CBBC Memories – Radio Roo.

Radio Roo (CBBC, 1991-1993)

I think I have said on here before, but in the early days of digital TV something rather strange happened. Around 2000 the channel BBC Choice launched a strand called CBBC On Choice, but although the links from the presenters were new, there were no new programmes, and everything they showed seemed to be from around the late-80s/early-90s making it a sort CBBC + 10 Years channel, and it was great seeing shows from those days again, so here’s a review of a show that I remember watching first time round, and then again a decade later.

Radio Roo was a sitcom that had a rather odd idea. It starred Dennis who runs a radio station with his mate Clive… who just happens to be a kangaroo puppet! Well of course he is, not that old story again! Radio Roo was written by Wayne Jackman who also starred as Dennis (although he’ll always be Jiffy from CITV’s Allsorts to me), and Clive the kangaroo (who had inherited the station) unsurprisingly had an Australian accent that was provided by Ian Tregonning. vlcsnap-00442

Radio Roo was set in a place called Brigtown and according to the opening sequence it seems that most of their listeners were people with parrots on the shoulders, or roller-skaters, and the set-up seemed to only consist of a microphone and a turntable. Just how legit was this station? Dennis and Clive spent most episodes bumbling around, and when Dennis wasn’t trying to run the station he often tried to attract the attention of Margaret who usually got caught up in their adventures. vlcsnap-00440

It seems that Radio Roo wasn’t the only place that we saw Dennis and Clive. Around 1989/1990 they also hosted Saturday Starts Here, a CBBC strand that was shown on Saturday Mornings where they would introduce the various programmes, which would usually conclude with Going Live! Presumably someone thought that they were funny enough to have their own series. vlcsnap-00439

Radio Roo ran for three series and every episode was 15 minutes long, and although it does seem to be little-remembered now and there has been no DVD release, it was fun enough compared to other CBBC sitcoms around at the time like Bodger And Badger (which I will review here soon too), and watching a couple of episodes again recently brought back memories of when I watched the show in both the 90s and 2000s. G’Day! vlcsnap-00438

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The YouTube Files – The Silly World Of Michael Rosen.

I have always been overawed by celebrities. Although there have been a lot people in showbusiness whose work I have greatly admired over the years, I have never really had any desire to meet any of them in person. I would just find it really odd and it would end up being rather embarrassing.

I do remember one occasion though when I was in the company of a celebrity whose work I was familiar with. It was the time when children’s poet and writer Michael Rosen came to my infant school to tell some of his funny stories. I don’t remember when it was exactly but it must have been around the 1989/1990 mark when I was about six or seven years old, it was great, and he must have performed at just about every infant school in Britain by now.

I didn’t really think much about his work for a long time after that until something odd happened. I was watching some videos on YouTube one day when I noticed one recommended for me featured Michael Rosen, and I thought to myself that I remember that name from somewhere, so maybe I should have a look at some of his videos to find out what he’s up to now.

According to the description in his series of videos, he once wrote a book of poems and stories, but after they went out of print he couldn’t get anyone to publish a new version, so he decided to perform them to a camera and then put the videos on YouTube for people to watch so we were treated to some fun stories, including the sad tale of Harrybo’s granddad, his encounter with The Skyfoogle, his teacher at school who was so strict you weren’t allowed to breathe in her lessons, his dad’s struggle with a hot potato, and of course the time that when he was six he ate a bag of plums. vlcsnap-00384

Now I have a rather odd sense of humour, and one day on YouTube I discovered what are called “poops”, where videos are taken and then edited in various ways to feature rather rude and peculiar jokes. I had always found this kind of thing funny, so I thought that I’d watch some of these, and for some reason the poops of TV shows ChuckleVision and King Of The Hill made me laugh more than any other source that was used. vlcsnap-00388

It was then that I discovered that people had been using Michael’s videos as a source, so I thought I’d take a look. Now when I first watched them, I hadn’t seen many of the videos in their original context, so I wasn’t really sure why he was saying particular things and it was so strange. This along with the odd edits, and the strange video and audio effects making his face look all odd and giving him a silly high-pitched voice made me laugh so much I thought that it was terrific. vlcsnap-00389

There is one rather large problem with all of this though, Michael is fully aware of what has happened to his videos, and in an interview he spoke about the problems of when children wanted to watch his videos, they may instead encounter an edited one with the very rude jokes. He soon realised that there wasn’t much that he could do to stop this, and when he made his second wave of videos, including the one where he told the story of when he got rather overexcited by some chocolate cake, he said he realised what was going to happen. However, these poops have made him more famous in America, and he seems to have earned himself a rather large fanbase in Pennsylvania. vlcsnap-00391

Another element of this is just how popular these videos have become. Every year people are invited to take part in a collaboration to edit Michael’s videos which is then uploaded to YouTube on his birthday on 7 May, and some of those have lasted up to three hours. And just about every TV appearance by Michael has now been used as a source, including his storytelling on CBeebies, and a show that he presented about books on Teachers’ TV, a little-watched channel which only seemed to be on Freeview rather late at night a decade ago.

Some of these videos have had a huge response, including a rather odd one called “Michael Rosen Saying ‘Nice’ 1,364,546,901 Times” which has had millions of views, along with the also very popular performance of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”, and “Michael Rosen Embarrasses Himself On Pointless” has also been a big success. As Michael would say himself I’m sure, “fantastic”.

More TV Memories – They Think It’s All Over.

They Think It’s All Over (BBC1, 1995-2006)

Is this a game show or a comedy show? Well I suppose it’s one of those that’s both really. They Think It’s All Over was a show that took an amusing look at everything to do with sport. It was originally on BBC Radio 5 from 1992-1994 and hosted by Des Lynam, but when it transferred to TV Nick Hancock took over as host, and it was often seen by viewers as a much livelier alternative to A Question Of Sportvlcsnap-00039

Two teams of three took part. Originally the team captains were cricketer David Gower and footballer Gary Lineker, who were given a chance to show off their humour. They would be joined by the comedians Lee Hurst (who also runs a comedy club called the Backyard near where I live) and Rory McGrath, plus an additional panellist who was usually another sportsperson or comedian. vlcsnap-00036

There were a lot of rounds played over the years. These included having to decide why a football team celebrated a goal in the way that they did, having to identify what was happening in a memorable sporting moment, trying to work out how unusual injuries happened, and a picture of a face that had been made up from three different sportspeople and they had to guess who they all were. vlcsnap-00031

One of the most memorable rounds would have to be Feel The Sportsman. Two of the three panellists would be blindfolded, and then they would have to guess who the special guest was by touch alone which always led to some funny moments. The final round usually consisted of one of the panellists having to give a clue to a name of a famous sportsperson. This was always good because most of the names were ridiculous and because they were against the clock they would desperately do anything to try and win right at the end. vlcsnap-00037

They Think It’s All Over became a very popular show in the late-90s, and there were some special editions released on VHS featuring some highlights plus some previously unseen moments along with a book, although I don’t have any of those myself. The show ended up running for just over a decade on TV, but unfortunately by the end it had began to run out of steam. vlcsnap-00038

Lee Hurst left to be replaced by Jonathan Ross, and the team captains constantly changed for the last few series after the departures of Gower and Lineker. Even Nick Hancock didn’t stay around to the end, with the final series being hosted by Lee Mack (who I think is the only person to have hosted all of the “big three” BBC comedy panel games, the others being Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks), but I had stopped watching regularly by this point. However, at its peak it was always an enjoyable watch.

The Review Of The Year.

We’ve just about come to the end of my third year of doing this blog, and I have brought you over 130 new pieces in 2017 sharing more memories of various things, what a year it’s been, here are some of my highlights. First of all, I remember saying around the end of April that I had plenty more to tell you about, and then I didn’t do a piece for the whole of May. Sorry about that! But whenever I do get a good idea that I want to share I always enjoy bringing them to you on here. year

I reviewed some more game shows. These included me trying to defend Channel 4’s Cheap Cheap Cheap which was so obviously was going to be a big ratings flop from the moment it was announced but I tried to convince people that it wasn’t that bad really. I also had a look at some American versions of British game shows. There aren’t that many more game shows left to review now. 

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Barry pretends that he knows what’s happening in Cheap Cheap Cheap

Also this year we lost some great TV figures who had contributed a lot to game shows over the years. This included Bruce Forsyth who I paid a special tribute to when I looked back at his remarkable career, William G Stewart who hosted Channel 4’s Fifteen-To-One for almost 16 years, a show that I have written about a lot on here, and Keith Chegwin, who featured in my review of BBC1’s Happy Families, when he was the special celebrity guest who cranked up those grannies. 

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The much-missed Cheggers gets ready to do some granny cranking

I also looked back at some more comedy and children’s TV shows. Along with game shows, these are my three favourite TV genres, and there are plenty more sitcoms and cartoons still to review. I have also enjoyed writing about forgotten TV shows that I have found on YouTube including Atlantis High and The Preventers, plus the final episodes of various soaps. My most viewed piece that I wrote this year was on BBC1’s game show Winning Lines, with CBBC’s sketch show Stupid in second place. I was enjoying talking about TV on here, but then this blog went off in a different direction when something rather remarkable happened… 

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Atlantis High was great, honest

I know have gone about it a lot but when I discovered that pop group Bananarama decided to reform after they became friends again during a party in Bethnal Green which is where I live in London I was very surprised. When I discovered that the reason that Keren and Sara were here was because they at Siobhan’s house in Bethnal Green, I was shocked. Sara also mentioned this in an interview with Classic Pop magazine! I had recently been thinking about whatever happened to Siobhan when I remembered that it was the 25th anniversary of her massive chart-topping single “Stay”, and to discover that we lived so close to one another completely stunned me. 

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Sorry, what?!

This made me realise how much of an impact pop music has had on my life and I decided that I wanted to write about it more on here, something that I never thought I would have the confidence or ability to do just a few years earlier before I started all this. I realised that I was rather fond of women pop stars in the 80s and 90s who didn’t play the game so to speak, ones who wrote all of their songs, had a very distinctive image, weren’t manufactured and liked to be in control of their career, which seemingly led to constant bickering with their record labels.

I wrote about solo singers that I remember from the early-90s such as Betty Boo and Cathy Dennis, and I also wanted to find out more about Danielle Dax, and when I finally tracked down some information about her, I just thought she was terrific, to the extent that I bought the DVD of her concert. Although I said there seems to be little about what happened to Danielle post-1991 online, I did later discover that she performed a very low-key gig (also her first in over a decade) earlier this year at a club in Dalston, which again is very near where I live. Wow. I also got a good reply to the piece thanking me for telling her story. It’s not too late to make her a star, is it? 

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walking sick sick they walking the town

I also realised that I seem to have a fondness for female duos who probably couldn’t stand one another, leading them to go their separate ways in rather bitter circumstances. Along with Shakespear’s Sister (I even went so far as to review the time that they were imitated on Stars In Their Eyes!), I also looked back at Alisha’s Attic, Strawberry Switchblade, and Shampoo. It was great finding clips of their TV appearances on YouTube, magazine covers, and listening to their hits, they were all very charismatic and entertaining. I was surprised to discover Alisha’s Attic’s first attempt at pop stardom in the 1980s with a song that was described as “a wretched hi-NRG abomination” by Record Mirror. Well, we’ve all got to start somewhere. I also looked back at the group Fuzzbox. I was rather surprised when I tracked down their Twitter account because it seems that I have more followers. I’m more famous than Fuzzbox? How can that be possible?! 

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They had a Fuzzbox and they liked to use it

Next year I plan to look back at lots more pop stars including Bananarama, but as they had about 30 hit singles it will take a while to put together, and I was really pleased when I got a reply from someone on one of the Shakespear’s Sister pieces saying that they went to one of the Bananarama reunion concerts and they also met the ladies after and they were great, it really is brilliant to know how well received the tour was by fans. I also bought the special editions of their first six albums featuring two CDs of songs and a DVD of music videos and TV appearances. 

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Yes they did, didn’t they!

Finally, I’d like to thank you for your continued support. My blog has had over 30,000 views in 2017 which is a new record for most views in a year, and your interest is the reason why I didn’t stop doing this after three days. It’s been a great experience and I hope you’ll look forward to what’s still to come. Whatever you’re doing, I hope you have an enjoyable 2018.

The Comedy Vault – The Brittas Empire Christmas Special.

The Brittas Empire Christmas Special (BBC1, 1994)

The Brittas Empire is one of my favourite sitcoms from the 90s and there were a couple of Christmas specials made, so here’s a review of the one shown in 1994 called “In The Beginning”. This episode is set at the end of 2019 which would have been 25 years away when it was originally shown, but now is barely a couple of years in the future which is rather remarkable.

Every year on New Year’s Eve the staff reunite at a castle in Scotland to remember when the Leisure Centre opened which was the time that they first met one another, with this occasion being the 30th anniversary, although most of them have gone to have success in much different areas in the years that have passed. For example, Gavin is now a politician, Carole is a concert pianist, and Tim is a novelist. vlcsnap-00171

There are some continuity errors in this episode. Firstly, it states that the Leisure Centre opened in late-1989 when it was early-1991, and the flashback also features the series five cast, at least one of which didn’t appear in the first series. We discover what happened at the start, Christmas 1989 has just passed, but there has been a heavy snowstorm, and no-one is able to leave. How will they fill the time? vlcsnap-00174

As the days pass, they begin to despair. They are beginning to run out of food, it is still very cold, Colin is having trouble with his boiler, and Mr Brittas is struggling to keep the morale up. They then realise that a lorry that crashed outside was containing costumes for a play, and they will come in very useful. And they see in the New Year together by having a party, before the snow finally clears and they can go home. vlcsnap-00164

The difficult situation helped them to bond though, and despite some of them now being successful millionaires, everyone still takes the time to fly round the world to attend this special occasion every year to meet old friends including Mr Brittas who now has a knighthood, seemingly for his services to solving all the world’s problems. Well, it was his dream. vlcsnap-00162

I’m fairly sure that this was supposed to be the final episode of The Brittas Empire, as everything had been concluded, but due to popular demand Mr Brittas actually returned to cause chaos for another two series, and this was also the final episode that was written by Richard Fegen and Andrew Norriss who were also the creators of the show. Earlier this year the cast of The Brittas Empire reunited 20 years after the show came to an end, it was great seeing them back together again, who knows if there will ever be any more episodes?

The Comedy Vault – Hippies.

Hippies (BBC2, 1999)

Hippies was a sitcom that was co-created and written by Arthur Mathews who was one of the writers of the classic Father Ted along with Graham Linehan, so when it was revealed that he was working on a quirky sitcom that was going to parody life in the late-60s there was a big buzz around it as there was a chance that it could be another success with viewers.

Hippies was set in London in 1969. It centred around three young people who worked together on a counterculture magazine called Mouth, Ray (Simon Pegg), Alex (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and Jill (Sally Phillips of Smack The Pony fame). The basic idea of the show was that they thought they were at the cutting edge of everything trendy and they were really going to cause a revolution in society by publishing this magazine, but of course they totally failed in this area. hippies0001

Ray is the editor of Mouth which he puts together in his fancy Notting Hill flat, and he is helped by Alex and Jill, who Ray insists is his girlfriend, although she doesn’t seem to agree with this. Also occasionally appearing is Hugo who has a rather spaced out attitude to life even by a hippie’s standard. It’s probably not too much of a surprise to discover that most of the episodes ended up taking an unusual twist. vlcsnap-00299

Hippies was yet another late-90s BBC2 sitcom that I missed first time round that I got into after seeing a repeat run on UK Play. I know I am still going on about it but it was such a great digital channel, it repeated a lot of great sitcoms, and along with some of its original shows featuring comedy and music, it is still a channel I think fondly of even though it closed down 15 years ago now, and its nearest relative still on air is the channel Dave. vlcsnap-00307

There was only one series of Hippies made, as it received fairly average reviews from critics, and the planned second series was scrapped. There was an almost decade-long gap between Hippies ending on TV and being released on DVD. Although it doesn’t feature many extras, the DVD does come with a copy of Mouth, and there is also an amusing article looking at where the cast are now (well, in 2008 anyway when the DVD was released). vlcsnap-00310

About a couple of months before Hippies launched, another sitcom starring Simon Pegg began which was Channel 4’s much more successful Spaced, which unlike Hippies has remained popular and is fondly remembered. And while I would probably stop at saying that Hippies is a lost gem or in the same league as Father Ted, I didn’t think it was that bad at all really.

The Comedy Vault – Phoenix Nights.

Phoenix Nights (Channel 4, 2001-2002)

The first time I remember watching Peter Kay on TV was in the late-90s on BBC2’s The Sunday Show when he used to do a feature about his favourite old TV shows. He then went on to get his own comedy sketch show on Channel 4 called That Peter Kay Thing where he played a variety of characters but this passed me by, although it did get good reviews and it seemed that his career was on the up, so when he launched his next comedy series which this time was a sitcom called Phoenix Nights, I thought to myself I remember that name from somewhere so I’d give it a try. vlcsnap-00285

Kay plays two characters in the show, Brian Potter, who owns the terrible Phoenix nightclub in Bolton, and Max the doorman. Also featuring is the singer Jerry St. Clair (played by Dave Spikey, and Kay and Spikey had previously collaborated on ITV’s game show Chain Letters!), and Ray the DJ. Everything they plan seems to go wrong, including poorly attended theme nights and having a nightmare with a bouncy castle. vlcsnap-00289

Another thing that I remember about the show was when at the end of most episodes, an act would audition to perform at the club, and most of them were really terrible. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the Elvis impersonator, that was an experience. Because of all these elements, the show became very popular, partly because it featured a great range of characters and catchphrases, and it went on to win some awards. And Jim Bowen appeared in an episode, marvellous! vlcsnap-00286

The DVD also features some great extras. I remember watching the outtakes and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at anything so much. I remember that I got the DVD for Christmas one year and I watched it a few days later. I don’t know if I was hungover or if I was full of the festive spirit, but I just couldn’t stop laughing while watching them and it was all just so odd. There was also a book released which contained all the scripts from the series which was a great read, plus a few extras including some pictures of the cast. vlcsnap-00290

Phoenix Nights ran for two series, and in 2004 the Max And Paddy characters were given their own Channel 4 spin-off sitcom called Road To Nowhere but this was a little less successful. After this Peter has gone on to further success by doing a variety of things including performing sell-out tours, having a huge hit with “Is This The Way To Amarillo”, and in more recent years he has featured in the well received sitcoms Cradle To Grave and Car Share, but Phoenix Nights (sponsored by Chorley FM) will always be one of his highlights for me.