More TV Memories – Clive Anderson Talks Back.

Clive Anderson Talks Back (Channel 4, 1990-1996)/Clive Anderson All Talk (BBC1, 1996-1999)

This is one of those shows that was on Friday nights rather frequently. Clive Anderson first appeared on TV in the mid-70s as a member of the Cambridge Footlights (alongside the likes of Griff Rhys Jones and Douglas Adams). He remained in comedy, although as a writer instead of an actor, contributing to sketch shows including Not The Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith And Jones.

By the late-80s, he was given a chat show of his own on Channel 4, where he was already familiar as the chairman of improvised comedy panel game Whose Line Is It Anyway? The first notable thing about Clive Anderson Talks Back was the opening sequence, which was rather unusual, but appropriately accompanied by the song “Yakety Yak”.

Clive would become known for his interviewing style, where he wasn’t rude as such, but he would ask the questions that the average host wouldn’t dare to. On the scale, he was closer to Jonathan Ross than Terry Wogan. There would be about two or three celebrity guests in every edition who would be up for this though. Between guests, Clive would often make a comment on what was happening in the news, and if these didn’t always hit the target, he would try and make up for it by talking as fast as is humanly possible.

One of the more memorable editions was a special when comedian Peter Cook appeared as three different characters, which was well received. By the mid-90s, the format hadn’t become that stale, but maybe it was time for a new challenge. So the whole kit and caboodle right down to the last pipe cleaner moved over to BBC1, and was renamed Clive Anderson All Talk.

This was a big enough deal to earn a Radio Times cover, and there was speculation about whether his style would be suitable for this new slot. Again, there was a decent level of famous guests, but fortunately, this is only really remembered now for the interview that went wrong, which is harsh, as there were hundreds by comparison that went off without incident and were rather amusing.

Many years later, Clive went to BBC Radio 2 to host Clive Anderson’s Chat Room, which was more of a debate about the news with various panellists. My mum was in the audience once, and when she saw him arrive, he had a surprised look on his face as if to say “what are all these people doing here?”, and I just thought, yes, I bet he does that every time. He has also hosted a few game shows, including Brainbox Challenge.


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