The YouTube Files – Noel’s Addicts.

Noel’s Addicts (BBC1, 1992)

Over the years I have followed the TV career of Noel Edmonds, and it has definitely had some ups and downs. For every success, there has been a flop. Rather oddly, I have no memory of watching this one at the time, but when I spotted that a couple of editions have been put on YouTube, I thought that I might was well take the chance to find out more.

The idea behind Noel’s Addicts was that Noel would meet various people who were fans and collectors of rather unusual things. This either took place in the studio, or on location, because it’s always good to have a hobby, isn’t it? Whether they were fans of things like pop music, films, or even more unlikely things like clothes, they were all given a chance to explain why they are so fond. vlcsnap-00004

Noel would also often ask guests 12 questions about their favourite thing, and if they get enough right, they really can be classed as an “addict”. There would sometimes be guest celebrities who would talk about their hobbies too, and Noel would also go to America to meet some people with interesting stories to tell. And there was also The History Of Addicts which was hosted by Willie Rushton and his voice, which was accompanied by some of his illustrations. vlcsnap-00006

All of this featured some rather silly captions that went on and off the screen like they did on Top Of The Pops in the early-90s, viewers were encouraged to write in if they wanted to share something about a hobby that they or someone that they knew had, and I couldn’t help but notice that the opening sequence was also rather odd too, with Noel turning into various things. vlcsnap-00005

It’s also rather intriguing that the description for the final edition includes “Nicholas Parsons has a very big surprise for Noel”. I suppose this was the usual end-of-series prank, but this edition isn’t online, I presume Noel had to admit to being a fan of something himself. What could that be? There was only one series of Noel’s Addicts, and rather oddly, the only reason that anybody is aware of the show now is because of the bizarre parody in The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer.

The YouTube Files – Snooker opening sequences.

Sometimes when you go on YouTube, you fall down the rabbit hole as they say. You plan to watch one video about something, and then you end up watching another, and then another, and you then realise that a lot of time has passed when you had planned to be doing something else. A while ago I wondered if there were any old snooker matches online. I don’t know why really, I just thought that I’d have a look, and I was surprised by how much has been uploaded.

I’ve never been any good at the game (or is it a sport?), but snooker became very popular with viewers for a while in the 80s and 90s. This was because most of the leading players were British and charismatic, and also because matches could easily fill hours of airtime and get good ratings. And of course the launch of colour TV helped somewhat too, marvellous. Every sport on the BBC and ITV seemed be introduced by a famous piece of theme music, along with a veteran commentator who was considered to be “the voice”, and in snooker’s case this was “Whispering Ted” Lowe.

There were also some memorable presenters including David Vine on the BBC, and Dickie Davies on ITV. An account that has uploaded classic frames and matches to YouTube called “mjt_snooker” has complied various opening sequences from over the years from continuity clips, and as the sequences often changed throughout the 80s and 90s, I thought I’d pick out some of my highlights. vlcsnap-00019

The World Championship has been held at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield since 1977, but several other tournaments have been televised too. I imagine that with a lot of these sequences, the designers thought “how can we make snooker look exciting?”. The BBC’s most famous theme “Drag Racer” was introduced in the late-70s. By the early-80s a sequence cleverly featured the BBC2 symbol appearing on a ball. vlcsnap-00020

I liked the sequence used in 1981. This was still before computer animation was really possible, but it did feature some nice airbrushed effects as the balls went into the pockets. Meanwhile, ITV in 1982 had the very impressively-named tournament The Yamaha Organs Trophy, accompanied by the theme “Sprocket Shuffle”. Around this time, the sequences changed almost once a year as the technology advanced. vlcsnap-00021

By 1984 ITV were bringing us The Lada Classic, the one they all wanted to win I’m sure, and a lot of triangles. By 1986, ITV’s opening did feature some computer-generated elements, but this was in the days where the balls looked more like cubes. Also around this time the BBC briefly changed their theme music to “To The Unknown Man”, although that probably wasn’t a popular move. vlcsnap-00028

In 1987 ITV finally had a fully computer-generated opening sequence, with a mildly scary robot man who had things like “access risk” flash in front of his eyes, which was a memorable way to introduce The Mercantile Classic. By the late-80s the music had been changed, and snooker coverage was beginning to fall out of favour on ITV. By the early-90s, the openings became ever more elaborate. On the BBC, a cue on the camera effect was used. vlcsnap-00024

Around 1991 was when the first sequences that I remember were introduced, including on the BBC an unusual camera under the table effect, along with scoreboards flashing and a referee moving the balls around. This was then changed to a nice kaleidoscope effect, and by the late-90s there were people made out of balls and the music had been remixed. vlcsnap-00027

By the late-90s, the evolution to fully computer-generated openings was complete, and coverage could now be moved to the additional BBC and ITV channels, along with coverage on satellite channels including Sky Sports. This meant that ITV were back in the game, with an rather surreal opening sequence where the balls were floating around someone’s head as if they were planets while they pondered their next move, accompanied by “All That Glitters”.

The Comedy Vault – Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special.

Only Fools And Horses Christmas Special (BBC1, 1981)

I thought that I would review the first Christmas special of Only Fools And Horses, which was shown shortly after the conclusion after the first series on 28 December 1981 (the first special on the actual day was the third in 1983). This episode is rather significant because firstly, a lot people might not realise that they were making Christmas specials as early as this, and also, little did they realise that for the next 15 years or so the specials would be the centrepiece of BBC1’s Christmas schedule, doing increasingly well in the ratings, also extending in length, and featuring more ambitious ideas.

The first special “Christmas Crackers” might come across as very modest when compared to the later ones, and it was only 35 minutes long, but this was at just about the only point in the show’s history where its future was uncertain and believe it or not there was a small chance that this could’ve been the final episode. A successful repeat run confirmed we’d be seeing a lot more of the Trotters though. vlcsnap-00001

It’s time for Christmas dinner, although you get the feeling that Granddad would rather have his usual cheeseburger, because he doesn’t want too much fuss, and Del Boy and Rodney fancy having a right old knees-up down the pub. Everything is coming along nicely, the potatoes are really well done, there’s some “green stuff”, the gravy’s been strained, the turkey still has the giblets inside, and the pudding is all burnt. It’s the Trotter family tradition, and the only thing that gets Del through it is the thought that this time next year he’ll be a millionaire. vlcsnap-00002

Del then does what most people did late on in the day back then – fall asleep in front of the TV (or two TVs in this case) showing some circus thing with the Christmas Radio Times (the show appeared on the cover of the 1985 Radio Times double issue, along with NME, in what must be a unique double). Rodney can’t believe it and wants to go down The Monte Carlo Club. It might not be Jangles as far as leading early-80s clubs go, but people could still have a really good time. It’s either that or watch The Sound Of Music with a beer. vlcsnap-00003

Off smartly-dressed Del and Rodney go, insisting that they are “The Peckham Playboys”. Del bumps into a mate called Earl, even though I don’t think he was ever seen or referenced again (it is notable that there are no appearances from the regulars such as Boycie and Trigger in this episode). He’s been having some trouble after his dad was in the pub and the glasses went flying everywhere. Del is sorry to hear that, while everyone in the background is doing a dance to “Wordy Rappinghood”. Needless to say, their attempts at pulling a few ladies fail miserably. These specials will get more exciting as the years pass. vlcsnap-00004

Merry Christmas!

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.