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The Independent Culture
Officially you should have broken out the maroon flares and the Watney Party Seven at 10.20 last night, when Denis Waterman introduced Match of the Seventies. Actually the BBC's Seventies Night started 50 minutes earlier. For anyone with memories of Sailor, 1976's fly-on-the- bulkhead account of life on the Ark Royal, HMS Brilliant (BBC1) will have been powerfully nostalgic. It isn't deja vu exactly but it's very close, with its footage of drunken ratings returning from shore leave and its exploration of the class distinctions of shipboard life.

Christopher Terrill's film laid out its stall with a quick montage of comments about life afloat - "You get everyone," said one crew member, "you get village idiots, mad scientists, mess-deck lawyers." "The whole ship's a little part of England... all thrown together in a tiny floating tin," said another. The promise was clear - a floating soap, rich in character drama. There was even a hint at a villain: "With rank comes responsibility," observed one of the officers sternly, "and if that means that you have to be unpopular, that's fine by me." He appeared to be the ship's Welfare Officer, which made you wonder what the others might be like.

There have, naturally, been some changes in 20 years. During those cramped tracking shots down narrow companionways you pass women in dressing gowns, bustling back from the heads. What's more, HMS Brilliant is on active service, patrolling the Adriatic and keeping six-hour defence watches in case a shore battery decides to display the traditional Serbian respect for peace-keeping forces - the result is a tetchy boredom, no real expectation of action but no relaxation either. "It's a floating prison really," said one sailor, "painted grey." Floating gay disco is more like it, if the off-duty scenes are at all representative. When the ship docks in Crete for the release of pent-up energies, it turns out that HMS Brilliant is crewed by the Village People: you expect to find sailors on board a warship, of course, but Cowboys and Indians too? A little while later four hairy men in negligees and make-up wander by, ready for a night on the town. "Royal Marine Commandos, eh?" notes a sardonic rating, "the feared killing machine."

At the beginning of the 1970-71 football season, the Tories had just won the General Election and Leeds, according to Denis Waterman's voice- over, were revelling "in their reputation as unfashionable outsiders." Unfashionable? You can see for yourself that these lads were deadly - damson suits, shirts by Sanderson and tie-knots bulky enough to house a hamster. Match of the Seventies (BBC1) is a treat, even for those who find their attention drifting whenever football appears on screen. For one thing it offers the rich implications of the incidental details - a sign reading "Fun in the Sun with Pontinental", glimpsed through the misty bleakness of Blackpool Football ground; the coiling drift of toilet roll across the pitch; the gleaming virginity of the player's kit, untouched by sponsor's logo. For another the games are interesting - partly because the season is neatly shaped into a narrative but also because you can see what time has done to the game, speeding it up and removing that engrossing clutter round the goal.

Memories continue with Parkinson: the Interviews (BBC1), a series of highlights which began with a selection of Peter Cook's appearances on the show. Cook's brilliance is never really to give a toss; there's almost no sense that he wants to perform well or even to turn his best angle to the light. Instead he teases Parkinson about his obsession with "roots" and hilariously stops the questions dead. "What do you remember about public school?" asks Parkinson in one clip. "Trying to avoid buggery," Cook replies, with wonderfully languid speed. "I was a young pretty boy... I was number three in the charts."

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