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 – Easter With Thames.

Easter With Thames (ITV, 1989)

At the end of last year I looked back at some continuity and adverts that were shown at Christmas and New Year on various ITV regions and Channel 4 in the 80s. Now I thought that it would be a good idea to look at some adverts that were shown around Easter. So I was pleased to find some adverts that were shown in the Thames region on Easter Monday (because they wouldn’t be on air on Easter Sunday of course) 27 March 1989 that were uploaded to YouTube by “SaxSells” (a very good account that I definitely think is worth subscribing to). Here are some of the highlights. vlcsnap-01095

Most of the adverts in the video are during an afternoon showing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I must admit that I have never really been a fan of Star Trek so I doubt that I watched these at the time. Adverts include Peperami, Selfridges, and a rather odd one for board game Pictionary, featuring someone who is having a little trouble communicating his answer. vlcsnap-01084

Then we have an advert for pop compilation “Now That’s What I Call Music 14”, featuring 32 of the hottest hits around, the only one that is referenced by David “Kid” Jensen is Bananarama and Lananeeneenoonoo’s classic cover of “Help!”, but then it is the best track on it of course. Available on double album, double cassette, double CD and VHS. vlcsnap-01085

Thames announcer Peter Marshall informs us that Star Trek: The Motion Picture will continue after the news. Then we have a trail for the big Easter Monday evening film, The Man With The Golden Gun. A James Bond film on ITV, who would’ve thought it. We are then told that Channel 4 are about to show the film musical Calamity Jane, which is delightful. vlcsnap-01090

Now this is an odd one, it’s an advert for the second issue of short-lived magazine TV Guide, which launched before the deregulation of TV magazines in March 1991, when you had no choice but to buy both Radio Times and TV Times as no other magazines were able to publish TV listings, even something as basic as “10pm News” wasn’t permitted, so it seems that this magazine didn’t actually feature any listings, only including some interviews and reviews, but it was the first step to getting the regulations changed. vlcsnap-01086

Also notable is that Steven Hartley is on the cover of TV Guide, who was in EastEnders at the time, before going on to appear in many other things including a few episodes of US sitcom Married… With Children, The Bill, and he has also provided voiceovers for about 10,000 trails on radio station TalkSport. After the news is the conclusion of the film, don’t go away. vlcsnap-01087

Then there’s an unbranded trail for soap Home And Away which had launched on ITV only a month or two earlier and became rather popular in this country, although nowadays it’s at the “is that still going?” point with most viewers. Adverts include the return of that man who isn’t very good at playing Pictionary, and a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Then there is a rather odd advert for Head & Shoulders that has been very badly dubbed and seems to feature a vampire (“brilliant, you look awful!”). vlcsnap-01092

The film has now ended, and we are off to Summer Bay after the break. There’s that The Man With The Golden Gun trail again, and another advert for “Now 14”, which apparently does feature some other tracks apart from Bananarama, we also have big hits from Sam Brown, Roy Orbison, Erasure, Phil Collins and Marc Almond, you’ll find them all here. vlcsnap-01088

There is then another advert for McDonald’s (this time promoting Double Features), Mr Dog has been renamed Cesar, and also TV Times, Britain’s biggest-selling magazine called TV Times. Jason Donovan is on the cover this week, how exciting (there had been a big relaunch of Radio Times about a week earlier). Then there’s a trail for a new series of LA Law on Thursday which like all the others features the booming voice of Bruce Hammal. vlcsnap-01094

Then there’s the famous Thames skyline ident (that had been used in various forms since 1969!) and would remain onscreen for about another five months after this, as Peter Marshall out-of-vision introduces the first showing of the day of Home And Away. The ident wouldn’t really be used regularly in this way until 1988. And that’s where the video comes to an end.

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.

More TV Memories – The Young Doctors.

The Young Doctors (Nine, 1976-1983)

It’s time to look back at another soap, but instead of reviewing a British one, I thought that I would review an Australian one. It’s something of a surprise to realise that Australian soaps seem to have been more popular in the UK than American ones. The most famous examples are Home And Away and Neighbours, but others that have been shown in this country include A Country Practice, Prisoner: Cell Block H, Sons And Daughters, The Sullivans… and this one.

The Young Doctors is a soap that launched in 1976, it was created by Reg Watson who was also behind Neighbours and it was shown five days a week. It was set at The Albert Memorial Hospital in Sydney. However, it was a rather sparse place, it didn’t contain that many patients or staff. The show concentrated more on the love lives of the doctors (who didn’t seem to be that young, really) and nurses. Although they more often seemed to be down Bunny’s for a drink. And the acting? Well, there really was some acting! vlcsnap-01042

One of the more unusual things about the show was the original opening sequence that seemed to feature the cast down the disco having a dance to the (admittedly funky) theme music by The Executives (maybe EastEnders should start to do this to liven things up). There was a rather high turnover of cast over the years, but some of the regulars included Ada who ran the refreshments kiosk, the intimidating Sister Scott, faithful secretary Helen, and the grumpy balding doctor who wore dark-tinted glasses (the only character to appear in the first and final episode). vlcsnap-01049

Also featuring in some of his earliest TV appearances was Alan Dale as Dr Forrest, who went on to play Jim Robinson in Neighbours, and he has gone on to much further success in more recent years in America. The Young Doctors was also fond of its cliffhangers and featured some rather bizarre plots, including characters falling down a lift shaft, being electrocuted on their honeymoon, and a nurse’s long-lost sister (played by the same actress) secretly replacing her at the hospital (doing such a thing is always a sign that a soap is beginning to run out of ideas and become detached from real life). vlcsnap-01040

The Young Doctors came to an end in 1983 after 1,396 episodes, and concluded with an evocative look back and a special sombre version of the closing theme. The show gained something of a cult following when it was shown on ITV (except in the Scottish region), usually before Children’s ITV, but the scheduling was rather erratic. Central was the first region to import the show in 1982, and some regions were still showing episodes as late as 1995 (there was also always a jump in the closing credits to remove the sponsors’ adverts). Episodes were also shown on Sky One from 1989-1992. vlcsnap-01057

Some episodes of the show have been released on DVD, but not in this country. It might have also had something of an influence on the 90s hospital sitcom parody Let The Blood Run Free (shown in the UK on Channel 4). When trying to find out a little more about The Young Doctors online I discovered a video of a Christmas tape containing some rather amusing outtakes, it seems that working on the show was a lot more fun than I ever realised.

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 Comedy Vault – Faith In The Future.

Faith In The Future (ITV, 1995-1998)

This is yet another entry in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms?” series. Now this one has a little more potential than most because it is a spin-off sequel to a sitcom that definitely was something of a success for ITV during this decade, being one of the few to run for more than a couple of series, and also receiving some critical acclaim.

Second Thoughts was a sitcom that starred Lynda Bellingham and James Bolam as two middle-aged divorcees called Faith and Bill who try and start a new life together, although her two teenage children and his ex-wife constantly get in the way. This ran for five series, and the sequel Faith In The Future (which didn’t feature Bolam) launched on ITV in 1995, a year after Second Thoughts ended. faith0001

Faith has finally left Bill and moved house, the children have gone, and she has even managed to offload the dog to her mother. She is now a teacher of art at a college, and is enjoying life on her own for the first time in years. In the first episode, her daughter Hannah (Julia Sawalha) returns from a trip round the world and decides to move in (and her son Joe also appears in one episode). vlcsnap-00761

Faith also begins to have feelings for her work colleague Paul (Jeff Rawle), they have an on-off relationship that leads to Faith bickering with Paul almost as much as she did with Bill, and it soon becomes clear that they are better off as just friends. Indeed, their situation seemed better suited to a soap than a sitcom. Hannah is having trouble finding work and takes on some embarrassing short-term jobs. Hannah is also being pursued by the rather dozy and accident-prone Jools, who when he isn’t falling over is in a band. vlcsnap-00763

The second series was a little different as Hannah now had a new dreadlock hairstyle, and Jools was played by Simon Pegg in some of his earliest TV appearances, three years before sitcom Spaced, and even before sketch shows Big Train and We Know Where You Live. There is also an inevitable twist when Hannah starts to fall for the older Paul and they kiss just as Faith walks in. How awkward. vlcsnap-00764

By the third series (I’m not sure if they were beginning to run out of ideas by this point, but this was now about 70 episodes in if you include also Second Thoughts) Faith suddenly tells Hannah (who has started to train as a counsellor) that many years ago she had a fling with another man and has another daughter called Zoe who is two years older than Hannah. vlcsnap-00781

She is somewhat surprised to discover that she has had a half-sister all along, and then Zoe tracks Faith down for a reunion. Zoe is rather dull by comparison to Hannah (who isn’t badly behaved as such, but can be mouthy and rebellious), and Faith is pleased to finally have the perfect daughter that she wanted all along, causing Hannah to leave for good. vlcsnap-00815

Just like Second Thoughts, every episode of Faith In The Future was written by Jan Etherington and Gavin Petrie, and all three series have been released on DVD by Network (although the only extra is a photo gallery). It experimented with a filmised look before most other shows and also had theme music called “The World Is What You Make It”, giving it all something of an Americanised feel. vlcsnap-00765

Compared to Second Thoughts, Faith In The Future had something on an average response from critics, although it did go on to win an award an appear on the cover of TV Times. I also remember watching the show during a repeat run on digital channel Granada Plus in the early-2000s and enjoying it, especially Pegg’s performance. I’ll review Second Thoughts soon too.

More TV Memories – ITV National Weather.

ITV National Weather (ITV, 1993-1996)

A while ago I decided to take a look back on here at the Weathergens, the very impressive and creative characters who appeared in the idents that introduced the weather forecasts on ITV from 1996-2001. It has gone on to be one of my most popular pieces from the past year, so I have decided to do a sequel. This is a piece that will look at the predecessors to those, a series of idents that were used from 1993-1996 when the ITV National Weather was sponsored by Powergen. These were also very good, if not as great as the Weathergens, and they were all accompanied by a suitably stirring soundtrack. They all featured different types of weather happening against the Powergen symbol, and the one most appropriate to that day’s weather would precede the forecast. I’m fairly sure that there were 13 of these made (including a couple of minor variations), and I don’t think that any of them had an official title. In no particular order, here’s a brief description of all of them. vlcsnap-00678

1. Some ice forms on the Powergen symbol, which is then rubbed away by a hand. w1

2. A dog looks on as all of its hair is ruffled by some light wind. w2

3. A duck flaps and slides around on some ice. It also seems to move in time to the music! w3

4. Some drips of rain slide down the Powergen symbol. w4

5. Spring has sprung as some flowers bloom, much to the approval of the woman in the Powergen symbol it seems. w5

6. A very hot and sunny day. This one also features the most sombre variation of the soundtrack, with makes it oddly all a little moving. w6

7. There is snow everywhere, which then falls down to reveal the Powergen symbol, accompanied by bells and birdsong. w7

8. A rather windy one, making everything flap everywhere (I think that there was a stormier variation of this one for when it was very windy). w8

9. Some heavy rain falls (again I think that there was a stormier variation of this one featuring some flashes of thunder) which concludes with a big drip landing in the water. w9

10. A cold one featuring someone who is wearing a big coat but is still shivering, before vanishing into the air. w10

11. Some light rain falls on a few leaves. w11

12. It begins to get light, revealing some shadows under the Powergen symbol. w12

13. A rather misty one that features some flickering and buzzing neon lights. w13

Another thing that I liked about this era was when the forecast ended, there was a still of part of the opening ident down the right side of the screen during the summary, which reminded me a little of the slide designs that were used on BBC2 from 1991-1992 (another great piece of TV presentation from the 90s). There were also edited versions of the idents shown occasionally, cut down from the usual length of about 15 seconds. vlcsnap-00691

I’ll conclude this piece with a picture of weather forecasting giant and hero to millions Martyn Davies doing his thing. Bye for now. vlcsnap-00694