"The Burke Special"

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DrPL
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"The Burke Special"

Post by DrPL »

Hi,
(Although this is my first posting on this board under this ID, I'm not new here - but a succession of lost email accounts, forgotten userids etc meant that I have had to start afresh).

I'm following a fascinating discussion on the Fortean message board about a documentary featuring James Burke in 1973. Although it looks like the actual show no longer exists, I would be interested if any member has any memories of the show itself - it touches on a theme explored by Nigel Kneale, that of The Stone Tape. The forum is here: https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?t ... 973.67430/

Best wishes

Paul

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Ian Wegg
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Re: "The Burke Report"

Post by Ian Wegg »

If that is the technique of extracting voices from inanimate objects then yes, I remember it well. It was exciting stuff at the time, although there doesn't seem to have been a lot of progress on it since.

DrPL
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Re: "The Burke Report"

Post by DrPL »

Hi Ian,
Do you remember anything of the show, such as format, experiments, results etc.? Some say it had a studio audience, others that it was in the castle (though this doesn't negate an audience) and some suggest that it was only a small part of the programme?

Brock
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Re: "The Burke Report"

Post by Brock »

The BBC has never broadcast a programme called "The Burke Report". Are you talking about this episode of The Burke Special broadcast on 28 June 1973?

https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/56b6423a0a9 ... c1f1acce2d

DrPL
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by DrPL »

Apologies - I've just modified the title. Thanks for your info!

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Ian Wegg
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Re: "The Burke Report"

Post by Ian Wegg »

DrPL wrote:
Thu Jul 09, 2020 2:04 pm
Hi Ian,
Do you remember anything of the show, such as format, experiments, results etc.? Some say it had a studio audience, others that it was in the castle (though this doesn't negate an audience) and some suggest that it was only a small part of the programme?
It was studio based with an audience. I'm confused about that Genome entry that mentions a castle in Dorset. I don't recall but there may have been film inserts. A quick Google reveals a clip on Facebook which confirms my memory.

Image

https://www.facebook.com/BBCArchive/vid ... 668120134/

In the episode you are talking about I can remember there was a "punchline" - he said scientists had been attempting to extract sound from a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci and after a number of years of concerted effort had recovered a single word.

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stearn
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by stearn »

This is the entry in the Radio Times for the Genome link above.
As you can see, the caption for the picture asks the question, "Is the Earth a giant recording?"

Image

Brock
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

There was a great thread about The Burke Special on the old forum. Yes, it was a studio-based programme with an audience, but the nature of the programme meant they weren't averse to pulling off odd stunts now and then, so I can quite believe that one of the programmes may have come from Corfe Castle (at least in part). Certainly when it got to the start of the next series (March 1974) they were clear that "In the tradition of the programmes so far, this lot is different again: outside broadcasts from round the country, studio shows where nothing's quite what it seems, programmes where the audience decides what the evening's all about."

yellowtriumph
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by yellowtriumph »

Executive producer Michael Blakstad. I believe he’s still around and lives in East Meon in Hampshire. I’m sure if you googled you would find a way to contact him quite easily if you felt it worthwhile?

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

James Burke himself is still around! He made this series for Radio 4 last year.

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Mark »

There was a BBC four programme, quite a few years ago now, looking at various shows, including "That's Life" and "The Burke Special".

Lots of great clips including the famous one of the Army bringing into the studio, a huge pile of weapons that had been seized, rifles and so on.

They were always fascinating to watch, and he was such a good speaker, he had the right touch, it was Event TV.
"A cup of Tea....Tea...Tea"

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

Mark wrote:
Sat Jul 11, 2020 12:45 am
They were always fascinating to watch, and he was such a good speaker, he had the right touch, it was Event TV.
There was nothing like it before, and I'm not sure if there's been anything like it since. Can it be described as one of those extreme rarities - a truly unique programme?

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by fatcat »

I think he been lurking in the back of programmes like Tomorrow's World until he got this show, and he took the baton and ran with it,
knew his stuff, entertaining, and as you said it was quite unique, fascinating subjects nobody had previously probably never thought about.

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Mark »

He was the scientific adviser on a great favourite of mine, "Moonbase 3" in 1973, he was certainly highly thought of, and still is with those that remember him.

There were copycats of course, afterwards, I remember the odd edition of "Reports Extra" ( an off-shoot of "Granada Reports", I think it was networked) that did experiments in front of an audience.

None could match Burke's brilliance though, factual light entertainment with some Drama thrown in for great effect, would work well on DVD.
"A cup of Tea....Tea...Tea"

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

When I was seven I assumed that James Burke must be some eminent scientist. It wasn't until many years later that I discovered he had no scientific background whatsoever and started out as an English lecturer in Bologna.

I think what was great about The Burke Special wasn't just that he did it in front of an audience, but that he involved the audience. I would love to see the one again when the whole audience suddenly jumped up in the middle of the programme and started singing - except for one poor man, who'd been deliberately left out of the rehearsal. They replayed his reactions in slow motion as he gradually rose to his feet and tried to join in!

He seems to better remembered nowadays for his later "prestige" series like Connections and The Day the Universe Changed, but I thought The Burke Special was better - it had an air of spontaneity that the later series lacked. Probably one of the first things that got me interested in science as a kid.

Nigel Stapley
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Nigel Stapley »

Brock wrote:
Sun Jul 12, 2020 8:58 am
I would love to see the one again when the whole audience suddenly jumped up in the middle of the programme and started singing - except for one poor man, who'd been deliberately left out of the rehearsal. They replayed his reactions in slow motion as he gradually rose to his feet and tried to join in!
I still remember that one!

As a boy at that time, I would watch anything that he was in. As others have said, a consummate communicator.

glennc
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by glennc »

James Burke has always been one of my favourite TV presenters ever since he was on Tomorrow's World and more importantly did the Apollo coverage.

I remember writing to him and getting sent a ticket to be in the audience of The Burke Special.

Not only that but I was one of the people on the stage; I was also paid 50p by the BBC.

The programme was about Einstein's theory of relativity.

Someone else may know better but I believe the programme was from TV Centre and I think it went out live.

I only say that because I don't ever remember seeing the programme I was in on TV which I would have done if it had been recorded.

It was a great experience and I do recall James Burke as being very professional.

It is such a shame that I don't think much of the series still exists.

Brock
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

glennc wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:51 pm
James Burke has always been one of my favourite TV presenters ever since he was on Tomorrow's World and more importantly did the Apollo coverage.

I remember writing to him and getting sent a ticket to be in the audience of The Burke Special.

Not only that but I was one of the people on the stage; I was also paid 50p by the BBC.
Wow! Never let it be said that the licence fee is put to poor use...
The programme was about Einstein's theory of relativity.
I remember hearing him talk about that programme once, and saying that it may have been the one time when he wasn't entirely sure he'd carried the entire audience with him. Do you remember which year it was? Sadly, Genome doesn't carry detailed billings for all of the programmes.

glennc
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by glennc »

Unfortunately I can't remember the year.

I do recall him telling us that he thought he understood what he was explaining and then next minute he wasn't so sure.

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stearn
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by stearn »

There are two theories of relativity, Special Relativity and General Relativity. I'll lift the descriptions from Wikipedia. It took my whole first year as an undergraduate to get my head around Special Relativity. One TV programme would be pushing it somewhat!

General relativity (GR), also known as the general theory of relativity (GTR), is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and the current description of gravitation in modern physics.

The theory of special relativity explains how space and time are linked for objects that are moving at a consistent speed in a straight line. One of its most famous aspects concerns objects moving at the speed of light.

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by brigham »

Einstein's Relativity may well be a description of events observed from a false position, in the same way as the apparent retrograde motion of planets when viewed from Earth.

DrPL
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by DrPL »

Thanks for your wonderful replies - very interesting. I must have seen him on TV at a very early age; I recognised him on BBC science shows in the late 70s/early 80s even if I didn't know his name, but the one broadcast that sticks in my mind was when Giotto performed a fly-by of Halley's Comet and he was one of the presenters. I distinctly remember him taking about the transmission of data back to Earth with a model of the space probe and saying that even if it was deflected by a small amount due to an impact from cometry detritus (and he demonstrated how much), we would lose contact with it. And so it proved.

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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

DrPL wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:51 pm
I recognised him on BBC science shows in the late 70s/early 80s even if I didn't know his name
From his point of view, it must have been a stroke of brilliance persuading the BBC to put his name in the title of the show. In those days that was reserved for mega-stars like Michael Parkinson!

(It may have worked both ways though. I think Mike Yarwood once did a joke about combining Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and The Burke Special to get "two Burkes for the price of one"...)

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Ian Wegg
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Ian Wegg »

Brock wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:29 pm
From his point of view, it must have been a stroke of brilliance persuading the BBC to put his name in the title of the show. In those days that was reserved for mega-stars like Michael Parkinson!
..and John Craven :)

Brock
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Re: "The Burke Special"

Post by Brock »

Brock wrote:
Fri Jul 10, 2020 9:51 am
James Burke himself is still around! He made this series for Radio 4 last year.
By coincidence, repeated at 9.30am today.

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