Mark Andrews: Lockdown sparks an online idents-crisis

I think the lockdown might finally be getting to me. Yes, I know the restrictions are easing a bit now, but I fear it might be too late. The near-four months of rules and regulations have finally sent me over the edge.

The old ATV ident
The old ATV ident

The first symptoms showed a few weeks ago, when I started searching YouTube for old television idents, you know, the jingles they used to show on ITV at the start of programmes, when all the different ITV stations had their own distinct identities.

Now of course, the most evocative of these would be the old 'ATV Midlands in Colour' from the 70s, which people outside the area will probably best remember for being at the beginning of Crossroads, The Muppet Show, or Tiswas. Those red, blue and green circles that blended together into two yellow eyes, one on top of the other, to a fanfare of harps and horns. It took a while for many to actually realise that the circles were red, blue and green, as most people were still watching on black-and-white televisions, but it was nice to know that the technology was there. And there was something amusingly pompous about such an imposing build up, only for it be followed by Benny Hawkins looking for his mop, or Chris Tarrant chucking a bucket of water at someone.

Then, of course there was the Anglia TV indent. No doubt Anglia made a lot of quality TV programmes, but let's be honest, we only remember it for one thing, don't we? "Now, from Norwich, it's the quiz of the week!" That was always a slightly odd combination. Because while the opening titles of Sale of The Century tried to convey an air of glamour – flying record players and gold watches, jet planes taking people to exotic locations, hey they even had a go at making the Austin Allegro look desirable – the Anglia TV ident was as low-budget as they came. A shiny statuette of a knight on a horse, the kind of thing that might have been on offer at Ratners, was filmed revolving around 180 degrees on a plinth, before the camera moved in for a shaky close-up of the 'Anglia' flag. The whole shebang looked like it might have been filmed on a potter's wheel in somebody's garage.

Don't forget, either, the special version of the Thames ident made to precede Morecambe & Wise, or the Yorkshire Television ident that came before 3-2-1. The latter was particularly creative: the channel's famous 'Y' emblem suddenly started flying around the screen, before disappearing into a cloud of smoke and regenerating itself as Dusty Bin. Unforgettable.

Of course not all the idents were exciting. Border Television's, which was just a card with the Border Television logo on it, was just plain dull. Which is probably why the only thing people in this neck of the woods remember Border Television for is Mr & Mrs, and that boring country music programme that used to be on at lunchtime.

Looking back at YouTube also reveals how the adverts used to be much more fun in the 70s and 80s. When the sad news broke last month that the venerable Lee Longlands furniture store in Birmingham had gone into administration, how many of us immediately though of the infectious 'Leave it to Lee' adverts that used to be omnipresent?

Then there was the old British Caledonian commercial, where a bunch of mildly lecherous middle-aged executives performed a Beach Boys tribute, comparing the attributes of air hostesses of different nationalities, before declaring their allegiance to the tartan-clad 'Caledonian Girls'. I guess it would fail the political-correctness test today, but nearly 40 years on it still brings a smile to the face, unlike today's painfully right-on British Airways 'Modern Britain' ad.

These adverts must have also been excellent value for money. Decades after they disappeared, we still remember Don Amott as the King of Caravans, we all know that Shake 'n' Vac put the freshness back, and that Elvis Costello was hiding a secret addiction to R Whites lemonade. How many TV ads can you recall from the past week?

Anyhow, this trip down memory lane reached its natural conclusion when I eventually found what I had been looking for all along – a video of the opening credits for a regional news programme. Not our regional news programme, although I couldn't resist taking a peak at the old ATV Today title sequence, where the Cortina news car roars out of the old Broad Street studios in the hunt for a big scoop.

But what I had really been searching for was the 1982 theme tune to Television South West news programme, Today South West. Yes, the unbelievably catchy jingle which has been jangling round in my head since a family holiday in Devon all those years ago, really did exist. Proof positive that it wasn't a figment of my imagination.

Like I said, I think this lockdown might have been getting to me.

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