The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon (BBC2, 1997)
I recently got hold of some more old TV magazines, and one of them contained a picture of a comedy show that I don’t remember watching at the time but I have heard a lot about it, so I pleased when I managed to track it down on YouTube as I thought it would be worthy of a review (also to my surprise it seems that it has been released on DVD but this’ll do for now).
Steve Coogan is someone who has been on TV since the late-80s as a comedian and impressionist, and by the mid-90s he had gone on to further success with his characters Paul Calf and Alan Partridge along with his BBC2 sketch show Coogan’s Run. So on New Year’s Day 1997 it was time to launch a new character who was sure to be a hit with the viewers… wasn’t he?
Tony Ferrino was the stylish Portuguese heartthrob singing sensation who thought a lot of himself, a star all over Europe who is now bringing his music to the UK with this show, accompanied by some special guests. This was a 45-minute music and variety show that had something of an old-school feel to it, with plenty of top-notch entertainment along the way.
Tony performed some of his songs, and most of the jokes came from his dubious grip on the English language. We also had a look back at his career, including a performance with his brothers in 1970 (who have since mysteriously disappeared), and when he won the Eurovision Song Contest by a landslide in 1980. The first guest was Kim Wilde (I presume that the celebrity guests knew Ferrino was a parody?).
Then it was time for a duet with Gary Wilmot. One of the highlights was “Bigamy At Christmas”, a song which was released as a single in the UK (yes really, it reached no. 42 in November 1996). And finally, having recently recovered from being strangled by an elastic song, Mick Huckhall joined Tony for a rousing performance of “Help Yourself”. But that wasn’t the end, as just two days later there was…
Introducing Tony Ferrino, Who And Why? A Quest (BBC2, 1997)
This was a 30-minute show that was more of a documentary including an interview with Ferrino, giving us a further insight into his remarkable career, along with a look behind-the-scenes of The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon, and a plug for his great new album. Coogan also appeared on TV shows around this time in character including BBC1’s Clive Anderson All Talk, and Comic Relief (where he sang with Bjork).
With a couple of high-profile specials Ferrino really was given a big push, but the odd thing is that he really didn’t catch on with viewers which was rather disappointing (there was also an album released but it wasn’t a hit), by the end of 1997 Coogan was back to playing Alan Partridge with much more success, and Ferrino has just about never been referenced since.