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MAGPIE

Thames
30th July 1968 to 6th June 1980

Thames had taken over from ABC and Rediffusion and decided to have a tea-time magazine show, but instead of re-booting one of their own existing formats, they decided to use one of the BBC's producers claiming much later on that the name came from the fact they stole the format and ideas from BBC's Blue Peter. The show had indeed been set up to challenge the show, but Magpie realised that kids wanted fun after school, so as well as the more worthy items on steam engines and canals would slip in the odd pop act.

Initially a once a week show on Tuesdays from 5.10 to 5.50 pm it would move to Tuesdays and Thursdays on February 12th 1969, trying to avoid a clash with Blue Peter. It also started at 5.20 pm just as Blue Peter finished.

The first hosts were Pete Brady (a radio DJ), Susan Stranks (who had made appearances on early editions of Juke Box Jury) and Tony Bastable. Thankfully they didn't indulge in having pets in the studio ready to attack any unsuspecting guests (although they did have the stable bound Puff the pony).

Even though they started with a clean slate they did decide to include one leftover from the Rediffusion days. Captain Fantastic, the weekly serial starring David Jason and Denise Coffey from Do Not Adjust Your Set would have a new life in the new show.

The show was not necessarily targeting older children, but it never patronised them and treated kids as kids who just wanted something different. They knew their audience were just as likely to be into The Crazy World of Arthur Brown as well as The Tremeloes, and not as the Enid Blyton loving, scout camp types that Blue Peter attracted. You can tell the agenda they were laying out by its theme tune. Instead of taking an existing piece of library music it commissioned one from The Spencer Davis Group, who for the purposes of the show would be renamed The Murgatroyd Band, after the show's mascot who had been named in a competition in Spring 1969. They would also have a'floating studio', a boat called Magpie moored outside the studio at Teddington Lock, in Middlesex.

The show had a pop slot which was mostly music news, but on ocassion acts would appear. One of their early films was on Apple Records' Mary Hopkin and her producer Paul McCartney. Another notable show was in November 1968 which had Pete Brady hold up The Beatles new double album claiming "it's still warm in my hands" which was likely as the EMI record pressing plant was nearby and Thames had an association associated with EMI. Yes also made an early appearance on the show in November 1968, which must have surprised many.

Hosts came and went on the show and many see the classic line up as Mick Robertson, Jenny Hanley and Dougie Rae from the early to mid seventies. Mick Robertson was a Brian May lookalike who even had a brief pop career himself, even appearing on Top Of The Pops on the rival BBC.

In 1977 they had booked The Stranglers for an appearance on the live show, but the Thames bosses pulled the plug fearing another potential Sex Pistols outburst.

The show came to an end in 1980 and was succeded by a poor procession of shows curiously trying too hard to appeal to a post punk audience.

In 2009 Netowrk released a DVD set of twelve editions and reunited Hanley, Robertson and Rae for publicity.