ATV News round-up: Simon Dee, GMTV and Paul O’Grady

ATV News round-up for August 31st 2009: Simon Dee dies, Paul O’Grady is reaching for the Sky and there is a new look for GMTV and This Morning.

Simon Dee an icon of the 1960s has died aged 74 from bone cancer.

The former radio presenter, chat show host and inspiration for the character ‘Austin Powers’ was last seen on Channel 4 in 2003 presenting a one-off revival of his ‘Dee Time’ talk show Back in the 1960s and early 1970s Simon Dee was ‘cool’ to watch, his shows were trendy and “with it” – he was the voice of a generation.

Born Cyril Nicholas Henty-Dodd in Ottawa, Canada, on 28th July 1935 he spent his teens growing up in Shrewsbury where he studied at his fathers old education residence – Shrewsbury Public School – and according to folk-law he was expelled from the establishment aged 14. He later attended Brighton College – where again he was dismissed from. Numerous jobs followed before finding media-fame through pirate radio. He was one of the first voices, back in March of 1964, to be heard on cult broadcaster Radio Caroline.

In the mid-1960s he switched to legal broadcasting with BBC Radio, hosting a hit-parade pop show entitled Midday Spin. A face of Radio One Dee switched to television in 1967 to co-host many editions of music chart show, Top Of The Pops. This lead to BBC One controller Paul Fox offering Dee his own tea-time chat show.

Running from 1967 to 1969 Dee Time captured the spirit of the Swinging Sixties. As the BFI comment: “With its carefree attitude, epitomised by the show’s closing credits, featuring Dee driving E type Jag next to a blonde. This quickly became a visual cliché, parodied by everyone from Benny Hill to Alexei Sayle. A reference even found its way into Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. The show also gave a nod to the legendary Johnny Carson Show in America: each week Simon was introduced by the convoluted It’s SI-I-I-I-mon DEE!”

Dee’s care-free approach to presenting and interviewing made him a hit with young audiences, but was condemned by the older viewers. Speaking on a BBC viewers feedback programme one member of the public commented on Dee: “Our declining standards of morality are due to the filth we see on television.”

His spontaneous retorts made him a controversial figure, however he was never vulgar or over the edge on television. Off-screen however he made his views clear, he spoke out against racism, he made his political opinions known – including his distaste at PM Harold Wilson. His no-nonsense approach on and off screen gave Dee Time audiences of up to fifteen million viewers at its peak.

His demise however was his own doing, as the BFI state: “At the peak of his popularity, problems began to set in. His abrasive manner and massive ego were compounded by his excessive wage demands, which led the BBC to review his contract in 1969.”

He quit the BBC and moved to the recently launched, ITV weekend contractor, London Weekend Television. They offered him a late night Sunday slot, The Simon Dee Show. However it never captured the ‘magic’ his Dee Time format had, and after a few months LWT axed the series in 1970.

The 1970s, 80s and 90s Dee spent appearing occasionally as a guest or talking head on programmes however he never regained a regular position on television, this is put down to him having ‘offended’ the BBC and ITV executives in equal measures.

By the mid-1970s Dee, unemployed, was shown in the press signing on the dole at the Fulham Labour Exchange. In 1978 he was imprisoned for unpaid debts. In recent years Simon Dee was looked upon as an innovated, years ahead of his time. With his re-found “hip” status Channel 4 gave him a night in their schedules in 2003. A live edition of Dee Time was aired and a documentary Dee Construction followed. Further guest spots followed on various channels.

Its reported that only two full editions of the BBC Dee Time from the sixties survives, with every single edition of his London Weekend Television series wiped. Only a short segment from one edition of the ITV series survives, which rather like his television career proved to be equally unfortunate in its demise.

Other Headlines:

O’Grady Is The Sky One:

From 1960s tea-time chat show star Simon Dee to current tea-time chat show host Paul O’Grady. Reports in the press today suggest The Paul O’Grady Show is to end after five years. The programme currently airs on Channel 4, but with major cut-backs in budgets at the network it looks like O’Grady may be off to Sky One. Channel 4 want to slash how much they pay the popular presenter, and reduce the cost of the production. O’Grady switched the show from ITV after two series when they “forgot” to renew his contract.

Paul also currently works for BBC Radio 2 where he hosts a Sunday evening music series. Previous presenting duties include, as his alter-ego Lily Savage, celebrity game show Blankety Blank.

New Look to ITV Breakfast – opinion with TV Critic Vivian Summers

This morning saw a slight refresh to GMTV, with new 3D graphics and animations which sees the GMTV logo flipping down. And the GMTV News logo flipping in. What can I say apart from flippin’ heck. There is also a nice new announcer, you’d expect a butch authoritative introduction for the serious newsy part of the show… …not at GMTV, its a female mouse by the sound of it, possibly Minnie mouse as Disney have shares in the company. The schedule and descriptions are also curious…

“6.00-7.30am GMTV NEWS, Ah hour devoted to news and current affairs presented by John Stapleton and Penny Smith.” I wonder what they do for the other 30 minutes… Pole dancing, crochet or launching a search for any talent Piers Morgan may have, which at this rate ITV will have hosting GMTV to scare the children off to school.

The new GMTV graphics have already been described as “Children’s ITV-like”. Tomorrow This Morning returns with a new-look. The show is trying to appeal to younger viewers with a funkier electric guitar version of the famous theme and a fancy purple ‘squiggly’ logo. That’s right, ITV are yet again trying to appeal to an audience who won’t be home to watch. Maybe they should aim at the Jeremy Kyle viewers – the lowest forms of life, who never have worked and never will, advertisers must love them.

As the fabulous Charlie Brooker commented recently:

“Researchers claim the average TV viewer now watches 43 adverts a day, its frightening to imagine the cumulative effect on the human brain of all those stultifying intellectually deadening ITV shows in between.”

We like the new GMTV, its been great in recent months. Now all we suggest they do is hire Rusty Lee, install a kitchen set and rename the main show Good Morning Britain… oh and bring back Roland Rat – Yeaah.

Due to the bank holiday there will be no Soap News Update today.
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