CBBC Memories – The Addams Family.

The Addams Family (ABC, 1992-1993)

It’s not another cartoon review, is it? Yes, it is! The Addams Family are “the ghoulish clan”, as they became known, who were created by Charles Addams to appear in a comic strip. This led to a successful sitcom in the mid-60s (and I plan to review that soon too). There have been various spin-offs since. And there was a revival of interest when a well-received film was released in the early-90s.

This led to there being a cartoon version that was aimed at younger viewers. and I’m fairly sure that this was where I encountered this family for the first time (there had been a previous attempt at a cartoon version in 1973). The family live in Happydale Heights and consist of several bizarre characters, including the married Gomez and Morticia (in a connection to the earlier TV sitcom, John Astin reprised his role to voice Gomez).

There’s no doubt that he was very fond of his “Tish”. Their children are Wednesday and Pugsley, who bicker with each other as much as any other sister and brother do. And there’s Granny Addams and Uncle Fester, who was rather fond of doing experiments, and constantly blowing himself up. And don’t forget Thing the hand, and the grumpy servant Lurch.

There was also a running gag with references to various rather bizarre-sounding uncles, this really was a rather large family. One difference in this version is that their neighbours were the Normanmeyer family, who were as ordinary as they come, and they were rather convinced that there was always something strange happening next door, with the parents constantly telling their son not to interact with them.

There were 21 episodes in two series, and there were a lot of rather silly and strange stories featured. I suppose that the only comparable cartoon that was around at the same time would be Beetlejuice that was on CITV. It seems that The Addams Family was first shown on CBBC as part of the first series of Saturday Morning fest Live & Kicking.

This then moved to the main CBBC afternoon strand, and for a short while the original 60s sitcom was repeated on BBC2. And then a few years later, this ended up being shown about 1,000 times (and that’s probably not that much of an exaggeration) on Cartoon Network, at all hours, imagine coming across this on the TV at about 2am.

And after this, there have been some more films, and revival of the sitcom as The New Addams Family (that I reviewed a while ago), that unfortunately was always going to come off second-best to the original. And within the past few years, there has been a stage show, and a new generation of viewers have been won over with some computer-generated films, which are as spooky as ever.

More TV Memories – Hong Kong Phooey.

Hong Kong Phooey (ABC, 1974)

I have now come to the final Hanna-Barbera cartoon that I want to review, and I have realised that there really have been a lot of them. Others include Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and so on, but I don’t really remember those. It has definitely been a good experience to look back at these, there really are a lot of creative and amusing characters.

And it’s proof for me that they were as enjoyable as anything that the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers have had to offer. This was shown on CBBC for about a decade until the mid-80s, but the repeats stopped before I was a viewer, the first time that I saw this was actually on Cartoon Network in the late-90s. This is another one with a rather bizarre idea.

Who is the mysterious superhero who plays the main character in this show? Is it Sergeant Flint? No. Is it Rosemary, the telephone operator? No. Is it Daffy Duck? No. Is it Penry Pooch, the mild-mannered (canine) janitor at the police station? Could be… Penry turns into Hong Kong Phooey by jumping into a filing cabinet, but he always gets stuck, and Spot The Police Cat has to help out.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00052.jpg

Hong Kong Phooey really was “The Number One Superguy”, according to the rather groovy opening theme, and he was voiced by Scatman Crothers, and remember, if the Scatman can do it, then so can you. He was also quicker than the human eye, although that’s taking his boasting to rather ridiculous levels, as that’s not entirely possible.

He also had a car that he would jump into, that could change into various shapes. And he learned martial arts, well some of them, he would often have an instruction book to hand, if he needed some help. He would take on various villains, and often save the day (although it seemed that Spot was actually more skilled than he was). And nobody at the police station ever realised that he was their janitor all along!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00054.jpg

Once again, it’s a surprise to realise that there weren’t a huge amount of episodes of Hong Kong Phooey made, but there seemed to be so many Hanna-Barbera cartoons in production at this time, all competing for the attention of viewers, maybe they only had so many paintbrushes to go round. And this was another one shown as part of Cartoon Network’s Cult Toons, a real delight.

CBBC Memories – Captain Caveman.

Captain Caveman (ABC, 1977-1980)

This is yet another Hanna-Barbera cartoon that I remember watching as a second generation viewer (there really were a lot of them), and once again, I saw this as part of The CBBC Breakfast Show strand in 1997, almost worth getting up too early for. What did this one have to offer? Captain Caveman is someone who is discovered in a block of ice, and he is then brought back to life.

He has been in that block for thousands of years, maybe even millions. Of course, he is rather hairy, and he does have some trouble adapting to the modern world. He is joined by a female trio called The Teen Angels, who it seems bear every resemblance to the cast of Charlie’s Angels, the action TV show that was popular around the time that this launched.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00047.jpg

It turns out that he is some kind of superhero, but after putting up with talking bears, squirrel spies, and the like, nothing appears to be that far-fetched now, if viewers liked those ideas, they might like this one. He also had a club, that he banged everywhere, and seemed to be magic too! And of course, he goes and saves the day to everybody’s delight, and somehow it conveniently takes him exactly seven minutes every time.

Another notable thing is that Captain Caveman was voiced by Mel Blanc, the man behind a thousand cartoon characters (or thereabouts). And he would often shout “Captain Caveman!!” as loud as he could, and as often as he could, you don’t really forget that. I thought that this was the only thing that he was able to say, but he did manage to grasp a few other phrases.

There were 40 episodes, which were sometimes credited as Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels, and this has to be the nosiest (and maybe silliest) Hanna-Barbera cartoon from this era. This was shown in CBBC in this country for about two decades, well into the 90s. But I don’t recall there being too many revivals, although all four main cast members competed on Scooby-Doo’s team in Laff-A-Lympics.

CBBC Memories – Top Cat.

Top Cat (ABC, 1961-1962)

This is another one of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons (of which there were many), and would you believe that this is over six decades old now, but once again I first saw this many years later. I should start by pointing out that I never remember this one being called Boss Cat, as it was credited for many years to avoid confusion with a cat food brand.

For me it was always Top Cat, even though this title actually wasn’t officially used by CBBC until the late-80s. Top Cat is a cartoon where the main characters are to some extent a feline equivalent of the cast on the sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, which just like this one seemed to be repeated in the afternoon for a very long time after the original run.

I never saw this one too much myself, but I do know that it’s considered to be one of the greatest sitcoms of its era. Top Cat starred a wise-talking cat who is the leader, and that’s beyond dispute apparently. He was probably the sassiest animated cat around after grumpy Garfield, and he always wore a big hat. But he had plenty of companions, including Benny The Ball, Brain, and Choo-Choo.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00021-1.jpg

They are all alley cats who live in a row of bins in Hoagy’s Alley in Manhattan. Now I can’t help but feel that’s not very nice, this is better to watch if you don’t think about that part of it really. They are always getting caught up in various schemes, and trying to get one over Officer Dibble, who often seemed to have no idea what was happening.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00023-2.jpg

I was surprised to discover that the original run of Top Cat was shown in America on ABC in a primetime slot, but it turned out that this was more of a success when moved to an earlier slot which attracted more younger viewers. And it’s also a surprise to discover that there were only 30 episodes in one series, but beyond that there were a few comics and VHS releases.

There were frequent repeat runs well into the 2000s decade, it’s rather odd to think that this was still shown in the afternoon as late as that. But in more recent years there have been a couple of films (which have been computer-generated). And not so long ago the main characters appeared in an advert for Halifax, which seemed a rather unlikely place.

More TV Memories – Batman.

Batman (ABC, 1966-1968)

Now this is a TV show that is rather well-known, although I didn’t see this myself until there was a repeat run in the early-90s. The character of Batman had been around long before this show of course, originally becoming popular in comics. By the time that this came to the screen, there were a few questions. Was this a sitcom? Was this being played for laughs? Did people realise how strange all of this was?

In Gotham City, some know him as mild-mannered Bruce Wayne… but some, although they don’t realise it, know him as superhero Batman! The main character is played by Adam West, who was a good choice, because “nobody messes with Adam We!”. But he couldn’t have done any of it without this trusted sidekick, Robin The Boy Wonder.

They would always have to get into the Batmobile and come to the rescue against various villains. The most famous of these included The Joker, The Penguin, and The Riddler. And there were also the memorable fight scenes, mixed in with lots of sensational stunts, and crazy moments. Holy mackerel! That’s why the became known as The Dynamic Duo. There were 120 episodes packed into three series.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00022.jpg

What I do find interesting about Batman now though was how many different channels this has been repeated on over the years, and seemingly always aimed at different audiences. I remember watching this as part of Sharp’s Funday (that I reviewed a while ago) on Sunday afternoons on LWT, and I did find this enjoyable, and I think that there were also repeats on Saturdays around this time too.

By the mid-90s, the repeats had moved to Channel 4, but again they were aimed at younger viewers. And then in the 2000s, there was a repeat run on BBC4 in an evening slot. This really didn’t seem like the right channel for such a show, as this was supposed to feature educational programming. Maybe it was supposed to be an exploration of the campness and quirkiness of this era… or maybe they just bought them in cheap.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00024.jpg

And in the 2010s, this moved once again to ITV4, will these repeats never end? After the TV version, there would go on to be several high-profile and successful films, although these had a harder edge, along with other spin-offs. I also remember an animated version being shown as part of the early editions of CITV’s What’s Up Doc. And Adam West later went on to become the mayor of Quahog in Family Guy.

Down The Dumper – The 80s Part 11.

This is a group that always tried to keep up with the musical trends of the 80s, and their chart positions frequently went up and down as they went in and out of fashion and tried various genres. ABC were a group that formed in Sheffield, and their frontman was Martin Fry. Their first hit single was in 1981, but it was in May 1982 when their most popular song was released.

“The Look Of Love” (the look of love! Sorry, had an ABC moment) reached no. 4, to become their biggest hit, and was proof that Fry was a charismatic and witty performer. Later in 1982 their first album “The Lexicon Of Love” was released, and there was a clear indication of their popularity as this spent four weeks at Number One. They would go on to have some more hits, and in 1983 second album “Beauty Stab” was released, although this one didn’t make the Top Ten. vlcsnap-00192

By 1984, ABC had something of an unusual relaunch. Fry recruited some new members, including some woman (who used to be a writer for The Face), and, er, some bald guy (although it was unclear what their roles exactly were). Fry also had an image change, with much longer hair. Their single “How To Be A Millionaire” had an innovative animated video, and they got on to cover of NME for the first time in a while. abc1

But overall their third album “How To Be A Zillionaire!” underperformed compared to their earlier successes. It seems that this turned out to be another case of style over substance. There was something of a recovery in 1987 though with another new line-up and fourth album “Alphabet City” which featured the much-acclaimed single “When Smokey Sings” (and was also a Top Ten hit in America). vlcsnap-00188

And in 1989, there was fifth album “Up”, which was an attempt to jump on the house scene, as they continued to struggle to stay relevant. “One Better World” wasn’t too bad (and around this time Fry was interviewed on Channel 4’s Star Test, although I don’t know if he said “I don’t know the answer to that question!“), but in September 1989 “The Real Thing” was released and reached only no. 68. Maybe this wasn’t such a wise move (I haven’t been able to find a video for this either). ABC split not too long after this, and it was rather disappointing seeing a once popular group end the 80s on such a low. vlcsnap-00189

By 1997 ABC was relaunched once again, although by this point it was essentially a solo project for Fry (also around this time his brother Jamie was in indie group Earl Brutus). Although the hit-making days have long gone, Fry has since got his sparkly suit out again and is still making albums (including the successful sequel “The Lexicon Of Love II”) and touring, and I’m sure that at some point he must have performed “The Look Of Love” at a venue not too far away from you.

The YouTube Files – Blankety Blank USA.

The Match Game (NBC, 1962-1969, CBS, 1973-1979, ABC, 1990-1991)

This will probably be the final original American version of a game show that later came to the UK that I’ll review, but I might go on to consider reviewing some Irish and Australian versions too because I am just fascinated by the world of game shows and I really enjoy putting the pieces together (and I hope that you’ve found them an interesting read too).

There have been several versions of The Match Game going all the way back to the early-60s. There have also been several versions in the UK of Blankety Blank, and indeed there is another one planned to be shown at Christmas this year. I have decided to review the early-90s version. The host by this point was Ross Shafer, and you’ll be pleased to know that he did indeed have a funny-shaped microphone, or maybe it was just the way he walked. vlcsnap-00086

Of course, there were also the six celebrity panellists. It was good seeing ventriloquist Ronn Lucas along with his friend Scorch The Dragon among them. He also had a show on ITV around this time (that I reviewed a while ago), and it seems that he was popular in America in the early-90s too. I presume that he’s still at it, although three decades on he’s probably gone a little mouldy around the edges, and I hesitate to think what Scorch looks like now too, ha. vlcsnap-00088

Also taking part were the likes of that guy who was in the sitcom Out Of This World (also shown on ITV for a short while), along with cast members of daytime soaps like All My Children. Just like in the UK, The Match Game didn’t take itself too seriously, although the format by this time was a little different. Two contestants took part, including a defending champion. vlcsnap-00087

The sextet are given a clue and they all have to fill in the blank, and write their answers on a piece of paper. Can the contestant get a match? There’s $50 for every one. Then there’s the Match-Up round. The contestant picks a celebrity. There are 30 seconds, and for every match they agree on, they win $50. Then it’s back to another round of the regular game. vlcsnap-00089

Then there’s another Match-Up round, but this time there’s 45 seconds, and $100 for every correct answer. The highest scorer goes on to play the Supermatch Game, but nobody wins a chequebook and pen trophy. This round is about the same as the UK version, where the contestant has to guess one of the top three answers. If they get the top answer, they win $500. vlcsnap-00090

In the final, the amount they won in the Supermatch Game is multiplied by ten. They then spin a wheel to determine which celebrity will play with them in the final. If the wheel stops on a double (like in Name That Tune), they could win a maximum of $10,000, an amount that could never be dreamed of in the UK. The contestant has to simply match their answer with that celebrity to win the money, and they could play for five days before retiring undefeated. It was all rather enjoyable.

CBBC Memories – Round The Twist.

Round The Twist (Seven, 1990, ABC, 1993, 2000-2001)

Following on from Just For The Record that I reviewed recently, this is another Australian show that was imported to this country and shown in a children’s TV slot, this time on CBBC. This was a sitcom, and it was a rather odd one that ended up running for over a decade. The early episodes of Round The Twist were based on the series of books by Paul Jennings. There was also a rather memorable opening theme song that was later used on an advert.

The show starred the Twist family (another convenient sitcom surname alert!), consisting of the three children Linda, Pete, and Brosnan, along with their widowed dad Tony (their mum had died four years earlier). They move into a lighthouse on the coast, and they then start to encounter a rather large amount of strange things, including ghosts in the toilet, scarecrows coming to life, dragons that breathe fire, and clones. These were often accompanied by some clever visual effects. vlcsnap-00898

Nobody else seems to believe them though, including nearby neighbour Nell, Mr Gribble, and the children’s teacher Mr Snapper, but they insist that these things are happening to them, is it possible that the lighthouse they have moved into is haunted? I also spotted in an episode that Linda had a poster of Bananarama on her wall, so of course she is terrific. vlcsnap-00901

There were 52 episodes of Round The Twist in four series. Rather curiously, there were some big gaps between series, including a three-year gap between series one and two (along with a channel switch), and a seven-year gap between series two and three. This meant that because of the children ageing, the main parts were frequently recast, meaning two actors played the dad, and three played the children. vlcsnap-00912

This was a show that definitely became popular on CBBC in the early-90s, and I remember watching the early episodes and quickly realising that this was one of the more unusual sitcoms that was around at the time, and there was a rather wide range of enjoyably strange moments. Some episodes were shown in the UK before Australia, there were rather a lot of repeat runs, including one in the mid-2000s on Five, and it has also been shown around the world where it retains a big fanbase. vlcsnap-00899

Rather pleasingly, unlike most other CBBC shows (imported or otherwise) from this era, all of the episodes of Round The Twist have been released on DVD in a boxset (and they are also on YouTube in full), and they are much recommended, if like me you enjoy strange comedy shows where you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

More TV Memories – Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

Sabrina The Teenage Witch (ABC, 1996-2000, WB, 2000-2003)

You might remember a while ago when I reviewed the American teen sitcom Clueless, which was first shown in this country in a double on Saturday evenings on ITV along with Sabrina The Teenage Witch, so it’s about time to take a look back at that one as well. This was a sitcom also for teens that was fairly fluffy, although it did have something of a fantasy twist.

The origin of the show goes back long before this TV version, when the Sabrina character was featured in the series of Archie comics, which at the time was popular enough to have a TV show and chart-topping single with “Sugar Sugar”, the upbeat song that some people just can’t resist doing a dance to… or so I’ve heard. There was then an animated TV series in the early-70s, before about 25 years later Sabrina would return to the screen, but this time in a live-action sitcom. vlcsnap-01004

Sabrina The Teenage Witch starred Melissa John Hart, already known to viewers for playing the lead role in sitcom Clarissa Explains It All, and hopefully nobody realised that by the time this show started she was actually 20 years old! Sabrina Spellman gets something of a surprise on her 16th birthday when she discovers that she is a witch. Well you would be surprised wouldn’t you, that definitely didn’t happen on my 16th birthday. vlcsnap-01008

Sabrina’s dad lives in a spellbook, while her mum is a mere mortal, so she has to go and live with her two aunts Hilda and Zelda who are both witches too (and don’t look too bad considering that they are about 600 years old). Another main character is Salem the cat, who can talk, and can always be relied on to offer a witty aside about the current situation. It’s probably no surprise that the show was often compared to Bewitched. vlcsnap-01005

And we also meet some characters at Sabrina’s school, including Harvey, Jenny, and Libby, where she tries rather hard to keep her powers under control, and she would rather spend the time at The Slicery having too much pizza. There were also plenty of guest appearances by celebrities, and later episodes featured Sabrina at college and trying to get on with her new roommates including TV’s Punky Brewster. vlcsnap-01007

Sabrina The Teenage Witch was originally shown on Saturday evenings, and it came to ITV on the same day that The Simpsons launched on BBC1 in 1996, where despite being shown around the same time it managed to hold its own. Shortly after this, the show moved to CITV where it was shown very frequently for a while. There was also a comic, computer games, books, plus another animated series, and it can now be seen on 4Music. There were 162 episodes in seven series (including three films), and these have been released on DVD in a huge and very enjoyable 24-disc boxset.

More TV Memories – Muppets Tonight.

Muppets Tonight (ABC, 1996, Disney, 1997-1998)

The Muppets are characters who have appeared on TV for decades now, and they are fondly thought of by generations of viewers. They have featured in various shows including Sesame Street and films for decades, with one of their biggest successes being The Muppet Show that was set in a theatre and launched on ITV in the mid-70s (and I plan to review that one soon too). There was also the cartoon Muppet Babies, but let’s not think about that for now.

Muppets Tonight was an attempt to relaunch the Muppets on TV in the mid-90s, and I do remember watching this, including the memorable opening theme. The show was introduced by a new character who was created for this series, who was the dreadlocked Clifford (not to be confused with the Clifford in the Listerine adverts, partly because that was an animated dragon), who hosted a variety show on the channel KMUP. vlcsnap-01014

Plenty of the established characters also featured, including Kermit of course, along with Gonzo, Fozzie, and Miss Piggy. Could they put this show together, and would Clifford go on the be the next Letterman? Well, not really, because despite a large amount of celebrities being rather eager to make guest appearances, they were often unaware that the production behind the scenes was rather chaotic. vlcsnap-01018

As well as what was going on in the studio, there were also a few regular features, including a parody of Baywatch called Bay Of Pigswatch, which starred Spamela Hamderson, which really is one of the worst puns that I have come across. There were also plenty of other creative Muppet characters, old and new, of all colours, shapes, and sizes, who would feature in every edition. vlcsnap-01017

Muppets Tonight was initially promoted with much enthusiasm with BBC1 (even earning a Radio Times cover), and the show was given a primetime slot as it was hoped that many people would enjoy their return to TV. And because the show was of American origin, as it was shown on a channel in the UK that didn’t feature adverts, there were a few features exclusively added that US viewers didn’t see to fill the extra time. vlcsnap-01020

I did enjoy watching Muppets Tonight, but BBC1 seemed to lose interest rather quickly, and it was moved from its primetime slot, with the final edition going out quietly on New Year’s Eve 1996, before it vanished altogther. I think they didn’t even show the final ten or so of the 22 editions (but swapping channels in America halfway through the run didn’t help either), and I don’t recall a VHS or DVD release. The Muppets still remain very popular though, and they have featured in many more films since.