ITV Night Time - GO TO BED!!
IT TOOK Channel Four's Charlie Parsons to uncover the long-dormant potential of what those who've never set foot inside a pub like to call "post-pub TV" - that is to say, cheap, prurient telly, totally lacking in any redeeming features whatsoever, made by airy, calculating upper-middles for the drunken masses they so despise. But, before it became a Terry Christian-fronted "cultural phenomenon", good old ITV-in-the-regions was pioneering putting stuff on screen after 12am other than the test card. On some occasions, they actually improved on the "TV-AM begins at 5.55AM" captions. Mostly they didn't. It wasn't pretty, we make no bones about that. But it was there, it was watched (by someone), and, as they say round here, it's going in regardless -
AMERICA'S TOP TEN (1987-90) ITV
"HELLO, I'm Casey Kasem," beamed the garishly-sweatered host at the start of this imported Billboard countdown-cum-cheap syndicated overnight time filler, standing behind a director's chair, sweeping his arm and clenching his fist in a matey fashion. More famous in this country as the voice of Shaggy( "like, make with the club sandwich with an olive in the top, Scoob, while I hide from the janitor in the vampire costume!"), the Kase soon became a familiar face to post-pub revellers over here, although it's said that AT10 was the pawn in a game for bored ITV regional schedulers, who attempted to place it at a different time every week. Music largely risible - the likes of Atlantic Starr, Starship, "...aaand from Shrews-burry, England, at number eight with China In Your Hand, it's T'Pau!" Yeah, cheers. There was always a dreary trivia question at the end too, usually sent in from poor fat sod watching the show on WXKZ or something. Sadly, the Kase's all-time classic quote concerning U2 never made it to air - "The band members are Bono on vocals, lead guitarist Dave Evans, nicknamed The Edge, and - oh, this is bullshit. These guys are from England and who gives a shit?" You tell 'em, jumperboy.
THE BEAT (1991-94) ITV
AHH, the early nineties. Kingmaker! Utah Saints! The Frank And Walters! Gary Crowley walking round in a circle! A low-rent weekly NME-friendly indie compendium, featuring various sessions, interviews (if people like it then that's just a bonus), videos, and coming up later, we've got Flowered Up in concert from the Astoria. Notable also for The Crowmans pioneering use of the word"Hiya", as recently adopted by Jo Whiley. See also Friday night metal equivalent, Raw Power.
THE BIG E (1992-94) LWT
HEY, it's 1992, and we're all European now. So that means we have to sit up to 3am to watch a terrible continental pop culture wrap-up, featuring Nino Firetto, does it? Big on po-faced French rappers inveighing against Nazis, Aids etc. Mainly remembered for dismal interviewing barber, asking dim-witted questions while cutting the locks of that bloke off The Shamen, but most "famously" (a very relative term in this semi-watched netherworld) Oliver Reed. Reed was in a very grim mood and so the interview did not exactly go swimmingly. The questions were like: "So, er..I hear you were once in the British Army..?" "Yeah. Got a problem with that, frog?" At the end the barber made the unwise choice of making fun of his interviewee by putting a silly hat on his "customer"'s head when he had finished cutting. Reed promptly leapt up out of his chair and beat the shit out of him. The classic Nighttime TV snakebite-addled-teenage-viewer-holding ploy of promising a glimpse of "some tits" later on was increasingly employed as the nation's youth turned away from the European Union as a valid political idea and towards same as a sort of laugh-at-the-silly-foreigners affair, but with tits (see Eurotrash, but not on this site.)
BUSHELL ON THE BOX (1996)
As part of the "hip", "trendy" new ITV overnight schedules, on came a programme which featured STAN BOARDMAN, DUNCAN NORVELLE and BERNARD MANNING on a number of occasions. Once heralded by Select magazine as "the worst programme ever made", each programme would be presented by the eponymous Bluto from his horrible stone clad house with a working bar in the living room, where he'd meet a series of stag night comedians, slag off everything on the BBC, and letch over a bunch of page three girls. It went on for 52 consecutive weeks, as well. Unsurprisingly a Carlton production. Typical quote - "Look who's at the door - LWT's Femi Oke!" We await the AA Gill Television Programme with baited breath...
CINEMATTRACTIONS (1989-91) ITV via some naff US outlet
GRISLY movie news (but, crucially, not reviews) show linked clips of Lethal Weapon II, Die Hard II and other exciting films that were out in the US but wouldn't be seen here for about eight months with the sturdy voice of STEVE MACK. Punning title was supposedly formed from 'cinema' plus 'attractions', but looked more like 'cinema traction', in all senses. As the '90s really got into gear, this Yank vehicle was replaced with the homegrown CINEMA, CINEMA, CINEMA (a late-night companion to the late,lamented MOVIES, MOVIES, MOVIES), which was exactly the same.
CUE THE MUSIC (1990-93) ITV
SILVER-haired Supersonic supremo Mike Mansfield came out of retirement to host live music showcase, in time-honoured fashion,from a TV gallery control desk ("...aaand cue the music!"). Usually featured cutting-room sweepings of Beverley Craven at the Albert Hall, the ever-popular Camel, etc etc. Featured two idiots gooning about behind yer Mansfield as he made his deadpan intros - comments from various insomniacs that one of them looked like Tony Slattery led to The Slatt actually appearing on several episodes, to almost devastating comic effect (pretending to be a sumo wrestler one week and then being a nun or something the next.) See also early night-time concert slot, Thames Rockpile from 1987, typically including ancient live footage of Dave Edmunds, just after reruns of The Kit Curran Radio Show (qv).
DONAHUE (late 80s - mid 90s)
THE silver-haired mic-wielder himself, king of the ITV nightime schedules even before they went 24-hour. Not much to report, except he was always on your television when you rolled in from the pub at 11:30. 80s Springer, perhaps, but a) with 30 years more experience than Springer, and b) with bags more tact and bags less sensationalism than Springer. Retired in 1996 after notching up those 30 (count 'em!) years of audience/guest interaction. Met his wife when she was a guest on the show (we'd like to see Springer marry one of the trailer-park white trash whores he gets on his circus).
THE HIT MAN AND HER(1988-91) Granada
ALMOST unique nightclub-based Saturday night marathon passing quickly into pub-bound TV legend. Actually rather bad, at the "helm" were thhe less-than-dream ticket of despotic eighties Hit Factory svengali and railway buff Pete Waterman and stick-thin ex-Wide Awake Clubber Michaela Strachan. Invariably broadcast from dress to impress, ladies free B4 11pm-type nitespot, usually Mr Smiths in Warrington. Exactly what was supposed to be gained from broadcasting extensive footage of gawky moustachioed northern chancers (including, tellingly enough, about half of what were to become Take That) dancing appallingly to SAWs Packjammed With The Party Posse, with a live PA from The London Boys if you were lucky, is unclear, but now it looks a folly. Pete always wore a sober suit.
THE JAMES WHALE RADIO SHOW and derivatives (1989-96) ITV
TRANSFERRED from radio (God knows, or cares, where), this plucky and "controversial" show kept the original title, to heartbreakingly ironic effect (see also THE GRUMBLEWEEDS RADIO SHOW). The bearded homunculus in charge was a hate-filled, hate-inspiring figure, taking on all-comers on the phone in what proved to be a try out for late '90s medium wave no-go area Talk Radio (which The Whale quickly moved to). Basically a rubbish radio chat show on the telly, with Whale sat at a mixing desk then in later shows in Radio Aire reception, he had guests and took calls from punters, utilising an all-powerful button-in-the-hand to kick out anyone who came on with "Oh, you ignorant cu-" type comments (which was, predictably enough, everyone). Videos (from the likes of late-period PiL, late-period DuranDuran, late-period Spandau Ballet etc.) modified the tedium. Later the shower moved up a gear for WHALE ON..., a proper TV chat show, with early appearances by Charlie Chuck, "streetkids" painting murals in the background, and token "outrageous" content (characterised by Peter Baynham as "the bit where a lady comes on in just her bra, and James Whale smiles.") Mid-'90s, it went one further and became THE JAMES WHALE SHOW, drafting in top "showbiz gossip" kid Baz Bamigboye, top punchable camp waistcoated Tory MP (as was) Jerry Hayes, and a very fat lawyer who helped with garden shed planning permission-type disputes from viewers' letters. All were produced by Mike "Cue The Music" Mansfield. They've stopped doing it completely, now.
NIGHT NETWORK (1987-89) LWT
TYPICALLY eighties weekend flagship overnight showcase, fronted by the likes of Tom Watt, fresh out of EastEnders, and Mick Brown, fresh out of, erm, Pat and Mick. Mainly remembered for Emma Freud's pyjamaed in-bed-interview strand PILLOW TALK, but also very big on reruns of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY. Not remembered at all (except by Lee & Herring) for the dire LEEE'S PLACE, wherein top walking typo and ex-Imagination singer Leee John "ran" a "bar" which played host to some soul "legends" for much dreary banter. Some kind of quiz show involving Nicholas Parsons also springs to mind, although that may have just been a dream...
NIGHT SHIFT (early '90s)
FANTASTIC 5 minute show which popped up every now and then to even out schedules. All that happened was Mr Bennet from Take Hart (also from the Prudential "There may be trouble ahead" pregnant wife advert) would go around bugging people who had to work in the middle of the night. Normally he'd just sit around with some security guard or fireman tidying up the station, but there was occasionally a bit of excitement. Once he followed an emergency glazier around, and he had to fix the window of a shop which had been vandalised. The best bit was the end, where he'd say something crap like "He's on the night shift, and so are we. See you next time.", then walk off camera. The credits had about three people on them.
QUIZ NIGHT (most of the decade) GRANADA
ONE-TIME Noth-West-only, then nationwide, woeful arsefest hosted by the mighty STUART HALL (in contractual obligation mode). Supposedly like a pub quiz, but with all the fun removed, it featured two teams of pub blokes, very similar to Masterteam (qv), even down to having "hilarious" team names, eg "The Middleford Munchers". Half-an-hour of the usual average-intelligence questions, with no "In A Spin"-style shenanighans to divert attention from its blandness. Studio was just like a pub - Hall was the "landlord", see, and his desk had beer pump handles on it, like a real pub. TED ROBBINS took over the "mantle" in later years.
SPORT AM (1990-94) HTV
GNOMIC Celtic anchorman Bob Symonds was your genial host for this Monday night third-rate sportsfest. Opening titles showed proto-Wallace plasticene man jumping out of his bed to the sound of a ringing alarm clock, rushing downstairs and switching on the telly. Typical line-up consisted of some European golf (Belgian Open, usually), a bit of boxing (the WBO straw-weight championship from the Philippenes) and a round-up of the weekend's goals from Portugal. Has recently been trounced in the unwatched sport stakes by Channel5's Live and Dangerous.
VIDEOFASHION (1990-93) ITV
DREADFUL American show about what was "hot" and what was "not" on the international fashion runways. Had a smarmy female voiceover, interviews with designers and models you'd never heard of, and lots of shaky camera work mixed with anonymous Eurodance tracks (that's the 'video' bit). Barely recalled. See also "BPM" for exactly the same shaking camera & music tack, this time concerning the dance music "scene", but with no actual content.
© PPI, Chris Hughes, Chris Lyons, Ed Lomas, Ian Tomkinson, Ronke Jolaoso, Steve Williams MCMXC
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