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 – My Life In Film.

My Life In Film (BBC3, 2004)

The history of comedy shows on BBC3 is a rather curious one. Lots of ideas have been given a chance to be tried, and they have ranged from being actually rather good, to total rubbish. Now of course everyone will have their own view on what shows go into what categories, but although this wasn’t one of the more successful sitcoms, this was definitely one of the most creative.

There have also been several strands of programming on BBC3, and this one was a part of “Comedy Tuesday”, because Tuesdays can be funny, can’t they, how great. I must admit that I don’t know much about film or the art of filmmaking, but among the things that attracted me to My Life In Film was the cast. Among them was Kris Marshall, who is better known for appearing in various things including My Family, Death In Paradise, and, er, those BT adverts.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00007.jpg

But also appearing was the woman off Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (Alice Lowe)! This was one of my favourite comedy shows from this era. Now I know that this show is something totally different, but I was just so pleased to see her on TV again. Art works at a cinema, and aims to get into film himself. He describes himself as an independent low-budget director, although he actually has never made a film.

The closest that he has come is when he tries to write a script, but he often gets no further than a title, and just ends up falling asleep at his typewriter. His best friend is Jones, who is also his flatmate, and his girlfriend is Beth, both of them are wary of Art’s ambitions. The idea is that Art often gets caught up in things in his life that play out as films. Various genres were covered, and the films included Rear Window, The Shining, and Top Gun. Several famous scenes are recreated, and Jones and Beth also end up getting caught in all of this.

This was a sitcom that ended up going off into more unusual areas than most. However, as worthwhile an idea this was, My Life In Film turned out to be yet another one series wonder. As far as I know, there wasn’t a DVD release, although there was a repeat run on BBC2 not long after. And the good thing is that in more recent years, unlike her mate Art, Lowe really has gone on to have some success in the film industry as a director.

The Comedy Vault – Coupling.

Coupling (BBC2, 2000-2002, BBC3, 2004)

If Game On (that I reviewed recently) could be claimed to be BBC2’s equivalent of Men Behaving Badly, then this sitcom could be seen as BBC2’s equivalent of Friends, which was a very popular show at the time, although I’ve never watched it that much myself, but it’s no surprise that there was an attempt at a British variation. Coupling followed the lives of six attractive young people, three male, three female.

The show was created and written by Steven Moffat, who was also behind CITV’s Press Gang, and later went on to be a big influence on the early years of the revival of Doctor Who. The men were Steve (Jack Davenport), Patrick (Ben Miles), and Jeff (Richard Coyle), who often got himself into some rather awkward situations, and many viewers considered him to be the funniest character, including myself. vlcsnap-01025

The women were Sally (Kate Isitt, who had previously appeared in ITV’s sitcom Is It Legal?), Susan (Sarah Alexander, who would go on to much more success, including BBC1’s sitcom The Worst Week Of My Life), and Jane (Gina Bellman, who around the time of the first series in 2000 featured on a Radio Times gatefold cover along with about a dozen other up-and-coming actors who were tipped for big things, even though she had actually appeared on the cover of Radio Times before… in 1989, over a decade earlier). vlcsnap-01030

This handsome sextet often spent a lot of time in trendy wine bars talking about the latest situation in their love lives, that were all becoming increasingly entangled. There were also some rather ambitious ideas in some episodes, including telling the same story from three different perspectives, and two different stories being played out at the same time in split-screen. vlcsnap-01027

One of the most amusing things about the show for many people was that the male and female take on what was happening were often completely different. Jeff left at the end of the third series, and he was replaced by Oliver (Richard Mylan) for the fourth and final series (which was also relegated to BBC3, although it was later repeated on BBC2), but the show seemed to lose a little of its fizz without him. vlcsnap-01034

There were 28 episodes of Coupling, they have all been released on DVD, it went on to win a British Comedy Award, and in 2003 there was also briefly an American version, but this didn’t do that well. Another notable thing about the show is that the theme song “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” was performed by 80s pop star Mari Wilson (see I told you that she made a song after 1984!!).

The Comedy Vault – Little Britain.

Little Britain (BBC3, 2003-2004, BBC1, 2005)

This is a comedy sketch show that doesn’t need much introduction as it went on to become one of the most successful shows of its era, but as I do remember watching, and despite its faltering reputation in more recent years, I want to feature it here. Matt Lucas and David Walliams are a double-act who have worked together on TV since the mid-90s.

They contributed to a few shows including Shooting Stars, and they also featured in their own shows (that they also wrote) including Rock Profile, Sir Bernard’s Stately Homes, along with sketches on the Paramount Comedy Channel, and also various adverts. Despite fairly regular TV appearances, there probably weren’t too many viewers who could put a name to them. vlcsnap-00781

In 2001 they launched Little Britain on BBC Radio 4, where they developed a range of bizarre characters. I didn’t hear this at the time, but caught up with the various repeats on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra. This did well enough to transfer to TV, with the first edition shown on the launch night of BBC3 in 2003, which was followed shortly after by a full series. vlcsnap-00780

Every episode would be a tour of the country focusing on various characters, who are all introduced by the booming voice of Tom Baker. Among those were Vicky Pollard and Daffyd, plus many more, along with plenty of memorable catchphrases. Two characters who particularly caught my attention were Lou and Andy, although this was mostly because their sketches were made not too far away from where I live. vlcsnap-00760

The combination of all of this was rather well received by viewers and critics, and after about a decade working together, Lucas and Walliams were suddenly among the most high-profile people on TV. BBC3 were proud to have a hit on their hands, and some editions were repeated very frequently. By the third series, the show was promoted to BBC1, by which point it had been established as one of the most popular comedy shows of its era, and celebrities were very eager to make guest appearances. vlcsnap-00784

Unfortunately the format was beginning to get a little tired by this point, and some of the characters seemed to be going through the motions, although there would be more. There were spin-off series set in various places including America and Australia where the characters travelled around the world. There was also a stage show tour, and lots of merchandise including script books, and even a hit single supporting Comic Relief, they definitely milked this one and made a few quid out of it I’m sure. vlcsnap-00785

All of the regular series have been released on DVD, packed with extras, as have some of the specials and the tour, and there was even an interactive DVD game to play too. After this, Lucas and Walliams went off to other comedy shows, both together and individually. What is a little surprising is that the show has fallen out of favour recently, and Lucas seems to have disowned some of the characters, but you definitely can’t forget them.

The Comedy Vault – Gavin And Stacey.

Gavin And Stacey (BBC3, 2007-2008, BBC1, 2008-2010, 2019)

BBC3 isn’t really a channel that is remembered much for featuring classic sitcoms (although there were a few good ones of course), but this is arguably the most successful of them all. Gavin And Stacey was written by Ruth Jones and James Corden. I was already familiar with Jones following her memorable performance as Linda in the rather dark sitcom Nighty Night, while Corden had already appeared in a few comedy shows too.

Jones and Corden had also previously worked together in the ITV drama series Fat Friends, and they really came up with a big success here. One of the reasons the show did well was because it featured the basic idea of two young people having a friendship develop to the point that they slowly fall in love. But there was a twist… they lived in different parts of the UK! vlcsnap-00834

Gavin works at an electronics company in Billericay in Essex (a place that I am familiar with myself, it’s a long story). He often likes to talk on the phone to Stacey who also works in electronics in Barry in Wales. They are rather aware that the distance between them makes any chance of seeing each other problematic, but they are determined to make it happen. This was clearly the most exciting Wales/England love match since Helen and Paul on Big Brother in 2001. vlcsnap-00816

There was also a terrific support cast. On Stacey’s side there was her mother and uncle Bryn, along with Vanessa, while on Gavin’s side there were his parents, and among his mates was Smithy (not to be confused with Smiffy from The Bash Street Kids). When the two families do eventually meet, naturally there is something of a culture clash, but they do manage to bond. vlcsnap-00835

Vanessa and Smithy have a child together, while Gavin and Stacey do marry. The show seemed to work because the acting styles were easy-going, and the dialogue was rather natural (and it contained a catchphrase or two which always helps). Essentially the show triumphed because viewers were bothered either way about happened, and wanted the best for these people, meaning that it wasn’t just the families that were pleased when the big wedding day finally came. vlcsnap-00828

The show also won plenty of awards, and was soon promoted to BBC1. There were three series of Gavin And Stacey that have been released on DVD and contain plenty of extras. There was also a book released which was up to standard, and contained plenty of good features, such as some emails that Gavin and Stacey had sent to each other, Smithy’s pub quiz, and I was particularly amused to discover that Vanessa’s middle name is “Shanessa”. vlcsnap-00837

The cast then had a Comic Relief-backed hit single with their rowdy version of “Islands In The Stream”, and Corden went on to much more high-profile TV work. About a decade later, there was an announcement that there would be a one-off special for Christmas, would viewers be interested in where all the characters are now? Well not only did we see the regulars return, but this also went on to be one of the highest-rated TV shows of the entire decade, getting an audience that most soaps would’ve been proud of. It was clearly worth it then.

More TV Memories – American Dad.

American Dad (Fox 2005-2014, TBS, 2014-present)

This is another animated sitcom that is aimed at the older viewer. A while ago, I reviewed Family Guy, and this piece has been rather successful, with about 500 views. That show was created by Seth Macfarlane, and after a short while it became a big success, so in 2005 Macfarlane went to co-create a new series that was in a similar outrageous style.

American Dad centred around the Smith family who lived in Virginia. The main character (also voiced by Macfarlane) was Stan Smith, who is a CIA agent who is rather patriotic. He would always make sure that no-one was a threat to America, and he seemed to be suspicious of everyone. If there isn’t trouble happening, he’ll cause it. Somehow his wife Francine puts up with all of this. The original opening sequence always featured a different headline on Stan’s newspaper. ad1

Stan also has two children. Daughter Hayley is at the different end of the political spectrum to her dad, and they often argue about the government’s policies. There is also son Steve, who is in his early-teens, and he is an example of being at that age where he is rather confused to put it mildly, as he is beginning to discover girls at school and is rather excited about it, although none of them are interested in him, and he often says things like “I almost touched a girl’s boobie!”.

There is also Roger the alien. Stan discovered him one day after he escaped from the CIA and decided to keep him in the house rather than send him back to his distant home planet. He has a rather flamboyant personality and likes to wear different outfits, and he also likes to enjoy wine and opens a bar in the attic. Klaus the goldfish has the brain of a German athlete, and often watches on rather bemused by all the rather unusual antics.

As the episodes go by, Steve befriends Roger and they form their own detective agency as Wheels And The Leg Man, Hayley meets and then gets married to the layout Jeff, and Stan’s long-lost one-eyed dad turns up. There weren’t that many other regular characters, but they included the two local news presenters who are also a couple, Stan’s boss Deputy Director Bullock, and Steve’s circle of rather nerdy friends included Snot (I was very disappointed when I discovered that wasn’t his real name), Toshi, and the rather rotund Barry.

Having enjoyed Family Guy over the years, I thought that I would give this one a go, and there have been many memorable moments and a lot of ambitious ideas, including alien abductions and film parodies. The show was originally shown in this country rather late at night on BBC2 and BBC3, usually in a double with Family Guy, and that continued when both shows moved to ITV2.

Lots of episodes of also been released on DVD, and there are plenty of extras including deleted scenes. There have now been 17 series of American Dad, with not far short of 300 episodes, and there seems to be no plans for it to end currently. I do wonder sometimes if the show’s only still going so they can think of more peculiar looks for Roger, but all these years on it still has plenty of energy.

The Comedy Vault – Catterick.

Catterick (BBC3, 2004)

Having been a fan of the shows of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for many years, I was very interested when it was announced that they were going to appear in a sitcom. It was going to be on BBC3, but that wouldn’t stop me from watching, I was even brave enough to turn over. It was clear that this was going to be something that was a little different.

Catterick was written by Vic and Bob, who also starred as brothers Chris and Carl Palmer, and the show got its title from the North Yorkshire town it was set in. It’s difficult to explain the idea further than that, but I’ll have a go. Chris and Carl haven’t seen each other for 15 years, but they reunite after Carl returns to England because he wants to track down his long-lost son Paul. vlcsnap-00310

This is going to be much more complicated that it first appears of course, and they get caught up in all kinds of strange adventures. They stay at the Mermade Hotel which is run by a rather odd bunch of characters. The manager is Roy (Matt Lucas), who is rather pompous and angry, and his elaborate dress sense means that his entrances are accompanied by the song “Kinky Boots”. He also has some trouble as rather intimate parts of his body keep getting chopped off. vlcsnap-00212

Also working there is Tess the receptionist (Morwenna Banks), who is Roy’s girlfriend, but they don’t get on and argue a lot, and Mark (Mark Benton) who is just treated as a general dogsbody. Chris and Carl also like to spend time in pub The Siberian Khatru. Once again, the regulars are a rather unusual lot, including Ian, who is finding it rather difficult to accept that his wife has died. Also among the impressive cast were Mark Gatiss, Tim Healy, and Charlie Higson. vlcsnap-00307

Vic and Bob also played a few other characters in the show, including DI Fowler, a crazed policeman who has some rather unique methods to solving crimes. There has been a rather sudden and explosive crime wave in the area, who could possibly be behind it? Another layer of typical weirdness is the cast members randomly bursting into song, alongside various references to prog rock groups. Sometimes the mix of this was more creepy than funny, but it definitely kept your interest. There were also some nice beards to look at. vlcsnap-00211

There was only one series of Catterick, and it was also repeated on BBC2. It didn’t that that huge a response from viewers, meaning that six episodes was all we got. There has been a DVD release though, but it contains no extras. I do remember an outtake or two turning up in a compilation on BBC3 though. About a decade later, Vic and Bob had another attempt at a bizarre sitcom which was House Of Fools, and I’ll review that soon.

More TV Memories – 2004 The Stupid Version.

2004 The Stupid Version (BBC3, 2004)

For a short while, there was a big wave of nostalgic documentaries on TV where people looked back at various things including particular years or genres of music and so on. Unsurprisingly, these shows began to be parodied. Recently I reviewed another show featuring Alan Partridge. One of the people who contributed to writing his shows and went on to create this one was Armando Iannucci, who has worked on a lot of satirical comedy. Indeed, the ideas and turns of phrase in this show can be described as “Iannuccian” (is that a word? I think so). vlcsnap-00518

2004 The Stupid Version was shown on New Year’s Eve and was a cleverly edited-together look back at all the big news events that didn’t happen throughout the year (over 15 years ago now). Several important cultural commentators (or publicity-seeking comedians if you prefer) gave their views, including half the cast of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (the comedy hit of the year), Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness (“stop moving me”). vlcsnap-00513

As the show was an hour long, a lot had to be packed in, and as ever, there were probably some viewers who presumed it wasn’t a satire and everyone was being totally serious. There was look a back at the contestant on Mastermind whose specialist subject was “Lady Penelope’s Cockney Chauffeur”, while contestants revealed behind-the-scenes secrets of In It To Win It, Passport To Paradise, and The Weakest Link. vlcsnap-00521

Also featuring were some B-list celebrities being locked in a box for ten hours, but none of them thought to ask why, a reflection on another England football failure, the Olympics in Athens, an exciting episode of EastEnders, coverage of 24 hour news channels, The Chip Pan Fire Awards, and there was even a spoof BBC1 ident! One of the highlights though was a parody of a home makeover show hosted by Andy Hodgson from the award-winning Bid TV, where he ended up being shot. Blimey Charlie. vlcsnap-00520

The show ended with Adam Buxton’s take on “Dry Your Eyes” by The Streets, the chart-topping banger that soundtracked the summer. 2004 The Stupid Version was repeated about a month later on BBC2. Some thought it was good enough to feature at the end of every year, and although it didn’t, in 2006 there was a variation on the idea renamed Time Trumpet, but the twist this time was that people looked back at years that actually hadn’t happened yet. vlcsnap-00522

So we discovered the fate of various politicians and celebrities, along with many other bizarre ideas. This seemed to get a less positive response from critics and viewers though, and there was only one series, but it has been released on DVD, and Iannucci has gone on to be behind further successful satirical shows. Thank you for reading, if indeed you still are. vlcsnap-00515

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.

Game Show Memories – Three’s A Crowd.

Three’s A Crowd (BBC3, 2004)

This is a game show that is all about dating. Now this isn’t the type of show that I am usually interested in, but I remember seeing it one day and I thought that it was a rather quirky idea (based on a Japanese format) that in some ways is totally unfair. Three’s A Crowd was hosted by Claudia Winkleman (although the majority of her contribution was in voiceover). I couldn’t find any clips online unfortunately so for now here’s a publicity picture instead. Three's a Crowd 2

The main place where the action happens is at a flat in London. Three contestants take part, either one female and two male, or two female and one male. The gender of which there is one of them becomes the picker, and they will go on two dates (maybe doing something like bowling or skating), and I’m sure that they will be looking forward to them. I remember the continuity announcer informing us that one edition featured plenty of “flirting and bad hair”.

When they go on their dates, they choose who which one of the two it will be with by picking one of two cards. However, they don’t know who be it will be until they decide. They then go on the date, and the one who wasn’t picked has to simply watch on by themselves. There is then a second date with another random pick. This means of course that someone could not be picked for either date, which could be rather frustrating for them. All three then talk about their experience of the dates. Three's a Crowd

After all this, they return to the flat. The picker puts on the table the picture of the one that they would like to stay, the other one has to leave. Then comes the big decision. At 11:50pm, they have ten minutes to both come out of their room if they want to leave as a couple. Sometimes only one will come out and they will have to go back to their room disappointed, wondering what might have been. Ah, cue “When A Man Loves A Woman”…

If they do both come out though, they can leave, and the cycle begins again with three new people. Although the onscreen clock seemed to insist whenever this happened the second person always came out at 11:59:59. I know that they wanted to build tension, but I do find that a little hard to believe. If they both stay, the next morning, when according to Claudia they are “up with the lark”, they await a new contestant. Depending if they’re male or female, the picker could now become one of the picked!

Three’s A Crowd ran for a short time on BBC3 (although it was later repeated on BBC2 when they were trying out various new game shows in the 6pm slot). It was one of those dating shows where you could see romance begin to blossom between some people, and it was all put together in a way that made me care about the result more than most of these type of shows do. I feel they could’ve got at least one or two more series out of it.