The YouTube Files – Time After Time.

Outside Chance (ITV, 1993)/Time After Time (ITV, 1994-1995)

It’s time for another entry in the “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms?” series, and here’s why I chose to review this one. When I was younger, I remember watching Brian Conley’s comedy sketch show on TV. I know some people found his routine rather cheesy, but I did enjoy it. By the mid-90s he was popular enough to be given the leading role in a sitcom pilot.

This was called Outside Chance, and it did well enough to return for a full series about a year later, as the re-titled Time After Time (an LWT production for ITV), written by Paul Minett and Brian Leveson. Conley (who also sang the theme song) played Kenny Conway, a cheeky tea-leaf who has just been released from prison, you could say that in the past he was “a little bit waayyy” as the phrase goes, but he is now insistent that he is a reformed character and determined to keep out of trouble, although his family aren’t convinced. vlcsnap-01100

Kenny’s family include his mother and his younger brother Robbie (who was still at school and must’ve been about 15 years younger than him). Also featuring is Kenny’s mate, the dodgy car mechanic Jake (not to be confused with Brian’s other mate called Jake who co-hosted the “Conley’s Car Boot Quiz” feature on his comedy sketch show around the same time as this who just happened to be a robot from the year 3003). vlcsnap-01099

There is also Kenny’s girlfriend Donna who works at a building society and has remained loyal to him during his time in prison, and they plan to get married, what a girl, what a diamond. Hoping to help Kenny along the way is his probation officer Gillian (Samantha “Richard’s daughter” Beckinsale), but things start to get a little complicated, and he becomes entangled in a love triangle. Kenny also briefly gets a job as a car salesman, but he definitely didn’t compare to Swiss Toni. vlcsnap-01096

Time After Time ran for two series on ITV on Friday nights (ITV used to show sitcoms on Friday nights? ITV used to show sitcoms??), but it has not been released on DVD, and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. I do remember that it was repeated on digital channel Granada Plus though. The first series also won an award for being the best ITV sitcom of 1994. vlcsnap-01095

Time After Time is a sitcom that has been somewhat forgotten now, although all the episodes are on YouTube and it was good to watch them. In more recent years Conley (who first appeared on TV in the early-80s) has gone on to have further success away from sitcoms, mostly appearing on stage in the theatre, and he has also hosted a few game shows on various channels. 

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Time After Time appears in TV Times in March 1994…

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… and also in Radio Times in April 1994

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The YouTube Files – Sitcom Weekend Spoofs.

Sitcom Weekend Spoofs (Channel 4, 1997)

In May 1997, Channel 4 had a special weekend devoted to sitcoms over three days (it was a Bank Holiday) that featured episodes of British and American sitcoms, along with film versions of sitcoms and some documentaries. Also featuring throughout the weekend were four five-minute long spoofs of various styles of sitcoms. These were notable as they featured some early TV appearances from soon to be big names who went on to various successful comedy shows including Little Britain and The League Of Gentlemen, along with a few others including Rebecca Front, Bob Mortimer and Paul Putner.

All of these spoofs were written by and featured Matt Lucas and David Walliams, and they were also repeated on the Paramount Comedy Channel. I don’t remember watching them first time round, but I have wanted to see them, and the good news is that all four of the spoofs are on YouTube, so let’s take a look at what happened in all of them one by one.

I’m Bland… Yet All My Friends Are Krazy! A spoof of the American sitcom Seinfeld, which featured an ordinary man and stand-up comedian called Jerry who tries to get through life but is surrounded by wacky comic characters and too much canned laughter. That seemed to be the idea anyway, but some critics felt that there wasn’t much point in trying to spoof one of the greatest sitcoms of its era, and it soon went off in an entirely different and rather bizarre direction. vlcsnap-00764

My Gay Dads. A spoof of the rather cliched and saccharine American sitcoms about family life that were around at the time, featuring too much moralising and hugging, such as the rotten My Two Dads. Kimberley invites her boyfriend round her house, but her gay dads are planning something, which mostly involves playing “In The Navy” by Village People rather loudly. vlcsnap-00765

A Puppet Lives In My House. A spoof of the rather odd and far-fetched sitcoms where one of the main characters is a non-human, such as ALF. Holden and Laverne are expecting their boss to come round for dinner. They very much hope that the wisecracking sock-puppet that lives with them won’t cause chaos. What could possibly go wrong? vlcsnap-00772

Only Jerks And Horses. A spoof of Only Fools And Horses being re-imagined for an American audience. Del Boy is now a stock market trader, and Roderney (who has been imported from the British version) isn’t sure about his new money making scheme, but he is soon written out as he is unpopular with the viewers, and Uncle Albert has been replaced by a robot. This was considered to be the best of the spoofs, indeed you could say that it was “nice jubbly!”. vlcsnap-00781

The YouTube Files – Six Pairs Of Pants.

Six Pairs Of Pants (ITV, 1995)

One of the aims of this blog is to track down and review TV shows however famous they are, anything that I think sounds interesting will be considered to feature. I remember reading some people talk about this comedy show online, and it made me want to see some for myself. Thankfully, I found a few editions on YouTube. This is a show that I don’t remember watching at the time… but I have a good excuse.

This is because Six Pairs Of Pants wasn’t shown in my ITV region. Having a look at some old TV magazines again recently, I noticed the show featured in the regional variations column, it seems that it was shown only in the Anglia and Meridian regions, rather late on Friday nights. Although it may be a little-seen and low-budget sketch show, it is actually rather significant as a lot of the cast went on to much bigger things and this was one of the earliest opportunities for these promising talents to appear on TV. vlcsnap-00155

The super sextet who starred in Six Pairs Of Pants were Simon Pegg (long before his other 90s comedy shows Spaced, Big Train, We Know Where You Live, and even Faith In The Future), Jessica Stevenson (Pegg’s Spaced co-star and co-writer), Katy Carmichael (another future Spaced cast member who also appeared in Coronation Street), Sally Phillips (Smack The Pony among many other things), Neil Mullarkey (who was in a comedy double-act with a pre-fame Mike Myers), and Simon Schatzberger (who was also in CITV’s Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, and that Yellow Pages advert. No, not that one, the other one). vlcsnap-00094

A wide variety of things in modern life were targeted, and regular sketches included all six cast members appearing together sharing a flat, an Australian man living in England, two bickering teenage girls, and a rather scary film superhero called Mallet. The cast were also among the show’s many writers. Of course, as is always the case with these shows, the quality of the sketches varied somewhat, but it was good seeing a group of young comedy talent on the brink of a lot of success in more recent years showing off their potential. vlcsnap-00092

Only one series of Six Pairs Of Pants was made consisting of six editions, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, there has been no DVD release, and I’m fairly sure that it hasn’t been repeated on any TV channel since. But from what I’ve seen of it the cast definitely made the most of having their own comedy sketch show on ITV, and it isn’t very likely that the current generation of up-and-coming comic talent will get that chance now.

The YouTube Files – They Came From Somewhere Else.

They Came From Somewhere Else (Channel 4, 1984)

I’m always on the lookout for unusual shows to review here, and this is one that I’ve been interested in seeing. I don’t remember They Came From Somewhere Else from first time round, but the descriptions I’ve read made it seem rather bizarre (how could I not be intrigued by show featuring a cast member credited as The “They’re Coming” Man?), so I wondered if it was on YouTube, and the good news is that all six episodes are, so here’s the review.

They Came From Somewhere Else (a TVS Production for Channel 4) was produced during a time in the 80s when Channel 4 were still trying to define their comedy image and find some shows with a distinctive style, and this one was at least something of an attempt to be something a little different. It was shown on Saturday nights and viewers might not have realised what they were in for. vlcsnap-01013

The show was created by and starred a comedy quartet known as Cliffhanger (Robin Driscoll, Tony Haase, Pete McCarthy and Rebecca Stevens), one of whom I recognised from their appearances in BBC2’s classic comedy The Day Today a decade later (“as the Minister For Ships sprawls on a pin, it’s back to you in the studio!”). They Came From Somewhere Else started out as a stage show before transferring to TV a couple of years later in 1984. vlcsnap-01009

The show is rather difficult to describe, it’s something of a science-fiction parody sitcom, and having recently reviewed the similar ITV sitcom Kinvig, I wondered how this one would compare. Middleford is a rather quiet place until one day… something rather odd happens. The character only known as “The Stranger” arrives, and then liver starts to fall from the sky, butchers explode, people are sucked down drains by giant prawns, toasters go on the blink, and zombies fill supermarkets. vlcsnap-01007

There is also a briefcase that plays a major part in the series, but what does it contain? The show also concluded with an exciting cliffhanger (which I suppose is rather appropriate really), although it never returned for a second series, so viewers are still wondering what happened next 35 years on, I don’t know if there were any more episodes planned to be made. A rather odd show, I suppose I can see how it acquired its cult status. vlcsnap-01011

They Came From Somewhere Else can be classed as one of those “it’s more peculiar than funny” shows, and it isn’t likely to receive a DVD release soon, not because of lack of demand as such but because it is a TVS Production (and I’m sure that people are aware of the disarray that their archive is in by now). The same team went on to write and appear in the 1989 BBC2 sitcom Mornin’ Sarge, which again was an unusual one-series wonder.

The Comedy Vault – Girls On Top.

Girls On Top (ITV, 1985-1986)

This is an ITV sitcom from the 80s that I don’t really remember watching at the time, but I have heard plenty of good things about it that made me decide it was worth adding to my comedy DVD collection. Girls On Top featured an all-female cast that by the end of the decade a few years after the show ended would be among the biggest names in British comedy.

Girls On Top (a Central Production for ITV) is essentially a flat-share sitcom that was rather rowdy, as the four main female characters who live together have very different personalities. There is Candice (Tracey Ullman), a rather glamorous dizzy blonde who seems to think that she has every illness going. Amanda (Dawn French) is a rather angry environmentalist who works for Spare Cheeks magazine. vlcsnap-00979

Jennifer (Jennifer Saunders) is rather plain and slow-witted, and says a lot of things that don’t make any sense. And Shelley (Ruby Wax) is an American loud and spoilt aspiring actress who doesn’t have any talent. She also seemed to never let anyone else in the cast get a word in, so if you’ve ever wanted to see a sitcom where all the main cast members speak at the same time then this was the one for you. vlcsnap-00978

Also occasionally appearing is Lady Carlton (Joan “no relation, honest” Greenwood), the novelist landlady of the Chelsea flat who is remarkably odd, and her best friend is a stuffed dog. Most of Girls On Top was written by French and Saunders whose own successful sketch show would launch on BBC2 just three months after this show ended, and the theme music was provided by Squeeze. vlcsnap-00980

The second and final series didn’t feature Ullman, who had gone on to work in TV and films in America, and her character of Candice was written out. One of the things that I liked about Girls On Top were the guest stars, they were mostly from the group of alternative comedians who like the main cast were about to go on to further success including Robbie Coltrane, Harry Enfield and Hugh Laurie. The show was also described by some critics as the female equivalent of The Young Onesvlcsnap-00981

Both series of Girls On Top (which I think was also repeated on Channel 4) have been released on DVD by Network and were very enjoyable. There are a couple of extras, an interview with Ullman on ITV’s Sunday Sunday in 1984, and an interview with Wax on ITV’s The 6 O’Clock Show in 1988, alongside Danny Baker and Chris Tarrant, and even those two motormouths ended up being rather muted by comparison. 

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The TV Times listing for the first episode of Girls On Top on ITV in October 1985

The YouTube Files – Paris.

Paris (Channel 4, 1994)

This is a 90s sitcom that I have been interested in seeing for a long time, and here’s why. Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews were an Irish duo who wrote a lot of comedy together, and contributed to shows including Smith And Jones and The Day Today. In 1994 they wrote a sitcom for Channel 4 called Paris. This is all-but forgotten now, and all I remember seeing at the time is a trail, but some episodes have been uploaded to YouTube by “MrNoosphere”, so credit goes to them.

Paris was set in 1920s France and starred Alexei Sayle as the short-tempered artist Alain Degout. He is somewhat struggling with his work and will do anything to be famous. His rather dozy colleague is Paul Rochet (Neil Morrissey). Also appearing is the psychiatrist Minotti who says things like “no more monsieur nice guy”. Along the way we meet a variety of characters in the great and thriving city including many gentlemen with distinguished moustaches. vlcsnap-00865

There were also guest appearances from some familiar faces including Windsor Davies (although he didn’t have any boxes of concentrated jelly with him unfortunately), John Bird, Patrick Marber, and a rather glamorous looking Rebecca Front who it is always a pleasure to see turn up in comedy shows. Paris was definitely a show that was full of energetic performances, with a lot of shouting, and bizarre physical comedy including people falling over or randomly jumping out of windows. vlcsnap-00893

Paris ran for six episodes, I think it was repeated only once rather late at night on Channel 4 not long after its original run, and it hasn’t been seen on TV since. It has not been released on DVD either. Linehan and Mathews (who also appeared in one episode) must have thought that they had blown their chance of creating a successful sitcom, but as it turned out of course they needn’t have worried. vlcsnap-00889

This was because their second sitcom for Channel 4 that launched a year after Paris was Father Ted, which went on to become one of the most successful comedy shows of its era, be constantly repeated, and it remains fondly thought of by viewers to this day. We should be grateful that after this flop Channel 4 continued to have faith in them. If you could make a comparison between Paris and Father Ted I suppose it could be with some of the interplay between Alain and Paul, he was definitely the Dougal to his Ted, along with the plots taking unusual twists. vlcsnap-00899

Also, every episode title was in French, but nobody in the show actually spoke with a French accent. When compared to Father Ted, Paris was always going to come off as second best, but I was pleased to have finally seen some of it for myself, and it contained a lot of amusingly anarchic moments that gave a few hints of what great things were to come.

The Comedy Vault – Extras.

Extras (BBC2, 2005-2007)

After the success of The Office, which received a huge amount of praise from critics, Ricky Gervais was suddenly a big name in comedy and there was a lot of anticipation about what his next show would be. Extras starred Gervais (also the co-writer and co-director) as Andy Millman, who worked as a film extra, meaning that he stood around a lot in the background of various films, but he craved the chance to have a leading role of his own.

Also appearing is Maggie (Ashley Jensen), a friend of Andy’s who is also an extra who similarly has trouble getting any work and often causes trouble for everyone. Guest stars practically queued up to appear in Extras, suddenly everyone wanted to be Gervais’s close showbiz mate, and among those who featured playing exaggerated versions of themselves were Keith Chegwin, Ross Kemp, and Les Dennis having a meltdown in a pantomime. vlcsnap-00851

By the second series, Andy has managed to get a part in the BBC1 sitcom When The Whistle Blows, but he becomes frustrated by the amount of editorial interference in the show, complaining that the producers think all viewers want is wigs and terrible catchphrases, canned laughter, and Liza Tarbuck in the cast. At least these were the days when there were sitcoms regularly on BBC1, however good or bad they were. vlcsnap-00852

The other main cast members in Extras were Andy’s agent Darren (co-writer and co-director Stephen Merchant) and the fat bloke who used to be in EastEnders. I must admit that I enjoyed most of their interaction more than Andy and Maggie’s mishaps, I think that they should’ve been given their own spin-off sitcom showing how mundane fame can all be, or at the very least Andy could’ve done a dance to liven up things. vlcsnap-00842

After a couple of series, all of this concludes in the final episode when after quitting his sitcom Andy finally realises that fame really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as he watches helplessly in the Celebrity Big Brother house as Lionel Blair’s back goes. And Barry’s dream finally comes true when he gets a job at The Carphone Warehouse. Is he havin’ a laugh? vlcsnap-00864

Just like The Office, Extras ran for two series and concluded with an extended Christmas special. This definitely was yet another “you’ll cringe more than you’ll laugh” sitcom, and again it rated rather well with critics. These shows opened up a lot of doors for Gervais, who went on to star in various films including Ghost Town and The Invention Of Lying. And who would’ve thought it, in the space of barely five years he had gone from shouting at people on small-time local radio stations to hobnobbing with all the fancy Hollywood stars and indeed becoming one himself. vlcsnap-00854

The Extras DVD also contained plenty of extras (ha), including deleted scenes, outtakes (there were plenty of those unsurprisingly) and interviews with the award-winning cast, and there were also some script books released. In more recent years Gervais has gone on to further success in various films. It does make me realise though that I am not following him on Twitter, if it had been around in 2002 I would’ve done so in a flash, but he seems to spend a lot of time ranting on there when he isn’t laughing in interviews.