More TV Memories – Tarrant On TV.

Tarrant On TV (ITV, 1990-2006)

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you will know that I have been a fan of TV shows hosted by Chris Tarrant over the years. However, despite the enthusiasm that he always puts into hosting, I haven’t enjoyed that many of his game shows, you could say that for every Who Wants To Be A Millionaire there is a Man O Man, but this is one of the more interesting ones.

The origin of this show goes as far as back 1982 on ITV, when Clive James On Television launched. After his departure (although he hosted a similar show on ITV in the late-90s), celebrity chef Keith Floyd took over for one series in 1989. Tarrant then became host in 1990, and this is the era that I remember watching the most. Tarrant On TV was a look at some of the more unusual TV moments that happened around the world, accompanied by Tarrant’s wry observations. vlcsnap-00149

This made the show seem to be somewhere between a cross of It’ll Be Alright On The Night and You’ve Been Framed! As well as looking at things like rude adverts and tacky soaps where it was difficult to tell if it was a parody or not, the show became most famous for featuring various ridiculous Japanese game shows where a lot of painful and dangerous challenges had to be completed. vlcsnap-00416

As well as all this that was played for laughs, there were also be some more serious moments that stood out because they contained a hard-hitting message. A lot of trashy TV moments were covered, and there were also lots of specials. These included Ten Years On TV, looking back at a decade’s worth of highlights. And there was also Tarrant On CCTV, where various people were unexpectedly captured on camera doing some unusual things. vlcsnap-00414

Tarrant On TV (along with its funky theme music in the later series) ended up running for 16 years (in addition to the eight years hosted by his predecessors), although by the 2000s it was shown rather late at night and had reached the “is that still going?” point with some viewers, being left to slowly fizzle out, rather than being dropped by ITV altogether. vlcsnap-00601

Also by this point, some people had felt that the show had become a little hypocritical to insist that British TV was superior to foreign formats because of the increasing amount of Big Brother-type shows taking up more and more airtime on various channels in this country, and the “look at these funny foreigners” tone had become tired. Overall though, there were lots of memorably bizarre moments that were always guaranteed to cause a shock.


More TV Memories – The National Lottery Live.

The National Lottery Live (BBC1, 1994-2016)

As the 25th anniversary of the launch of The National Lottery approaches, it’s time to look back at when the draw was a much talked-about occasion, and the BBC made several attempts to turn it into a Saturday Night TV entertainment extravaganza. The National Lottery was a big deal because it would give away cash prizes, the size of which had never been seen before in this country, people could become instant millionaires in what was essentially the ultimate big-money game show. It was clear that it was going to be a cultural phenomenon.

The first draw in 1994 was such an event that Noel’s House Party skipped a week to accommodate it. The launch show was an hour long, which included an explanation of how everything would work, but most of the time was taken up by a daft game that would determine who would press the button to begin the draw (accompanied by suitably overblown music). There was even a big ceremony about what machine and what set of balls would be used. vlcsnap-01018

ITV didn’t have coverage of the draw, but they would always announce the numbers as soon as they could in a news report, such was the interest. From then on, The National Lottery Live was a show usually around 15-20 minutes. These would be hosted by Anthea Turner and Gordon Kennedy off comedy sketch show Absolutely. They were a rather mismatched couple who never really seemed to gel though. vlcsnap-01053

Also, the show came from a different location in the UK every week, meaning that as it was the winter months, most editions took place in the dark in front of a rather wet and cold crowd. One exciting element though was the remarkable amount of money on offer, with rollovers promising that eight-figure sums could be won. After about six months of this, the show relocated to the studio, now hosted by Turner alone. vlcsnap-01057

Among the features would be a look at where some of the money that has been raised for charity has gone, and none other than Mystic Meg would tell us who was the most likely to win. The announcer for the draw was now Alan Dedicoat, who would become known as “the voice of the balls”, and for his enthusiastic comments such as “the next ball out is 43! That’s the 99th time we’ve seen that in a month with an R in it”. vlcsnap-01036

In another attempt to attract big ratings, there would also be an appearance by a musical act who would perform their latest single. As this show was watched by many more viewers than Top Of The Pops was getting by this point, there was always a chance that a single could be given a huge boost. One of the best examples of this was in 1996 when Suggs performed “Cecelia” which then went up about two-dozen places into the Top Ten (this was during the era when the singles chart was changing to the point that you’d be more likely to see singles fall two-dozen places). Suddenly it was the place all the big pop stars wanted to be! vlcsnap-01058

Also by 1996, the host was now Bob Monkhouse whose career by this point was back on the up, and as always, every week he delivered a Monkhouse masterclass in mirth with his topical jokes, and his catchphrase was “I know I’m a sinner, but make me a winner!”. He also dealt with the famous moment when the machine wouldn’t start by not losing his cool. By 1997, there were some more hosts, including Carol Smillie, Dale Winton and Carol Vorderman. vlcsnap-01017

Despite all this excitement though, all these years on the general comment from viewers was always “for goodness sake, just give us the numbers!”. By 1998 there had been some changes, a draw had been introduced on Wednesdays, and the Saturday draw had been incorporated into a game show, the first of these being Big Ticket. As time went by, the draw was no longer event TV, and despite so many innovations and new draws including Thunderball and Euromillions, interest waned to the point that the draw isn’t even shown on the BBC any more, and there are now very few jackpot winners.

CITV Memories – Tots TV.

Tots TV (CITV, 1993-1998)

This is another CITV show that was part of the “for younger viewers” strand. I do remember watching regularly, and I was 28 at the time, oh yes. Well although I actually was past the age to be watching shows like this even in the early-90s, I was interested in seeing it as it was part of a new wave of shows that launched on CITV in 1993, along with the likes of Wizadora, so I thought that I should give it a try.

Tots TV was another production by Ragdoll, who knew a thing or two about making children’s TV shows that stand out. As the song in the opening sequence explained, this was a show featuring three child puppets who were rather curious about discovering the world, and watched people doing activities that they wanted to try themselves. There was the blue-haired Tom, the green-haired Tiny, and the red-haired Tilly who spoke French (meaning that when the show was sold to France she spoke English). vlcsnap-01009

They all lived together in a big house, and some of the stories happened there, and there were also some made on location. “What will we see?” they often wondered (no-one ever seemed to notice them though, in a similar style to Rosie And Jim). The only other regulars were their friend Donkey (who, as you might’ve guessed, was a donkey), and a small puppet dog called Furryboo that they didn’t know lived in the house with them. There was also a magic bag that played a part, but remember it’s a secret. vlcsnap-00598

There were a huge amount of episodes made, but if I did have to pick out a highlight (and I do realise the absurdity of having a Tots TV highlight), I remember when the tots seemed to have a falling out with each other. It became rather tense, and the term “you’re a banana” was used rather a lot. Well it was more hot-headed then your average night in the Big Brother house! vlcsnap-01013

Tots TV survived the timeslot change from 12:10pm to 3:30pm in 1993 (“when the clock says half-past three” and all that), and it was shown very regularly for a while. Tots TV became popular enough for several episodes to be released on VHS, and it also won a Bafta. Rather surprisingly, the show had a second wave of fame when it was repeated on the CBeebies Channel in the 2000s. I can’t think of many other shows that have been shown on both a CBBC and CITV channel, maybe it’s simply because so many people are fond of the characters.

CITV Memories – The Raggy Dolls.

The Raggy Dolls (CITV, 1986-1994)

Cartoon time again! You might remember a while back I told the story about an old tape featuring some children’s TV shows that was compiled by my parents, presumably because I was fond of them. One of these shows was Puddle Lane, meaning that because I was about three or four years old when the tape was made, it really is one of the first TV shows that I can remember watching.

Puddle Lane was notable for featuring Neil Innes, but this wasn’t the only CITV show that he contributed to around this time. I suppose you could say that Innes had something of a hands-on approach to The Raggy Dolls. Although he didn’t actually create the show, he used his musical talent to perform the theme music, he also wrote a lot of the episodes, and provided the voices, including the narrator who told the story. vlcsnap-00600

The Grimes Soft Toys Factory is where lots of toys are made, but one day something happens that can only be described as a right old cock-up, and a lot of badly manufactured dolls end up being thrown in the reject bin. I remember seeing a video online where the in-vision announcer explained the idea of the show to viewers, and he seemed to get a little upset about it. vlcsnap-00868

But there was no need to worry, as all the dolls grouped together to go on lots of adventures, and yes, they somehow magically come to life when nobody is looking. They were determined that their flaws wouldn’t hold them back. When they weren’t in the bin, they were usually in a treehouse. There were originally seven dolls who were “made imperfectly”, such as being too loose, or the wrong shape. They were Sad Sack, Dotty, Hi-Fi, Lucy, Back-To-Front, Princess, and Claude. vlcsnap-00985

Now there actually wasn’t anything wrong with Claude really, but he was of French origin. I remember in the early-90s when CITV host Tommy Boyd, who was always opinionated about shows, pondered if it was seemingly a good enough reason to reject someone because they were French. Other characters who appeared included Mr Grimes himself, his absent-minded tea lady, and lots of talking animals. vlcsnap-00681

The Raggy Dolls was shown frequently on CITV for about a decade, and there were over 100 ten-minute long episodes made. There were also lots of episodes released on VHS and DVD, and the show was also popular enough for there to be lots of books, although I didn’t have any of those. Thinking about this show again reminded me of when I was younger and used to have teddy bears and toys, but I don’t think any of them ever came to life.

CBBC Memories – Smart.

Smart (CBBC, 1994-2009)

I have enjoyed a lot of children’s TV shows about art over the years, one of my favourites being CITV’s long-running Art Attack. On CBBC, there was the Tony Hart trilogy with Vision On, Take Hart, and Hart Beat (although I only remember the last of those three). I also really enjoyed Bitsa in the early-90s. Around the time that ended, a new show was launched with the aim to give viewers some artistic ideas.

Smart (or was it actually written SMart?) launched in 1994, and although I only watched the early series regularly, I do remember enjoying them, including the opening sequence that featured some strange goings on with some Plasticine and paint tubes. The original presenting line-up was Mark Speight (who was also a presenter on CITV at the same time), Jay Burridge, and Zoe Ball. vlcsnap-00614

Also among the presenters were Josie D’Arby and Kirsten O’Brien, and to add a link to the Tony Hart era, the animated character Morph occasionally appeared too. There were a lot of great ideas, such as how to draw pictures with pens, or paint, or how to do creative things using a wide variety of materials. There would also be a look at pictures sent in by viewers in the gallery. If a viewer’s work was shown, they would also win a prize. vlcsnap-00664

Another regular feature was a big picture being made, and viewers could also phone in for some advice on how to improve their artwork. Smart was another one of those shows that made myself, and I’m sure many others, say “I’d like to have a go at doing that”. There were also competitions to enter, along with lots of merchandise including books, and don’t forget the trusty old factsheets too. vlcsnap-00615

One sign that Smart was popular with viewers was there were not one or two but three spin-off series. There was Smart On The Road, where the presenting team made designs on location instead of in the studio which ran for several series. There was also Smarteenies that was shown on the CBeebies channel, to help the young viewers learn all about colours and shapes. vlcsnap-00613

And, it seems that you can’t keep the man away, there was also Smart Hart, where Tony Hart returned alongside Kirsten O’Brien for even more creative ideas. I didn’t realise that Smart ran for 15 years, that’s almost as along as Art Attack. There were almost 200 editions made, and the editions in the later series (that were shown on the CBBC Channel) were extended to an hour.

More TV Memories – Saturday Night Takeaway.

Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV1, 2002-2009, ITV, 2013-present)

This is another show that does feature a game show element, although again I do feel that it is more of a general entertainment show. Ant and Dec had already hosted some Saturday Night TV shows, including BBC1’s Friends Like These. They then moved to ITV and hosted Slap Bang which was something of a flop. But they went off and regrouped and came back with something that was much better… and this time it was a hit!

In the early-2000s Ant and Dec had hosted various other successful shows including Pop Idol, but critics often said that these formats were popular enough that they would’ve done well in the ratings whoever hosted them, so they had to prove that they did have the ability to be a success with their own show. It turned out to be something in the familiar Noel’s House Party/Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush style.

Saturday Night Takeaway was a live show that contained lots of features. I only really watched the first few series regularly, and these are some of the highlights from that era. One memorable feature was Make Ant Laugh. Ant is supposedly rather grumpy, and needs cheering up (“laugh? Don’t make me laugh!”). A rather bad variety act would come on and had to make Ant laugh within 60 seconds. If they succeeded, they won a prize, and I remember Ant did end up giggling a lot. vlcsnap-00408

There was also What’s Next, where Ant and Dec didn’t know what the next feature they were taking part in was until a curtain was raised (eventually), so it was always a surprise. Other features over the series have included Ant Vs Dec, The Jiggy Bank, Home Run and Little Ant And Dec. It’s fair to say by this point that our cheeky hosts had left their pop music careers (which they weren’t embarrassed about at all, oh no) behind. vlcsnap-00435

One of the more interesting features in the first series was Banged Up With Beadle. TV presenter Jeremy Beadle has been locked away in a dungeon “for his services to light entertainment”. Every week he would be paired with a contestant and they would have to practice a task, which they would then have to perform live on the show. If they succeeded, the contestant won a prize, and Jeremy was given something extra to make his time a little more enjoyable, like some books. There was also a spin-off show on ITV2 which looked at some of the highlights of the week, along with the contestant talking about their experience. Jeremy always came across as very kind and did anything he could to help out the contestants, which was great. vlcsnap-00411

The centrepiece of the show was Grab The Ads, leading to the show’s main catchphrase “don’t just watch the ads… win them!”. Some adverts were picked from a show that had been on ITV1 during the week, and one rather overexcited contestant was chosen to play. There were 60 seconds, and for every correct answer, one of the 25 items was randomly highlighted. The twist here was that this meant that they could win a car and a holiday, or a toilet roll and a chocolate bar. However, they could gamble to answer one more question and if they got it right they would win everything on the board. vlcsnap-00377

Overall, Saturday Night Takeaway was a big success with viewers, Ant and Dec had finally done it! In 2009 the show ended and they went off to other things including game show Push The Button, but this was a flop by comparison. In 2013 the format was revived, and seemed to have a fresh energy, including more new features such as In For A Penny. There has also been a tour, along with a book and a board game being released, and the show’s success is one of the factors leading to Ant and Dec winning the Most Popular TV Presenter award for about 43 consecutive years.

CBBC Memories – Why Don’t You…?

Why Don’t You Switch Off Your TV Set And Go And Do Something Less Boring Instead? (CBBC, 1973-1995)

This was one of the longest-running (and also longest-titled) CBBC shows of its era, which is rather surprising when you consider that the basic idea of the show was that you actually shouldn’t be watching it, and it recommended some alternatives that it insisted were much more interesting ways to spend your time. vlcsnap-00358

Why Don’t You…? was partly a show that showed viewers how to make things, but it also contained a drama element, making it fall somewhere between Blue Peter and Grange Hill (two other memorable CBBC shows that I plan to review soon). The show always featured a cast of children that came from a particular city, such as “the Cardiff gang” or “the Bristol gang”. vlcsnap-00364

As well as featuring activities that we should all have a go at, there was also an ongoing story that could be very exciting. Some of the things that were made by the cast were based on ideas sent in by viewers, and these normally featured recipes involving lots of biscuits, or creative things that could be done with pieces of paper, you would be surprised at what you could do with a pen, along with some glue and scissors. vlcsnap-00361

There were also features including playing various sports, along with interesting places to visit. When was the last time that you went to the zoo? Most editions also ended with a cliffhanger that was rather exciting, how would the cast get out of this one. It seems that there was also an exploding robotic sheep, although I might’ve dreamt that. And of course, if you did want to make some of the ideas yourself you could send off for the factsheet. vlcsnap-00374

One of the things that the show is remembered for now is when Ant (of “and Dec” fame) was among the cast in some of his earliest TV appearances. I’m not sure of how many other cast members went on to bigger things though. Why Don’t You…? ran for an impressive 22 years (and 42 series), and I was a regular viewer in the 90s. I don’t think that any editions have ever been released on VHS or DVD though, but it’s one of the small number of children’s TV shows that viewers from the 70s right though to the 90s will definitely be familiar with.