Hot Metal (ITV, 1986-1988)
This is an ITV comedy that was shown in the 10pm on Sunday slot that I don’t remember watching first time round. I first came across it when I was watching some old TV clips online, and I noticed one of them featured Geoffrey Palmer, who it is always a pleasure seeing. This turned out to be the 80s sitcom Hot Metal and I decided that I wanted to discover more.
Hot Metal was a sitcom that was created and written by David Renwick and Andrew Marshall, who were also behind other unusual comedy shows including End Of Part One and Whoops Apocalypse (which I plan to review soon too), before they went off to have further success separately. Hot Metal was about something that could seen as beyond satire really, a look behind the scenes of a tabloid newspaper. Naturally, the characters and plots were rather outrageous.
The Daily Crucible is a faltering newspaper, so the owner of Rathouse International Terence “Twiggy” Rathbone (played by Robert Hardy) decides to take it over and relaunch it as The Crucible with a new downmarket look that really will go to any lengths to get an exclusive, and take the old saying that you shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story to its extreme. The outgoing editor is Harold Stringer (played by Palmer), but he is kept on and moved to a new role, with his office now in the lift.
Rathbone decides to bring in the little-known South African Russell Spam as the new editor (who looks suspiciously like Rathbone somehow), and he hires various reporters including Greg Kettle, who works hard to find the first sniff of a scandal to expose, hoping that this along with more pictures of ladies in a state of undress will result in a big rise in sales and for its readers to unconvincingly say “er, I only ever buy it for the bingo numbers, honest”.
After the departure of Stringer, at the start of the second series the former TV presenter Richard Lipton (played by Richard Wilson who would work with Renwick again a couple of years later on One Foot In The Grave) is brought in to try and improve the newspaper’s image, but he is more often to be found in the Blue Peter studio in his birthday suit (it’s a long story).
Some of the more bizarre moments that I remember amused me in Hot Metal included in series one a parody of Spitting Image (featuring Stringer in puppet form), and when in series two they try to upgrade The Crucible to being put together using computer technology, and the first cover is just a mess featuring all the wrong letters and pictures. Hot Metal ran for two series, and both have been released on DVD, and there was also a short special as part of BBC1’s Comic Relief night in 1989 to finish things off.