The YouTube Files – 35 Years Of The Chart Show.

This piece is late because the actual 35th anniversary was in April, but I wanted to take another look back at The Chart Show, as some of the earliest editions turned up online recently. The Chart Show was originally shown on Channel 4 on Friday afternoons, and famously had no hosts, with everything being introduced by computer graphics that were impressive for the time (Top Of The Pops launched their first computer-generated opening sequence around the same time, I wonder if it was a response to this, or a coincidence).

It is always interesting seeing the early days of a show before it is properly defined and settles down into a regular format, and it is clear from these editions that there were too many charts mixed in with some bizarre choices for exclusive videos, although at least it gave some lesser-known acts their three minutes of TV fame. At this point as well as the familiar Heavy Metal (later Rock), Indie, and Dance Charts, there is much more.

These include the Reggae Chart, and the Euro Singles Chart, which featured the biggest hits across Europe, including Sandra, a German singer who never really found fame in the UK, and Stephanie (“is this a duff video or what?”). Then there’s the Compact Disc Chart (albums sold on CD) and The Music Video Chart (compilations of videos and concerts released on VHS). vlcsnap-00010

Then there was the UK Hits In The USA Chart, featuring some successful acts during what was called “The Second British Invasion”. One played was “Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer that was indeed a chart-topper in America (“can you believe the follow-up to this video is just as bad!”), which in the final edition on ITV in 1998 was rather oddly claimed to be the first video ever shown, when it was actually about halfway through the fourth edition (that honour goes to “What You Need” by Inxs).

And then there was the Network Album Chart, and The Chart File (later Chart File Update), which once featured Cherry Bombz, a rock group fronted by Anita, who used to be in Toto Coelo. Er, yes. The exclusive videos (called Video Reveal at this point) were a rather odd mix, including “World Domination” by The Belle Stars (“these girls used to be shy until they started using hair gel”), the failed attempt to reinvent themselves as a trio (that doesn’t even feature on their best-of).

And there was even Tom Watt (who was best-known at the time as Lofty off EastEnders) and his baffling take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, where we are informed that “members of The Fall and New Order appear in this vid” and “a big hi to Dick Robins from all at The Chart Show!”. No idea what this was all about, but I’m sure it went down well at his local The Queen Vic.

The show didn’t conclude with The Top Ten, but The Network Chart, showing us some of the hits currently on the up (and not using the official chart like Top Of The Pops did), and The Chart Race, where you had to write in and predict where a few songs would enter the chart. Add to all this the famous video recorder-style graphics, some sludgy-green captions, and the HUD that told us facts that wasn’t on the screen long enough and almost impossible to read anyway.

And then, in June 1986, after barely two months, The Chart Show was rather abruptly cancelled by Channel 4, and replaced by Rewind. Wait, what? Well, there was a return eventually of course, but lots of ideas tried out in the early days were dropped quickly, with the majority of the extra charts featured gone by the end of 1986, and the more familiar format that would run for another 12 years began to take shape.

More TV Memories – Boyz Unlimited.

Boyz Unlimited (Channel 4, 1999)

In the late-90s, manufactured boy bands seemed to be commonplace on the singles chart. I must admit that I’ve never really been that interested in any of them, but then they weren’t actually aimed at me. But for every one of them that had some success, plenty of them failed. I remember a boy band performed at my school once. I have forgotten what they were called, but they definitely didn’t have any hits. This show is essentially a spoof documentary about how a boy band are put together and marketed.

One notable thing about the show looking back is that it was written and produced by Richard Osman (Matt Lucas and David Walliams are also credited as co-creators of the show, although I don’t think their contribution went much beyond that). Now this was long before he became the co-host of Pointless, at this time he was still working behind the scenes in TV, and he was also the divisor of BBC2 comedy panel game If I Ruled The World. Richard knows a thing or two about what goes on in the music business as his brother Mat is a member of Suede.

Nigel Gacey is a Cockney who is always on the lookout for a get rich quick scheme, so he decides to become a music mogul and put a boy band together. They are Gareth (overweight but kept in the band because he is the only one with any songwriting ability, not that they use any of his songs), Jason, Nicky, and Scott (who is told to change his name from Giles). Also notable is that Gareth is played by a young James Corden, who has gone on to much more TV success. boyz0001

Boyz Unlimited is presented in a “fly-on-the-wall” style (it’s difficult to know what was more commonplace at the time, boy bands, or this style of documentary), and to add an extra touch of authenticity, the narrator was Jo Whiley, who was also a presenter on BBC Radio 1 at this time. As the episodes progress we witness things like the auditions for the band, getting a record deal, making the videos, and releasing the songs. They hope their dreams will come true, but they soon realise that it’s a rotten business. vlcsnap-00002

They are told that they will make cover versions of hits including “DISCO” and “I Say A Little Prayer”. They also cover “A Little Bit More”, which coincidentally (I presume) was a chart-topper for boy band 911 around this time, in a bland as you like style, which is an indication that there really are some things that it’s difficult to parody. They are also involved in various scandals, including Nicky having an affair with the headmistress from his school. vlcsnap-00003

They also face trouble from their biggest rivals Boyz Limited, who are having huge hits, whilst theirs can’t even be found on CD in Virgin Megastore, and they are also embarrassed in appearances on live Saturday Morning TV shows. Nigel continues to hope that there will be a chemistry between his discoveries and they will be the next Bad Boys Inc., but his patience is often tested by their antics. vlcsnap-00004

There was only one series of Boyz Unlimited, and I’m fairly sure that there was never a DVD release. Boy bands could be considered to be something of a easy target, but it shows how much cynicism there was about this kind of thing happening, and this was long before the likes of Pop Idol and The X Factor came along. Maybe they should’ve done a cover of “Don’t Stop Believin'”.

The YouTube Files – Focus North.

Focus North (Channel 4, 1999)

I always like to stumble across unusual comedy shows, even I don’t remember watching them at the time, and I recently saw this on YouTube (credit goes to the uploader Charlie Bowser). The 4Later strand used to feature some rather bizarre shows in the early hours of the morning, and this one (that was usually shown around 1am) definitely fits that description.

There have been many comedy shows that have parodied news presentation over the years, with The Day Today being among the best-known of them, but this one was different enough to manage to get some original ideas out of the genre. Focus North was a parody of regional TV news, and it’s rather clear what the influences were. The show was supposedly produced by Pennine Television, whose ident was suspiciously similar to the one used by Yorkshire on ITV at the time. vlcsnap-00004

And the opening sequence gave me something of a “Channel 3 North East” vibe (the rebranding shambles of Tyne Tees in the mid-90s). The aim was to cover all of the things that were important to viewers. The hosts who were sat on the sofa were Tom Whitelam (Tom Adams, who also around the same time was appearing in those famous “the DFS sale is now on!” adverts), and Shona Lincoln. vlcsnap-00001

Various stories were covered in the regional roundup of the latest happenings, with the hosts seemingly not realising how strange everything was. One item that really stood out to me was about someone who had Clegghead Syndrome, where they are born with an old head that gets younger as the rest of the body gets older, what a strange idea. vlcsnap-00003

There were also some spoof adverts, a look at what was happening around the region, and various technical errors. Tom would also occasionally have some rather odd outbursts, such as turning into the Hulk. Well Fred Dinenage never carried on like this. The show also had a rather large support cast who helped out in the reports, everything was written and directed by a team of three, and it was produced a company that I’ve not seen on TV before or since. Not being from Yorkshire, I wonder if that area is really like this? vlcsnap-00002

There were ten episodes of Focus North in one series, it must’ve been little-seen at the time, but the few that watched did seem to enjoy it, and I can’t really imagine Channel 4 commissioning an original comedy show in such a timeslot now. The style did also remind a little of the type of comedy shows that were being made by UK Play at the time, one of my favourite channels from the early days of digital TV.

The Missing Persons Story – Part 1.

Recently I have done some pieces about quirky singers and pop groups from the 80s. I was wondering if there was anyone else who could be featured here. I don’t get too excited about the modern wave of pop stars, the last ones I had an interest in came on to the scene about a decade ago now such as Paloma Faith and Lady Gaga. I did wonder if there was anyone who could fit the description of being “the Lady Gaga of the 80s”, and I was pleased when I discovered someone who definitely could.

The group is Missing Persons, and it’s always good to discover that a group that I had previously barely heard of and realise that they had an interesting story in the 80s. Their frontwoman is Dale Bozzio (I can’t recall ever coming across a woman called Dale before). Dale Consalvi was born in March 1955 in Massachusetts. Before getting into music she appeared in some rather naughty magazines, and went on to collaborate with Frank Zappa. db66

In 1980, Missing Persons were formed, they could be put into the New Wave genre. They were a quintet, and along with Dale, other members included drummer and Dale’s husband Terry Bozzio (they married in 1979), and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo. Although they didn’t have any hit singles or albums in this country, I wondered if they had made any UK TV appearances, so I went on YouTube, and I was pleasantly surprised. As always, this piece won’t be 100% accurate or comprehensive, but here are some of the highlights of their story. vlcsnap-00005

Dale was the definition of small but perfectly formed, with a very distinctive look, including her hair, which was sometimes red, or even – yes! – blue, and plenty of make-up. She also wore what were often described as “fishbowls” containing some foil. It seems that she was rather pleased with her looks and followed the old phrase “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, and if she had half the chance she would probably have worn nothing at all above the waist on stage. Dale was also known for having a squeak in her singing voice. I very much doubt she’s been to any pubs near where I live, but I’ll let her off because she made some great songs. vlcsnap-00017

In 1980 the “Missing Persons EP” was released, which reached no. 46 on the US album chart, and they appeared in the 1981 film Lunch Wagon. But it was during 1982/1983 that they had their biggest success. In 1982 their first single “Mental Hopscotch” was released. It wasn’t a hit, but there was a video made. There was also a video made for “Noticeable One”, but that wasn’t a single. vlcsnap-00015

But next up in 1982 was “Words”, and this is arguably their most famous song. The video has had 6.6 million views on YouTube, making it their most popular. This reached no. 42 (their equal-highest placing in America), and it also reached no. 10 in Australia, which I’m sure is their first and only Top Ten placing on a singles chart anywhere in the world. This one contained the lyric “I think I’ll dye my hair blue“. Please do! Also in this year, their first album “Spring Session M” (an anagram of “Missing Persons”) was released, reaching no. 17 (their highest-charting album in America), and no. 40 in Australia, where they loved it. vlcsnap-00025

Then in 1982 the next single was “Destination Unknown”, another one of their more well-known ones. This also reached no. 42 in America, and no. 89 in Australia, their final hit there. This one had a video, and I know that I shouldn’t take too much notice of YouTube comments, but the amount of people who have said “Lady Gaga stole her look from Dale” is remarkable. They performed this one on various shows including TopPop in the Netherlands. vlcsnap-00011

And in October 1982, they made what I’m sure is their first UK TV appearance, when they performed “Destination Unknown” on CITV’s Razzmatazz! They weren’t exactly the first group that I would expect to appear on the show, but the youngsters loved them I’m sure. Dale also had a rather unusual hairstyle by her own standard at this point. I doubt it’s all her own work. I don’t think they played “Peggy Babcock” though. Missing Persons were now doing well, suddenly Dale was being invited to awards ceremonies, and plenty of people were taking notice of them. vlcsnap-00030

In 1983, “Windows” was released, which reached no. 63 in America. I couldn’t find a video for this one, but they did perform this on shows in various countries. And in March 1983, Missing Persons made another UK TV appearance when they performed a few songs on Channel 4’s The Tube. There was the slight problem that they provoked almost no response at all from the studio audience who seemingly had no idea who they were. vlcsnap-00033

Also in March 1983, Dale appeared on the cover of Sounds, which I’m fairly sure is their only UK weekly music magazine cover, where they were tipped to be the next big thing. Dale is someone who also gave good value in interviews. And although they didn’t feature in an article, an advert for “Words” (which was released in the UK in this month) appeared in Smash Hits. db10

Watch out for more in part two…

The YouTube Files – A morning with Channel 4.

A Morning With Channel 4 (Channel 4, 1995)

The Big Breakfast was a great way to start the day for many years on Channel 4. I thought that I would see if there were any full editions on YouTube, and if so, as well as enjoying the show, review some of the adverts that were shown to get an idea of what was around at the time. The edition I have chosen was shown on 20 October 1995 (25 years ago now would you believe). Chris Evans has long-gone by this point, the hosts are Keith Chegwin and Gary Roslin (who left shortly after this at the start of 1996). Here are some of the highlights. vlcsnap-01072

A lot of adverts appear several times. One is for the Clueless film which was a success at the time, and I reviewed the TV sitcom spin-off recently. It also features a very early example of a website address. Half-term is approaching, so expect plenty of toy adverts. These include lots of adverts for a board game version of Pog. Now that game really was the big thing at the time. It was very popular, and I remember having plenty of Pogs myself. The advert is rather odd though. vlcsnap-01074

There are also some music adverts, including one for the “Smash Hits 3″ compilation. The magazine was still around, and this album featured some of the biggest hits of ’95! Take That! Backstreet Boys! Smokie! All the groups the youngsters love! There’s also an exclusive from PJ And Duncan. Now don’t laugh, but I always looked forward to seeing their new videos on The Chart Show at this point, it was so exciting. vlcsnap-01075

Then there is another odd advert for Pog, which informs us “This is an advertisement for Pog™”. I’m not really sure why, it doesn’t say “this is a television programme” all the way through The Big Breakfast, where by this point they’re anticipating the first episode of new soap Hollyoaks on Monday. There’s also an advert hoping we’ll buy the Star Wars films on VHS. vlcsnap-01081

Also featuring is Shredded Wheat with Sharron Davies, who was one of the hosts of the ill-fated relaunch (one of the many ill-fated relaunches as it turned out) of The Big Breakfast in 1996, although we didn’t know that yet. Then there’s another Pog advert?! We’ve had about six of them already and it’s still only 7:38! The show is probably already overrunning by about 20 minutes by this point as it always did. vlcsnap-01083

There really are too many toy adverts, featuring Super Sticker Factory, Playskool, and creepy dolls among them. Time to enter The World Of The Strange, with chewy fruity bar thing Fruitang, featuring Trevor And Simon of Live & Kicking fame. I don’t remember that bar lasting long though. And there’s also a chance to groove to “The Ultimate Soul Collection Volume 2”. vlcsnap-01088

Into the second hour now, which features Salon Selectives, which is notable because it is soundtracked by “Breakout” from Swing Out Sister! It’s always great to hear this, which would’ve been almost a decade old by this point. You can also buy the cartoon version of The Mask on VHS, and don’t forget Milky Way Magic Stars, The Fox And The Hound (“the best children’s video of 1994”), Cheerios, and ending off with a rather trippy advert (computer-generated green dolphins floating around and the like) for Schizan, whatever that was. vlcsnap-01092

I suppose the main thing to take away from all this is I want a Pog.

More TV Memories – Rise.

Rise (Channel 4, 2002-2003)

The Big Breakfast is a show that had done well for Channel 4, especially in its early years, being rather entertaining and lively, and attracting a lot of viewers. But having to produce two hours of live TV a day five days a week all year round soon took its toll, and when the show came to an end after almost a decade in 2002 it did feel like it was past its best.

So it was decided to launch a new show in the breakfast slot, which promised to be a fresh take on all of the latest important news (but don’t they all claim that), but this one would, not to that many people’s surprise, turn out to be a flop by comparison. I didn’t watch this one a huge amount, but why it exactly failed with viewers has interested me. vlcsnap-01064

Rise (or RI:SE as it was sometimes written, aiming to simulate the display of a digital alarm clock) came from a TV studio, and had a collection of hosts who were rather in vogue at the time. These included Mark Durden-Smith (who seemed to be everywhere around this time), Kirsty Gallacher (who had impressed on Sky Sports), and Edith Bowman (who was also on MTV). And would you believe it, despite their abilities, when you put them all together around a desk, there was practically no chemistry between them whatsoever. vlcsnap-01070

The news coverage aimed to be something a little different, by being hosted in front of a big screen where all the reports were summarised in a single word. The show also jumped on the success of Big Brother, giving us some live coverage from the house, that usually only consisted of some people asleep. There were plenty of music videos and celebrity guests too. And you could even email them, how incredible. vlcsnap-01071

It wasn’t too much of a surprise that this didn’t go down well with viewers, and sure enough it wasn’t long before the constant relaunches, with all of the original line-up and the big desk long gone, and over a dozen hosts were used in Rise‘s short time on air. Among those who joined later were Iain Lee (who had previously hosted Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show and had a more sarcastic take on the news). vlcsnap-01065

And also featuring were the double-act Mel And Sue, who practically revived their Light Lunch format that had done well on Channel 4 in the afternoon about five years earlier. Not that many people were surprised when Rise finally ended in December 2003 after nearly 18 months, indeed some viewers didn’t expect the show to even last that long. vlcsnap-01069

There are only so many times you can relaunch a show though that isn’t attracting the viewers. And after this, Channel 4 practically gave up on creating new programming for the breakfast slot, deciding from 2004 to fill the time instead with endless repeats of American sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. And remarkably, almost 17 years on, they still do. Just how many episodes were made?

More TV Memories – Charmed.

Charmed (WB, 1998-2006)

This is one last American supernatural series that I want to review, and then that’s all of them. Charmed is a show that centres around the three Halliwell sisters Prue, Piper, and Phoebe (no relation to Geri as far as I know). They turned out to be the most exciting trio since the Sugababes came on to the scene. They live together in a house in Los Angeles that they inherited from their grandmother, and they are in for a surprise.

This is because they discover The Book Of Shadows, and it turns out that they are all from a family of witches. They all have special abilities individually, including being able to freeze time, or see the future. And when they are really stuck in a corner and facing a huge amount of ghosts and demons all at once, they can combine their powers into The Power Of Three, which usually does the job. vlcsnap-01039

There were also plenty of special effects which helped to show off the creative ideas, such as people randomly appearing from nowhere, or turning into mermaids, and so on. It was all rather entertainingly far-fetched and there was plenty of humour added in. But can they be trusted to use their powers properly and not give away their secrets? vlcsnap-01040

Prue left at the end of the third series, which was a shock, and she was replaced by Paige, a long-lost half-sister that Piper and Phoebe didn’t even though they had, but this meant that they could retain the trio of powerful witches, who went on to have many more adventures, and there were plenty of guest appearances from people who didn’t have a problem with entering this rather strange world. The show went on to do rather well and help establish the fledging WB channel in America. vlcsnap-01041

Charmed retains a good reputation, and always features high-up in those endless “77 great TV shows beginning with C from the 90s”-type lists that fill magazines. There was also some merchandise, including a computer game, books and just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess, there was a monthly magazine for a short while that featured further insight into the show. charmed2

There were 178 episodes of Charmed in eight series. They were shown on various channels in the UK throughout the 2000s, including Channel 4, Channel 5, and LivingTV, but this was usually in an afternoon slot, so they were probably edited, because aren’t they always. I must admit that I don’t remember watching a huge amount of them at the time, but I did enjoy what I saw of them. charmed

All of the episodes have been released on DVD, and that’s a huge 48 discs altogether. There aren’t that many extras, but they do include a look behind the scenes. And in 2018, there was a revival of Charmed, which was a variation on the same idea, although it featured a different cast, and I think a few episodes have been shown in the UK too.

The Comedy Vault – The Inbetweeners.

The Inbetweeners (E4, 2008-2010)

This is another sitcom from Channel 4 that is considered to be among the best of their home-made comedy shows. This one centres around the lives of four teenage boys (ignoring the fact that the actors who played them were actually all about 25 at the time) who attend the sixth form at Rudge Park Comprehensive, who can contest that these are the best years of your life.

The Inbetweeners begins when Will’s parents go through a divorce and he has to move schools. At first he finds it all rather difficult, but then he befriends a group of boys, Simon (bid again etc), Neil, and Jay. They aren’t exactly unpopular, but they’re far from the trendiest people at the school too. Their teacher is Mr Gilbert who really doesn’t know how to deal with them. vlcsnap-00719

Will also narrates the episodes to set the story, and also reflect on what he has learnt (which isn’t much). The show could be seen to be one of the more extreme examples of shows that feature boys who have reached that age where everything can be rather awkward. They are confused, and then some. How can you do your exams when you feel like this. Will even made Adrian Mole (whose sitcom I reviewed recently) seem to be sensible and untroubled by comparison. vlcsnap-00720

Beyond school, we also see the boys doing things like attending birthday parties, visiting theme parks, trying to have a drink, and going camping, of course the embarrassment factor is high. Most of the other cast members are fellow pupils, along with some of the boys’ parents. It’s fair to say that the girls at school aren’t exactly falling for them, even though they think they are irresistibly the knees of the bees. Are the adolescence years really like this? Mine are so long ago now I can barely remember. vlcsnap-00715

The Inbetweeners received better reviews than most sitcoms from around this time. I didn’t see much of the show first time round, but after critics began falling over themselves to praise the show and were saying things like it was so funny you’ll snort like a pig, I thought that I might as well give it a go. It was definitely rather good, although I don’t recall making many pig-like noises.vlcsnap-00717

First shown on E4, the show did well enough for a quick repeat on Channel 4. The show had a rather trendy soundtrack which was released on CD, and the cast even appeared on the cover of NME, proof that their fanbase included all the trendy dudes who get on down. The Inbetweeners won a British Comedy Award, and there was also a Comic Relief special, an American version, two books, and not one but two successful films. vlcsnap-00738

The cast went on to further success, starring in more sitcoms including Rock And Chips and Friday Night Dinner. There were 18 episodes of The Inbetweeners in three series. All of them have been released on DVD (and are rated 18 because my goodness it’s rather saucy), and there are also plenty of enjoyable extras, including a look behind the scenes and outtakes.

The Comedy Vault – Black Books.

Black Books (Channel 4, 2000-2004)

This is another Channel 4 sitcom that was definitely one of their better offerings. This one was co-written by and starred Irish comedian Dylan Moran, and it was another variation of the “wrong person, wrong job” idea that serves comedy shows well, and this one had a surreal edge. The show started out as an unaired pilot in 1998, and it had enough potential to be fully developed into a series that launched in 2000 and livened up Friday nights.

Black Books centred around Bernard Black, who ran a small and rather dirty second-hand bookshop in London, where some rather strange things would happen. Bernard is assisted by Manny (Bill Bailey), who somehow puts up with all of this, and also featuring is Fran (Tamsin Grieg) who in the first series runs a trendy bric-a-bric shop next door. vlcsnap-00707

Bernard had the problem of enjoying books but not much else, and he definitely didn’t like having to interact with customers who wanted to buy any, he can just about put up with Manny and Fran. The only other thing Bernard enjoyed was wine, but he was often left in such a dazed state after having so much that it gave him a rather skewed view on life. vlcsnap-00440

As the episodes progressed, things seemed to get increasingly bizarre, as the idea was ever more stretched to the point that things only coincidentally happened in a bookshop. But despite everything, Bernard became a popular character with viewers. I suppose the show could best be described as a cross between Spaced and Father Ted (this probably isn’t a coincidence as the writers of Father Ted also contributed to some episodes). vlcsnap-00712

There was also an impressive list of guest stars, and just about all of them have gone on to have further success in comedy shows over the past two decades, including Simon (“bid again, Simon!“) Pegg, Olivia Colman, Peter Serafinowicz, and Johnny Vegas. The show ended up doing well enough to win the Best Comedy Bafta award twice, and there have been repeat runs on channels including Dave. vlcsnap-00711

Critics also enjoyed what was on offer, with one saying the show was “a sitcom that actually makes you laugh”. Well, that is the basic idea of them. They’ve clearly thought of everything. There were 18 episodes of Black Books in three series, and they have all been released on DVD (excluding the pilot). Extras include deleted scenes and outtakes, and if you’re lucky you might find an Easter egg too!

The Comedy Vault – Toast Of London.

Toast Of London (Channel 4, 2012-2015)

This is a sitcom that I didn’t see that much of at the time, which is a surprise as I realised that it is the kind of show that I usually enjoy, so I soon caught up and discovered that it was one of the better comedy efforts from Channel 4 around this time. Toast Of London was co-written by Arthur Mathews who was also behind other memorable comedy shows including Father Ted and Big Train, so it was clear that this was going to be something a little different.

The show starred Matt Berry, someone who has appeared in various comedy shows including Garth Margenhi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh, and not too surprisingly he has done a lot of voiceover work. He has also had success as a musician and released some albums, and anybody who wants to make an album consisting of reworkings of famous TV themes that includes the LWT and Thames ident music is fine by me. vlcsnap-00821

Steven Toast is an actor, he has been in the business for a long time, but he really isn’t that great at it, and he has become frustrated with his agent Jane who can only seem to offer terrible plays that get him booed off stage. He also fills the time by doing some voiceover work, but he can’t stand working with the young team, and constantly says to them “yes, I can hear you” (is that a catchphrase we see before us?!). vlcsnap-00813

Also featuring are Steven’s actor landlord Ed, and his main rival Ray. Steven is also going through a divorce and is having some trouble meeting a new woman at the local club he attends. He has to shamble from one mishap to the next, but he didn’t spend 28 years at RADA for nothing, and he is determined that he’ll soon get his dream job and become the superstar that he has always thought he was. vlcsnap-00828

Every episode featured a creative musical interlude performed by Toast. The show also attracted some special celebrity guests, including the chart-topping singer Michael Ball, Peter Davison, and Lorraine Kelly, and by the third series they had won plenty of awards and done well enough for Bob Monkhouse to come back to life and make a special appearance. vlcsnap-00815

There were 19 episodes of Toast Of London in three series. They were very well-received, and they have all been released on DVD. There are also a generous amount of extras that go beyond the usual deleted scenes and the like. And there has also been a book called Toast On Toast, where Steven shares some terrific anecdotes about some of the famous people that he has known in the business, along with plenty of advice on acting that is worth following I’m sure.