CBBC Memories – Parallel Playback.

Parallel Playback (CBBC, 1992)

Way back in the summer of ’92, 25 years ago, I enjoyed the first series of the CBBC Saturday Morning show Parallel 9, and one of the features was the game show Parallel Playback, which was hosted by the terrific Spam Ululux, who kept something of a tight hold on the production of the show. Not only was he the host and the creator, but he was also the producer, the executive producer, and the executive executive producer!

Every week the reverse rulesmaster would be joined by his glamorous keyboard-playing assistant Skynette, and two contestants took part. The idea was that everything was done backwards, so they already had their prizes and they had to give them back to win the game! The first round (or was it the final round) was called Backfire which always brought the show to an exciting finish. vlcsnap-00806

In this round contestants were asked various questions such as having to spell words backwards and identifying things in negative pictures and if they got them right they could give five prizes back. Remember, if they gave a right answer, they got a song, but if they got it wrong, they got a gong. Our host also often liked to say “that is!” when a correct answer was given. vlcsnap-00817

The second round was Rewind, and now they could give back ten prizes for correct answers. Questions included having to identify famous people from hearing some speech of them played backwards, and there would also be backwards archive TV clips accompanied by a breathless commentary as things such as long jumpers tidying up all the sand by jumping out of the pit, and a cup of tea that appeared to spit out a sugar lump happened. Again, questions would be asked about what they had just seen. vlcsnap-00811

The final round was Back ‘N’ There, where up to 25 prizes could be given back. This was a round which featured an obstacle course which again was played backwards, which made things rather awkward as every race would end in a tie, so instead prizes were given back judged on how well the obstacles were tackled, such as building a sandcastle and unpopping some balloons. vlcsnap-00820

After this, the host would ask one final time “how did they cope?”, and the final scores would be revealed, and it would be very exciting as a contestant could win the show by the margin of just half an empty shelf. The overall winner could pick as their prize two board games from a selection on offer, while the runner-up could choose one, I’m jealous, I wish I had The Crystal Maze one. Then the show would end at the start with a lovely song. vlcsnap-00821

Why on earth did I even watch this? Parallel Playback was a rather silly game show, and a similar idea about playing games in reverse was put to better use in CITV’s Crazy Cottage a few years later. As far as other Saturday Morning game shows go, it’s not really up there with classics such as Double Dare and Run The Risk, and even though it doesn’t have an entry on the UK Game Shows website, never mind Wikipedia (there is a reference on the BBC Genome though so there), I’m classing this as a legitimate game show because I did like it and it really did happen.

More TV Memories – Bob’s Fab Ads.

Bob’s Fab Ads (ITV, 1996)

As I’m sure you have realised if you are a regular to this blog and my Twitter and YouTube channel, I am a fan of old adverts. A while ago I wrote a piece on a VHS compilation of classic adverts hosted by John Peel called Ad Fab which has been one of my favourite blog pieces to put together, but the world of TV advertising has been celebrated and analysed much beyond this of course.

There have been several comedy programmes on BBC1 throughout the years which have looked back at funny adverts in the Commercial Breakdown series which has been hosted by comedians including Jasper Carrott and many others, Clive James and Chris Tarrant have hosted equivalent shows on ITV, and Channel 4 also revealed what viewers thought were the 100 greatest TV adverts during the period when list programmes were very popular.

I remember there was another programme that looked back at funny British TV adverts which was called Bob’s Fab Ads and was hosted by the great Bob Monkhouse. This was a one-off hour long show where Bob looked back at famous adverts and he also spoke to a couple of guests who worked in the advertising industry. After discovering that my sister recorded this show I hoped to review it here but we’ve been unable to track down the tape, so I was very pleased when the show was recently uploaded to YouTube by Neil Miles and thanks goes to him for saving some time going through dusty old cupboards. vlcsnap-00784

After Bob had parked his car at the top of the ramp in the studio, he introduced various adverts, and it was clear that he was a fan of what he called mini masterpieces. Most TV adverts only last for 30 seconds, so they have to grab viewers’ attention right away, and many different methods are used. Celebrities might appear, jingles might be made, or there might be a memorable slogan. Humour is of course one way of doing it, and making people laugh will definitely help them remember what you were selling and hopefully they’ll end up buying your brand of dog food even if they don’t have a dog. vlcsnap-00792

When Bob’s Fab Ads was shown, ITV had been running for just over 40 years, and among the classics from the archive shown were famous campaigns for Heineken, PG Tips, John Smith’s and Carling Black Label. There was also a look at some adverts that were now rather old-fashioned or unintentionally humorous including those ones for absurd products such as the “thumb waiter”, a plate which you could stick your thumb through to help grip it which Bob enjoyed mocking. vlcsnap-00791

We also saw adverts for such memorable campaigns as R White’s “secret lemonade drinker”, Maxell’s “me ears are alight”, and Pepsi, and adverts starring the likes of Morecambe and Wise, Leonard Rossiter and Frankie Howerd. Bob also rather gamely admitted that he’d starred in an advert or two looking for laughs as well as sales over the years, and we were shown an advert from 1959 where Bob got a little too overexcited whilst selling a Mars bar. vlcsnap-00801

Bob’s Fab Ads was a great show, it was always enjoyable to watch Bob, and around the time that the show was made in the mid-90s his career was back on the up after he had won over a new generation of fans with his comedy talent. If I ever track down any more similar shows about adverts I’ll review those here too, but until then why not take a look at the show yourself using the video down below! 

The Comedy Vault – Coogan’s Run.

Coogan’s Run (BBC2, 1995)

After the success of characters such as Paul Calf and Alan Partridge Steve Coogan was a hot comedy talent whose career was on the up, and in the mid-90s he was given his own six-part series which featured a new group of characters who all lived in a small town called Ottle who starred in their own one-off sitcom. Coogan was among the writers and there were also appearances from his old The Day Today and Knowing Me Knowing You buddies Rebecca Front and Patrick Marber as various characters, and pleasingly Coogan’s Run was up to standard. vlcsnap-00785

The first edition featured the established characters Paul and Pauline Calf who have just witnessed an armed robbery. The second edition featured the slick computer hardware businessman Gareth Cheeseman who has a right old disaster trying to pitch a new product at a sales conference. It was also reported that Cheeseman was going to be given his own spin-off sitcom but it never materialised. vlcsnap-00787

The third edition was set in the early-60s and featured the handyman Ernest Moss who was trying to stop a new property development in his small village. The fourth edition featured the faded club entertainer Mike Crystal who hatched a plot to try and revive his career by inventing an alter-ego called Clint who demands that the club’s manager gives Mike a better deal. vlcsnap-00788

The fifth edition featured the trivia-obsessed Crump brothers. After they lost on the game show Top Of The Class, 20 years later they try to gain revenge by playing the game again and hoping to win, even going so far as to track down the show’s host Jeremy Monkhead. The sixth edition featured the thoroughly boring Tim Fleck who is the curator at a failing museum which he is trying to stop from being closed and turned into a steakhouse. vlcsnap-00789

Coogan’s Run was another great piece of comedy featuring a wide variety of strange characters which I laughed a lot at and it’s a shame that apart from the Calfs none of them were seen again. I would have to say that my favourite episode was the one featuring Guy Crump, mostly because it was based around game shows, with the Cheeseman and Crystal episodes not far behind. The show also had a great opening sequence and there was another good touch where the other characters would make cameo appearances in one another’s episode. vlcsnap-00790

About a year after this Coogan would launch another new character who was Tony Ferrino but you really don’t need to know about him, and then he would go back to Alan Partridge for further success, before doing another unusual six-part comedy series called Dr Terrible’s House Of Horrible which I will review soon. Coogan’s Run has been released on DVD as is definitely worth a look.

The Comedy Vault – Bang Bang It’s Reeves And Mortimer.

Bang Bang It’s Reeves And Mortimer (BBC2, 1999)

This show is virtually a third series of The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer, but because it has a different title and slightly different format, I have decided to review it separately. Vic and Bob returned with yet another new bunch of rather strange characters and sketches alongside a few familiar faces. Also helping out were Charlie Higson, David Walliams, Matt Lucas and Morwenna Banks. vlcsnap-00774

Every show would begin with a song, and regular characters included the return of Mulligan and O’Hare and their terrific new album, plus also Tom Fun and his friend. There was also a documentary which went behind the scenes of a nightclub in Hull which guest starred Les Dennis, the parody Police Camera Accident with Neil Sedaka, and there were an awful lot of sketches where Vic and Bob had increasingly bizarre fights which mostly consisted of them thumping one another with frying pans or putting their head in a tumble dryer. vlcsnap-00778

Each edition ended with the Stott brothers interviewing a celebrity guest, and it could be argued that they weren’t entirely sure what they had let themselves in for. There was one memorable moment where Vic laughed for about five minutes whilst trying to ask Michael Winner a question because it contained the word “parsnip”. When they were done, they would walk off and leave their rather bemused guest just sat there as the credits began. vlcsnap-00773

After this, Vic and Bob went on to do some more shows, this time on BBC1, including the flop Saturday night game show Families At War, and the revival of the drama series Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) which was much more successful, although I didn’t watch either of these shows much, before they went on to make more series of Shooting Stars and in more recent years the sitcoms Catterick and House Of Fools which were more my thing. vlcsnap-00776

This series didn’t seem to make as a big an impact with viewers as their previous ones, but there were still some wonderfully weird moments, such as the sketch where Vic and Bob have some difficulty opening their car doors in various unusual places which leads to things exploding and people vanishing, and it has been released on DVD, although it contains no extras. Vic and Bob began the 90s on TV as virtual unknowns, but by the end of that decade they had become comedy heroes.

The Comedy Vault – Time Gentlemen Please.

Time Gentlemen Please (Sky One, 2000-2002)

At the start of 2000, Sky One decided to make some home-grown comedy shows for the first time, beginning with the science-fiction sitcom The Strangerers. Later that year on the same day, they launched two more shows, Harry Enfield’s new sketch show (which I will review soon), and another sitcom which was called Time Gentlemen Please which starred Al Murray (who I remember previously seeing on TV in Harry Hill’s show) as his The Pub Landlord character.

This character had become popular when he was taken on tour, even eventually doing a show at the O2, so the decision was taken to transfer him into a sitcom format. Co-written by Richard Herring (who featured in a few episodes playing a postman), Time Gentlemen Please was set in a rundown pub called The Cowshed, where Murray was the loudmouthed old-fashioned landlord (“back off, Brussels!”) who could be rather erratic as he was still getting over his wife and child leaving him to go to France “I miss my boy, that’s all!”. There were also a group of regular characters who appeared alongside him. vlcsnap-00764

The pub only ever seemed to have about three regular customers. These were the revolting resident drunk Terry (Phil Daniels) who was rather flatulent and would drink anything, someone nicknamed “The Professor” who was rather brainy and also creepy, and their eldest customer who seemed to have been a regular for an awfully long time. Also helping out was Steve the barman but he was rather useless and lived in the basement. Rebecca Front also appeared playing the brewery representative Mrs Jackson “COW!” which is nice. Alexander Armstrong was in an episode too. vlcsnap-00763

At the start of the first series Murray decided to take on Janet as the new barmaid (Julia Sawalha), despite her being rather foul-mouthed, constantly going on about what she would get up to with her ex-boyfriends, and an “Ozteralien” because she was just so good at what she did. At the start of the second series she was replaced by student Connie “so young… so innocent… so pure…” (Emma Pierson, an actress who seemed to be on TV a lot for a few years around this time) who seemed to have studied every subject when she was in her first year. vlcsnap-00768

The first series of Time Gentlemen Please was a huge length of 22 episodes, one of the longest runs of any UK sitcom, seemingly as an attempt to sell the show to an American market where such series lengths are more commonplace (didn’t work, naturally). The show also had some memorable attempts at catchphrases from Murray including “I’m not confused!”, “ooh, it’s been a year!” and “I do not have a fat head!”. vlcsnap-00771

The second and final series was a slightly shorter 15 episodes. One thing that disappointed me about this run was that the final episode was shown on the day that ITV Digital went off air (1 May 2002) so I couldn’t see it, but thankfully in more recent years the whole series was released on DVD. Time Gentlemen Please was something of a flop, but compared to Murray’s other Pub Landlord TV shows Happy Hour, Fact Hunt and Compete For The Meat I would say that it’s not that bad really.

The YouTube Files – Punt And Dennis.

Punt And Dennis (BBC1, 1994-1995)

Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis have worked together as a comedy double-act since the mid-80s. Some of their earliest TV work included BBC1’s Carrott Confidential, and the popular Radio 1 show The Mary Whitehouse Experience alongside Robert Newman and David Baddiel which later moved to BBC2. When this show ended, the double-acts went their separate ways, with Newman and Baddiel going on to BBC2’s In Pieces, while Punt and Dennis got their own sketch show on BBC1 which they also wrote the majority of. vlcsnap-00748

There were two series of Punt And Dennis, the first was actually called The Imaginatively-Titled Punt And Dennis Show. There has been a DVD release but it is rather disappointing, consisting of only a compilation of the first series, and nothing at all of the second series, so I decided to look for more on YouTube, and I came across a full edition from the second series which was uploaded by the team at the great website http://www.curiousbritishtelly.com which like this one reviews various famous and not-so famous TV shows from years gone by and is well worth a visit. vlcsnap-00758

Various regular sketches in Punt And Dennis included the Gullible family who believed everything that they were told, the tiny horse racing jockeys, an irritating news presenter, and Mr Strange who had viewers saying his “milky-milky” catchphrase up and down the country for about five minutes. There were also lots of parodies of TV shows that were big at the time including Baywatch, Bugs and The X Files. And bonus points for doing a parody of the Grandstand Vidiprinter. vlcsnap-00747

Watching an edition of Punt And Dennis from the second series online again brought back lots of memories. Firstly, I remember that the show was on BBC1 during the hot summer of 1995 which is now over 20 years ago. I also remember the rather scary title sequence which features some horrible Plasticine versions of Punt and Dennis. Unfortunately it seems that this series didn’t do very well in the ratings because the final edition was moved from 8pm to the much later 10:45pm. I tried to watch it but I nearly nodded off before the end, a third series wasn’t forthcoming and it was a shame seeing the show end on a low. vlcsnap-00753

Perhaps one of the oddest things about the second series was that every show had a musical interlude, with songs being performed by successful bands such as Abba or The Beatles, which sounds impressive until you realise that they were actually tribute bands. In the first show the performance was accompanied with some facts about the band that were presented in exactly the same style as the Amiga graphics that were still being used on The Chart Show at the time, right down to the film camera/truck/pair of lips symbols and arrow pointer and so on, and I just thought that this was such an unexpected thing for the show to reference. (I can’t find a clip of this edition online unfortunately). However, this was changed in the next edition to general pop-up boxes, I wonder if they had a miffed Video Visuals productions on the phone? vlcsnap-00755

Punt and Dennis still work together to this day, having had more success in recent years on BBC radio with their comedy shows, Radio 2’s It’s Been A Bad Week, and Radio 4’s The Now Show which is currently in its 50th series (not an exaggeration), and they have also toured the country performing sketches live on stage. Dennis has also appeared in various acclaimed TV comedy shows including BBC1 sitcoms Outnumbered and Not Going Out, BBC2’s satire show Mock The Week, and he also recently appeared in Dictionary Corner on Countdown. Maybe we’ll seem them on TV together again soon.

CITV Memories – The Real Ghostbusters.

The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991)

One of the biggest films and cultural crazes of the mid-80s was Ghostbusters, where an awesome foursome took care of things that go bump in the night. I’m not so sure when I first saw the film myself, maybe when it was shown on TV a long time ago, and I might have even rented it on VHS. It was popular enough for there to be a sequel released about five years later, and the themes from the first and second films were also Top Ten hit singles in the UK. ghost0001

There was a huge amount of merchandise too, I remember playing the Commodore 64 game and having some of the action figures. There was also a fortnightly comic and some annuals released, and I still have the 1989 and 1990 ones. As great as the film was I must admit that most of my fondest memories of Ghostbusters are based around the cartoon version though which was called The Real Ghostbusters. Yes, they are the real Ghostbusters, accept no imitations! vlcsnap-00724

The Real Ghostbusters was shown very regularly on CITV throughout the late-80s/early-90s, and it featured animated versions of the quartet Peter, Egon, Ray and Winston who were always available to get in their Ectomobile to go across New York and beyond to eliminate any ghost that they faced such as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man using their Proton Pack. There were a couple of other main characters in the show, the receptionist Janine who was always waiting to take people’s calls, and of course there was their mascot Slimer who was popular enough with viewers to get his own spin-off cartoon. vlcsnap-00714

There was a huge variety of ghosts, poltergeists, and so on that were eliminated by our heroes. It’s also been noted that Peter was voiced for the first couple of series by Lorenzo Music who would become better known as the voice of Garfield in his animated TV series. I also remember that at the end of every edition the credits ran over a sequence where the Ghostbusters did a dance whilst crowds cheered, presumably after they had just saved the world from creepy things once again. vlcsnap-00727

The Real Ghostbusters ran for over 100 episodes, and in the late-90s there was a spin-off cartoon called Extreme Ghostbusters. There was a brief revival of interest after a third film was released about a year ago but it was poorly received. I was disappointed to find out that it seems that only the first series has been released on DVD in this country, but thinking about the show again made me realise just how much I enjoyed it when I was younger, and if a boxset of the compete series was ever released I would definitely buy it.