Even Richard Curtis Thinks Love Actually Is Rubbish

Film  Hello.  I know that apart from the all too obviously auto-posting BBC Mondays I haven't been around here much, but with Doctor Who's anniversary cranking up, the Sugababes glow-up, the Empire Magazine project which I've been writing about on BlueSky (@feelinglistless.bsky.social) having abandoned Twixxer and having finally reached 100% on Star Wars Lego: The Skywalker Saga, I expect there'll be the odd thing.  Not that I'm making any kind of promises; I shall not be entering the existential void of every post being about how I should post more.

But I couldn't not return for the news made pretty obvious from the headline to this post.  Richard Curtis thinks Love Actually is rubbish as well now.  It's even made the cover of the Daily Star:

It's been reported in a lot of places, but let's link the Chortle version which is where I first heard the news.  Curtis was at the Cheltenham Literary Festival being interviewed on stage by his daughter Charlotte, how put to him many of the points I made in the sixth most popular post on this blog about the treatment of women, particularly the "multiple accounts of inappropriate boss behaviour [...] and how in the general the women are visions of unattainable loveliness".

The writer who should never have been his own directors said:

  • "I think I was unobservant and not as clever as I should have been."

  • On diversity:  "I think because I came from a very undiverse school and bunch of university friends, I think that I hung on to the feeling that I wouldn’t know how to write those parts.  I think I was just stupid and wrong about that. I felt as though me, my casting director, my producers just didn’t look outwards."

  • On fatphobia: "I remember how shocked I was five years ago when Scarlett said to me, "You can never use the word fat again". And, wow, you were right. In my generation, calling someone "chubby" ... in Love, Actually, there are endless jokes about that. I think I was behind the curve and those jokes aren’t any longer funny."

They weren't funny then, especially because you were describing the character played by Martine McCutcheon and how that reflects back on younger viewers who may be struggling with their own body image.  The only reason I didn't mention that in my dissertation is because I was making a comparison with the treatment of gender and race in two other films, Happy Ending and Short Cuts.

Of course, Love Actually is over twenty years old now and edging ever closer to "vintage" and "of its time" labelling.  There are humans walking around on this planet who're in their twenties who were born after it was originally released.  It was released the same year Russell T Davies was commissioned to write and producer the Doctor Who revival.  

Does this mean I'm willing to relax a little, perhaps admit that it isn't the worst film of all time?  No, not a bit because that would require me to choose a different film and although About Time, The Boat That Rocked (or Pirate Radio if you're outside the UK) and Yesterday are waiting in the wings, I'm too vintage myself now to go through that mental hardship.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1979.

The usually invaluable Timeline of the BBC page at the Wikipedia has this to say about the 27th January 1979: 
"BBC Radio 2 closes down for the last time."
Given that the channel is still broadcasting, what this obviously means is the BBC Radio 2 closes down programmes for the day for the final time.  Until that date, Radio 2 had been ending transmissions for the day at 2am with a News Summary.  But the last time this occurred was at 2am on Saturday the 27th.  

On Sunday 28th the late news was moved to midnight and instead filling the gap between 2am and 5am, according to the BBC Programme Index, we find You and the Night and the Music (named for the popular Schwartz & Dietz song), its first edition presented by Colin Berry (pictured about with El Tel), who for years gave the marks of the British jury on Eurovision, with interruptions now and then with an update on "the second day's play in Adelaide".

So it's been since.  You and the Night and the Music seems to have ended 20th January 1984, replaced with a new slot, Nightride "to keep you company if you work or drive through the night or simply can't sleep" joined later by "A Little Night Music".  As time went on the slots shifted and various DJs covered the shifts, notably Alex Lester who worked overnight at Radio 2 between 1992 and 2017 in various capacities.

At time of writing, most evenings between midnight and 3am are covered by OJ Borg with an hour of content from BBC Sounds, a documentary or "mixtape" filling in the gap until Owain Wyn Evans takes over at 4am.  Of course, the landcape in which both broadcast has changed, there's no longer the need to be awake at these times to listen to the programmes with OJ and Owain's archives stretching back at least a month.

Life on Earth

"The story of life, from the first primitive cells to the plants and animals that now live around us."

"From its earliest days, the BBC set out to chronicle the natural world, but this ambition reached new heights from the late 1970s. In part seven of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, David Hendy explores how David Attenborough’s string of wildlife blockbusters enthralled television viewers and transformed our view of the natural world..."
[History Extra]

"Broadcast in 1979, it took three years to make and involved a staggering one and a half million miles of travel. Viewers were exposed to more than 650 different species of animal, in a survey of life from bacteria to man and all in between."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

Williams composed the music for Life on Earth and this is a nearly four hour interview with him.
[The British Entertainment History Project]


"Ita Burns from the BBC canteen is the wine tasting winner."
[BBC Rewind]


"The BBC moved into this theatre, situated in the grounds of Guy’s hospital near London Bridge station, in 1979."
[TV Studio History]

"The first day of BBC Radio Foyle."
[BBC Rewind]

"Official opening of BBC Wales C1 studio in Broadcasting House, Cardiff."
[BBC Rewind]


"Terry & June Filming Locations looks at locations used in the classic BBC television sitcom starring Terry Scott and June Whitfield."
[James Harding]

"Twenty years ago a song called I Like Trucking and a gorilla named Gerald revolutionised TV comedy. Gerard Barry pays tribute to Not the Nine O'Clock News and explains why it's still significant today."
[The Guardian]

"We'll dive into the behind-the-scenes details of Tatsunoko Production's 1978 series "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman," created by Ryu Nakanishi, Hajime Yatate, and Tokuichi Koike. Then, we'll take a look at the journey of "Gatchaman" to the United States, where it was rebranded as "Battle of the Planets" and brought to audiences by Toon Makers and Sandy Frank Entertainment."
[Toy Galaxy]

"When discussing the origins of Yes Minister, one story seems to loom above all: a nervous BBC delaying the series until after the 1979 election. The following version of this tale, told by writer Jonathan Lynn, seems a good a place to start as any."
[Dirty Feed]

"The stars of the classic BBC sitcom recall Rolls-Royces, chilly location shoots – and an increasingly tubby beagle."
[The Guardian]

"Vera Gilbert reports from the BBC Maida Vale Studios, where the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is celebrating its 21st birthday."
[BBC Archive]

"John Lloyd and Dr Pamela Stephenson talk about their pioneering BBC TV sketch show Not The Nine O’Clock News."
[BBC Sounds]


"The BBC has been attacked by the government many times in its history. The events of last year were just the latest."

"The BBC has always regarded impartiality as one of its definding characteristics and it is a matter for satisfaction that our coverage of the salient political events of this year - the General Election and the change of government - incurred no significant criticism for any major political party."
[World Radio History]

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1978.

In 1975 when BBC producer Cedric Messina was working on a drama at Glamis Castle, he decided that it would be the perfect location for a production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Thinking about it some more, he wondered why he should stop there? Why not film all of the plays in the canon (thirty-seven at that point, Two Noble Kinsmen and Edward III not having been admitted yet), some jolly good Shakespeare, for broadcast on television? The BBC liked that idea. And eventually so did the American co-producers, oilmen and bankers (the likes of Exxon and Morgan Bank who wanted to be seen to be very interested in culture). A big event, an epic undertaking, televising the canon was a chance for the BBC to thump it’s chest and shout “This is what we do!” (with a little help from some friends).

As Susan Willis explains in The BBC Shakespeare Plays: Making The Televised Canon, a celebration of Messina's undertaking, the Americans having stipulated that it shouldn’t be too radical, so none of that modern dress malarkey, the producer would see his original vision be revised and revised, and ultimately completed six years later, having gone through three producers with three different visions, a panoply of directors (some television veterans new to Shakespeare, some Shakespeare veterans new to television) though Messina got his wish to film As You Like It at the castle and surrounds and later taking Henry VIII on location to the actual historical palaces, everything else was shot in the studio, engaging some of the greatest theatre actors of all time and whoever else was popular at the time.

As anyone lucky enough to own the dvd boxset will know, the results are something of a mixed bag. In her investigation, Willis (associate professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery) notes (and I agree with her) that those plays which are less well know, Measure for Measure or Pericles or All’s Well That Ends Well are the best served out of the lot because the directors didn’t feel constrained by what has gone before, whereas Romeo and Juliet, huddled then in the shadow of the recent Zeffrelli movie doesn’t do anything new. The crowning achievement is probably Henry VI – Richard III in which director Jane Howell through an ensemble cast doubling roles, on a single set resembling an adventure playground, portrays this history as the games of school boys play-acting; in isolation it’s as entertaining as I, Claudius, with just as many wild performances and narrative meanders.

Writing just a few years after the final broadcast, Willis clearly has a great admiration for the series. Beyond the history, she offers a forensic analysis of some of the project's auteurs, Jonathan Miller, Elijah Moshinsky and Howell demonstrating how they turned the constraints into benefits by taking full advantage of the televisual medium to emphasise the meaning of a scene through the mis-en-scene or stylising the sets to thematically underscore the motivations of a character. She carefully manages to keep such analysis with the production, only ever broadly venturing into the text when its absolutely necessary usually when describing cuts made or scene changes.

The book closes with some gossipy production diaries for Troilus and Cressida, Titus Andronicus and The Comedy of Errors, contrasting different directing styles and showing how the BBC’s production methods of the time constrained their artistic decisions (familiar to anyone who’s watched the documentaries on Doctor Who DVDs – the 10pm shutdown effected high art too). It's the kind of thing which would be of use to anyone with an interest in this period of television or theatre history and has some wonderful moments were the diva gene in some actors takes full bloom, their competitive streak, but unfortunately more often than not, Willis refuses to name names, though a close analysis of the cast list would probably offer a few ideas.

If there’s a problem, having concentrated on her favourites, Willis rather dumps everyone else into a single chapter, though the writer does somewhat justify that choice by explaining what she thought went wrong with, for example, As You Like It. It’s the nature of these things that I’m bound to disagree with her on a great many things but her observations are correct more often than not, especially in relation to Richard Griffith’s Falstaff dozing his way through a The Merry Wives of Windsor (working against a wonderful Judy Davis and Ben Kinglsey), and particularly about the fiery chemistry between Tim Pigott-Smith as Angelo and Kate Nelligan as Isabella in Measure for Measure, an early triumph and one of the reasons I became interested in Shakespeare, which was the aim the project, to get the disaffected interested in early modern drama, so it succeeded in that, at least with me.

Grange Hill

" When Grange Hill hit our screens in 1978 it was the first time ordinary British schoolchildren had seen characters like themselves reflected on screen. Phil Redmond’s pioneering drama, set in a fictional north London comprehensive school, ran for 30 years, making it one of the longest-running programmes on British television."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"I was called the devil and accused of trying to break down society. There were questions in the Commons."
[The Guardian]

For many of us, this was the first time we’d seen our schools – ugly, noisy and crowded – our teachers, and our selves on screen.
[The New Statesman]

"I suspect Albert was expecting a comment from myself as the “Grange Hill” culprit……."

"In 1987, the strange and bleak Grange Hill: The Computer Game came out on the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum..."
[Gen of Deek]

"Viewers express their delight and/or dissatisfaction with the groundbreaking children's TV show, created by Phil Redmond.  This clip is from The Great Grange Hill Debate."
[BBC Archive]


"Commissioned by BBC TV as the unannounced opening work for their special Arena video art programme. First transmitted March 10, 1976."
A video art piece featuring Richard Baker.

"Preview of Ideal Home Exhibition at King's Hall, Belfast."
Features menacing silent footage of a Dalek.
[BBC Rewind]

"Documentary highlighting the work of wartime volunteer radio operators."
[East Anglian Film Archive]

"A BBC East documentary depicting the working life of an inter-city rail service."
[East Anglian Film Archive]

"In August 1980 Sir Terry Wogan broadcast an edition of his radio breakfast show from Brighton.   BBC South filmed the entire broadcast and the original camera negatives have been rediscovered.  This is a selection of some of the recently rediscovered footage."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]


"A new BBC Radio station, BBC Scotland, launches in November this year. What will be its image and its objective? And will it be like its neighbour, independent local radio station, Radio Clyde?"
[BBC Rewind]

"Radio Wales hit the airwaves from Cardiff in November 1978. Anita Morgan presented the first radio show, where she met Terry Downey and his singing parrot. The listening public, however, had mixed reactions."
[BBC Archive]

"The new television studio has launched at BBC Dundee. For the first time, viewers in the area will be able to see local news reports in colour."
[BBC Rewind]


"The TV Museum group has today released footage of a 1978 BBC Two junction which includes 7 seconds of the Christmas ident from that year."
[Clean Feed]

"Nationwide reporter Vera Gilbert at the Maida Vale studios celebrating 21st years of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"Kieran Prendiville visits the set during the filming of Pennies From Heaven, the latest BBC serial by Dennis Potter. He speaks to Bob Hoskins about the character of Arthur Parker, and Dennis Potter about miming, compromise and moral outrage."
[BBC Archive]

[Hawai'i Magazine]

"Preview of BBC TV's 'It's a Knockout' programme at Carrickfergus on Sunday 23 April. Interview by John Conway with unidentified member of production staff and unidentified member of Carrickfergus team."
[BBC Rewind]

"As Clare Torry's ethereal, melancholy voice melts into the distance - and the series' idiosyncratic title sequence, featuring the cast, pinned amongst the butterflies in a shadow box, fades into the opening scene - you realise this isn't any ordinary domestic sitcom. But then, Carla Lane wasn't any ordinary writer."
[British Comedy Guide]

"Steve Furber recalls how Acorn's System1 hobbyist computer made an appearance in the BBC science fiction series Blake's 7."
[British Library]

"Sticking my hand up a cow’s backside became second nature. I got really good at it."
[The Guardian]

"An amateur film by John Scorer that records the filming of BBC period television series 'All Creatures Great and Small' in Reeth, Swaledale, North Yorkshire, in 1979. The film shows the BBC cast and production team on location followed by general views of rural Swaledale."
[Yorkshire Film Archive]

Nationwide: Early film technology
"You wonder how programmes ever got made at all."
[BBC Archive]

Scene Around Six
"Richard Lightbody reports on BBC wavelength changes, affecting Radio 1, 2, 3 & 4. Radio Ulster will remain on 224 metres."
[BBC Rewind]


Technicians' Strike Ends After Blacking Out BBC Television And Affecting Radio Broadcasts
"A BBC technicians' strike, which blacked out television screens for two days, and hit both domestic and overseas radio services, ended at midnight on Friday (22 December)."

Almost A Silent Night
"... the entire BBC Christmas schedule – in jeopardy. An on-going dispute over pay – three years in the making – left the Corporation facing the prospect of blank screens for the holidays."

"Mike uncovers papers which accused the BBC of biased reporting as Iran descended into revolution in 1978 and 1979."
[BBC Sounds]

Scene Around Six
"BBC's 'Top of the Pops' Pan's People in Belfast to entertain the Army. Interview with Pan's People member Dee Dee Wilde, fellow band member and the unidentified soldier, instrumental in bringing the group over to Belfast."
[BBC Rewind]

"Lasy year the Annan Report, this year the Government White Paper on Broadcasting.  Nineteen seventy-eight has indeed been a landmark in the history of public service broadcasting."
[World Radio History]