Zzzap! (CITV, 1993-2001)
Zzzap! was the CITV comedy show where comic book characters came to life! Every episode was dialogue free except for the occasional grunt and groan and any sound effects appeared on the screen, so it could be enjoyed by deaf viewers as well as anybody else, and people of all ages watched the show. The format changed occasionally over the series but it always featured four stories.
Cuthbert Lilly is someone who was always described as being “dead silly” and he appeared in every episode. He always wore a bowtie and every week he would end up being caught in some daft antics, whether he was being a hairdresser and lots of other things which would lead to some good physical comedy, and of course some amusing falling over. Whatever happened to him though, his sketch would always conclude with him giving the thumbs up. He was played by Richard Waites who also appeared in Motormouth and the surreal unaired pilot of Art Attack.
Smart Arty was an artist who always wore a beret and had a big moustache. In the first series he would create a big picture out of something unusual which was always accompanied by classical music, such as a gorilla out of biscuits. From the second series he had a pen and when he drew something it would magically come to life, which was rather similar to one of Kenny Everett’s old characters. He was played by none other than Neil Buchanan who in one episode of Art Attack drew a picture of Smart Arty and said “I’m sure I recognise him from somewhere!”. He was replaced in later series by Minnie The Mini Magician who was played by Sophie Aldred.
The Handymen also appeared in every episode and were a pair of hands who appeared on stage and often made things. These would be creative ideas or magic tricks and we would be shown how to make them ourselves, so make sure your glue is at the ready. Unsurprisingly when their turn had finished they always got a big round of applause.
Tricky Dicky was a mysterious character who would set children a challenge. It seemed easy at first but he always added some awkward obstacles to make it much more difficult and things often got messy. He was replaced in series two by Daisy Dares You which carried on in a similar style and there was always a lot of laughter as people failed the challenge, but just occasionally someone would triumph.
Having always enjoyed silly comic strips over the years I did enjoy the style of Zzzap! which brought a lot of funny characters to the screen, and I always remember enjoying the show on a Friday afternoon which was a great way to start the weekend. The show was made by The Media Merchants, a production company co-owned by Neil Buchanan who also co-produced the show for Meridian, and along with Wizadora it was one of the new franchise’s first contributions to ITV.
Zzzap! eventually ran to 131 episodes, and although there were five VHS releases, unfortunately no episodes have been released on DVD, although it was repeated for many years on CITV. Once again, it would be great if Zzzap! did come out on DVD one day as the show is still fondly remembered by lots of fans.