition, as part of an agreement with the Football League, neither ITV-1 nor ITV-2 could broadcast games on Saturday after 3 PM, as this was the traditional kickoff time, and the Football League worried that viewers would have rather stayed home to watch games than come out to the pitch. As a result, an increasing number of games (in order to be broadcast live) were scheduled for any time other than Saturday afternoon or evening – a seemingly inevitable consequence which the Football League had nevertheless somehow failed to foresee.

    The popularity of football was not without a dark side. The ugly spectre following the beautiful game wherever it went was hooliganism, especially football riots. Although these was hardly particular to English football fans, or indeed football fans in general, they were nevertheless strongly associated with them – football hooliganism had come to be known around the world as the English Disease, and it had grown so raucous by the onset of the 1980s that several English football clubs were banned from competing on the Continent – this was extended to a blanket ban covering all English clubs in 1981, as a result of the notorious Parc des Princes disaster at that year’s European Cup Final, when fans of Aston Villa FC charged a retaining wall separating the spectators from the field of play, crushing and killing over a dozen fans of rival club Real Madrid, which made international headlines.

    Although the ban only affected English teams (those from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were all exempt), England’s absence from the European football scene was emblematic of the growing gulf between the islands and the Continent – a strikingly literal insularity. The United Kingdom – and by extension, and emphatically not willingly, the Republic of Ireland – had been growing apart from Europe and closer to the Commonwealth nations, with whom they shared a common language, culture, and heritage. Continued advances in transportation and telecommunications technology continued to shorten the once-immense distances between the far-flung reaches of the former British Empire, even as cultural posturing and trade barriers widened the much narrower gap from the Continent.

    Although Aston Villa FC was the club at the epicentre of the Parc des Princes disaster, it should be emphasized that the supporters of the Villa were not especially more vociferous in their hooliganism than were the supporters of other teams – it was simply a matter of them being in the right place at the right time. The reason they were able to be in the right place at the right time was because of the club’s tremendous success in the early 1980s, a streak of multiple first-place finishes in the Football League and FA Cup victories which was finally ended (in one fell swoop) by the twin victory of Southampton FC in the 1983-84 season. Southampton finished one point ahead of Aston Villa in the final standings, knocking them out from the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup on the road to defeating Everton in the final, a victory which reached a live audience of millions. By 1984, league football on live television was a reality and a mainstay – it was already difficult to imagine life without it, despite it having been introduced within living memory for even the youngest viewers. Indeed, in the years to come, television would result in a dramatic shift in the core audience for league football.

    The popularity of football in Europe provided an excellent example of how British culture had lopsidedly influenced that of the Continent since the Industrial Revolution that had established the British Empire as the pre-eminent world power, after a great many centuries (dating back to Roman times, if not further still). The modern incarnation of the beautiful game had been invented in England in the late nineteenth century, spreading first to elsewhere in the UK, and then to Europe, and finally to the far-flung then-current (and even former, as South Americans could attest) colonial empires of the various European powers, taking hold pretty much everywhere it went… with (despite a number of false starts) one prominent, and perennial exception: the United States. Indeed, even as regularly-scheduled (association) football broadcasts brought the already astounding popularity of the game to new heights in the UK, soccer (as it was universally known stateside, so as to avoid confusion with the locally popular, and rugby-derived, gridiron football) was faltering stateside. Despite having shown such great promise during their peak years in the 1970s, the top-flight North American Soccer League (NASL) would ultimately fold before the end of the following decade; rapid overexpansion during uncertain economic times, and fatal efforts at one-upmanship amongst the league’s owners, all of whom were increasingly willing to pay big bucks for foreign superstars past their prime in a desperate attempt to attract audiences, were primarily responsible. Given soccer’s disproportionate popularity with immigrant groups, the focus on recruiting foreign players was unsurprising, but rampant inflation, along with the law of diminishing returns, would eventually render this policy unsustainable.

    Individual owners who could not afford to sustain seven-figure losses soon went bankrupt trying to keep up with the Joneses, and their teams folded; those large corporations with deep pockets (and there were several) who could sustain even substantial losses in the longer-term were still forced by their shareholders to divest with what were seen as “unprofitable divisions” in an era of widespread belt-tightening and corporate restructuring. By 1984, the NASL was officially defunct, ending soccer’s aspirations for representation within the major professional sports leagues for the second time in the 20th century. American soccer fans lamented what could have been, but the NASL did leave an enduring legacy in helping to establish soccer as one of the most popular league and intramural sports among American youth. Even as individual NASL owners were playing the short game, the league itself had been playing the long game – one which, perhaps, might yield future benefits…

    Until then, the failure of soccer to gain traction with the American populace – just as so many American sports had utterly failed to gain British converts in years past – was emblematic of the peculiar stalemate between the two dominant powers in the Anglosphere. Although British culture had disproportionate influence on that of the Continent, the familiar tug-of-war which had defined the interactions between British and American culture for close to a century continued into the 1980s. The 1960s saw British pop and rock music – itself heavily influenced by American rock-and-roll of the 1950s – topping the charts stateside, with the Beatles leading the charge. On the small screen, many of the most popular American series of the 1970s – Those Were the Days, Sanford and Son, and Three’s Company, among others – had been based on British mainstays. James Bond, whose dominance had begun under Sean Connery in the 1960s, continued until Michael Billington in the 1970s and 1980s. However, eventually, the Americans found their own ways to exert their own cultural influence over their one-time colonial masters, albeit in unexpected fashion…

    As previously noted, sporting events weren’t the only ways television programmers filled their newly-available timeslots on British television. Game shows were as popular with executives as they were with viewers, as they were in general cheap to produce while simultaneously providing the audience with sufficient spectacle and the opportunity to win cold, hard cash and fabulous prizes. However, the conception and production of game shows were a surprisingly delicate balance, one which required considerable patience and hard work to get right. It was far easier, executives reasoned, to simply import what was already a successful format from another source, especially such an apparently inexhaustible one. There were a great variety of game shows popular during the daytime hour in the USA. Many involved a “quirky” take on the traditional question-and-answer format. Match Game involved a fill-in-the-blanks test with a group of celebrity panelists. Hollywood Squares invited contestants to agree or disagree with celebrity assertions. The Dating Game sought to pair bachelors (or bachelorettes) with one of three contestants whose answers were most compatible with the desired responses to questions asked. Family Feud, a game show specifically tailored around the popular Match Game panelist Richard Dawson (formerly of Hogan’s Heroes), brought on two teams – each consisting of a family unit – and asked them to match a series of surveys. Few of these games involved a significant element of random chance, although some certainly existed.

    Many of these would see import to the UK, though often with at least token changes made for the benefit of a subtly different audience. Family Feud, for example, saw its name changed to Family Fortunes. However, this seemingly dramatic alteration was also a superficial one – the gameplay remained largely intact. The same was also true of the remake of Match Game – or rather, Blankety Blank, a title which emphasized the process of the gameplay as opposed to its objective. However unnecessary these changes might have seemed to outside observers, it continued a proud transatlantic tradition dating all the way back to the 18th century, with Samuel Webster and his revisionist “dictionary”. To be fair, a handful of British game shows, including some of the most popular, were not imported from the United States, but from other foreign countries, including Countdown (from France) and 3-2-1 (from Spain), thus allowing the Continent some influence over British culture after all if only because there were so many game shows on British television in the 1980s that producers very likely ran out of suitable English-language game shows to adapt.

    The genre was so popular that not even the high-minded BBC could not ignore them entirely, and indeed would go on to commission several of their own. However, in this respect, the BBC were not quite so highbrow as their reputation suggested, particularly given
    Match of the Day, along with their popular televised “talent show” program, Opportunity Knocks, and Top of the Pops, a weekly rundown of the UK Singles Chart. On the whole, however, the BBC chose to combat the glut of newly-available populist offerings, even on their own networks, through “counter-programming” – after all, the state-owned broadcaster had a maintain to educate and inform as well as to entertain. Granted, their own broadcast schedule was not nearly so highbrow as they liked to pretend, nor as removed from topicality. Nevertheless, the BBC made it their endeavour to present light entertainment which was both respectable and timeless.

    One of the more ambitious efforts at “light entertainment” during this period was The Crookback, a “secret history” set during the tail-end of the Wars of the Roses, and written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson, two alumni from Oxford University who cut their teeth working on productions put on by the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Both had done work for the BBC before, but The Crookback was their first traditional sitcom for the network. As the name implied, The Crookback told the story of Richard III, and was produced with an eye for a premiere on the 500th anniversary of his historical usurpation of the throne of England from his nephew, Edward V – and indeed, the first episode would air on June 26, 1983 on BBC-1. Atkinson himself starred as Richard III – though in the program itself, he was still Duke of Gloucester, given the complicated premise. The “secret history” posited that Edward V peacefully succeeded his father, Edward IV, as King in 1483, despite his minority. However, the Regency Council that had been formed to govern until such time as Edward was of age quickly factionalized into two groups: the “Yorkists”, led by Gloucester and his ally, the Duke of Buckingham; and the “Woodvilles”, led by the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Woodville, her brother, the Earl Rivers, and her son (and Edward IV’s stepson), the Marquess of Dorset. On the fringes of the English Court were the rump Lancastrians, dormant since 1471. Their claimant since then, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, was in exile in Brittany; however, their spiritual leader, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, through whom Henry derived his claim, remained in England, though theoretically kept under the watchful eye of her “Yorkist” husband, Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley.

    In the show’s premiere episode, Edward IV (Peter Cook) was on his deathbed, beseeching his beloved younger brother to take good care of his children, Edward and Richard. However, none of Edward IV’s family particularly cared for his widow, the newly-Dowager Queen Elizabeth (Miriam Margolyes) – who was portrayed as an over-the-hill harlot and prima donna, accustomed to having won men (including her late husband) over purely on her looks and sex appeal, which have long since disappeared with age (and after having carried so many children). As the Dowager Queen was also the Queen Mother, she was often formally referred to as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – or, more familiarly, the “Queen Mum”, an explicit and humorous nod to the real-life person presently referred to as such. On a more crass show (in the Monty Python vein), she would have been played by a man – here, however, Margolyes handled the thankless role with aplomb. Queen Elizabeth was supported by her close relatives, parvenus all: her brother, the loud, boisterous, and obnoxious Earl Rivers (Brian Blessed), and her son, the moronic but brutish Marquess of Dorset (Mel Smith).

    Gloucester, though very intelligent and cunning, was totally lacking in charisma, and thus utterly unable to rally other aristocrats to his cause, save for the duplicitous (but bumbling) Duke of Buckingham (Griff Rhys Jones), who himself had a dynastic claim to the throne, and was thus presented as the bumbling upper-class twit, allowing the program to engage in typical class-conscious comedy. Meanwhile, Gloucester’s own wife, Anne Neville (Miranda Richardson), was a beautiful but shrewish woman who constantly belittled him, and was unfaithful; something oft noted sardonically by Gloucester himself (“my loving and ever-faithful wife”). Their son (if indeed he was their son), Edward of Middleham, had no respect for him. (Of the three child actors in the cast – those playing Edward V, Richard, Duke of York, and Edward of Middleham – the actor playing Middleham was by far the most prominent, though even he too had a minor role.) It seemed that the only remotely competent person in the English court was the only one with no power or influence whatsoever: Lady Margaret Beaufort (Elspet Gray), though even in her case, humour was often found in her proclamations that she was “biding [her] time” for the perfect moment to summon her son and brother-in-law from across the Channel, even when the latest court catastrophe taking place often right in front of her had seemingly furnished the perfect moment time and again. Nevertheless, her obvious scheming was always smoothly covered up by her husband, the Baron Stanley (Tim McInnerny), by cleverly obfuscating stupidity.

    All six episodes of the series, starting with the premiere and continuing through the finale, featured all three factions jockeying for position against each other, in highly contrived and farcical ways, though not also without some light satire of government bureaucracy. The perennial victims of these internecine plots and struggles were the common people of England, personified by the long-suffering Baldrick the Dung-Gatherer, played by Tony Robinson. His presence allowed the program to indulge in further class-based humour which defined British comedy. (Naturally, Baldrick and Buckingham played off each other at least once an episode.) Previously written narratives set in the period were the frequent targets of parody, up to and including the works of William Shakespeare. Many lines from his Richard III were borrowed for The Crookback, though often delivered in a different context than how they had appeared in the play. (On one memorable occasion, Richard himself broke the fourth wall after being on the receiving end of yet another Shakespearean quotation, saying “I swear I’ve heard that line before, but it might just have been an allusion.”)

    The final episode ended, as it ought to have done, with the “Yorkist” faction finally emerging victorious, killing the Earl Rivers (who, being played by Brian Blessed, naturally got a spectacularly hammy death scene) for good measure, though not without great cost: Richard’s closest ally Buckingham, his wife Anne, and his son Edward all died as well. Richard took this in stride, declaring that he would marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, prompting outrage – Baldrick encapsulated the visceral popular reaction by delivering his most famous line: “you’re a Plantagenet, not a bloody Hapsburg!” [2] – and leading Margaret Beaufort to finally decide that this was the perfect moment for her son, the Earl of Richmond (Robert Bathurst) to launch his invasion, so she duly summoned the “King Over the Water” (a deliberately anachronistic Jacobite reference). He arrived just in time to disrupt the coronation of King Richard III, who engaged him, eager to prove his mettle as King – possibly with the aid of liquid courage as, still drunk from his revelry, he fell from his horse in battle – and the chaos this created among his ranks led Stanley, watching from the hill overlooking Bosworth Field, to launch his assault, ultimately killing Richard III (whose last line was, of course, “A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” – Curtis and Atkinson knew better than to try topping Shakespeare). The newly-crowned Henry VII vowed to rewrite the history books as regarded the reigns of Edward V and Richard III, and his vision prevailed. The closing narration wryly noted that there were those who would seek to rehabilitate the reputation of Richard III (the Ricardians, a small but extremely vocal minority by the 1980s) [3], though perhaps they would be best to leave well enough alone…

    The Crookback was at the vanguard of a new generation of comedians and entertainers, but though the established generation was now forced to share space with them, it did not vanish entirely. Mike Yarwood, whose political impressions were the headlining feature of his massively popular comedy specials in the 1970s, continued to draw high viewership numbers into the 1980s. He was fortunate in having developed a killer impression of Prime Minister Willie Whitelaw, though his efforts at impersonating the current Leader of the Opposition, David Owen, were not quite so fruitful as they had been of previous Labour leaders, though this ultimately did neither his career nor his reputation much damage. [4] Yarwood’s longevity was such that he became more-or-less the undisputed elder statesman of British television comedy upon the death of Eric Morecambe in 1984, ending the iconic Morecambe & Wise partnership which had stood as his only significant rival to the title. The ambition of The Crookback – and the innovative, if unsuccessful, alternative comedy programs which had preceded it – stood in marked contrast to the complacency of Yarwood’s shows. Political satirists, in particular, spurned Yarwood for his consistent pattern of playing it safe – however, British audiences, used to a government which very much tended to play it safe, were seemingly quite happy to go with the flow…

    ---

    [1] Border Television served mainly the Scottish Borders, in addition to the English county of Cumbria, physically separated from the rest of the Northwest (save for a narrow bottleneck along the coast) by Yorkshire’s protrusion inland. This explains their being served by a different affiliate. The absence of any Scottish teams on Border Television is naturally explained by their playing for a different league than the (English) Football League. IOTL, the Scottish Football League did have live match broadcasts until 1986, three years after the (English) Football League.

    [2] Another deliberate anachronism: in the fifteenth century, the Hapsburgs were no more prone to incestuous marriages than most other dynasties – it was the Spanish dynasties that were big on the practice, and of course the Hapsburgs married into Spanish royalty at the end of the fifteenth century, inheriting the tradition, as it were. The reason the line is considered especially funny in-universe is that Baldrick’s lines up to this point have been mostly monosyllabic – a great “shocked” take from Atkinson at Robinson’s delivery hammers home the surprise that Baldrick can even pronounce the word “Plantagenet”, let alone that he knows what it means (or, being working-class, that he cares what it means born with a wooden spoon in his mouth and all that).

    [3] The oldest and most prominent Ricardian organization (IOTL and ITTL), the Richard III Society, lacks the patronage of Prince Richard of Gloucester ITTL, because – well, note the difference from his OTL style Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He isn’t the Duke ITTL, because his elder brother Prince William survives, and it is he who succeeded his father (Prince Henry, son of George V) as Duke of Gloucester in 1974, and Prince William, despite sharing his predecessor’s title, does not share his name, and thus is not tickled by joining the organization devoted to his historical rehabilitation.

    [4] As opposed to the situation IOTL, in which he proved utterly (but understandably) unable to impersonate the female Prime Minister from 1979 onward.

    ---

    Happy Anniversary! Today marks four years since I first began posting That Wacky Redhead to this forum! I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading along as much as I’ve enjoyed writing. There are still a few more updates to go before we reach September 20, 1986, so I hope that you’ll all continue to enjoy the home stretch with me!

    Thanks, as always, to e of pi for assisting with the editing. Thanks also to Thande for serving as the sounding board for my alt-Blackadder, and to nixonshead for serving as my Official Footy Consultant!

    Crookback Castle.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
    Electric Monk, Mackon and OwenM like this.
  2. Gordian Basileus

    Joined:
    May 6, 2015
    Location:
    New Amsterdam
    Good update!

    So, with David Owen Leader of the Labour Party, I take it that the SDP doesn't exist ITTL?
     
  3. Mr.E The Man that Time Forgot

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2012
    Location:
    The Mountainous Democratic Republic of Colorado
    Great update!

    Interesting version of Blackadder. I wonder if they will do sequels to it, (given it doesn't seem to lend itself to sequels).

    You mentioned Top of the Pops. Feel free not to answer this, but does Jimmy Saville still host that show?
     
  4. THE OBSERVER Independent Progressive

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2010
    Location:
    New England
    And now we see TTL's version of Blackadder. How this unfolds will be interesting.
     
  5. The Professor Pontifex Collegii Vexillographiariorum

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Location:
    Collegium Vexillarum
    This Crookback does not lend itself to an obvious sequel unless they decide to Hist-Com another period/ShakespearePlay. MacBeth? the Norman Conquest? (no Baldrick they're not all called Norman...) etc etc
     
  6. Daibhid C Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2013
    Location:
    Pictland
    I love the sound of Crookback, although as others have said, it's hard to see it leading to an equivalent to Blackadder II etc. Then again, sequel films to Up Pompeii set in other historic periods probably didn't seem very likely until they did it.

    Interesting that Smith & Jones are in it; am I right in thinking this, and the reference to unsuccessful alternative comedy shows, indicates Not the Nine O'Clock News never caught on?

    I'm afraid we've got fewer original gameshows than you think - Countdown has been running in France since 1965 and 3-2-1 was a Spanish show from 1972-2004.

    And interesting that ITV-2 - unlike OTL Channel 4 - uses the ITV regional areas. I realise it's outwith the period of the timeline, but it occurs to me that if something similar to the 1991 franchise auction happens, it's going to be even messier...
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2015
  7. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Location:
    The British Empire
    Thank you all for your replies to my latest update! Before we get to my responses to your replies, I would like to announce that the next update will be ready at the end of this weekend! Yes! Two updates in one week! Haven't seen that one in a long time, am I right? And it's about Doctor Who, even! What fun! Anyway, down to brass tacks...

    The relevant information is to be found in this update. In short, no, there is no SDP, but there is a DSP - an important distinction.

    So! Lots of queries about whether or not there are sequels to The Crookback. Cutting to the chase, if there are, I won't be covering them - I had so much fun sketching out my Richard III scenario for the alt-Blackadder ITTL that any follow-up would be a disappointment - not necessarily in-universe, but certainly on a meta-level. (Such a rare opportunity to indulge my Before 1900 sensibilities!)

    You are quite right, Daibhid! Good eye :cool:

    Noted and corrected - thank you very much. Now you see the downsides to focusing almost exclusively on the Anglosphere :eek:

    Funny you should mention that. As you are no doubt aware, part of the mandate in Channel 4's creation IOTL was an increased focus on regional interests - hence the Welsh "affiliate" of Channel 4 actually broadcasting in the Welsh language. To my mind, if it were ITV-2 instead of Channel 4, the affiliate system already in place for ITV(-1) would be carried over as an obvious means of promoting regional interests further. That's when I decided to integrate broadcasts of Football League matches involving local teams.

    To be honest, I'm a bit surprised more people haven't commented on that part, considering how large a proportion of my readership is, in fact, English. Surely some soccer/football fans are among these? nixonshead can't be the only one. (And a No-Prize goes to whomever can guess which club he supports - this is what happens when you get in good with the Brainbin, your team wins big in my TL :p)
     
  8. Lindseyman Am I a Northerner? I think that I am!

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2013
    Location:
    Near Lactodorum
    Have finally caught up. Just a couple of queries

    1. Where is Rotterham? I read it as Rotherham as that was what I was expecting but I could be wrong.

    2. What about the third and fourth division teams. Whatever the regional ITV companies faults with their football coverage they did cover the lower divisions quite well especially if one of the local teams was challenging for promotion (or fighting against relegation or worse re-election).
    (OK I must admit a bias here my teams being York City and Grimsby Town:D)

    Also did the franchises for ITV2 correct some of the interesting anomalies? For example York is officially in Tyne Tees despite being only 20 miles down the road from Leeds from where Yorkshire is broadcast! As far as I'm aware (from when I lived in York) the only time people in York watched Tyne Tees was if York was the focus of the programme the rest of the time we watched Yorkshire for the LOCAL news(also a much better signal).
     
  9. MatthewFirth Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2012
    Location:
    Portsmouth, England
    Great update. I just wanna know what ITV 2 would look like on screen?
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2015
  10. Threadmarks: The Doctor is Out

    Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Location:
    The British Empire
    The Doctor is Out

    Doctor Who had been on the air since 1963 – over two decades, an interminable run for any dramatic program. In that time, it had survived four changes in lead actor, but even as the series celebrated its 20th anniversary on the air, it did not seem nearly as invincible as it once had. The added competition from ITV-2 after 1981 ate into the show’s audience share, for one thing – younger viewers and families were more than happy to watch ever more lavish presentations of live football, game shows, and elaborate high-concept light entertainment than an aged, hackneyed science-fiction program with an ever-declining budget; not to mention the declining quality, another key factor in the show’s fall from grace. Doctor Who fandom was as diverse and tribal as Star Trek fandom, with consensus no easier to broker amongst its many factions. However, virtually all of them were agreed that despite a promising enough start the tenure of the Fifth Doctor represented a decline from the golden years of the Fourth Doctor (though opinions varied regarding its severity). Naturally, a minority contested this conventional wisdom, though many would not fully assert their positions until some years later.

    Fan criticisms of the Fifth Doctor era went out of their way to acquit Richard Griffiths, who played the Fifth Doctor. Griffiths was well-regarded in the role by most observers, both within and without the fandom, despite having the difficult task of succeeding the popular Jim Dale as the Fourth Doctor. Then again, Dale succeeded Jon Pertwee, the man who was still seen as the Doctor, and pulled it off with aplomb. On the other hand, Dale had the benefit of audience goodwill due to being an unambiguously British Doctor with a British companion, whose adventures were scripted by British writers, with effects done in-house by the British technicians at the BBC, with no need to pander or kowtow to American interests. As a result, the fandom was far more willing to forgive the show’s many faults during that difficult transitional period because at least it was being true to itself. By the time Dale had parted for greener pastures, it was at least in part because by then, the bloom was off the rose.

    Novelty no longer playing much of a part in the show’s popularity, the writers and producers increasingly had to make do with nostalgia instead. Thus, all five Doctors were reunited for the 20th anniversary serial in 1983, entitled The Five Doctors. Sadly, notall five of the actors who had played them would reunited: William Hartnell, who had played the First Doctor, had passed away in the interim between his appearance in the previous milestone serial, The Three Doctors, in 1973. The role was recast with a reasonable facsimile for Hartnell. However, Pertwee, Dale, and Patrick Troughton all returned in their original roles – it marked Dale’s first and only appearance on the program following the end of his tenure. In a shocking twist, Roger Delgado also returned for the serial, reprising his role as the Doctor’s most iconic individual adversary, the Master. The plot involved him teaming with the Doctor’s most iconic collective adversary, the Daleks. Somehow, in spite of this awesome collusion of the universe’s greatest supervillains, all five Doctors, working in tandem, were able to defeat them.

    The Five Doctors was a smash-hit, easily the highest-rated serial of the Fifth Doctor’s tenure, pulling in Doctor Who’s best viewership figures of the 1980s. However, that serial’s success was sadly anomalous, a mere reprieve which only served to delay the inevitable, and in some ways accelerate it. With the welcome exception of the spike provided by The Five Doctors, the audience for Doctor Who seemed to erode with each passing serial. It seemed that every core demographic for the program sought other diversions; football or game shows elsewhere on the telly, or even increasing time spent on the home microcomputer as the 1980s wore on and prices for new models continued to drop, making them affordable even for working-class households. British society, it seemed, was passing Doctor Who by. It was increasingly seen as a relic, a product of a different time entirely.

    Perhaps if the quality of Doctor Who had been maintained, this inexorable decline might not have taken place, but the perils with any show having been on the air for so long were that the young turks brought on to shake things up might have happened to be fans in their youth – and such was the case here. The new batch of writers were far more concerned in correcting – or, in the parlance of comic book writers, retconning – past inconsistencies or even “transgressions” against their own internal logic with regards to how the Doctor Who canon operated. They were also not always particularly subtle about making their thoughts known, often using characters as their personal mouthpieces. (The controversial “Yank Years” unsurprisingly served as a lightning rod for their revisionism.) Many serials were thus direct continuations of previous, 1970s-era serials, often with a twist that somehow invalidated the original.

    Despite having once been part of the Doctor Who fandom, many of the show’s newest batch of writers and producers seemed to feel that their elevation to their current positions set them apart from their former compatriots in some meaningful way. This was especially true of those fans whose conclusions about Doctor Who lore differed from their own. For example, late into the Fifth Doctor’s tenure, an adolescent male companion named William was introduced. Companions were usually intended as audience surrogates, and William (or “Billy”, as he was commonly known) was no exception; he was a smug, obnoxious, know-it-all brat who constantly argued with the Doctor, only to always be proven wrong. That many of his arguments were often lifted verbatim from popular fan screeds served to drive home the point that William served as a petulant satire of hardcore fans – or, rather, those hardcore fans whose own beliefs differed from those of the writers, with the Doctor serving as author avatar. Deliberately and blatantly alienating the program’s core audience was perhaps not the best move the producers could have made to quell the exodus of viewers.

    Unsurprisingly, those in charge of Doctor Who not only disdained much of their show’s own history and its fanbase, but also their own superiors. The BBC, after all, had a chequered reputation as the overseers of Doctor Who. The Yank Years in particular stood as perhaps the most sordid chapter of the program’s very long run on BBC-1, with the fanbase growing increasingly irate at what they had deemed to be “misplaced priorities” on the part of the BBC, as if the program were nothing more than a commercial enterprise. Still, the long series of Controllers who presided over the fate of Doctor Who were surprisingly indulgent and tolerant with regards to its production. Or, at least, so they had been… all good things must come to an end, as too must all strategic management decisions.

    Enter Mark Lewin, who became the Controller of BBC-1 in 1983, in the run-up to The Five Doctors. Prior to becoming Controller, he’d heard the horror stories of raging egos running rampant on the set of Doctor Who (between the leaky nature of fandom contacts and the notoriously snoopy entertainment press in the UK, such stories were common knowledge) and his investigations into the matter confirmed his worst fears. He dreaded the disaster that would have come of the 20th anniversary serial, but it surprisingly went off without a hitch – the presence of the “old guard” no doubt playing a role in tempering the young turks somewhat. In the long run, though, this might have been the worst possible outcome, as it raised Lewin’s expectations far beyond the point where they could ever be met. He made very clear that he expected the smooth production and successful result of The Five Doctors to be the “new normal”. However, his expectations would never come to fruition.

    Indeed, the character of William was introduced in the serial that immediately followed The Five Doctors, quite effectively obliterating any lingering goodwill from it. Though William lasted less than a year, the damage was done. Richard Griffiths hated the character even more the fans did, seeing him as a personification of all that was wrong with the production staff. Tired of being the public face of an increasingly maligned program, and of the positively noxious atmosphere behind the scenes, Griffiths announced his intention to leave Doctor Who at the end of the 1985 season. The press and the fandom naturally went into overdrive with speculation as to the casting of the Sixth Doctor… until they were faced with a rather rude awakening.

    Lewin announced in a press conference mere days after word of Griffith’s departure was leaked that Doctor Who would be ending its 22-year run upon conclusion of the current (and thus final) season. The Fifth Doctor would therefore be the last – it was never specified just how many regenerations each Time Lord was allowed, although the implication had always been that it was a finite number. [1] No one had expected that number to be as low as four, but so it went. Despite the widespread loathing within the Doctor Who fandom toward the creative team, many of them still reacted with outrage at the show’s cancellation, which made national headlines (if occasionally in derisive tones). Many eulogized Doctor Who as well past its prime, coasting by on nostalgia, and worthy of this chance at a definitive conclusion rather than a slower, more lingering death by a thousand cuts. After all, the BBC would still own the rights to Doctor Who, and might possibly bring it back in some other form in future, as had been the case for Star Trek. Indeed, in many ways Star Trek served as both a rallying point and an inspiration for disheartened Doctor Who fans. After all, Star Trek had ended its original UK run over a decade earlier, and yet it remained a mainstay of British television. Doctor Who had been running for over four times as long as Star Trek did, and had accordingly accrued an episode count fourfold that of Star Trek. Doctor Who would no doubt enjoy a very long and fruitful life in syndication; it would also provide an opportunity for many younger viewers to watch 1960s-era Who for the first time.

    And so it was that the Doctor died once and for all, naturally in preventing the destruction of the universe and all its inhabitants, but not before revealing his name – which turned out to be a Gallifreyan word meaning “doctor”: “you see, my dear, it’s an occupational surname, not rather unlike your own ‘Baker’ or ‘Smith’”, as the Doctor himself explained. This reveal was considered distinctly underwhelming, though most rational observers agreed that very likely any name would have done. Despite this obvious disappointment, responses to Requiem for a Time Lord, the final serial, were generally positive; viewership figures were the highest since those of The Five Doctors two years earlier, allowing the Doctor to go out with a good sendoff. The Doctor’s final words comforted his companions - and the audience – by reminding them that there were many other Time Lords, and perhaps the nobility of his sacrifice might inspire one or more of them to carry on his legacy.

    Meanwhile, Mark Lewin was almost immediately promoted to BBC Director-General following the finale of Doctor Who, and though his successor was urged to reverse his decision to cancel the program, he never did (albeit possibly for fear of being overruled by his superior, who had made a name for himself crusading against behind-the-scenes excesses). Lewin would enjoy a successful career in television broadcasting, with the curious exception of being the first BBC-1 Controller not to be knighted by Her Majesty the Queen, for reasons which remain, not unlike the Doctor himself, somewhat enigmatic…

    ---

    [1] The serial establishing that Time Lords are allowed no more than twelve regenerations IOTL was “The Deadly Assassin”, which aired in 1976. ITTL, no such limit is ever put into place, with the writers wisely deciding not to constrain themselves – or rather, their successors – with having to write around that limit once they reach it… as they did IOTL, with “The Time of the Doctor” in 2013, thirty-seven years after the limit was established, and in which (for lack of a better analogy) the Doctor was effectively given a “continue” after having lost all his original lives.

    ---

    Thanks to e of pi for assisting with the editing, as usual.

    Thus concludes the history of
    Doctor Who ITTL. It will not be returning before September 20, 1986, so it will not be covered in any further detail. Feel free to speculate as to its future, but don’t expect me to confirm or deny any of your suppositions. Your only hope will be for me to write a sequel TL! (Which probably isn’t going to happen, by the way, so don’t get your hopes up waiting for one.)
     
    Knightmare and Mackon like this.
  11. Roger Redux The Revisionist

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2015
    Location:
    The Mother of all ASBs (a.k.a. "The Real World")
    A good update, although this means that, barring reruns on (TTL's equivalent of) the Sci-Fi Channel, my TTL self (if in fact I still exist ITTL) may not even casually get into Doctor Who, since my first experience was the Christopher Eccleston series.
    Still given that Doctor Who really is the British Star Trek, I have no doubt it'll be resurrected in some form: animated series, radio drama midquels (not unlike OTL), reboot, or as hinted a spin-off.
    Maybe without The Doctor to constantly foil him, The Master reforms out of boredom; Master Who anyone?
     
  12. Ogrebear Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2012
    Location:
    UK
    Very interesting set of UK updates there Brainbin, this UK looks like a slightly darker place with no Blackadder 2, no Doctor Who, no Not the Nine O'Clock news even! However what about the other alt-comedies and shows such as Yes Minister, The Tube, Spitting Image, Young Ones etc? Or indeed sci-fi shows like Day of the Triffids, Tripods, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Chocky..?

    Or do we see a rise of fantasy shows influenced by the Lord of the Rings films? Live action D&D instead of the cartoon? Knightmare years earlier?
     
  13. NCW8 Being Analogue in a Digital World

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    Location:
    Baselland
    Interesting stuff about ITV-2, but did anything happen with Breakfast Television, or were we still limited to Open University broadcasts on BBC 2 ?

    While Opportunity Knocks started on the BBC Light Programme, it was first televised by ITV (Associated Rediffusion, ABC and then Thames). It didn't move back to the BBC until 1987.


    Game Shows ? The IBA was very strict in it's control of Game Shows - for example there was a limit of 6000 pounds per week in the amount of prize money (the BBC imposed similar limits - so much so that Les Dawson was always sarcastic about the prizes on Blankety Blank). IOTL these restrictions weren't lifted until the Nineties. Without the example of Thatcherite deregulation, they're unlikely to be lifted earlier ITTL. That being the case, the IBA are unlikely to allow Game Shows to form such a large part of the output of ITV-2.


    Presumably the Master had been augmented with superior Dalek Technology:

    [​IMG]


    Cheers,
    Nigel.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  14. Daibhid C Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2013
    Location:
    Pictland
    Sad that Doctor Who ended four years sooner, but it does strike me as an all-too-plausible chain of events. (Especially Billy, who sounds like an unholy combination of Adric and Whizzkid from "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy".)

    I liked the allohistorical allusion of "Baker or Smith". :)
     
  15. Space Oddity That One Guy. You Know Who I Mean.

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2010
    To be fair, they actually had him reach the limit early by adding in extra Doctors we hadn't seen, and counting a few things that hadn't counted as regenerations at the time as regenerations...
     
  16. NCW8 Being Analogue in a Digital World

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    Location:
    Baselland
    OTOH, The Brain of Morbius showed several incarnations of the Doctor before the Bill Hartnell one. These were later retconned as being incarnations of Morbius, but that didn't really fit in with the story. Like many things, Doctor Who hasn't always been consistent about how many regenerations the Doctor has had.

    Cheers,
    Nigel.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
  17. Unknown Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2004
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    Getting back to Star Trek:

    Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner (in the episode with their interracial kiss) intentionally blew every other take where they didn't kiss, IIRC, forcing them to use the one with the kiss; this is in spite of the fact that Nichols didn't care much for Shatner's attitude on the set (1), but both agreed that the kiss had to happen.

    (1) So much so, in fact, that when Shatner interviewed her for Star Trek Memories, Nichols took that opportunity to rip into him for his attitude towards her and others on the set. James Doohan once said that he liked Captain Kirk, but hated Bill Shatner...
     
  18. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2009
    Location:
    The British Empire
    Rotherham was the intended name, and the update has been corrected to reflect that :)

    As a general rule, the teams of Division One get coverage first, followed by the teams of Division Two. In sufficiently populous broadcast areas (including Yorkshire), there simply isn't enough airtime to cover Division Three (let alone Division Four), because there will always be a team in one of the upper two divisions playing. Remember, ITV-2 is still only one channel.

    Any territorial changes will, whenever possible, be coterminous with the "provinces" set out by the Redcliffe-Maud Report IOTL (and implemented ITTL by the Wilson government in the early 1970s) - the exceptions being that only one affiliate station (ATV) covers both the West and East Midlands, the North West is served by two stations (Granada and Border), and that the South East is divided into Greater London (Thames) and the rest (Southern). I imagine giving the small portion of Northern Yorkshire back to Yorkshire could very well be part of that realignment.

    The various ITV stations didn't really forge a common identity during this period, and this would be even more so the case for the regionalized ITV-2 stations than it would be for the flagship and quasi-national (though still with heavy emphasis on local broadcasters) ITV-1. For most of the stations, the visual ident would just be the regular logo with a "2" superimposed.

    Thank you, though given how far off 2005 is from the end of the TL, we can only speculate as to how your TTL "brother" gets into Doctor Who, if indeed he even does.

    Doctor Who having a future on the radio is pretty much guaranteed, I must admit.

    One thing I will say is that this update is in part a thesis statement for one of my pet theories regarding culture: that it tends to flourish in the face of struggle and adversity. One example of this is the Golden Age of Hollywood (both film and television), when producers managed to create enduring works of art and culture in the face of what we today would consider ludicrous restrictions. In the case of the United Kingdom in the 1980s, cultural expression had a central locus against which it focused its energies, giving it a sense of purpose which it would lack ITTL, given the far more milquetoast Mr Whitelaw at No. 10. Given how dramatically Mrs. T affected every facet of British society in the 1980s, I felt it only right to posit something dramatically different in her absence.

    Excellent point. Yes, national breakfast television telecaasts emerge in the 1980s ITTL as well. In the case of ITV, the show airs on ITV-1, naturally, given the national reach.

    Thank you! Doctor Who did seem prone to rampant egotism breaking out among the cast and crew throughout its later history, alas, so I took advantage of that. As for Billy, I was going to be even more obvious with him; he named Richard (or "Dick") in an earlier draft, but sadly, that would create in-universe confusion with Richard Griffiths, who played the Fifth Doctor.

    Thank you! I couldn't resist :D

    Points very well taken!

    Thanks for sharing that classic nugget of Star Trek wisdom, Unknown :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
  19. MatthewFirth Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2012
    Location:
    Portsmouth, England
    You mentioned breakfast television on ITV-1, was the service TV-AM, or was it something else?
     
  20. OwenM Red Tory Scum

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Location:
    Colwyn Bay/Manchester
    Sad but brilliant.
    Does ITV-2 Wales (or whatever it's called) broadcast in Welsh TTL?
     
Loading...