Tricky Business (CBBC, 1989-1991)
This is a CBBC sitcom that went through some format changes, including a large turnover of cast members and writers with every series. Although one thing that stayed the same was that it was a comedy show that featured a touch of magic, which looking back at it now makes it have something of an old-school flavour. But there wasn’t a Great Soprendo in sight!
The first series (which starred Una Stubbs) was set in a magic shop that was run by Mr and Mrs Breeze, who were in a magic double-act called Bright And Breezy (which was also the name of the shop). Also featuring in the show was a talking puppet rabbit called Crabtree who always had a wise comment to make about the situation, and knew a trick or two himself.
Every edition would also feature a magic act, so a variety of conjurers, illusionists, and so on took part and made the most of their moment on TV. I noticed that among the credits who advised on the tricks were Paul Zenon (who would go on to co-host CBBC’s Tricks And Tracks, which wasn’t really a spin-off from this show, but had a similar idea), and Glenn Kinsey (presumably the same one who was a host on CITV in the early-90s).
By the second series, the Breezes had gone, and now the show was set in a magic club run by Woody and Mickie (played by Paul Zenon who was now a regular cast member, although I always get him mixed up with Paul Zerdin), along with Crabtree. Among the youngsters who used to learn tricks at the club was Patsy Palmer who played Zoe, about three or four years before becoming Bianca in EastEnders.
For the third and final series, there were more cast and crew changes, with not even Crabtree surviving this one. The situation was now that comedian Bernie Clifton (although he didn’t have his ostrich with him) has inherited an old theatre from his late aunt Agnes, and every week he is challenged to find magic acts to perform on the stage. I’m sure that he did his aunt proud.
Also notable about this series was that Debbie was played by Rebecca Front, a few years before The Day Today, in what were some of her earliest TV appearances. I’m sure that working on the show was magic. There were 27 episodes of Tricky Business in three series, and the repeat runs continued until 1992, but there isn’t a lot about the show online, and I’m fairly sure that there has been no VHS or DVD release.