The YouTube Files – Pookiesnackenburger In…

Pookiesnackenburger In… (Channel 4, 1985)

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of Channel 4, and its future. People where sharing memories of some of the shows from the past four decades, and wondering why they don’t commission as many quirky and bizarre shows as they did in the 80s and 90s, because, well that is really why this channel exists (and you won’t believe how many people remember cartoon Murun Buchstansangur and consider this to be the standard that is expected).

But I saw someone talk about another Channel 4 show from the 80s, that I don’t remember, but sounded interesting. So I wondered if any of this was on YouTube, and I did manage to track down all five episodes, now I can judge this for myself. The rather oddly-named Pookiesnackenburger were a musical comedy sextet that formed in Brighton in the early-80s. While they were busking in London they were discovered.

In January 1982 they released the single “Just One Cornetto” on the Stiff label. They performed this on the Dutch music show TopPop (they were clearly eager to crack that all-important Netherlands market). This was even reviewed in Smash Hits, where this was described as “so ridiculously good-humoured”. This wasn’t a hit, and neither was their debut album “Pookie Beach Party” that was released around the same time.

But this led to further TV appearances, including CITV’s No. 73, BBC1’s David Essex’ Showcase, and CBBC’s The Krankies Klub, plus several tours. They were also fond of making music not using traditional instruments, but more of that later… In April 1985, they were given their own comedy show on Channel 4. Pookiesnackenburger In… featured a different story in every episode, and some of these were rather creative, the cast playing a wide variety of characters as well as performing their songs.

It probably wasn’t a coincidence that all of these songs also featured on their second album that was released around this time. Some of these were rather enjoyable, and got stuck right in my head, this looked and sounded like little else around. Also making appearances were the cast of similarly strange Channel 4 sitcom They Came From Somewhere Else, and Andy Cunningham of Bodger And Badger fame.

I’m not sure if this could be classed as a lost gem as such, but yes, Channel 4 should be commissioning more shows like this. There has been no DVD release though, or any deluxe boxsets of their albums. Pookiesnackenburger split shortly after this, and two of them went into the group The Yes/No People, who in November 1987 released their first and only single “Mr Johnson”, which reached no. 99. They also provided the theme to Channel 4 music show Wired.

They then went on to form Stomp, the group best-known for making music by banging dustbin lids together, tapping glass bottles, and the like, whilst dancing, and there have been several successful stage tours featuring their performances around the country and beyond. They also performed the theme to Blue Peter that was used for almost five years in the mid-90s. What a racket.

Game Show Memories – Quiz Bowl.

Quiz Bowl (Channel 4, 1991-1992)

This is another game show that I remember watching rather a long time ago now. There seems to be very little about this online, but I always like any excuse to review them. If anyone can fill in any of the gaps of the rules though, then they are welcome to comment. Around the late-80s/early-90s, the popularity of football in the UK was faltering.

People were trying to find alternatives, and get into other sports, until The Premier League came to the rescue. Among these was American Football, which was regularly shown on Channel 4 at this point, which was committed to coverage of less mainstream sports, and even they probably weren’t expecting the increase in interest. The decision was made to turn this into a game show format.

Quiz Bowl was shown on Friday evenings, and the host was Will Buckley, who wore a black-and-white striped shirt just like what the referees did. Two teams of three took part, all and they were all sports writers representing various national newspapers, so for example, a game could be News Of The World v Today, I wonder if there was a rivalry between them.

In the middle of the studio there was a big screen that featured an American Football grid, showing exactly where the ball was at that stage. Various questions would be asked, but this wasn’t how points were scored. The questions were of varying difficulty, and would be worth yards, including 10, 30, all the way up to 70, which is rather a lot.

The American Football scoring system was used, so if they did manage to score, it was a “TOUCHDOWN”, and this was be accompanied by suitable noises and applause. They didn’t do a little song and dance like in that episode of Family Guy though. But they did score six points. Various other rules were adapted, and this carried on until the full-time whistle was blown.

I’m fairly sure that Quiz Bowl was a knockout tournament, with various games being played, until the climax of the grand final to determine the overall series champions, which I’m sure would get the cheerleaders excited. There would only be one series of this, but this was a rather interesting twist, and we found out what the writers really knew about sport.

The YouTube Files – The Very Hot Gossip Show.

The Very Hot Gossip Show (Channel 4, 1982)

When Channel 4 launched in 1982, this was designed to offer an alternative, a new opportunity for things to be shown that were more bizarre and experimental, not the kind of things that would really get on ITV. This was a show from the first month of Channel 4 that did cause something of a stir. I found this on YouTube, and this is the story.

Hot Gossip were founded by choreographer Arlene Phillips (who recently appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!) in the mid-70s. They were a group of young women and men who wanted to offer an alternative to the dance troupes that were still on Top Of The Pops at the time, although the line-up changed constantly, and they went on to release several singles.

They first found fame in 1978 when they collaborated with Sarah Brightman for the Top Ten hit single “I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper”. They then regularly appeared on The Kenny Everett Video Show, performing their routines to the biggest hits around, and even Cuddly Ken thought that they were rather naughty! Well they were no Shock but they were still rather good.

In 1981, they released the album “Geisha Boys And Temple Girls”. And then, they went on to appear in a one-off special. The reason I was interested in seeing this was because after I had seen them on other shows, I noticed that there were a lot of women with big strange-coloured hairstyles. Did everyone in 1982 walk around looking like this? Well maybe not.

In The Very Hot Gossip Show, they did their thing on stage, but not in that way! They performed more routines, and sang various hits, including “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, and “The Model” by Kraftwerk, accompanied by some impressive for the time visual effects. This was all greeted by much applause, although there didn’t seem to be an audience actually present.

Well I have seen little else like it, no wonder the viewers’ pulses were reported to quicken. It was also said that this made the similar The Hot Shoe Show on BBC1 seem tame by comparison. Is this really what they were going to fill Channel 4’s time with? Let’s hope so. Hot Gossip continued to dance until 1986, by which point I imagine they were all rather tired and needed a lie down.

More TV Memories – Celebrity Deathmatch.

Celebrity Deathmatch (MTV, 1998-2002)

I never really thought that I would become that type of person, but when I had access to that channel, there was a short while when I used to watch MTV rather late at night, and by that point there would be all these music videos and strange shows coming and going and blending into each other, and I would think that this was rather “cool” as I imagine a viewer probably would’ve said at the time.

This show definitely filled this description, but let’s just forget about The Tom Green Show for now, shall we. Celebrity Deathmatch was a stop-motion animated series, that took various famous people, and placed them into the wrestling ring. They were singers, actors, anyone like that, and they could be known for having a feud, or just from the same area of entertainment.

This was an opportunity to imagine them settling their differences to determine who would come out on top. The matches could be one-on-one, two-on-two, maybe even three-on-three. The referee would get things going, and he would be rather lenient, as things became total chaos. Of course, as this was animated, the moves and injuries could be rather exaggerated.

So maybe someone could poke a rival’s eyes out in the literal sense, they could retaliate by casually ripping out their ribcage, and there would be (pretend) blood everywhere, it really was a fight to the death. And the crowd go mildly excited! Another element to the show were the hosts Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond, who would breathlessly commentate on the action.

There would usually be two matches per show, and there would also be plenty of analysis, occasionally this would be provided by WWE wrester “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and there would also be a look behind the scenes to interview what was left of the defeated rivals. Celebrity Deathmatch ran for four series, and episodes seemed to randomly turn up on MTV, but were always worth catching.

This increased in popularity, I remember that there was an advert done in the style of this show, and I think that there was also a repeat run in a late-night slot on Channel 4. And rather inevitably, about five years later, there was a revival, but this wasn’t as successful. As far as MTV’s animated series go, for craziness and creativity, this is regarded to be up there with Beavis And Butt-Head and Daria.

More TV Memories – Pop-Up Video UK.

Pop-Up Video UK (Channel 4, 1999ish?)

Around the late-90s/early-2000s, there were two late-night strands on Channel 4 which featured various shows. One of these was 4Later, and the other one was 4Music, before that was turned into a full channel (which actually features very little music content, but let’s not have that debate right now). This strand featured concerts, interviews, and so on, from up-and-coming bands in various genres (original programming on Channel 4 beyond midnight, who could believe it).

This show also featured. In the mid-90s, music channel VH1 launched Pop-Up Video. And after a while, a British version was made, and shown as part of the 4Music strand. The idea of this show was sort-of like the fact boxes that used to appear on The Chart Show, but taken to the extreme. In every edition of Pop-Up Video UK, about four or five music videos from the archive would be shown.

Sometimes these could be themed specials, such as the acts featured all coming from the same country, or all having a hit in the same decade, or just totally at random. This would begin with the basics like the name of the song, and the director of the video. And during the video, facts would suddenly appear on the screen in a box (which suitably made a “pop”-type noise).

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This could be some information about the song, how the video was put together, what the group are up to nowadays, just anything that could be interesting. This would be accompanied by a symbol showing what category the fact was in (they were all facts, weren’t they?), and concluded with one more box after the video ended. A lot of research clearly went into making this.

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And of course, as I am a fan of useless pop trivia, I was definitely interested in watching this one. Pop-Up Video did do well on VH1, and there were some spin-off series, along with a revival in more recent years. I never had access to this channel though, only ever seeing the British remake. I also remember that as part of the DVD box set of the third series of The Simpsons there is a rather good extra.

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For the “Colonel Homer” episode, facts appear on the screen in the Pop-Up Video style throughout. I thought that this was a rather good idea, but as far as I know, this was the only episode that received this treatment. I don’t think that the British version attracted too much interest, because it was shown in such a late-night slot, but I do feel that it was a worthwhile idea.

The YouTube Files – The Weekenders.

The Weekenders (Channel 4, 1992)

This is yet another comedy show that I didn’t see at the time that I have wanted to review, because I think that this has an interesting story. Vic Reeves Big Night Out had been a big success of Channel 4, but after two series and several tours, Vic and Bob wanted to try something a little different. People had said that “comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll” around this time, and they were considered to be a part of this movement.

But what exactly would they do next? They decided to have a go at the sitcom format. Their surreal style is probably the ultimate in “you either get it or you don’t”, but I definitely have found their work amusing over the years. The Weekenders was a one-off sitcom made on location that they wrote and starred in, that was shown as part of Bunch Of Five, a series of comedy pilot episodes.

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The plot is rather difficult to make sense of, even by their own standards, although there is a meat festival included, along with plenty of aliens, and general silliness inbetween. In Wythenshawe! There were also some guest appearances from Paul Whitehouse, Simon “bid again, Simon” Day, and John Thomson, who would all go on to contribute to The Fast Show. They all looked so young…

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And there was also an appearance by The Human League’s Phil Oakey. They didn’t say their catchphrase “it’s slightly rippled with a flat underside” though. One thing that I do remember from the time about The Weekenders is that this was shown on my sister’s 18th birthday, and she was arguably an even bigger Vic and Bob fan than I am, so this was just the ideal present for her.

About two decades later, this was repeated as part of the Funny Fortnight season (not to be confused with the old comic Funny Fortnightly), when a lot of comedy shows from the Channel 4 archive were surprisingly shown in a late-night slot. A new introduction was made for this, with some reminisces about making this show from Vic and Bob.

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And there was also a previously unaired comedy pilot that they made in the 90s shown was part of this season too, which this was just as odd was we’d come to expect. Despite being well received, The Weekenders got no further than the pilot episode, partly because Vic and Bob had decided to move to BBC2 not long after, and they wouldn’t return to sitcoms until Catterick many years later.

More TV Memories – Batman.

Batman (ABC, 1966-1968)

Now this is a TV show that is rather well-known, although I didn’t see this myself until there was a repeat run in the early-90s. The character of Batman had been around long before this show of course, originally becoming popular in comics. By the time that this came to the screen, there were a few questions. Was this a sitcom? Was this being played for laughs? Did people realise how strange all of this was?

In Gotham City, some know him as mild-mannered Bruce Wayne… but some, although they don’t realise it, know him as superhero Batman! The main character is played by Adam West, who was a good choice, because “nobody messes with Adam We!”. But he couldn’t have done any of it without this trusted sidekick, Robin The Boy Wonder.

They would always have to get into the Batmobile and come to the rescue against various villains. The most famous of these included The Joker, The Penguin, and The Riddler. And there were also the memorable fight scenes, mixed in with lots of sensational stunts, and crazy moments. Holy mackerel! That’s why the became known as The Dynamic Duo. There were 120 episodes packed into three series.

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What I do find interesting about Batman now though was how many different channels this has been repeated on over the years, and seemingly always aimed at different audiences. I remember watching this as part of Sharp’s Funday (that I reviewed a while ago) on Sunday afternoons on LWT, and I did find this enjoyable, and I think that there were also repeats on Saturdays around this time too.

By the mid-90s, the repeats had moved to Channel 4, but again they were aimed at younger viewers. And then in the 2000s, there was a repeat run on BBC4 in an evening slot. This really didn’t seem like the right channel for such a show, as this was supposed to feature educational programming. Maybe it was supposed to be an exploration of the campness and quirkiness of this era… or maybe they just bought them in cheap.

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And in the 2010s, this moved once again to ITV4, will these repeats never end? After the TV version, there would go on to be several high-profile and successful films, although these had a harder edge, along with other spin-offs. I also remember an animated version being shown as part of the early editions of CITV’s What’s Up Doc. And Adam West later went on to become the mayor of Quahog in Family Guy.

More TV Memories – The 100 Greatest Number One Singles.

The 100 Greatest Number One Singles (Channel 4, 2001)

I thought that I would have a look back at another of those list shows from when they were briefly everywhere. And having already looked back at TV shows and adverts, it was now time to do a definitive list about pop music. At the time of The 100 Greatest Number One Singles, the UK chart had been going for almost 50 years, and there had been about 900 chart-toppers.

That means that there was plenty to choose from. Viewers could vote via the Channel 4 website, The Guardian, and The Observer. The host was Graham Norton, and over four hours, there was the now familiar formula of interviews with the people who made the songs, along with the stories behind them, and also lots of useless trivia (there’s no such thing as useless trivia!)

Of course, this would not be an exact science, and this would probably start more arguments about what songs are valuable than finish them. And looking back at the Top Ten now, it is really good to see that “Groovejet” by Spiller is there, as that really is one of my all-time favourite chart-toppers, but would this place so highly now? And what about other songs by the likes of Oasis and The Verve?

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It turned out that the winner was “Imagine” by John Lennon, although this doesn’t seem to have been as popular in more recent years, with lots of people thinking that they are being outspoken by saying “this song isn’t actually very good you know!”. I doubt that this would win now. In second place was “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which almost always manages to feature very high up on these lists.

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And unlike “Imagine”, this seems to have maintained (if not actually increased) its stature in the years since by comparison. Over two decades have passed since this list was compiled, and there have been many more chart-toppers since then. I wonder how many of them would feature in a new Top 100 list, I’m sure that “Alex F” by Crazy Frog would do really well and confirm it’s the classic that we’ve always known it was.

Game Show Memories – The Answer Trap.

The Answer Trap (Channel 4, 2021)

This is yet another daytime game show that came and went recently and almost certainly won’t be returning, but deserves more acclaim. Some people thought that the format of The Answer Trap fell somewhere between Wipeout and Only Connect, and this was done rather well. The host was Anita Rani, and three teams of two take part.

In the first round, there are nine answers and two categories. The teams have to put the right answers into the right categories. Doing this earns them £50, but putting an answer into the wrong category will earn nothing. But beware, because if an answer is picked that is wrong and doesn’t go into either category… they have fallen into the trap!

Two game show experts Bobby Seagull and Frank Paul (best-known for their appearances on University Challenge and Only Connect) have placed some wrong answers into the grid. If they are found, lots of alarms go off, and which one set the trap is revealed. They then explain why it is a wrong answer. Finding two traps ends the round for the team.

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In the second round, there are now 12 answers and two categories, and only one of the team plays. Correct answers are now worth £100, and again two traps ends their round. In the third round, there are now 16 answers and three categories, with correct answers being worth £200. Whoever has the most money after this goes into the final.

In this, there is a choice of categories. The question has 16 answers, with ten correct, and six traps. If they find eight correct answers, they win the money that they have made. If they find nine, they double that money. And if they find all ten, they win the star prize of £10,000. But again, they must beware, because finding two traps loses them their money, but they do have the option of being able to stop.

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The things that made The Answer Trap succeed included the rivalry between the Trappers (not a phrase that will catch on like Chasers or Eggheads though), hoping that the teams will fall into their traps, along with all the trivia that is discussed. But just like with Moneybags, this didn’t do that well in the ratings, and Channel 4 could end up with another good format not fulfilling its potential.

Game Show Memories – Moneybags.

Moneybags (Channel 4, 2021)

This is a daytime game show that only ended on TV very recently, but as it seems that this might end up being a one-series wonder, I might as well review this because it’s one of the games that have launched in the past year or two that I have enjoyed the most (another one is The Answer Trap, and I plan to review that one soon too).

Moneybags is an hour-long show hosted by Craig Charles, who has appeared in lots of other shows including Coronation Street and Red Dwarf. There are ten contestants who are there all week, and six will be chosen to play in every edition. This does create a problem that some recent game shows seem to have of contestants who have gone through to the next stage or are still having to wait their turn standing around in the background.

Two contestants are picked to play and come on down! There is a category on the screen, and then an answer on a bag goes along a conveyor belt (is this the only other game show apart from The Generation Game to feature one?). If they think that the answer is correct, they must grab the bag. If they don’t, the second contestant has a chance to play.

Correct answers contain cash amounts, from several worth £1,000, all the way to one being worth £100,000. This means that this must be the first Channel 4 daytime game show to offer a six-figure sum as a prize since the heady days of Deal Or No Deal. If neither contestant plays the bag though, it drops out of the game, and Craig (cue drumroll) reveals the answer.

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As well as the money, other things can happen, including stealing your opponent’s highest-valued bag, or having to give yours away, or being bankrupt. If they do play a wrong answer, they are frozen out of the next question, in the Bob’s Full House style. There are about four or five questions in every category, and two categories for every game. The highest scorer goes into the next round, and then this is done twice more.

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The second round is the same, only there are now three contestants, and all of the money in the game can change positions rather quickly. The highest-scorer then plays the final game. There doesn’t seem to be a studio audience, so all that the finalist gets are a few echoey shouts of encouragement from the others who are now on their side.

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In this, there are four questions, played for increasing amounts of what they banked. The first is worth 10% of their money, all the way up to 100% for their fourth. This time, there are two bags and they have to pick the right one, if they don’t, they are bankrupted. They don’t have to play it if they are unsure though. This has been an anti-climax sometimes because few contestants get past the second question, there is a lot at stake.

I did find Moneybags interesting, Craig is a good choice of host because he is enthusiastic, but stays on the right side of being irritating. However Channel 4 prefer to have property shows like I Want This House, I Want That House, and I Want The Other House or whatever they’re called in this slot as they get more viewers, so this might not be seen again, and like with The Answer Trap they’d be throwing away a good format.