Before They Were Famous (BBC1, 1997-2005)
We’ve all got to start somewhere haven’t we? Even the biggest names in showbusiness made some of their earliest film and TV appearances rather far down the cast list, or in embarrassing adverts, hoping that all those years of practice would come in useful when they had made it. It seemed that there was some potential to tap into this area and make a compilation show looking back at some future stars in some moments that they probably hoped had been forgotten.
Before They Were Famous was hosted by Angus Deayton (an a typically horribly-coloured suit) where he applied his usual style (around the same time he hosted similar shows including Not Another Awards Show that I reviewed recently), and it was usually around half-an-hour long. It was a chance to finally go into the archive and open those cans that many who had long-since gone on to further success hoped would always now remain closed.
Deayton wrote the show along with Danny Baker, and I’m fairly sure that the theme music was the same as Baker’s flop game show Bygones, but so few people remember that one I presume they decided they could recycle it. The show was always going to be in one-off specials instead of a regular series, and it was clear that there had been a lot of research to unearth these moments.
One thing that I found interesting about the show was when they featured people, I thought “as long ago as that?”, and some famous faces seem to have been around for longer than it seems. Ooh, don’t they look young there. Angus also joined in, and some adverts that he appeared in during the 80s were shown, which didn’t make him squirm at all.
The first edition did well, and after this, Before They Were Famous was moved to a late-night slot on Christmas Day, and it was an enjoyable way to end off the festive evening. There were also lots of repeats, and the show returned year after year (and also adopted an It’ll Be Alright On The Night-style numbering system, concluding with Before They Were Famous VIII).
After this, they managed to squeeze one more edition out of the format in 2005 with The Confessions, where people who featured in some of the most memorable moments had the chance to explain exactly what they were up to. I also remember that after a while ITV did a similar (well, it was just about identical) show called The Way They Were, which was good, but this was definitely the best version. Despite its success, I’m surprised to discover that it doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry.