More TV Memories – Boyz Unlimited.

Boyz Unlimited (Channel 4, 1999)

In the late-90s, manufactured boy bands seemed to be commonplace on the singles chart. I must admit that I’ve never really been that interested in any of them, but then they weren’t actually aimed at me. But for every one of them that had some success, plenty of them failed. I remember a boy band performed at my school once. I have forgotten what they were called, but they definitely didn’t have any hits. This show is essentially a spoof documentary about how a boy band are put together and marketed.

One notable thing about the show looking back is that it was written and produced by Richard Osman (Matt Lucas and David Walliams are also credited as co-creators of the show, although I don’t think their contribution went much beyond that). Now this was long before he became the co-host of Pointless, at this time he was still working behind the scenes in TV, and he was also the divisor of BBC2 comedy panel game If I Ruled The World. Richard knows a thing or two about what goes on in the music business as his brother Mat is a member of Suede.

Nigel Gacey is a Cockney who is always on the lookout for a get rich quick scheme, so he decides to become a music mogul and put a boy band together. They are Gareth (overweight but kept in the band because he is the only one with any songwriting ability, not that they use any of his songs), Jason, Nicky, and Scott (who is told to change his name from Giles). Also notable is that Gareth is played by a young James Corden, who has gone on to much more TV success. boyz0001

Boyz Unlimited is presented in a “fly-on-the-wall” style (it’s difficult to know what was more commonplace at the time, boy bands, or this style of documentary), and to add an extra touch of authenticity, the narrator was Jo Whiley, who was also a presenter on BBC Radio 1 at this time. As the episodes progress we witness things like the auditions for the band, getting a record deal, making the videos, and releasing the songs. They hope their dreams will come true, but they soon realise that it’s a rotten business. vlcsnap-00002

They are told that they will make cover versions of hits including “DISCO” and “I Say A Little Prayer”. They also cover “A Little Bit More”, which coincidentally (I presume) was a chart-topper for boy band 911 around this time, in a bland as you like style, which is an indication that there really are some things that it’s difficult to parody. They are also involved in various scandals, including Nicky having an affair with the headmistress from his school. vlcsnap-00003

They also face trouble from their biggest rivals Boyz Limited, who are having huge hits, whilst theirs can’t even be found on CD in Virgin Megastore, and they are also embarrassed in appearances on live Saturday Morning TV shows. Nigel continues to hope that there will be a chemistry between his discoveries and they will be the next Bad Boys Inc., but his patience is often tested by their antics. vlcsnap-00004

There was only one series of Boyz Unlimited, and I’m fairly sure that there was never a DVD release. Boy bands could be considered to be something of a easy target, but it shows how much cynicism there was about this kind of thing happening, and this was long before the likes of Pop Idol and The X Factor came along. Maybe they should’ve done a cover of “Don’t Stop Believin'”.

Maybe one day…

Some people have hoped that I will continue to review TV shows on this blog. However, I have now reviewed the vast majority of what I have wanted to. There are some more shows that I want to review, that I remember from the time, or I don’t but I have read about them and want to discover more, but there are no traces of them online. This is a list of these shows, and a brief description.

Ask No Questions (late-80s ITV game show)
Blind Men (late-90s ITV sitcom)
The Boot Street Band (mid-90s CBBC sitcom)
Boyz Unlimited (late-90s Channel 4 sitcom)
Champion Blockbusters (late-80s ITV game show)
Demolition (early-2000s Channel 5 game show)
Ed Stone Is Dead (early-2000s BBC Choice sitcom)
Etc… (late-80s ITV sketch show)
Fifteen-To-One Scrapbook (late-90s Channel 4 game show special)
Forever (early-2000s ITV music show)
Get Fit With Brittas (late-90s BBC1 sitcom spin-off)
Get Real (late-90s ITV sitcom)
Gibberish (early-90s BBC1 game show)
Here’s Johnny (late-90s Channel 4 comedy chat show)
Hit Man (late-80s ITV game show)
Housemates (mid-90s BBC1 game show)
The Jim Tavare Show (late-90s Channel 5 sketch show)
Kelly’s Eye (mid-80s ITV sketch show)
Knock Knock (late-80s CBBC game show)
Marlene Marlowe Investigates (mid-90s CBBC sitcom)
Morris Minor’s Marvellous Motors (late-80s BBC1 sitcom)
The New Tomorrow (mid-2000s Channel 5 drama spin-off)
Not Another Game Show (early-2000s BBC1 comedy clip show)
100% Gold (late-90s Channel 5 game show)
Only Joking (early-90s ITV comedy panel game)
People Do The Funniest Things (mid=80s ITV comedy clip show)
Pirates (mid-90s CBBC sitcom)
A Question Of Entertainment (late-80s BBC1 game show)
A Question Of TV (early-2000s BBC1 game show)
Quiz Bowl (early-90s Channel 4 game show)
Relative Strangers (mid-80s Channel 4 sitcom)
Sport Addicts (early-2000s Challenge game show)
Sprockets (early-90s ITV film show)
10 Sharp (early-90s ITV entertainment show)
What’s All This Then (late-80s CBBC show)
Your Number Please (early-90s ITV game show)

If anyone does have at least one full edition of any of these shows to put online, or knows where there may be some clips already online, then that will come in really useful. Until then, I might review a few other things that I have planned.

The One-Hit Wonders The 80s – Part 4.

One thing that is always interesting when looking back at old music magazines are those articles at the beginning of the year where the writers predict who they are convinced will be the next big thing, and of course most of their choices go on to have no further success and are never heard of again. When I wanted to find out more about 80s pop music, I looked at some magazine covers online, and there was a Record Mirror one that intrigued me.

This was because I didn’t recognise the woman on the cover, despite the insistence that she was going to be “THE VOICE OF 1981”. So I decided to investigate further, and as always there’s a rather interesting story worth sharing. Jane Kennaway was a singer/songwriter, and it seems that fame runs in the family because her dad James was a successful novelist. jk1

In January 1981 the single “IOU” was released (although it was actually credited to “Jane Kennaway And Strange Behaviour”), and this reached only no. 65. I have heard this and I did enjoy it. As well as Record Mirror, Jane was also featured around this time in Smash Hits, and at this point there was some hope that she could still make the Top 40. But although this didn’t happen, she did release some more singles. vlcsnap-00006

In March 1981, the follow-up to “IOU” was “Celia”, one critic was moved enough to say “this is very good”, and there was a video made, but it wasn’t a hit. This was followed in July 1981 by “Year 2000”, and I found this one interesting, firstly because it was produced by Thomas Dolby, who would go on to have some success of his own with singles including “Hyperactive!” (which also has a great video that I did a piece about a while back). vlcsnap-00012

I also noted an online observation that this must be one of the earliest singles released to speculate what the world would be like in 2000, which was still almost two decades away by this point, when people really did think that we’d all be living on the moon by then. There doesn’t seem to be a video for this one though. And going into the mid-80s, there were a few more singles released including “Arabesque” and “I’m Missing You” (which do also have videos), but again these all flopped. jk2

Unfortunately it seems that Jane never got as far as releasing an album, but about a decade ago a compilation was put together of the small amount of singles, live performances, and various leftovers that she made. Although she never became the star that people hoped, it seems that Jane and her guitar are still out there somewhere, and she has continued to work with various singers and groups.

The Review Of 2020.

It’s time to take a look back at the year. Now I plan to only really write about what I have achieved on my blog in 2020, I have tried not to take too much notice of what has been happening in the news, although it’s hard to deny that there have been times when it has been dispiriting to say the least. Being able to put more blog pieces together has definitely helped me to get through it all, and I’ll pick out a few highlights. 2020

It is weird to think that I started this blog almost six years ago now. I did wonder if it was a good idea, but it has gone well, and my memories of putting those early pieces together are almost nostalgic in themselves now. This year I realised that there were still plenty of TV shows that I wanted to review, so I thought that I might as well just get on with it. This meant that for a while the pieces were being produced at a frantic pace, with one a day at one point, and this will be my 321st piece of the year.

To go on about statistics a little, this blog has had over 105,000 views this year, which is a new record for a year by some distance, and an average of almost 290 views a day. My most-viewed piece is my review of ITV’s Tenable. I haven’t reviewed many shows that are currently still on TV, but this one has had a big response, because every time there is a big win on the show, people look at the piece to discover what the biggest-ever win is.

It’s always great to find things on YouTube as well, and I have looked back at TV shows of varying fame, just anything that I thought people would like to know about. Leaving this blog open to comments is always interesting, because sometimes I simply get a comment saying “I remember that”, or “that was good”, and it always makes me feel flattered that people want to spend the time looking at this blog and share memories.

One that really stood out to me though was when I got a comment from someone who was in the cast of BBC2’s sitcom The Wolvis Family (which is now not far short of its 30th anniversary). I didn’t expect that at all, it was a real surprise to me, and it’s difficult to describe the buzz that I got from that, it definitely made taking the time to watch that one worthwhile. Thank you, Honey!

I must admit that I don’t have many more plans for pieces at the moment. I have now got the vast majority of what I have wanted to share online, and I am pleased that it has been archived for people from across the world to read, with over 1,200 pieces available. I feel that I have dedicated enough of my time for now. There are about 35 more TV shows that I’d like to review, but there are currently no traces of them online, I might put a list on here soon, and see if there is anyone out there with any full episodes because it would be really useful.

I might do a few more pieces about pop music as well from the 80s and 90s, an area that I am always interested in discovering more about, and maybe some radio and computer games too, along with continuing on YouTube and Twitter. I shall just have to see how it goes. I’d like to finish off for now by saying thanks once again for your support throughout the year, it does mean a lot to me, and I hope that whatever you’re doing you and the people you know will have a Happy New Year.

More TV Memories – Bedrock.

Bedrock (ITV2, 1998-1999)

This is a show that I briefly touched on in a piece that I did a while ago, but as some editions have now to my surprise turned up online, I thought that I might as well do a full review, because I was very pleased to see it again. Even though it can’t be a show that is familiar to most people, it is actually rather a important moment in my development of watching TV over the years.

Although it had been around for many years by the late-90s, we never had satellite or cable in our house. Like many other people it seems, the only way we saw anything from these channels then was when people sent us some tapes that had some early episodes of The Simpsons recorded off Sky One on them that we’d wanted to see out of curiosity, long before that show came to BBC1. But we never had anything beyond the four (later five) main channels.

Then we decided to get an OnDigital box after falling for the hype of that one, and that venture went on to become a financial disaster. Just like they had done with BSB about a decade earlier, Sky would again see off their biggest rival in the marketplace at the start of the digital era. When we put the box on for the first time, hoping that it wouldn’t blow up, the first thing that we saw was ITV2, and this show was on, meaning that Bedrock has the honour of being the first ever show that I saw on a non-terrestrial channel for myself. vlcsnap-00004

Now this really did open up a world of previously unknown possibilities. You mean to say that we have a channel 6 now? And even beyond that? All without that fuzziness on the picture? It’s difficult to describe just how blown away I was by it all. And when we used the EPG for the first time, we were informed “it’s got a bed, and it rocks!”, which didn’t reveal anything about what the show was really. vlcsnap-00005

Bedrock was an hour-long live show (usually around 6pm) that was aimed at teenagers, and at this time I happened to be in that age range, so it definitely caught my interest. There were a quartet of hosts, and these included Heather Suttie, who went on to co-host the final series of Live & Kicking, and also Ben Shephard, many years before he went on to host the revival of The Krypton Factor, and squeal at coins rolling around on Tipping Point. vlcsnap-00006

There were also plenty of features, including interviews with pop stars, competitions, plus reviews of computer games, fashion, films, sport, TV, and I remember Scott Mills (who had recently joined BBC Radio 1, and is still there to this day) reviewing some singles. You could also email or fax the hosts if you wanted. On an average day, you could expect to see guests like Adam Rickitt and Julia Bradbury. They were famous at the time, honest. vlcsnap-00001

Although Bedrock can’t have had very high ratings, I’m pleased that the effort was put in to make this show, when BBC Choice and UK Play were also making plenty of cheap but creative shows that I really enjoyed. I don’t watch ITV2 much nowadays, but I’m grateful for the influence that it had on me back then. And I must conclude by saying it proves that you’ll never know what will turn up online, seeing this one again was a real flashback!

The YouTube Files – Focus North.

Focus North (Channel 4, 1999)

I always like to stumble across unusual comedy shows, even I don’t remember watching them at the time, and I recently saw this on YouTube (credit goes to the uploader Charlie Bowser). The 4Later strand used to feature some rather bizarre shows in the early hours of the morning, and this one (that was usually shown around 1am) definitely fits that description.

There have been many comedy shows that have parodied news presentation over the years, with The Day Today being among the best-known of them, but this one was different enough to manage to get some original ideas out of the genre. Focus North was a parody of regional TV news, and it’s rather clear what the influences were. The show was supposedly produced by Pennine Television, whose ident was suspiciously similar to the one used by Yorkshire on ITV at the time. vlcsnap-00004

And the opening sequence gave me something of a “Channel 3 North East” vibe (the rebranding shambles of Tyne Tees in the mid-90s). The aim was to cover all of the things that were important to viewers. The hosts who were sat on the sofa were Tom Whitelam (Tom Adams, who also around the same time was appearing in those famous “the DFS sale is now on!” adverts), and Shona Lincoln. vlcsnap-00001

Various stories were covered in the regional roundup of the latest happenings, with the hosts seemingly not realising how strange everything was. One item that really stood out to me was about someone who had Clegghead Syndrome, where they are born with an old head that gets younger as the rest of the body gets older, what a strange idea. vlcsnap-00003

There were also some spoof adverts, a look at what was happening around the region, and various technical errors. Tom would also occasionally have some rather odd outbursts, such as turning into the Hulk. Well Fred Dinenage never carried on like this. The show also had a rather large support cast who helped out in the reports, everything was written and directed by a team of three, and it was produced a company that I’ve not seen on TV before or since. Not being from Yorkshire, I wonder if that area is really like this? vlcsnap-00002

There were ten episodes of Focus North in one series, it must’ve been little-seen at the time, but the few that watched did seem to enjoy it, and I can’t really imagine Channel 4 commissioning an original comedy show in such a timeslot now. The style did also remind a little of the type of comedy shows that were being made by UK Play at the time, one of my favourite channels from the early days of digital TV.

More TV Memories – Blam!!!

Blam!!! (Sky One, 2000-2001)

I thought that I would review another show about computer games. There have been various shows going back to the 80s, and although I didn’t watch all of them at the time, the early-2000s were something of a boom period for this genre. Shows included Channel 4’s Bits, even ITV got in on the action with Cybernet (although it was shown very late at night), and various other channels including Bravo also had dedicated shows.

I remember in an issue of PlayStation World magazine (around the time I started to buy it because I had a shiny new PS2 in those days) there was a look back at this genre, reminiscing about such attempts over the years to let viewers know more about the world of games including Bad Influence! and GamesMaster. The feature also looked at a new show that was coming that aimed to bring the genre in a new era and be more exciting than most. vlcsnap-00001

This was Blam!!! (three exclamation marks?), which was shown on Sky One on weekend mornings (this channel having already brought us the memorable Games World, which I definitely enjoyed). The host was Julia Reed, whose profile at this time was on the up after she replaced Philippa Forrester as the co-host of Robot Wars which was doing well, and it looked like she was on the brink of becoming a big TV name. She was slightly more glamorous than the likes of Andy Crane and Dominik Diamond too. vlcsnap-00002

What did Blam!!! have to offer viewers then? Well there was plenty. There were the usual reviews (including the new PS2), but along with this, we were also told how much the games were worth and what website you could buy them from, meaning that technically the show was classed as advertising, which was a little odd as I always thought that there was supposed to be a clear difference between what the shows and adverts are. Was this an audition for a shopping channel maybe? vlcsnap-00004

And there were also charts, interviews, along with various challenges where gamers who thought that they knew a thing or two showed off their skills in a competition, while Julia walked around in a big black coat. Despite all of this, Blam!!! didn’t really change the genre that much at all, it ended after only a short while, and I don’t remember seeing Julia on TV much after this. vlcsnap-00005

Although it was a worthwhile idea, Blam!!! joined the fairly long list of those frustrating attempts at trying to bring gaming more into the mainstream that didn’t really succeed, and unsurprisingly there isn’t a huge amount out there about the show online. But looking back now, it’s another reminder of just how quickly the games industry changes, as well as TV.

More TV Memories – Working Lunch.

Working Lunch (BBC2, 1994-2010)

This is a piece about another news show that I remember. These shows aren’t incredibly interesting to write about really, but I thought that I might as well do this one because I think that there are a few things worth pointing out. Working Lunch was usually shown live on weekday afternoons on BBC2, and it was all about the world of business.

Now this isn’t really something that I have a huge interest in, but Working Lunch turned out to be much quirkier than most news shows, and managed to stand out, which is why I would occasionally have a look whilst channel hopping. Firstly, there was the opening sequence, which featured a goldfish being chased by a shark in a tank, and the goldfish seemed to become the show’s mascot. The show also came from a high-tech (for the time) virtual studio. vlcsnap-00008

And then there was the show’s main host, Adrian Chiles. Now although most of the information that he was passing on went over my head, I definitely did enjoy his hosting style. There were a few other features on the show, including Shaw’s Shares, where co-host Adam Shaw gave us the latest updates about what was happening on the stock markets, and where the FTSE was currently trading, which is very important to a lot of people. vlcsnap-00007

There were also reports from a trusted team, along with guests in the studio, and features included some amusing cartoon representations of various things, along with always trying to champion the consumer. As the years went by, Chiles seemed to increase in profile, which I was pleased about, and he was soon appearing on other shows. Chiles left the show in 2007 and went on to host The One Show (which I never been the interested in that much myself, but Chiles seemed to do well). vlcsnap-00010

His next step was interesting, as shortly after he was poached by ITV to become the main host of their football coverage (Chiles is a famous West Bromwich Albion fan). This meant that he was suddenly travelling around the world to host Champions League and World Cup matches. He handled it as well as some of his predecessors did, including Elton Welsby, Des Lynam, and, er, Matthew Lorenzo, but he has now left, and nowadays you are most likely to come across him on the radio. vlcsnap-00004

As for Working Lunch, Shaw left not long after Chiles in 2008, and the show did relaunch and try and carry on with a new hosting team, but it was decided to end it all in 2010. I suppose I remember the show for being an unlikely source of humour as far as news shows go, even if I know nothing about finance it all definitely caught my attention.

The Comedy Vault – Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special.

Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special (BBC1, 1981)

I thought that I would review the first Christmas special of Only Fools And Horses, which was shown shortly after the conclusion after the first series on 28 December 1981 (the first special on the actual day was the third in 1983). This episode is rather significant because firstly, a lot people might not realise that they were making Christmas specials as early as this, and also, little did they realise that for the next 15 years or so the specials would be the centrepiece of BBC1’s Christmas schedule, doing increasingly well in the ratings, also extending in length, and featuring more ambitious ideas.

The first special “Christmas Crackers” might come across as very modest when compared to the later ones, and it was only 35 minutes long, but this was at just about the only point in the show’s history where its future was uncertain and believe it or not there was a small chance that this could’ve been the final episode. A successful repeat run confirmed we’d be seeing a lot more of the Trotters though. vlcsnap-00001

It’s time for Christmas dinner, although you get the feeling that Granddad would rather have his usual cheeseburger, because he doesn’t want too much fuss, and Del Boy and Rodney fancy having a right old knees-up down the pub. Everything is coming along nicely, the potatoes are really well done, there’s some “green stuff”, the gravy’s been strained, the turkey still has the giblets inside, and the pudding is all burnt. It’s the Trotter family tradition, and the only thing that gets Del through it is the thought that this time next year he’ll be a millionaire. vlcsnap-00002

Del then does what most people did late on in the day back then – fall asleep in front of the TV (or two TVs in this case) showing some circus thing with the Christmas Radio Times (the show appeared on the cover of the 1985 Radio Times double issue, along with NME, in what must be a unique double). Rodney can’t believe it and wants to go down The Monte Carlo Club. It might not be Jangles as far as leading early-80s clubs go, but people could still have a really good time. It’s either that or watch The Sound Of Music with a beer. vlcsnap-00003

Off smartly-dressed Del and Rodney go, insisting that they are “The Peckham Playboys”. Del bumps into a mate called Earl, even though I don’t think he was ever seen or referenced again (it is notable that there are no appearances from the regulars such as Boycie and Trigger in this episode). He’s been having some trouble after his dad was in the pub and the glasses went flying everywhere. Del is sorry to hear that, while everyone in the background is doing a dance to “Wordy Rappinghood”. Needless to say, their attempts at pulling a few ladies fail miserably. These specials will get more exciting as the years pass. vlcsnap-00004

Merry Christmas!

Game Show Memories – Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special.

Stars In Their Eyes Christmas Special (ITV, 1994)

It’s time to have a look back at another Christmas special, well it’s that time of year again. This special was hosted by Matthew Kelly, who had become the new host in 1993, and left in 2004. Although Stars In Their Eyes can be classed as a game show, this special didn’t contain a competitive element, as some of the most memorable performers were invited back to go through those famous doors again and bring us some festive cheer. It was much more interesting than the endless celebrity specials the show eventually got bogged down in. vlcsnap-00092

Matthew wore a rather spectacular waistcoat even by his own standards. It was clear that this was a special occasion, as there was a live studio orchestra, who usually only appeared for the series grand final. There were also plenty of decorations around, and the studio audience had their party hats ready. You’d be seeing musical stars perform together that you’d never previously thought possible, partly because they weren’t the real singers, but you’ve probably realised that. Here’s some of the highlights. vlcsnap-00094

As we’ll see, it’s not only the singers that we are going to see on stage, because one performance includes a nativity scene. This really is going to be an exciting show, and we are then offered the unique combination of Madonna and Cilla Black, it is a shame that they never really did do an album together, I’m sure many people will think after seeing this. Matthew promised us that this will be a special with all the trimmings, and it certainly seems like it. vlcsnap-00093

Then we have a Cliff Richard impersonator with his take on “Mistletoe And Wine”, which would you believe was the biggest-selling single in the UK in 1988. This was still many years before “The Millennium Prayer” came along. Then it’s time to get ready to rock as the likes of Meat Loaf and Billy Idol take to the stage to do their thing while Elton John whips out his piano, and everybody really is in party mood now. vlcsnap-00095

How can you finish off such a special? Well you bring on Elvis, the King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, being portrayed in his young pre-hamburgers days, alongside none other than Bing Crosby. Well they don’t really make them like that any more. And then everybody gathers round at the end to say a big thank you and wish viewers a Happy New Year, as Matthew opens a big bottle of champagne and promises us that he will be back with a new series soon, which is how all specials should end. vlcsnap-00097