More TV Memories – Noel’s Telly Years.

Noel’s Telly Years (BBC1, 1996-1997)

Noel Edmonds has hosted a lot of TV shows over the years, and for every success in the 80s and 90s, there were a couple of shows that were less remembered. In the 80s, there was Telly Addicts, but there were also The Time Of Your Life (a little like This Is Your Life if it concentrated on a single year instead of a famous person) comedy prank game thing Whatever Next, and the unsuccessful trip to America that I reviewed recently. In the 90s, along with Noel’s House Party, there were also Noel’s Addicts (a show that I have no memory of at all rather oddly, although it seems I didn’t miss much), and this one.

Noel’s Telly Years focused on a different year in every edition, ranging from the late-50s to the late-80s. There was also a testcard-themed opening sequence, maybe not very original, but a clue that this was going to be half-an-hour of unashamed nostalgia. Noel (wearing a typically horrible sweater) would be joined by some celebrity guests who made the headlines in the year featured, whether they were pop stars, TV personalities, sportspeople, and so on. Find out if Noddy Holder can remember anything about 1972. vlcsnap-01053

They would also be asked various questions about what happened in the year, such as taking a trip in the TV Time Tunnel, where various clips were pulled out of the archive, and there was also a True Or False round. There would also be a few adverts featured as well, that could now be seen as rather embarrassing. At least they won’t be featuring the Brush-O-Matic again… oh no!!

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This is ridiculous now… how many more times?

Although there were a few rounds with points on offer, I wouldn’t really class this as a game show as such, I suppose it can be best described as a cross between The Time Of Your Life and Telly Addicts. There were two series of Noel’s Telly Years, and the second one had a slightly different format, as a few comedians who weren’t necessarily famous in the year featured contributed, and any show that gets Tim Vine and Bradley Walsh involved can’t be all bad. vlcsnap-01051

The only other show that I can remember Noel hosting on the BBC in the 90s after Noel’s House Party ended was The World Of The Secret Camera, which was just laughing at some old pranks, before he dropped off the scene altogether for the next five years or so. As for Noel’s Telly Years, it wasn’t too bad, and I enjoyed it more than other old TV games such as As Seen On TV and Show Me The Telly or whatever it was called.

The Comedy Vault – Vic And Bob’s Big Night Out.

Vic And Bob’s Big Night Out (BBC4, 2017-present)

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are a double-act who have been on TV together for about three decades now. Their big breakthrough was Channel 4’s Vic Reeves Big Night Out, and then they went off to the BBC for further success including Shooting Stars. They have also contributed to sitcoms including Catterick and House Of Fools (that I also plan to review soon).

But after Shooting Stars and House Of Fools both ended around the same time, they suddenly didn’t have too much TV work on the go, and a new show for Channel 4 didn’t go any further than a pilot. So their career ended up going full circle when they decided to revive the Big Night Out format, only this time Vic and Bob would now have equal billing, how nice. vlcsnap-01051

Something that is notable about the show is that it was on BBC4, a channel not really known for making many original comedy sketch shows, but after a pilot, a full series followed. However, this ran to only four editions, and seemed to be made on a budget of about £50, but fans would be hopeful that there would still be plenty to offer, recalling the days of when Vic and Bob had chart-topping singles, sell-out tours, and nice hair. vlcsnap-01049

It was rather surprising to note that some of Vic and Bob’s oldest characters were revived to take part in the show, so after a long time we caught up again with the likes of Graham Lister, Mulligan and O’Hare and their lovely songs, the Stott brothers, Novelty Island, and The Man With The Stick. Their old assistant Les didn’t take part though, so some random bloke in a shellsuit joined in the sketches with them, along with a surprise celebrity guest or two who didn’t mind being mildly embarrassed. vlcsnap-01048

There would also be some songs at the start and end of the show, along with some sketches on location that were rather surreal even by their own standards. There were too many studio audience cutaways for my liking though, but they all clearly had a good time. After this, there was a second four-edition series with more of the same, I think it was later repeated on BBC2, and hopefully there might be more planned to come soon. vlcsnap-01052

The DVD is a little disappointing. It doesn’t contain the pilot, only the four editions of the first series with no extras, and I don’t think the second series has been released at all yet. Overall it was still enjoyable though, and along with Bob’s well-received documentary series alongside his old china Paul Whitehouse, it’s great that this double-act are still doing their unique thing all these years on.

The YouTube Files – The Creatives.

The Creatives (BBC2, 1998-2000)

One comedy sketch show that I have really enjoyed is Channel 4’s Absolutely, and I have followed what the cast have been in since. This includes the spin-off sitcom Mr Don And Mr George that was written by and starred Jack Docherty and Moray Hunter. It’s also another chance to go on about Jack’s own show. I find it fascinating because The Jack Docherty Show was part of Channel 5’s launch schedule when someone thought “let’s be bold and have a five nights a week chat show”, and then two years later thought “let’s get rid of it and never do anything like that again”.

The Creatives was another sitcom that was written by and starred Docherty and Hunter, as Ben and Robbie. I don’t remember too much of it from the time, but most of it is on YouTube. The show was set at an Edinburgh advertising agency that has fallen on hard times and their award-winning days are behind them. Being interested in the history of TV adverts and how they are made, I thought this was a rather interesting idea for a sitcom. vlcsnap-01053

Some of the episodes were based around trying to create a memorable image and slogan for an advert, whether it be for soup or a DIY store, and trying to fit it all into 30 seconds, using various ideas and styles. If it needs 11 takes to get it right, then that’s what they’ll do. Also working there are Lauren, Rhona, and Ben’s wife Tanya, although it seems to be rather clear that their marriage is in trouble. vlcsnap-01051

The boss of the company is Charlie, who enjoys a drink and seems to spend most of his time in meetings asleep. Charlie was played by Roger Allam. Now I am familiar with his work from more recent years, including the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Cabin Pressure, and he really does have the most terrific voice. I read once that he was born in Bow (which is not too far from where I am in London), and I thought that can’t be right as nobody from there talks like that, maybe 40 years or so at RADA knocked that out of him. vlcsnap-01048

The second and final series had a different format, having more of a comedy-drama style and concentrating more on the cast’s love lives than their work. I must admit I preferred the first series really. As far as I know The Creatives hasn’t been released on DVD, and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, but it was interesting seeing another attempt to do something quirky from the makers of Absolutely.

More TV Memories – EastEnders.

EastEnders (BBC1, 1985-present)

This is the final soap that I want to review, and I have delayed taking a look back at this one for a while as it’s another really successful show where it’s difficult to know what angle to take. One thing that I suppose I should make clear right away is that EastEnders means a little more to me than most soaps, because it is supposed to be set a fairly short distance from where I actually live in London, and you can just about see it on the map in the famous opening sequence.

The story begins around 1983, when the BBC was still struggling to launch a long-running soap. Around the time the established Coronation Street on ITV was approaching its 25th anniversary, they really wanted something that had a formula to finally achieve that level of success. After a lot of research and planning, EastEnders finally came to the screen in February 1985, originally with two episodes a week. Had they finally got it right? vlcsnap-01036

The show is set in Albert Square in the fictional borough of Walford, and would feature the lives of a few families, with the earliest episodes concentrating on the Beales and the Fowlers, and a few places that they would regularly visit, including, the cafe, the launderette, the fruit and veg stall, and the local pub The Queen Victoria, where they would all have a right old knees-up, or a fight. vlcsnap-01040

Memorable characters from the early days include Den Watts, Ian Beale (who remains there to this day), and dear old Arthur Fowler. Well what he went through, you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, any yet despite it all, he loved that place. It also helped that the show featured some hard-hitting stories in areas that had barely been touched on in British soaps before, the Walford Gazette could barely keep up with it all. vlcsnap-01042

EastEnders was originally shown at 7pm, the same time that Emmerdale Farm was on ITV, following a move to 7:30pm after about six months, this really helped to boost its popularity. About a year after the launch, the show really could be classed as a success, with Radio Times covers, books, and in 1986 Nick “Wicksy” Berry even had a chart-topping single. It was clear that this one was here to stay.vlcsnap-01041

Going into the 90s, episodes were enhanced by the arrival of the Mitchell brothers, two tough nuts who dominated the next decade. The Butchers, the Jacksons, and Nigel Bates were also popular additions. In 1994 the show went to three episodes a week. By the late-90s there was also the spin-off series EastEnders Revealed on BBC Choice that took a look behind the scenes. vlcsnap-01045

In the 2000s, a fourth episode was added, and the stars of this era included the Slaters, the Brannings, and the welcome addition of Shane Richie finding his true calling as a barrowboy. There have now been over 6,000 episodes of EastEnders, including live specials for anniversaries, it has been repeated on various channels in this country and around the world, and who needs a Bafta when you can triumph at the mighty TV Quick awards. I must admit that I don’t watch too regularly nowadays, but you can’t deny its importance in British TV history, you muppet.

The Comedy Vault – The Green Green Grass.

The Green Green Grass (BBC1, 2005-2009)

Only Fools And Horses is arguably the most popular British sitcom of them all, I did do a piece sharing my memories recently, but there was probably very little I said that the average fan wouldn’t already know. Something that is surprising about that show is just how many episodes were thought to be the final one. As early as the mid-80s David Jason considered leaving, and Nicholas Lyndhurst was poised to go into a spin-off by himself, but this didn’t happen.

Then there was the memorable episode in Christmas 1996 where Del Boy and Rodney hit the jackpot, how could they top that. But viewers wanted more, so in the early-2000s there were three more episodes. These were received with some disappointment, and everyone was insistent that really would be the end. But viewers still wanted more, so how about doing a spin-off series where another regular character would be thrust into the spotlight?

Boycie (John Challis) thought of himself as something of a shrewd businessman (although he was a mere second-hand car salesman). But one day he runs into some trouble with the notorious Driscoll brothers who have left prison, and he realises that it might be time to leave Peckham behind, so along with his family he has little choice but to start a new life in rural Shropshire. vlcsnap-01027

The Green Green Grass also featured Boycie’s wife Marlene (Sue Holderness) and his teenage son Tyler (I like the way that they had to cast someone who had a distinctive dimpled chin like Boycie’s), who are having to deal with something of a culture shock. The show was created and written by John Sullivan (although different writers contributed to the later episodes). vlcsnap-01025

Boycie (don’t ever use his actual name Aubrey) and family now live at Winterdown Farm. He tries to be positive and sees this change as an opportunity to become a respected country squire (and often do his famous “heh-heh-heh” laugh), but his team, including ploughman Jed and housekeeper Mrs Cakeworthy are fairly useless. As the episodes progress, Boycie usually finds himself in rather awkward situations (mostly involving cows), and Tyler gets himself involved in a string of girlfriends interrupting his studying. Boycie can only escape all of this by going down the pub. vlcsnap-01024

Such was the demand from viewers for there to be something Only Fools And Horses-related to watch at Christmas despite that show having now ended, shortly after the first series, The Green Green Grass was given a 50 minute special on Christmas Day, even though some felt that the show might not have been entirely ready for such an honour yet. The show did eventually establish itself and run for four series (along with further specials). vlcsnap-01012

Later episodes included not very original plots such as Marlene’s long-lost sister suddenly turning up, and then her long-lost mother, Boycie taking part in the game show challenge Farm Idol, along with the shock that Boycie and Marlene had never actually been legally married, meant that the idea was beginning to be exhausted a little. The Green Green Grass wasn’t that bad in itself, but unfortunately it was always going to be compared to its hugely successful predecessor and come off as second best. vlcsnap-01030

There were 32 episodes that (with the exception of one episode) have been released on DVD over eight discs, and there are also a small amount of extras including a look behind the scenes. The show also managed to get on to the archive channel circuit, and it has been repeated endlessly on Gold. After this, the character of Boycie has also featured in books, and you’ll still often see Challis and Holderness attend the fan conventions.

CITV Memories – Video And Chips.

Video And Chips (CITV, 1985-1987)

One genre of TV that I have found interesting is shows about computing from the 80s. There were a lot of them, and I have reviewed some, including the rather odd and short-lived Chip In. I thought that I would would take one last look at these type of shows, as this was CITV’s contribution. I must admit I don’t remember watching it at the time, but having seen some online I feel that it should be featured here.

I have also enjoyed taking a look back at old computer magazines from the 80s online, and there have been plenty of articles and features that caught my attention, mostly consisting of developers going on about how to create sprites without running out of memory, and that feeling of having to wait to play a game while the cassette loads, and so on. I hope that I am not being too romantic or cliched about this kind of thing, but plenty of gamers from that era should have had those experiences.vlcsnap-00956

Video And Chips (what a nice pun, and not to be confused with Whizzer And Chips) had a few presenters, the most notable being Mick Brown, who would go on to further success as a radio presenter and also team up with Pat Sharp for some hit singles, and Sonya Saul, who I remember contributed to the entertainment reports in the early days of Carlton’s London Tonight, and I didn’t realise she was on TV as early as this (she might have also hosted CITV’s 90s computer game show Bad Influence but I’m not sure). vlcsnap-00957

The show didn’t just feature computing, but technology in general, and if you follow their advice, you’ll soon finally be able to advance off level one. As well as plenty of games, where using blue-screen technology the presenters would be added to them, there would be a look at how things like robots and keyboards work (and even keyboard-playing robots), and also how they could be made to make some rather odd noises. The keyboards that is, not the presenters. Everybody will want one for Christmas I’m sure. They’ll soon take over the world! vlcsnap-01011

There was also a chance to get interactive, but not by contacting a website in those days, you could enter competitions, send off for a free factsheet, or you could even phone a number. I don’t know if there was a scientist on the other end of the line eagerly waiting to solve all your problems though. There were two series of Video And Chips, and once again it does have to be said just how far technology has advanced in the years since, it really is remarkable.

More TV Memories – Grim Tales.

Grim Tales (CITV, 1989, Channel 4, 1991)

The much-missed Rik Mayall appeared in a lot of memorable comedy shows over the years, but did you know that he also contributed to a lot of children’s TV, despite having a reputation for being rather anarchic. It was clear that he had a talent for storytelling after brightening up CBBC’s Jackanory with his enthusiastic take on George’s Marvellous Medicine, he featured in shows about poetry including Wham Bam Strawberry Jam, and also voiced several characters for cartoons including King Arthur’s Disasters.

His storytelling style was put to the best use though in this series, that was first shown on CITV. Grim Tales featured Rik in pyjamas and a dressing gown (that wasn’t on his eye), and he sat on a rather unusual chair that had paws and big ostrich legs, so it could run around, but it didn’t talk (there was another children’s show around this time that did feature a talking chair called Helping Henry, but I don’t remember that one). vlcsnap-00780

Rik told stories that were loosely based on works by the Brothers Grimm from the 19th century, often featuring animals, children, and all kinds of other strange things, among the most famous of these being Hansel And Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin. These stories were also accompanied by a wide variety of animation and puppetry which along with the theme music and silly noises definitely added to the rather weird vibe of the show. vlcsnap-00781

There were 22 editions of Grim Tales in two series, and they were all about ten minutes long. The first series on CITV did well enough for the second to be promoted to a Sunday evening slot on Channel 4, where it carried on in the usual style and of course it was always very entertaining, I can’t think of many other TV shows that have made a channel hop like that. vlcsnap-00784

There was also a VHS of Grim Tales released, along with some cassettes, so you could listen to Rik tell these stories to you all day if you wanted to. One other thing that is notable is that Rik returned to quirky storytelling with his contribution to Dave’s comedy parody Crackanory, this turned out to be just about the last TV work that he did, and it ended up being shown posthumously.

More TV Memories – Dappledown Farm.

Dappledown Farm (TV-am, 1990-1992, Channel 5, 1997-1999)

This is just about the final children’s show that I want to review that was shown in a breakfast slot. I remember that this one was shown at the weekend on TV-am, and it was rather an area of calm compared to the much more fast-moving and noisy shows that also featured in the strand that I enjoyed including Wide Awake Club and Top Banana.

Dappledown Farm, was, as the title suggests, set on a farm. Well, it said it was, it looked suspiciously more like it was a TV studio with a set made out of cardboard to me. Now I didn’t live anywhere near a farm at the time (and I still don’t now), so this show was a chance to find out more about the various animals that lived there, what they did, and what noises they made! vlcsnap-00752

The show was helped out by being hosted by Brian Cant, someone who was a veteran of children’s TV by this point, who of course presented many other memorable shows over the years including Play School and Bric-A-Brac, so it was rather clear that this was going to be good. Also in the studio (I mean farm), there were various animals, but they were all puppets. vlcsnap-00760

They included Dapple the horse, Mabel the cow, Columbus the cockerel, and Stubble and Straw, a pair of mice who were just great. There were also some features including meeting some animals, as Brian took the opportunity to tell as more about happens on a real farm. There would also be stories told that were accompanied by illustrations, and viewers could also send in their pictures. Most of them seemed to come from viewers about five or six years old, which gives you an idea of the age group the show was aimed at. vlcsnap-00613

We were also shown how to make things. This led to the show having an unexpected moment of exposure on It’ll Be Alright On The Night, when Brian’s attempt to make a dinosaur went all wrong, much to the upset of the mice. Brian realised at that point that never mind the old saying that you should never work with children or animals, you should never work with toilet rolls either. Well any publicity is good publicity I suppose. vlcsnap-00644

Dappledown Farm did well enough for there to be some highlights released on two tapes. Then, rather curiously, about five years after it had originally ended on TV-am, the show returned on Channel 5 as part of the early-morning Milkshake! strand. It seems that these were new shows, meaning that Brian was back, all of the puppets had to be dusted off, and it picked up where it left off really.

CITV Memories – The Pig Attraction.

The Pig Attraction (CITV, 1993)

This is yet another show that was on CITV in the 90s, and there is something rather unusual that I remember about it. For a short while on CITV, there would be a feature where several shows would be previewed with information shown very quickly, and the only way that it could be read was if it was recorded and then paused (Bad Influence and How 2 also memorably used this technique), so people had to get a tape ready during the break.

One of the shows that was featured was The Pig Attraction, where we were informed “Billy claims he was once a sunbathing extra on Baywatch“. Oh really? I thought that it might be a good idea to give this one a review. A large amount of children’s shows over the years have featured puppetry, and not all of them have been incredibly creepy, honest. And this was a show all about puppetry and how it worked. vlcsnap-01062

I have often done the joke that the puppets on children’s TV have often managed to outsmart their human colleagues, but that wouldn’t be the case here, as this one was hosted by an actual puppet, who was Billy The Pig. The show was done in the style of an entertainment and chat show that was set at a station called PTV, where plenty happened behind the scenes. All of the guests were puppets who were interviewed by Billy, who wore a horrible sparkly suit. vlcsnap-01063

Guests included Gilbert The Alien, Big Bird from Sesame Street, various fluffy things from What’s Up Doc?, and Roland Rat (a character who has had a rather fascinating career that I plan to get round to reviewing one day). Helping out on the show was Simon (bid again, Simon!) Buckley, who has operated and voiced a huge amount of puppets on TV, including dear old Nobby The Sheep. It was definitely a creative way for viewers to discover more about this area of entertainment. vlcsnap-01064

There was also a look behind the scenes at how various puppets were used, and making a contribution were the porcine double-act Pinky And Perky, who performed some hit singles in their high-pitched style. There was only one series of The Pig Attraction that ran for ten editions, and some of the Pinky And Perky songs that featured were released on a tie-in album. I didn’t buy it myself, but I suppose that someone somewhere did. I don’t ever remember seeing Billy on TV again after this, I wonder where he is now.

More TV Memories – Dream Team.

Dream Team (Sky One, 1997-2007)

A while ago, I put pictures of various old TV shows on Twitter. Ones that seemed to go down particularly well were those of Dream Team, as some fan accounts for that show enjoyed what I had to offer. So I thought, as the football season has just about ended at long last, why not also give it a review here, it’s not a show that I watched a huge amount over the years, but I shall try to do it justice.

One notable thing about Dream Team was that I watched the early series when I had access to Sky One back in the On/ITV Digital days in the late-90s/early-2000s. It was also possible to add Sky Sports to the channels that were available, but we never did that, because it was rather expensive, so this show featured just about the only Premier League coverage that I saw at the time. dream0001

Following the Premier League boom in the late-90s, someone seemed to think that it would be a good idea to create a drama series that featured the exploits of a football team, and the term “Dream Team” was already familiar, having been used for those newspaper competitions where you could pick players who would score points, and there were huge cash prizes on offer for whoever did best. vlcsnap-01057

Dream Team featured the fictional Harchester United, who were supposed to be based in the West Midlands. They wore purple shirts, and had the nickname The Dragons. We follow the team as their season progresses, along with the lives of the players, plus with the manager and the owners. We also saw some match coverage, as technology enabled players to be added into matches to make it look like they were playing real Premier League teams, and Sky Sports commentators and presenters also contributed to add to the authenticity. vlcsnap-01058

There were plenty of tense situations over the years including will The Dragons be relegated? Will they qualify for the UEFA Cup? The show did seem to get increasingly far-fetched though (the cliche “the player’s gone down like he’s been shot” was all-too appropriate here), this really was a club that often seemed to be in turmoil, but their loyal fans always stood by them. Throughout the series, some familiar names from soaps took part, including Alison King, who went on to be in Coronation Street, and Stefan Dennis, who was taking a break from Neighbours at the time. vlcsnap-01059

There was a rather high cast turnover as players came and went, and among them was Duncan Pow, who I remember used to be a presenter on the award-winning Bid-Up.TV before joining the show as Liam Mackay in the later series. There were 419 episodes of Dream Team in ten series, most of them were an hour long, and it was probably the closest that Sky One ever got to a home-made soap. Well, it was better than Footballers’ Wives, honestly.