Those still able to recall the news service provided by Thames may think of Thames News, fronted by Andrew Gardner and Penny Smith. This bulletin commenced its fourteen year run only in 1978, and it had antecedents well worthy of mention. The original London weekday news programme was Today, a magazine which ran from 1968 to 1977. It was presented by such luminaries as Eamonn Andrews, Bob Holness, Llew Gardner and John Stapleton. Perhaps the most famous Today presenter of all was Bill Grundy. His confrontation with The Sex Pistols on the 01/12/1976 edition has passed into TV folklore, as the interview from hell.


Click for larger image TV Hell - "G is for Grundy"
BBC, 1992
As documented in this excerpt from BBC2's Official History of TV Hell (31/08/1992), The Sex Pistols replaced another act that fell through at short notice and arrived drunk, just minutes before going on air. Grundy intended this to be a probing investigation of Punk, but the episode quickly became an hilarious farce when he prompted Johnny Rotten, Glenn Matlock, Paul Cook and Steve Jones to say something outrageous. The air turned blue and the Thames switchboard was jammed with calls of protest. Meanwhile the following day's tabloids reported on "some of the dirtiest language ever heard on television" and there were stories of honest working men kicking in their TV sets in disgust, and old ladies having strokes and keeling over!
Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image

Well-known among journalists for his love of pubs, Grundy was accused of drinking before going on air, since he told the Pistols, "You're more drunk than I am.' He claimed it was a joke, but Thames suspended him for two weeks. He was reinstated after three days, but his contract was not renewed in 1977 after which his career went into freefall. The former Granada star and host of What the Papers Say ended his TV career in the 1980s on BBC North. He died in hospital at Marple in Cheshire on February 9th 1993, aged 69, as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. Spookily, Grundy's pal Brian Inglis wrote his obituary for The Guardian, and then died himself on 11th February 1993. Inglis had also hosted What The Papers Say. Meanwhile The Sex Pistols incident seems tame compared to the sort of thing one sees on TV these days...


Click for larger image Man About the House
Hammer Film Productions, 1974 Canal+ Image UK Ltd
A final point of interest: the 1974 Hammer Film adaptation of the popular Thames sit-com Man About The House features an amusing and lengthy sequence at the Thames studios, including a recreation of Today in which Bill Grundy gamely plays himself. He interviews a developer (Peter Cellier) and politician (Patrick Newell) who want to pull down the Ropers' house and build a tower block. The studio scenes were, in fact, filmed at the premises of Television International, as per the insignia on the side of the cameras filming Grundy and the actors. Studio cameras at both the Teddington and Euston Road studios usually all featured a Thames logo.
Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image


The broadcaster Robin Houston wrote to TV ARK in 2004, with his memories of joining the news team at the Euston Road studios, as a journalist and anchorman for Thames News: "Today ended in the summer of 1977. Andrew Gardner joined Thames TV on 1 August 1977 and for the next year - except for six weeks in the summer of 1978 - presented a six o'clock news/magazine programme, whose name escapes me (but it wasn't Thames News). Then Thames TV - with a huge recruitment programme of journalists, crews, and support staff, and a great technical investment - set up a proper newsroom in the late summer of 1978. I joined on 5 September 1978 and launched the Lunchtime Thames News while Andrew Gardner and Rita Carter began Thames At Six. From the same date I was supposed to be presenting the Late Thames News after News At Ten as well, but union problems prevented that starting until 28 April 1980, from when it ran for nearly thirteen years."


Click for larger image Thames at Six
1978
Click for larger image As mentioned by Robin Houston above, Andrew Gardner hosts an edition of Thames at Six from 1978, alongside co-anchor Bob Southgate. Magazine items include the ongoing "battle" over Bethnal Green Hospital, while Bob introduces a report on the murder of a Guyanese nurse at Claybury Mental Hospital in Woodford. The treatment of the Thames ident is worthy of interest; a jazzy rendition of the ident music leaps straight into the Thames at Six signature tune, while the skyline becomes a wipe pattern and a layer mask over still photographs.

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image

The earliest recordings of Thames News in the TV ARK collection appear below, dating from the early 1980s. At this time, the studio set for the main 6pm bulletin was given a light blue backdrop, with flats consisting of blue grids and tiles. The Thames News logo is made up of letters in bold Swiss font, italicised in later updates.


Click for larger image Thames News
1981 - 10.30pm Bulletin
Click for larger image From 28/07/1981, Robin Houston has the late headlines, on the eve of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. He delivers a warning from police that members of the public should stick to public transport, because traffic will be "almost totally impossible". After the news and weather, Houston links into a Diana Ross special. The clip includes a presentation slide for Thames News and an announcement by Philip Elsmore.

Click for larger image Thames News
1982 - 10.30pm Bulletin
Click for larger image It's 23/03/1982 and Robin Houston has the late headlines, prior to a screening of David Niven's comedy horror film Vampira. The lead story is the GLC's announcement of a plan to surcharge private motorists in London roughly one pound to travel into or through the city. It was first conceived in 1979 and sounds similar to London's present day Congestion Charge! Also, The Queen unveils a new 65million wing at the London Hospital in Mile End Road. One mile away demolition work continues on the old Homerton Hospital.

Click for larger image Thames News
1982 - 10.30pm Bulletin
Click for larger image Another complete bulletin, close on the heels of News at Ten and preceding an episode of the Thames sitcom Shelley. The headlines from Robin Houston include: an unsupervised child with learning difficulties falling to his death in St. John's Wood, striking print workers continuing to defy a High Court judge, and Arsenal player Pat Jenning's eye injury preventing him from playing in an Easter match against Tottenham.

Click for larger image Thames News
1983
Click for larger image Andrew Gardner signs off on a main evening bulletin from 1983. His co-hosts are Tina Jenkins, Graham Miller and weatherman Jack Scott.

Click for larger image Thames News
1983 - 6pm Bulletin
Click for larger image Stories: Power surge blamed for London bus crash; detectives acquitted in corruption case; Eastenders say 'No Way' to new through way.
 
Newscaster: Rita Carter
 


Click for larger image Thames News
1983 - 10.30pm Bulletin
Click for larger image A complete late bulletin from around 1983. Headlines read by Robin Houston include: the recapture of two escaped convicts, a protest march in London by railway workers and the birth at London Zoo of a baby pudu. With news and weather wrapped up, his role switches to continuity announcer, to introduce a Thames screening of the 1977 film, The Domino Principle.

Click for larger image The Nation Decides / Thames News Breakfast Special
1983 - 6.15am Bulletin
It's 6am on 10/06/1983, and Peter Marshall introduces the ITN-TVAM joint venture The Nation Decides. Robert Kee & Martyn Lewis hosted, and for fifteen minutes each hour there were opt-outs to the various ITV regional newsrooms. That gave Thames News the opportunity to stage a Breakfast Special, hosted by Andrew Gardner, Tina Jenkins and Michael Barratt. Studio guests included MPs Stanley Clinton Davis (Lab) and Nicholas Scott (Con), while VT reports caught up with Jeremy Hanley (Con) and Joan Lestor (Lab). In our final clip, Tina Jenkins goes through the full list of general election results for the London boroughs.

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Gardner Intro
Gardner off-guard
Barratt interview
Jenkins round-up


Click for larger image Thames News
1983 - Late bulletin
Click for larger image Newscaster: Tricia Ingrams
 
Lead stories: a murder enquiry gets underway after two men were found murdered in a flat in Warwick Avenue. Meanwhile in Chingford, an 80 year-old woman was also found murdered. Many Londoners do not agree with the Government's plans to scrap the GLC.


Thames News
1983/4 Blooper
Lifted from the 2002 LWT production, "It Shouldn't Happen to a TV News Presenter", an amusing out-take from Thames News circa 1983/3 featuring reporter Colin Baker losing his cool after an arduous morning of standing in the rain.

Click for larger image Thames News
1984 - Trail 5.45pm
Click for larger image From December 1984, Andrew Gardner and Tina Jenkins preview the plethora of stories on tonight's edition. A clip of the opening titles appears below..

Click for larger image Thames News
1984 - 6pm Bulletin
Stories: Gas blast wrecks three flats in Mitcham; the Big Freeze bites deeper, now the blood banks are hit; plus a Royal send-off for the craftsmen of Britain's mini-Hollywood.
 
Newscaster: Andrew Gardner

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image

Thames Weekend News
1984
Click for larger image Thames Weekend News was a bulletin produced by Thames for London Weekend Television on Friday evenings. This became necessary from January 1982 when the 7pm Thames to LWT hand-over was moved forward to 5.15pm, but it seemed bizarre for LWT to effectively hand back to Thames even for a short while. Tricia Ingrams is the host, with the lead story of a rape in Putney. The other clip is a second example from a regular 1984 bulletin with Tina Jenkins.

Click for larger image Thames News
1985 - Late Bulletin
Click for larger image Newscaster: Robin Houston
 
Lead stories: Police hunting the killers of Hampstead millionaire Aristos Constantino have appealed to two motorists to come forward. Meanwhile motorists who park on pavements in London face prosecution from today, in a crackdown to make walkways safer and cheaper to look after. Offenders face a fine of 25. The GLC says bad parking causes dozens of accidents.
 


Click for larger image Thames News
1985 - 1.30pm & 3.25pm
Click for larger image Two bulletins from the same day in 1985: Robin Houston finishes the lunchtime bulletin, while Lindsay Charlton reads the start of the mid-afternoon bulletin. The second clip includes in-vision continuity by announcer Sally McLaren.

Click for larger image Thames News
1985 - 10.30pm Bulletin
A complete bulletin from 21/12/1985. The stories include the results of a coroner's report into the death of Auf Wiedersehn Pet actor Gary Holton, plus GLC leader Ken Livingstone comes face to face with his new waxwork at Madame Tussauds. Due to industrial action, Robin Houston is obliged to read the headlines under basic strip lights, instead of standard studio spots. Once the news and weather summary are complete, he links into a Burt Reynolds movie, Gator.
Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image

Click for larger image Thames News
1986 - 10.30pm Bulletin
Click for larger image The final story of a late bulletin from around December 1986, read by Robin Houston, contains footage of Marlow children recording their peace-promoting song, Let's Be Friends at Christmas. As usual, once news and weather are over, Robin becomes a continuity announcer, introducing a Thames screening of the 1970 film, Borsalino.

Click for larger image Thames News
1987 - 6pm Bulletin
Various segments from a 6pm bulletin shown on 14/04/1987, hosted by John Andrew and Paul Green, with Graham Miller anchoring the sports and Jack Scott the weather. One report by Marcus Powell commemorates the 75th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, marked the following day with an auction of memorabilia in London. Another looks at the 70,000 sale of the smallest Des Res in Chiswick, a garage with a room above it. Note how all the presenters bar Green are wearing tweedy sports jackets!

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image John Andrew - Titanic Auction
Graham Miller - Sport
Jack Scott - Weather
John Andrew - Outro


Following this "blue graph paper" era of studio and graphic design, the Thames News set, titles and music were given three complete revisions. The first took place circa 1987, a symphony of beige and grey. The titles were updated to give the viewer a travelling point of view along a square tunnel of moving images. This opened out into a TV studio gallery with a central programme monitor, on which the bulletin logo forms. For the main 6pm bulletin, the studio turned a shade of plain grey with oddly shaped desks picked out in shades of grey and beige. The various headline bulletins were broadcast from a plain beige set, with the new logo placed upper left on screen, behind the newscaster's right shoulder.


Click for larger image Thames News
1988 - Trail 5.45pm
Click for larger image A teatime trail from 25/08/1988 in which Penny Smith and John Andrew preview the stories on the 6pm bulletin, clips of which appear just below. Just as they're about to switch to ITN's 5.40pm bulletin, the floor manager seems to suffer a massive coughing fit just a few seconds too soon!

Click for larger image Thames News
1988 - 6pm Bulletin
Stories: Fire Brigade chiefs call for Docklands Jean Michel Jarre concert to be banned, over crowd safety fears; plus adios Cha-Cha, as a panda leaves London Zoo for Mexico.
 
Newscasters: Penny Smith/John Andrew; Weather: Richard Edgar

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image

Click for larger image Thames News
1988 - 10.30pm Bulletin
Click for larger image The late edition, following News at Ten, sees Robin Houston delivering almost the same script as Penny Smith in the 6.30pm edition. Never waste a good script line or a VT of action-packed underlay.

Click for larger image Thames News
1988 - 9.25am Bulletin
Click for larger image Lead Story: Romanian chess Grand Master seeks asylum in UK
 
Newscaster: Mark Longhurst
 
Continuity announcement by Philip Elsmore.


Click for larger image Thames News
17/02/1989 - Trail & Main Bulletin
Click for larger image Newscaster: Andrew Gardner
 
In the trail, he invites viewers to join him and Penny Smith to "look through their window" at the region, each day at 6pm. In the bulletin, the lead story concerns TV-AM, who will lay on special protection for staff and Wapping-style buses in their fight against the unions.