More TV Memories – Rise.

Rise (Channel 4, 2002-2003)

The Big Breakfast is a show that had done well for Channel 4, especially in its early years, being rather entertaining and lively, and attracting a lot of viewers. But having to produce two hours of live TV a day five days a week all year round soon took its toll, and when the show came to an end after almost a decade in 2002 it did feel like it was past its best.

So it was decided to launch a new show in the breakfast slot, which promised to be a fresh take on all of the latest important news (but don’t they all claim that), but this one would, not to that many people’s surprise, turn out to be a flop by comparison. I didn’t watch this one a huge amount, but why it exactly failed with viewers has interested me. vlcsnap-01064

Rise (or RI:SE as it was sometimes written, aiming to simulate the display of a digital alarm clock) came from a TV studio, and had a collection of hosts who were rather in vogue at the time. These included Mark Durden-Smith (who seemed to be everywhere around this time), Kirsty Gallacher (who had impressed on Sky Sports), and Edith Bowman (who was also on MTV). And would you believe it, despite their abilities, when you put them all together around a desk, there was practically no chemistry between them whatsoever. vlcsnap-01070

The news coverage aimed to be something a little different, by being hosted in front of a big screen where all the reports were summarised in a single word. The show also jumped on the success of Big Brother, giving us some live coverage from the house, that usually only consisted of some people asleep. There were plenty of music videos and celebrity guests too. And you could even email them, how incredible. vlcsnap-01071

It wasn’t too much of a surprise that this didn’t go down well with viewers, and sure enough it wasn’t long before the constant relaunches, with all of the original line-up and the big desk long gone, and over a dozen hosts were used in Rise‘s short time on air. Among those who joined later were Iain Lee (who had previously hosted Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show and had a more sarcastic take on the news). vlcsnap-01065

And also featuring were the double-act Mel And Sue, who practically revived their Light Lunch format that had done well on Channel 4 in the afternoon about five years earlier. Not that many people were surprised when Rise finally ended in December 2003 after nearly 18 months, indeed some viewers didn’t expect the show to even last that long. vlcsnap-01069

There are only so many times you can relaunch a show though that isn’t attracting the viewers. And after this, Channel 4 practically gave up on creating new programming for the breakfast slot, deciding from 2004 to fill the time instead with endless repeats of American sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. And remarkably, almost 17 years on, they still do. Just how many episodes were made?

The Comedy Vault – Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.

Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy (E4, 2012)/Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy 2: Tales From Painted Hawaii (E4, 2014)

The Mighty Boosh was a sitcom that I was a big fan of, and when that ended in 2007, Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt didn’t go their separate ways as such, but they haven’t done a huge amount of mucking around together since. Noel clearly still had a feeling for doing some rather bizarre comedy though, so about five years on he launched a show of his own.

The first series of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy had a sketch format, which was hosted from a treehouse. And there were a few other regular cast members, including half-anteater Smooth (played by Noel’s brother Michael), the deceased American artist and Curiosity Killed The Cat fan Andy Warhol, and German woman Dolly. vlcsnap-01045

There would also be a rather odd range of characters, and most of them were played by Noel, including Sergeant Raymond Boombox, Wonky Steve, The Singing Fish Finger, and Secret Peter. There were also plenty of songs and animated sequences, and among the guest appearances was Richard Ayoade. I must admit that I was disappointed by the lack of a talking cushion though. vlcsnap-01048

And well, this really was some weird stuff, even Noel’s fans might have been a little surprised by how far-out it was, it was even weirder than garlic and bananas. Needless to say the critics were totally split on the show’s merits, Noel’s style could be the ultimate in the “you either get it or you don’t”-type of comedy. Some thought that his style could compare favourably to Spike Milligan and Kenny Everett, while others were just horrified. vlcsnap-01042

Noel did return for a second series though, although this had a change of format, and was more of a sitcom. All of the regulars were back, but Noel now worked in a coffee shop on the edge of a volcano in Hawaii. It was surprising that they got so many customers, and Noel had to deal with things including being unable to think of an ending to the show, and meeting his biggest fan. vlcsnap-01063

There were 12 episodes of Noel’s Fielding’s Luxury Comedy in two series. They were originally shown on E4, but I can’t recall there being a repeat run on Channel 4 though. They were also shown rather late at night on TV in Australia. All of the episodes have been released on DVD, and extras include plenty of deleted scenes, along with a look behind the scenes, and also a big poster too. vlcsnap-01062

But then, a few years ago, Noel returned with his most outrageous show yet in another different format that once again surprised fans. In this new series, Noel was locked in a tent in a field somewhere that was full of ovens, and all those people came along and had to bake some cakes while he watched on, it was seriously trippy, dude.

The YouTube Files – Sky Trax.

Sky Trax (Sky Channel, 1984-1989)

A while ago I looked back at some advert breaks that were shown on the Sky Channel in the 80s, which at this point was available on satellite in various countries across Europe. One of the shows that was promoted a lot looked rather interesting, so after having a look for some more clips on YouTube, I thought that it was worth a full review.

Back in the days of the Sky Channel, when they weren’t showing some imported sitcom, they filled most of the time in the morning and afternoon for hours on end, with Sky Trax, a music show coming from a cupboard in London featuring various hosts who introduced music videos, along with plenty of news and interviews with the biggest pop stars around at the time. “Are you going on tour soon?” is about as probing as the questions got. Well it was either this or more editions of The DJ Kat Show. vlcsnap-00035

There can’t have been a huge amount of viewers, but the average pop star wouldn’t miss any opportunity to promote their latest single on TV. Among the hosts was Pat Sharp, who had a terrific hairstyle even back then. Pat had worked in TV and radio long before Fun House, he hosted Top Of The Pops¬†as early as 1982, and by this point he was a success on Capital FM.vlcsnap-00033

And there was also Gary Davies, doing some moonlighting from his Sloppy Bit on BBC Radio 1. He hosted various features, including Young, Free And Single, and The Great Video Race. There were also shows dedicated to various genres and charts including Monsters Of Rock, Nescafe UK Top 40, and Soul Spectacular. You never knew what was going to happen next, and things often went with a bang! vlcsnap-00012

Gary was also among the hosts of The Eurochart Top 50, which was somewhat similar to Top Of The Pops, and he was always pleased that there were plenty of great records going up the chart. Gary must be fond of this era of music, as he is now the host of Sounds Of The 80s on BBC Radio 2. A few other familiar names were among the hosts, including Tony Blackburn, David Jensen, and Peter Powell. vlcsnap-00027

There was even a spin-off compilation album released called “16 Solid Hits”, and I’m sure they were. Sky Trax all these years on is a great archive of pop music from the mid-80s, it wasn’t all rubbish, honest. In 1989 though, the show came to an end when the Sky Channel was relaunched as Sky One, and they would now show revivals of The Price Is Right and Sale Of The Century all day. vlcsnap-00010

Along with Sky Trax, there were some other satellite and cable music channels in the 80s that had a similar mix of videos, interviews and features. There was Music Box, which in 1986 was also shown overnight on Yorkshire as they became the first ITV region to experiment with being on air 24 hours a day, and also the Super Channel. Who needs MTV when you’ve got this.

More TV Memories – Charmed.

Charmed (WB, 1998-2006)

This is one last American supernatural series that I want to review, and then that’s all of them. Charmed is a show that centres around the three Halliwell sisters Prue, Piper, and Phoebe (no relation to Geri as far as I know). They turned out to be the most exciting trio since the Sugababes came on to the scene. They live together in a house in Los Angeles that they inherited from their grandmother, and they are in for a surprise.

This is because they discover The Book Of Shadows, and it turns out that they are all from a family of witches. They all have special abilities individually, including being able to freeze time, or see the future. And when they are really stuck in a corner and facing a huge amount of ghosts and demons all at once, they can combine their powers into The Power Of Three, which usually does the job. vlcsnap-01039

There were also plenty of special effects which helped to show off the creative ideas, such as people randomly appearing from nowhere, or turning into mermaids, and so on. It was all rather entertainingly far-fetched and there was plenty of humour added in. But can they be trusted to use their powers properly and not give away their secrets? vlcsnap-01040

Prue left at the end of the third series, which was a shock, and she was replaced by Paige, a long-lost half-sister that Piper and Phoebe didn’t even though they had, but this meant that they could retain the trio of powerful witches, who went on to have many more adventures, and there were plenty of guest appearances from people who didn’t have a problem with entering this rather strange world. The show went on to do rather well and help establish the fledging WB channel in America. vlcsnap-01041

Charmed retains a good reputation, and always features high-up in those endless “77 great TV shows beginning with C from the 90s”-type lists that fill magazines. There was also some merchandise, including a computer game, books and just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess, there was a monthly magazine for a short while that featured further insight into the show. charmed2

There were 178 episodes of Charmed in eight series. They were shown on various channels in the UK throughout the 2000s, including Channel 4, Channel 5, and LivingTV, but this was usually in an afternoon slot, so they were probably edited, because aren’t they always. I must admit that I don’t remember watching a huge amount of them at the time, but I did enjoy what I saw of them. charmed

All of the episodes have been released on DVD, and that’s a huge 48 discs altogether. There aren’t that many extras, but they do include a look behind the scenes. And in 2018, there was a revival of Charmed, which was a variation on the same idea, although it featured a different cast, and I think a few episodes have been shown in the UK too.

More TV Memories – Terrahawks.

Terrahawks (ITV, 1983-1986)

This is another one from the 80s that I don’t remember from the time, but I found out enough about the show to decide I wanted to feature it here. There are a few reasons I became interested in Terrahawks. Firstly, it’s another science-fiction show that was created by Gerry Anderson and features puppetry in a similar style to the earlier and very successful Thunderbirds.

Then there’s the scheduling. This is another one that, just like ALF and The Smurfs, only ever seemed to turn up on LWT in the afternoon when viewers least expected it. But as we’ll see there’s another reason that attracted me. Terrahawks was set in the year 2020 (!), and Earth is somewhat in trouble. Aliens including Zelda are trying to take over the world, and there are only five people who can come to the rescue. vlcsnap-01038

They were led by Dr Tiger Ninestein, and the crew also consisted of Captain Mary Falconer, Captain Kate Kestrel, Lt Hiro, and Lt Hawkeye. Between them they are able to access various vehicles including cars and planes and use the latest technology when they are needed in an emergency. Also featuring are the Zeroids, small spherical robots full of flashing lights and twinkling eyes who always have something to say about the situation. vlcsnap-01036

I’m very grateful that they saved the world of course, but this wasn’t the highlight of the show for me. Kate Kestrel took some time off from zapping aliens and also had a side career as a famous pop star. We often see her in the recording studio at the keyboard working on another guaranteed discobuster. Kate also performed concerts to excited crowds, and her hair changed colour in every episode. This is another show that unexpectedly contains a blue-haired pop star from the 80s. Well that’s great! vlcsnap-01034

Her career was on the up, with her poster on every wall, and a huge fanbase, her song “SOS” was even released as a single, and they found some woman to play Kate with bright pink hair in the video. Incredibly, it flopped. Every episode ended with the Zeroids and Cubes playing Noughts And Crosses, and there was a different outcome every time. The combination of all this is very enjoyable. vlcsnap-01031

There were 39 episodes of Terrahawks in three series. The show featured regularly in Lookin, and characters hosted CITV in October 1984. Many episodes were released on VHS in the 80s, along with a computer game and an annual. The show has been released on DVD by Network in a generous nine-disc boxset. There are a large amount of extras, including features on the special effects, some audio episodes, as PDFs of scripts and the annual.

The Comedy Vault – Filthy, Rich And Catflap.

Filthy, Rich And Catflap (BBC2, 1987)

This is another sitcom from the 80s that I don’t really remember from the time, but it is worth featuring. After the end of The Young Ones, three-quarters of the main cast reunited to try out something a little different. Filthy, Rich And Catflap was written by Ben Elton and was a parody of celebrity and showbusiness, proving that being famous isn’t sometimes all it seems.

Rik Mayall played Rich, an actor who lives in a rotten flat and has been in the business for a decade but was resting all the time. He thinks that he is a huge talent that should be on TV, but the most high-profile work he has had to date is being a continuity announcer on TVS (well he couldn’t have been any worse than Brian Nissen). One thing that Rich aimed for was to be showbiz pals with Brucie and Tarby. That’s what it seems he thought fame consisted of, and he had their pictures on his wall. vlcsnap-01026

Adrian Edmondson played Catflap, a friend of Rich, although he was completely useless, and gave him little encouragement in his fame quest. And Nigel Planer was Filthy, a sleazy agent who tried hard but constantly failed to find Rich any decent work. Throughout the episodes, Rich does finally get some TV work, including appearing on a game show very similar to Blankety Blank, and TV-am. vlcsnap-01011

Rich does spend most of his time though being rather frustrated, and this leads to random bouts of violence against Catflap, and several unfortunate milkmen. Rich also spends a lot of time down the pub causing a scene. By the end, Rich decides to become a journalist and ruin the careers of everyone who is famous with outrageous stories, meaning that he is the only one whose reputation isn’t damaged, and he really does now have all the TV shows to himself. Made it! vlcsnap-01027

Other elements of the show included characters looking into the camera, discussion of how good the jokes were (or weren’t), and saying “oo-er!” at what was mildly rude, which was just about everything. There were also some guest appearances from various comedy names, including Fry and Laurie, Hale and Pace, Chris Barrie, Harry Enfield, and Mel Smith. vlcsnap-01025

There was only one series of Filthy, Rich And Catflap, and it didn’t get that great a response from viewers and critics. Mayall and Edmondson would do much better though with their next sitcom Bottom, which was similarly anarchic. I think there was also a repeat run on Dave a while ago. The show has been released on DVD, and then there was a shinier re-release for the 25th anniversary.

More TV Memories – Charley Says.

One area of television presentation that I haven’t taken that much of a look back at yet is the Public Information Film. They were commissioned by the Government, were rather short, usually running for under a minute, some were animated and some were live action, and all of them had the aim of trying to pass on an important message to help people of all ages. Some of them now are unintentionally amusing, while some are rather shocking, they did anything that they could to try and get the message across.

Adding to the fright factor was the fact that most of these would be shown when you least expected them, usually rather late at night, on BBC1 or the early days of Channel 4 before closedown. There were so many memorable PIFs produced that Network compiled some of the highlights into Charley Says, a DVD that featured almost 160 PIFs ranging from the late-50s to the early-80s. vlcsnap-00988

The character of Charley was one of the most well-known in PIFs, an animated ginger cat (voiced by Kenny Everett) who passed on plenty of things that needed to be known by children in the early-70s, along with his human friend Tony. This was also sampled by The Prodigy for “Charley”, which was released in 1991 and was their first Top Ten hit single. vlcsnap-00967

There really were a wide range of topics covered in PIFs, whether it was road safety, explaining decimalisation, keeping places tidy, or just generally hoping that people wouldn’t end up doing something daft that would make them or everything else around them explode, so listen carefully to the advice. Crossing the road isn’t as easy as you think. It seems that there was a lot of effort to make these PIFs on the mouldiest film possible too. vlcsnap-00980

Another element to PIFs were the vast range of celebrities who featured, and if Jon Pertwee, the cast of Dad’s Army or Shaw Taylor feature, then that is definitely going to make viewers sit up and listen. Some of the topics covered might have had an incredibly obvious message, but people needed to be told. I don’t remember many of the PIFs featured on Charley Says from first time round, but they really do capture an interesting look back at this period of British history. vlcsnap-00972

The DVD did well enough with viewers for Network to release a sequel called Charley Says 2, featuring even more classic PIFs taken from the archive. You wouldn’t think that there would be a market for such a thing, but they do bring back memories for people, even if they are remembering what you had to do if there was a impending nuclear war. No wonder people had nightmares.

The Comedy Vault – The Inbetweeners.

The Inbetweeners (E4, 2008-2010)

This is another sitcom from Channel 4 that is considered to be among the best of their home-made comedy shows. This one centres around the lives of four teenage boys (ignoring the fact that the actors who played them were actually all about 25 at the time) who attend the sixth form at Rudge Park Comprehensive, who can contest that these are the best years of your life.

The Inbetweeners begins when Will’s parents go through a divorce and he has to move schools. At first he finds it all rather difficult, but then he befriends a group of boys, Simon (bid again etc), Neil, and Jay. They aren’t exactly unpopular, but they’re far from the trendiest people at the school too. Their teacher is Mr Gilbert who really doesn’t know how to deal with them. vlcsnap-00719

Will also narrates the episodes to set the story, and also reflect on what he has learnt (which isn’t much). The show could be seen to be one of the more extreme examples of shows that feature boys who have reached that age where everything can be rather awkward. They are confused, and then some. How can you do your exams when you feel like this. Will even made Adrian Mole (whose sitcom I reviewed recently) seem to be sensible and untroubled by comparison. vlcsnap-00720

Beyond school, we also see the boys doing things like attending birthday parties, visiting theme parks, trying to have a drink, and going camping, of course the embarrassment factor is high. Most of the other cast members are fellow pupils, along with some of the boys’ parents. It’s fair to say that the girls at school aren’t exactly falling for them, even though they think they are irresistibly the knees of the bees. Are the adolescence years really like this? Mine are so long ago now I can barely remember. vlcsnap-00715

The Inbetweeners received better reviews than most sitcoms from around this time. I didn’t see much of the show first time round, but after critics began falling over themselves to praise the show and were saying things like it was so funny you’ll snort like a pig, I thought that I might as well give it a go. It was definitely rather good, although I don’t recall making many pig-like noises.vlcsnap-00717

First shown on E4, the show did well enough for a quick repeat on Channel 4. The show had a rather trendy soundtrack which was released on CD, and the cast even appeared on the cover of NME, proof that their fanbase included all the trendy dudes who get on down. The Inbetweeners won a British Comedy Award, and there was also a Comic Relief special, an American version, two books, and not one but two successful films. vlcsnap-00738

The cast went on to further success, starring in more sitcoms including Rock And Chips and Friday Night Dinner. There were 18 episodes of The Inbetweeners in three series. All of them have been released on DVD (and are rated 18 because my goodness it’s rather saucy), and there are also plenty of enjoyable extras, including a look behind the scenes and outtakes.

The Comedy Vault – Black Books.

Black Books (Channel 4, 2000-2004)

This is another Channel 4 sitcom that was definitely one of their better offerings. This one was co-written by and starred Irish comedian Dylan Moran, and it was another variation of the “wrong person, wrong job” idea that serves comedy shows well, and this one had a surreal edge. The show started out as an unaired pilot in 1998, and it had enough potential to be fully developed into a series that launched in 2000 and livened up Friday nights.

Black Books centred around Bernard Black, who ran a small and rather dirty second-hand bookshop in London, where some rather strange things would happen. Bernard is assisted by Manny (Bill Bailey), who somehow puts up with all of this, and also featuring is Fran (Tamsin Grieg) who in the first series runs a trendy bric-a-bric shop next door. vlcsnap-00707

Bernard had the problem of enjoying books but not much else, and he definitely didn’t like having to interact with customers who wanted to buy any, he can just about put up with Manny and Fran. The only other thing Bernard enjoyed was wine, but he was often left in such a dazed state after having so much that it gave him a rather skewed view on life. vlcsnap-00440

As the episodes progressed, things seemed to get increasingly bizarre, as the idea was ever more stretched to the point that things only coincidentally happened in a bookshop. But despite everything, Bernard became a popular character with viewers. I suppose the show could best be described as a cross between Spaced and Father Ted (this probably isn’t a coincidence as the writers of Father Ted also contributed to some episodes). vlcsnap-00712

There was also an impressive list of guest stars, and just about all of them have gone on to have further success in comedy shows over the past two decades, including Simon (“bid again, Simon!“) Pegg, Olivia Colman, Peter Serafinowicz, and Johnny Vegas. The show ended up doing well enough to win the Best Comedy Bafta award twice, and there have been repeat runs on channels including Dave. vlcsnap-00711

Critics also enjoyed what was on offer, with one saying the show was “a sitcom that actually makes you laugh”. Well, that is the basic idea of them. They’ve clearly thought of everything. There were 18 episodes of Black Books in three series, and they have all been released on DVD (excluding the pilot). Extras include deleted scenes and outtakes, and if you’re lucky you might find an Easter egg too!

The Comedy Vault – Cradle To Grave.

Cradle To Grave (BBC2, 2015)

I don’t know if I should admit this, but I have enjoyed the work of Danny Baker over the years. Danny started out in the mid-70s as a writer for various music magazines including NME, and by the early-80s he had got into TV presenting, usually on LWT. By the 90s he hosted various game shows, admitting that some of them weren’t so great, along with tapes featuring football gaffs. It’s best not to think about the Daz Doorstep Challenge for now.

He has also worked for various radio stations, and the shows he hosted alongside Danny Kelly are some of the funniest things that I’ve heard (“any more pie?” and all that). Danny was definitely able to spin a good story, and alongside Kelly he wrote a very entertaining book about football, including the time that he and his dad (both lifelong Lions fans) went to the FA Cup Final.

He then went on to release the first part of his autobiography Going To Sea In A Sieve, which was very enjoyable too. It was decided to turn some of the stories in this book into a TV sitcom. Danny was the co-writer and co-executive producer, who would he want on board to play him and his family? Who would play Danny’s old man Fred (or “Spud” as everyone knew him). Well what about Peter Kay? vlcsnap-00991

Now he is a popular comedian, but being from Bolton meant that he wasn’t the first person you’d expect to play someone who lived in Bermondsey in south London. But it seems that Danny is a big fan of Peter’s work and wanted to collaborate with him at any price, so he’d better get practising that accent. His mum Bet was played by Lucy Speed, previously best-known for playing Natalie in EastEnders and marrying some fat bloke. There were also some newcomers to play the three children. vlcsnap-01024

Cradle To Grave was based on Danny’s teenage years and set around 1973 (the year that my brother was born). Alongside Danny was his brother Michael (I remember Danny being frustrated that around the same time the BBC1 sitcom Count Arthur Strong coincidentally also featured a character called Michael Baker), and his sister Sharon. The young Danny narrated the story. The opening theme was provided by Squeeze, and most scenes were soundtracked by the big hits from the era. vlcsnap-01027

Fred was something of a wheeler-dealer in the Del Boy style, and he had a mouth on him like a docker, most probably because, er, he was a docker. There was always a deal in the back of his van, even if it wasn’t always double legal. Danny also goes through some embarrassing moments at school including having a big crush on his teacher, along with playing pranks with his mates, and going through several girlfriends, while Sharon plans to get married. And Michael nearly lost an eye, which meant they would’ve had to call him Mchael. vlcsnap-01026

Danny’s life at home consisted of plenty of boredom whilst Fred was always trying to trick people out of a bob or two, and then he’d go down the pub and get well alight! This really was a poignant look back to those days, and all three of Danny’s children appeared in the final episode. There have been eight episodes of Cradle To Grave so far, and they have all been released on DVD, although they contain no extras. vlcsnap-01025

There were some plans for a second series, but this hasn’t happened yet for various reasons (including Danny having long-since burned his bridges with the BBC). I hope that the story will continue one day though into the 90s where we get to the point that we find out what really happened behind the scenes of Win, Lose Or Draw. Until then, all we’ll get from Danny is his award-winning podcast that he does in his garden shed.