I grew up in south west Scotland nine miles from the border. Our television coverage for many years was anglo-centric. We had no BBC Scotland, and instead had regular updates from Newcastle. On ITV we had Border Television presided over with wit and convivial bonhomie by the late great Eric Wallace. Border was the bastard child of ITV, straddling the border and the Isle of Man it launched the careers of various familiar TV faces and in Lookaround had the most watched local news programme per capita in the country (down largely to the presence of the great Wallace).
The Border ident didn’t match up to Thames (now available on DVDs near you) or Anglia and tended not to appear on networked programmes. I recall only two, and both featured Derek Batey a Cumbrian accountant and (as his website informs us, and those who have seen him can confirm) a semi-professional entertainer. One was Look who’s talking? a chat show where David interrogated a showbiz guest by prodding them with cushions. No anecdote was too trivial or mind-numbingly tedious for Derek and his audience from Brampton or Aspatria to convulse in paroxysms of laughter.
However, it was with Mr and Mrs that Batey made his name. A couple was dragged on to the lavishly furnitured set by a beautiful assistant (usually invited to give us a twirl at the start of the programme after the usual, “you’re so much better than the crowd we had last week” twaddle at the start ). One of the spouses was taken to a soundproof booth and made to wear enormous headphones. The other stood at a podium with Batey and was asked various multiple choice questions. What’s your husband’s favourite fish? Halibut? Haddock? Cod? Or does he not like fish (hastily added as spouse pulls face)? How often does he take a bath every week? Once? Twice? Three times? Every day? How would he prefer to spend his wedding anniversary? Going for a romantic meal for two? On holiday? In the pub watching live darts? Having carefully stored the answers Batey would twinkle, flirt with a lady from Whitehaven in the front row of the audience. The spouse from the booth would be returned to the podium and attempt to answer the questions (for £10 a time). Much amusement was gleaned from elderly couples having no idea why they were still together or what their spouse liked. Young couples having no idea what their spouse liked. and odd tensions as preconceptions about the partner were destroyed by the knowledge that they actually did like halbiut, or yes, they did prefer a night at the darts to a romantic dinner. The format was then repeated for the other spouse. If the couple got every question right they could win a cumulative jackpot (which sometimes reached 4 figures). However, more common was the beautiful assistant presenting them with a lovely Mr and Mrs carriage clock (wound, like the lady from Whitehaven in the audience, to its highest tension) and Derek handing over a fistful of tenners.
It was – like most gameshows – rubbish. Hence the exciting development that Celador have purchased the rights to Mr and Mrs from Mr Batey. They’re going to remake it for a modern audience (the Julian Clary update being consigned to the etc of etc). Whoop de doo. That’s just what TV needs, more cheaply produced tat.