Game Show Memories – Bob’s Full House Christmas Special.

Bob’s Full House Christmas Special (BBC1, 1989)

One of my most popular blog pieces over the past year has been the one looking back at Bob’s Full House, and good thing too, because it’s one of my favourites and it really is one of the all-time classic game shows. I wondered how I could write anything else about it, so I’ve decided that because we’ve reached that time of year again I’ll review a Christmas special.

There were several Christmas specials made during the show’s run, and I’ll be reviewing the one shown in 1989 which was 40 minutes long. Bob’s Full House had been running for over five years by this point, and it would come to an end on BBC1 about a month later in January 1990. The game was the same but four celebrities took part to show off their quiz knowledge and to try and win some prizes and money for their chosen charities. vlcsnap-00003

They are Ken Bruce, who was a morning presenter on BBC Radio 2 at the time (and he still is), Debbie “no relation” Greenwood, Pamela Armstrong, and Adrian Love, another Radio 2 presenter. Bob comes on and he really has settled into the rhythm of hosting this show now, and he gives us another masterclass, beginning by saying “Merry Christmas to all our readers!” curiously, before informing us that they got the decorations at Woolworths. bob3

In the first round, they have to light their four corners. As well as playing for prizes for charity if they won the round, they would also win £10 for every number they lit, so try not to get wallied. Adrian wins this round, and selects some early learning toys from the prizes on offer, something that is definitely going to bring some seasonal splendour to the youngsters. vlcsnap-00031

In the second round, they have to light their middle line, and it’s time to bring out the Monkhouse Master Card with various categories. If they pick their Lucky Number and get the question right, they win a bonus £50. Adrian wins this round too, and selects what is vaguely described as “a karaoke” as his next prize from the selection. Well it is the latest craze. Adrian has now built up a big lead, will that give him an advantage going into the final round? vlcsnap-00036

This is the round on the buzzer where they have to light the rest of the numbers on their card. Adrian gets a full house and is the overall winner, beating Pamela by a margin of two, and this time he chooses as his prize what is simply called “a computer screen”, how terrific. Can Adrian now sweep the board by winning the star prize in the Golden Card Game? vlcsnap-00043

Adrian will be playing for a holiday like what usually happens in this round, but it won’t be for him, it’ll be for some people who will be helped out by the charity that he is representing. It’s a close finish, but Adrian is a winner, and he’s won someone a holiday to Florida, hooray! And he also added another £165 to the money he had already won! Bob then decides to light all the other contestant’s cards anyway to give them a bonus £150. This was another very enjoyable edition of what was always an entertaining show. vlcsnap-00046

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Game Show Memories – Call My Bluff.

Call My Bluff (BBC2, 1965-1988, 1994, BBC1, 1996-2005)

It’s time to review another celebrity panel game. Call My Bluff launched on BBC2 in the mid-60s and it became very popular, but the era I will be looking back at is when the show was revived on BBC1 in the mid-90s and was hosted by Bob Holness until 2003. Bob of course also hosted Blockbusters which is one of my all-time favourite game shows, and it was a pleasure seeing him on TV again.

This version of Call My Bluff was shown in a weekday daytime slot. Two celebrity teams of three took part, and when the revival began they were captained by regulars Sandi Toksvig and Alan Coren. This was a show that was all about some of the more unusual words in the English dictionary. A bell would be rung by Bob and then the word would appear on the screen. vlcsnap-00006

All three of the panellists on the team would then give a definition of what the word actually meant, and some of these could be rather far-fetched, but only one of them would be telling the truth. A member of the opposing team would then be challenged to determine which one of the definitions is correct. The chosen panellist then reveals on a piece of paper whether they gave the true definition, or if it was a bluff. If they get it right, they score one point. If they don’t, the opposing team gets the point on offer. vlcsnap-00012

After this, Bob would ring his bell to reveal the next word and the cycle begins again. There would be about six words in every show so every panellist would get at least one chance at trying to find the right definition. And although points were on offer, this was one of those shows where it didn’t really matter that much who won as long as everyone joined in. vlcsnap-00013

The revival ran for almost a decade on BBC1 to go along with the almost 25 years it ran on BBC2, and Call My Bluff is among the small amount of UK game shows of which there have been over 1,000 editions produced, and as it ran for a combined 35 years on TV it was definitely an idea that endured. I only really got to watch the show in the 90s during the school holidays sometimes but I do remember enjoying it. vlcsnap-00011

One interesting thing about the show was seeing who the panellists where. For example you knew that there were laughs guaranteed when comedians like Tim Vine who always had funny stories to tell were taking part. Another impressive thing was the remarkable amount of strange words that were featured where it really would be a challenge to determine the correct answer. It was a show where you could learn some quirky things and it had the “really, is that right, I never knew that” factor. vlcsnap-00005

The Comedy Vault – Hippies.

Hippies (BBC2, 1999)

Hippies was a sitcom that was co-created and written by Arthur Mathews who was one of the writers of the classic Father Ted along with Graham Linehan, so when it was revealed that he was working on a quirky sitcom that was going to parody life in the late-60s there was a big buzz around it as there was a chance that it could be another success with viewers.

Hippies was set in London in 1969. It centred around three young people who worked together on a counterculture magazine called Mouth, Ray (Simon Pegg), Alex (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and Jill (Sally Phillips of Smack The Pony fame). The basic idea of the show was that they thought they were at the cutting edge of everything trendy and they were really going to cause a revolution in society by publishing this magazine, but of course they totally failed in this area. hippies0001

Ray is the editor of Mouth which he puts together in his fancy Notting Hill flat, and he is helped by Alex and Jill, who Ray insists is his girlfriend, although she doesn’t seem to agree with this. Also occasionally appearing is Hugo who has a rather spaced out attitude to life even by a hippie’s standard. It’s probably not too much of a surprise to discover that most of the episodes ended up taking an unusual twist. vlcsnap-00299

Hippies was yet another late-90s BBC2 sitcom that I missed first time round that I got into after seeing a repeat run on UK Play. I know I am still going on about it but it was such a great digital channel, it repeated a lot of great sitcoms, and along with some of its original shows featuring comedy and music, it is still a channel I think fondly of even though it closed down 15 years ago now, and its nearest relative still on air is the channel Dave. vlcsnap-00307

There was only one series of Hippies made, as it received fairly average reviews from critics, and the planned second series was scrapped. There was an almost decade-long gap between Hippies ending on TV and being released on DVD. Although it doesn’t feature many extras, the DVD does come with a copy of Mouth, and there is also an amusing article looking at where the cast are now (well, in 2008 anyway when the DVD was released). vlcsnap-00310

About a couple of months before Hippies launched, another sitcom starring Simon Pegg began which was Channel 4’s much more successful Spaced, which unlike Hippies has remained popular and is fondly remembered. And while I would probably stop at saying that Hippies is a lost gem or in the same league as Father Ted, I didn’t think it was that bad at all really.

The YouTube Files – The Delicious World Of Shampoo.

Here’s yet another 90s pop group that I remember. Shampoo were a female pop duo who consisted of Jacqueline Blake (born in November 1974 in Woolwich) and Caroline Askew (born in May 1977 in Plumstead) who met at school in London and described themselves as “inseparable”. There was a lot of debate about them at the time. Were they two moody teenagers with attitude, or just a pair of airhead blondes? Well one thing’s for sure, they weren’t one-hit wonders and they had girl power for real. They didn’t have any Top Ten hits in the UK but they definitely made an impact on pop music around the world in the mid-90s, although their fame came and went rather quickly. This piece will take a look back at their music videos and TV appearances from 1993-1996 on YouTube. shampoo

After getting their big break by appearing in the video for “Little Baby Nothing” by Manic Street Preachers, Jacqui and Carrie released two singles in 1993 that weren’t hits. The first was “Blisters And Bruises”, and the second was “Bouffant Headbutt” for which a video was made. This was the song that brought them to the attention of the music magazines, winning various “single of the week” awards and tipping them to be huge, and they were often compared to Fuzzbox. vlcsnap-00327.jpg

In July 1994 they made the breakthrough when “Trouble” was released to become their first hit single, reaching no. 11, their highest chart position and also their most memorable song. One of the things that I like about this song is that there is a rhyme that is so obvious they don’t even say it: “we’d get the night bus but the night bus never came/we’re eight miles from home and it started to… (thunderclap sound effect)“. They also performed this song in the first and second of their four Top Of The Pops appearances, one of them being on that bizarre edition that experimented with a filmised look that was hosted by Malcolm McLaren. vlcsnap-00373

In October 1994 the next single “Viva La Megababes” was released which reached no. 27. Around this time they appeared on CBBC’s Live & Kicking to tell John Barrowman how much they loved Barbie dolls (they were also big fans of East 17 and Take That), they were interviewed on BBC2’s The O Zone and ITV’s late-night music show The Beat at their old school in Plumstead, and they also appeared on the cover of Melody Makershampoo1

They also performed “Viva La Megababes” on CITV’s What’s Up Doc? as the hosts including Andy Crane and Pat Sharp threw some shapes and boogied on down in the background. In November 1994 their first album “We Are Shampoo” was released, but this only reached no. 45. There was a big buzz about them around this time though, and suddenly they were appearing in all the trendy magazines including The Face, NMESmash Hits, and Select, and in December 1994 they performed at the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party shown live on BBC1 from the Docklands Arena in London. vlcsnap-00364

In February 1995 the next single “Delicious” was released which reached no. 21. They performed this on Channel 4’s late-night show The Word and they were interviewed on The O Zone again, this time at home. I remember reading an interview with Jamie Theakston where he said that Shampoo were among his least favourite interviewees from his time hosting The O Zone, describing them as “the monosyllabic queens”, and concluding “they’re not the sharpest tools in the box, let’s face it”. vlcsnap-00334

In August 1995 their biggest hit “Trouble” was re-issued, this time it reached no. 36. This was an attempt to break them in America by including the song on the soundtrack to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers film and making a new video, but it wasn’t that successful. However, it seems that for a brief period they were hugely popular in Japan to the point that they were little short of megastars in that part of the world, and they sold a lot of albums there. Indeed such was their success in Asia there was a rumour around this time that they were among the richest women in Britain. vlcsnap-00369

Also in 1995 they appeared on CBBC’s Fully Booked, and I can only imagine what Morag The Cow made of them. Meanwhile, they released two more singles in Japan only, 1995’s “Warpaint” (for which a video was made), and 1996’s “Yeh Yeh Yeh (Tell Me Baby)”. vlcsnap-00381

In July 1996 their next single “Girl Power” was released which made no. 25. Now this is an interesting coincidence because they would often talk about “girl power” and how they were trying to send out a positive message to women, and a week after this song entered the chart another female pop group came on to the scene who had “girl power” as their motto who had massive success. They also performed this song on their third and fourth Top Of The Pops appearances. However, the second album also called “Girl Power” that was released in the same month didn’t chart. vlcsnap-00344

In September 1996 their next single which was a cover of The Waitresses song “I Know What Boys Like” was released which reached no. 42, missing the Top 40. And this turned out to be their final hit single. After this setback, they were practically never heard of again, although it seems that they did make a third album called “Absolute Shampoo” and they didn’t actually split until 2000. vlcsnap-00350

It is rather weird to think that Jacqui and Carrie are now both in their 40s and their first single was released almost 25 years ago, and I honestly have no idea what they are up to now or if they are still in contact with one another. If they now have children I wonder if they have ever told them about the time they became millionaires before they turned 20 years old. It must have been rather odd for them to have found fame at such a young age, but I hope that they enjoyed the experience of being an international pop star in their teens.

The Comedy Vault – Phoenix Nights.

Phoenix Nights (Channel 4, 2001-2002)

The first time I remember watching Peter Kay on TV was in the late-90s on BBC2’s The Sunday Show when he used to do a feature about his favourite old TV shows. He then went on to get his own comedy sketch show on Channel 4 called That Peter Kay Thing where he played a variety of characters but this passed me by, although it did get good reviews and it seemed that his career was on the up, so when he launched his next comedy series which this time was a sitcom called Phoenix Nights, I thought to myself I remember that name from somewhere so I’d give it a try. vlcsnap-00285

Kay plays two characters in the show, Brian Potter, who owns the terrible Phoenix nightclub in Bolton, and Max the doorman. Also featuring is the singer Jerry St. Clair (played by Dave Spikey, and Kay and Spikey had previously collaborated on ITV’s game show Chain Letters!), and Ray the DJ. Everything they plan seems to go wrong, including poorly attended theme nights and having a nightmare with a bouncy castle. vlcsnap-00289

Another thing that I remember about the show was when at the end of most episodes, an act would audition to perform at the club, and most of them were really terrible. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the Elvis impersonator, that was an experience. Because of all these elements, the show became very popular, partly because it featured a great range of characters and catchphrases, and it went on to win some awards. And Jim Bowen appeared in an episode, marvellous! vlcsnap-00286

The DVD also features some great extras. I remember watching the outtakes and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at anything so much. I remember that I got the DVD for Christmas one year and I watched it a few days later. I don’t know if I was hungover or if I was full of the festive spirit, but I just couldn’t stop laughing while watching them and it was all just so odd. There was also a book released which contained all the scripts from the series which was a great read, plus a few extras including some pictures of the cast. vlcsnap-00290

Phoenix Nights ran for two series, and in 2004 the Max And Paddy characters were given their own Channel 4 spin-off sitcom called Road To Nowhere but this was a little less successful. After this Peter has gone on to further success by doing a variety of things including performing sell-out tours, having a huge hit with “Is This The Way To Amarillo”, and in more recent years he has featured in the well received sitcoms Cradle To Grave and Car Share, but Phoenix Nights (sponsored by Chorley FM) will always be one of his highlights for me.

The YouTube Files – The Alisha’s Attic Story.

It’s time to remember another pop group who were great in the 90s. Alisha’s Attic were a duo who consisted of the sisters Karen (born in January 1971 in Chadwell Heath) and Shellie Poole (born in March 1972 in Barking), and they were the daughters of Brian Poole who with the Tremeloes had a UK Number One single in 1963 with “Do You Love Me”. They didn’t have any Top Ten hits (most of their singles seemed to peak at no. 12), but they wrote their songs and did have nine hit singles between 1996-2001, and this piece will take a look back at their various music videos and TV appearances on YouTube. As much as I like 90s pop music, it’s a shame that they didn’t make any songs in the 80s… attic

…but wait a moment. Because when I started to put this piece together I was very surprised to discover that Alisha’s Attic actually did bring out a single in the 1980s. In November 1988 they released the single “Sugar Daddy” (credited as “Keren & Chelle”), and they could only have been about 16 or 17 years old at the time. It couldn’t be more removed from the look and sound that they would become known for years later, with the song sounding like a sub-Stock Aitken Waterman energetic dance-pop record that Sinitta rejected. There was even a really cringeworthy video made for it, and it seems that it reached a mighty no. 167. I imagine that they are probably hugely embarrassed by it and have long since completely disowned it, but to think that this happened at all is just so bizarre I can’t really believe it. vlcsnap-00321

Fast forward to the 90s… they were still struggling to break into the music business when they sent a demo tape of some songs to Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and he was so impressed by them he produced their first album. In August 1996 they finally had their first hit single with “I Am I Feel” which reached no. 14. This led to the first of their six appearances on Top Of The Pops, and I do remember the video catching my eye on ITV’s The Chart Show. They also performed this on Channel 4’s late-night music show The White Roomvlcsnap-00279

As ever it’s a tough decision, but I would have to say that this is my favourite single by them, and it really is a “girl power” anthem. “I Am I Feel” was also used as the theme to the ITV 1997-1999 sitcom My Wonderful Life, which gives me another opportunity to ask why isn’t this show out on DVD yet? It still hasn’t been released! Please bring it out! It was great! vlcsnap-00313

They were finally famous, and after Strawberry Switchblade and Shakespear’s Sister, it was great seeing another feisty female duo on the pop music scene. In November 1996 their next single “Alisha Rules The World” was released which reached no. 12, and they performed this on Top Of The Pops and also on TV in Australia. Also in November 1996, their first album, also called “Alisha Rules The World” (who is “Alisha”? It’s the name of Shellie’s imaginary childhood friend) was released, which reached no. 14. vlcsnap-00280

In March 1997 the next single “Indestructible” was released which again reached no. 12. This one really does have a terrific video. Also around this time they appeared on CBBC’s Live & Kicking and took part in a comedy sketch with Trevor And Simon, and as you should know by now I am always pleased to see pop stars who are up for being mildly embarrassed on live children’s TV shows. Also in 1997 they appeared on BBC2’s The O Zone and were nominated for a Brit Award in the Best British Newcomer category but they didn’t win. vlcsnap-00300

In July 1997 the final single off the first album “Air We Breathe” was released which was their third consecutive hit to reach no. 12. They performed this on Top Of The Pops and ITV’s Turner Round The World which also included a brief interview. In October 1997 Shellie appeared as a panellist on BBC2’s comedy music panel game Never Mind The Buzzcocksvlcsnap-00277

In September 1998 the first single from the second album “The Incidentals” was released which reached no. 13. They appeared on Top Of The Pops and Live & Kicking again, and also ITV’s CD:UK (some of their videos are a pain to find online, and rather oddly their CD:UK performance of this song is now credited as the official video on YouTube). In October 1998 the second album “Illumina” was released which reached no. 15, but it only spent a few weeks on the chart. vlcsnap-00296

In January 1999 the next single “I Wish I Were You” was released which reached no. 29. This led to another Top Of The Pops appearance and again although a video was made their CD:UK performance is credited as the official video on YouTube. In February 1999 Karen followed her sister by appearing on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Also around this time they appeared on BBC2’s Electric Circus and CBBC’s L & K Friday which was like Live & Kicking… but on a Friday. vlcsnap-00310

In April 1999 the third and final single from the second album “Barbarella” was released which reached no. 34. They didn’t release any singles in 2000. vlcsnap-00293

They returned in March 2001 with the first single from the third album “Push It All Aside” which reached no. 24. They even hired none other than the award-winning Sophie Muller to direct the videos for the singles from this album and unsurprisingly they were terrific. They also performed this in what was their sixth and final appearance on Top Of The Popsvlcsnap-00278

In July 2001 the next single “Pretender Got My Heart” was released, but this only reached no. 43, becoming their first single not to make the Top 40, and five years on from “I Am I Feel”, this turned out to be their final hit. In August 2001 the third album “The House We Built” was released which received positive reviews but reached a rather disappointing no. 55. In 2003 a best-of called “The Collection” was released featuring all the hit singles plus a few extras, and it was also around this time that Alisha’s Attic split. vlcsnap-00302

Shellie did have one more hit single by herself in August 2006 as the guest vocalist on Michael Gray’s “Borderline”, and this also reached no. 12! After going their separate ways, Karen and Shelly have had more success behind the scenes and now work in the music business as songwriters, and have also performed with various groups, although I’m not aware of them working together in the past decade. Karen has done particularly well with her songwriting work, contributing to some great Top Ten hit singles including “Song 4 Mutya” for Groove Armada, plus “Red Blooded Woman” and “Chocolate” for Kylie Minogue.

The Comedy Vault – Happiness.

Happiness (BBC2, 2001-2003)

Happiness is a sitcom with some comedy-drama elements that starred the great comedy talent of Paul Whitehouse, who also co-wrote and co-produced the show, and he was supported by a great cast. Danny Spencer (played by Whitehouse) is the voice of the popular children’s TV character Dexter The Bear. It has made him a minor celebrity and is steady work, but he is approaching the age when all the things that he feared would happen to him when he turned 40 are beginning, including losing his hair and needing glasses. And then as his wife dies suddenly, he begins to wonder what direction his life is going in. Can he find some happiness? vlcsnap-00277

We also meet some of Danny’s friends who try to help him out during his confused time, including the couple Terry (played by Mark Heap who it’s always great to see, you can’t go wrong if you’ve got him taking part on your show) and Rachel who is Danny’s ex-girlfriend (played by Fiona Allen of Smack The Pony fame) who are having some marital trouble, and his work colleagues including the two young sound engineers who are both called Toby who Danny has trouble getting on with whilst working on his show. vlcsnap-00279

Danny also often spends time with the down-and-out pair Sid and Charlie (played by Johnny Vegas). This is one of the first comedy shows that I remember seeing Vegas in, and I was rather amused by his acting which mostly seemed to consist of him being drunk and falling over as he suffered various mishaps (a style that has served him well throughout his career it seems), and such was his impact on the show he won a British Comedy Award for his work. vlcsnap-00280

One of the interesting things about Happiness was that because of his voice-over work Danny sometimes bumps into celebrities, usually because they were providing a guest voice on his show, and they sent themselves up in the show by playing variations of themselves. These included Kathy Burke, Angus Deayton, Cat Deeley, Ricky Gervais, and Steve Wright. Also making some brief appearances as various characters in the show were some of Whitehouse’s mates from The Fast Show including Simon Day, Charlie Higson and Mark Williams. vlcsnap-00281

Happiness ran for two series and like most other BBC2 sitcoms from around this time the first time I remember watching the show was when there was a repeat run of the first series late at night on the great digital channel Play UK, and that’s when I became a fan. Both series have been released on DVD, although there aren’t many extras and the first series is classified 18 surprisingly. Although this is one of Whitehouse’s less-remembered comedy shows, it was definitely a worthwhile project and it’s still a great piece of work.