NICE to see you, to see you nice. Radio 4 has been on something of a back to the 1970s kick this last week. So much of my listening took me back to nights in front of the telly in the mid-1970s watching The Generation Game, That’s Life and Eurovision.

On Monday afternoon Great Lives celebrated the career of The Generation Game’s presenter and song-and-dance man Bruce Forsyth, in the company of his widow Lady Forsyth and his long-time manager Ian Wilson.

Given those involved, it was, unsurprisingly, a largely beneficent portrait of Brucie. There was the odd hint of “dark times” from presenter Matthew Parris in relation to the breakdown of his first two marriages and there were hints of his perfectionist tendencies (“Was he an easy person to work with?” Parris asked Wilson at one point. “If you were good, yes …” Wilson replied.) 

But the only real admission was that Forsyth himself felt he had hosted too many game shows. But then maybe he didn’t have a choice, his former manager said. That’s what was on offer. 

There was a time when Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck (Brucie and Tarby) were, for some of us, the unacceptable face of light entertainment. They were on a par with Margaret Thatcher in our gallery of villains. 

But nostalgia rots the teeth and we’re all onboard with light entertainment these days. It’s now probably against the law to say you don’t much care for Strictly Come Dancing. Brucie, of course, was the original presenter. 

Not an obvious booking at the time. “He was surprised,” Wilson admitted. “Can you imagine pitching a ballroom dancing show for primetime Saturday hosted by a septuagenarian?”

The Herald:

Well, indeed. It worked though. It wasn’t a great surprise to learn from Wilson that Brucie was his own warm-up man for Strictly. A song-and-dance man to the end.

On Sunday The Reunion, presented by Kirsty Wark, returned in a new hour-long format to recall with affection the heyday of BBC One’s consumer magazine programme That’s Life, which ran from 1973 to 1994. Presenters Chris Serle, Paul Heiney, Bill Buckley and Esther Rantzen herself were among those remembering their salad days.

That’s Life was a strange show that mixed up serious journalism with Cyril Fletcher’s Odd Odes and dogs saying “sausages”. But at its peak it was watched by 22 million people in the UK.

I have a vivid memory of one story in which a young guy or girl (I can’t remember which now, but it was 1982 when I saw it) would regularly pop in to keep an eye on an old codger who, in return, would always give them a bag of hazelnuts to take away. After a while the guy (or girl) said to the OAP, “I really can’t keep taking all your nuts.”

“It’s OK,” the old man replied. “Once I’ve sucked the chocolate off them they’re no use to me.”

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That still gives me the shivers, though it’s probably not the item Rantzen and her team would like to be remembered for. 

Indeed, as The Return pointed out, the programme had a more substantial legacy. It helped inspire the introduction of car seat belts for children, encouraged organ donations and memorably brought together all the children Sir Nicholas Winton had helped save from the Nazis (a programme now immortalised in the film One Life). Not a bad legacy.

Oh and Rantzen, now 83 and seriously ill, still sounded as formidable as ever here.

It is now 50 years since ABBA won the Eurovision song contest in Brighton. Yeah, that makes me feel old too. 

BBC Four showed the 1974 contest again on Sunday night (I remember watching it first time around), while on Radio 4 the night before musician Ian Archer presented ABBA: Inside the Music, which turned out to be - how welcome - a serious attempt to investigate the band’s musicality, rather than a nostalgic wallow in the past. Much talk of chord progressions and song structures followed. 

The Herald:

It says everything about me that the two things I took away from it was Archer talking about the Battle of Waterloo being a key event in British military history (I think the French and the Prussians may have something to say about that) and the fact that Bjorn Ulvaeus, who wrote ABBA’s songs alongside Benny Andersson, was once offered a role in a Swedish pornographic film entitled The Seduction of Inge. In the end he didn’t appear in it, but he and Benny did compose the film score.


Listen Out For: Earlier… with Jools Holland, Radio 3, noon, Saturday

It’s fair to say that Radio 3’s recent schedule changes have not gone down well. There’s a real danger that in chasing new listeners the station may alienate its regulars. So I’m just going to whisper the fact that I quite enjoyed the first episode of Jools Holland’s new Radio 3 show last Saturday lunchtime.