Game Show Memories – Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special.

Pointless Celebrities Christmas Special (BBC1, 2018)

Now I know that this is from only last month so it’s not very nostalgic, and another Christmas has now come and gone, but it was such a terrific TV moment that I just had to do a piece on it. It’s yet another celebrity edition of game show Pointless, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, where you are rewarded for your knowledge that would be useless to you in just about any other situation, and they’ve put up the tree specially. vlcsnap-00962

The four celebrity teams taking part are Dave Hill and Rob Davis, Roger McGough and Sally Lindsay, Jamelia and Sonia, and the reason that I am doing this piece, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward of Bananarama fame, making their first appearance on the show since November 2013 when they made the final but missed out on the jackpot by just one point, something that clearly still haunts them all these years later. Can they go one better this time? vlcsnap-00964

I should also point out that Brix Smith who featured in a piece that I did a while back when I found a picture of her in a pub very close to where I live in Bethnal Green alongside none other than Miss Siobhan Fahey that got me very excited appeared on Pointless Celebrities in April 2016 as part of a fashion-themed edition, but she got knocked out in the second round and didn’t win, oh dear. Today’s jackpot is £2,500. vlcsnap-00963

The first round is about cities in the show, can you identify these places at wintertime. Sara and Keren go through with a score of 88, the lowest in the round, and Dave and Rob are knocked out. Next is festive music, synonyms of Christmas carols to be precise. After a couple of good answers Sara and Keren progress with a score of 40 (again the lowest score in the round), and Roger and Sally are knocked out. vlcsnap-00965

The next round is Sara and Keren v Jamelia and Sonia (something of a surprise considering how useless Jamelia was on ITV’s Tipping Point: Lucky Stars recently). First up, pictures of famous people with Father Christmas. Sara and Keren win this 41-65. Second is members of Monty Python, and as Sara and Keren win this 22-96, they don’t even need to go to the third question and they are into the final again and maintain their unbeaten record! vlcsnap-00966

For making the final, they win a Pointless trophy! I presume they would already have one from last time, maybe they could give this one to a friend or just throw it in the bin. They choose the category Things Inbetween. They make their choices on countries alphabetically between the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, and go for Rwanda, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. They could be in with a chance here! vlcsnap-00968

Rwanda scores four points, and Papua New Guinea scores one. This is their last chance with Samoa. And this time, well look at that, they go all the way and get their Pointless answer and they have won £2,500 for charity, congratulations! That really is terrific. And just when you thought that it couldn’t get any more exciting, the show closes with a song from Alexander. vlcsnap-00967

It seems that Sara and Keren really do know their stuff, and just when I thought that they couldn’t be any more terrific they start winning game shows. And they must enjoy it as they have appeared on another one since in January 2019, this time on BBC2’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip where again they were very entertaining. Maybe it could be a new career for them if their next album flops.

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The Comedy Vault – Rock And Chips.

Rock And Chips (BBC1, 2010-2011)

It’s well known that many people think Only Fools And Horses is one of the greatest British sitcoms, so its story doesn’t need much explaining here, I thought instead that I would look back at one of the other parts of the show. There wasn’t really much left to say in the original version… but viewers still wanted more, so how about doing something different.

There had already been a sequel written by John Sullivan called The Green Green Grass which featured Boycie and his family and ran for four series on BBC1. So how about a prequel! This would also be written by Sullivan, but this time it would focus on Del Boy in his younger years. The first episode was called Rock And Chips and it was set in Peckham in 1960. vlcsnap-00951

This series would be an opportunity to answer some questions about the show, like the identify of Rodney’s father, and we would also be able to meet Del’s mum Joan who had been referenced in a lot of episodes for the first time. James Buckley (best known for The Inbetweeners) was cast as Del, Kellie Bright (later to star in EastEnders) was Joan, and Nicholas Lyndhurst would also feature, but who would he play considering Rodney hadn’t been born at this point? vlcsnap-00955

There was much anticipation about this opening episode that was 90 minutes long and was more of a comedy-drama. As well as Del and his mum, we would also meet his dad Reg and his granddad (whose first name was revealed to be Ted). Even in those days Del (who was about 15 at the time) was mates with the likes of Boycie, Denzil and Trigger, while his relatives were often down local pub The Nag’s Head. Also featuring was Freddie “The Frog” Robdal, a safecracker who had just been released from prison. vlcsnap-00952

Joan works at a cinema and has two jobs that are selling the lollies and making the tea. She is also trying to get the family a house in a new block of high-rise flats, and there’s the organising of the first Jolly Boys Outing to Margate. Del has recently left school and decided to try and knock out some pop records down the market, he made himself a few quid and he never looked back. vlcsnap-00956

Joan has something of a fling with Freddie behind Reg’s back, and at the end of the first episode she gives birth to Rodney, and as Freddie was played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, there really was no doubt that he will grow up to look like his father. This episode did do well in the ratings, although it seemed to get rather average reviews from critics, but I do think that it was worthwhile. vlcsnap-00949

The second episode was called “Five Gold Rings” and was also something of a Christmas special that was set at the end of 1960. Del has got hold of some dodgy rings and then tries to go out with every girl that he can so he pretend that he is giving them all some expensive diamond engagement rings. Grandma Violet also turns up to look after the infant Rodney, and Joan decides to dye her hair as if she wasn’t glamorous enough already. vlcsnap-00961

The third episode was called “The Frog And The Pussycat” and set during 1961 and 1962. Del and his mates have now got themselves some fancy mopeds and are trying to impress the girls by taking them out to restaurants. Joan is still carrying on with Freddie who is in trouble again, while wondering if she should leave Reg and trying to keep her job at the cinema and look after the growing Rodney. vlcsnap-00953

I don’t know if any more episodes were planned, as we didn’t get to the point in the story where Freddie killed himself after he accidentally sat on his detonator while trying to break open another safe, Reg walked out on the family, or Joan became ill and died in 1964, because just before the third episode was shown, John Sullivan, the man behind Only Fools And Horses, The Green Green Grass and Rock And Chips (along with other popular sitcoms including Citizen Smith and Just Good Friends) died, he was remembered by many as a great comedy writer.

All three episodes of Rock And Chips have been released on DVD (but they contain no extras). But the story still hasn’t ended there, in more recent years there have been some books released featuring Del Boy’s views on life (written by John Sullivan’s sons), and there is also an Only Fools And Horses musical planned (yes, really), I’m sure it’ll be cushty.

The YouTube Files – 30 Years Of Grandstand.

Grandstand (BBC1, 1988)

A while back I reviewed some sport programmes including Grandstand. Wanting to have another look back at these type of shows, I recently found on YouTube some highlights from the 30th anniversary edition of Grandstand that was shown on BBC1 on 8 October 1988 (the BBC Genome’s entry for this edition is simply “see panel”, and then the panel isn’t there which is rather frustrating).

The time is 12:15pm and Des Lynam (before he cleared off to ITV) is once again about to introduce a busy afternoon of sport action, today is the 1,777th edition. They even made a sign specially and everything! We begin with the BBC Sport symbol that had only just been introduced and would be used until 1992. We then have the original opening sequence from 1958 (“today’s sport as it happens”). vlcsnap-00905

There is then a montage of all the memorable sporting moments that had been shown hundreds of times even then (the 1966 World Cup Final and so on), and all these were probably shown again on the final edition in 2007. Des tells us that Grandstand is the longest-running TV sports programme in the world, and he is very grateful about that. And the idea behind Grandstand hasn’t changed in these 30 years. vlcsnap-00910

This afternoon’s sport (before Sky bought it all off them) includes golf, racing and motor sport. Des then interviews Harry Carpenter who worked on the first edition, and today is at the golf (although I believe that it’s a myth that he was once introduced as “your carpenter is Harry Commentator”). John Motson reviews the week’s European football, and Steve Rider has a motor sport update. vlcsnap-00900

There is also some top racing from Ascot, and as it was on day one, the commentator is Peter O’Sullevan. Now his was a great voice that I remember from coverage on Saturday afternoons for many years, and he is also interviewed by Des about his memories. Shortly after retiring in 1997, O’Sullevan was knighted for his outstanding service to talking very quickly. vlcsnap-00904

Then we have the football results with the vidiprinter. Des remembers the old days when the teleprinter used to rattle them out, but modern technology has now taken over. Pools coupon at the ready. One of the results in Division Two is Blackburn 5 Crystal Palace 4, that sounds like a right old whizz-bang of a humdinger. And then, wait, is Des packing up and going? vlcsnap-00661

No, he’s going over to the other side of the studio to introduce us to some more of the highly professional team, including another who has contributed since day one. It’s Len Martin who is sat in the corner and has all the football results, and still remembers when Tottenham put ten past Everton, you got value for money in those days. Len left Grandstand in 1995. vlcsnap-00907

Des finishes off this special edition by telling us what used to follow Grandstand in its earliest days. Now… who was that man? It was The Lone Ranger, and that show’s theme brings this show to an end instead of the more familiar regular theme. What an entertaining trip back in time. Don’t forget that there are golf highlights on BBC2 at 12:35am.

Game Show Memories – Brainstorm.

Brainstorm (BBC1, 1988)

For many years, Kenny Everett featured in a lot of great comedy shows on the TV and radio, and this is a game show that he hosted in the late-80s. Brainstorm was a show that was all about science and technology, but Tomorrow’s World was never anything like this! Kenny was the man with the questions (and all the answers thankfully too), and he often enjoyed playing with the plasma ball that was on his futuristic desk. vlcsnap-00566

Four contestants took part and the set design made it look like the show was coming from an abandoned spaceship. Rather than scoring points as such, correct answers were rewarded with watts, which were also indicated as lights. So the more brainpower you had, the more power your score would have. The first round was on the buzzer, with 100 watts for every correct answer. vlcsnap-00593

Then there was the Guess The Gadget round, featuring one of those “can you guess what this odd-looking object does?”-style questions. Kenny’s old colleague Cleo Rocos put on her lab coat and helped out with this part, and there were up to 500 watts on offer for who had the closest guess. The next round was Brain Scan, where the contestants were picked at random and then individually asked questions for 45 seconds, again with 100 watts for every correct answer. vlcsnap-00592.jpg

Cleo would then return with another strange object, this time Kenny would join in and help demonstrate it, and then there would be a multiple-choice question asked about it which could earn another 500 watts. Then there was a round were a guest scientist would come on to a demonstrate an explain a few things, and then a question would be asked about that for another chance to bump up those scores. vlcsnap-00617

The final round was Brain Drain. Questions are asked on the buzzer, get it right, and your opponents all lose 100 watts. Get it wrong and they lose 100 watts. This carries on until someone loses all of their power, at which point they receive a consolation prize of a lightbulb, and they are eliminated from the game in rather spectacular style, as after Kenny pulls his plunger they evaporate into the air, never to be seen again. vlcsnap-00598

The game then resumes, with after a short while a sound indicating 200 watts are at stake, and then 300 watts, until only one contestant is remaining and they are declared the winner and the Brain Of The Week. They would then win a special quirky prize such as a radio, and they would be invited to return on the next edition as the defending champion. vlcsnap-00601

Brainstorm was good fun but it ran for just seven editions. After this, Cuddly Ken in his final years appeared on TV in some more game shows were he was always dependable for plenty of laughs, including being a team captain on BBC1’s That’s Showbusiness, and also hosting the daytime celebrity word game Gibberish on BBC1 in 1992, I would like to review that too but there don’t seem to be any clips of that one online unfortunately.

Game Show Memories – Ask The Family.

Ask The Family (BBC1, 1967-1984)

This is another game show that I don’t remember watching the original version of, but I feel that it has an interesting enough story for it to feature here. Ask The Family began as long ago as the mid-60s, it was a real test for people to show what they know, and it was hosted by Robert Robinson, along with his memorable turns of phrase, and the somewhat funky opening music. vlcsnap-00535

Two teams of four took part, usually consisting of middle-class clever-clogs nuclear families. There were various rounds, so get those hands ready on the buzzer. For example, there were general knowledge questions of varying difficulty that would be for either five or ten points, and there would also be rounds where only the father, or the youngest child and so on could answer. vlcsnap-00537

The show is probably better remembered though for the rounds which featured picture and word puzzles that were animated by the hard-working Eric, and some of these really were rather tricky, along with having to identify some classical music or the close-up of a mystery object. As it was a knockout competition, when time was up the highest-scoring family progressed to the next round, aiming to prove that they really were the smartest of them all. vlcsnap-00543

Ask The Family eventually ran for 17 years on BBC1, it was memorably parodied on comedy show Not The Nine O’Clock News, and it was also featured in the great early-90s comedy The Wolvis Family that I reviewed on here recently. 15 years after it originally ended though, Ask The Family was revived and carried on in mostly the same style (but featuring a slightly different scoring system), although it was now hosted by Alan Titchmarsh and shown on satellite channel UK Gold (and it was later repeated on BBC2 in a weekday timeslot), and this version was the first time that I came across the show, but there was only one series of this. vlcsnap-00539

Then there was another revival on BBC2 in 2005, although this time it was a rather different thing, and it was hosted by the double act Dick And Dom. Now I must say that I am a fan of theirs, their Saturday Morning show Dick And Dom In Da Bungalow is one of my all-time favourite CBBC shows, and riding on the success of that, this was clearly an attempt to bring this format into a new era and also introduce their lively style to a primetime audience when some grownups were watching.

However, it just wasn’t that good and again there was only one series, with Dick And Dom quickly returning to the CBBC Channel rather disappointed and later admitting that this version did their careers no favours. Maybe if they had laughed all the time, fallen over, and thrown creamy muck muck around it might have done better.

Game Show Memories – First Class.

First Class (BBC1, 1986-1988)

In the mid-80s, various shows were tried out in the slot between the end of Children’s BBC and The Six O’Clock News, before the decision was made to put the repeat of Neighbours there which led to enormous ratings, and this was one of them. First Class was a game show for children that was hosted by Debbie Greenwood (still no relation, honest) and always introduced as “the video quiz”.

Two teams of three took part, representing schools from across the country, and they had to answer questions about film, TV, music, and so on. Another major factor in the show was the computer that provided the questions called Eugene (personified computers seemed to be popular in TV game shows around this time). Once Eugene was ready it was time to play. vlcsnap-00574

First Class used the latest technology and there were rounds based around playing a computer game. These included Paperboy (a game from this era that I have enjoyed a lot and reviewed a while back as part of my Gaming Memories series, I also remember when there was a feature about Paperboy in Retro Gamer magazine they did mention that it featured on this show). There would also be a wrist-busting Track And Field-style game played, with points on offer for who performed the best. vlcsnap-00576

There would also be rounds that involved looking at things such as a clip from a film, a report about something in the news, or a music video, and then being asked questions about it. In one edition the video was for a single by Swing Out Sister, and any game show where it could all be won or lost based on answering questions about Swing Out Sister is fine by me. vlcsnap-00571

There was also a round where Eugene was concealing a word and the teams had to guess what it was by picking letters in a Hangman style (accompanied by lots of nice sound effects), the sooner they guessed it, the more points they scored. Eugene was also used for the round where there was a picture of a celebrity in a circle that was revealed gradually and again the teams had to answer it as quickly as possible. vlcsnap-00577

One round that was played twice featured general knowledge questions that were asked on the buzzer, with two points for a correct answer. When time was up, Eugene would reveal who the winning team was, and they would progress to the next round. The show featured a knockout tournament, and several rounds were played to determine the overall series winner, who won the star prize of a computer for their school. vlcsnap-00580

First Class ran for three series (it had to moved to Saturday evenings by the end), and there were also a couple of special editions were the series champions played against celebrity teams, such as EastEnders cast members or Blue Peter presenters. A quizbook was also released. This isn’t a show that I remember watching that regularly at the time, but looking back at it now it was rather enjoyable.

The YouTube Files – The Last Salute.

The Last Salute (BBC1, 1998-1999)

If you’re a regular to this blog you will know that recently I have been reviewing some of the lesser-remembered sitcoms that were on ITV in the 90s, and now for a change, here’s a look back at a BBC one. This is a sitcom that I don’t really remember watching at all at the time, and the story behind how I ended up deciding that it was worthy of featuring here is rather unusual.

Here’s some insight into what I get up to on Twitter. I often like to share pictures of old TV shows, mostly sitcoms, in the hope that other people will say that like me they remember these shows and enjoyed them. Most of the pictures are sourced from Inside Soap, which was a fortnightly magazine from 1995-2003. It mostly concentrated on soaps of course, but every issue also featured a double-page spread of other TV highlights coming over the fortnight.

I had uploaded just about all of the pieces on sitcoms that I remember from this period to a good response. Then, as I was beginning to run out, I thought that I would upload a picture of a sitcom that I didn’t remember, and I don’t usually say it but in this case I thought that I would ask if anyone remembered watching this show, as I presume someone out there must have, and I was rather surprised by the response.

I received a tweet from someone saying that they definitely did remember the show… as they were in it! I wasn’t expecting that at all, the sitcom was called The Last Salute and the reply was by someone called Brett Fancy who appeared in the first series (this leads on to another fascinating fact to share with you that my parents once told me if I hadn’t been called Adam, their next choice was Brett supposedly). How nice.

So as I had become rather intrigued by this point and wanted to finally see some of this show for myself, I was very pleased to discover that all 12 episodes are on YouTube, and here’s the story. The Last Salute was a sitcom that was co-written by Tim Binding and Simon Nye of Men Behaving Badly fame, but this one was aimed at a much different audience. vlcsnap-00457

It was all about the rivalry between the car breakdown services the AA and the RAC and it was set in 1961. The main character was Harry Thorpe who worked for the AA and spent most of his time going along picturesque roads on his motorbike (played by Paul Bown, best known for starring in the ITV sitcom Watching where he coincidentally also played a motorbike enthusiast). vlcsnap-00442

Other characters included Harry’s sister Joyce (Jo Unwin, who unless I am very much mistaken is the wife of Chris Morris, best shown for shows including The Day Today and BrassEye. From one comedy extreme to another, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to link from The Last Salute to BrassEye in just one step), and Harry’s boss Leonard Spanwick (Philip Jackson), who is going out with Joyce, and often lapses into speaking in Esperanto. Their biggest rival was the RAC man Johnny (Brett Fancy). Episode plots included things like going to a dinner-dance and seeing the latest Cliff Richard film. vlcsnap-00458

The first series of The Last Salute was shown in the Sunday 6pm slot, usually between the likes of Songs Of Praise and Antiques Roadshow, seemingly when they had run out of episodes of Last Of The Summer Wine. It was all made on location and didn’t feature a laughter track, and its portrayal of those gentle long-gone days of early-60s England drew comparisons with ITV’s drama Heartbeatvlcsnap-00456

The second and final series was set in 1962, and its final episode was moved from 7pm to 4:10, although it seems that it was because of sports coverage in the evening and not because it had flopped with viewers. The Last Salute doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, and it has not been released on DVD, and I’m fairly sure that it hasn’t been repeated since. It was definitely good to finally see it for myself though. tls1