The Wolvis Family (BBC2, 1991)
I am always on the lookout for bizarre and long-forgotten shows to review on here, and this is a perfect example of one. This is how I discovered it. A while ago I was watching a BBC2 continuity clip on YouTube (well, when aren’t I), which featured a slide promoting something that appeared to be a game show. However, it turns out it that wasn’t a game show at all, but something called The Wolvis Family. What could this be? I wanted to discover more, and I found some episodes on YouTube.
It’s a comedy show with a rather unusual idea that is difficult to describe, but here goes. The Wolvises used to be a happy family. Indeed they used to be so close they once appeared together as a team on the long-running game show Ask The Family in the 80s (which explains what was happening in the BBC2 slide). But things have started to go rather wrong for them since then.
The Wolvis family consists of the father Herbert, the mother Sylvia, and their two teenage children, the rather bratty daughter Wendy (who I couldn’t help but notice has something of a Strawberry Switchblade look about her, oh yes), and the son Stuart (played by a young Charlie Condou who in more recent years has appeared in various shows including Nathan Barley and Coronation Street).
Now there’s a problem with Stuart, as he doesn’t talk to the rest of his family any more. He hasn’t left home or lost contact with them, he just simply doesn’t talk any more, not even to his friend Spencer. The children have transformed from being well-behaved into rebellious teenagers, and the Wolvises seem to have become something of a dysfunctional family that would make even the Simpsons or the Griffins blush. So they have decided to do something about it.
They will air their problems with one another (or not in Stuart’s case)… on the TV. They have agreed to work with Dr Graham Wilcockson, and as the six episodes progress we see him use various techniques to try and help them out. Can they finally settle their differences? The set design is very basic, it’s just six chairs and a table. Oh, and a jug of water too. The show starts off in a fairly straightforward style but starts to get increasingly unusual, with the family eventually opening up and revealing bizarre things about themselves, and going a little “I will release my anger… through interpretive dance!” by the end. Come on don’t be shy, better out than in!
The Wolvis Family really is a show that is rather unique in TV. It was a scripted comedy (it was written by Tom Lubbock and Roger Parsons), but not like any other that I’ve seen. What was it trying to achieve? It seems to be a satire of the “making troubled people sob on TV” genre before it even existed. It was shown once on BBC2 fairly late on Saturdays, never to be seen again. Did anyone watch it at the time?
It pretty much goes without saying that The Wolvis Family doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry and there has been no DVD release, and there is very little about it online, but it was a great example of those shows that used to come and go around this time on BBC2 and Channel 4 that tried to do something a little different, and I definitely feel that it’s another lost curiosity that deserves some reappraisal.