The YouTube Files – Just A Gigolo.

Just A Gigolo (ITV, 1993)

It’s time for yet another entry in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms” series. In the early-90s, Tony Slattery was on TV so frequently that he really did seem to be ubiquitous. He appeared in comedy shows including Channel 4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? (and the spin-off S & M alongside Mike McShane), hosted game shows including Channel 4’s The Music Game (that I reviewed a while back) and BBC2’s P’s And Q’s (which earned him a Radio Times cover), and he even found the time to be in a few sitcoms, like this one, and as I wanted to review it I was very pleased to discover that all seven episodes are on YouTube. vlcsnap-00254

Just A Gigolo was a sitcom that starred Slattery as Nick Brim, a disillusioned French teacher who leaves his job. He lives with his younger brother Simon and tries to find a new way to earn some money. When out one night pondering his next move Nick is mistaken for a male escort by the middle-aged Marge (Wanda “Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum” Ventham) and is given £100. Although reluctant at first, he soon realises that this could be a useful career for him, and he often has his best suit and bow-tie on standby for anyone who might want some of his company, and he decides to join an agency. Well, it was better than having to put up with irritating schoolchildren. vlcsnap-00436

Nick often takes his women to a wine bar, but he soon realises that he is rather fond of  Natalie who works there, and he tries to pluck up the courage to ask her out without her discovering why he is such a frequent visitor. Nick often gets himself into some awkward situations, and Slattery proved that he had mastered the comedy basics by getting lots of laughs from doing things like taking his trousers off, having a custard pie thrown in his face, and randomly falling over. vlcsnap-00437

Just A Gigolo was written by Carl Gorham, Michael Hatt and Amanda Swift, and it was a Central production for ITV. It was shown on Thursday evenings and I’m fairly sure that it hasn’t been seen since, not even turning up on the repeats circuit on channels like Granada Plus, UK Gold or ITV3. It didn’t return for a second series, possibly because Slattery had about 50 other shows on the go at the time and had to drop at least one of them. vlcsnap-00438

One of the highlights was when Nick said “Bethnal Green” in an episode – that’s always going to be on to a winner with me! There was also an episode where Simon seemed to fall in love with a cardboard cut-out which remained me of an episode of Family Guy. Also, there’s no doubt that this show was recorded with a live studio audience, as they shrieked with laughter at most of what happened. Just A Gigolo hasn’t been released on DVD, but I do think that it was rather good, let’s hope it’ll happen one day.

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More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops (part 2).

Let’s carry on the story shall we…

1991-1995. Of course, everyone has their own view on the day that Top Of The Pops went rubbish, but it seems that most people would choose the one in October 1991 when there was possibly the biggest relaunch yet, as the show was finally brought into the 90s with a Year Zero approach. New theme music (“Now Get Out Of That”), new studio, new presenters, new songs, new everything. totp1

There was a wave of presenters new to TV who weren’t also on BBC Radio 1, but not many of them hosted more than a few editions, with only Tony Dortie and Mark Franklin enduring. The flashing neon lights were now gone, with most performances now in front of a drab curtain, it suddenly felt like the show was coming from a cheesy nightclub, way-hey! The Top Ten countdown was reintroduced though. totp2

There was also a rule introduced that acts had to sing live (although the policy on this seemed to change every six months). As this was the time when there was rather a lot of rave music on the scene, a lot of these songs were rather hard to replicate in the studio, as they featured a lot of samples and were usually put together by anonymous dance producers. So it seemed that every act independently of one another thought that it would be really funny to just have some bloke who made the tea at the record label on stage shouting the lyrics as viewers really wouldn’t have known one from the other. totp10

By 1994 it was decided that it was time to bring back the Radio 1 presenters, but most of them who hosted up to 1991 had been “Bannistered” by this point, so the likes of Simon Bates and Gary Davies had long gone, but Nicky Campbell, Mark Goodier and Simon Mayo returned, and there were also a few guest hosts. In 1994 a companion show launched on BBC2 called TOTP2, which featured the biggest hits of the week along with some classic performances from the archive, and an out-of-vision presenter, which would run for many years. totp11

1995-1998. It was time for another new look and theme (“Red Hot Pop”) as Top Of The Pops entered the Britpop era. In the summer of 1996, the show was moved from Thursdays to Fridays for coverage of the Atlanta Olympics, and it was never moved back, this was one of the many reasons that caused the alarming slump in the ratings. Also, a few editions were shown on BBC2. totp6

In 1995, a monthly magazine was launched (which is still going!) featuring all the usual interviews and features with the hottest bands around plus loads of free gifts. A few long-serving presenters including Simon Mayo were finally dropped from the lineup by this point and some younger Radio 1 faces were brought in to host the show. There was also an increasing amount of unlikely guest hosts who had their turn with the golden microphone. totp9

1998-2003. Another year, another relaunch, including a new dance version of the “Whole Lotta Love” theme that was originally used in the 70s, and a title sequence that was modified after a few years (by which point The Chart Show had ended). Presenters now included Jamie Theakston and Jayne Middlemiss from The O Zone, Margherita Taylor and Sarah Cawood from ITV’s Videotech, plus Zoe Ball, Jo Whiley, and others. totp7

Now this is rather interesting. Most people say that their favourite era of pop music is when they are in their teens, so even though I had watched the show for about 15 years by this point, this was the time when I was most interested in what was happening in the chart, including the rise of UK Garage, and when there were 43 Number One singles in 2000 and it was hard to keep up with the turnover. totp4

I remember being particularly excited when the Sugababes appeared to perform one of their Number One singles as they were among my favourites at the time, and hopefully it was still considered an honour to appear on the show. To expand the show’s reach even more, during this era there were some compilation CDs released, along with the ongoing magazine and TOTP2. And even more spin-off shows were launched including Top Of The Pops Saturdaytotp3

Another thing that is noticeable about this era is that there were very few music videos shown during this time, the emphasis was back on live performances, and the Top 20 was announced at the end, but now usually by a Radio 1 presenter out of vision. The show kept on going though and in 2002 the 2,000th edition was celebrated… oh, and leave the useless Liquid News-style features to Liquid News itself! totp8

2003-2006. Maybe it was time for another relaunch. Andi Peters, who had produced various music shows in the 90s including The O Zone and The Noise was now in charge, and he pretty much killed off the show altogether. Again, just like in 1991, there were wholesale changes to the format, including reintroducing “Now Get Out Of That” as the theme, causing flashbacks to that era. totp12

Also, “All-New” as added to the title (always a clear sign that a show is on its last legs), another wave of little-known presenters including Tim Kash came and went, and the show was extended to an hour, being padded out with things like a phone-in competition (although famously the first time they did this all three possible answers to the question were incorrect).

And there seemed to be something of an emphasis on pre-chart exclusives, with most editions not even covering what was in the Top 40, more like what would be in it in about three weeks’ time. And only the Top Ten was announced at the end by some disembodied voice, making it seem like if your song wasn’t in the Top Ten, then it didn’t matter. This wasn’t attracting new viewers though, most people who watched by this time simply did because they had every week since they were children and were now out of the target audience, and I suppose I could include myself in that group by this point. Could the show survive in the era of dedicated music channels?

One major change in 2005 was when the show was moved to Sundays, so the new Number One single could now be announced straight away, rather than almost a week after the latest chart was revealed. One of the regular hosts by now was Fearne Cotton, who was usually joined by someone rather unlikely, such as Jeremy Clarkson, Phill Jupitus and Jeremy Bowen (it honestly couldn’t have been any worse by this point if they had got Jim Bowen in).

By 2006 though the format had become so tired though after being on TV every week for almost 42 years, the decision was made to bring the show to an end, concluding with one last look back at some classic moments, although I felt that it went out with something of a whimper. It’s still number one? Not any more it isn’t. However, TOTP2 and the Christmas specials do continue to this day.

More TV Memories – Top Of The Pops (part 1).

Top Of The Pops (BBC1/BBC2, 1964-2006)

Originally I wasn’t going to do a blog piece reviewing Top Of The Pops because its story is well known, but as I am a long-time fan of the show, I planned to have a look back at various episodes instead, but I only got as far as reviewing one from 1989. After a few requests, I thought that I might as well do a full review, it will be in two parts, and I’ll share a few facts along with some of my own memories along the way. Although Top Of The Pops launched in January 1964, I’ll begin the story in the early-80s…

1981-1986. This era is actually before my time, but I have now seen plenty of editions thanks to repeat runs. One thing that constantly seems to be said by music magazines including Classic Pop is that the peak era for British pop music was the early-80s, roughly 1981-1984, when we were spoilt with great songs from distinctive bands, and as a consequence many people feel that this was the best era of the show. totp2

And I must admit that I can see why people feel that way. There was a party atmosphere introduced to the studio, with balloons everywhere and so on, and people really did seem to behaving a good time in the company of these pop stars. “Yellow Pearl” was the new theme, but the symbol that had been around since 1973 remained, it’s probably the best of the lot, and the flashing pink and blue neon Top Of The Pops sign is one of my favourite things about the show. totp10

In 1983 the 1,000th edition was celebrated. It was also around this time that the dance troupes such as Legs And Co. and Zoo were phased out as music videos became more commonplace. People always seem to suggest that the 1984 Christmas special was the best edition of them all, and I very much doubt that music went bad overnight when the calendar turned over to 1985, but the show had to adapt to the constantly changing music scene, and such was the rapid evolution you definitely couldn’t confuse a song from the early-80s with a song from the late-80s! totp8

Top Of The Pops at this time was usually shown on Thursday evenings. As for the presenters, Pat Sharp was briefly on the lineup in some of his earliest TV appearances, and from the comments that I have seen online, the best-received presenting double act from this era was that of David Jensen and John Peel who entertainingly moved the show along with their witty comments. totp7

1986-1988. In April 1986 there was a new look introduced, coincidentally the same month that The Chart Show launched on Channel 4. It included the first computer-generated opening sequence with exploding saxophones, cassettes flying everywhere, and Top Of The Pops in barely decipherable letters. There was another new theme, “The Wizard”, which is my favourite out of all of them. totp3

This is also the first era of the show that I can remember. This is because my sister is nine years older than me, and by this time she was in her early-teens and really into all the big pop groups of the time, so even though I was very young I was familiar with such names as A-Ha, Bros, Curiosity Killed The Cat and so on. What great times. I used to swing my pants to these! totp6

It might not have felt so much of a party any more, but there were still plenty of flashing neon lights, pop stars, and music videos. I also remember around this time the hour-long Christmas specials that would usually be shown at 2pm. Presenters in this era included Simon Mayo and the young, free and single Gary Davies. In 1987 an American version was launched (that I reviewed a while back), but it ended in 1988. totp4

1989-1991. In January 1989 there was another new look in time for the 25th anniversary (again coincidentally in the same month that The Chart Show relaunched when it moved from Channel 4 to ITV). “The Wizard” was retained as the theme, and Top Of The Pops was spelled out in even more unintelligible lettering, as if such a thing was possible. A few children’s TV presenters were added to the lineup including Andy Crane and Anthea Turner. totp1

Changes began to be made in this era. By 1991 the Top 40 countdown was reduced to only featuring new entries and songs that went up, before being dropped altogether. I did like the silly graphics that floated around the screen though. The neon lights were still around, but everything started to feel like it was in a timewarp, as if the show was stuck in the 80s. More change was to come. totp9

TO BE CONTINUED…

The YouTube Files – iBuy.

iBuy (2005-2007)

You should know by now that Bid-Up was one of my favourite TV channels to watch when it came to Freeview in January 2003. I never bought anything, I just found it really entertaining. There were a lot of format changes over the years though, as producing 17 hours of live TV every day had to be kept fresh, and in 2004, around the time the studio changed to a rather bright orange colour, a lot of presenters left to join a channel called Auctionworld.

This channel had a rather similar format to Bid-Up with plenty of auction action, and among the presenters who joined were Adam Freeman and Duncan Pow (who has also been an actor and appeared in drama series including Sky One’s Dream Team and BBC1’s Holby City). Bid-Up was never the same really, although the great Andy Hodgson and Peter Simon were still around.

The Auctionworld channel was never on Freeview, but it did attract some media attention when it was heavily fined by the regulator, and it closed down shortly afterwards. Then in 2005 another interactive shopping channel launched called iBuy. Again, Adam Freeman was among the lineup of presenters, it seems that they were trying to put the fun back into shopping TV that had supposedly gone from Bid-Up (although I still enjoyed it). vlcsnap-00408

I thought that I would take a look at some of the clips of iBuy on YouTube that have been uploaded by various shopping TV fansites, and I do have to say that it does seem that there were a lot of amusing moments. iBuy used a similar falling price format to the one on Price-Drop (which had also been introduced to Bid around this time), accompanied by the usual garish graphics and endless too-loud music. vlcsnap-00421

There were also some rather familiar features such as informing us when there was limited stock with lots of irritating noises, special clearances and sales, items going down to a pound, and so on. Along with Adam Freeman, many other presenters who had been on Bid took part including Elisa Portelli (who really did like to laugh a lot), and Mike Mason (“sweet meat!”). Also featuring was Anglia Through The Night Star Paul Lavers. vlcsnap-00414

One of Adam Freeman’s sales on iBuy also happens to be one of the funniest videos that I have ever seen on YouTube, when while trying to sell a shaver he had a laughing fit to the point that he could barely talk, and he tried to close the sale whilst doing some high-pitched giggling. I’m surprised that it’s only had about 2,500 views, it’s a classic. Because of this, I started to think that this channel actually did look rather fun. vlcsnap-00420

A couple of years on, in 2007 Adam announced his departure, and iBuy left the screen shortly afterwards, seemingly unable to compete with the more established channels in the marketplace. Adam then went off to the other side of the Atlantic to host on a shopping channel in America (picking up the accent along the way), and over a decade later, it seems that he is still working over there and has done rather well for himself. vlcsnap-00416

iBuy was never an individual channel on Freeview, but it did feature in a BBC3 documentary when Adam Freeman was interviewed as part of a behind-the-scenes look at shopping TV, and it was also shown for a short while on Five US during that channel’s downtime in the morning. And I’m sure that plenty of people bagged a bargain over the years.

The YouTube Files – Another strange 80s music video.

Following on from Thomas Dolby’s “Hyperactive!” which is one of my favourite music videos from the 80s that I reviewed on here recently, I thought that I would take a look back at another rather strange and creative video from this decade. When I discovered this one on YouTube a while ago when trying to find some more 80s hits it was another video that I thought was a classic.

“Bridge To Your Heart” was released in July 1987 and was the biggest hit in the UK for the group Wax, whose members included Andrew Gold, best remembered for his hit songs in the 70s including “Never Let Her Slip Away”, and 10cc’s Graham Gouldman. The video was directed by Storm Thorgerson and it definitely stood out. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights. Hold it… now! vlcsnap-00002

Firstly, as far as I can tell, none of the video is computer-generated, it’s all traditional stop-frame animation. There must have been a huge amount of time and effort put into making this but it was worth it. Being able to watch this video’s fast-moving effects again frame-by-frame does make me see a lot of unusual things that I didn’t notice first time round… I mean, what it supposed to be going on here? vlcsnap-00005

Some of the best visual effects include a lot of fiddling about with photographs, and there is also an animated sequence where a wolf gets so overexcited by someone that their heart explodes. There is also a moment where the lyric “made me the clown” seems to be taken too literally, and I also liked it when a superhero in a newspaper comic strip page comes to life. Now it’s time for an interval where the horns come in. vlcsnap-00008

Then as we get near to the end of the song, there is the inevitable key change! There are also some more great moments, including a bridge being built out of brightly coloured children’s blocks that then tumble everywhere, and what has to be my favourite moment in the video when it seems for a brief moment that Graham and Andrew have gone down the seaside to perform the chorus to the song. vlcsnap-00012

I’m not sure if the video to “Bridge To Your Heart” won any awards, but it was a big hit across Europe, making the Top Ten in a few countries. Along with “Hyperactive!”, this is definitely another one of my favourite music videos from the 80s, easily up there for me with the great “Sledgehammer”. I’ll try and review one more strange music video before the end of the year.

The YouTube Files – The early days of Sky.

Here’s another idea for a blog piece that came to me rather late at night when I was watching some videos on YouTube. I’m always on the lookout for curious or interesting videos featuring adverts and trails where I try and work out what on earth is happening, and I usually only watch ones from the UK, Ireland, and USA, but I recently ended up watching some videos from the early days of satellite television in the 80s.

Sky and its group of channels as we now know them launched in February 1989, but the name had been around as early as 1982, and the Sky Channel as it used to be known was a combination of various music shows, sport, imported sitcoms, and so on, and these were shown across Europe at a time when there couldn’t have been a huge market for such a thing. I thought that I would pick out a few highlights from some of the videos that I watched on YouTube that are from around the 1988 mark. vlcsnap-00262

5 August 1988. This one includes coverage of Philips Cup Football. I was surprised by how much sport was featured, and this is long before the launch of the Sky Sports Premier League channel. This is not a tournament that I am familiar with, but it features Everton v Italian club Torino in Switzerland. I know that English clubs didn’t take part in Europe at this time, so a few extra competitions were introduced to fill the gap such as the Screensport Super Cup (named after another long-gone satellite channel), I presume that because this is from early-August it’s a pre-season friendly? vlcsnap-00252

Then it’s time for the Sky Weather Report, sponsored by Uniroyal tyres. Programmes being sponsored, whatever will they think of next. Then there are a few adverts, including “Hit News”, a music compilation from K-Tel featuring Orfa Haza, Eddy Grant, and Natalie Cole. There is also a rather good advert for Kodak which was rather arty and creative, featuring lots of blues, greens, and reds, it certainly caught my eye. vlcsnap-00203

Then there are some more trails, including one for the 1988 US PGA golf tournament (it seemed that every other trail on Sky at the time was voiced by Tommy Vance). And then we have some Headline News that is sponsored by The Times and hosted by Aernout Van Lynden and his moustache. This is essentially Sky News before the existence of Sky News, only it’s clearly being done on a much smaller scale. vlcsnap-00258

14 June 1988. This one features trails for old American sitcoms, adverts for cereals in foreign languages, and what seems to be a Public Service Announcement with Tony Blackburn in a tracksuit accompanied by some funky music. vlcsnap-00276

26 April 1988. This one features more trails for old American comedy, and also a rather bad infomerical (is there any other type). There’s also a promotion telling us that Sky now reaches over ten million homes in 19 countries across Europe, some dubbed adverts, and the thrills of the Sky Bondstec Roadshow! There is also a trail for wrestling which has been shown on Sky for many years, and we conclude with a lot of Sky presenters celebrating the channel’s sixth anniversary, including Tony Blackburn, Pat Sharp, and of course children’s TV star DJ Kat. vlcsnap-00326

This all leads on to a rather interesting show from Sky in the 80s called Sky Trax, a music show which only seemed to be shown when they had got bored with showing the in-vision Teletext service rather late at night. Most editions seemed to be hosted by Pat Sharp and his epic hairstyle (long before Fun House) from a cupboard in London, along with Gary Davies (who was seemingly doing some moonlighting from BBC Radio 1). vlcsnap-00400

Lots of bands from across Europe were featured performing their latest songs, and there were also plenty of music videos and interviews, but I doubt that it gave the production team of Top Of The Pops much to panic about, especially as there were probably about three people watching. However, it does seem to be a decent pop music archive from over 30 years ago that is worth tapping into again. vlcsnap-00405

Game Show Memories – Do The Right Thing.

Do The Right Thing (BBC1, 1994-1995)

This is a game show (just about) that was shown on weekend nights in the mid-90s, and it was hosted by Terry Wogan whose long-running primetime chat show had come to an end by this point, and this was seemingly an attempt at finding a new popular format. It was also another production by Action Time who were rather prolific in TV game shows around this time.

Do The Right Thing was a game show that was based on a Brazilian format which was all about moral dilemmas, such as “would you sell your tawdry little story to the newspapers?”, and the opening sequence seemed to suggest that people could have a difficult decision was to whether they would listen to the angel or the devil or their shoulder in such a situation. vlcsnap-00136

There would be a pre-recorded sequence shown which would establish the situation. Terry would then get the opinions of the people in the studio, beginning with the three celebrity panellists. These changed every week, but Frank Skinner did take part regularly, and the show would have a wider scope of panellists than most, as along with comedians, politicians and newspaper columnists would also often take part. vlcsnap-00102

There would then be a segment where Terry asked the studio audience to “vote with your feet”, and they would all have to get up and walk over to a row of seats that said “yes” or “no”, and Terry would then whip his microphone out and ask a few of them why they made such a decision. The story would then continue to play out, until we got to just before the end, at which point the viewers at home could get involved. dtrt3

The phonelines would be opened for about five minutes, and viewers could vote for either “yes” or “no” to confirm what the final decision would be. Two endings had been made. The one that received the most votes would be shown, with the other remaining unseen. When time was up the results were revealed, and then we would see the chosen ending. Had we done the right thing? Terry would introduce the ending by solemnly turning to the camera and saying “I hope you can live with yourselves…”. vlcsnap-00096

Do The Right Thing ran for a couple of series (the first was on Saturdays in a 45-minute slot, the second on Fridays in a 30-minute slot), and while it didn’t cause much of a stir, it was definitely an interesting idea which kept people guessing to the end. Once again, it is a show that doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry and isn’t much remembered now, but I do remember watching it at the time, and Terry Wogan was as ever a reliable host who kept everything running smoothly.