More TV Memories – The O Zone.

The O Zone (BBC2, 1989-2000)

The O Zone was a show all about pop music. It didn’t feature live performances, but it did feature interviews, music videos, and news about everything that was currently happening on the scene. Hey, it’s just like Smash Hits on the TV! Originally it was shown as part of CBBC, with the presenters mostly coming from that lineup, including Andy Crane, Andi Peters, Zoe Ball, and so on, and it would eventually run for over a decade. vlcsnap-00443

Every week there would be features on the show including a look behind the scenes of the latest music videos (I remember Andi Peters seemed to interview the Pet Shop Boys on the set of their latest innovative video every other week), and the hottest news, so you’ll never have to wonder when Ant And Dec’s next single is out again. As the years passed and genres changed just about every major group from this era was interviewed. vlcsnap-00448

In the mid-90s the show was relaunched with two presenters who were fairly new to TV, Jayne Middlemiss and Jamie Theakston (who would both go on to host Top Of The Pops). By this point the scheduling of the show was rather erratic. It was usually shown on BBC2 in the evenings but the timeslot changed frequently, and editions ranged from 10 to 20 minutes, although there were occasionally extended specials focusing on one group.

In later years the show had a couple of spin-offs, The Pop Zone, that was usually shown on CBBC (although I’m not really sure what the difference was), and The Phone Zone, a live show on great long-gone digital channel UK Play where viewers could phone in to request music videos (just like MTV’s Select), and presenters included Vernon Kay. However, by 2000 the format had become a little tired, so after 11 poptastic years The O Zone came to an end. phone0001

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The YouTube Files – The Wolvis Family.

The Wolvis Family (BBC2, 1991)

I am always on the lookout for bizarre and long-forgotten shows to review on here, and this is a perfect example of one. This is how I discovered it. A while ago I was watching a BBC2 continuity clip on YouTube (well, when aren’t I), which featured a slide promoting something that appeared to be a game show. However, it turns out it that wasn’t a game show at all, but something called The Wolvis Family. What could this be? I wanted to discover more, and I found some episodes on YouTube.

It’s a comedy show with a rather unusual idea that is difficult to describe, but here goes. The Wolvises used to be a happy family. Indeed they used to be so close they once appeared together as a team on the long-running game show Ask The Family in the 80s (which explains what was happening in the BBC2 slide). But things have started to go rather wrong for them since then. vlcsnap-00400

The Wolvis family consists of the father Herbert, the mother Sylvia, and their two teenage children, the rather bratty daughter Wendy (who I couldn’t help but notice has something of a Strawberry Switchblade look about her, oh yes), and the son Stuart (played by a young Charlie Condou who in more recent years has appeared in various shows including Nathan Barley and Coronation Street). vlcsnap-00397

Now there’s a problem with Stuart, as he doesn’t talk to the rest of his family any more. He hasn’t left home or lost contact with them, he just simply doesn’t talk any more, not even to his friend Spencer. The children have transformed from being well-behaved into rebellious teenagers, and the Wolvises seem to have become something of a dysfunctional family that would make even the Simpsons or the Griffins blush. So they have decided to do something about it. vlcsnap-00405

They will air their problems with one another (or not in Stuart’s case)… on the TV. They have agreed to work with Dr Graham Wilcockson, and as the six episodes progress we see him use various techniques to try and help them out. Can they finally settle their differences? The set design is very basic, it’s just six chairs and a table. Oh, and a jug of water too. The show starts off in a fairly straightforward style but starts to get increasingly unusual, with the family eventually opening up and revealing bizarre things about themselves, and going a little “I will release my anger… through interpretive dance!” by the end. Come on don’t be shy, better out than in! vlcsnap-00408

The Wolvis Family really is a show that is rather unique in TV. It was a scripted comedy (it was written by Tom Lubbock and Roger Parsons), but not like any other that I’ve seen. What was it trying to achieve? It seems to be a satire of the “making troubled people sob on TV” genre before it even existed. It was shown once on BBC2 fairly late on Saturdays, never to be seen again. Did anyone watch it at the time? vlcsnap-00411

It pretty much goes without saying that The Wolvis Family doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry and there has been no DVD release, and there is very little about it online, but it was a great example of those shows that used to come and go around this time on BBC2 and Channel 4 that tried to do something a little different, and I definitely feel that it’s another lost curiosity that deserves some reappraisal.

The YouTube Files – It’s A Mad World World World World.

It’s A Mad World World World World (BBC2, 1993)

When the digital radio station BBC7 (now BBC Radio 4 Extra) launched in 2002, it was an opportunity for me to hear some programmes from throughout the years that I didn’t remember from first time round. One that I rather enjoyed was the comedy sketch show And Now In Colour (that originally ran on BBC Radio 4 for two series from 1990-1991) which was often compared to BBC Radio 1’s The Mary Whitehouse Experience that ran around the same time.

And Now In Colour was written by and starred a comedy quartet known as The Throbbs (Tim Firth, Tim de Jongh, Michael Rutger and William Vandyck), and the show had a regular feature where the cast would take the studio audience on an adventure with them. In 1993 there was an attempt to transfer the show to TV as It’s A Mad World World World World which was shown as part of BBC2’s Comic Asides series of comedy pilots. I have wanted to see this for a while so I was very pleased when it recently turned up on YouTube, and credit goes to the uploader “VHS Video Vault”. vlcsnap-00381

Although all four members of the And Now In Colour cast wrote the show, only de Jongh and Vandyck appeared in the sketches (and it was a great experience to finally put some faces to the familiar voices). Also in the cast was Flip Webster, and there were some early TV appearances for the soon to be big names in comedy Alistair McGowan and Caroline Aherne. vlcsnap-00394

Among the various sketches in the show were the strangest snooker match ever played, the invention of earthquakes, the reveal of the new James Bond theme, and a parody of The Open University. Another thing that I noticed was that most of the sketches were recycled from the radio version. Also, the way that some of the sketches played out made me think that one influence could’ve been Channel 4’s great comedy show Absolutelyvlcsnap-00396

It’s A Mad World World World World did not return for a full series, so we won’t ever know how many characters or catchphrases could’ve developed (BBC2 did finally find a successful sketch show format about a year later with the launch of The Fast Show). However, the cast did go on to have further success in more recent years, having written various award-winning plays and novels, and some of them also contributed to ITV1’s surreal comedy show Dare To Believe (although the less said about that the better really). vlcsnap-00367

The Comedy Vault – The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin.

The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin (BBC1, 1976-1979)

I’m not really that big a fan of 70s sitcoms (before my time etc), but this is one of my favourites from that era, and here’s how I discovered it. In the early-90s something rather strange happened to BBC1, they seemed to have run out of comedy shows, and around this time a lot of old ones were repeated in primetime. These included Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and Citizen Smith, well over a decade after they had ended. Another sitcom given this treatment was The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin which I remember had something of an impact on me has I had hardly seen another comedy show like it.

Reggie (played by Leonard Rossiter) works in an unrewarding role as a manager at Sunshine Desserts. His routine is always the same. We see him walking along the same streets, he always arrives to work 11 minutes late because of a problem with the train, he always has to deal with his boss CJ whose observations on life are rather baffling and he uses the show’s most famous catchphrase “I didn’t get where I am today…” by justifying them. He also has to put up with his family including his wife Elizabeth and his brother-in-law Jimmy who has always “had a bit of a cock-up”. vlcsnap-00225

At the age of 46, Reggie is beginning to get rather frustrated with where he is in life. He begins to have increasingly odd thoughts about his wife and his secretary Joan, and he is losing his grip on reality. This leads to some strange fantasy sequences including imagining his mother-in-law as a hippo. He has had enough of being trapped in this never-changing world of nonsense, train delays, and tiresome yes-men who think that everything is “super” for what becomes weeks, months, and eventually years, and he finally decides to do something about it. vlcsnap-00344

So one day Reggie fakes his own death by leaving some clothes on a beach and walking off to a new life. He does eventually return to his family however and starts a new business selling useless items, and the show eventually ran for three series as he struggles to try and make some sense of his life. Around the same time as this show Leonard Rossiter was also starring in Rising Damp (widely regarded as one of ITV’s greatest sitcoms), but I always preferred his performance in this show myself. vlcsnap-00206

After concluding in 1979, in 1996 it was decided to revive the show as The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin. Reggie has died for real now and most of the original cast (and catchphrases) returned to discover that they could only inherit his money if they combined to do something absurd. This series was something of a letdown by comparison though. All of these series have been released on DVD, and extras include the Comedy Connections documentary made about the show. vlcsnap-00322

The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin was based on a book that was written by David Nobbs, who went on to further success by creating more comedy shows including Channel 4’s Fairly Secret Army (starring Geoffrey Palmer in a role very similar to his Jimmy character) and ITV’s A Bit Of A Do (which starred David Jason). He was also behind a sitcom on BBC Radio 4 called The Maltby Collection that I enjoyed listening to recently which again showed how good Nobbs was at capturing the British eccentric and their strange turns of phrase. vlcsnap-00362

In the 80s there was a short-lived version on American TV called Reggie, and about a decade ago the series was revived again on BBC1, this time called Reggie Perrin and starring Martin Clunes in the lead role. This was justified by saying that the struggles that the original Reggie went through are still as relevant today, but it just wasn’t in the same league as the original and it ended quietly after two series.

CITV Memories – Kappatoo.

Kappatoo (CITV, 1990-1992)

This is a CITV show that I don’t really remember watching that much at the time, but I have wanted to discover more about it and share it on here. This is because Kappatoo is a show with a interesting idea that falls into a few genres. Not only is it a children’s TV show, but it is also something of a science-fiction show, and a comedy-drama show too.

The story is that Simon Cashmere who is an ordinary 15-year-old boy in the present day (which is 1990) swaps places with Kappa who is from the 23rd century 280 years in the future (both roles are played by the same actor, Simon Nash). Will Kappa be able to adjust to this strange new world and blend in with these people who don’t know his rather unusual secret. Can he convince Simon’s family and his best friend Steve that he is the real thing? With his odd turns of phrase, ability to stop time, and scoring 17 goals in a football match they soon notice that Simon definitely isn’t who he seems to be. vlcsnap-00226

One of the things that attracted me to watching Kappatoo was that the futuristic fast-talking computer sidekick was played by Andrew O’Connor (no relation to Hazel). Now if you are a regular visitor to this blog you might know that I have something of an unironic fondness for his work, having also enjoyed watching some of the game shows that he hosted in the late-80s/early-90s such as Chain Letters and One To Win among others, so it was good seeing him do his thing here including some daft impressions (it seems that he also co-wrote some of the episodes). vlcsnap-00225

One thing that Kappa has to deal with is a girl at school called Tracey (who in a good “before they were famous” was played by a teenage Denise Outen, before she added a “Van” to her surname) who Simon wants to go out with. Meanwhile, in the future Simon is enjoying his new life until has to battle in a sporting event against Kappa’s arch-rival Sigmasix who will do anything to beat him. vlcsnap-00206

In 1992 the show returned for a second series as Kappatoo II as Simon and Kappa’s lives became increasingly entangled whilst travelling back and forth in time. There were also a few cast changes. The show also featured a few gadgets and special effects (although it clearly wasn’t big budget stuff) which could make it draw comparisons with Mike And Angelo, another CITV sci-fi show from around the same time. vlcsnap-00321

Like most shows in the science-fiction genre, Kappatoo did pick up something of a small cult following that endures (but we are hardly talking Doctor Who or Red Dwarf levels here). There were also a couple of books released. 14 episodes were made in two series but it hasn’t been released on DVD, I feel that it would be good to see this show, along with lots of other CITV shows from this era, finally made available.

The YouTube Files – The Hazel O’Connor Story.

A while ago I did a series on here where I told the stories of some of my favourite quirky 80s pop stars. There was some good feedback, including one comment asking if I would look back at the career of Hazel O’Connor. I must admit that I wasn’t really familiar with her work, so I decided I would have a look online to find out more about her, and I was won over. Hazel was born in Coventry in 1955 and she has had success as both an actress and singer. This will be a look back at Hazel’s hit singles and some of her TV appearances throughout the 80s on YouTube, including how she (sort of) had a Number One single. After entering the music business in the mid-70s, Hazel had her breakthrough in 1980… hazel2

In March 1980 the album “Sons And Lovers” was released which wasn’t a hit. In August 1980 “Eighth Day” was released which reached no. 5, and was Hazel’s first Top Ten hit single. It featured in the film Breaking Glass where she starred as a singer called Kate which made her name and earned her a Bafta nomination. Also among the cast were Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett (who would later go on to further success in The Bill), and Mark “Zaphod Beeblebrox” Wing-Davey). It seems that Hazel also unintentionally invented Tron during the film. vlcsnap-00019

Hazel also appeared on BBC1’s Film ’80, and performed “Eighth Day” in the first of her four appearances on BBC1’s Top Of The Pops, and she also made the first of her three Record Mirror cover appearances. Well done Hazel that looks like! Also in August 1980 the Breaking Glass soundtrack album was released which reached no. 5. It has also been released on DVD and it really is a fascinating watch. vlcsnap-00023

In October 1980 “Give Me An Inch” was released which reached no. 41, another single from the Breaking Glass soundtrack. Also around this time Hazel appeared on BBC2’s The Old Grey Whistle Test. In March 1981 “D-Days” was released which reached no. 10. This led to a rather energetic performance on Top Of The Pops. In April 1981 Hazel appeared on the cover of Record Mirror again and Smash Hits for the first and only time. vlcsnap-00015

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Hazel appears on the cover of Smash Hits in April 1981

In May 1981 “Will You” was released which reached no. 8, and it was Hazel’s third and final UK Top Ten hit single. It would also turn out to be her final Top 40 single too, leading to her final Top Of The Pops appearance, along with BBC2’s Six Fifty-Five Special. Although it wasn’t Hazel’s biggest hit, it seems to be the one that has endured the most, and it is the most likely to be played on the radio nowadays, mostly because of its famous saxophone solo. June 1981 saw her third and final Record Mirror cover. vlcsnap-00020

In August 1981 “(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up” was released which reached no. 41. I’ve found a couple of performances of this song online that I thought were rather enjoyable. And as ever, it’s tough to choose a favourite single, but this one is definitely among them. Also in this month Hazel also appeared on BBC1’s Get Set For Summer and made the first of three appearances as a panellist on BBC1’s Pop Quiz. In September 1981 the album “Cover Plus” was released which reached no. 32, and it was Hazel’s final UK hit album. vlcsnap-00007

In October 1981 “Hanging Around” was released which reached no. 45. This was a cover of a song by The Stranglers. In January 1982 “Calls The Tune” was released which reached no. 60, and this turned out to be Hazel’s final UK hit single. Also around this time Hazel appeared on the CITV shows No. 73 and Razzmatazz. Although Hazel would have no more hits, she would continue to have some success in the 80s with her acting career and contributions to charity records. vlcsnap-00010

In 1982 Hazel starred in ITV’s Jangles (which I reviewed on here recently) where she played a schoolgirl called Joanne (even though she was about 26 at the time) who dreamed of being a pop star. Sue “Audrey off Coronation Street” Nicholls played her mum. I thought it was great and the character of Herald is my new favourite thing. During the series she performed some of her own songs including “(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up”, along with covers of “School’s Out” and “Anything Goes”. vlcsnap-00028

In 1983 Hazel appeared in the video for “Who’s That Girl” by the Eurythmics and was on Pop Quiz again. In February 1984 “Don’t Touch Me” was released which reached a disappointing no. 81. George Michael appears in the video for this one. The album “Smile” also failed to chart. Also around this time Hazel was interviewed on Channel 4’s The Tube. In June 1984 Hazel made her third and final Pop Quiz appearance. In September 1984 Hazel contributed to the Channel 4 series Ladybirds and was interviewed in TV Timesvlcsnap-00026

In August 1986 Hazel starred in a BBC1 drama series called Fighting Back where she played a struggling mother called Viv which earned her a Radio Times cover. And yes, she also performed the theme music which was released as a single. Also in 1986, Hazel appeared in BBC2’s Alas Smith And Jones, Channel 4’s Prospects, and the film Car Trouble which starred Julie Walters. vlcsnap-00002

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Hazel appears in Radio Times in August 1986

In April 1987 Hazel was one of the many contributors to “Let It Be”, a cover of the Beatles song for the charity Ferry Aid, which reached no. 1. Also in this month Breaking Glass was shown on Channel 4 and Hazel was interviewed in TV Times again. In November 1987 Hazel contributed to “Wishing Well”, another charity single this time as a part of the group GOSH which reached no. 22. In more recent years, Hazel has released many more albums and continues to tour the country and perform all her famous hits.

UPDATE! Shortly after completing this piece, the woman herself retweeted the link to it, and she also replied to me, saying that she thought it was “lovely”. I was so thrilled, I never expected a response from any of the pop stars that I have written about on here so a big thank you to Hazel for doing that.

Game Show Memories – Tell The Truth.

Tell The Truth (Channel 4, 1983-1985, ITV, 1989-1990)

This is a show that has been around for a long time, first appearing on British TV as early as the late-50s. Then after a long break it was revived by Channel 4 in the mid-80s, but this piece is going to concentrate on the revival on ITV in the late-80s. It was shown in a weekday daytime slot, and the host was Fred Dinenage, who also hosted game shows including Gambit and Pass The Buck along with CITV’s long-running How 2 of course. vlcsnap-00155

The idea was that three contestants appeared and all claimed to be someone who had achieved something unusual. But wait… it can’t be all three of them! It was up to the four celebrity panellists to determine who were the impostors and who was telling the truth. Regular panellists included Christopher Biggins, Leslie Crowther, and Chris Tarrant. Would the real person be able to beat the panel? vlcsnap-00182

The round would begin with Fred reading a description of what their achievement was. Each panellist could ask the contestants one question each. Then all four of them had to say who they thought was the real person. There would then be the reveal when Fred would say the show’s famous catchphrase “would the real (whoever) please stand up?”. It was always rather amusing when all four panellists got it wrong and Fred described it as a whitewash. The real person would then talk a little more about their career. This round would then be played out again with three more contestants. vlcsnap-00163

The final round was called One To One, where the four impostors took part, and one of them had done something unusual. This time the panellists could only talk to one of them against the clock. Who is telling the truth out of them now? A quick decision had to be made. Again, the real person would be revealed, and there would be more surprises if the panellists had got it totally wrong. vlcsnap-00190

Tell The Truth is another game show that I remember watching a long time ago (as I think I said before I did go to school too, honest), and it was also a TVS production (but where’s their archive now etc). In more recent years a similar show appeared on ITV1 where panellists had to guess who was the real person out of a lineup that was called Odd One In, but I never really watched that as much, I prefer this version.