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TONIGHT'S TV: Tales Of Television Centre (BBC4, 9pm)

Posted by Michael Moran
Michael Moran
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on Thursday, 17 May 2012

BBC Television Centre was a one-of-a-kind institution. It served not only as the technical model for media facilities the world over but also a clearing-house of ideas that still form the basis of the best TV drama and comedy today.

It was also a sort of university, training some of the most able broadcasters and production staff we’re ever likely to have in the UK. So, understandably, quite a few people are sorry to see it go.

In October 2007 the BBC announced plans to “reduce the size of the property portfolio in west London by selling BBC Television Centre by the end of this financial year”. Much of the production will move to new purpose-built facilities in Salford but times have changed and it’s unlikely that Media City will ever become the kind of creative melting-pot that Television Centre was in the Sixties and Seventies.

People don’t have such boozy lunches these days, for a start.

Tales Of Television Centre is an unashamedly sentimental look back at the heyday of that big concrete bagel in White City. There are lots of funny anecdotes, there’s a tale of true love and there are several reminders of just how many people in the entertainment business today are related to people who were in the entertainment business then.

In form, it’s a pretty standard modern clip show with lovely bits of vintage TV linked by talking head interviews from luminaries of the period. Ahead of the real demolition of the fifty-year old building we see Michael Bentine destroy that famous edifice in a variety of inventive ways.

There's also some great stuff from Pan's People, Sarah Greene and a tipsy anecdote from The Lady's own Barry Norman.

Also on hand with their own tales of Television Centre are Sir David Attenborough, Sir Terry Wogan, Angela Rippon, Matt Baker, Zoë Ball, Greg Dyke, Sir David Frost, Dame Joan Bakewell, Esther Rantzen, Penelope Keith, John Craven and Johnny Ball.

There’s no attempt to editorialise or to explain the move to Salford. And that’s just as it should be. If you grew up through the 60s or 70s, this is a more or less compulsory watch. If only because it pulls off the almost unique trick of making you feel slightly damp-eyed at the downsizing of a corporate property portfolio.

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