Before the V.C.R. revolution of the late '70's, if you wished to see a particular moment from your favourite B.B.C. programme again you did one of two things: a) waited for a repeat or b) wrote to Michael Aspel.
'Ask Aspel' was a children's programme in which viewers could watch specially requested clips, most predictably were from children's shows, though adult material crept in from time to time, such as 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' ( minus the naughty bits ). Other series included 'The Goodies' ( almost every edition of 'Ask Aspel' featured a 'Goodies' clip it seemed ), 'Blue Peter Special Assignment', 'The Morecambe & Wise Show', 'Dr.Who', and 'Top Of The Pops'. The show came in handy when power cuts were commonplace in Britain because of the Miners' Strike. I used to follow a Sunday afternoon serial called 'The Moonstone' ( based on the book by Wilkie Collins ) and was enjoying it when. during the final instalment, off went the power. Thankfully, a week later Aspel showed us how it had ended. Jimmy Tarbuck did a send-up of 'Ask Aspel' on his show, which he called 'Tell Tarby'!
Each edition had a special studio guest, such as John Cleese, Michael Palin, Kate Bush, Peter Cushing, and Sir Roger Moore. There was no audience, meaning we got none of the shouting and bawling that is sadly a feature of contemporary children's television. Aspel himself made an affable host; his interviews were sensibly conducted, and not once did he attempt to poke fun at the guests.
The show proved popular enough to run throughout the '70's, finally ending in 1981. With V.C.R.'s removing the need for programmes such as this, its time had finally come. However, the B.B.C. modified the format a year or so later, relaunching it as 'Take Two', hosted initially by Lucie Skeaping and then Josephine Buchan and Philip Schofield. In addition to the clips, 'Take Two' asked schoolchildren for their views on programmes. One week the programme under discussion was 'Take Two' itself. A boy with a long memory branded it a rip-off of 'Ask Aspel'!
Aspel himself got his own chat show for L.W.T. - 'Aspel & Co' - and later, 'This Is Your Life' and 'The Antiques Roadshow'. It does seem a pity that a presenter of his calibre would most probably not be allowed anywhere near children's television now.
'Ask Aspel' is fondly remembered by a generation of forty-somethings ( me included ). Sadly many editions have been wiped, another shameful act of vandalism on the part of the B.B.C.
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