Monday, 11 July 2016


From January and February 1985: the first five issues of the ill-fated BBC kids weekly BEEB.

This was a belated pretender to the LOOK-IN crown: a me-too title that attempted to leverage the might of the BBC schedules to create a viable rival. It didn't quite go to plan.

Unlike LOOK-IN, published by ITV Publications and a spin-off from TV TIMES, Beeb didn't have the advantage of being inside the BBC tent or the muscle of a best-selling listings magazine to back it up. It was a licensing deal between BBC Enterprises and Polystyle, the struggling erstwhile publishers of TV COMIC and COUNTDOWN.

Beeb tried to be all things to all readers and managed to miss the mark. It felt curiously old-fashioned and lacked the sense of dynamism of its rival. The range of covers in the first month demonstrate this: a dull mix of BLUE PETER dressing up games (of the sort that could only excite Biddy Baxter and the BBC Goveners) and layouts reminiscent of teen girl mags. Hardly something to get young boys buying.

The adventure strips were covered off with adaptations of Glen Larson's AUTOMAN (a short-lived show that had more impact on the BBC ONE schedules than it did in the States) and THE TRIPODS (a more dynamic take on the plodding TV show, apparently from the pen of Pat Mills). DOCTOR WHO was off limits because of the Marvel deal and its tenuous future in the minds of BBC management. Drippy zoo vet drama ONE BY ONE offered neutral territory for boys and girls underwhelmed by action. GRANGE HILL, late of IPC's standalone magazine and SCHOOL FUN, was a predictable choice. Gag strips were supplied by the TBE FAMILY NESS and, on loan from NUTTY, BANANAMAN.

As the cover of the first issue suggests, the feature pages were populated by tie-ins with various other BBC shows including the reliable page-fillers BLUE PETER and SATURDAY SUPERSTORE.

The masthead was rather cleverly in the style of the current BBC logo, although it was far from ubiquitous on-screen and in print compared with modern iterations.

The Beeb name (derived from "Aunty Beeb") was revived during the BBC's early pioneering days on the internet when it was used for the Corporation's commercial website and online activities to keep them distinctly separate from the Public Service licensee-fee funded bits. That overlap and duplication was eventually streamlined away.

Because this wasn't an in-house BBC publication it didn't have automatically access to BBC airtime, an advantage thet LOOK-IN certainly enjoyed. That put it at a commercial disadvantage in the circulation wars. BBC Magazines didn't make the same mistake a few years later when it launched FAST FORWAD, a similar title that borrowed far more from SMASH HITS and the music magazines. That was given what must have amounted to thousands (even millions) of pounds of free airtime by running regular ads in the key 5.35pm junction sandwiched between the official end of CBBC ("except for viewers in Northern Ireland") and the start of the ratings juggernaut that was NEIGHBOURS at its prime.

Copies of this title are surprisingly hard to find, perhaps reflecting the levels of reader indifference back in 1985. I recently came across a complete run... and snapped them up for STARLOGGED.


  1. look closely and you can spot David Icke on the cover of issue 1.

    Icke gained a form of notoriety with his bizarre views about lizards and such like. This also led to an infamous appearance on WOGAN.

  2. Yup. He ran the "sports department" in the Superstore alongside his other presenting duties for BBC SPORT and sports coverage in BBC NEWS bulletins.


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