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
"EPIC", "GRAND", "spectacular", "ambitious" are all words which fail to adequately describe this memorable 92-part Indian drama parked neatly at 3:15pm on BBC2 for a couple of years (yep, 92, that's not a typo). The dramatisation of many folk tales of that culture, its heady mix of retina-burning chromakeyed special effects and chop/change film/video presentation left an indelible mark on the memory of many a student still recovering from the previous night's "excesses". Characters being sliced from top to bottom with huge swords, shields casting giant bolts of lightning....mere words cannot convey the impact this series had. Let's just say you had to see it first-hand to appreciate the gravity of the situation.
REASON FOR INCLUSION -
It's the ultimate serial.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Granada Plus desperately need some stuff to show.
MANHATTAN CABLE/RING MY BELL (1990/92)
YIKES! Professional irritant LAURIE PIKE sat in front of a video camera in her New York home and cooed about the "wacky" people you get hosting public access TV shows in America. Bung it in the post, along with a few examples of said hilarity, and Channel 4 will do the rest. Easy. All that is recalled at this stage is the man who presented a chat show from his bath ("He's, like, been doing it for, like, ten years, like, wow, isn't that amazing? He's crazy!"). "Tits" may also have featured, in a "keep watching, boys!"-type fashion. Cuh, those cheeky Americans. The pain intensified when Pike moved on to her second, British-made project, an "experimental" chat show where you the viewer were invited to call in and actually "chat" with various star guests, who were each sat in their own little mock-up room, waiting by the phone for someone to "ring their bell". One recalls a viewer swearing at Mary Whitehouse, and the fat one out of PM Dawn looking bemused. And Judge Pickles may have offended women. Didn't really work, the action was too fast-paced as they kept cutting from one guest to another. Also "Pardon? Sorry, I can't hear you, it's a terrible line."
REASON FOR INCLUSION -
Live TV should be supported.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Channel 4 end their obsession with all things Yank-shaped.
THE MARY WHITEHOUSE EXPERIENCE (1990-92)
"OOO-WEE, YOU BUGGER!" Around the turn of the decade, Radio 1 decided that its comedy output could go a little further than Adrian Juste and his grab-bag of bits nicked off £3.99-from-Poundstretcher stand-up compilation tapes. Victor Lewis-Smith and Chris Morris were among those to benefit, and four "cutting-edge" stand-ups - ROB NEWMAN, DAVID BADDIEL, STEVE PUNT and HUGH DENNIS - took their midnight slot to Monday-at-9 BBC2 and won instant acclaim, their show quickly becoming the 1990s equivalent of Top Of The Pops - talk of the playground on the morning after. Fondly remembered it is too. On a stark, industrial set, with giant fans spinning and the like, they stood there and delivered their juicy pop-culture material with an ultra-cynical edge, and a venom not often seen. Looking pretty didn't hinder, either. Fully quotable, as wont for the target audience - memorable sequences include History Today, with Newman & Baddiel as child-imitating professors - "See that Peter Beardsley? That's you, that is."; Ray, The Man With A Sarcastic Tone Of Voice - "Oh, boo-hoo! I've been run over! What a personal disaster!"; "Things People Shout At People On The Television - number 1: Jim Rosenthal" "YOU KNOW NOTHING!"; The School Spanner; expert dissection of reasons behind "M. KHAN IS BENT" graffiti on North Circular Road bridge. Less good also-ran stuff was usually from Punt & Dennis ("Milky milky!" etc.). Lasted for three series, and birthed a new phenomenon - tie-in book that was actually funny (The MWE Encyclopaedia). After, Punt & Dennis quickly retracted back into Jasper Carrott assistance, ad voice-overs and the like, but pretty boys Newman & Baddiel went stellar, with subsequent "In Pieces" TV outing and ball-breaking Wembley Arena sell-out, Fantasy Leagues and other top projects (see one below). Now both write books, just like everyone else in the industry. Theme tune was a version of the fantastic "Jack To The Sound Of The Underground" by Hithouse ("Picture this. In a studio somewhere far, far away"), and the show always ended by rewinding itself over the credits. A Spitting Image production, strangely.
REASON FOR INCLUSION -
Without this, there would be no Fist Of Fun.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The "guys" get together for that inevitable 'comeback' tour.
MONARCHY: THE NATION DECIDES (January 1997)
EASILY the most recent "member" of the Cream stable, this woefully misguided attempt at sparking national debate on whether the Royal Family are worth keeping serves as a potent symbol of post-consolidation ITV. Coming to you at 8pm, live for two hours from the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, anchored by Sir Trevor McDoughnut with Roger Cook and John Stapleton assisting, it attempted to roll all sides of the argument into one, easy-to-swallow programme which allowed the viewer to absorb all viewpoints and make their decision known via one of those bastard 0891 phonelines at the end. Show simply wasn't thought through properly - mistake number one was to invite an audience of 3,000 people, who after only five minutes or so made their presence felt by cheering, jeering and heckling virtually any point raised, whichever side of the argument it came from. Trev acted as the neutral host, but even when he set out new topics to discuss (eg "Are the royals value for money?") he would be stopped mid-sentence by a barrage of cat-calling. Cook chaired the panel of celebs sat at a huge semi-circular desk underneath a giant crown - a rota of constitutional "experts", journalists, authors and other tossers with any eight on stage at a particular time. He had trouble keeping the arguing heads in line, FREDERICK FORSYTHE in particular being generally abrasive - very annoyed by MP Paul Flynn's constant interruptions and the audience's yelping - on more than one occasion he pointed his pencil at the crowd and told them that the Royals "keep you in jobs!". Republican CLAIRE RAYNER had difficulty explaining why she chose to accept her MBE despite her wish that the monarchy be disposed of. John Stapleton did the The Time The Place "people" thang and wandered round the rabble with a mic, occasionally stopping to chat to a royalist or a republican - of course they were shouted down no matter which side they took. PETER STRINGFELLOW popped up at one point, announcing himself as an "international businessman", to much derison. And TESSA SANDERSON claimed she wouldn't have felt so proud on the rostrum at the Olympics had they been playing "God Save The President" or something. Yeah right. Breathing space for the crew was provided by usual filmed bollocks from, amongst others, pre-shame JEFFREY ARCHER and ANDREW NEIL, and ad breaks were bumpered by pointless "vox pops" from celebs of the calibre of BARBARA WINDSOR, HENRY COOPER, STEPHEN HENDRY, WENDY RICHARD, SAM JANUS, LESLEY JOSEPH. Silly Ready Steady Cook-style card-aloft antics at regular intervals provided instant audience opinion on particular questions. Came back after NEWS AT TEN to announce results of phone poll - no-one told ITV that phone votes are completely unscientific and cannot be held up as an official verdict. 66% of the claimed two million callers voted yes to the main question "do we need a monarchy?",a low figure but this was pre-Diana. Intended as a regular current-affairs jaunt for ITV, we never saw its like again. A complete and utter disaster, thus one of the best programmes of the 1990s by a country mile. Can you guess which particular ITV company produced it? That's right - Carlton.
REASON FOR INCLUSION -
Far too many to list - Frederick Forsyth telling at at least three co-panellists to "shut up", Bernard Ingham calling Andrew Morton a "daft little lad", several panellists claiming that they'd never been on such a poorly-produced television programme, Cook's and Stapleton's pleas to the audience to "pipe down, let them have their say"...
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Carlton lose their franchise. Or complete their intended world domination.
NAKED CITY (1992-3)
PRE-WORD youth cobblers from Channel Four, fronted by "voluptuous, flame-haired" kaftan-ed journo CAITLIN MORAN ("Naked Ci-tay", as she'd have it), originally presented from what was supposedly her "boudior", usually opening with a lengthy, self-indulgent monologue about how ace the new Nirvana album was, or how much she fancied Keanu Reeves, and how "I'm not a goth, really!" inbetween seemingly unrelated music/generic "youthcentric" filmed features. This special charm was deemed insufficient for the second series, so the whole thing was relocated to a stylised rooftop set with studio audience, and Moran was "bolstered" by a fledgling JOHNNY VAUGHAN (whose career apex came when he egged on Tony Banks in a joint-rolling contest), as well as Cream-sueing NME wits COLLINS AND MACONIE on a sofa. Regular feature 'Who's in the House?' featured "Who's in the House?" by The Beatmasters and Merlin. Nothing had changed, really. And so it ended.
REASON FOR INCLUSION -
Er... it isn't The Word.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Vaughan is buried.
THIS LITTLE-SEEN but well-remembered late-night comedy came to Channel Four via the usually bland-as-hell Alomo Productions (Birds of a Feather, etc.) and detailed the surreal, meandering night activities of three office block nightwatchmen - the literate, ambitious Carter (ROBERT "WOLFIE" LINDSAY); thick, Botham-mulleted Bell (DAVID THRELFALL); and the kindly old Sarge (JAMES ELLIS, who harked back to his old Z-CARS role with a little Dixon of Dock Green-type summing up speech to camera at the end of each show). Obsessions and incidents along the way included wanking teenage werewolves, a new recruit who turned out to be a gorilla with a penchant for "Excerpts from a Teenage Opera", a pregnant woman who pissed off the lads by giving birth to consumer goods in an obvious Christmas allegory, "Is anybody there?" "Nobody here but us chickens!", Pinter, Pinter and more Pinter. Managed two series, despite being as strange as writer PAUL MAKIN could make it.
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Proof that maverick sitcoms can still exist in the time of Chalk...
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Those fucking Alomo jokers flip for the last time.
ON THE AIR (1992)
DAVID LYNCH did a sitcom. You heard right. After the unexpected mainstream success of Twin Peaks, the man who made Cronenberg look like Michael Winner decided, with 'Peaks production partner Mark Frost, to turn his attention to comedy. ABC thought this would be a good move. They clearly hadn't seen any of his films, then. Set in a tacky '50s TV station, the show detailed the haphazard backstage goings-on during the bizarre Lester Guy variety show, with airhead showgirls, incomprehensible east European directors, nervy producers, Blinky the hallucinating electrician and the Hurry-up Twins conspiring to make up a mess of bizarre chaos, like the Muppet Show acted by real people but written by a load of fuzzy monsters. It was pulled after three shows in the US, but lucky BBC-2 viewers got to see the whole series. Needless to say, never recommissioned.
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Weird, barely seen, taken off air... this is Cream, all right.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Terry Gilliam's House Party is abandoned in pre-production.
POLICE ACTION LIVE! (November 1995) REASON FOR INCLUSION - That helicopter incident - unfortunately prefaced by gushing ITN engineer giving a detailed explanation on how all this wonderful technology worked, utilising little plastic helicopters and maps. True!
MORE ILL-ADVISED live transmission shenanighans from the third channel. And, like MONARCHY detailed above, it was heralded loudly as a semi-regular fixture, but never really built on the "success" of the first edition. We have El Blando himself DERMOT MURNAGHAN at the helm here, hosting the 10pm two-hour live spectacular (up against the British Legion Festival of Rememberance on BBC1, so it didn't have to try very hard) supposedly covering a typical night on the "beat" with three camera crews shadowing three police teams across the country. Of course any idiot knows that the presence of a camera crew immediately turns a situation into anything but "typical". Errors both within and outside the producers' control abounded - for instance, one team got a call that a suspect was tearing down the road not far from them, so police and camera hopped into the panda car and set off at high speed down the road, with an inconspicuous helicopter following overhead, relaying the signal. Every time the car passed under a bridge, or went slightly out of range of the chopper, the picture disappeared into a cloud of fuzz, so much so that the chase had to be pulled before they even found the escaping criminals. Back to Dermot in the studio. Another unintentionally funny segment was the trip to the team in Newcastle, attending an "incident" at a city-centre bar. The power of the images was somewhat diluted by the presence of pissed-up Geordies waving their hands shouting "Wahey!" "I'm on the telly!" "'Ello Mum!" etc etc. The fact that the camera crew were refused permission to follow the police into the bar didn't help - a few seconds were spent hanging round outside until it was back to Dermot again. Similar scenes occured in Manchester, when the local kids must've spotted on TV that the cameras were heading over to their area, so they hopped on their bikes to where the cameras were and generally got in the way. The bits inbetween, whilst they were sauntering round in the panda etc., were as dull as Dermot's tie; there are only so many ways you can ask a policeman, "What's it like being a policeman? Is it exciting?". ITV tried again a year with Fire Live!, hosted by celebrity drink-driver ALISTAIR STEWART, but unfortunately this passed off without incident. ITN did the business, sticking resolutely to vacuous and not-at-all made-up news reports thereafter.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The public gives a resounding thumbs-down to The AA: As It Happens
REASON FOR INCLUSION - That helicopter incident - unfortunately prefaced by gushing ITN engineer giving a detailed explanation on how all this wonderful technology worked, utilising little plastic helicopters and maps. True!
RAISE THE ROOF (1994)
UNSUCCESSFUL PUBLICITY-BAITING Saturday-night gameshow "event" from the dark days before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Host was the genial BOB HOLNESS, hoping to repeat major long-term impact of BLOCKBUSTERS. Show's "point" was the top prize on offer - an actual real house, thus enabling ITV to circumvent the ITC rules concerning how much money could be given away that seem so archaic now. The first couple of houses were in France etc., but soon became bog-standard "big" properties in the Cotswolds. Show itself was much less exciting than the prize on offer, and this of course led to its quick demise. General structure can only be guessed at - there were three contestants, questions were fair to quite tricky, and the final round for the house involved loads of little television screens each with an answer on. Pleasure at seeing average "Joe" win big house in Brittany soon evaporated after realisation that they'd just sell it for the cash as soon as possible. Now only notable for its all-round failure, and as the last example of the days when it was thought "distasteful" to give away sackloads of cash on telly. Tchoh! You don't get anything for winning Fifteen-To-One, except an old bit of vase found at the back of William G. Stewart's cupboard.
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Surely the biggest prize in terms of surface area ever given away.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Someone poor wins the million pounds!
A STAB IN THE DARK (1992-4)
LATE-NIGHT satire and politicised comment of the old school variety presented by Channel Four and hosted by DAVID BADDIEL, The Late Show's TRACEY "AMATEURS!" MACLEOD, and MICHAEL GOVE. The format consisted of political interviews mixed with Observer comment-style monologues delivered by the three presenters to a small studio audience standing on an odd minimalist set that seemed to consist mainly of a lot of steps. Featuring, amongst others, LEE & HERRING on writing duties, although they'd rather not go into it nowadays. BADDIEL correctly predicted the early demise of the then-nascent ELDORADO (qv), and held a memorable phone interview with a Danish official asking what he considered was so unique about the culture of Denmark (who had just voted "nej!" to the Euro-referendum) - "Well, I think the most distinctive thing is that we voted no in the referendum..."
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Satire and stairs - a winning combination in anyone's book.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The last survivor of The 11 O'Clock Show has been laid to rest.
WILDLIFE shows were to the '80s what 'people' shows were to the '90s - all over the sodding place. By 1990, the question was - how to wring the last drop of airtime out of an overused format? Supersense was the wrong answer. It attempted to out-Life Life on Earth with a barrage of "never mind the animals, look at the equipment" tricksy photography and some, let's say, over-ambitious special effects, most infamously a flock of laughable mechanical ducks chromakeyed over aerial shots of fields. The series came with its own "Making Of.." special, but then so did SUPERGRAN (qv). Attenborough and co. quaked in their boots for all of five minutes before the novelty wore off and the audience realised that the show actually had next to sod all in the way of information content. This didn't stop the Beeb reheating the concept in '99 with Supernatural, this time using the jeans ad "time slice" panning-around-frozen-images effect. Every five bloody minutes.
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Those ducks. How we all laughed.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Changing Rooms wheels out an android Carol Smillie. Hang on a minute...
TALKING TELEPHONE NUMBERS (1994-7)
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Got ten million people to remember all their relative's phone numbers "just in case"
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The BBC need another format for the midweek lottery, no doubt.
PHILLIP SCHOFIELD'S TENBALL (1994)
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Downhill all the way for Phil...Schofield's Quest, anyone?
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - The Guinness Soccer Sevens appear on Sportsnight again.
WITHOUT WALLS (1990-1994)
REASON FOR INCLUSION - Hitchen and the walnut, that oh-so-postmodern
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Melvyn Bragg next declares The South Bank Show 'relevant' to the arts.
THE 1994 WORLD CUP FINALS (1994)
FOR SURE, AFTER "turnips" and missed penalties in the 81st minute, this was the first tournament to feature neither England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland in 20 years...but wait, the REPUBLIC OF IRELAND have qualified, thus saving the day! Not quite. Mind you, all the players are English, aren't they? Yeahh! Come on Ireland! The time was ripe for a revival of Irish memorabilia...which can still be felt to this day. I certainly remember buying cans of Guinness, a practice I have never indulged in since. Yes, we were expected to get excited because Ireland are in it...unfortunately, they went out early doors and we were left with one of the most piss-poor football tournaments ever to grace our summers. Held in the "sarker"-loving USofA, with the build-up dogged by rumours of four-quarter matches and plastic pitches, it started well enough, with exciting games in the first round (stands back in amazement!) including Ireland turning Italy over. Knockout phase soon degenerated into extra-time hell, as the hot conditions took their toll on the players...or perhaps they were revealed as Just Being Shite. On the football side, many innovations took place - the first ever World Cup match played indoors (on a larger scale than your local sports hall however), those sad little electric golf carts that trundled on to the pitch at about 0.3mph to ferry injured players off the field (leaving huge tyre-marks in their wake)...but of course our interest lies in the acres and acres of TV coverage provided by the BBC and ITV. Do you recall these? The first appearance of 'score in the corner', which to this day can only be read by an electron microscope (prompting people walking in to say "what's the score?"); DES LYNAM and JIMMY HILL appearing on the trailers for World Cup Grandstand dressed in cowboy outfits complete with ten "gallon" hat and neckerchief; the mock DALLAS-style trailer for Brazil v Holland ("Starring! In Alphabetical Order - Bebeto, Dennis Bergkamp" etc etc); ITV's specially-built "media bunker" in Dallas where all operations were centered - it could have been the South Bank for all we knew. The BBC wisely chose to stay in London for the majority of the tournament, electing to decamp to the US for the final only - cue shots of Des, ALAN HANSEN and Jimmy looking very hot in the LA Rosebowl for the final; DON HOWE's general performance as ITV pundit... 1. Going out for some filmed bollocks, to meet a dubious rapping character called DR. GEEK...then, back in the studio, proceeding to embarrass both himself and the viewers by performing his very own World Cup-based rap (does anyone have this on tape?) - and 2. During Saudi Arabia v Holland, when asked by BRIAN MOORE if any of the Saudi players were worth signing, he replied "Well, the Saudis would struggle in Europe because of that problem with those prayers five times a day. You don't know if they're going to turn up for training. (pause) I'm being serious!" (Moore corrected himself during that game, played at midnight in the UK - "Well, it's Saudi 1, Holland 0 - if there are any football fans asleep upstairs, it might be a good idea to go and wake them up...um, maybe not"); DENIS LAW being funny..."Dennis, what do you think the Spanish manager will be saying to his players at half-time?" "I don't know, I don't speak Spanish"; the opening ceremony, featuring DIANA ROSS of all people doing a bit of a sing-song, then attempting to score a penalty into a five-a-side-type goal from about three yards...she missed the pen, then the goal exploded; the blanket explanation by all commentators that the reason so many crosses were being ballooned into the stand was because "FIFA are using a new ball with a special coating" (what, so the players aren't Just Being Shite again?); the unforgettable sight of John Aldridge shouting "IT'S FUCKING BOILING!" at 1pm in summer on the west coast of America; that game where the weirdly-designed goal post broke, because a player leant on the net a bit, leading to horrific 20-minute wait whilst a replacement was found (cue JOHN MOTSON: "Heh, well we've never had this situation before, heh! The goal post...is broken, heh!") and MOTTY's demotion from premier BBC commentator slot when they gave the final to B. DAVIES, who made a right poetic mess of it. Also had the last known appearances of MATTHEW LORENZO and JOHN HELM, two men who personify ITV Sport's lack of skill in the early 90s (some would say today). But Helm can read out all 92 league clubs in 26 seconds, which must be an asset to his everyday life. All in all, a triumph...the absence of any British teams seemed to spur the TV companies on to heights/depths never before seen.
Even Sir Des had trouble getting us excited about the 1994 World Cup Final...hear him trail the 1994 World Cup Final by downloading 1994wcf.mp3 (529 Kb MPEG file). That's the 1994 World Cup Final. Also includes "America" theme.
REASON FOR INCLUSION -
the day football Turned Shit™.
TO BE EXHUMED WHEN - Des goes crawling back to the BBC begging for a job, any job.
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© PPI, Ian Tomkinson, Stephen Williams, Ed Lomas, Ian Jones, Simon Tyers, Chris Hughes MCMXC
NOMINATE YOUR CHOICE OF BEST/WORST '90s TV FOR THE CAPSULE - BUT REMEMBER, THERE'S ONLY A LIMITED AMOUNT OF ROOM IN THE BOX, SO CHOOSE WISELY...SEND YOUR CORRECTIONS & ADDITIONS TO firstname.lastname@example.org