More TV Memories – Look And Read.

Look And Read (BBC2, 1967-2004)

Look And Read is one of those long-running shows that was watched by a lot of children, but it was never shown as part of CBBC, this is because it was a schools TV show which was designed to help improve reading skills with various stories and songs. I remember watching the show in my first and second year at junior school (1990-1992).

And yes, we really did all go and sit in a small room which had a TV in it to watch Look And Read live on BBC2 (although we did have a video recorder too, honest). The novelty of being able to watch TV at 10am even though I was actually at school! There were four ten-part stories that I remember watching, although some of them were repeats, and the year that they were first shown on BBC2 will be in brackets, along with a brief analysis of what I can remember about the story. vlcsnap-00065

Badger Girl. (1984) This is the first one that I remember watching. It featured some children who visited a farm and noticed that something was happening with the badgers and ponies. vlcsnap-00067

Geordie Racer. (1988) This was a story about a boy who liked to race pigeons and had to solve a mystery, while the rest of his family were in training to take part in the Great North Run. vlcsnap-00069

Sky Hunter II. (1992) A sequel to an earlier story from 1978, this one featured a lot about bird-watching and peregrine falcons and I found it rather dull compared to the other stories. vlcsnap-00070

Through The Dragon’s Eye. (1989) Now this was definitely my favourite one, I remember really enjoying this. This was a story which begins when three children paint a mural at their school which features a dragon that suddenly comes to life! They then go on an adventure in a magical land with a very odd range of characters, there were orange people and everything! I still remember this one fondly all these years later. vlcsnap-00072

Also along the way were helped by our old friend Wordy and there were also lots of memorable animations and songs (which all seemed to be sung by Derek Griffiths which is great). Look And Read eventually ran for almost four decades, and some classic stories were also repeated in the early days of the CBBC Channel. This really is one of those shows that is fondly remembered by generations of children, and I’m sure that just about everyone who went to school throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s will remember watching at least one of the 20 stories that were produced throughout that time and were encouraged to build a word. vlcsnap-00066

Game Show Memories – A Question Of Pop.

A Question Of Pop (BBC1, 2000-2001)

For a short while, BBC1 took the successful format of its long-running game show A Question Of Sport and used it for different genres. So we got A Question Of TV, A Question Of EastEnders (yes, really), and a music version called A Question Of Pop, which was hosted by Jamie Theakston, putting all his time interviewing pop groups on The O Zone and Live And Kicking to good use. vlcsnap-00053

Two teams of three took part, and the team captains were Noddy Holder from Slade (Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet in the pilot), and Suggs from Madness, and their good-natured rivalry did help the show to become a sort-of BBC1-friendly version of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Their two teammates would also be pop stars, and because this show was made in the early-2000s they would usually be someone from a group that was big at the time such as S Club 7 or Steps and the like. vlcsnap-00057

The rounds were just about the same as A Question Of Sport, with a few minor changes. The first round featured the Picture Board, with the first six of the 12 pictures on offer chosen. The next round was called Pop Action, where a few clips from famous songs from throughout the years were shown and then some questions were asked. The Home Or Away round was altered so that contestants could ask for an A-side question for one point, or gamble for a trickier B-side question for two points. vlcsnap-00059

There was also the What Happened Next? round looking back at some unusual musical TV moments, then there was the Mystery Guest round, and then it’s back to the Picture Board. The final round is on the buzzer with quickfire questions, with one point for a correct answer, and one deducted for an incorrect answer. Once the gong goes, it’s the end of the game, and although there are no prizes on offer, the winning team is declared. vlcsnap-00054

A Question Of Pop didn’t endure like A Question Of Sport and there were only two series. Surprisingly it’s another game show that doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry (although the BBC Genome does list all the pop stars who took part), and around the same time in 2001 there was the short-lived A Question Of TV which was hosted by Gaby Roslin and had the team captains Rowland Rivron and Lorraine Kelly. Unfortunately although I do remember this show too I can’t find any clips anywhere so there is no review planned for the moment.

The Comedy Vault – Count Arthur Strong.

Count Arthur Strong (BBC2, 2013, BBC1, 2015-2017)

A variety entertainer from the old school who talks nonsense and thinks that he is still a showbiz star even though he is clearly past his best? No, it’s not Peter Simon… it’s Count Arthur Strong! Arthur is a character who was created by Steve Delaney who is someone who bumbles through life and doesn’t realise that chaos that he is causing for everyone else around him.

Count Arthur Strong launched on BBC Radio 4 in 2005, and although I didn’t hear the earliest editions, I heard some repeats on Radio 4 Extra and found them rather enjoyable as Arthur manages to irritate everyone he meets with his odd outlook on life and bizarre turns of phrase, and in 2013 the show transferred to TV on BBC2, although there were a few differences to the format. vlcsnap-00013

The TV version was co-written and directed by Graham Linehan, who has worked on some very impressive comedy shows over the years including The Day Today, Father Ted, Big Train, and The IT Crowd. The TV version begins when Michael, the son of Arthur’s old comedy double-act partner, tracks him down to interview him for a biography that he is writing about his dad, and he soon realises that he is unable to get any meaningful anecdotes out of him. vlcsnap-00016

Michael meets Arthur in the cafe, which is run by the rather short-tempered Bulent and his sister Sinem. The only other regular customers seem to be Arthur’s old mates, and although there were some interesting characters some people felt that maybe having one eccentric in the show was enough. However, Michael soon befriends Arthur and meets him regularly, although he doesn’t seem to realise what he is letting himself in for, and often gets caught up in his plans. Also after a while Michael started to date Sinem. vlcsnap-00020

The second and third series were moved to BBC1. Just to pick a couple of examples of my favourite moments in the show. I liked the one where Arthur auditioned to appear in a TV advert for toffees and was completely useless and kept falling off his chair. I just enjoy the idea that Arthur still thinks that he is a useful talent but this is the only work that he can get. There was also another good one where Arthur’s old mate John Shuttleworth turned up. Arthur has also been performed in a stage show and recently he published his memoir Through It All I’ve Always Laughed which is lovely. vlcsnap-00012

Count Arthur Strong wasn’t a huge success on the TV, and you either find the character very enjoyable or immensely irritating. but there were some really good moments, however it was recently announced that there isn’t going to be a fourth series. This is rather a shame, but all three series have been released on DVD, and hopefully Arthur won’t leave us altogether and he will soon be back on the radio. To hear him again really will be mucus to my ears.

CITV Memories – Terror Towers.

Terror Towers (CITV, 1994-1996)

This was a game show that was set in a haunted house which sort-of came across as a spookier version of The Crystal Maze, maybe like a warped version of the Medieval zone. Terror Towers was co-created by none other than Neil Buchanan and it was hosted by his old Motormouth mate Steve Johnson. Also assisting Steve was Boris The Spider (not to be confused with Bruce The Spider from the terrific The Winjin’ Pom of course). vlcsnap-00046

Two teams of three would play various games (just like in CITV’s other game show Crazy Cottage they wore the secondary colours green and orange. Why do I notice these things?). Before every main game there was a round where Steve would read a strange story, and then he would ask various observation questions about what happened. The teams would press their skull-shaped buzzer to answer and the first team to light all of their skull won a eyeball. It might sound horrible but collecting these was very important to the game. vlcsnap-00043

There were also various challenges in different rooms of the house against the clock such as trying to do something as the walls moved in around them, being blindfolded and having to be guided through a maze, and a game where everything seemed to be upside down. There were a various amount of eyeballs on offer for winning each game, these challenges were made more difficult because there seemed to be cobwebs and ghosts everywhere too, and the team that had collected the most eyeballs at the end went through to the final, with the losing team having the consolation of being eaten by werewolves. vlcsnap-00048

The final was called the stinky sink and it involved a lot of gunge, how amusing. The contestants had to get in the sink and they had one minute to find as many bones as they could, and Steve would always be very keen to encourage them to get stuck in at this point because the more bones they found, the more prizes they won. However, they were also told however well they did that they could never leave the house. Now that really is creepy. vlcsnap-00051

Terror Towers was another quirky show which ran for three series, and while it didn’t become as fondly remembered by viewers as Finders Keepers or Fun House, it was still definitely very good, watching an edition again recently brought back a lot of memories of watching CITV in the mid-90s, and somewhat surprisingly the show doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry. However, as enjoyable as he was, I don’t remember seeing Steve hosting on TV again after the show ended, maybe he’s still in the house too…

CBBC Memories – The Movie Game.

The Movie Game (CBBC, 1988-1995)

I must admit that I don’t really have a huge interest in the world of film, but I do remember watching this CBBC game show. The Movie Game was hosted for the first three series by Phillip Schofield, and then Jonathon Morris hosted the next three series, followed by John Barrowman who hosted the final two series. The basic idea of the game was the same throughout the entire run, and it was played in two parts. phil0002

Three teams of two take part and in the first part of the game there are various rounds about films, such as having to answer observation questions. There was also a round where they would be given a prop and a sound effect and had to perform with it, and the studio audience would rate how well they did. There would also be a quickfire round with questions on the buzzer, and the lowest-scoring team at this point of the game would be eliminated, although they did take away some consolation prizes. I have also noticed that this is a show where the teams had a lot of mascots with them. vlcsnap-00038

The two remaining teams went into the second stage of the game which was the part that I always found the most interesting. The teams would now stand on a board which had about 16 squares on it, and they could play to answer questions worth two, three or four moves. However, they could only play for a four-move question once which was known as a “fast forward”. vlcsnap-00037

If they landed on one of three highlighted squares they could play a bonus game. This would usually be something like having to complete a challenge against the clock, or having to act out a scene in a various film genre, so this part would usually come across as a cross between Double Dare and The Generation Game, and various points would be awarded on how well they did. A celebrity guest would usually take part in one of the games too. The team that reaches the end of the board first is declared the winner, regardless of if they actually scored more points or not than the other team. vlcsnap-00042

The highest-scoring teams then returned for the grand final at the end of the series, which Phillip always saw as a good opportunity to put his best bow-tie on. The overall series winners would usually win a big star prize, such as the chance to visit a film studio in Hollywood and meet various famous actors and directors, and I’m sure they all enjoyed the experience. vlcsnap-00039

The Movie Game was something of a success for CBBC and eventually it ran for eight series.

CITV Memories – Mousetrap.

Mousetrap (CITV, 1990-1991)

CITV’s Saturday morning show Motormouth used to feature a game show segment. Originally these were the rather crazy games It’s Torture! and Gunge ‘Em In The Dungeon, which were essentially their equivalent of CBBC’s classic Double Dare on Going Live! Around the launch of the third series, they decided to do something different, and created a game based around a classic board game. All three of these games were hosted by the rather excitable Steve Johnsonvlcsnap-00026

The new game was based around Mousetrap, with a lifesize version of the board and the trap recreated in the studio. Two contestants took part and they had about seven minutes to complete obstacles and play various games depending on what square they were on. If they succeeded in these challenges and managed to get round the board in time, they would win various prizes and could play for a good quality prize in the final, maybe even a fancy TV if they were lucky. vlcsnap-00029

There was a twist though. At a random point a couple of times in the game, a hooter would go off which would start the trap, featuring everything including the ball going down a slide, and that green man that flipped over. They then had to run round to a tap to stop the trap, but this could be more difficult based on where they were on the board. Failure to stop the trap in time making the cage hit the ground would lose them the prize on offer, and they would then have to play for a smaller value one instead. Their prize value would also decrease if they ran out of time before completing all the challenges. vlcsnap-00031

When the game was over, the star prize that they were playing for was placed under the trap. The trap was then started, and if they could answer three general knowledge questions correctly before the cage hit the floor, they would win the prize on offer, and there were some rather close finishes. While not as wacky as Double Dare, Mousetrap was still good fun, and also there were a few celebrity specials, and it’s rather odd to think that Celebrity Mousetrap was a real thing on the TV. Unfortunately, we still await Celebrity Hungry Hippos on ITV. trap0001

I am a fan of board games, and around the time Mousetrap was shown I remember that I had a lot of them, including the classics such as Monopoly and Scrabble, along with many others. I do remember also at some point buying Mousetrap, I’m not sure if I was influenced by the TV version and wanted to have a go myself, but I remember how fiddly the whole thing was to set up, and how fun it was to play once everything was ready. After Motormouth came to an end in 1992, Johnson would return to host another quirky CITV game show called Terror Towers and I’ll review that soon.

More TV Memories – Bid Best Bits – Part 7.

I have done a few pieces where I have written about an interesting idea in TV which is then taken to its extreme, and I suppose that this is another example of that. When Price-Drop TV launched in 2003, I remember that they ran a promotion saying that any item that they sell could go down to just £1! (plus the p&p of course!) But I don’t ever remember this happening in the early days.

A while later, they launched a special feature called the Megadrop, where they said that selected items would be guaranteed to go down to £1. I remember watching a lot around this time because I really wanted to see this happen as I thought that it would be an exciting moment. The presenters insisted that they hadn’t been told which of the items that they were going to sell would be a Megadrop, and when it finally happened, I noticed a few things.

Firstly, there was the response from the presenters. This was rather amusing, and I remember that their responses ranged from total disbelief to just squealing with shock. Also, when there was a Megadrop, there was a huge demand, with hundreds of people phoning in and the item selling out in seconds. And, in those days, it did seem that there were some really good bargains, with several items that had a decent value going for £1.

It seems that Price-Drop won an award for this innovation. I’m not sure what it was exactly but I remember that they described themselves as “award-winning” for many years after. So I thought that was all rather good. Not long after this, when Bid relaunched their format and had falling price auctions too, they decided to introduce their equivalent of Megadrops, and this made me realise something.

We would now see how some of the presenters on Bid including dear old Peter Simon and Andy Hodgson would respond to all of this happening. I wondered if they would get really overexcited too, and they didn’t let me down. First of all, there was Peter. He would usually respond to a Megadrop by clapping his hands, endlessly shouting “it’s a pound!” and then running around the studio. vlcsnap-01348

He would also compare the price to other things, saying things like “for the cost of three large oranges, you just got this!”. He would even occasionally lapse into his famous “no… is that right?” routine. Andy Hodgson was equally enjoyable. He would also get very overexcited by all of this. He couldn’t believe how the price could go so low, it was just so naughty. vlcsnap-01346

The novelty begin to wear off after a while though, a lot of items that weren’t of much value often went down to £1, it was very unlikely that they would’ve lost money on any of them. And not long before they went off air they even struggled to sell out Megadrops which really showed what position they were in by that point. But to once again create something really exciting and silly in the world of shopping TV channels was a great thing for Bid to do.