Long Runners: No 19: Jackanory
Frequency: five times a week, three months a year. Back when children's TV schedules were less crowded, the Jackanory season would run from September to March. It still ends in March, but now starts in January. When not on air, the slot is filled by the likes of Rude Dog and The Dweebs.
Formula: the oldest of all, and one that has made an effortless transition from caveman to radio to television. Listeners gather around a flickering fire / cathode tube while a village elder / well-known actor spins a yarn.
How has it changed? The famous kaleidoscope beginning and the mantra 'Jack-a-nory . . . Jack-a-nory . . . Jack-a-nory . . .' were dropped 18 years ago. The book that the storyteller pretended to read from was exchanged for an autocue about 10 years ago (it was felt that the less said about books the better). There used to be one story per week, but they are now broken up so that if children don't like a particular story, they don't skip the whole week.
Where does the name come from? From a 19th-century rhyme:
I'll tell you a story
and now my story's begun.
I'll tell you another
of Jack and his brother,
and now my story's done.
Any rivals? ITV briefly introduced The Book Tower, started by Joy Whitby, Jackanory's first producer.
Past readers: a surprisingly heavyweight Who's Who of British thesping, including Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Anthony Quayle, Denholm Elliott, Edward Fox, Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Helen Mirren, Dudley Moore, George Cole, Kenneth Williams, Alan Bennett, Miranda Richardson, Harry H Corbett, James Robertson Justice . . . and most of the cast of Middlemarch.
Most capped reader? Bernard Cribbins. He's appeared 26 times, including the thousandth programme in 1970.
Any royals? In 1984, striking a Pythonesque attitude in the middle of a windswept grouse moor, Prince Charles recounted The Old Man of Lochnagar.
What makes a good reader? The current producer, Mel Romano, says: 'I like it if people have done things on the radio, and can be compelling with their voice alone. Often it's an instinctive thing.'
This year's main attractions: Paul Merton, Sandi Toksvig, Mike McShane, Sean Hughes, Chris Barrie.
Are they taking kickbacks from the Comedy Store? Jackanory has always reflected what's trendy on television at the time. As for the present taste for ex-stand-ups - these guys spent their formative years outrunning hecklers and tend to talk too fast.
Tell me about the chairs: The most popular seat for readers seems to be a captain's chair. High-backed Emmanuelle-style cane chairs seemed popular in the early Seventies (albeit containing Wendy Craig instead of Sylvia Kristel) while World of Leather-style sofas made a regular appearance in the second half of the decade.
What about now? Readers are expected to walk around the set. Damn it, this is television.
How much do writers get? A standard pounds 16.62 per minute. For a three-part story, that amounts to about pounds 750.
Do they accept unsolicited manuscripts? Yes. The immensely popular Johnny Briggs stories started this way.
Is it keeping up with fashions? Well, in 1991, a story was told in rap.
Anything make you want to kick the set in? Not really, unless it's that Bernard Cribbins popping up again. For an example of how not to talk down to children, witness Arthur Lowe reading The Emperor's Oblong Pankcake.
The bottom line - is it any good? Parents probably prefer to think that their offspring are watching Jackanory rather than Jayce and the Wheeled Warrior or Twinkle, the Dream Being. You would have thought children themselves preferred junk cartoons, with no prefectorial adult mediation, but viewing figures of 2-3 million suggest otherwise. The new freewheeling format detracts from what is surely the essential point of Jackanory, the unbroken line between storyteller and audience. Why not go the whole hog and dramatise it? Gerard Gilbert
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
- 5 Kate Moss on the naked Calvin Klein shoot and the obsession that ended her relationship
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
ASAP Rocky gives nauseating response to explicit Rita Ora rap: 'I'm not saying she's a terrible person'
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
Burning Man festival revellers accidentally torch prehistoric artefacts in Israel
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote