CITV Memories – Art Attack Christmas Cracker.

Art Attack Christmas Cracker (CITV, 1994)

Art Attack was one of my favourite shows on CITV in the 90s, and it became popular enough with viewers for there to be many Christmas specials made over the 17 years it ran for, so here’s a review of the special that was shown in 1994. It was 25 minutes long (about ten minutes longer than a usual edition), and of course it was hosted by Neil Buchanan. vlcsnap-00752

Let’s open the Art Attack Christmas Cracker! As it was a special edition, there was a chance to do some more ambitious things, and as we’ll see, Neil definitely took advantage of that. First of all though, Neil begins by showing us how to make our own Christmas tree. All you need is some card and some paper, a little paint, and plenty of squidgy bottles of glue to hand as well, and you’ll soon have something fantastic looking. vlcsnap-00753

Neil also reveals his struggles with sticky tape. After Neil has said “try it yourself”, we visit the art gallery that contains The Head, who is always fond of Christmas. He was unsuccessful in making his own tree though as he had no card. Having no arms or legs probably made it difficult too. Then we come to the main part of the show, the big Art Attack. vlcsnap-00754

Because it’s a special, for the first time Neil takes us behind the scenes of how a big Art Attack is organised, they don’t just throw these things together. As well as a great idea, it’s also important to have a production team, especially a cameraman, it does help, and in this case, as we’ll see, a passport and some plane tickets will be rather important to have too. This is because they are all going to Colorado in America where there is plenty of snow, and they are aiming for the world record! vlcsnap-00755

Back to the studio first though, and Neil is telling us that he couldn’t believe the price of wrapping paper, so he reveals how to make our own. You can take some old bin bags and flick some little blobs of green and red paint on them, or you can take a red bag and tie another bag around it for a really classy look. People will think that you have spent a lot of money. vlcsnap-00761

Back to America, and Neil along with the team are all working hard to make sure that the big Art Attack will all go to plan. Before that, Neil shows us how to make some of our own Christmas cards that will really stand out, they are great, I really don’t know how he never went on to get a job at one of those craft shopping channels. But now it’s time for the big moment… vlcsnap-00765

Neil puts the finishing touch to his successful big Art Attack by becoming part of the picture himself, and he has also set the world record! In later Christmas Cracker specials, there were some more creative ideas, including making your own decorations, and some of the highlights were released on VHS. There was also an impressive and ambitious big Art Attack in New York where the lights were turned on in a skyscraper to create a special image. Ta-ra! vlcsnap-00764

CITV Memories – Art Attack.

Art Attack (CITV, 1990-2007)

Having previously written about the peculiar unaired pilot of Art Attack, it’s now time to look at the actual show which went on to become one of the most successful in CITV’s history so get your pencil and paper ready.

One of the reasons for the show’s success down to the host, Neil Buchanan. Neil was a presenter on CITV for 25 years and hosted lots of great shows including No. 73, Finders Keepers, Motormouth, plus lots of others, but this was one of his best. Neil would usually be wearing his distinctive red jumper in the studio surrounded by massive paint pots and pencils ready to share another great idea with us. vlcsnap-00405

I watched Art Attack for many years because I’ve always been interested in art and Neil presented a huge amount of interesting ideas on the show. Art Attack always insisted that it was “the big art show” and the idea was to “give your eyeballs a shock”, doing creative and fun things with a wide variety of material. Neil created some really great artwork over the years and his entertaining style encouraged you to want to follow his “try it yourself” catchphrase. art0002

One of the other aspects of the show was The Head, a puppet character (although he was actually played by a real person at one point in the series) who was in a gallery and he was always very silly. tumblr_lq91ntYCWR1qa569y

One of the best bits of the show was the Big Art Attack, where Neil would take various items and put them all together to create one big picture. These were always very impressive and a lot of time and effort must have gone into organising and then making them, especially the very ambitious ones put together for the Christmas specials. vlcsnap-00409

Art Attack was popular throughout the whole of its run. There was a lot of spin-off merchandise released including magazines and video cassettes. I have a couple of these and they are great to watch. The format was also sold around the world and the show went on to deservedly win many awards. vlcsnap-00410

A 1992 episode of Art Attack was repeated as part of the CITV Old Skool Weekend and lots of people still fondly remember the show. I have seen lots of episodes that have been uploaded to YouTube that have views well into six figures, although unfortunately there have been no DVD releases. vlcsnap-00408

Art Attack ran for 17 years with the first series now rather surprisingly being 25 years old. It’s definitely one of the best CITV shows, and I imagine that lots of people will agree.

The YouTube Files – Art Attack unaired pilot.

Art Attack (unaired pilot, 1989)

Here is my first review of an unusual clip that I came across on YouTube. Unaired pilots are always rather odd things. It’s often strange seeing shows that would go on to be popular before they become properly defined. They may feature different cast members or theme music, and try out different ideas.

One of my favourite CITV shows is Art Attack. I noticed that about nine minutes worth of an unaired pilot made in 1989 had been uploaded to YouTube by a member called “TheMeakers” who has uploaded a lot of interesting clips from the TVS archive. I decided to watch this as I was interested in how it all started and I presumed it would be very familiar to the version that started on CITV in 1990. I was way off, it’s really weird.

It is hosted by Neil Buchanan, who would go on to host Art Attack until 2007, but that’s about the only similarity to what eventually ended up on CITV. First of all, the show oddly is hosted from a disused pool in Gillingham. No studio with big pencils and paintbrushes here. It starts with Neil squirting some red blobs of paint on to a piece of paper accompanied by some gunshot sound effects. Neil then appears in shot. He is not wearing his usual red jumper, but a cap and suit which would constantly change colour thanks to some bizarre visual effects. Neil tells us that he is here to create some visual excitement, and we should prepare for our eyeballs to have a shock… vlcsnap-00125

Then we get the title sequence, which is totally different to the “pencil and paper alert” that we know, with a lot of thumping and buzzing in the theme music too. vlcsnap-00126

Neil then does his first Big Art Attack, which is unusual as it is accompanied by some out-of-place didgeridoo music and has Neil talking us through what he is doing. Neil then goes outside (his suit having changed colour again) to frighten some people on the street and draw their caricature. vlcsnap-00127

We then get the first of a rather bizarre series of animated interludes. Neil then tells us that he likes to do that thing where you can cut pictures of people out of magazines and then stick the wrong heads on the wrong bodies for a cheap laugh, fantastic! vlcsnap-00128

Neil then does this. Who knows. vlcsnap-00129

Then Neil tells us what a great idea this is by turning into a photograph himself, which is followed by another interlude. vlcsnap-00130

Then there is a very odd sequence where there is a piece of card with some dance steps on it which Neil starts to rearrange which makes some dancers contort as they try to continue to follow the moves that have now been changed before they explode in a big pile of paint. An art critic then comes on to give their opinion of this work who is played by Richard “he’s dead silly” Waites. vlcsnap-00132

After another interlude, Neil then tells us about his schooldays. He used to find art classes really boring and the teacher was so dull. We then have a short sketch of a boring art teacher, again played by Waites. vlcsnap-00133

After one more interlude, there’s a baffling sketch, then Neil closes the show by telling us to get out there and do it ourselves whilst being swept away. There’s definitely no famous “try it yourself” catchphrase or bottles of PVA glue to be seen here. vlcsnap-00135

I’ve never really seen anything like it, maybe it would have got on to the screen in those days if it was going to be on BBC2 or Channel 4 at around 11pm, but there is no way that this surreal style could have been suitable for CITV viewers. When it did come to the screen it was as a much more straightforward art show, although there was a slight streak of oddness with the Head character. That’s why I found this video of a popular show in its earliest days fascinating.