The Comedy Vault – Harry And Paul.

Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry And Paul (BBC1, 2007)/Harry And Paul (BBC1, 2008, BBC2, 2010-2012)

Harry Enfield first came on to the British comedy scene in the mid-80s, and he quickly became popular with his range of characters (he even had a Top Ten hit single in 1988 as his character Loadsamoney). In 1990 he got his own sketch show on BBC2 that was very well received, and Enfield was now a big name. And there was much surprise when one of Enfield’s support cast Paul Whitehouse went off to his own BBC2 comedy The Fast Show in 1994, and arguably had even more success.

Enfield then went on to feature in a few flop comedy shows including Sky One’s Harry Enfield’s Brand Spanking New Show, so there was much anticipation in 2007 when Enfield and Whitehouse reunited for a BBC1 sketch show called Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry And Paul (they wrote the sketches and they were also supported by Morwenna Banks and Laura Solon). vlcsnap-00440

Enfield and Whitehouse always like to leave behind their characters however popular they have become, so this series introduced a whole new range of characters, including the American Tourists, the man who ran the antiques shop I Saw You Coming, the Posh Scaffolders, a bizarre impression of Nelson Mandela, the Old Surgeons, and pop stars Madonna and Bono. vlcsnap-00442

The response to all of this was rather middling, so they went off and had a rethink and returned with a much-improved second series (now simply titled Harry And Paul, and with a different support cast), with even more new characters, including a multilingual football manager, a cultured fisherman, and a parody of BBC2’s Dragons’ Den (a show I have never watched much myself but I still enjoyed this). The characters that returned from the first series were also in much funnier sketches, and this series won a Bafta. vlcsnap-00443

However, despite the acclaim the second series wasn’t that much of a ratings hit, so the third series moved to BBC2, and by this point it had started to fizzle out a little, with the fourth (and final) series only consisting of five editions, which were directed by Enfield. And once again, there was yet another wave of new characters, with Enfield and Whitehouse continuing to show off their ability to play a wide range of unusual people. vlcsnap-00451

It didn’t end there though, as in 2014 Enfield and Whitehouse appeared in The Story Of The 2s, where they parodied various BBC2 shows for the 50th anniversary. In 2015 there was An Evening With Harry And Paul, where they looked back at some of their favourite sketches and were asked questions by the celebrity studio audience, and this was then followed by a stage tour across the country. vlcsnap-00452

Although all four series have been released on DVD, they don’t contain many extras. And as good as some of the sketches were, none of the characters became as popular with viewers as ones from their previous series, but Enfield and Whitehouse’s reputations in British TV comedy remain impressive, and hopefully they will be around to entertain us for a while yet.

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The YouTube Files – An Evening With Central.

An Evening With Central (ITV, 1994)

I’m always on the lookout for old adverts online, so I was pleased to discover a video on YouTube recently which was almost an hour’s worth of adverts and continuity from the Central region that was recorded when someone left a tape running one night. I just can’t resist things like this and I had to review it. It was recorded on 10 April 1994 and uploaded to YouTube by “Betaman” so credit goes to them. There is a lot to get through here, so here are some of my highlights. vlcsnap-00419

We begin with a trail for the film being shown on Wednesday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Then we have some adverts including McCoy’s, and Kellogg’s Frosties, they’re great. There is an advert for BRMB radio which is interesting because it’s almost identical to the one that would be shown in my region featuring Chris Tarrant promoting his big money Birthday Bonanza competition on his Capital FM Breakfast Show, I didn’t know other stations did it too. It’s not a silly gimmick. vlcsnap-00420

We then have an advert for Whiskas which stars Smokey the cat. The Daily Express could have your head in a spin as they are running a competition with a star prize of £1million. Then there are trails for Phillip Schofield’s game show Talking Telephone Numbers, and sitcom The 10%ers, from the same team behind Red Dwarf. It ran for two series and I would like to review it but there seem to be no full editions online. vlcsnap-00421

There is also a trail for an hour-long edition of Coronation Street, designed to coincide with the first edition of BBC1’s EastEnders shown on a Monday after going to three episodes a week. Adverts include Rolo, Clorets with Hale And Pace, and a ruined blouse, before a trail for The Bill, and then a Central cake ident going into an episode of Prisoner: Cell Block H from 1979. vlcsnap-00428

This features adverts including Pringles and Hugh Dennis for BT. There is then a trail for soap Shortland Street, along with a rather scary Tango advert, and Kellogg’s Bran Flakes. After a trail for Class Act, we then have an ITN summary which gives us a chance to meet the very exciting Phil Roman, before another Central cake ident going into the next programme. vlcsnap-00433

There is then another scary Tango advert, along with Nestle Clusters, tastes nice. We then have a trail for a repeat of the first episode of Heartbeat, followed by an advert for Chatterbox (the only 0898 phoneline advert in this video, I thought that there would be a lot more of them), and then we have another Central cake ident going into The ITV Chart Show, hooray! vlcsnap-00435

Then we have an advert for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes that is interesting as it seems to be a parody of a programme viewers might’ve been familiar with if they watched late-night ITV a lot during this time, the low-budget cookery show G*t St*ff*d!! with what appears to be the woman who was in sitcom Spaced. Considering how precious the production team seem to be about the show, seemingly spending most of their time nowadays removing clips of it from YouTube (as I discovered to my cost), I wonder how they got away with that (It also reminds me of when there was a repeat run around 2002/2003 and I visited the show’s official website which just seemed to consist of one page of text in Comic Sans which seems about right). vlcsnap-00436

There are also adverts for Cadbury’s Fruit And Nut, Peugeot with those two women, and BRMB radio again. Les really wants to give away £5,000! When then have one of those music compilation adverts, this one features the greatest rock tracks on 6 CDs, call now. The ITV Chart Show ends, and we have another music compilation advert, this time for “The Emotion Collection” with 24 original songs. vlcsnap-00437

After another ITN summary with Phil, it’s time for Riviera (don’t ask), and the realisation that it must be about 3am by now but there are still plenty of adverts around, if not viewers. We also have a trail for Central Sports Special, with crucial points at stake in the football, before a few more short shows including Night Shift which I think managed to have a production team even smaller than G*t St*ff*d!! if such a thing is possible. We conclude with Jobfinder and an advert for a bed that looks like the LWT symbol. Goodnight. vlcsnap-00438

The YouTube Files – 20th National Song Contest.

20th National Song Contest (RTE1, 1985)

I have watched The Eurovision Song Contest a lot over the years, and I have been thinking of reviewing it as part of my Game Show Memories series, as it does feature a competitive points scoring element, but its history is rather well known, including all of the famous songs and performances from across Europe, so I thought I might try something a little different.

I thought that instead I could review A Song For Europe, the show where it is determined who will represent the United Kingdom on the big night (and there was a famously awkward moment during one of these shows in the 80s when there was unexpectedly a tie for first place and there was no countback or tiebreaker rule in place, and host Terry Wogan had to use all his years of TV experience to deal with the brief moment of panic and confusion).

It was then while looking on YouTube recently I found an edition of the Irish equivalent of this show. The only thing I really knew about their version was from the memorable parody in sitcom Father Ted where “My Lovely Horse” had a surprise win, and I was curious about how the real thing would compare. It was uploaded by Ulrik D F Wiksaas so credit goes to them. vlcsnap-00335

The 20th National Song Contest was the show that would determine who would represent Ireland at Eurovision in Gothenburg, Sweden in May 1985. It was shown live from Dublin on RTE1 in March 1985 and it was hosted by the bow-tie wearing Gay Byrne (who seemingly hosted every single entertainment show on TV in Ireland in the 1980s), what a pro. vlcsnap-00358

Eight songs (narrowed down from the 451 that were entered) competed to try and win the place on offer. This piece isn’t designed to simply laugh at the naff 80s hairstyles of the singers, although there probably will be a lot of that. 11 juries from across the country are on standby to give their votes, and there is also a live orchestra in the studio. Each song is introduced with a brief biography of the composer. vlcsnap-00419

Song A is “Two Hearts” by Carol Ann, in what is her first-ever TV appearance. She really does have some marvellous hair (told you). Unfortunately the song ends with an on-screen graphics cock-up which turns Carol an odd shade of blue. Song B is “Only A Fantasy” by Marion Fossett, who had previously represented Ireland at Eurovision in 1981 as part of Sheeba. She has got a fan. nsc1

Song C is “Couldn’t Live My Life” by Jody McStravick. He loves a restaurant. Song D is “The Circus Song” by talented 18-year-old Jacinta Whyte, accompanied on-stage by a bench and a not-at-all creepy clown. Song E is “Long Before” by singer-songwriter Jane Cassidy. Song F is “Hearts” by Mike Sherrard who is wearing his decorations in honour of the night. nsc2

Song G is “Hold Her Now” by Trish O’Brien, part of a musical family. And finally, Song H is “Wait Until The Weekend Comes” by Maria Christian, who hits a high note. While the juries consider their verdicts, it’s time for an interval, featuring Linda Martin and Chips with their versions of songs including “Dead Ringer For Love” and “New York New York”, I’m sure that the studio audience were thrilled by it. nsc3

Now it’s time to wheel out the old scoreboard for the results as it’s decision time. I know that technology has advanced a lot over the years, but a part of me does miss shows like this using an LCD scoreboard. The votes are given by the 11 juries out-of-vision down a crackly phone line, with ten votes given to the songs. The tension has begun to mount backstage, and one song is beginning to streak into the lead, put it this way, it’s not looking good for the clown. vlcsnap-00414

And the winner with an unassailable score of 28 points is “Wait Until The Weekend Comes”! Maria Christian will close the show with a reprise of the song once she has got her breath back. The winning composers receive a trophy and a cheque for £1,000. As it turned out, “Wait Until The Weekend Comes” finished in 6th place with a score of 91 points. Ireland’s greatest triumphs in Eurovision were yet to come. vlcsnap-00416

The Comedy Vault – Nighty Night.

Nighty Night (BBC3, 2004-2005)

There were a lot of sitcoms tried out on digital channel BBC3 over the years, but I was never really that fond of many of them, but even though this one like most of the others was rather crude and dark I did actually enjoy it. The way I got into was rather simple really, and how I imagine most people in TV would want it to happen, I saw a trail for the first episode before it launched, thought it was rather curious, and decided to give it a watch.

Nighty Night was created and written by Julia Davis who had already appeared in a few comedy shows including the first series of BBC2’s Big Train. Along with Davis the show featured a lot of unusual characters that were played by a great cast. Davis played Jill, who might just be the most horrible and mean-spirited character to have ever appeared in a British sitcom. vlcsnap-00299

In the first series, Jill works in a salon alongside the useless Linda (a pre-Gavin And Stacey Ruth Jones), and her husband Terry (Kevin Eldon) has become ill. She then goes off to find a man and doesn’t let anything like Terry’s recovery get in the way. Jill becomes very fond of the doctor Don (Angus Deayton, in one of his earliest TV appearances after trying to get his career back on track following his embarrassing departure from Have I Got News For You). vlcsnap-00286

Jill will do anything to be with Don, who is married to Cath (Rebecca Front), who realises that something odd is happening. Jill also meets Glenn (Mark Gatiss, as a character possibly even more hideous and strange than anyone he played in The League Of Gentlemen) who is finding it hard to meet a woman, mostly because of his rather unfortunate facial tic. vlcsnap-00112

Also featuring as a couple are Sue (Felicity Montagu) and the vicar Gordon (Deayton’s old KYTV colleague Michael Fenton-Stevens). Jill practically bumps off half the cast including Glenn to try and get her man, thanks to some devious plans including poisoned Angel Delight. After this climax, it looked like there wasn’t any other direction for Nighty Night to go in, so it was something of a surprise when there was a second series a year later. vlcsnap-00289

Don and Cath were now trying to repair their marriage, but Jill and a reluctant Linda have managed to track them down in Cornwall to make their lives a misery all over again. Miranda Hart also appears in this series. I felt that this series didn’t contain as much action as the first one, but it was still rather intriguing. Both series have been released on DVD with plenty of extras (the second series is rated 18, the first BBC comedy series to receive that rating I believe I’m right in saying). vlcsnap-00285

Another thing I noticed about Nighty Night was that the soundtrack mostly consisted of mid-80s British rock groups such as Marillion and Def Leppard. As I have said before I have never really been that keen on sitcoms that critics like to describe as “it’ll make you cringe more than laugh”, but thanks to the good performances from the entertaining cast coping with the shocking moments this was one that I stayed with to the end.

The Comedy Vault – Home To Roost.

Home To Roost (ITV, 1985-1990)

Having had a look back at various sitcoms that were shown on ITV in the 90s, I thought that I would now review another one from the 80s. As it seems that sitcoms are all but extinct on the present-day ITV, I thought that it would be good to have a look back at the days when there were plenty of them. I must admit that although I was aware of this show I thought that it was just another of those run-of-the-mill domestic sitcoms, but there is actually more much to it than that and there are plenty of interesting things worth pointing out.

Home To Roost is a sitcom that was created and written by Eric Chappell, who was also behind other successful ITV comedies including Rising Damp, and it was set in London (even though it was a Yorkshire production for ITV). Henry Willows (John Thaw, who is best remembered for appearing in various drama series including Inspector Morse, having a rare go at doing comedy) is a businessman who lives on his own after a divorce, his three children live with their mother, and he is rather satisfied with the arrangement. vlcsnap-00219

One day his oldest son, 18-year-old Matthew (Reece Dinsdale, who would go on to appear in various shows including Coronation Street) decides that after being thrown out by his mother, he is going to move back in with his dad. Well you can imagine that Henry is not happy about suddenly having his quiet life disturbed, and they spend a lot of time bickering with one another, they clearly don’t get on. vlcsnap-00234

The other main character is Henry’s cleaner Enid (Elizabeth Bennett) who notices that things can sometimes be rather awkward between him and his son (she was replaced by Fiona for the third series). Henry often spent most of the time having a scotch and throwing his coat around because he became so angry about Matthew’s antics such as listening to loud music when he should’ve been studying. In later episodes we meet more of Henry’s family including his daughter Julie and youngest son Frank, and his ex-wife Sue makes an appearance in one episode (Sheila Hancock, Thaw’s real-life wife at the time). vlcsnap-00226

Most of the episodes were based around being flustered by one another’s new girlfriend. There was a series 1 episode where Matthew was going out with a girl called Christine who had something of a punk look (well it was 1985). Christine was played by Jenna Russell, and I wanted to find out a little more about her career. I was surprised to discover that she has gone to achieve a lot more than I ever realised, including winning an Olivier award for her theatre work, appearing in EastEnders for a couple of years, and I presume that lots of other people already know this but it was news to me, she also sang the closing theme to science-fiction sitcom Red Dwarfvlcsnap-00259

There were also plenty of episodes where Matthew liked to throw parties without Henry’s knowledge, and all the trendy people would always turn up, I’m sure everyone looked like this in 1986. Also appearing in episodes were Lysette Anthony, Leslie Ash, John Bird, Tyler Butterworth, Sara Crowe, Sherrie Hewson, and Ray Winstone. Home To Roost eventually ran for four series, plus an hour-long Christmas special in 1987. All 29 episodes have been released on DVD by Network, although there aren’t many extras. vlcsnap-00277

About a decade after it launched on ITV, Home To Roost was repeated on Channel 4 in the mid-90s, and around this time a few other ITV sitcoms including Only When I Laugh and Rising Damp were also given a second lease of life on Channel 4, with Home To Roost also being repeated on ITV3 about a decade ago. Almost three decades after it ended it is a sitcom that is still fondly remembered by many. vlcsnap-00262

There was also an American version of Home To Roost that launched on NBC in 1986 called You Again?, which starred Jack Klugman (of Quincy fame) as Henry Willows and John Stamos as Matthew. Enid was played by Elizabeth Bennett in what is thought to be a unique instance of the same person playing the same character in both the British and American versions of a sitcom. Some of the Home To Roost scripts were also recycled, and the first episode was the Matthew/Christine story being played out again. You Again? ended in 1987 and was shown in the UK on Channel 5 in the late-90s.

More TV Memories – Another Afternoon With CITV.

Another Afternoon With CITV (CITV, 1993)

Last month I did a piece looking back at some programmes and adverts that were shown during CITV one afternoon. This was very well received, and indeed it’s currently my most viewed blog piece of 2019. I remembered that I did record another afternoon of CITV in full, so I thought that it would be a good idea to review that as well. I’m fairly sure that it was recorded on 15 April 1993 in the Carlton region, here are some of the highlights. vlcsnap-00174

We begin with some of the break before the start of CITV, which includes an advert for a partwork about The Animals Of Farthing Wood, a cartoon that was actually shown regularly on CBBC at the time, so it seems to a little unusual to promote it here. Also featuring is Galaxy chocolate and Vortex, a bleach which helps out toilets that are full of noisy germs thanks to its patented thickening system, much to the relief of Michael Fenton-Stevens. vlcsnap-00185

We also have Kellogg’s Coco Pops (which I have never liked myself) and its invisible jigsaw free gift. CITV begins with a trail, there are plenty of great shows to enjoy, made for you. We are then welcomed by Steven Ryde who is now a couple of months into his five-year stint behind the microphone. It’s a Thursday and there’s plenty to come, but as we’ll see the emphasis seems to be more on what’s coming tomorrow. Today’s programmes are Garfield And Friends, A Disgraced Antipodean Didgeridoo Player’s Cartoon Club, and Tiny Toon Adventuresvlcsnap-00186

After Garfield And Friends ends, there’s a trail for a programme coming on Monday all about the environment called Go Wild. Adverts in this break include Burger King, Snickers, Kellogg’s Frosties, and Fruit-Tella, which has been classified by the The Really Juicy Board Of Classification apparently, and it also features a song about the joys of Fruit-Tella that is almost to the tune of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”. vlcsnap-00188

We also have adverts for computer game Super Mario Land 2 on the Nintendo Game Boy featuring the floating head of Wario and his horrible laugh, Monster Munch with a free gift for your bike, and the pool-playing Munch Bunch Pot Shots and their yoghurt. Then there is a trail for cartoon Tale Spin that is coming tomorrow, followed by a pair of goldfish who introduce the next programme which features some classic Warner Brothers cartoons. vlcsnap-00189

Then we have the CITV Word Of The Day which is “participate”. There is some big excitement about the major event coming tomorrow though, the start of the fifth and final series of acclaimed drama Press Gang! Julia Sawalha and Dexter Fletcher are back. I recently got this on DVD as I do remember watching it, and I plan to review it on here some time soon. Tiny Toon Adventures is next. vlcsnap-00203

We have some more adverts including a few repeats of the ones shown earlier such as the Burger King Kids Club Meal with its free mystery gift, along with the return of The Robinsons Gang who I presume are still sucking on their oranges. We also get adverts for Thorpe Park (I must admit I’ve never been myself), Kinder’s Teeny Terrapins (hand-painted as they’re extra special), and McCain’s Oven Chips, healthy and great. vlcsnap-00213

After a trail for drama series Runaway Bay on Monday (one that I don’t really remember watching myself), we have another creative CITV ident going into Tiny Toon Adventures starring Plucky Duck. We then see a girl who is very keen to tell us about CITV, before being told once again that Tale Spin and Press Gang are coming tomorrow, they really are. Steven informs us that we’d have to be off our trolley to miss any of it. vlcsnap-00214

Although I recorded lots more CITV clips and adverts over the years, I don’t have any more full afternoons, and I never recorded a CBBC afternoon in full, but I hope you enjoyed this look back over 25 years ago.

The YouTube Files – Another Great 80s Music Video.

I thought that it was about time to review another music video from the 80s that I think is really great. Lots of people consider 1986’s “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel to be one of the greatest music videos of its era, and indeed I agree with that, and it went on to win plenty of awards, however its story is rather well known. What people might not realise is that the followup single has an equally great and creative video, so here’s a look at some of the highlights.

“Big Time” was released in the UK in March 1987 and it reached no. 13, it was directed by Stephen R Johnson, and it’s another four and-a-half minutes of rather strange happenings. It’s another example of the rather clever things that you can do with stop-motion animation and a piece of clay, and a clever technique called strata-cut animation is also frequently used. It’s not easy to describe most of what happens but I’ll have a go. 

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Hi there!

We start off with Peter inside his small home, which then explodes which is rather unfortunate. There is then a rather strange sequence where Peter is stretching his mouth to let those big words come right out, it looks rather painful. Then there is one of my favourite moments where Peter’s head is on a spring while informing us that he’s off one his way to the big city where he’ll be a big noise. He really is thinking big. vlcsnap-00005

Then as we get to the chorus we see a example of some of the strata-cut animation, this is where some images are put into a piece of clay, which is then sliced and animated frame-by-frame to make it look like the picture is animating, I found it mildly scary really. This is followed by another odd moment where Peter is surrounded by some people whose heads keep changing. vlcsnap-00007

Peter then stands on a podium and his head starts to change frame-by-frame as well, and then in another highlight he turns to clay again and he gets rather overexcited about his bed because contains a snow-white pillow for his big fat head. What more could you want. Peter then gets cloned and is accompanied by yet more strange animation as we reach the climax of the song. vlcsnap-00010

Peter is now very pleased that he has finally reached the big time, and his hand even grows a mouth in celebration. Having been one of the pioneers in that area, Peter Gabriel went on to appear in many more groundbreaking music videos in the 90s including “Steam” which was another good one. There are lots of other great music videos of course and I might review a few more soon. vlcsnap-00014