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"Broaden Your Mind" Synopses
BYM 1/1 - Print Email PDF 
Posted by bretta 18/12/2006

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"BROADEN YOUR MIND" -

SERIES 1, PROGRAMME 1

(c) Andrew Pixley 2005

 

(from C&G #120  November 2005)

 

INTRODUCTION: Before the Goodies set up their office in 1970, the working title for the series was originally "Narrow Your Mind" since the new programme was proposed as a spin-off from "Broaden Your Mind", a BBC2 sketch show starring Tim and Graeme with songs from Bill which had run in 1968 and 1969.

 

The idea for "Broaden Your Mind" came from Tim Brooke-Taylor and was partly inspired by a number of encyclopaedia works then being serialised as collectable magazines. This format was an ideal framework to deliver lessons - or sketches - on any subject, as if presented by a series of "experts". There could be quizzes for the audience as well, and thus opportunity to mix a great many media. Since the early 1960s, the BBC had been discussing plans for a "College of the Air" to allow people to study degree courses with televised lectures. The Open University was set up in the mid-1960s, but courses were not ready until 1971. In the meantime, the format derived its original title from this project: "Encyclopaedia of the Air".

 

Originally, Tim and Graeme were going to work on a new show called "Stiff Upper Lip", but the arrangements for this were cancelled on 8 May 1968 by Michael Mills, Head of Light Entertainment, who instead wished to engage the duo for "Encyclopaedia of the Air". The series was being planned by early June 1968, and on 14 June a meeting was held to invite ideas from other writers including fellow Footlights figures such as John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle, as well as the writing partnership of Michael Palin and Terry Jones. Some of the material would re-use sketches from "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again", which at the time was completing recording and broadcast of its fifth full series. Sydney Lotterby was assigned as producer of the show. The new series would be made in colour, with a regular colour service having started on BBC2, although BBC1 was still transmitting in black and white.

 

Tim and Graeme were contracted to star in six editions of "Encyclopaedia of the Air" on 24 June; the following day, the title changed to "Broaden Your Mind", with the subtitle "An Encyclopaedia of the Air". Parts of the shows would be pre-filmed on location or at the BBC's Television Film Studios at Ealing from the end of July with six weekly studio recordings from Saturday 10 August to 14 September being attended by a studio audience. Joining Tim and Graeme in the cast were their old Cambridge colleague Jo Kendall from "ISIRTA" (who later provided voices to a couple of episodes of "The Goodies") and also actor Nick McArdle who were contracted at the end of July.

 

Unfortunately, the videotapes of "Broaden Your Mind" have long since gone, but using the soundtrack, the scripts and production documents it is possible to get an idea of what the shows were like.  What follows is a synopsis of the first episode, with production information about this debut edition appended to it.

 

"BROADEN YOUR MIND" - SERIES 1 PROGRAMME 1

 

        "Do you know the difference between an adder and a grass snake?" asks Graeme. A zookeeper is holding two snakes, one of which bites him and he falls down dead. Animated question marks appear between each of these questions.

        "Do you know how Christopher Columbus discovered America?" Columbus spins a globe of the world and points to America on its surface.

        "Did you know that if you add caustic nitrate to di-phenyl benzoic acid, is explodes." A scientist mixes the compounds together and they explode in his face.

        "Well, here's your chance to learn as you Broaden Your Mind," signs off Graeme as the opening credits appear, accompanied by a neat little tune with harpsichord bursts which echo the traditional Latin school songs of public schools and the older universities.

 

BROADEN YOUR MIND

An Encyclopaedia of the Air

starring TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR and GRAEME GARDEN

 

        Graeme welcomes audience in dark to this programme, an Encyclopaedia of the Air.  He asks for a light and is illuminated, sitting at one end of a modern collapsible chair.  As he continues, Tim's voice in the dark says "Can I have my lights please?"  Tim is revealed sitting at the other end of the same chair. "Thank you Nigel," says Tim (referring to lighting manager Nigel Wright). It is explained that this is not a programme for experts, but in this modern age of the hovercraft what everybody needs is a good sound general knowledge. "Everybody knows that two sevens are fourteen," says Graeme. "Fifteen," corrects Tim. "Fifteen, sorry" agrees Graeme, "but Geography today is much more than just a list of Kings and Queens".  Graeme gets up (which means the chair overbalances, tipping Tim over) and reveals that with the aid of a computer - which he displays - they have devised a programme to keep viewers up to date with all the latest developments in art, science, history, literature and so forth.  Tonight the computer has decided that they will start with .... "Arsenal 2, Manchester United 1". Tim explains that this is computer talk for Art, as Graeme tells the computer he will see it never works again ...

 

        "ART": An art expert (Nick McArdle) says that Art has come a long way since Leonardo da Vinci; everyone is familiar with his Mona Lisa, or "The Laughing Cavalier" as it is also known.  Abstract art is a different kettle of fish and needs interpreting rather than dismissing as a complete waste of paint. This is demonstrated by showing a picture which has some fish in a kettle; this is entitled "A Complete Waste of Paint" by Tom Polanski.

 

        An Australian expert (Graeme) studies "Cosmic Interlude 43" painted by Jonathan Proot (Tim). The most striking thing he finds is the texture of the oil painting, while Proot says it's a water-colour.  Proot says it analyses man's insecurity in relation to his contemporary environment ... which the expert says is shown through the little dog.  Proot isn't aware of the little dog, so the expert points it out to the viewers by drawing on the picture. The expert then indicates the little man as well, saying that he is pouring soap powder into a washing machine. Many critics would like to know why the little man has a hat (which he has just drawn in), and so Proot claims it's because the sun was very hot. The expert replies by saying that this brought out a big spider.  They start to argue about the weather, each drawing on the picture, with the expert always one step ahead as he draws in flowers growing in the rain and an ambulance to take the little man to hospital after he has been struck by Proot's thunderbolt.  A distraught Proot goes home to cut his ear off (shuffling on his knees like Toulouse Lautrec), as the expert admits that he may not know much about art, but he likes a picture that tells a story.

 

        "HISTORY": A shot of the Bayeux Tapestry fades to show two elderly, dithering academic men in a study. The pair introduce their subject and themselves.  Professor Frederick Pottermore (Tim) and Sir Edward Windward (Graeme) look at the Magna Carta with a facsimile. As part of an educational experiment they will be acting out the signing of the Magna Carta by King John at Runnymede in 1215.

TIM:    I am the leader of the Barons.  Hooray.

GRAEME: And I, d'you see, am King John.

TIM:  And this is a facsimile of the Magna Carta.

GRAEME: Not the real one.

TIM: Not the real one, no.

GRAEME: And away we go.

TIM: King John.

GRAEME: Yes.

TIM: Sign here please.

GRAEME: Certainly.

TIM: You know Teddy, I've a feeling there should be a little more to it than that.

 

The duo realise they have missed out the first bit and debate about if Freddy should have knocked on the door first, but there wouldn't have been any at Runnymede.  Freddy than has to wait for Teddy to ask him to come in.  Freddy gets into the role of Baron Fitzwalter: "We barons are revolting."  "That's a very old joke Freddy"  "I'm a very old man Teddy. Anyway, you are a bad king." "Well you're no great shakes as a baron yourself."  Teddy realises what Freddy means and behaves badly by saying "Knickers!"  "He wasn't that bad," says Freddy.  Teddy reads the Magna Carta before he signs it and Freddy enacts the good news spreading across England to Teddy's irritation.  Teddy finds he has already signed the scroll, so decides he had better endorse it on the back.  "Next week," says Freddy, "we will be going on the Crusades ... so I'm afraid we won't be able to be with you."

 

        "MUSIC": A music expert (Tim) is at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to hear the little known work El Budgerigar by Johann Sebastian Oysterprejudice based on a traditional Latvian folk joke. A women has two budgies, one green and one red, which escape and fly to the top of a high tree. No one will rescue them apart from the village idiot who climbs up to them, but only rescues the red one - and has a good answer.

 

        Three locals (Graeme, Nick and Tim) sing about the sun shining on their little village over and over again. "It is indeed a glorious day", says one. "Yes, it is on days like that that jokes happen," agrees another.  A woman (Jo Kendall) sings that she has lost her budgies and calls out to them. The three men sing about who she is at great length; she is Mrs Smith. Everything obvious is repeated again and again. Tom the village idiot (John Junkin) arrives and the onlookers describe what he is doing before going into an interminable chorus of "Tell us why did you not bring down the green budgie ..." Eventually Tom reveals that he didn't bring it down because it wasn't ripe yet.

 

        Graeme checks on the audience progress with Tim and asks if they've been going too fast. Trying to balance on the arm of the chair, Tim says Opera is next under "Music", but Graeme corrects him and says they will probably do "Law" next. Tim agrees: this week they will take a look at the police which have a poor image in this country at the moment. He points to a board with a watch and dog on it, indicating that this should indicate how the police should be regarded. A policeman is the clock-puppy - sorry, watchdog, of society. From the following film, it is shown that the policeman's intention to help all in need.

 

        A policeman crosses the road with two young boys. However, it is the boys helping the constable cross and they then go back across the road while he continues on his way.  In the face of provocation, a policeman is always diplomatic; He must never be too hasty and retail his tact. A policeman (Graeme) sees a woman (Jo) getting undressed and watches her discreetly before telling her that she cannot swim in the river.  "Why didn't you tell me before I got undressed?" she asks. "Oh well, no law about getting undressed," explains the constable. A policeman must also deal with undesirable elements of society.  A drunken man (Tim) enters a police station and a police sergeant (Nick) asks Constable Hoskins what the charge is. Hoskins is the drunken man who has caught a sober burglar.  The police seldom get the credit they deserve. A reporter (Graeme) talks to the heroic PC Cake about an armed bank robbery at the bank where he is reporting from.  As the reporter describes these events, they happen again behind him, only this time the three masked men get away. Also, the bobby must be there in force at showbiz events, holding back the crowds and then dancing off in a line with high kicks like the Tiller Girls.

 

        "SOCIOLOGY": A shot of rooftops fades to a Scots expert (Nick) who discusses hospitality and the different customs across the world; an Eskimo and an American would both offer wives to their guests. Tonight, they analyse the host-guest relationship of their own behaviour patterns.

 

        The curate Mr Figgis (Tim) arrives a little too early at the home of Mr Maitland (Graeme) who calls out to his wife (Jo) to skip the bath. Figgis accidentally walks into a cupboard and then mistakes the living room for a cupboard. The husband offers a sherry, but then checks that Figgis drinks - he is disappointed to find that he does. The husband tells his wife to entertain the curate by asking what he does for a living. The couple argue about the short-notice arrangement to entertain Figgis; apparently the Andersons didn't want him to visit them that afternoon. The couple offer Figgis the choices to do as he please, but make it clear that every choice he selects is inconvenient to them. Figgis decides it's simple to eat off his knees - but the couple always eat at the table and hope he won't think they're rude.  A girl, Grace (Carla Challoner), comes and serves him. Figgis comments that servants are hard to some by: Grace is in fact their daughter. Figgis is served only a few vegetables but is so polite he says that he is full; the couple then laugh that he hasn't had any meat, but Figgis, trying to be polite, says this is how he likes it.  Offered a choice of tea or coffee, he would like tea, but the Maitlands clearly want him to have coffee. As it turns out, they don't have either. Figgis doesn't have to rush off and makes himself comfortable while the Maitlands says they have to dash off to the theatre. At 7.30pm, Figgis tries to excuse himself from the late night, but they insist he stays. After the Maitlands have gone out, Grace joins Figgis with a drink and he relaxes with her, saying "Oh, I thought they'd never go darling."

 

        Graeme announces the part of the programme when the viewer does the work: an IQ test.  Tim says they have a second per question, and asks viewers to complete the sequence "L O L O".  The answer is, "Hello, hello, who's your lady friend?" Graeme asks "In the following picture, who is the odd man out?" He shows a picture of a crowd, explaining that the answer is George Bernard Shaw who was a writer and not a circus proprietor. Finally, Graeme asks "Do you recognise this piece of music?" and holds up some sheet music. "And the answer is of course ..." says Tim as the closing theme tune starts.

 

Helping to Broaden Your Mind were

Tim Brooke-Taylor

Graeme Garden

John Junkin

Jo Kendall

Nick McArdle

Carla Challoner

Musical Director: Dave Lee

Devised and written by Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor

Additional material by Barry Cryer, John Law, David McKellar

Designer: Paul Joel

Produced by Sydney Lotterby

 

BACKGROUND NOTES: Filming on the programme ran from 29 July, but after a couple of weeks it was clear that more time would be needed to prepare the studio shows. As such, on 15 August, the six recordings were all set back by one week, allowing rehearsal time following the end of pre-filming on the first four shows which concluded on 13 August.

 

In the first script, Graeme's "El Budgerigar", known as "Joke Opera", had recently appeared in Series 5 Programme 8 of "ISIRTA". The "Police Sketch" was contributed by John Law.

 

Sequences which were filmed for the first show included the opening questions posed to the audience in the pre-credits which were voiced by Graeme and interspersed with animated question marks. The main filmed item on this debut edition was the police image film, on which shooting was performed on 29 and 30 July by Tim, Graeme and Nick.

 

The show was recorded in Studio 8 at Television Centre on Saturday 17 August 1968. Tim's introduction to the "Joke Opera" and the reappearance of Tim and Graeme mid-way through the programme (referred to as "Mid-way Experts" were pre-recorded in the afternoon between 2.30pm and 3pm to cut down on costume changes and recording breaks in front of the audience. The main body of the show was then taped from 8.30pm to 9.30pm that evening, with the audience kept entertained before the show and during recording breaks by warm-up man John Junkin who later collaborated with Tim on other projects, most notably "Hello Cheeky" and who appeared in the "Double Trouble" episode of "The Goodies". Junkin also appeared in this episode during the opera sketch.

 

Music was provided by Dave Lee who had worked with Tim and Graeme extensively on "ISIRTA". The only item of commercial music was "There's No Business Like Show Business" played by Werner Miller and his Orchestra from a Decca LP; this was the music that the policemen danced away to at the end of the police film.

 

The programme over-ran and one sketch was cut. This was a sketch about "SCIENCE" in which Graeme as Uncle Hugh discussed the invention of the steam engine with his young nephew, Timothy, played by Tim. This was re-enacted and appeared in a later show, but originally came after the police film. Of the finished programme, the "Magna Carta" sketch which introduces Teddy and Freddy (who are effectively the elderly characters Tim and Graeme play in the closing scenes of "The End") is probably the real gem, while the police film foreshadows the visual fun made at the constabularies expense which would re-surface in "The Goodies".

 

The series debuted on BBC2 at 9.35pm on 28 October as a replacement for "The Morecambe and Wise Show". The "Radio Times" described it as a "revue-type programme that sends up the academics", and erroneously included Marty Feldman (whose BBC2 show Tim had written for and appeared in) and Barry Took in their writing credits for the programme, the billing for which indicated "Tonight you are invited to tune into Lesson One of this new series.  If you think you have a knowledge of Art or History of Sociology or Opera, then prepare to be re-educated.  Your schooldays were nothing like this." The listing was accompanied by a monochrome shot of Jo and Tim.  Later in the magazine was a half-page piece about the new series with a large photo of Tim and Graeme, stressing their appearances in "Marty" and "Twice a Fortnight" as well as their collaboration on "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" with Jo.  "So, if your are suffering from narrowness of the brain, tune in and ... Broaden Your Mind".

 

The broadcast was seen by 1.7 million people in the UK.  A BBC Audience Research Report was prepared on the programme on 27 November 1968. The programme received a reaction score of 60 which was just below the current Light Entertainment average of 61, and some way above the average score of 42 registered by "Twice a Fortnight" which was "similarly 'zany' in content". Half the 119 viewers reporting liked the show and found it to be "promising and full of bright ideas". The programme "showed a refreshing bent for crisp and lively but never malicious humour". A Physicist noted "This show is based on a very interesting concept," while noting that this first edition was "variable". Responses indicated that some sketches were "a shade over-long or over-drawn" with the opera and Magna Carta scenes cited (although the whole point of Graeme's joke opera *was* that it was over-long) while the highlights were felt to be the Sociology item "with the curate" and the skit on the Law ("marvellously zany"). A small percentage of the sample disliked the programme; some found it childish while others felt some jokes were "old hat". Tim and Graeme - described as "two nice young men" by one viewer - were "much more warmly regarded than their material". Other aspects of the show in terms of design and props were found to be suitable, and overall viewers felt that in future "the pace of the presentation should be more carefully studied, so that items of different lengths maintained balance and a speedier flow".

 

 




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