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ULTRA-SHORT-TERM NOSTALGIA:

DAYTIME

GAMESHOWS

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ULTRA-SHORT-TERM NOSTALGIA:

ITV

NIGHTTIME

There's always been mucho debate over when the "Cream Era" ended. When did things go shit? Some will insist around 1982, when terribly-drawn Korean cartoons like Pole Position, Dungeons & Dragons and Dogtanian started appearing. Others will say 1989, at the end of the last great musical revolution, acid house. And someone said it was 1998 once. The received wisdom is that it's the year you reached 17. And now, the 1990s are over and done with. So we're well within our rights to step back and take a look at what television left behind in that "caring, sharing" decade, for future generations to look back on with that typical mixture of nostalgia, scorn and bemusement that we relish around here. What would you put into the TV Cream Time Capsule, rumoured to be soon occupying the hole left over from the disappointingly wet Blue Peter Time Capsule unearthed recently? Separated from the main TV Cream pages until they have "sufficiently matured" like a piece of Lymeswold left in the airing cupboard, here are a few items we'd gladly bury at the bottom of the TV Cream Sunken Garden tomorrow. But we might not be so keen on digging up some of them afterwards...

CAUGHT IN THE ACT ¦ CHANNEL 5: THE LAUNCH ¦ DANCE ENERGY ¦ DANNY BAKER AFTER ALL/THE DANNY BAKER SHOW ¦ DAYTIME UK/PEOPLE TODAY/GOOD MORNING...WITH ANNE AND NICK ¦ ELDORADO ¦ FULL SWING ¦ GAMESMASTER/BAD INFLUENCE! ¦ GET STUFFED! ¦ THE GIRLIE SHOW ¦ JUST FOR LAUGHS ¦ THE LEGACY OF REGINALD PERRIN ¦ THE LIVING SOAP ¦ MAHABHARAT ¦ MANHATTAN CABLE/RING MY BELL ¦ THE MARY WHITEHOUSE EXPERIENCE ¦ MONARCHY: THE NATION DECIDES ¦ NAKED CITY ¦ NIGHTINGALES ¦ ON THE AIR ¦ POLICE ACTION LIVE! ¦ RAISE THE ROOF ¦ A STAB IN THE DARK ¦ SUPERSENSE ¦ TALKING TELEPHONE NUMBERS ¦ PHILLIP SCHOFIELD'S TENBALL ¦ WITHOUT WALLS ¦ THE 1994 WORLD CUP FINALS

CAUGHT IN THE ACT (1992)
THE BBC in the early nineties was in a bit of a state, and what with its charter coming up for renewal, they were going all out to be "popular". The thought process behind this series was, seemingly, 'You've Been Framed is popular - let's just rip that off', and that's what they did. Should you care, the "unique" feature were that the clips were - wow! - international, and there was some sort of spurious game show element bolted on.

Which doesn't sound so bad, but then...Shane Richie was hired to present it. The "international" clips appeared to be linked - in a bizarr-o Eurovision way - by a presenter from that country, who would banter with Richie for ages. Of course later this scam was uncovered as actors in adjacent blue-adorned rooms chancing their arm - which tends to cloud impressions of grandieur given when one of the "foreign" correspondents occasionally turned up in the studio, to much fanfare. The "game" took up practically the entire programme, but perversely this was just a plain old "home-video howlers" show. And, just in case we couldn't grasp the subtle humour in Man Falls Off Roof or Cat Falls Off Wall, they added on cartoon sound effects to enhance the action - Twang Of Ruler, Smash Of Glass, Fracture Of Bone, Collapse Of Lung... Unbelievably, the series managed to make Beadle look good. Even more unbelievably, it got twelve million viewers, but thankfully after thirteen hideous episodes, the BBC decided it wasn't really the sort of thing they should be making, and thus it never returned. Shortly after, the variety department closed down forever. See also BOBBY DAVRO - PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE ("So, Peter Stringfellow, how many people will fall for this Beadle-ripoff prank?"), YOUR BEST SHOT (Game for a Laugh with none of the wit - yes, that bad), and HIT THE ROAD (Z-list celebrities running around in luminous anoraks).

REASON FOR INCLUSION - to show there were worse light entertainment programmes before Red Alert.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - somebody's finally admitted Shane Richie was just a cruel joke at our expense.

CHANNEL 5: THE LAUNCH (Easter 1997)
JUST MAKING IT into the Capsule by the skin of its teeth, but who doesn't get dewey eyed when reminiscing about the first time they ever found the test card in amongst the static? If only the actual programmes were as good as the trail that ran non stop for six weeks beforehand - "Give Me Action!" with DOMINIK DIAMOND playing Scalextric, and JOSIE D'ARBY walking down a road. The anticipation reached fever pitch by the time THE SPICE GIRLS kicked down the testcard at 6.00 that Sunday, followed by those "faces" of Channel Five, TIM VINE and JULIA BRADBURY, who spent the next half hour trailing Jack Docherty and the Poland vs England World Cup qualifier in two months time.

After all that, the programmes just sort of petered out. JACK DOCHERTY started his ridiculously ill-advised nightly Letterman-wannabe chat show with THE SPICE GIRLS (funnily enough) and ROGER MOORE (offering strange parallels with Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge), but by the end of the week we'd already had FISH and STEVE PUNT, and it was even further downhill then, until it was moved to a peak 1am slot once a week, normally not even presented by him. But at least it wasn't as bad as The Creatives. The film at 9.00 went within a fortnight from the standard of Mrs Doubtfire to the standard of My Stepmother Is An Alien, and of course there was the 11.40 comedy slot - half "have you ever noticed ..." stand up, and half "Have I Got 'X' For You"-style panel game shite, almost always starring (if it's possible to "star" on Channel Five) charmless Geordie Richard Morton. This was later replaced by hardy perennial Prisoner: Cell Block H, and the ratings doubled, then by pornography, and the ratings doubled again.

And Poland vs England did finally turn up, with ill-cast BROUGH SCOTT, GAIL MCKENNA and DOMINIK DIAMOND, dining at the incongruous "football cafe", a real live tables & chairs situation with various C5 "celebs" eating, drinking and offering their opinions on the evening's action. Two main errors: 1. There were proper waiters wandering round all the time, serving drinks and getting in the way, and 2. The general clatter of the cafe tended to distract attention from the interview in hand. Footballer STEVE CLARIDGE regularly provided the latest betting news on the game, simply because he likes to have a flutter now and then. The channel almost died of embarrassment. The viewing figures have, admittedly, increased, but not before Private Eye managed to re-use all its Channel Four and TV-am jokes ("Five viewers", "First rat to join a sinking ship", etc.). But still nobody's watching the news - and sitting on a desk is
so 1990s!

REASON FOR INCLUSION - being caught watching it was even more embarrassing than being caught watching the porn they show now.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - a Family Affairs actress gets recognised in the street.

Relive those memories of the launch of Channel Five by breaking your vertical hold and going to http://www.meldrum.co.uk/mhp/continuity/channel5.html

DANCE ENERGY (1990-3)
STREET-PORTER'S DEF II slot managed to come up with some fairly credible music programmes during its run - SNUB TV, BEHIND THE BEAT, and so on. It also came up with this. Yet it was much more fun than any of the others and a real Monday night institution. The ever-popular NORMSKI presented throughout, with a whole host of Ali G-style catchphrases ("Let 'arf!" "The livin' ...!") and an array of stupid haircuts and clothes. The first few series came from a plain white studio ("with loads of affictions to the walls to make it look even more happening!" - Normski) and followed a fairly straightforward mix of a few live acts (The Beloved, Bass-O-Matic, etc.), stupid dancing by the audience (including a vogueing GERI HALLIWELL Before She Was Famous), and some news reports about De La Soul read by Lisa I'Anson. But the fourth series saw a real change, with the title changing to DANCE ENERGY HOUSE PARTY, and the action relocating to - yes! - Normski's "house"! VAS BLACKWOOD, star of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Spatz, was drafted in as comic relief, and it was all loads better than before, with a baffling array of bands in the kitchen, Number 73 style (The Charlatans were on it once, for a start). There was also the Lift Off competition, where each week we'd see a set of videos of some Staines Massive kids pissing around with a Yamaha. And there was a "fashion" segment as well, where Norm would go out and laugh at some punters in the street and their crap outfits. The final series changed it's name to D Energy, lost the house, lost Vas and lost all its viewers, before pointlessly transferring to Radio One. Normski was last seen pitching a chat show to Channel Five where he'd interview guests on a skateboard.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - His real name was Norman Anderson, you know...
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Later with The Dreem Teem comes to BBC2.

DANNY BAKER AFTER ALL/THE DANNY BAKER SHOW (1993 and 1994)
"KINDA LIVE from London, it's Danny Baker After All..." Oh yes. BBC1 bosses took one listen to the Birt-approved "loose cannon" and best thing on the old Radio 5, and freed up the post-MATCH OF THE DAY slot for two months at the end of 1993. Unfortunately, Baker had, like Jonathan Ross before him, prepared for a comedy chat show after imbibing too much Letterman, and thus most of the viewing public - not to mention newspaper TV reviewers - switched off (he imitated the world's most overrated chat show host right down to flimsy "cityscape-through-Venetian-blinds" thing behind him). Some good ideas, though, including getting musical guests to do a Beatles cover and Those Who Also Entertain, spotlighting people at the ephemera of showbusiness, including Slimfast king BARRY BETHELL ("I can't believe I was that fat!"), who turned out to be "larger than life", you won't be surprised to hear. Top marks too for getting viewers to send in unwanted CDs, and then taking them to a rifle range for clay pigeon substitution purposes. Fact: the house band, The Railtown Bottlers, not only went on to record the theme for one-series Roy Barraclough sitcom vehicle Mother's Ruin, but were led by Radio 1 film "buff" and doctor of horror fiction MARK KERMODE. Months later, bloodied but unbowed, Baker launched the second show into the same spot, sans a lot of the Letterman detritus, but also without much of the redeeming entertainment factor, despite Rick Wakeman once appearing in a toga. Baker recently said that radio is his preferred medium, and a lot of his TV and advert work was purely to make enough money to raise his family safely. Which explains a lot.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - Are you reading this, Chris Moyles?
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The world finally admits that Conan O'Brien is better.

DAYTIME UK/PEOPLE TODAY/GOOD MORNING...WITH ANNE AND NICK (1990-6)
HOPEFULLY, like us, you spent your capsule-era mornings tucked blissfully neath your 15 tog. If, however, you sneaked an eye towards BBC1, you may have witnessed some of these marathon paint-driers.

After an inauspicious start (Santa Barbara, anyone?), ITV had zoomed ahead in the daytime ratings, so the Beeb cast around for a rival vehicle. What turned up was a clapped-out banger called DAYTIME UK. Bits of Pebble Mill were welded to some parts from Open Air and a heap of leftover scrap from Nationwide. Yep, that tiresome old BBC round-the-regions theme raised its ugly head again, and what a lumbering behemoth DTUK was. For a start, it was four hours long. Secondly, it "starred" ALAN TITCHMARSH, JUDI SPIERS, local radio nobody DEBI JONES [see below] and ex-Esther's nancy ADRIAN MILLS. To be fair, Adrian was never going to court bad publicity by being accused of nicking booze, mainly because he didn't look like he'd have the bottle to go in an off-licence in the first place. Basically, they just did, er, stuff for four hours. Oh, and KILROY's droneathon was moved to 11.05 to provide "the meat in the sandwich". Ham, presumably.

Respite was provided by Playdays, prior to which Spiers would "banter" with Simon Parkin via the medium of puppetry. The nadir was the eight-minute item on boiling an egg. Fortunately, after three months, the Gulf War intervened, and rolling Dimbleby in front of a scary picture of Saddam Hussain took its place. DTUK came back for a few final months in scaled-down form, so we have one thing to thank the Iraqi dictator for.

The following autumn, all the lessons had been learned, oh yes! MILLS was paired with, er, DR MIRIAM STOPPARD to front PEOPLE TODAY, which featured all the usual, er, stuff, but starting 50 minutes after R&J;'s show on ITV - in a bid to grab "men tuning in for the news". Nope, can't see any flaws there...

But hold it right there, because this time they've cracked it! In a breathtaking act of counterfeitery, the Beeb unveiled GOOD MORNING... WITH ANNE AND NICK in 1992. With the TV-am duo reunited, the sexual chemistry fairly sparked across the screen! OK, so she just primly sat there while his jokes fell flat. But still. The show was off to a loser from the dire opening titles in which Diamond smiled at a traffic warden. There was a "coffee" "break" "love" "story" every day at 11:15, narrated by the likes of Christopher Casenove. There were weird fake ad breaks which contained recipes and household hints. Dynamic WILL HANRAHAN did the usual consumer hectoring. There was, er, stuff - and for several demented weeks, they tried to pretend they were the now-defunct TV-am by bunging an identical clock in the corner and hiring Greavsie to do the telly reviews. All to no avail.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - Realisation that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and if you can't join 'em, you'll have to bung on reruns of She's The Sheriff.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Vanessa Feltz fronts new-look "relevant to people's lives" Newsnight.

DAYTIME UK UPDATE! The Cream Capsule recently received this irate email from one Steve Doran, aka Mr Debi Jones, headed 'Local Radio nobody who could buy and sell you many times'. In the interests of fairness [or just so we can snigger at him like the talentless, worthless scum we are] we reproduce it in full here. Plump up those cushions...

"Just to let you sad people know that the "local radio nobody" Debi Jones, (5 years as breakfast show presenter for Radio Merseyside, the biggest BBC local radio station in the country) as mentioned in your crit of Daytime UK, is alive, well and pulling over £150K pa. fronting a show for a European digital satellite broadcaster. ( 6 million viewers per day for the last two and a half years) You unfortunates just don't understand where the money is do you...... That "nobody" undoubtedly has more talent and earning potential than individuals of your calibre can even dream of. Incidentally, it wasn't Adrian who was charged with theft from a supermarket, it was Richard Madeley. Also if you care to look at the figures of the time, Debi's shows repeatedly had better figures than all later variations of the theme including Miriam Stoppard and the Nick and Anne show. Get a life."

Sadly, Mr Doran was too busy maintaining his dignity to mention which 'European digital satellite broadcaster' Ms Jones now appears on, as we wanted to join the six million viewers tuning in every day. If you know, please tell us...

ELDORADO (1992-3)
WAS CROSSROADS really such a tired old byword for the ultimate in crapola British television? The BBC, in conjunction with the press, seemed to think so. What started off as an apparently well-meaning attempt to take the Beeb's soap quota over and above the then slightly wobbly EastEnders quickly became one of the biggest national jokes of the 1990s. The plan, hatched by 'Enders creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland, was to launch a "supersoap" (their term, which should've been a warning) originally titled Little England (warning siren number two) set in a purpose-built ex-pat village on the Costa Del Sol, thus giving a hopeful nod in the direction of Euro-syndication. Albert Square with added sangria ("...and sex", natch), in other words, although Smith provoked much ridicule when she announced it would be "more escapist than Eastenders" (cf. STAB IN THE DARK). From the start it was buggered - the dodgy Spanish workforce hired to build the set resulted in much Carry On Abroad-style "Hotel Elsbels" anti-publicity, and by the time WOGAN dutifully gave up his thrice-weekly 7pm slot, press vultures were gathered for a sarky banquet to beat even Blackeyes hollow.

And what a show they had to smack up. Aside from the Dirty Den Mk II of JESSE "SCUM" BRIDSALL's Marcus Tandy, who could have been made more rounded with the addition of a top hat and waxed moustache, there was corny 'generation gap' lovin' couple Bunny Warren and 'Fizz', various sub-Manuel Spanish characters, and a bunch of 'youth interest' types (Drew and Nisa, anyone?) to make you really appreciate the Hollyoaks gang's keen grasp of the Method. The pish SIMON MAY faux-latino theme tune came out as a single, "When You Go", in the manner of his pish EastEnders theme. It was crap from day one basically, and everyone in the country knew it. Panic stations in London and over in Malaga. Producers quit, hackwriters were fired and hired, characters excised like mad. You could say the remote disaster was to the BBC what Apocalypse Now! was to Hollywood, except that turned out to be a good film and this never had a chance of being anything more than a 10 million quid tax loss. Some maintain that towards the end it was improving, which may have been the case (it couldn't get much worse), but alas the decision had already been taken, and eventually Alan Yentob did the decent thing. The show was hastily wound up, ending less than spectacularly with Tandy's flash sports car exploding from a bomb, and magically turning into a rather cheaper car a fraction of a second before it did so. Thus exit the 'Rado, as crummily as it entered, providing ample space for reruns of Dad's Army. They never, ever, tried that again. Until Castles.

REASON FOR INCLUSION -"Lest we forget..."
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The last Eastenders star has left Albert Square "to pursue a recording career."

FULL SWING (1996)
AFTER BIG BREAK HAD been a decent success for the Beeb, they decided to commission a further cheapo teatime quiz along the same lines. Except the format was so derivative that even the most cretinous Davidson fan could see that the show was just Big Break with "snooker" scribbled out and "golf" written in. So, the Beeb found another washed-up old comic, and on strode The World's Most Famous Golfer, JIMMY TARBUCK, to the crappiest studio set in the history of light entertainment - an astroturfed floor which was meant to "represent" a golf course. Three luckless punters were teamed with "celebrities", including the likes of GARETH HUNT, KENNY LYNCH and FLOELLA BENJAMIN, and the aim was to "putt as many balls as you can" - do you see? Only a small part of the gameshow "element" can be recalled, thankfully - the first round employed a "virtual reality" golf hole, consisting of a special tee attached to infra-red beams, wires and the like, with a massive videowall display (no more than a jumped-up PGA Tour Golf II, really); they played a bit on the astroturfed set (complete with bunkers, lakes and other hazards) and the punter who came last in the first round went on to play "Crazy Consolation", and whoever lost in the second round did "Charity Consolation". The final involved the punter and their "celebrity" partner hitting balls at a target and winning cheap and nasty prizes in the process. The last edition invited viewers to become contestants in the next series, but thankfully this never happened. And just to prove that BBC1 hadn't gone downmarket, each episode was foillowed by the equally cerebral Pets Win Prizes.

REASON FOR INCLUSION -There are worst sights than John Virgo dressed as a panto dame.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Frank Skinner presents "Winning Goal", a teatime game show where you've got to "kick as many balls as you can" - with Stan Collymore as referee or something.

GAMESMASTER/BAD INFLUENCE! (early 1990s)
AH, COMPUTERS, eh? Where would we be without them? I'll tell you - watching TV instead of reading about it on silly websites. The 1990s will be known as the decade of the computer, Of That There Is No Doubt. But how did television cover this onslaught? Well, back in the early 80s, when the home computer started its rise to fame, there was a plethora of computer-related programming (MAGIC MICRO MISSION, MICRO LIVE!, THE COMPUTER PROGRAMME, VIDEO & CHIPS), which tended to be rather...specialist in their outlook (and were usually presented by Fred Harris). The 90s, however, saw an explosion in gaming (remember the Megadrive? The SNES? The 3DO?), with better graphics and bigger sales. TV responded amicably with two shows.

Channel 4's Gamesmaster first introduced us to the delights of DOMINIK DIAMOND, starred a digitally-squashed PATRICK MOORE as "The Gamesmaster", and was usually set in some obscure, inaccessible place (oil rig, submarine, dungeon). It combined a healthy dose of game reviews, cheats (dispensed by an oblivious Moore in the Consoletation Chamber), news and the obligitary celebrity contest on some game or other (for the prize of a golden joystick) with Diamond's double-entendres, insulting jokes, piss-takes of kids and filmed bollocks from The Latest Trade Exhibition, usually crammed full of irony. The show lasted a surprisingly long time in the ultra-fast-moving arena of computer games, although much criticism was heaped on after the hiring of punchable Cock-er-ney and one-time Press Ganger DEXTER FLETCHER in place of Diamond after he left in a storm over the show's decision to receive sponsorship from McDonalds. Our sarky Scottish friend came back for the last series, and it died. Now he can be found in the Daily Star, ferrchrissakes!

Bad Influence! occupied the more traditional 4:45 slot on ITV. Generally acknowledged as "shite", it took pretty much the same route as GM - full of reviews, cheats, news etc., but set in a boring Going Live!-sized studio. Presenters were the fabled ANDY CRANE (now to be heard on tinpot local radio in the North-West) and VIOLET BERLIN, who we assume was a, erm, "cyberbabe", on account of the fact that she had spiky hair and wore tight tops. BI! was much more pedestrian than GM, and almost had a "motherly" approach with frequent items about the "serious" application of computing - of course this led to mass switching-over. Game reviews were performed by "the kids", and never got more complex than "Yeah, I think this game is great!", and in a failed attempt to attain cool-dom, the tips and cheats were brought to us by a stupid mad skinhead character called "Nam Rood". He shouted and gesticulated, had those bizarre "cheat codes" written on a piece of card which he stuck to his head ("ABCBCAB START" etc), and always referred to the viewers as "furtlers". Extensive research tells us that "furtling" is a synonym of "masturbation", thus he was calling all of you "wankers". Every time Violet linked back from him she said "Oh, he's bonkers, he is", obviously indicating to us the viewers that he was rather contrived, in fact. Easily forgettable, except for the innovative "Datablast", which compressed all of the information from the show onto a rapidly-changing display above the credits. You had to record it ("Get your video recorder ready!" quoth ver Crane) and freeze-frame through it to glean addresses, phone numbers etc. It was
dead exciting first time round, but once you'd read through the forty pages of useless rubbish you didn't bother again.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - Neither show had an associated website where you can find the latest news, reviews and cheats, at the click of a mouse!
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Andy Crane is on This Is Your Life.

GET STUFFED! (1991-4)
"GET STUFFED! GET STUFFED! GET STUFFED YEAHHH!" went the theme to this tip-top cookery-for-the-people five-minuter found late at night on ITV, predating Fern Britton and the "Naked" Chef by ohh, at least a hundred years. Point: demonstrate to viewer how to make quick, simple, cheap but TASTY meal using basic ingredients. Presentation format was decidedly "zoo", with the usual suspects of shaky camera work, shouting, cheapo hand-drawn illustrations on cardboard and comedy songs in the background all present and correct. Show's pair of hosts were different each time, but never deviated much from saggy long-haired male student and sexy indie-chick female student. One slightly older chap called Andy cropped up on a regular basis. "Today, we're going to show you how to make chili con carne/mince & jacket potato/pasta something-or-other". First off to the grocer's to get some ingredients..."You'll need some potatoes!" "A cabbage!" Each were shown to camera to avoid confusion. Then go home, lay out all ingredients, and announce show's inimitable catchphrase: "Now, we'll do some cooking, but first we must WASH OUR HANDS!" Without fail, every time. Then the cooking started, in zany in-and-out camera fashion interspersed with crudely-done marker-pen drawings of potatoes with faces, cartoon men turning ovens down, 10 MINUTES GAS MARK 4 wrote large and other weird shit, all constantly backed by punkish guitar-thrashing and lyrics echoing what was happening ("Wash the broccoli!" wakka-wakka "Stick it in the pan!" weeoww). Occasionally, action was interrupted by the MYSTERY CHEFS!, two properly-uniformed cooks with plastic masks who just did something strange/comedic for about ten seconds then went away again, in true TISWAS style. Actually one of the Mystery Chefs was Andy, the regular host, who turns out to be one of the producers. That is it, really. How useful it was is unknown, but it made for great fun in between WCW Wresting and American Gladiators on Granada on a Friday night. Was parodied to great effect by Graham Linehan and friend in "Sorted!" Home Office advice sketch on THE DAY TODAY, and to a lesser degree on a Corn Flakes ad (ie it was shit). Produced by the aptly-named Last Ditch Television.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - "Zany"; "madcap".
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Ready Steady Cook is taken off the air after horrific fire in "kitchen" kills all...only joking, readers!

THE GIRLIE SHOW (1994-7)
DAILY MAIL WRITERS and other reactionary folk would describe this Channel 4 three-series outing as the female equivalent of FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE - but at least that show was watchable to people who would only buy magazines with women on the cover if they were properly dressed. The Girlie Show - produced by those arbiters of quality and distinction, Rapido TV - could only be viewed through glasses not dissimilar to those recommended for proper viewing of the recent solar eclipse, for this was one of the programmes which led the Mail to brand then-C4 chief Michael Grade "Britain's pornographer-in-chief". Taking up THE WORD's schedule position, the show brought mouthy 19 year old Boltonian SARA COX, whose style was once memorably described as "attempting to remember her lines before being enveloped in green chiffon", to the world's attention (thanks!). Her cohorts on the series were JENNIFER COX and American supermodel RACHEL WILLIAMS, who may have been lesbian (ooh, controversial) and definitely went on to appear in a George Michael video. The contents - interviews in club toilets, video diaries of girls out on the pull, features on supermodels and Charlie's Angels, and much drinking/fighting/use of the word "hunky"/use of the phrase "tragic man" - defined ladetteism well before the term was coined. J. Cox pissed off after one series complaining that the show's style was not what she had been led to believe, although this is easy to understand given that Channel 4 commissioned some viewer research on the first series and found that the main viewing audience was comprised of men over 60. C4 promised changes, but evidently forgot by the time it returned to our screens. At this stage, men were clearly outnumbering women in the studio audience. Oh, and lest we forget, "Wanker Of The Week", in which a celebrity was nominated as the week's most, erm, disagreeable man, the prize being a sub-Stilgoe comedy song. Williams and Cox's replacement (name lost in the mists of time) quit after the second series, claiming rows with the production team and misleading career advice. S. Cox carried on regardless for a third series, this time joined by tiny bottle-redhead SARAH CAWOOD, incongrously moving to the show from kid's channel Nickelodeon. Beat that, Gail Porter. The style changed slightly, in that men were nearly becoming accepted as an equal sex, and there were now interviews ("'e's gorgeous!" style), a weekly live band and Supermodel Sweep, in which a supermodel swept the floor (do you see?) Without this, we would never have had Something For The Weekend. Er, hang on...

REASON FOR INCLUSION - No, Miss Cox, we haven't conveniently forgotten just because you're now a major star...
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Granada Men And Motors overtakes Sky One in the TV ratings.

JUST FOR LAUGHS (most of the decade)
(i) A STAPLE OF bank holiday and Saturday afternoons on ITV for many years, these shows compiled unfunny clips of unfunny British films. This was done in a random manner that made it impossible to work out when each clip began and ended and what films they were taken from. It was sometimes called Make Em Laugh, but the mix of bad editing and 'Ooh, what the hell's his name? Is it Norman Rossington?' argument sparking was the same in both cases. Produced by Gerald Thomas, but more Carry on Columbus than Cleo.

(ii) A STAPLE OF late nights on Channel 4 for many years, these shows compiled unfunny clips of unfunny American comedians. Recorded at the Montreal Comedy Festival (like the Edinburgh Festival, but even more rubbish and overrated), the programmes admittedly gave early exposure to Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Hicks, but also gave exposure to a thousand other yank acts who all did the same material about their girlfriends and their dogs (sometimes these could be merged into one if they were from the Deep South) and have all now got eponymous sitcoms on NBC. The programmes normally lasted about two hours, and, just so we didn't get bored, a few of 'Us Crazy Brits' would be added to the bill, all of whom would face the ashen-faced Canadians in the audience and die on their arses - this was especially true in the case of Jerry Sadowitz and Reeves & Mortimer. Show had a "mascot" - a horrible little green ugly monster, who bounded around the title sequence pushing the words 'Just For Laughs' along the screen (no explanation was ever offered). It's still going, but now only plays to an audience of about three people on Channel Five. All of whom have indeed noticed that sometimes when women ask if this dress makes her look fat, she'll complain if you say yes! It's true, though, isn't it...

REASON FOR INCLUSION - A prime example/two prime examples of cheap television/shite television.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Rich Hall leaves the UK for the last time.

THE LEGACY OF REGINALD PERRIN (1996)
AH, PERRIN. One of the truly great comedy series of the 1970s, with a masterful performance by Leonard Rossiter, who really stole the show. In comparison, most of the other characters were one-dimensional, most only really existing as catchphrases. So, what a great idea it was to resurrect the series twelve years after Rossiter's death, without Perrin featuring at all, but with the other characters taking centre stage. Amazingly, it was commissioned, so the first episode began with - yes! - the reading of Perrin's will, where the cast were asked to do something absurd to claim a share of his money. This scene ended up lasting practically the entire first programme, because there were a dozen characters and everybody had to have lines. In many cases, these were just their catchphrases, regardless of whether they were funny or not (ie, "Would you like a cup of tea, CJ?" "I didn't get where I am today by having a cup of tea", and so endlessly on), and the amount of innovation in the series could be spotted by the fact that one of the new characters was someone who always said "wicked!" - you see, a bit like "great" and "super". In the last episode it was decided that what they'd done hadn't been interesting enough and they'd just wasted their time. Which is more or less what the viewers thought as well.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - to show 70s sitcom writers could be just as bad as 90s sitcom writers. See also the remake
of THE LIVER BIRDS produced after the death of [spit] Carla Lane's comedic talent.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - cryogenics makes it possible to literally resurrect sitcoms. "In tonight's Steptoe and Son,
Harold is upset when he brings a girl home to find Albert's rigor mortis setting in..."

THE LIVING SOAP (1993)
PART OF the mainly-poor Def II strand on BBC2 apres 6pm, this was an attempt at a British version of the even less plausible The Real World on MTV. It featured several students in Manchester, at the height of the 'Madchester' scene, sharing a house for a year, and being filmed in the process. This house was, to say the least, not your average student pad. Poverty was not an issue with these kids, which of course was why they signed up to it in the first place, but the inevitable national figure-of-fun status awaiting them seemed to be worth it, they thought. The thing was supposed to run for the entire academic year, but it was such a disaster that the weekly editions were pulled, and the remaining material was edited into a couple of compilations tucked away at about midnight, and narrated by...Brian Cant. Each character, to start with, had a programme devoted to themselves, for us to laugh at them on an individual basis. Characters "we loved to hate" included the sad, lecture-skiving, sub-Pearl Jam heavy metaller wandering about and playing the bass in his basement flat, before getting a job at the Virgin Megastore
very easily; and Asian girl "Spider", who notoriously got a brick through her window, which she claimed it was a racist attack. To be fair, that probably had a degree of truth, but she didn't seem to be able to link "going on TV and behaving like a completely clueless, arrogant, self-obsessed twat" with "being disliked rather strongly". She also wanted to become a TV presenter in the Caitlin Moran mould. Didn't. Unbelievably (or perhaps not), The Independent recently resurrected the idea on Wednesdays, with the exact same mix of rancour, decay and tedium.

REASON FOR INCLUSION - How many do you need?
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - We actually hear from any of them again.


© PPI, Ian Tomkinson, Stephen Williams, Ed Lomas, Ian Jones, Simon Tyers, Chris Hughes, Mike Jones MCMXC

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