Game Show Memories – Turnabout first and final series comparison.

Turnabout is one of my favourite BBC1 daytime game shows. When I finally saw a first series edition online, I was rather surprised at how different it was to the more familiar format the show eventually settled into that became a success. Let’s do a comparison.

Scheduling. First series. In 1990, Turnabout was shown at 1.50pm, the slot where Going For Gold usually appeared, and the first two series also had a repeat the following day at 10.05am. Final series. By 1996, after appearing in several slots over the years, the eighth series was shown at 2.35pm.

Title Sequence. First series. The contestants appeared on one of the spheres on the board, accompanied by some rather funky music. Final series. The third sequence used featured some spheres flying through space, and again some rather unusual music. t1

Set Design. First series. The set was rather small and mostly blue, with the contestants stood at their podiums, accompanied by a small but enthusiastic audience. Final series. Much bigger and brighter from the second series onwards, the contestants now sat at their podiums, and there was famously a pool in the middle of the studio for no particular reason. I’m fairly sure that the audience was still more real than canned.t6

Rob Curling. First series. At this time Rob was also hosting the sport on Newsroom South East, so if like me you were in that region, you would see him rather frequently. Final series. Rob hosted all 239 editions, and even developed a few catchphrases along the way, including “can we Turnabout the timer, please”. t2

Contestants. First series. The contestants played as red, orange, and blue, and were introduced by an uncredited voiceover. There were two games played in every show, with the defending champion playing red. The nine highest scorers returned for the semi-final stage. Final series. They were now seated and from series two played red, green and blue. There was no defending champion and one game was played per show. Again the nine highest scorers progressed to the semi-final stage. t3

Sphere Game. First series. The red, orange, and blue spheres appeared on the board. However, the red spheres looked orange, and the orange spheres looked yellow. The on-screen timer was some pink lights around the board going out, accompanied by a ticking clock. Solve a word clue, five points for a row of three spheres, ten points for a row of four on the board, with plenty of sound effects. The sequence of spheres turning red/orange/blue also conveniently spelled out “ROB”, but contestants sometimes struggled to make their choice which was awkward, and they could accidently give points to their opponents. You couldn’t buzz in if you had no spheres on the board. Final series. The red, green, and blue spheres looked much clearer on the board, which now also featured an on-screen timer (with no ticking sound) and scoreboard. The confusing sequence had been dropped for the “the sphere turns to your colour” rule, making gameplay quicker and fairer. Scoring was the same. Buzzer noises remained the same too, but the board sound effects had changed. t4

Star Game. First series. Only the champion plays this. 16 word clues, try and get them all right in 60 seconds. Five points each, rounded up to 100 for all 16 correct. Final series. Now all three contestants played, and they could choose their game. The scoring system was the same, but now with 50 seconds to play. Also by this point there was the additional About Turn round and viewers’ phone-in competition. t5

Prizes. First series. I don’t think there were any consolation prizes for defeated contestants, but the overall champion won some audio-visual equipment. Final series. Contestants now took away consolation prizes including dictionaries and T-shirts, and all three finalists won a holiday, with the overall champion going on the trip of a lifetime to Australia.

The Comedy Vault – Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (BBC1, 1969-1973)/Monty Python (BBC2, 1974)

This is just about the most documented and celebrated comedy show in British TV history, so it’s rather hard to decide what angle to take on it, but I thought that I might as well add my thoughts. The basis for Monty Python’s Flying Circus (or Owl-Stretching Time or whatever you want to call it) was in the mid-60s when the cast appeared in various acclaimed comedy shows including At Last The 1948 Show, Do Not Adjust Your Set, and The Frost Report.

As well as the future Pythons, these shows also featured most of the other major players in TV comedy over the next few decades, including Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, David Jason, Bill Oddie, and so on. By 1969 the sextet who would star were established, and they would also write the sketches. Although the show was ground-breaking in its style, there had been some surreal comedy on TV before, usually provided by Spike Milligan, whose Q series had already launched by this point. vlcsnap-00423

The show played around with the idea of comedy on TV like barely any other show has before or since, with the opening sequence and credits being shown at the wrong time and sketches ending randomly being the start of it. There were plenty of original ideas, along with parodies of things including game shows, which will always go down well with me. There were also the famous animated sequences between sketches, along with the classic moments and catchphrases, you’ll know them all. There were 45 episodes of Monty Python that always pushed the boundaries. And this is where the story really starts. vlcsnap-00486

By 1974, the show was starting to be shown on TV channels in America, where it arguably caused even more of a stir with viewers than it did in the UK, seemingly making them ask “is this what passes for comedy in England?” as it was rather different to anything that American comedy was offering at the time. By this point there had been some merchandise including books and albums, and the cast had moved on to other comedy shows that would be a big success, including Fawlty Towers, Ripping Yarns, Rutland Weekend Television, and more. vlcsnap-00504

There were also some hugely successful films, so they decided to tour America, acquired a huge amount of famous fans, and were now comedy superstars around the world. The first time that I remember seeing the show was during a repeat run in the early-90s, I definitely found it all rather entertaining. Also around this time “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” was released as a single and wasn’t too far off being an unexpected chart-topper. vlcsnap-00501

After this, in 1999 BBC2 dedicated a night to celebrating their career for the 30th anniversary. And along with a musical, a few years ago there was a stage show at the O2 Arena where our heroes went through the big sketches one last time which was much celebrated. Knighthoods is the very least that we can offer them. The show and films have also been released on DVD, and they seem to be constantly repackaged, so look out soon for the Limited Edition Blu-Ray Remastered 3D Glow-In-The-Dark Special, priced at a very reasonable £495.

More TV Memories – Points Of View.

Points Of View (BBC1, 1979-present)

This is a show that has a rather curious history. First of all, it exists because it’s your BBC, who decided to create a show where viewers could write in with their views on what TV was on offer. This originally ran for a decade, but this piece will concentrate on when the show returned in the late-70s, after a long gap. By now it was hosted by Barry Took and had begun to establish the style that it would become familiar for.

This was back when you had to contact by post, and Barry always anticipated a bulging postbag every week, with the highlights being read out by various voices. The era that I remember the most though was the decade that was hosted by Anne Robinson. By this point the opening theme was “When I’m Sixty-Four”, although this had gone by the 90s, and the opening sequence now consisted of some weird letters with legs walking around that made no sense. vlcsnap-00862

Points Of View was often shown on Wednesday evenings, and usually only ten minutes long (but because of scheduling it could sometimes be five minutes long or even disappear for weeks). By now the show had settled down into various cliches. The commenters were not exactly all retired colonels to a bushy-moustached man, but most of them were definitely very middlebrow. vlcsnap-00854

Most people seem to think that all the letters began “why-oh-why” (although I don’t think any of them ever did), or consist of “I am furious”, getting upset about nothing, and “It was revolting. Can we see it again?”, before being shown over the credits that consisted of about three people. You’d never know what clip would be pulled out of the archive. Anne usually called the management “them upstairs” and was rather blunt and mocking to most commenters, putting this style to better use on The Weakest Link. vlcsnap-00852

As the years passed, there were more ways to contact the show, which became one of the first to use email. Also in the 90s there was CBBC’s Take Two, BBC Radio 4’s Feedback, and BBC1’s Biteback, a monthly show on Sundays that took a more in-depth look at the workings of the BBC, and usually featured a suit being questioned and having to defend endless repeats and the like. vlcsnap-00870

Points Of View more than most shows is an interesting time capsule of what we call “attitudes”, and there have also been several parodies, one of the most memorable being Jasper Carrott’s Pointless Views. When Robinson left, the show moved to Sundays and Terry Wogan became host, before Jeremy Vine took over. Now there is no in-vision host at all, the comments are as inane as ever, and if it’s moved any further back in the schedule, it’ll soon be shown before Breakfast.

More TV Memories – The Krankies Elektronik Komik.

The Krankies Elektronik Komik (BBC1, 1985-1987)

Let’s have one final look back to the tape that my parents made for me when I was a very young boy back in the late-80s, featuring various shows. Among the highlights were Thomas The Tank Engine, Puddle Lane, The Benny Hill Show, and this one, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this tape has done more than most to make me the person that I am today. Well how do I describe this one?

The Krankies were a Scottish comedy double-act aimed at children consisting of Ian and Wee Jimmy, who was Ian’s, er, well I’m not sure really. They had appeared in various children’s shows including the long-running Crackerjack, along with being a regular fixture at the Children’s Royal Variety Performance. Then in 1982 they got a Saturday evening sketch show of their own on ITV called The Krankies Klub. vlcsnap-00542

Now I don’t remember that one myself, but it established their style, and included lots of fun that led to many viewers and critics at the time describing them as “fandabidozi”. They even went on to have a hit single. When this ended after two series, in 1985 they moved to the BBC for this Saturday evening show, with even more crazy sketches, and it was yet another example of a show that featured a “comic coming to life” format! vlcsnap-00546

Wee Jimmy was the very definition of the word “mischievous”, whatever that is, and often wore a Dennis The Menace Fan Club badge. I’m sure everyone at The Beano was very proud. Among the regular sketches was The Adventures Of Jimmy Burgermac, also taking part was Geoffrey Durham as The Great Soprendo to perform some magic tricks, and there was a musical interlude featuring some hot pop acts including Westworld. vlcsnap-00537

Other highlights included a parody of Doctor Who, and the show seemed to be introduced from a video shop for some reason. There were two series of The Krankies Elektronic Komik, after this ended, in 1989 they moved over to CITV to launch a new show called KTV. There doesn’t appear to be any of this online currently, so I’ll quickly sum it up here. vlcsnap-00541

Our duo were now running a TV station called Krankies Television, featuring lots of sketches, a chance to meet some more members of the family, along with some surprise celebrity guests. Well it definitely got the thumbs up from the young me. When this ended after three series in 1991, The Krankies had no further TV series of their own, but they have continued to be popular, going on to appear in several pantomimes and the like.

CBBC Memories – Roland Rat The Series.

Roland Rat The Series (BBC1, 1986, CBBC, 1988)

I know that I have written a lot about the history of TV-am, but I really do find it rather interesting. They very quickly discovered that having to produce almost 3½ hours of TV a day at a time when there weren’t going to be a huge amount of people watching was not that easy. Incredibly, the rather highbrow agenda just wasn’t attracting people.

Then, about two months after the launch when TV-am was in real trouble, a puppet character was introduced, and suddenly their fortunes began to turn around thanks to an unexpected source. Roland Rat was famously described as “the only rat to join a sinking ship”, and suddenly he was everywhere, not just in the children’s programming, but it’s almost a surprise that he wasn’t conducting the political interviews too. vlcsnap-01104

After a short while this self-styled “Superstar” was a big name on TV, to the point that he even had some hit singles and appeared on Top Of The Pops, and TV-am’s ratings were soon returning to something decent. He had achieved a huge amount of “ratfans”, and was the highest-paid rat on TV. In 1985, he caused a stir when he defected to the BBC, and starred in a few more shows, and this is the one that I have picked out to review. vlcsnap-01103

Roland Rat The Series was a Saturday evening show that was supposed to be shown on BBC3, many years before that channel actually existed, and Roland arrived at the Ratcave studio in his Ratmobile. Roland starred in various sketches, including a parody of EastEnders, and he always showed off his attitude. Roland would also be joined by a few of his good furry friends including Kevin The Gerbil and Errol The Hamster. vlcsnap-01108

There were also some celebrity guests who didn’t mind taking second place to Roland, including Colin Baker in character as Doctor Who, and Chris Tarrant. Some pop groups also appeared to perform their latest single, including The Communards and Curiosity Killed The Cat. There were two series (the second was on CBBC as Roland Rat The Series II), and the highlights were released on an hour-long VHS. vlcsnap-01106

Along with the TV shows and hit singles, there was also plenty of other merchandise including computer games. Roland do go on to feature on a few other shows including the CBBC game show Roland’s Rat Race, but by the early-90s he was starting to fall out of favour a little, and he wasn’t seen much on TV for a while, until he made a comeback about a decade later with a new series on Channel 5 called LA Rat, and he now lives in a solid gold mansion in Hollywood.

Game Show Memories – Turnabout Grand Final.

Turnabout Grand Final (BBC1, 1991)

As you should know by now, Turnabout is one of my favourite BBC daytime game shows from the 90s. I wanted to do another piece about this show, so I thought that I would review a series grand final, because these had a slightly different format from the usual, and there was also a big prize at stake. I have decided to review the final of the second series, which was shown on 16 May 1991, and as always was hosted by Rob Curling.

I’m not sure if this format was used for every grand final, but this was the first series to have the more familiar look, with the red, green, and blue spheres, and the famous pool in the middle of the studio. 72 contestants have taken part in this series, and now only three remain, hopefully they will offer a good game. The finalists are Andy Page from Bristol playing red (who I think was also a regular on Fifteen-To-One around this time), Jackie McLeod from London playing green, and Darryl Francis from Mitcham playing blue. vlcsnap-00940

This is their third appearance on the show, following a qualifier and a semi-final, and the star prize is a holiday to New Zealand. In the first round, there are 16 grey spheres. The contestants take it in turns to turn a sphere their colour. The number of spheres they can turn is the number of correct answers they gave in their Star Game semi-final, can anybody take an early advantage, it’s all very tense. 13 spheres are turned. vlcsnap-00951

The first round then begins, which is about five minutes, and there is no Turnabout of the letters at the halfway point. The clues are of a higher standard than usual, most of the words wouldn’t be in the average person’s vocabulary. But they are still very quick on the buzzer, and they better remember the awkward red/green/blue sequence that is still used at this point. You won’t be seeing many combos here. vlcsnap-00968

In the Star Game, all three contestants play the same board, so the other two have to get up and leave the studio so they get no hints, and there are only 40 seconds on the clock. At this stage of the game, Jackie is in the lead. For round two, again there’s about five minutes of questions and no Turnabout, and the board now has the more familiar four grey spheres in the centre, along with the sequence changing to blue/green/red. vlcsnap-00952

It’s still very close as it’s time for another Star Game, which is also the final round. Again, every contestant plays the same board, and the overall winner and series champion with 190 points is Jackie McLeod! She is off on holiday and is thrilled, while the runners-up take away the consolation prize of an all-in-one fax machine, telephone, and answering machine, what a remarkable piece of technology, that’s almost as good as a dictionary. vlcsnap-00984

And also, in 1992 there was a Champion Of Champions game played between the winners of the first three series of Turnabout, and Jackie McLeod won this too.

The Comedy Vault – French And Saunders.

French And Saunders (BBC2, 1987-1993, BBC1, 1994-2005)

This is a look back at another comedy show that went on to be rather successful. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are a comedy double-act who first appeared on TV in the early-80s, and among other shows it was their ITV sitcom Girls On Top that really raised their profile, and this proved that they had what it takes to star in a comedy show of their own.

In 1987, French And Saunders launched on BBC2. As well as starring in the show, they also wrote all of the sketches, and played a wide variety of unusual characters. Also appearing in the first four series were the male double-act Raw Sex who provided the music and helped out in some of the sketches. There were also some musical interludes including performances from Alison Moyet and Squeeze. vlcsnap-00766

Soon their reputation grew, and they revived lots of acclaim, including the second series being promoted with a Radio Times cover, and celebrities from various areas of entertainment were very eager to take part in sketches. As the series progressed, there were an increasing amount of parodies, of films, TV shows (including Star Test), and pop stars. These took up more and more time in the episodes, and were clearly rather expensive to make. And they wouldn’t think anything of doing an impression of Madonna on a whim. vlcsnap-00819

They have also regularly contributed to Comic Relief, including having a Top Ten hit single in 1989 as members of Lananeeneenoonoo, a memorable parody of Bananarama. In 1994 the show moved to BBC1 and had further success, and the fifth series gave some early exposure to Mel and Sue, another pioneering female comedy double-act. vlcsnap-00820

By the sixth and final series, the format had changed a little so that most of the episodes seemed to consist of Dawn and Jennifer in meetings at the BBC being unable to come up with any ideas, much to the frustration of their producer (Liza Tarbuck). Well it’s a novel way of only having to make about ten minutes worth of sketches an episode. vlcsnap-00782

There have also been plenty of Christmas specials, along with stage tours, adverts, appearances in music videos, and course individual successes in sitcoms including Absolutely Fabulous. There have also been several compilations recycling their highlights, including French And Saunders Go To The Movies, A Bucket O’ French And Saunders, and 300 Years Of French And Saunders. The six series have been released on DVD, but the Christmas specials aren’t included, and there are no extras either.

The Comedy Vault – Blackadder.

Blackadder (BBC1, 1983-1989)

This is another comedy show where it is difficult to know what to say about it because it is one of the most popular and celebrated of its era. Seemingly not content with only starring in one groundbreaking comedy show in the 80s, Rowan Atkinson also starred in this one, which really did cause a stir and lead to the growing in stature of the alternative comedy generation in both their acting and writing abilities.

The basic idea behind the show was that we would meet various generations of the Blackadder family (all payed by Atkinson), who featured in various areas including royalty, and were always aiming to manipulate things in their favour. But once again, this is a show where it almost didn’t happen. After a pilot episode in 1982 (which I’m fairly sure has not been shown on TV), the first series (“made in glorious Television”) launched in 1983, which was set in the 15th century. vlcsnap-00732

This wasn’t really a big success though, all of the ideas hadn’t gelled properly, and there was a lot of location work, while it might have helped capture the look of the era, it took up most of the time and money. After only just being given a second series, this was where the show really began to take off, which much less location work and Ben Elton added to the writers, they could now put much more emphasis on the bizarre situations and clever wordplay. vlcsnap-00722

The second series was set in the 16th century, and among the cast was Queen Elizabeth I herself. On the receiving end of most of Blackadder’s insults was Baldrick (Tony Robinson), a rather dim and unkempt person, and he was often told in rather elaborate ways just how totally useless he was to the situation, with all of his cunning plans always doomed to fail. vlcsnap-00727

This continued into the third series, set in the 18th century, and the fourth and final series, set in the early-20th century (which also had a Radio Times cover). There were lots of other cast members who featured, including Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, who were among the many who dazzled. After a quiet start, Blackadder was another example of a show being given another chance and succeeding. vlcsnap-00730

Along with the series, there have also been specials including Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, and also Back And Forth, an episode made “for the millennium” (as everything in the late-90s was) where the present-day Blackadder travelled through time to various eras. Rumours of a fifth series have never stopped, although there are no plans for one, and Atkinson then seemed to almost effortlessly go on to yet another comedy classic with Mr Bean.vlcsnap-00740

Blackadder has remained popular, being repeated frequently on various channels, it had a lot of memorable outtakes, and all the episodes were released on VHS. The show has also been served well by DVD, with a six-disc boxset featuring remastered episodes and plenty of interesting extras. And in more recent years there has been The Whole Rotten Saga, a comprehensive documentary looking back at the show’s story.

More TV Memories – h&p@bbc.

h&p@bbc. (BBC1, 1999)

One of my most viewed pieces within the past year has been my review of comedy sketch show Hale And Pace, so I thought I would take a look at what Gareth Hale and Norman Pace did next, because it is a rather interesting story. By the late-90s, Hale And Pace had been running for a decade on ITV (along with a spin-off sitcom on Channel 4), and, fancying a change, they decided to move to the BBC, where they would make three TV series.

Firstly, in 1997 there was Jobs For The Boys, where they had to take on various challenges, including being advert directors or sport commentators, but this wasn’t a comedy show. Then in 1998 there was Oddbods, a just about dialogue-free sitcom where they played two quirky characters, although there were only two 20-minute episodes, one shown quietly on a Bank Holiday, the other in a post-Christmas slot. And in 1999 there was this one, which was going to be their main show for the BBC.

It was going to be rather a move away from their famous bad-taste sketch show, this was going to be an attempt at doing a more general entertainment show, featuring celebrities, games, and stunts. If it did well, maybe it could replace Noel’s House Party in the schedule that had ended only a month earlier. Could they succeed? (I could only find one trail for the show online, but that’s more than enough really, and I do remember watching at the time). vlcsnap-00702

The first problem with the show was the title. h&p@bbc. might sound clever but it looked ridiculous, and it was neither a proper email address or website address, so that’s a good start. Then there was the opening sequence where Hale and Pace went around in the BBC1 balloon symbol, which had been around for about 18 months by this time, and this was about a year after every other show had already made that joke. vlcsnap-00707

They would then run on stage to introduce a sloppily-edited jumble of features. This included Celebrity Quiz, where three celebrities were asked various questions, although they were hardly A-list (unless you consider Jono Coleman to be an A-list star, maybe you do). They were assisted in this part by Renfield The Butler, although it was rather unclear what his role was, and a winner wasn’t even announced. vlcsnap-00697

The studio audience also got involved, including playing a game where they had to identify things with their head underwater, and Screen Test, where they would recreate famous films. In a pre-recorded feature the lads went around the country meeting people, playing games, and generally being a pain. And there was a parody of Stars In Their Eyes called Stars With Smoke In Their Eyes, where celebrities would be transformed into rather unlikely pop stars, such as Kriss Akabusi becoming Diana Ross (this was before the actual show descended into endless celebrity specials). vlcsnap-00692

The combination of all this went down very badly with viewers and critics, unfortunately Hale and Pace’s act had totally run out of steam, and every edition seemed to be scheduled later than the previous one, with the sixth and final one being not too far off a post-midnight slot, not exactly where you’d expect a family variety show to be. Hale and Pace haven’t had another TV series since, although they are still round, and Hale went on to star in Channel 5’s super soap Family Affairs, so all was not lost I suppose.

More TV Memories – Bob Monkhouse On The Spot.

Bob Monkhouse On The Spot (BBC1, 1995-1996)

Bob Monkhouse is someone who was definitely a great TV talent, but in the early-90s his career was at something of a low point. Bob had hosted various game shows including The $64,000 Question, Bob’s Your Uncle, and Celebrity Squares, and although he was as professional a host as always, this was hardly a stretch of his talents, and most people considered him at the time to merely be a smarmy game show host.

But then in 1994, Bob took the opportunity to remind viewers of his comic talent when he appeared as a panellist on BBC2’s Have I Got News For You, and he also had his own edition of ITV’s An Audience With. Viewers were very impressed with his quick-witted ability to tell jokes, something that some people might not have realised he was able to do, and he won over a new generation of fans. vlcsnap-01124

His career was now back on the up, so someone thought that it might be a good idea to give Bob a new comedy show. Bob Monkhouse On The Spot launched on BBC1 in 1995, and it was usually shown fairly late on Saturday evenings. Bob would always take some time to get himself ready, and put his bowtie on, and then he would take to the stage. There were also plenty of amusing trails made to promote the show (there isn’t much online unfortunately, so I’ll use pictures from the An Audience With for now). vlcsnap-01125

Bob would then perform his jokes, and the show was made fairly close to transmission, so there was plenty of chance to comment on what had been happening in the news. There would also be a musical guest. Bob was very keen to learn how jokes and comedy worked, he would often make notes about jokes or any ideas that he thought he could turn into something amusing, and he watched as many TV shows about comedy and entertainment as he could. vlcsnap-01126

This meant that he had a few books that were packed with ideas, and these were famously stolen around the time of the show, although he they were eventually recovered. One highlight was a segment where Bob would ask the studio audience to suggest two subjects. He would then link these together by making a string of jokes, and this was impressive because he didn’t know what the subjects would be in advance, giving him the opportunity to show off his very quick recall. The show would then end with the closing theme being played while the credits ran, and Bob waved for about a minute, how showbiz. vlcsnap-01127

There were two series of Bob Monkhouse On The Spot, and it’s a shame that there weren’t more as they were very entertaining. But with his well-earned reputation as a comedy great now restored, Bob went off to further success including hosting The National Lottery Live, and there have been several documentaries reflecting on his fascinating career. And in more recent years, the show was repeated on Gold, and they didn’t even take the trouble to edit out half of Bob’s now not-so-topical jokes!