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Wot, no Python? 5 shows you can’t get from BBC Store (but you should be able to)

The BBC Store is great and everything, but there’s some glaring omissions from the launch line up that need filling. 

While we know that the BBC plans to flood its new digital vault with over four million titles over the coming months, here’s five which we’d like to see at the very top of BBC Worldwide’s to-do list. 

1. Monty Python’s Flying Circus

One of the best things about meeting people from the US is hearing them pronounce ‘Monty Python’. It’s hilarious. 

What’s less amusing is the absence of Flying Circus from the BBC Store. Surely if there’s one show out there that could distract us from the borderline racist output of 1970’s British comedy (more on that later), it’s this. 

The BBC Store doesn’t even have the excellent 2011 comedy ‘making of’ drama-documentary Holy Flying Circus, which, if you’ve not seen you have to immediatley, if only for Darren Boyd’s spookily on point turn as John Cleese. 

2. Blake’s 7 

Before everyone was heaping praise on Game of Thrones for not sticking to a simple good-guys-versus-bad-guys template there was Blake’s 7, which refused to offer viewers a main character to root for throughout its four season run. It wasn’t afraid to kill off seemingly essential characters either – and there’s even one called Stannis. 

Unlike its distant cousin Doctor Who (Blake’s 7 was penned by Dalek creator Terry Nation), the show has so far proved immune to the remake machine. A presence on BBC Store could introduce this highly-regarded cult classic to fresh audiences. 

3. The Stone Tape 

A possible reason for this classic sci-fi horror not being updated for the BBC Store is because people might confuse it with a pre-historic episode of Most Haunted

We’re not just saying that to mock people who actually believe in ghosts (but while we’re at it, why not?) but because this 1972 TV show helped popularise the concept of ‘residual hauntings’, the idea that sounds and images from traumatic events can be absorbed and recorded by damp stone walls and released years later. 

The idea has been debunked as pseudoscience but that didn’t stop writer Nigel Kneale (Quatermass, The Year of the Sex Olympics) from weaving the concept into this one-off Christmas drama. The Stone Tape’s special effects, music and some of the performances might seem crude by today’s standards but it still retains the power to shock – the BBC itself has seen fit to reproduce the story for Radio 4, starring Julian Barratt, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Romola Garai. How’s that for a residual echo? 

4. Old Grey Whistle Test

We can understand why certain episodes of Top of the Pops might never appear on the BBC Store. Quite why episodes of Whistle Test have been left off the shelves remains a mystery. 

There’s some great moments to be found here, like this recording of King Crimson doing ‘Frame by Frame’ in 1980. This line-up of the Crims was notable for featuring Will Arnett-lookalike Adrian Belew on lead vocals and guitar. You can also see Robert Fripp actually smiling in this video. Imagine being able to watch this in non-blurrycam resolution.  

5. Till Death Us Do Part

Equally, we’re not that surprised that this isn’t available along with episodes of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

The humour on display in these shows, if we’re being generous, could be described as ‘not very PC’. While it’s not very palatable in today’s climate, it’s worth making these shows available as a reminder of what passed for entertainment back in the mid to late ‘70s. 

Shoving uncomfortable truths under the carpet isn’t healthy and as crude as these programmes might be to today’s audiences, used to higher, more evolved art forms like Gavin & Stacey and Mrs. Brown’s Boys, they are worth preserving as cultural artefacts to remind us of how crap society could be back then. 

Update: This piece originally contained a reference to the sitcom Love Thy Neighbour which, as one astute reader pointed out, was actually shown on ITV. If you ask us, all of these shoddy so-called ‘comedies’ are virtually indistinguishable, so how anybody born after 1983 can be expected to tell the difference is quite beyond us.  


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