CITV Memories – It’s A Mystery.

It’s A Mystery (CITV, 1996-2000)/Mystery (CITV, 2002)

This is definitely the best CITV show that shares a name with an 80s pop song. There were lots of question marks in the opening sequence, and also in the studio as well, but this wasn’t a game show. It’s A Mystery was all about the supernatural, the unexplained, investigating if there was any truth in famous myths, and how things that seemed to be highly unlikely could possibly have happened.

Was there a chance that these mysteries could be solved? Is there really an explanation for everything? I am not that hugely into conspiracy theories, but I do think that there is a chance that rather spooky things can sometimes happen. Have we really had encounters with aliens? Is there a ghost lurking in the house? Will we ever know who built the pyramids?

There would also be location reports, along with guests in the studio who tried to explain what the possible answers could be, and The Video File, where a viewer told their unusual story, and what evidence they had to prove that it had happened, all accompanied by some sub-The X Files-style music. We would then be told if the mystery had been “solved” or “unsolved”.

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Although I think I only watched some of the early editions, one of the things that attracted me to It’s A Mystery was Neil Buchanan, and this was one of the many shows that he hosted throughout his entertaining 25-year career with CITV. It was always good to see him, and various other hosts throughout the series included Sophie “Ace” Aldred, Gail Porter, and some guy who used to be in Home And Away (when that was very popular on ITV).

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I suppose that this show often asked the question “why” instead of “how” (partly because a different show on CITV at the time did that). There were five series of It’s A Mystery, but it seems that there were some changes, with the title for the final series being abbreviated to just Mystery, and another new hosting line-up following the departure of Neil, but at least he still had Art Attack to get on with.

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…

CITV Memories – Supergran.

Supergran (ITV, 1985-1987)

This is another show that was popular in the 80s. Who would’ve thought that some old woman could turn into someone so powerful that they could rival Superman? Well that’s what happened in this one. Supergran was based on a series of books, the first one was published in 1978, and the TV version launched in 1985. The show also had a memorable opening animated sequence, and the theme music became a hit single.

One day, a granny is walking along in the quiet town of Chisleton, and is accidentally hit by a magic ray from a machine being used by Inventor Black. And now, despite being about 107 years old, Supergran can jump high and run quickly, and becomes an unlikely hero! Now that’s impressive. The main villain in the show is The Scunner Campbell along with his useless team, whose plans never succeed. vlcsnap-00547

Every episode also featured a rather deep voice that introduced the story, the kind that you’re more likely to hear on those “critics are saying that if you don’t think that this is the greatest film ever made then you’re a total moron”-style trailers. Also featuring were a few children, including Supergran’s grandson, and there were some vehicles too that could fly, accompanied by some fancy special effects. vlcsnap-00589

These heroics definitely caused a big stir, leading to lots of fame for our tartan-wearing star, including appearances on the covers of Lookin, and more impressively, the Chisleton Bugle. The show was also enhanced by a huge amount of guest appearances from famous faces, including comedians such as Spike Milligan, along with many pop stars and sportspeople joining in. vlcsnap-00590

There were 27 episodes of Supergran in two series, including an hour-long Christmas special in 1986. The show was originally in a Sunday afternoon slot, although it seems that there were some episodes later repeated on CITV. There was also an episode shown as part of the Old Skool Weekend, and Supergran took control of the CITV spaceship in May 1985. vlcsnap-00657

There were some plans for a third series, but Tyne Tees only had enough money to make this or some more editions of Chain Letters, and well, people just can’t get enough of their daytime word games, so it was bad luck. There was also an annual featuring Supergran released, along with more books, and some computer games that weren’t very well received. All of the episodes have been released on DVD by Network.

CITV Memories – Toksvig.

Toksvig (CITV, 1988)

This is yet another CITV show from the late-80s that I don’t remember much about from the time, but after seeing some online recently, it’s another one that I feel deserves to be featured here. Sandi Toksvig had appeared on CITV since the early-80s, being best-known as Ethel on Saturday Morning show No. 73, and would often host the excitement of The Sandwich Quiz.

By the late-80s, the diminutive Dane was given a show of her own on CITV, and it is rather rather difficult to describe. TV Times had a go by saying it was “the magazine programme for young people”, and it featured several things, including a fancy opening sequence, comedy sketches, educational features, debates, and poetry, it really was all rather bizarre. vlcsnap-00578

So for example, Sandi would take part in a rather silly sketch (usually assisted by the useless Marion), and then not long after she’d be discussing conspiracy theories about unexplained things like flying saucers and spontaneous combustion, so get ready to learn something. Viewers were also able to write in to test the big team of researchers with their tough questions. And teenagers would also talk about various things too. vlcsnap-00579

And there was also some poetry written and performed by Joolz from what seemed to be an abandoned warehouse. Being another mysterious strange-haired woman from the 80s, I just had to find out more about her. It seems that Joolz was not someone you would expect to appear on CITV, being an angry woman from Bratford who performed some of her work to music and released lots of singles and albums, even earning some coverage in magazines including NME and Smash Hits, and she is not to be trifled with. vlcsnap-00685

There were nine editions of Toksvig in only one series, produced by TVS and shown on Wednesdays, goodness knows what viewers at the time made of it, but I would definitely like to see more, it’s just about like no other CITV show that I’ve seen from around this time. There was even a guest appearance from Urban Strawberry Lunch, can you believe it! I mean, no! vlcsnap-00682

Not long after this Toksvig managed to break out of CITV and get on to the alternative comedy circuit in the late-80s, including contributing to Whose Line Is It Anyway, and starring in Channel 4 sitcom The Big One. In more recent years, Toksvig has gone on host various game shows at the more cerebral end of the scale including the revival of Fifteen-To-One and QI. vlcsnap-00692

Oh, and there was a talking donkey as well.

CITV Memories – Stop That Laughing At The Back.

Stop That Laughing At The Back (CITV, 1987)

This is another CITV show that I don’t remember much about from the time, but I want to feature this because I have always enjoyed comedy shows, and I am interested in finding out more about them from this era. Stop That Laughing At The Back was a sketch show, but unlike Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, which was shown on CITV around the same time, this one featured an adult cast, and it was a rather good one too. As there isn’t a huge amount to say about the show, I’ll write about the cast instead.

Firstly there was Michael Fenton-Stevens. Now he is probably best-known for his contributions to Radio Active and KYTV, but he has also appeared in a huge amount of comedy shows in minor roles, and is a good example of a “I know the face but I don’t know the name”-type of actor. His continuing commitment to appearing in one episode of a sitcom and being about ninth on the cast list over the past four decades really is awe-inspiring. vlcsnap-00548

And there was also Paul Bradley. He appeared in a few comedy shows in the 80s, and after this one ended, in 1989 he got a CITV sitcom of his own called Bradley that ran for one series. Again I don’t remember watching it, but I would like to see it. And then in the 90s of course he went on to further fame as Nigel Bates in EastEnders, where he was always enjoyable. vlcsnap-00549

Also featuring were Nimmy March, who went on to appear in a few other sitcoms and children’s shows, and Jo Unwin, whose career I have already looked back at in my review of BBC1 sitcom The Last Salute. And we mustn’t forget Hue And Cry. Now Ian Hue and Ian Cry were a young comedy double-act who had recently appeared on Opportunity Knocks… no, not really. vlcsnap-00571

They were of course the pop duo Pat and Greg Kane, who had recently had their breakthrough hit with “Labour Of Love” and provided the music, they are everybody’s second-favourite 80s Scottish pop brothers after The Proclaimers I’m sure. The show did feature a few regular characters and sketches, including Aw, I’m Not Doing That, where children were shown how to get out of parent-given chores, along with some bizarre animation segments. And I don’t know if I should even dare speculate about what’s going on here! vlcsnap-00563

There were just five editions of Stop That Laughing At The Back, but it did receive the honour of a Lookin cover (and it is an honour, definitely), so it must’ve had something going for it. I’m sure that it was a show that was guaranteed to make viewers giggle all day, and I have enjoyed what I have seen of it, hopefully some more will turn up online soon. stlatb

CITV Memories – Fraggle Rock.

Fraggle Rock (CITV, 1984-1990)

After pleasing many viewers with Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Jim Henson and his production team came up with another show that was enjoyed by people of all ages, and again it featured some creative puppetry. Fraggle Rock always began with a memorable opening song that everyone could clap along to (indeed, it was even a hit single, being released in February 1984 and reaching No. 33).

The aim of the show was to be sold around the world, so various segments were recorded for various countries along with the main story. For the UK version, the segments were produced by TVS and featured a lighthouse, that the Fraggles lived under. The keeper, who was accompanied by his puppet dog Sprocket, never noticed them of course. vlcsnap-01092

In the early series this was the captain (Fulton Mackay), who was then replaced by his nephew PK (John Gordon-Sinclair), and finally his son BJ (SimonĀ O’Brien). For the American version, Doc appeared in all the series alongside Sprocket. There was definitely a lot of anticipation for the show, and it even received a TV Times cover in 1984. vlcsnap-01097

The Fraggles were small furry creatures who were various colours. There were lots of them, but the main ones included Wembley, Mokey, and Red, and they also had an unusual fondness for radishes. Another regular was Uncle Travelling Matt, who featured from somewhere in the world where he tried to understand how those silly humans functioned, and he would often send the Fraggles a postcard. vlcsnap-01094

The other main characters were the Doozers, who were very small and wore hard hats because they constantly liked to build structures. And there were also the Gorgs, huge creatures who considered themselves to be royalty and much better than the Fraggles. There would also be a few songs in every episode along with some nice sound effects, and plenty of lessons were learned.vlcsnap-01095

It’s no surprise that Fraggle Rock did well, as along with the hit single, there were also comics and books. There were 96 episodes, the run on American TV was 1983-1987, and in this country it was shown on both CITV and LWT in the afternoon. Uncle Travelling Matt also hosted CITV in March 1985, and he was almost as good as Glenn Kinsey. vlcsnap-01093

After the original run ended, there was also a short-lived spin-off animated series in 1987, but I prefer the original myself, and the Doozers got their own show too. There were some episodes released on VHS a while ago, but because of the ongoing TVS archive shambles, the British version is rarely seen on TV now, and is unlikely to be released on DVD.

CITV Memories – Samson Superslug.

Samson Superslug (CITV, 1995-1996)

This is another comedy-drama series I remember watching that had a rather unusual twist. Once again, there isn’t a huge amount about this one online (no Wikipedia entry and all that), but it’s definitely worth featuring here. Samson Superslug started out as a series of books written by Ken Adams in the early-90s, before transferring to CITV in a series written by Jeff Povey in the mid-90s.

Samson Superslug (probably not his real name) is an 11-year-old boy who is fond of slugs, and I mean really fond, stopping just short of wanting to actually be one himself. The slugs seem to be everywhere, and the show is set in Milton Keynes, which is claimed to be “the slug capital of the world”. As the slugs get into some unusual places, they constantly give his friends a fright, along with his parents and neighbours. vlcsnap-01072

Of course, as with most children in these type of shows, Samson has a rather wild imagination, and he is often on the lookout for slugs from his special treehouse. His parents can do some odd things sometimes too, his dad drives around in a sandwich-shaped car, and his mum (Janine Duvitski, who also appeared in One Foot In The Grave among many other things) often wonders what Samson’s up to. vlcsnap-01075

The main thing about Samson Superslug though that made it stand out was that most of the slugs were animated, and they would often feature in short unusual intervals. It also meant that if people ever interacted with them, there would be a rather weird live-action/animation mix that was rather effective, and the highlight of the show for me. I suppose that it could be described as a gimmick, but it worked, and it wasn’t overused. vlcsnap-01081

I also noticed in an episode that Zzzap! was on the TV in the background, so the cast clearly have great taste in CITV shows (and it’s probably not a coincidence that both shows were co-produced by Meridian). But these green slimy things though, going everywhere they shouldn’t, I suppose that the action in this show could definitely be described as sluggish! vlcsnap-01074

There were (I think) 13 episodes of Samson Superslug in two series, and it deserves more credit for being another unusual show on CITV. It’s barely been seen since the original run, I don’t think that there was ever a VHS or DVD release, and it seems that there have been no more books in recent years. It’s another one that deserves more acclaim.

CITV Memories – She-Ra.

She-Ra: Princess Of Power (1985-1987)

Following on from He-Man that I reviewed recently, this is a spin-off cartoon from that show that was another success with viewers on CITV in the 80s. She-Ra had practically the same idea as He-Man, but presented from a female perspective, being aimed more at girls, although I think that I watched and enjoyed both to some extent.

This show starred Princess Adora, who it turns out is the twin sister of Prince Adam. They appeared together in a special called The Secret Of The Sword, and this was then recycled as the first five episodes of the show. Once again there was plenty of action and swords everywhere. Princess Adora lives on the planet Etheria, which I imagine is rather far away too. vlcsnap-01067

She-Ra is the defender of the Crystal Castle, and is also a member of The Great Rebellion, along with several other princesses. Also among Adora’s friends are Bow, Light Hope, and Madame Razz. When there is trouble around, which is fairly often of course, Adora simply gets The Sword of Protection out and says “for the honour of Grayskull”, and then transforms into a strong superhero, without even having to eat large quantities of spinach. It’s the same routine every time, but it’s worth it. Adora also owns a horse called Swift Wind that can transform too and fly. vlcsnap-01069

The main villain in the show is Kordak, although whether anybody considers them to be on the same level as Skeletor is debatable. They along with other villains including Shadow Weaver and various exploding robots are always aiming to cause trouble, but She-Ra and her sword (which also has the ability to change shape) always sorts them out. Among the princesses that we meet is Mermista, and I couldn’t help but notice her rather distinctive look. Well it’s another blue-haired woman from the 80s, how terrific.


You’ll never believe what Danielle… er, no, wrong one.

The show always ended with a moral, so I hope you’ve been watching closely. There were 93 episodes of She-Ra in two series, including the first series being 65 episodes long, but it’s not as many as they made of He-Man. She-Ra also united with He-Man for a Christmas special in 1985. And like many other people I’m sure, I have sometimes speculated if She-Ra is as awesome as Jem or not. vlcsnap-01064

Of course there were even more dolls and comics, they definitely milked this franchise for the merchandise. I don’t remember having any though, it would’ve been good to have had at least some of the comics. And to bring the story right up to date, within the past year or two there has been a revival of She-Ra which is currently being shown on the CBBC Channel.

CITV Memories – Press Gang.

Press Gang (CITV, 1989-1993)

As you should know by now, drama isn’t my favourite TV genre, but I felt that I had to review this one because it was definitely one of the most successful CITV shows of its era. All of the episodes were written by Steven Moffat, who went on to work on some more acclaimed shows, while most of the main cast had further success too.

Press Gang was based around a school newspaper called Junior Gazette (“a voice for today’s youth“, priced at a very reasonable 20p), that was put together by a group of teenagers who soon became friends. Lynda (a pre-Second Thoughts and Absolutely Fabulous Julia Sawalha) was the editor, and also on the team was American Spike (Dexter Fletcher, but I, like most people it seems, didn’t realise that he was actually English until he hosted Gamesmaster). And they’re doing this weekly? vlcsnap-01045

As the episodes progress we see how the team work together, in their aim to become award-winning journalists despite only being about 16, trying to bend the rules their way, and always being on the search for the next scoop. Well unsurprisingly Junior Gazette soon flew off the shelves like hot shoes. There were also some guest appearances including Ade Edmondson, Patrick “Baps” Barlow, and Suggs from the Nutty Boys of Madness. vlcsnap-01063

Early episodes concentrated on things like what the banner headline should be, or whether they had enough pencils and the like, before the situation began to change to concentrate more on the love lives of the characters, and some difficult subjects were tackled. Although for me the biggest scandal in the show was when the price of Junior Gazette went up to 30p in series three, how could they. vlcsnap-01042

In the early series, the characters also spoke over the credits reflecting on what happened in a similar style to sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey, but Press Gang did it first. The high standard of the show was maintained all the way through the run, with plenty of impressive moments. Although the show was aimed at teenagers, it was sharp enough to be enjoyed by an older audience, and this was proved when there was a repeat run in the evening on Channel 4 in the early-90s, and it was also shown during CITV’s Old Skool Weekend. vlcsnap-01062

There were 43 episodes of Press Gang in five series, with much anticipation for every new series, and Tommy Boyd said that it was the best show on CITV when he was a presenter, there really is no better endorsement than that. The show has also been served well by DVD, with all the episodes released in a seven-disc boxset by Network, that also contains plenty of extras including a look behind the scenes and PDFs of various things including Junior Gazette front pages.

CITV Memories – T-Bag.

T-Bag (CITV, 1985-1992)

Following on from Mr Majeika, this is another CITV show that could be classed as a fantasy comedy-drama. T-Bag is a show that was written by Grant Cathro and Lee Pressman, who around the same time were also behind such goodies as Mike And Angelo and Spatz. This is another creative and enjoyable show that did very well with viewers.

The show starred T-Bag, who is an old witch. Her assistant is T-Shirt, a boy who liked to wear a green cap who had to make endless cups of tea made from a special plant whether he liked it or not. All of the series were ten episodes long, and featured a different story, the basic idea being a quest for a female companion to find various things. The first series had an educational element, so for this one the search was for various letters. vlcsnap-01041

After this, the show settled into the companion travelling to places around the world and beyond trying to find various objects, hopefully one day all of the gold coins will be found. And along the way they would meet various characters, usually guest appearances from veteran actors including Frank Thornton (but with no beard) and Roy Barraclough. Every series had a different title such as T-Bag Strikes Again or Turn On To T-Bag. vlcsnap-01039

After having too much tea, T-Bag would be able to gain magical powers, and can see what is happening by looking into her saucer, and she often decides to magically appear and interfere with everything, but her plans are always thwarted. The final series had a slightly different format, as it was presented as a more general adventure, and introduced the new characters Granny Bag and Doggy Bag. T-Bag didn’t return after this, although it could be because production company Thames left ITV a few months later. vlcsnap-01037

T-Bag was originally played by Elizabeth Estensen (who also appeared in Danger – Marmalade At Work among other things). In 1990, Estensen left and was replaced by Georgina Hale, although this wasn’t a regeneration as such because the second T-Bag was the sister of the first, and she managed to be even more grumpy and short-tempered to everyone. This Tabatha definitely wasn’t shy or affectionate! vlcsnap-01040

T-Bag once appeared in the CITV studio to promote the show and terrified Scally the dog. There were 94 episodes of T-Bag in nine series, featuring nine stories and some Christmas specials. An episode was shown as part of CITV’s Old Skool Weekend, and there have also been books released, along with plenty of fansites dedicated to the show. The first three series have been released on DVD, and there was much anticipation of more releases, but there currently seems to be no plans for them.