More TV Memories – Johnny Vaughan Tonight/Live At Johnny’s.

Johnny Vaughan Tonight (BBC Choice, 2002-2003, BBC3, 2003)/Live At Johnny’s (BBC3, 2004)

Johnny Vaughan is someone who I have enjoyed on TV over the years (and I think we share a birthday too). I am not really a huge fan of film, but I do remember enjoying his Channel 4 show Moviewatch. I didn’t plan to look back at the shows listed as the start of this piece, I actually wanted to review Here’s Johnny, a late-night show he hosted on Channel 4 in 1997 that was an amusingly quirky combination of comedy and chat.

Hopefully some clips will turn up online of that show one day. But until then, I thought that I might as well review these similar shows. After leaving The Big Breakfast, and managing to revive that show’s fortunes for a while, Johnny left Channel 4, and joined the BBC (but let’s not think about his sitcom ‘Orrible for now). He hosted this five nights a week show, and didn’t mind appearing on BBC Choice.

I’m fairly sure that Johnny Vaughan Tonight wasn’t shown live, but was recorded as close to transmission as possible. He would have a big stage, and a band in the studio would play as he came on, while he was greeted with much applause. See, it’s not only Jack Docherty who can dream of achieving such things! A fairly decent standard of celebrity guest appeared to be interviewed.

Johnny would also offer a few wry observations about what was currently happening in the news (there was occasionally a late-night repeat on BBC1 to help bump up the ratings). And in 2002, there was the spin-off series Johnny Vaughan’s World Cup Extra, where he took a look at what was happening in the football. Johnny Vaughan Tonight even survived the big bold relaunch to BBC3, to try and entertain all the hip children.

There was a small format change eventually though, when this became Live At Johnny’s, and as the title suggested, this show did now go out live, and also seemed to be coming from his shed for some reason. This also meant that things were a little more shambolic than before, although Johnny could deal with most of it having already gone through the experience on The Big Breakfast.

I’m fairly sure that during the series Lauren Laverne or some such person was brought in as a co-host to help tighten up some of the saggier parts so to speak, although she would’ve been lucky to get a word in with motormouth Johnny around. But after this ended, Johnny has mostly concentrated on his radio work, being chosen as Chris Tarrant’s replacement on Capital’s breakfast show, and he is now on Radio X.

More TV Memories – Ed Stone Is Dead.

Ed Stone Is Dead (BBC Choice, 2002-2003)

This is a sitcom from the later days of BBC Choice, refreshing TV for the digital age. There seem to be no clips of this show online, and only one picture of the cast together, but as I do remember watching this, I might as well do a review. Richard Blackwood is someone who was a host on MTV in the late-90s, before going on to his own late-night stand-up comedy show on Channel 4.

He was often claimed to be the next big thing, and after a while he became popular enough to even have some hit singles (“who da man” and all that). About a year or two on from this, he was a host of Top Of The Pops, and he had the lead role in this sitcom which had an unusual idea. Ed Stone (which sounds like “headstone”, do you see, ha-ha) is fatally hit by a bus one day, which is rather disappointing for him.

But there has been a miscalculation by the Grim Reaper, and his time isn’t up just yet. So it is decided that Ed sort-of becomes half-dead, meaning that he can continue his life, although he can now not do things like taste what he eats or drinks, feel pain, and so on. Ed tries to take advantage of this, and often talks to Nigel, a Grim Reaper-type representative, who is a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan.

Ed’s flatmates soon realise that there is something different about him, and what a crazy bunch they are! There’s Adam and Scotty, along with Kate (who is fond of Ed, and it must’ve been an interesting moment when he explained to her that strictly speaking he isn’t alive) and Beth, the quirky American one, because you’ve got to have one of them, haven’t you.

There was only one 13-episode series of Ed Stone Is Dead, which seemed to do well for BBC Choice, and I was a regular viewer. There has been no DVD release though. Among the writers were Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, who would go on to work on Channel 4’s Peep Show, and plenty of other comedy talent turned up, including Johnny Vegas, Catherine Tate, and Robert Webb.

There was some difficulty determining who exactly the audience was for this though, whether this was aimed at teenagers, or older adults. There was a repeat run on teenage channel Trouble, and presumably edits had to be made. Some episodes were also repeated in the unlikely slot of Sunday Morning on BBC2. And a few years on, there was another repeat run, on Freeview channel FTN.

More TV Memories – Liquid News.

Liquid News (BBC Choice, 2000-2003, BBC3, 2003-2004)

I must admit that I have never really been that interested in the world of showbusiness gossip over the years, but I do remember watching this show, because it had a more entertaining spin on it than you would get on other shows or in magazines, and because of that it went on to become one of the most successful shows of the BBC Choice era, even surviving the change to BBC3.

The origins of Liquid News are in a show from the early days of the BBC News 24 channel in the late-90s called Zero 30 that was hosted by Christopher Price, and as the title suggests, it was only ever shown rather late at night, attracting a small amount of viewers. Someone must have seen potential in it though, because after a while it was promoted to BBC Choice and renamed Liquid News, where it would be shown live five days a week. vlcsnap-00038

Price stayed on as host, and in every edition he would joined by two celebrity guests (usually pop stars or comedians) who would comment on all the latest entertainment news. Subjects covered would include a look at the latest films, or wondering whether a big star was about to get divorced, and so on. There would also be live linkups with reporters from around the world who had all the latest information. vlcsnap-00039

After about a year or two of this, Liquid News was beginning to increase in popularity, mostly thanks to Price’s presenting style where he offered some witty comments on the news that made the show for many people including myself worth watching. His profile was increasing, and he was beginning to get other TV work, including a show about the Eurovision Song Contest. vlcsnap-00026

But then in April 2002 Price died suddenly at the age of 34 (I am older than that now which is a rather odd feeling). It came as a big shock, and I remember that it even made the front page of the Evening Standard. There was then a hastily put-together special where a huge amount of people who had appeared on the show paid tribute to his work which was all rather touching. I do feel that had he lived, there’s a big chance that Price could now be the commentator on Eurovision instead of Graham Norton. vlcsnap-00129

But the show had to go on… how would it continue? For a while, Liquid News had some guest hosts, but then there was a relaunch and the new regular hosts included Colin Paterson and somewhat inevitably Claudia Winkleman. By now there was a late-night repeat on BBC1, and there were also a few spin-off series that took the chance to lift the lid on celebrity life. vlcsnap-00086

Of course, for every peak there is a trough, and by this point, the format had become a little tired and the last editions went out on BBC3 pre-recorded at around midnight before it vanished for good. But there was no doubt that it was a rather entertaining show while it lasted, and as I said at the start even I enjoyed this twist on a subject that I usually don’t take that much notice of.

More TV Memories – Hotlinks.

Hotlinks (BBC Choice, 2000)

This is a show that I very much doubt anybody will remember watching at the time, but I still want to tell you all about it, and I’ll explain why. A while ago I did a few pieces looking back at the most memorable shows on early digital channel BBC Choice which recently had its 20th anniversary, but there is one that I enjoyed so much I have decided to do a full piece about it.

The scope and scheduling of BBC Choice changed a lot in the 4½ years that it was on air, and in 2000 there was a prime-time strand introduced called Refreshing TV, which featured shows that were 15 minutes long that seemed to be repeated endlessly, and one of these was Hotlinks, which along with various shows on other channels including UK Play and Cartoon Network was definitely up there with my favourites from this era.

Hotlinks was a show that was a guide to all the best things that were currently happening in TV, film, music, the internet and so on, and there was a new edition once a week. What struck me about the show was the way that this was all presented. The host of Hotlinks was a rather glamorous-looking woman called Nomy (I never did find out who the woman who played her was though unfortunately) who described herself as an “infomaniac”, wore a silvery dress and told us everything that we needed to know for that week. vlcsnap-00315

Along with this, there was the virtual reality background which had various changing pictures on it, beeping sound effects, and there was also text constantly scrolling along the screen in an old-fashioned computer typeface. Wow, it’s the year 2000 and we’re in the future now, so for more information on what was featured the show you could even visit the website, whatever will they think of next! vlcsnap-00420

Hotlinks seemed to change its format for the last few editions, turning into more of an European travelogue, before ending after about six months, never to be seen on the TV or referenced by anybody else again. The show also used a lot of of-its-time computing/internet terminology, with most editions featuring Nomy saying “your Hotlinks connection has now timed out” before closing her eyes and the show ending with no credits at all (except for “© BBC MM”). vlcsnap-00422

Hotlinks seemed to be presented as if Nomy actually was the internet or the world wide web, a sort of search engine in human form. Probably not that surprisingly there is almost nothing about the show online, but I feel lucky to have seen it, I think that it’s my favourite BBC Choice show of them all, and to realise that this is almost two decades ago now is just extraordinary. vlcsnap-00517

Adam is logging off now…

UPDATE: …well I have decided to reconnect, because recently I was looking at a good website called, which features lots of interesting information about TV history, including a list of every show that was on BBC Choice. In their piece on Hotlinks, they said that Nomy was played by Charlotte Pearson. Although I was pleased to finally find out who it was, I must admit that I am not familiar with her name, and don’t recall seeing her on any other TV shows, but the mystery has been solved!

Game Show Memories – Robot Wars.

Robot Wars (BBC2, 1998-2003, 2016-2018, Five, 2003-2004)

This is the show where a wide variety of robots battled it out to determine a champion. The first series was presented by Jeremy Clarkson (and we wouldn’t see him interacting with game show contestants again for another two decades), along with Phillipa Forrester (who by this point had left Children’s BBC and was also presenting Tomorrow’s World around the same time) who would usually talk to the teams backstage as they prepared for their big moment. vlcsnap-00751

Various teams who had built a robot would see it battle against a rival in the arena. But beware, because the house robots could interfere, and if they weren’t lucky, they would receive a good crushing from the likes of Sir Killalot! It was always rather awkward watching someone’s hard work that must have taken months to prepare go up in smoke in just seconds, it was an unforgiving experience. vlcsnap-00753

One thing that attracted me to watching Robot Wars was the somewhat breathless commentary provided by Jonathan Pearce. I remember listening to his football commentaries on radio station Capital Gold in the 90s, and I was rather amused that he used the same style for this show and would greet a robot exploding in the same way that he would a Crystal Palace equaliser. Unbelievable!


BBC2: the channel that brings you exploding robots

Robot Wars began to be something of a ratings success for BBC2. After a while the presenting line-up changed to Craig Charles (along with his poems) and Julia Reed, the editions were extended to 45 minutes, and the series got longer too, as there seemed to suddenly be about 17 qualifying heats with more and more teams wanting their robots to take part. There was also a big trophy on offer for the overall series winner. vlcsnap-00752

By the early-2000s Robot Wars had become popular enough with viewers for there to be a spin-off series on digital channel BBC Choice, special editions featuring tournaments including robots from around the world, regular repeats, and merchandise including DVDs of highlights, books, and much more. Then, something rather unexpected happened. vlcsnap-00747

Having exhausted the format somewhat, it was still something of a surprise when BBC2 cancelled Robot Wars after six series. In 2003, Five, not wanting to miss an opportunity to have a successful show, decided to poach Robot Wars, seemingly due to popular demand. Charles and Pearce stayed on, joined by new co-host Jayne Middlemiss, and it was now an hour long. However, Five didn’t treat the show very well, and it moved further back in the schedule, with some editions being shown at 1pm, before it was cancelled again. Maybe viewers really had tired of the destruction by this point. vlcsnap-00748

In 2016 after a break of almost 15 years BBC2 decided to revive the show again with yet another new pair of presenters, maybe as an attempt to win over a new generation of viewers, but I never really watched this version. And then recently it was announced that after three more series it had been cancelled for a third time. It seems that the robots have now been deactivated for good.

Remembering BBC Choice – Part 3.

Here’s the third and final part looking back at some of the best shows on this long-gone channel. main-66

Radio 1 TV. Various Radio 1 presenters introduced live performances and interviews with the current hottest bands around, plus a look behind the scenes of various shows.

The Ralf Little Show. The star of such shows as The Royle Family was given his own show featuring guests and comedy sketches. Notable for featuring the first appearance of the Lou and Andy characters who would go on to star in the TV version of Little Britain which made its debut on the first night of BBC3.

The RDA. A topical comedy show that I don’t remember seeing much but was popular with those who did. Comedian John Gordillo looked back at the news of the day, plus various sketches and interviews with celebrities, if he could get any to appear on the show. vlcsnap-00864

Recovered. Dermot O’Leary hosts the music show where various acts perform covers of classic songs.

Roadtripping. Cat Deeley and Edith Bowman (who were also presenters on MTV at the time) travel together across Europe.

Row Z. A live show where people in the studio debated the latest sport news, and viewers could phone and email too with their views.

Screen Grabs. A look back at some of the more unusual moments from the BBC archives.

Simply Complicated. A game show where contestants had to make everyday things out of unusual items, sort of a modern version of The Great Egg Race which was occasionally repeated on the channel.

The Sin Bin. Another sport show, this one hosted by Matt Smith and Ian Broudie of “Three Lions” fame.

So Far. BBC Choice seemed to change its viewing policy all the time, for a while in 2000 they had the strand “Refreshing TV”, where all the primetime shows were 15 minutes long and repeated endlessly. This one took a look back at the careers of various celebrities. I remember one featuring Ant And Dec which had loads of clips from their Byker Grove days. main-38

Stupid Punts. A comedy game show hosted by Patrick Kielty. Every week four celebrities bet on what would they thought would happen in silly stunts. Whoever made the most money by the end was the winner!

Terri McIntyre. A bizarre sitcom that was set in a tanning salon with various characters. David Tennant was also in it. I wonder whatever happened to him? vlcsnap-00865

But I’m not done yet…

Other programming. As well as all this, BBC Choice also showed repeats as a sort-of “catch-up” service. Comedies, soaps and drama appeared regularly. There were also imported dramas, the occasional film and live sport, and even some theme nights.

Continuity. BBC Choice used five idents in their launch, with the same word being represented in three different ways, such as a bowl of punch, a Mr Punch puppet, and a boxing glove punch. This idea also could have also worked well for BBC3. By 2000 they only started to use one of these idents, and then they gave it a dodgy re-edit. In 2001 these were replaced by three orange cubes floating round, again this idea could’ve worked on BBC3. This continued until the relaunch in 2003. There were also until 2001 regional variations for viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and they even got their own in-vision continuity!

There’ll be another look in the OnDigital archive from me some time soon.

Remembering BBC Choice – Part 2.

Here’s part two then with 12 more shows that used to delight viewers on channel 7… vlcsnap-00855

Hype. One of the earlier shows, a look at the latest entertainment news and features for teenagers hosted by the likes of Rick Adams and Jonathan Wilkes.

Inside Tracks. A late-night music show hosted by the much missed Kevin Greening featuring the latest news on the music scene plus live performances and interviews. vlcsnap-00863

Johnny Vaughan Tonight. Having enjoyed his work on various shows including The Big Breakfast, I often watched this chat show which was shown three times a week, featuring various interviews and sketches. There was even a live band! vlcsnap-00862

The Johnny Vegas Game Show. A one-off show for the crumpled comedian hosted in his usual style. Contestants played various games for prizes but I’m still not sure if it was a parody or not.

LA Pool Party. Various presenters including Lisa Snowdon hang out at all the fancy dos in America and meet lots of big showbiz stars in the process. Aren’t they lucky.

Lenny Beige’s Variety Pack. A late-night comedy that was a parody of variety/light entertainment shows with various acts including female double-act Supergirly who seemed to be on TV a lot at the time but where are they now, plus turns from many others including Matt Lucas and David Walliams. lenny0001

Liquid News. Possibly the best-known of the BBC Choice shows which evolved from an earlier News 24 show called Zero 30, I’ve never really been that interested in pointless tittle-tattle about celebrities I haven’t heard of but Christopher Price made it more entertaining than most. It was a real shock when he died in 2002 aged just 34 because he was great and I have little doubt that he would’ve gone on to be a famous and successful presenter. He always managed to get good value out of his studio guests too. The show did carry on though for a while with various new presenters including Claudia Winkleman until it just all fizzled out. There were also various spin-offs including when Christopher met Kylie Minogue which also the last-ever show on the channel in 2003. vlcsnap-00861

A Little Later. A 15-minute show where various performances by a music act on Later… With Jools Holland were compiled together.

Mark Owen’s Celebrity Scooters. I don’t remember this show much myself but it did happen. The Take That man travels around Europe talking to various stars about their love of scooters. Yes, really.

Off Your Box. A late-night show with various presenters that looked back at the TV highlights of the week.

110%. A live sport show that had analysis of all the latest news. Presenters included Matt “not that one” Smith.

Out On A Limb. Another crazy one-off comedy game show, this was a very funny one hosted in a madcap style by the comedian Jason Byrne, who plucked people out of the studio audience to play various silly games, with the star prize being Rod Stewart’s wife or something.

The third and final part is coming later.

Remembering BBC Choice – Part 1.

BBC Choice was a channel that ran from September 1998 to February 2003. It was the BBC’s second new channel following the launch of News 24 in 1997. The channel actually launched before the digital equipment that would recieve it was available, so the first week of programming could only be watched online. Some of the shows were even in widescreen and everything!

Like with UK Play, BBC Choice was a channel that I watched a lot in the OnDigital days and was a part of my teenage years. I’m going to bring you details of 36 shows that appeared on the channel, most of them I remember watching myself. Remember this isn’t a comprehensive list of the history of BBC Choice. There actually was a site many years ago that did list everything that they showed but unfortunately it’s long since closed. Here’s the first dozen then… vlcsnap-00853

Backstage. Julia Bradbury among other presenters takes a look behind the scenes of various BBC shows, supposedly hoping to “catch television with its trousers down”. backstage0001

Bob Monkhouse’s DIY Film Show. Bob introduces various short films made by amateur directors.

Breakers. A soap that ran in Australia from 1998 to 1999 and featured the lives of young people who worked at a modelling school. Needless to say, it didn’t have the same impact as the likes of Neighboursbreakers0001

CBBC On Choice. A three-hour daytime strand that was looped and shown four times a day featuring some pre-recorded continuity into various children’s shows. Curiously, just about everything they showed was about a decade old at the time so I enjoyed watching as it brought back memories of watching CBBC in the late-80s/early-90s. Shows dusted off from the archive included Bitsa, Caterpillar Trail, Superbods, Model Millie, ChuckleVision, Radio Roo, Playdays, Bodger And Badger, Monster Cafe, Simon And The Witch, Green Claws, and many more. After a while, the slot was split in 2002 when the CBBC Channel launched, meaning that from then on BBC Choice started at 7pm. vlcsnap-00857

Diners. A show where we eavesdropped on celebrity conversations in a restaurant. Give them all a bottle or two and watch them go, and there’s a programme for you.

Dog And Dinosaur. A children’s show that appeared on Saturday afternoons hosted by a computer-generated dog and dinosaur, and had various features including introducing repeats of Blue Peterdog

Dominik Diamond Meets. The ex-Gamesmaster presenter interviewed various stars from the sporting world in his quirky style.

EastEnders Revealed. A look behind the scenes at the soap. This was the only programme to span the whole of BBC Choice’s time on air. revealed0001

Ed Stone Is Dead. A 13-part sitcom where Richard Blackwood plays Ed who is killed and then comes back to life. And guess what, his wacky housemates can’t believe it. There was also a running gag about Buffy The Vampire Slayer. There were guest appearances too from various comic actors including Johnny Vegas and Robert Webb. Also shown on the long-gone children’s channel Trouble. ed_stone_is_dead_uk

45 Minutes. A show about football hosted by the likes of Joe Mace and the bloke who used to be in M People who interviewed the top Premier League footballers of the day. Was actually a 30-minute long show, oddly.

Good Evening Rockall. A late-night topical current affairs discussion show hosted Lauren Laverne and Sue Perkins among others.

Hotlinks. The entertainment guide hosted by the cyber infomaniac search engine known as Nomy. Every episode was 15 minutes long and she would tell you everything you needed to know about the latest music, films and so on. Even though it only ran for six months, I would go so far as to say that this was my favourite BBC Choice show. I really liked the idea of it and how it was made, the music and graphics were great, for the year 2000 at least. I can’t believe it was 15 years ago now. vlcsnap-00856

Part two coming later… vlcsnap-00858