More TV Memories – Watson And Oliver.

Watson And Oliver (BBC2, 2012-2013)

As I am always on the lookout for new comedy shows, so I thought that I would give this one a try. This was a comedy sketch show that featured a female double-act, who I must admit I didn’t know much about at the time, but Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver (presumably no relation to J Edward) had already worked together for several years, including performing on stage together, and appearing in various comedy shows, when seemingly someone thought that they were worthy of a show of their own.

In the publicity before the launch of the first series, rather predictably there was some debate wondering if they were going to be “the new French and Saunders”. I felt this was rather frustrating for two reasons, firstly because it’s a rather lazy comparison to make, and secondly because it stops them from having a chance to develop their own style.

Watson And Oliver was a show where the sketches featured a small amount of recurring characters and there wasn’t an overreliance on catchphrases, but there were a few parodies of various things, such as TV shows, and there were also a few additional cast members to help them out, along with some guest appearances, adding to the general air of silliness. They were also among the writers.

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To give an example, one sketch that I particularly remember was when they played two women who worked in an office, but their fingernails were too long for them to be able to do anything properly. Looking back now, I noticed that one of them had bright yellow nails, just like that strange singer woman from 1986… no, I mustn’t start going on about her again…

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The response to the first series from critics was not that much of a surprise really, with some saying that although they clearly had some comedy talent, the quality of some of the sketches wasn’t that great really. Also, Watson And Oliver was first shown at 10pm, but then repeated not long after in an earlier timeslot, making it seem like BBC2 weren’t really sure of what type of audience they wanted to aim this at. The ratings dropped off too.

Despite all of this, there was a second and final series, which did feature more of the same. I don’t really recall seeing them on TV much after this though, and I don’t think that there ever was a DVD release, maybe they weren’t going to be the next big thing then. As far as female comedy talent goes, although they might remain behind French and Saunders, I would put them ahead of Catherine Tate, whose show contained some of the most irritating comedy characters that I have ever seen.

Radio Memories – The Boosh.

The Boosh (BBC London Live, 2001)

Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are a comedy double-act who have done some rather unusual things both together and individually since the mid-90s. I had barely heard of them before the first series of The Mighty Boosh launched in 2004, but I did really enjoy this, and I had never really seen anything else like it on TV before, so I was pleased to discover that they had also done a radio series.

This was before the TV version, and once again, this is a series that has gone on to be repeated several times on BBC7 and BBC Radio 4 Extra. The Boosh (seemingly they had not become “Mighty” by this point) brought us the rather bizarre adventures of various creative characters, which was all mixed in with music and just plain weird moments, as they continued to establish their really rather surreal style.

The idea was rather similar to the first TV series, as Vince and Howard struggled to work in a zoo that didn’t seem to have too many animals, not that the particularly liked them anyway. Indeed most of the episodes were reworked for the first series of the TV version, and their attempts to bring some of these ideas to life and match the imagination was rather bold.

A lot of listeners must’ve found all of this rather baffling, but it seems that everyone making this was having a laugh. Also featuring in the cast were Rich Fulcher and Richard Ayoade, who went on to appear in the TV version, and Lee Mack was among those helping out too. The show also won an award for innovative comedy writing, and not funkiest hairstyle as I would’ve originally guessed.

There were six episodes of The Boosh in one series, and I did enjoy this as much as the TV version, it was like discovering a bonus series of their adventures that had been there all along. After the third and final TV series ended, Noel and Julian took The Mighty Boosh on tour. Some of these shows have been released on DVD, and I’ll review those soon too.

Radio Memories – The Sunday Format.

The Sunday Format (BBC Radio 4, 1996-2004)

This is another comedy series that I didn’t hear first-time round, but I did hear a repeat run as BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra came to the rescue once again, and I did think that this one was rather interesting. The idea of this show is based on something that I don’t know a huge amount about, but it was clear that this was a rather amusing parody.

In the 90s, broadsheet newspapers on Sunday seemed to expand in size by a large amount, and this was an attempt to retain their readers by offering them more and more sections on subjects that they supposedly wouldn’t find anywhere else, and hoping that they would keep going through everything until it was time for the next issue the following week.

Suddenly there were pull-outs on culture, travel, property, finance, and much more, maybe even some news if they were lucky. These sections needed to be filled every week of the year with articles, interviews, and lists, and this meant that as the weeks passed a lot of ground had to be covered. The Sunday Format styled itself as being “a newspaper on the radio”, and this condensed the highlights of everything that we needed to know, all into only half an hour. Remember, it’s a newspaper, not a snoozepaper.

We constantly jumped around all of the features, creating a bizarre sound, so people answering questionnaires, crossword clues, and art exhibitions being reviewed would all become intertwined, accompanied by additional “turn to page 39 for more”-type comments. This was all read by the soothing voices of comedy talent including Rebecca Front and Alexander Armstrong among others, and there was also some constant ambient music in the background.

The Sunday Format ran for a few series and won some awards. I did enjoy the wordplay, and the way that all of the features bizarrely mixed into each other, which was enhanced by everything being played totally straight. It’s probably no surprise to realise that this show was created by the same team behind radio comedy series People Like Us, which had a similarly creative idea.

Radio Memories – Fist Of Fun.

Fist Of Fun (BBC Radio 1, 1993)

This is a comedy sketch show that I didn’t hear first time round, but there have been several repeat runs on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra in more recent years, and this was another one that also eventually transferred to TV. Comedy double-act Stewart Lee and the human being that can be identified by the name of Richard Herring (or whatever elaborate way he used to introduce himself) were writers on BBC Radio 4’s On The Hour, before going into a trilogy of their own radio series.

Firstly, there was BBC Radio 4’s Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World, where they investigated the unexplained, and this ran for two series. And this was followed by Fist Of Fun, which is my favourite of the three. Lee and Herring presented this one from various universities around the country, they offered their observations of life and what was in the news, and sometimes this could be rather cynical.

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This was an alternative comedy show on BBC Radio 1 in 1993, when the station was in the early stages of its somewhat painful upheaval, meaning that there was something of a clash of eras and styles with most of the schedule, and they didn’t miss the opportunity to make plenty of jokes about the overdue departure of Simon Bates, and so on.

Also among the contributors were Rebecca Front and Peter Baynham (who unlike Lee and Herring worked on the On The Hour TV spin-off The Day Today). Peter was rather scruffy and unhygienic, and he would offer some money-saving recipes, that simply sounded rather horrible, never mind actually seeing some of them when he also featured in the TV version. I do remember the recipe for Easy Toast though, maybe that is one worth trying myself.

There was also a guest appearance in one edition from Dale Winton, who had recently become the host of daytime game show Supermarket Sweep, so naturally the audience of students were rather pleased to see him turn up, and it was at that moment that he realised that the show was going to be a big success and give his career a boost.

After this, their third radio series was BBC Radio 1’s Lee And Herring, and this ran for three series. They were very insistent that there would be no listeners called Ian though. Fist Of Fun then transferred to BBC2 and ran for two series. This then led to their second TV series This Morning With Richard Not Judy which also ran for two series, and they then went their separate ways (rather bitterly it seems) to concentrate on solo comedy projects.

Radio Memories – Radio Tip Top.

Radio Tip Top (BBC Radio 1, 1995-1996)

Recently I looked back at Tip Top TV, a rather unusual one-off music show on ITV in 1994. There wasn’t a full series of this, but Kid Tempo and The Ginger Prince were given a second chance when they transferred their format to radio. In the mid-90s, Radio 1 experimented with various comedy shows in a late-night slot, this being one of them. I don’t remember this from the time, but after seeing the TV show again, I thought that I’d give the radio version a go, and they picked up where they left off really.

They took over the airwaves for an hour every Wednesday evening, what would they fill the time with? Kid Tempo was insistent that Radio Tip Top (the station with the happy difference) was coming to listeners courtesy of Lynewyre Technology in Total Spectrasound (that still isn’t a real thing and he was still going on about it), and their aim as always was to put the fizz back into pop.

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Radio Tip Top was around the time that Britpop was at its height, but you were unlikely to hear much of that type of music here, because this was an attempt at something rather different, and this show had a rather retro feel, with lots of songs and jingles from the 60s. The Ginger Prince would be at The Starlight Rooms with all of the biggest pop acts, some of them were world-famous, and you could do The Slosh to their songs, which is ever so good for you, everyone was clearly having a good time.

And there was also a club that could be joined for free, thousands of people did this, because they had smartly realised that this was the hip thing to do. You would be sent a newsletter and membership number, and you could also request a song to be played, what great times. Shows ended with the Tip Top Top Ten, a highly accurate showcase of the hottest sounds around.

There were two series of Radio Tip Top, and the duo did attract something of a cult following with their style, making sure that they were almost certainly the final people to play a song by Ken Dodd on Radio 1, but after this came to an end, they were barely heard of again, and I’m not aware of any repeat runs. I presume that 25 years on they still don’t send out the newsletters.

More TV Memories – Days Like These.

Days Like These (ITV, 1999)

I thought that I would have yet another entry in my “were there any decent ITV 90s sitcoms?” series, and let’s see what the story behind this one is. In the 90s, ITV had some attempts at adapting American sitcoms for a British audience. The remakes of The Golden Girls (as Brighton Belles), and Married… With Children (as Married For Life) had already done fairly badly, but this didn’t stop them from trying again, and guess what happened.

The long-running sitcom That 70s Show launched in America in 1998 (and was briefly shown in this country on Channel 5 in the early-2000s), and in 1999, ITV decided to launch their own version. Now I am not as interested in 70s pop culture as I am in 80s pop culture (the spin-off sitcom That 80s Show that I reviewed a while back was a flop compared to the original though), but I thought that I would give this one a go. vlcsnap-01634

There seemed to be more hype around this one than most sitcoms, this was going to be a fresh and funny show, which should do well with viewers. Days Like These was set in Luton in 1976 (it’s odd to think that this was almost 25 years ago even then), and centred around the lives of some very groovy teenagers, including Eric, Donna, and Jackie, along with some of their parents (one was played by Ann Bryson, who was also in 90s ITV sitcom Sometime, Never). vlcsnap-00447

Most of the episodes were reworked from the American version, and were adapted by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (who would go on to work on Peep Show and various other comedies). There didn’t seem to be too many memorable moments though, and more effort seemed to be put in to trying to fit in as many 70s clich├ęs as possible, such as characters wearing big brown flares, and space hoppers bouncing around between scenes. I wasn’t around at the time, was it really like this for the whole decade? They should’ve concentrated on the jokes. vlcsnap-00460

ITV were initially confident that Days Like These would do well, and the earliest episodes were shown in a Friday primetime slot. And then, after vanishing from the schedule for a short while, some episodes were shown in a much later slot, it’s believed that at least three episodes were never shown at all, and there has been no DVD release either. And another flop was added to the rather long list. days0001

More TV Memories – Jumpers For Goalposts.

Jumpers For Goalposts (Sky One, 2001)

The Fast Show was one of the most successful comedy sketch shows of its era, and so it deserved to be. Even though there wasn’t a huge amount of editions (three series and some specials), rather a lot more was squeezed out of the idea, with the popular characters also appearing in various adverts, on stage shows, in sitcom spin-offs, and so on. There was also a comedy panel game.

This was on Sky One, instead of the BBC, and I do remember this attracting my interest and seeing a little at the time. Jumpers For Goalposts (being one of The Fast Show‘s famous catchphrases) was all about sport, in a similar style to A Question Of Sport and They Think It’s All Over, that were also around at the time. This was presented by Simon “bid again, Simon” Day in character as Clive Gordon. vlcsnap-00461

Two teams of three took part, and the team captains were Mark Williams in character as Scottish hardman Tommy Stein “Stein-Housmuir”), and Paul Whitehouse in character as Ron Manager (“Ron’s Rangers”, although these team names changed every week), who had a big rivalry, and also often wore some nice knitwear. Ron had a rather old-fashioned view on football. Do you remember the days when there were puddles on the pitch? Isn’t it? Now like now, no, marvellous. vlcsnap-00455

Every week they would be joined by some panellists, including comedians, footballers, or anyone that they could get hold of cheap really, and this led to some rather unlikely combinations. So if you’d ever wanted to see Noel Gallagher and Paul Daniels, or Jim Bowen and Goldie, on the same team, then there was some good news for you. vlcsnap-00460

There were various rounds, but none of them were particularly original, such as can you guess who this sportsperson is from these clues, and the fingers on buzzers, and although there was a score kept and a winning team announced, as always with these type of shows, it was the contribution that they made (such as how much they laughed at everything) that mattered the most. vlcsnap-00462

There were 13 editions of Jumpers For Goalposts in only one series, but this all came and went with little attention, and it could be said that this stretched the idea of the characters a little too far, maybe the genre was already too crowded. In later years there would be more sport-themed comedy panel games including A League Of Their Own and Play To The Whistle. But this one remains a curiosity from two decades ago. Ooh, mantle with aplomb, marvellous. jumpers0001

More TV Memories – Get Fit With Brittas.

Get Fit With Brittas (BBC1, 1997)

The Brittas Empire was one of my favourite sitcoms of the 90s. There were seven series with lots of memorable moments, even though the final episode really did have the most awful cop-out ending. But this wasn’t the last that we would see of the leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas, as played by Chris Barrie. There was actually one more series after this, although it is little-remembered by comparison now.

Get Fit With Brittas was a six-part series shown on Friday nights where every edition was just ten minutes long. This was a part-comedy part-education series where Mr Brittas offered advice on various types of fitness. A few of the other cast members also appeared, including the hapless Colin, along with various celebrities who spoke about what they like to do to keep themselves fit. vlcsnap-00418

So for example, Lesley Joseph of Birds Of A Feather fame was rather keen on aerobics, and encouraged Brittas to join in as well, so he got his leotard on. Also taking part in the series were various sportspeople who told us why running, jumping and so on, was rather a good idea too. And there were also features from various people on how they changed their lifestyle which helped them to get fitter. vlcsnap-00420

The basic idea of the show was to encourage viewers to have a go at trying something themselves, whatever level of skill and fitness they were at. And well, why not try going to a leisure centre. Preferably not the one run by Brittas though, where it was chaos. There were so many people running around at some points, that I got exhausted just watching this. It was proof that it was good to have a hobby. vlcsnap-00421

There was also a tie-in book released which offered more advice on information on how to get moving. Unlike the regular series, Get Fit With Brittas wasn’t ever released on VHS or DVD. There have been a lot of rumours, especially in the past few years, that The Brittas Empire will return to the screen one day. I don’t know if that will ever happen, but until then, this is the closest that we’ll get to an eighth series.

The YouTube Files – Planet Mirth.

Planet Mirth (ITV, 1997)

This is a comedy show that I don’t remember from the time, but I was interested in seeing this one because of its premise and its cast. Planet Mirth was a late-night comedy sketch show that was described by Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy (they never did do another volume of that, did they?) as “a waste of space”. Is that harsh? Well this can’t be any worse than Dare To Believe can it.

Enough clips of this show have now turned up on YouTube for me to be able to do a review (credit goes to “tdrury”). As well as being a sketch show, Planet Mirth was science-fiction themed (and was a co-production between Carlton and The Sci-Fi Channel), with a quartet of performers, and among the cast was Milton Jones, whose work on the TV and radio I have enjoyed over the years, and this was rather early on in his career. pm3

There were a few sketches that featured regularly. These included Every Single Morning, a parody of a daytime TV show that was supposedly watched by viewers on various planets, along with four people having adventures on a space caravan holiday. There were also aliens taking part in a game of Earth Invaders, and Susan Snape, who is originally from Venus, and is still trying to adjust to how things work on Earth. vlcsnap-00018

This show was done on location, and there was no laughter track. The problem with the show wasn’t because of the cast really, but it was clear that Planet Mirth was made on a small budget, and because of its timeslot would attract few viewers. There were also plenty of writers who contributed, but somehow all of these people couldn’t create anything that amounted to much. vlcsnap-00015

But surprisingly, there was only one series, and this ran to a huge 19 editions, meaning that many of the sketches were stretched too far. If this had been only six parts, maybe everything could’ve been better. At least they bothered, as there is very little original programming on TV late at night now, and it’s always good seeing Milton do his thing, however good or bad the show is. There has been no DVD release, and there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry.

The Comedy Vault – The Simpsons Movie.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

The Simpsons became one of the most successful TV shows of the 90s very quickly. After about a decade, some fans began to feel that the show was beginning to be past its best somewhat, with several comments that the first nine series or thereabouts was the peak, and the quality was now beginning to fall. For several years though there were rumours that there would be a film version.

In 2007 (it’s a surprise to realise how long ago this is now), although this definitely isn’t considered to be a golden era of the show, the film was finally announced as being confirmed, and there was still much anticipation about what direction this would go in. This was an opportunity to go really all out, do something ambitious and big-budget, and squeeze in as many of the best jokes that they still had. vlcsnap-00002

The film starts off fairly normal, with the Simpsons enjoying their regular family life, that mostly consists of Homer having some doughnuts, and also doing something silly and receiving multiple head injuries. But then things start to take a turn. Grampa fears something is coming. A large dome is placed over Springfield, meaning that nobody can get in or out, this lasts for a very long time, and eventually the residents have had enough. vlcsnap-00003

Of course, there are opportunities for the wide range of other characters to appear, including neighbour Ned Flanders, and many more, and just about rises above the “turn up, do your catchphrase, and go away” direction that they could’ve easily gone down. And guest stars Green Day sink into the sea. Homer also makes good friends with a pig who “does whatever a spiderpig does”. And somehow, despite everything, he does come to the rescue. vlcsnap-00004

And there’s a scene with an angry mob. I noticed Disco Stu among them, I always thought that he was supposed to be a one-off character, but he always turns up in the background in crowd scenes, because the show has developed an “everybody knows everyone” style. Maybe they should just do an episode where he follows the Simpsons around and they don’t know why, looking through their window when they’re at home and all that. If they’re struggling for ideas by the 47th series, they can use that idea if they want. vlcsnap-00001

Despite rumours of a sequel, there hasn’t been one yet, the most ambitious episode of The Simpsons since this being the crossover episode with Family Guy. Overall critics felt that this wasn’t too bad and they definitely earned their big moment. There was some merchandise released for the film, including comics and a computer game, and the DVD extras include some deleted scenes and fancy trails.