Pauline’s Quirkes

The late 1970s seemed to provoke a lot of outrage at the output of children’s television. Grange Hill is the obvious example, but ITV didn’t escape the ire either, not least with Thames Television’s afternoon sketch show Pauline’s Quirkes.

The show was devised as a vehicle for Pauline Quirke, who together with Linda Ronson and others, had made a splash with You Must Be Joking! the year before. It premiered on this day in 1976, at 4.45pm.

The Stage – Thursday 22 July 1976

Alan Coren, a middle-aged man who the show was definitely aimed at, didn’t like it, and wrote as much in his column for The Times.

… the leitmotif of yesterday’s miasma concerned the genitalia of a pop group called Flintlock … I really do not know which I most hate, the ruining of the language, the pandering to the lowest levels of intelligence, the gods offered for idolatory, or the smut. All I know is, I hate.

Alan Coren, The Times, 7th December 1976

That’s a lot of bile for a show made for teenage girls. The sketch in question involved the house band appearing naked … except they didn’t. The joke was that their groins were completely missing. But, rather than focussing on the actual truth, The Spectator picked up Coren’s baton and ran with it.

Meanwhile, in The Times of Tuesday, Alan Coren described a children’s programme put out the day before called Pauline’s Quirkes in which seventeen-year-old Pauline Quirke had whipped an audience of little girls into a state of hysteria by encouraging a pop group called Flintlock to strip off, which they obligingly did.

This programme, one of a series of six, was produced by Roger Price who unrepentantly told The Times that Pauline’s Quirkes had not been made for ‘middleaged, middle-class reviewers, but for barely literate teenage girls.’ His aim, needless to say, was to expose the shortcomings of the pop world but in such a way that the audience wouldn’t notice: ‘Once my audience know we are trying to improve them they would cease to pay any attention to it.’

Richard Ingrams, The Spectator, 11th December 1976

Judge for yourself if you like.

Others disapproved too. It probably didn’t help that the show was broadcast aorund the same time as Grundy’s interview with the Sex Pistols, and some other controversial moments including a cancelled sex film, and Eamonn Andrews’ interview with pornographer Fiona Richmond.

Sunday Mirror – Sunday 28 November 1976

There’s a lot in these shows that rightly bothers modern sensibilities, but like Grange Hill, much of the focus was on the kids ‘not talking properly’.

Some ITV regions dropped the show – among them Anglia, who insisted it wasn’t because of the complaints. In fact, there were hardly any complaints at all … Thames said they’d only had two phone calls about it. I guess the plural in the above clipping is technically correct.

Daily Mirror – Tuesday 07 December 1976

Jill Weeks took a rather more balanced look at the show, putting it in the wider context of the upcoming codification of Childrens’ television policy by the IBA.

The Stage – Thursday 23 December 1976

Pauline’s Quirkes wasn’t given a second series, but Pauline’s People hit screens a year later, with a similar format.

The Stage – Thursday 23 December 1976
, , ,
Buy My Books
  • Proctology: A Bottom Examination
    Proctology: A Bottom Examination

    For a long time now I’ve been wanting to write an old-fashioned programme guide. One you can hold in your hand and thumb through, make notes on, spill coffee on. So I did. Proctology: A Bottom Examination is my deep dive into Bottom, the hit BBC Two sitcom starring Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. That’s…

Most Read
  • Re-Casting Keanu
    Re-Casting Keanu

    Keanu Reeves is 56. That makes him eight years older than Clive Dunn was when he was first cast in Dad’s Army. But don’t panic, Clive Dunn was always playing much older characters than his own age. Keanu Reeves is 56. That makes him seven years older than Stephanie Cole was when she was first…

From The Archive

Sign up for my FREE newsletter