More TV Memories – Bid Best Bits – Part 3.

One great thing about watching Peter Simon on Bid TV was that he was so unpredictable, and it always felt that at any moment something rather amusing and bizarre could happen with him on live TV because he liked to make it up as he went along, but there was one moment in November 2011 which really was remarkable even by his own standards.

I was watching one Sunday evening, when Peter came on and did his usual rather daft introduction where he treated all this as if he had just walked on stage at the Palladium. Once he’d finished his highly amusing anecdote, he then introduced his assistant for the night Helen, and Peter was somewhat surprised when Andy Hodgson walked on instead.

Andy announced that it was the 10th anniversary of Peter joining Bid, so they had decided to do something special. I was always pleased to see Peter enjoy a second wave of popularity after his Double Dare days, and Andy explained how Peter was hired. He said that he phoned Peter’s agent, asked “I’m looking for somebody cheap”, and got the reply, “I can help you there, it’s Peter Simon, he’s not busy.” I imagine that Andy was joking but he was probably closer to the truth than he realised.

Because Andy also said that he’d had a right old laugh with Peter over the years, he revealed that tonight there would be a very special item for sale… the limited edition Peter Simon commemorative anniversary figurine! Yes! Andy also said “it is numbered individually, because it’s your favourite word”, and Peter didn’t seem to notice Andy taking the mick right in front of him. vlcsnap-01580

It was then that Steve and Helen came on with a special cake and some soppy music played. Peter seemed to have no advance idea of all this and he looked like he couldn’t believe it, and then Andy asked Peter because it was Remembrance Sunday if he would sell the figurines if for every one sold they would donate some money to a favourite charity of Peter’s choice. vlcsnap-01567

Peter’s response to this was somewhat unexpected and made something that was already unusual seem rather more odd. Peter just paused and said “can I just say… thank you very, very much”, and then he practically started to sob, and Andy and Steve put their arm round him, realising that they probably should’ve done this at the end of his shift because he was overcome. vlcsnap-01589

When it came to Peter actually selling the figurine later in the evening, that was a very odd experience too. He didn’t put any humour into it at all, and just sat there practically sobbing for about ten minutes about all the things that had happened over the years, talking about how touched he was that viewers sent kind messages to him, and reminiscing about a programme that he had recently heard on Radio 2 about parents talking about the musical choices of their fallen solider children.

Eventually they did sell the 1,000 quantity, with Peter going for a very reasonable £14.99, raising thousands of pounds in the process. What a bargain. And I’m sure that Peter takes pride of place not only on a mantlepiece or a bay window in houses across the country to this very day. Now you wouldn’t see that happen any other channel, would you.

More TV Memories – Bid Best Bits – Part 2.

In the Bid-Up days there used to be a feature called Speed Auctions, where items were sold much more quickly, with auctions lasting roughly about five minutes in instead of ten. The idea was that after about a couple of minutes a hooter would go off, and however far they were through their description of the item, the presenter had to run back to the gavel and take bids for a couple more minutes before closing the auction.

Of course, when it was Peter Simon’s turn to do some Speed Auctions, it was clear that it was going to be something worth watching and it definitely was. By the end of his first hour he was saying about the hooter “that’s starting to get on me nerves now”, by the end of his second hour, he was saying that he would run back to the gavel, but only if he had the energy left, complaining “I don’t think I can keep this up much longer”, and by the end of his shift he really did look completely exhausted, and because he was unable to keep up with the faster pace he fell over one at least one occasion.

So on one memorable occasion Peter decided to deal with this as only he could. Because he was so tired and had been sweating so much, he decided to start an auction by taking his trousers off, complaining that “me trousers are soaked through!”. He then walked over to the next item and carried on as normal, and I can only imagine the chaos that this was causing with the production team, with Peter saying “one of the cameramen has just proposed to me”.

Before the end though he was persuaded to put his trousers back on, and as he was doing so, someone with terrific comic timing decided that this should be the moment for the hooter to go off, so Peter had to treat us to his famous camp run back to the gavel while still trying to do up his zip, but he eventually managed to pull everything back together, while informing us “the hairs on my legs are stood up now” and cackling. It goes without saying that no-one else can do live TV like Peter and it was one of the funniest moments that I’ve seen on Bid. vlcsnap-01189

I’ve got lots more great Peter moments to share with you soon, including the time he emotionally sold a figurine of himself. You have been warned.

More TV Memories – Bid Best Bits – Part 1.

I have already written on here about my memories of the channels Bid TV and Price-Drop TV and how much I used to enjoy watching them, so I have decided to share some of my favourite moments. Before Bid became a bog-standard shopping channel, there were some great and unusual moments which really fitted my sense of humour. These memories probably won’t mean much to too many people, but better out than in as they say, and I might as well share them here because it’ll give you something of an insight into the channel and what I’ve spent time doing with my life, and well, no-one else is going to, are they. A lot of these moments will of course feature Peter Simon, but what might be my all-time favourite moment on Bid actually happened with another great presenter Andy Hodgson. So here’s the story…

For a while Andy used to have a feature that he called “Products For Peanuts”, where he insisted that they would sell an item in his shift for less than they bought it in for. (In the desperate final months presenters seemed to insist this about every item, but this was at the time when such a statement on the channel could still be believable.) He would tease this for about half an hour. Every time the price went down on an item, he would say “is it this one?”, and when it wasn’t he would say “no, it’s not this one, but that’s still a good deal”.

He would do this until the end of his shift, and when it finally came, and the price went down to something daft on an item like about £7.36, he would become amusingly over-excited, and start shouting “it’s this one, it’s this one, it’s products for peanuts, run to the phone quickly, blimey!”, and on at least one occasion he started waving a chair round, and I was amused by this messing about and thought well that’s all rather good.

But one night Andy started doing this whole routine, and he started throwing his arms around and running around the studio, and saying that we should grab the phone and everything as usual, and he was so overcome he suddenly shouted “I’m as giddy as a kipper!“. This was such a bizarre turn of phrase, and one that I haven’t heard anyone use before or since, and I really did think that he had gone crazy for real for a brief moment and I just thought “wow” at someone acting like this on live TV.

My next thought was “is that a northern expression?” because Andy is from Burnley as he used to like to tell us every five minutes, and I imagine that various parts of the UK have their own slang. But it was just all so odd even by its own standards that it really was a remarkable moment that I haven’t forgotten. It really did make me laugh out of shock and disbelief as much as humour. vlcsnap-00321

Terrific. Join me for another Bid TV memory soon, when I’ll tell you about the time Peter Simon decided to take his trousers off…

More TV Memories – Bid TV.

Bid TV (2000-2014)

I had never watched much shopping TV before. There used to be a channel in the OnDigital days called Shop! which I watched occasionally, which after it closed was replaced by QVC, which is a successful channel but one I’ve never had that much interest in. After the launch of Freeview, in January 2003 another channel joined the line-up called Bid-Up.TV, I heard a little about it but had never seen it for myself. So on the first night it was available I had a quick look to discover what it was all about, and I instantly became hooked, and there are a few reasons why. vlcsnap-00866

Bid-Up.TV launched in October 2000 and had a rather innovative idea for the time, they would sell items but in the format of an auction, so people would bid with their phone or on the website and when it was over the host would bang the gavel. I found this particularly entertaining as it was like nothing I had seen before, although I actually never bought anything from the channel myself it seemed very well put together and I watched it endlessly, some of the presenters were great too. vlcsnap-00871

One of my favourites was Andy Hodgson, I remember enjoying him on radio station LBC before I saw him on TV so I was interested in seeing him. After getting past that weird thing where his voice doesn’t match the face you’d imagined him to have, he was great. He was very witty and always had amusing asides as the bidders’ names appeared on the screen, saying things like “Mavis is in Northampton, cobblers, no it’s true”, and engaging with them by saying “ooh, I went there once, a lovely part of the country, I went to this cafe, I had pie, chips and gravy, I might have seen you there. I haven’t been for a while.” vlcsnap-00876

Andy was particularly brilliant when paired with his assistant Jenny Harrison. In the early days he always carried on as if he was vaguely in love with her and she was the only one that he would ever work with. She seemingly couldn’t stand him which made it even funnier and the way she looked at him as he did his Alan Partridge-style routine was terrific. Andy is a brilliant presenter and although he’s appeared in a few other things it’s a shame that he’s never gone mainstream. vlcsnap-00875

Best of all though was Peter Simon. I have already written about him a lot on here, about how I have enjoyed his various shows over the years such as Double Dare, so I wondered what he would bring to the channel. Again, he was wonderful, like nothing else I’d ever seen on shopping TV. His style was unique, watching him endlessly shout phrases like “you can’t go wrong” and “it’s two tenners, one fiver” was very funny. vlcsnap-00874

You never knew what was going to happen next with Peter but you knew it would make you laugh, especially when he was doing speed auctions against the clock and watching him go off-message and start to do things like dancing along to the music and telling terrible Larry Grayson-style jokes, taking his trousers off or running around around the studio and falling over really was great, and he amassed a huge fanbase. The night he was presented with a figurine of himself to celebrate his 10 years with the channel is rather unforgettable. vlcsnap-00693

There were lots of other great presenters too, including Mike Mason who liked to burst into song and say “Simon, bid again, Simon!”, and also Paul Ross with his DVD evenings. I never expected so be so entertained from such an unlikely source, the first year of Bid-Up that I watched is one of my favourite things on that I’ve seen on TV. After a while they also launched Price-Drop TV and I’ll be writing about that too soon. vlcsnap-00873

There were other great ideas too including exciting competitions and they even won some awards. But things change. Producing 17 hours of live TV a day takes its strain, and presenters start to move on, and there are different ideas. In 2004 an inferior new format called Best Bidding was introduced, and then after the Auction World scandal live rising price auctions were just about dropped altogether and replaced with the falling price format, meaning that in 2005 the channel was renamed Bid TV. They then stopped using auction terminology and the quality of items decreased, and seeing presenters insisting that every piece that they sold was a “great product” was rather dull. vlcsnap-00877

Around 2009, something strange happened. Quantities started to become increasingly slow to sell out, and they had to start using clocks to end sales, with many still left unsold when time ran out. They also did stupid gimmicks like locking the phone lines and not having the price on the screen for about half the sale, it became increasingly dull and viewers started to lose interest. There was also increasing discomfort with the high price of the phone call and postage and packaging. vlcsnap-00878

After a lot of changes the format was so tired that by the end they had changed the channel to an QVC/Ideal World type one which made it seem like they had finally run out of ideas, and when they closed in April 2014 it wasn’t as sad as it should’ve been, because with very few exceptions the final year of Bid was really bad and even I stopped watching regularly. But it shouldn’t take too much away from the golden era of the early days.