THE MAGIC BOX

Well, that’s it. The end of an era, and the start of a new one.

I’m going to have to change my morning routine. Every morning when I wake up, I put on Ceefax – 101, 160, 501, 390, 302 – but not any more, as Northern Ireland’s analogue transmitters were switched off.

The last ever Pages From Ceefax (a curious watch when you had to be up early in the morning) ended with this self mocking message.

This was commemorated by a joint broadcast from BBCNI and UTV, the rather excellent ‘The Magic Box’ – a look back at television in Northern Ireland in the analogue era.

It was a star studded event (well, Frank Mitchell and Uncle Andy were there) but I got an e-mail a few weeks back offering me the opportunity to apply for tickets. I was tempted, but I thought this was a TV event best viewed, well, in front of a TV screen. I’m glad I did.

I was curious when reading the TV Guide on Saturday that the UTV show was scheduled to last for five minutes longer. That, was to become clear later on.

If you haven’t seen it, I seriously suggest you watch it. A link can be found here.

It began, being introduced with the classic BBC Globe Ident. Already, we’re off to a winner. I love it when the BBC does retro idents around themed events (Like when BBC 2 did 1970s Idents when introducing a season of programmes dedicated to the 1970s, fronted by Dominic Sandbrook)

From there, a comic turn, as continuity duties were handed to Julian Simmons, struggling to grasp that he was on the BBC (He has previously been on the BBC, playing himself in Give My Head Peace) and not being able to say “Simulcast” – a brilliant tribute to/gag at the expense of Ivan “Phenomenon” Little.

On a night dedicated to celebrating TV in Northern Ireland, it would have been criminal not to have Julian Simmons involved, although it was a man who has overtaken him as Northern Ireland’s most famous Continuity Announcer, Peter Dickson who introduced Eamonn Holmes in the studio.

Holmes was one of many stars we got to see in a younger day, as we were treated to a wide range of clips, in terms of subject matter, era and tone. Having looked back, and laughed at, some of life’s more light hearted moments, as well as looking back at news reports from the troubles, as well as Chris Moore talking about his expose of child abuse in the Catholic church

If you wish to see a young Eamonn Holmes, as a sports reporter for UTV (He looks like Dimitar Berbatov) – check out this excellent clip of ITV’s 1982 World Cup coverage where he interviews Sammy Mackie.

Another well known face who began his career as a sports reporter (for the BBC) was also in the audience.

The five minute time difference in the schedule was explained as BBC went off air just after 23:30, and that UTV would go off air just before 23:35.

The BBC ending was fantastic. Superbly scripted and filmed. Once the end credits finished, a quick announcement explaining the situation was read out, before cutting to the 70s Ident, before fading out to reveal a series of TVs showing past BBC Idents (and even the Ceefax home page)

Credit to Continuity Announcer Mark Simpson for an excellent read out.

That was it. Analogue BBC, and Ceefax, was no more.

UTV’s ending was rather disappointing in comparision to BBC, very matter of fact, moving on to the next programme.

It would have been brilliant if they could have used an ident or idents incorporating this logo in their final analogue moments

So, to end, here’s five (well, six really) classic Northern Ireland Youtube Clips that probably should have been mentioned on The Magic Box.

HONOURABLE MENTION – JIM ‘CRAZY PRICES’ MEGAW

5 – JULIAN SIMMONS

Not an exact moment, but a Julian Simmons Best Of would have been brilliant.

4 – NORTHERN IRELAND DISCO DANCING CHAMPIONSHIP 1981

3 – BELFAST MUSIC SCENE 1986

Technically, an RTE clip, but let’s not let that get in the way of how brilliant this clip is. It’s amazing how some parts of South Belfast have barely changed over the past 26 years.

2. CATS IN THE CRADLE

This advert scared the life out of me when I was wee. Everytime I hear the song (even if it’s the Ugly Kid Joe or Jason Downs cover) I always think of this ad

1. GOAL OF THE SEASON 94/95

So, Lionel Messi has spent his whole career paying tribute to Joey Cunningham.

The season I first started going to Linfield matches.

A different era back then. Linfield began the season as reigning Champions and Cup holders, before ending up languishing in 8th.

Oh.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF ADVERTISING

You probably already know as i’ve done a very poor job of denying it, that I am a geek.

One of my geeky activities is that I love watching old videos on Youtube. Total random bollocks, but an insight into a bygone age of television.

So, I just thought i’d share with you, some of my favourite adverts from days of yore currently on Youtube.

We begin, with a Public Service Announcement based on one of my favourite TV shows of all-time as Batgirl complains to Batman about her rights in the workplace while rescuing the Dynamic Duo from a ticking bomb.

Typical woman, eh?

Always picking to most inappropriate moment to jabber on.

You can see the moment when Batman is inwardly saying to himself for her to shut the fuck up and and just deactivate the bomb.

Anyway, she’s a vigilante crimefighter, she doesn’t do it for money, so she should stop complaining. Gotta love Robin’s “Holies”, with “Breaking and entering”, “Act of congress” and “discountent” to add to his various observations during the TV show.

You may have noticed a lack of Adam West in the video, as he was too busy serving the people of Quohog.

Meanwhile, Invest NI forerunner IDB decided it would be a good idea to launch a marketing campaign urging people to work harder, which must be a bit of a bummer when relaxing at home watching TV, only to see an advert telling you to work harder.

Getting in on the public service advertising act, the RUC brought out an advertising campaign asking people to snitch on criminals.

I remember when this ad came out, and it scared the shite clean out of me.

Everytime, I hear ‘Cats In The Cradle’, either by Harry Chapin, Ugly Kid Joe or Jason Downs, all I can think of is this ad, which I suppose shows how successful it was.

Meanwhile, footballers have always been a favourite for ad men to front campaigns as Jimmy Hill demonstrates when educating the nation on road safety.

So cyclists and motorbikers had better be careful on the road, or else their untimely demise will be analysed by Jimmy Hill, as if he’s discussing wether Aston Villa’s second goal was offside on Match of the Day.

Other examples of footballers chasing the ad men’s cash include Brian Clough advertising Shredded Wheat and Saint and Greavsie advertising KFC. That’s Kentucky Fried Chicken, not Kilmarnock Football Club.

Footballers are such money grabbing whores, that they are prepared to appear in adverts before they become a footballer.

One day Jimmy, all those keepy-ups will help you become captain of West Ham United.

As a side note, isn’t “There’s nothing quite like a McDonalds” better than “Ba da ba ba ba, i’m loving it”?

Talking of celebrities appearing in adverts before they were famous, bet Billie Piper wishes she could get the lend of a Sonic Screwdriver and remove this from the nation’s consciousness

And yes, I bought that edition and love the ‘Ultimate Spice Girls Kit’

Talking of the Spice Girls, Remember their Channel Five launch?

I could just imagine the scenes in the recording studio as they try to brainstorm inspiration to write a song about a fifth terrestrial television channel.

It’s just a pity that they didn’t wait a year until 5ive were a big act in the charts. They would have been a more appropriate act to launch the channel.

Anyone who has ever seen the Mitchell and Webb parody of Sky’s football coverage will love this simpler ‘less is more’ advert for the 1986 World Cup. Certainly not as epic as their trailer for the 2008 Olympics

In 1989, Gerry Kelly voiced an advert for a UTV version of the apprentice offering young entrepreneurs a chance in starting up in business.

It’s a different world these days. If a young entrepreneur wants help setting up a business, they just shag the wife of their local MP.

Meanwhile, someone at Austin Rover though it would be a good idea to have an advertising campaign fronted by Noel Edmonds and Derek Trotter.

I don’t know why Austin Rover would want their product associated with a shifty looking, dodgy, untrustworthy wideboy …………… such as Noel Edmonds.

So, i’ll finish with this trailer for ‘Life On Mars’, where the past meets the present in a piece of TV genius