CITV Memories – Adam’s Family Tree.

Adam’s Family Tree (CITV, 1997-1999)

This is a sitcom with a fantasy twist that was often on CITV in the late-90s and was rather enjoyable. Adam’s Family Tree was once introduced by CITV announcer Steve Ryde as about a boy who dabbles in unnatural forces, which might be a slight exaggeration, but isn’t too far off really. Adam (Anthony Lewis) is a 12-year-old schoolboy with a great name I must say.

At home he has a magic CD-Rom containing information on his family, going back generations, and indeed centuries (I’m not sure if the title is a play on people who insist that they really can trace their ancestors all the way back to Adam). He puts this into his computer, and once he finds who he wants, he presses the relevant button, and they suddenly appear in the present day to help him out.

So for example, if a magician was planned to appear at his school and perform, but is then unable to make it, he can get hold of an ancient sorcerer from his family to come in and save the day. His friend Jane (a pre-Coronation Street Samia Longchambon) is the only other one who knows that he can do this. Even his parents aren’t aware, although they quickly realise that something rather odd is happening.

And his other schoolmates and teachers including Mrs Copstick, Mrs Rocket, and Mr Blah have no idea either. Curiously, for the third and final series, the actors who played Adam and Jane changed, but his parents didn’t, and they didn’t seem to notice that either. And there were also a large amount of rather well-known faces who guest starred as an ancestor of Adam in one episode each.

These included Bill Oddie, Toyah Willcox, Brenda Gilhooly, Christopher Biggins, and oh yes, Brian Blessed. This shouldn’t be confused with Bernard’s Watch, a CITV series around the same time with a similar idea of a boy who can do something rather unusual. There were 20 episodes of Adam’s Family Tree in three series, and they were all written by Brian Walsh and Neil Armstrong (not that one).

More TV Memories – Fantasy World Cup.

Fantasy World Cup (ITV, 1998)

This is a show that I probably should’ve reviewed during the World Cup late last year, but I’m doing it now (and I also eventually plan to do some pieces about some memories of the TV coverage of various World Cups). In the mid-90s, Fantasy Football League was among the shows that managed to capture the “football is suddenly trendy” feeling, after the successful launch of the Premier League.

So when the World Cup in France came round (which is 25 years ago now remarkably), it seemed a good time to revive this idea. But there were some changes. Hosts David Baddiel and Frank Skinner had jumped to ITV, and, in a bold move, like so many Premier League matches of the time, this was going to be shown live! Their mate Statto came along too, although I don’t think that there was a competitive league element used for this series, so he just sort of sat around in the background.

They picked up where they left off really. Most editions would be shown following the coverage of matches, and the opening sequence recycled the old World Of Sport theme. There would be plenty of strange observations, Phoenix From The Flames, and lots of other things, like remembering the time when commentator Brian Moore burped.

There was even an appearance from Hugh Johns, whose famous commentary in 1966 inspired the title of the sporting comedy panel game Here’s Hurst, Can He Make It Four? He Has! He Has! And That’s It! And there were also plenty of sketches featuring pie enthusiast Jeff Astle. And featuring in every edition were two celebrity guests, including Ant and Dec. However, a lot of them seemed to be rather “tired”, and as this was live, there was no hiding place if things became unpredictable.

I remember that I set the video for a lot of these. But I thought that I would give the edition after England had been knocked out on penalties a miss, partly because this would’ve been shown a lot later than was scheduled, and the mood must’ve been rather sour too (Bradley Walsh was a guest on this one). But at least everyone could be cheered by “Three Lions” being a chart-topper again.

Among the production team were Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs, who not long after went on to host a show on TalkSport (and still do), and if you had a joke, you could fax that in if you wanted to. Baddiel and Skinner seemed to be unfazed by Fantasy World Cup turning into occasional chaos, because a few years later, they took the idea to the extreme with Baddiel And Skinner Unplanned, where they would discuss anything (except football) on live TV. And they revived the format one final time for the Euro 2004 tournament.

More TV Memories – Zoe, Duncan, Jack And Jane/Zoe…

Zoe, Duncan, Jack And Jane (WB, 1999)/Zoe… (WB, 2000)

This is an American sitcom that I only really remember vaguely from the time, but a while ago somebody requested that I review this. I don’t usually ask for requests, but luckily, despite this not being that much of a success with viewers, I do have some affection. Firstly, this was a sitcom that was aimed at teenagers, when I was in my teens myself (it turns out that most of the cast were beyond their teens though).

Zoe, Duncan, Jack And Jane was originally about four friends who all attend a high school in Manhattan. The main character was Zoe (Selma Blair, who was actually about 26 years old at the time of the launch), along with Duncan (David Moscow), Jack (Michael Rosenbaum, not to be confused with Michael Rosen, no), and his twin sister Jane (Azura Skye, nice hair).

We follow Zoe’s life at school and at home. They all spent rather a lot of their time in the café, discussing their lives. The other main characters are her single mum Iris, and her rival at school Breeny (Sara Rue, who later appeared in teen drama Popular). A quartet of fast-talking attractive people living in New York who get into lots of bizarre situations? It’s been done before.

Many felt that this was simply an attempt at making Seinfeld for younger viewers, although there was never a chance of this one comparing with that classic. Maybe a better comparison would be with Friends, although once again many would that feel this comes off second-best. At the end of the first series, it was decided to give this idea a rethink.

The second (and what turned out to be final) series was retitled Zoe…, although the other three main cast members still featured. But now they are attending college, which isn’t easy, and Iris and Breeny had left, with new friend Doug being added to the mix. There were 26 episodes of Zoe… in two series, but WB just couldn’t get the formula right, and there has been no DVD release.

Some of the cast did go on to further success though, including Rosenbaum in drama Smallville. But the other reason that despite everything I do have a little affection for this is because this was shown on Channel 5 on Saturday afternoons, in their weekend strand for teenagers, so I group this in with the other shows that I really enjoyed in those days including The Tribe, Harry And Cosh, Our Hero, Daria, and so on. And that’s enough for me.

More TV Memories – I Love The 100 Best Top Ten Lists Of The Fast Show Ever.

I Love The 100 Best Top Ten Lists Of The Fast Show Ever (BBC2, 2002)

When the third and final series of The Fast Show came to an end in 1997, it probably wasn’t thought that there would still be so much life left in this popular comedy sketch show. After this, there has been a theme night, a stage tour, various adverts, spin-offs (including Swiss Toni), and even a few more one-off specials. And there was this, which was an interesting way of recycling the archive.

I Love The 100 Best Top Ten Lists Of The Fast Show Ever was a parody of documentaries and lists about nostalgia. This was a genre that had only been going for a year or two by this point, but already seemed to be completely exhausted, and had lapsed into self-parody. This was hosted by Johnny Vegas, who often turned up on these type of shows, and was sending himself up somewhat.

But as well as the archive sketches, there was also a lot of new material, featuring yet another group of creative characters, the vast majority having not previously appeared, who shared their rather useless observations. Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson were clearly still coming up with good ideas, and must’ve been burning the midnight oil at both ends to complete this.

Do you think that The Fast Show was just a procession of people with wigs saying their catchphrases? Well it was really. Among my favourites of the new characters has to be the nice soldier, and the rather bizarre Count Rudolph Gesthaus, who was definitely good enough to have been a regular in the series, it was a shame that we never saw any more him.

And who could forget the catchphrase “this week I don’t know where I left my coat!”. Although this was 90 minutes long, they didn’t get to complete the Top Ten, so Johnny simply said that after all of the votes had been counted, and the points have been added, the Number One was “Imagine”, or probably “Bohemian Rhapsody”, because well it usually is isn’t it.

And I know that this is a weird thing to say, but this was shown on the first day of 2002. Now I remember when 2001 was supposed to be long in the future, and there was a time when I couldn’t really comprehend anything beyond that, but somehow 2001 was now in the past, and well, even this is over two decades ago now, how did that happen. How nice.

Game Show Memories – Celebrity Squares the revival.

Celebrity Squares (ITV, 2014-2015)

This is the second revival of this game show, or is it maybe the third? The first was in 1993, when Celebrity Squares returned to ITV after an absence of almost 15 years, and was again hosted by Bob Monkhouse, who insisted that this was actually “Bob’s Big Box Game”. There was another revival in 2003, but this didn’t get any further than the unaired pilot stage.

For this revival, the host was Warwick Davis, who might seem to be an unusual choice at first, because he was better-known as an actor, and this was his first experience in this area. The idea remained the same though, this is still essentially oversized Noughts And Crosses. But TV has changed, where half-an-hour was once enough, most game shows now run for an hour, so some extra rounds had to be added.

Two contestants took part, and there were nine celebrities in the squares. Most of them changed every week, but there were also two regulars, who were Joe Wilkinson, and Tim Vine! You should know that I do think that you can’t go wrong with Tim, so being able to see him do his thing every week was definitely a good move. Chuck in a hyper studio audience who sound like they’ve had too many chocolate biscuits and you’re ready to go.

In some rounds, the contestants pick a celebrity, who is asked a question, and they have to say if they agree with their answer or not. Correct answers won the square and £50. Get three in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and you win the round and a bonus £500. This carries on, but there is a point where it’s time to double the dough, and even more money is on offer.

There is also an extra round where a celebrity tells an anecdote about themselves, and it has to be determined if this is true or not. And don’t forget about the secret square either, if this is picked, a big bonus prize can be won. The highest-scorer goes into the final. In this, they have to pick a category and then give nine correct answers in 30 seconds.

If they do, they win £20,000. But if not, they are given £1,000 for every correct answer they did get, added to what they had already won. For the second series, there were some changes. The duration was decreased to 45 minutes, and the star prize was increased to £25,000. After the revival of Celebrity Squares ended, Warwick went on to host daytime game show Tenable, which has done well.

The YouTube Files – Blue Heaven.

Blue Heaven (Channel 4, 1992-1994)

This is a sitcom that I don’t remember watching at the time, but there is one thing that I do know about this that has always made me want to find out more. Firstly, Blue Heaven starred and was written by Frank Skinner. At this point he was still fairly early in his comedy career, he had won the coveted Perrier Award, and he appeared in a few shows, including Channel 4’s Packet Of Three.

In 1992 the pilot episode was shown as part of the Bunch Of Five series, where various sitcom ideas were tried out, but this was the only one of them that received a series. Now my sister was in the studio audience for this, but when this returned in 1994 two years on, there was no audience, which seems to be a curious decision, as there was plenty to enjoy.

Blue Heaven starred Frank as, er, Frank, an aspiring singer who was in a duo with his friend Roache who played keyboards. They spent most of the time playing gigs at small-time pubs, and they were usually booed off, mostly because a lot of their songs were about how fond they were of West Bromwich Albion (and indeed, when Frank wasn’t down the pub, he was at The Hawthorns watching the Baggies).

His dream is to be a success though, despite everything, he is sure he’ll get there. Frank often looks into the camera to explain his feelings and the current situation. This show definitely got my approval for the episode where Frank and Roache get as far as making a music video for one of their songs, which was accompanied by yet another parody of The Chart Show icons, well done.

Throughout the episodes, a rather large amount of familiar faces appeared, including Bill Bailey, Carol Barnes, Lucy Davis, Kevin Eldon, Stephen Frost, Philip Glenister, Tamsin Greig, Brian Hibbard, Kate Lonergan, David Neilson, Beryl Reid, Tony Robinson, John Thomson, and Paula Wilcox. Frank clearly had musical aspirations for real, as he also wrote and performed the theme music.

And although he didn’t realise it at the time, he really would have a chart-topping single when he collaborated with The Lightning Seeds for the football anthem “Three Lions”. There were seven episodes of Blue Heaven, which never had a VHS or DVD release (unfortunately I couldn’t track the pilot down, but the series episodes are on YouTube). This seems to be little remembered now, but at least Channel 4 showed all of the episodes, unlike his other sitcom…

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 53.

This is a group who I have featured in one of my longer pop music pieces, but it’s time to feature them in this series too. Haysi Fantayzee were a duo (although technically speaking they were actually a trio), the main members were Jeremy and Kate. They did some things on the chart in the early-80s that were rather bizarre even by the standards of that era.

They had four hit singles, two of which made the Top 20, and they are still remembered for these today. They were “John Wayne Is Big Leggy” and “Shiny Shiny”. And if you had to push me, I would have to say that my favourite of the two is “Shiny Shiny”. But it must not be forgotten that they had two smaller hits with “Holy Joe” and “Sister Friction”, neither of which made the Top 50.

And there was also their only album “Battle Hymns For Children Singing”. They were fairly popular, but their time on the chart lasted for barely a year, and they split in 1983. Since my last piece, I have found out a little more about what they did next. Kate had only one solo single. In November 1983 “Love Me Like A Rocket” was released, although this only reached an unofficial no. 140.

There was also a video made for this that was rather exciting. How this wasn’t a chart-sweeping sensation I’ll never know. After this, Kate went on to become a hugely successful photographer, working with lots of people who would go on to have lots of hits on the chart, after she had stopped having them herself. I also said about Jeremy becoming a successful club DJ, and I was sure that he had at least one more hit single on his own.

I knew that he had been involved in the dance group E-Zee Possee, who had some hits in the early-90s, and are probably best-known for March 1990’s “Everything Starts With An E”. But it turns out that it wasn’t as hard to track down his other hit singles as I originally thought because they were released under his real name, which is rather useful.

In October 1996 he teamed up with Amos for “Stamp!”, which reached no. 11 (the same position as “John Wayne Is Big Leggy”). This also got him back on to Top Of The Pops for the first time since those days. And in May 1997 he had another hit when “Argentina” reached no. 30. Since then he has continued to be in much demand as a remixer.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 54.

This is a duo who I have already featured in one of my longer pop music pieces, but I thought that I would include them in this series too, because they did have some great moments, and their story is worth (re)telling. Alisha’s Attic consist of the sisters Karen and Shelley, and they come from a musical family, because their dad had a chart-topping single way back in 1963.

Although they found fame in the mid-90s, I was rather surprised when I discovered that their first attempt at pop stardom was as long ago as November 1988 when “Sugar Daddy” was released, while they were still in their mid-teens, and they were known at this point as Keren And Chelle, which is rather trendy. I’m not sure how much publicity this had at the time.

The rather low-budget video couldn’t have been shown on The Chart Show because this was off Channel 4 at the time. The only way that the video seems to have been preserved is because this was featured on the VHS female pop stars compilation Girls Girls Girls 2. “Sugar Daddy” reached an unofficial no. 167, but critics were rather divided somewhat on this though.

One said “a nice record, it’ll be a hit”, whilst another thought that this was “a wretched hi-NRG abomination”. After going away for a while to polish their style, they but this behind them, and returned almost eight years later, this time as Alisha’s Attic, to much more acclaim, and for the next year or two, they really did make the no. 12 position on the singles chart their own.

In August 1996 “I Am I Feel” was released, and this has to remain their best-known song, if not their biggest on the chart. This is considered to be a famous “Girl Power” anthem, or would be if some other female group hadn’t come on to the scene a week or two earlier and sold themselves on that idea too. Dave Stewart was also involved in this. He seems to know a lot about working with female duos, maybe this was an attempt at making “the new Shakespears Sister”?

And of course, this was also the theme to ITV sitcom My Wonderful Life. Alisha’s Attic did have many more hit singles (that have been detailed in the other piece), but they never made the Top Ten with any singles or albums. And by 2001, it was all over, which was a real disappointment, the chart was definitely a better place with them around. They didn’t rule the world, but they had a good try.

Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 52.

A while ago I discovered the show Club MTV, where various dance music songs were played, and I really enjoyed this. On one edition, I came across a group that I wasn’t familiar with, but they seemed to be rather interesting, so I thought that I would find out more about them. Company B were an American female group that formed in the mid-80s.

The first thing to say about them is that their most famous songs were produced by a member of Foxy, who didn’t have any hits in this country, but they are probably best-known for their late-70s song “Mademoiselle” being sampled on the 1995 Jungle hit “Burial” by Leviticus. Company B consisted of three interchangeable women who all had rather big blonde hairstyles, which I presume weren’t their own work.

Around the time they found fame was when The Simpsons was first on TV, and I thought that their hair looks a little like how Lisa’s would if she was a real person. Another comparison can be made with the famous for three minutes 80s singer Spagna. There weren’t too many other American female groups on the scene at the time, but others include Cover Girls and Exposé.

In 1986 their single “Fascinated” was released in America, but wasn’t a success at first. In April 1987 they made the chart in the UK for the first time with “Jam On Me”, which reached an unofficial no. 125. I don’t think that they appeared on any TV shows in this country, but I did find a performance of this, where they managed to get the crowd rather excited.

But their biggest hit was in May 1987 when “Fascinated” reached an unofficial no. 89. They went down very well when they performed this on Club MTV. This also topped the Dance Chart in America, and reached no. 21 on the Hot 100, the only time they did so. It has also been said that this sounds rather similar to “I Can’t Help It”, a hit in 1988 for Bananarama (and the last one to feature Siobhan). Well this one came first, clearly they were more influential than I imagined.

I’m not aware of them having any more hits after this, but they continued to release singles until as late as 1990, including a cover of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (do you see what they did there). They also released two albums in the 80s, it’s a shame that they weren’t bigger. It is believed that at least ten women have donned the wigs over the decades, and a version of Company B continues to this day, although it is rather unlikely that any original members feature.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 28.

This is another group who had a rather brief amount of fame on the chart. Berlin were an American group who formed in the late-70s. Although various members came and went over the years, the spotlight was mostly focused on their frontwoman Terri Nunn, who has also been an actress and model. They have released several singles and albums going back to the early-80s.

They didn’t have much success at this point though, meaning that their singles including “Dancing In Berlin”, the rather naughty “Sex (I’m A…)”, and “No More Words” (that was performed on CITV’s music show Razzmatazz in 1984) didn’t make the chart in the UK. In 1985, there was an article in TV Times about up-and-coming American female singers that grouped Terri in with Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons (yes, really).

In October 1986 “Take My Breath Away” was released, which was featured on the soundtrack to the hugely successful film Top Gun. They finally hit the big time, as this was a chart-topper in the UK for four weeks (and also a chart-topper in American for one week). Now I have to confess that I have always had something of a soft spot for this one, because this sounds rather “squelchy”, if that is the word.

Their fame dropped off fairly quickly though, and they never made the Top Ten in the UK or America again. In January 1987 “You Don’t Know” reached no. 39. In the same month their fourth album “Count Three And Pray” made the Top 40. And in March 1987 “Like Flames” reached only no. 47. Less a than a year on from their success, Berlin split not long after this.

It’s a surprise to realise that they only had three hits. Their biggest single would linger for a while yet though. In February 1988 “Take My Breath Away” re-entered the lower end of the chart. And following the TV premiere of Top Gun and its use in a car advert, “Take My Breath Away” made the chart for the third time, and this time reached no. 3, to become a Top Ten hit in a second decade.

It really would’ve been a bizarre situation if this had been a chart-topper again four years on. And in 2002, a cover version of “Take My Breath Away” was a hit for dance act Soda Club. Since then, there have been various reunions, new albums, and more line-up changes, although Berlin have long since reached the “Terri and some blokes” stage, and they always have to perform that one.