Belfast Telegraph

TV favourites that had us crowding round the screen

By Claire McNeilly

Remember Romper Room? Anyone who grew up in Northern Ireland in the seventies certainly won’t forget tuning in to the likes of Miss Helen and Miss Adrienne on Ulster Television, as it was then known.

The children's programme was hugely popular at the time, especially the bit at the end when the host looked through her ‘magic mirror’ to see who had been watching.

Other progammes from that era which promp misty-eyed nostalgia include Tea Time with Tommy, a straightforward entertainment show hosted by Tommy James, and the more risque late night offerings from irreverent comedian James Young.

Of more recent vintage is the satirical television comedy series Give My Head Peace, which finished its run in 2005.

It specialised in poking fun at political parties, paramilitary groups and the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland and was written and performed by a comedy troupe known as the Hole in the Wall Gang.

In a similar vein was Folks on the Hill, an animated sketch show based on the goings-on at Stormont and elsewhere.

UTV’s Kelly show, hosted by the popular Gerry Kelly, was twice voted the most entertaining programme in Northern Ireland before it was finally axed in December 2005 after 16 years.

In that time it saw off several BBC Northern Ireland rivals, including a Gerry Anderson chat show that went head-to-head with the other Gerry on Friday nights.

Remarkably, one of the most successful drama series ever on local television — the ‘Billy’ triolgy from three decades ago — has never been repeated on the small screen.

Starring a young Kenneth Branagh (using his own native Belfast accent for once), the plays, written by Graham Reid, drew huge audiences.

A number of recent network productions made here baggedprestigious accolades far beyond these shores.

Among those to shine was Five Minutes of Heaven, which was awarded prizes for Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 2009 Sundance Festival.

It featured home-grown actors Liam Neeson and James Nesbit — appearing on screen together for the first time — and explored the legacy of violence in Northern Ireland.

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