More TV Memories – Fantasy World Cup.

Fantasy World Cup (ITV, 1998)

This is a show that I probably should’ve reviewed during the World Cup late last year, but I’m doing it now (and I also eventually plan to do some pieces about some memories of the TV coverage of various World Cups). In the mid-90s, Fantasy Football League was among the shows that managed to capture the “football is suddenly trendy” feeling, after the successful launch of the Premier League.

So when the World Cup in France came round (which is 25 years ago now remarkably), it seemed a good time to revive this idea. But there were some changes. Hosts David Baddiel and Frank Skinner had jumped to ITV, and, in a bold move, like so many Premier League matches of the time, this was going to be shown live! Their mate Statto came along too, although I don’t think that there was a competitive league element used for this series, so he just sort of sat around in the background.

They picked up where they left off really. Most editions would be shown following the coverage of matches, and the opening sequence recycled the old World Of Sport theme. There would be plenty of strange observations, Phoenix From The Flames, and lots of other things, like remembering the time when commentator Brian Moore burped.

There was even an appearance from Hugh Johns, whose famous commentary in 1966 inspired the title of the sporting comedy panel game Here’s Hurst, Can He Make It Four? He Has! He Has! And That’s It! And there were also plenty of sketches featuring pie enthusiast Jeff Astle. And featuring in every edition were two celebrity guests, including Ant and Dec. However, a lot of them seemed to be rather “tired”, and as this was live, there was no hiding place if things became unpredictable.

I remember that I set the video for a lot of these. But I thought that I would give the edition after England had been knocked out on penalties a miss, partly because this would’ve been shown a lot later than was scheduled, and the mood must’ve been rather sour too (Bradley Walsh was a guest on this one). But at least everyone could be cheered by “Three Lions” being a chart-topper again.

Among the production team were Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs, who not long after went on to host a show on TalkSport (and still do), and if you had a joke, you could fax that in if you wanted to. Baddiel and Skinner seemed to be unfazed by Fantasy World Cup turning into occasional chaos, because a few years later, they took the idea to the extreme with Baddiel And Skinner Unplanned, where they would discuss anything (except football) on live TV. And they revived the format one final time for the Euro 2004 tournament.

Game Show Memories – Celebrity Squares the revival.

Celebrity Squares (ITV, 2014-2015)

This is the second revival of this game show, or is it maybe the third? The first was in 1993, when Celebrity Squares returned to ITV after an absence of almost 15 years, and was again hosted by Bob Monkhouse, who insisted that this was actually “Bob’s Big Box Game”. There was another revival in 2003, but this didn’t get any further than the unaired pilot stage.

For this revival, the host was Warwick Davis, who might seem to be an unusual choice at first, because he was better-known as an actor, and this was his first experience in this area. The idea remained the same though, this is still essentially oversized Noughts And Crosses. But TV has changed, where half-an-hour was once enough, most game shows now run for an hour, so some extra rounds had to be added.

Two contestants took part, and there were nine celebrities in the squares. Most of them changed every week, but there were also two regulars, who were Joe Wilkinson, and Tim Vine! You should know that I do think that you can’t go wrong with Tim, so being able to see him do his thing every week was definitely a good move. Chuck in a hyper studio audience who sound like they’ve had too many chocolate biscuits and you’re ready to go.

In some rounds, the contestants pick a celebrity, who is asked a question, and they have to say if they agree with their answer or not. Correct answers won the square and £50. Get three in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and you win the round and a bonus £500. This carries on, but there is a point where it’s time to double the dough, and even more money is on offer.

There is also an extra round where a celebrity tells an anecdote about themselves, and it has to be determined if this is true or not. And don’t forget about the secret square either, if this is picked, a big bonus prize can be won. The highest-scorer goes into the final. In this, they have to pick a category and then give nine correct answers in 30 seconds.

If they do, they win £20,000. But if not, they are given £1,000 for every correct answer they did get, added to what they had already won. For the second series, there were some changes. The duration was decreased to 45 minutes, and the star prize was increased to £25,000. After the revival of Celebrity Squares ended, Warwick went on to host daytime game show Tenable, which has done well.

More TV Memories – The Crazy World Of Joe Pasquale.

The Crazy World Of Joe Pasquale (ITV, 1998-1999)

As I have said in a few other pieces, when I was younger I enjoyed Joe Pasquale, always described as the “squeaky-voiced comedian”, whose style really can be described as madcap. You either find him rather amusing or irritating. I remember seeing him for the first time on The Magic Comedy Strip in 1992, but he actually made his TV debut in the late-80s. He has also toured a lot, and is best buddies with Bradley Walsh.

Since then, he had has a few shows of his own, and while they have attracted some famous faces and contained plenty of laughs, they were not scheduled in high-profile slots. In 1996, there was The Joe Pasquale Show, a one-off on ITV that was shown in a Saturday Night primetime slot, but in the quiet post-Christmas pre-New Year period.

He then returned in The Crazy World Of Joe Pasquale, where he showed off more of his rather silly jokes and sketches as only he could do them. Although this was probably too corny for some tastes, it has to be said that could definitely make people laugh, and one critic commented on the “noisy, cackling audiences” that greeted his antics (well this was an LWT production).

But there were only two editions of this. In the first, Lisa Riley, Leslie Grantham, Melinda Messenger and Richard Whiteley took part, and there was a musical interlude from Boyzone. In the second, guests included Lionel Blair, Mystic Meg, Uri Geller, and Paul Ross, and there was music from Eternal. And again, there was the rather curious scheduling of these.

These were also shown in the quiet post-Christmas pre-New Year slot, but on consecutive Sunday afternoons, and even worse, they were copyrighted 1997, so they must’ve already been hanging around for about a year by this point. This was rather disappointing, honestly, they would never have treated Brian Conley like this! Afterwards, Joe continued to tour the country.

He then had another wave of fame when he took part in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, which he won. This led to him having an edition of An Audience With…, which put him back into primetime again, although the star-studded audience just about consisted of his fellow contestants in the jungle, and half the cast of Coronation Street. He also hosted a revival of The Price Is Right, which didn’t last long in its daytime slot, although he must be used to it by now.

More TV Memories – People Do The Funniest Things.

People Do The Funniest Things (ITV, 1986-1987)

It really is hard to believe that it has now been 15 years since Jeremy Beadle left us. He had been a familiar face on TV for many years, and I wonder what direction his career would’ve gone in. But this isn’t the time to speculate, it’s time to look back at one of his shows. I do remember this from when I was very young, and I really do think that this was an example of recording something, and then watching it back so many times that the tape wore out.

People Do The Funniest Things could be described as something of a cross between Game For A Laugh and It’ll Be Alright On The Night, taking a look in the archive and revealing some unusual moments from around the world. These included various celebrities featuring in “cock-ups”, along with a selection of what would soon become known as “home video howlers”.

Beadle seemed to host all of this from a rather small studio, and occasionally people would be plucked from the audience to take part in some games, including having to sing, but the pitch of their voices were altered, or having to wear a blindfold and trying to guess what something was by touch alone. And well, this was an LWT production, so everything was greeted by rather large amounts of laughter.

There was a repeat run of People Do The Funniest Things in 1990, a few years after the series ended, and even though this was only from about three or four years earlier, everything looked rather dated, which gives an indication of how quickly TV was changing at the time. Apparently LWT became a little concerned by the popularity of this show though.

This is because a lot of material was being used that could be more suitable for It’ll Be Alright On The Night. So it seems that at some point a compromise was made, and Beadle went off to host a new show that would concentrate on the mistakes that had been caught on amateur video in what was a rather growing market at the time, and this turned out to be the rather long-running You’ve Been Framed!

I must say that all of this was much funnier than Beadle’s About, honest. This was definitely Beadle at his best for me. There have been lots of other similar shows in more recent years though taking a look at embarrassing moments, including The Secret Video Show and Caught In The Act. There was also one called Animals Do The Funniest Things, although this is unrelated.

Game Show Memories – Catchphrase the revival.

Catchphrase (ITV, 2013-present)

It’s a surprise to realise that we are approaching the 10th anniversary of the revival of the popular game show Catchphrase. The original version ran on ITV from 1986-2004, although by the final few years this had fallen out of favour somewhat and been relegated to a daytime slot. For about a decade after, the only place that you could see this was in repeat runs on Challenge.

But then the decision was made for a revival. The host this time was Stephen Mulhern. He had been a familiar face on a lot of other TV shows, and he has come a long way since he was a host on CITV in the late-90s (and I couldn’t help but notice that the only place that you’re likely to see his old CITV colleague Danielle anywhere on TV nowadays is at about midnight on Channel Talky Talk which is a disappointment).

The first notable thing about the revival is that this has been extended to 45 minutes, and some of the sound effects from the original run have been retained. This means that three contestants now take part instead of two. In the first part, there is a preliminary round, where the catchphrases are on the buzzer. The first two to get three right progress to the main game. This part is more faithful to the original.

The idea to get a catchphrase right and earn a chance at the bonus remains the same. We can also see how far computer technology has come over the years, with plenty of impressive 3D characters, including our good old friend Mr Chips, who it is always a pleasure to meet. You also get the feeling that some catchphrases were designed simply so that Stephen can make a face at the contestant when they give a silly answer.

After much guessing, the highest-scoring contestant goes on to play the Super Catchphrase, which has a different format. There is a pyramid shape with five clues on the bottom level, four on the second, and so on, and they have to work their way up. There are 60 seconds on the clock. If they can guess the clue on the third level with a star correctly, they win a bonus prize, which is usually a holiday.

If they can reach the top level, they win the star prize of £50,000, added to what they have already won. In recent years though, this has descended into endless celebrity specials, and been extended even further to an hour long. There was also the short spin-off Catchiest Moments, taking a look at some of the highlights to fill the gap when this wasn’t in production.

More TV Memories – This Morning.

This Morning (ITV, 1988-present)

When ITV decided to launch a new daytime schedule after managing to offload schools programmes to Channel 4 in 1987, there was a combination of things like game shows, The Time… The Place…, imported soaps, and a few other things. This might not have been that much of a winning formula. But a year later, something new was added, which definitely brought some life into the schedule, and runs to this day.

This Morning was a show that came live from Liverpool every weekday, and was hosted by the husband-and-wife team of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. They weren’t hugely known at the time outside of the Granada region (although I always like to point out that Madeley began his journalistic career at the East London Advertiser, my local newspaper), but they soon would be.

The idea was essentially to be a magazine that comes to life, with 90 minutes of features, interviews, and so on. Viewers could also get involved on the phone-in which would feature a different topic every day, celebrities could come along, and there would also be a regular group of agony aunts, chefs, doctors, and the like, who often offered advice. There was also a chance for a pop group to perform their latest single, usually at the end, but they often ran out of time by this point, and crashed off the air.

In the mid-90s, there was briefly a rivalry with BBC1, who launched the very similar Good Morning. But they simply carried on, and seemed to be bemused by the whole thing. Madeley later admitted that it was like people moving in next door to you, and suddenly trying to copy everything that you do. There was a surprise in 1996 when Richard and Judy moved to London, in an attempt to try and attract some more celebrity guests.

By the early-2000s, viewers always enjoyed them being there, and they had become “part of the furniture” as they say. Features now included Midday Money, where viewers could answer rather easy questions to win a large sum, which would lead to much jumping around and excitement. And as for Madeley’s flight of fancies, well… And there was also a repeat later in the day on ITV2, under the awkward title This Morning This Afternoon.

In 2001, they unexpectedly defected to Channel 4 to launch a new show. But This Morning carried on with new hosts, although it did take a while to find a new winning combination. They eventually hired Phillip Schofield, who definitely knew a thing or two about how to make live TV work. And over the years, this show has now swelled to 150 minutes. Some people might think that it’s good that “Pip” can now essentially host the equivalent of four editions of Going Live! every week, but I do find this all rather trashy now, can’t they give him another game show to host?

More TV Memories – Surprise Surprise.

Surprise Surprise (ITV, 1984-2001, 2015)

Cilla Black is someone who had a successful pop music career throughout the 60s (even having some chart-topping singles), but her hits soon faded away, and there wasn’t much heard about her for a while. But she returned rather spectacularly from the doldrums in the mid-80s, and became famous all over again, this time as a TV host, and she is always going to be associated with two long-running shows on ITV.

One of them is game show Blind Date, and this is the other one. Surprise Surprise (not Cilla’s Surprise Surprise, no) was simply a show about surprises, reunions, and so on. The dreams of several people, even though they didn’t realise it, were about to come true, right in front of our eyes. Cilla would would sometimes phone people, arrive at their house, or even meet them in the studio.

It would seem that by bellowing “it’s Cilla ‘ere” at them, she could be instantly identified by anybody. You know your favourite pop group, who you’ve always wanted to meet, and rather conveniently have a new single out at the moment? Well now you can. There were also several birthday parties with a difference, and much more. But even Cilla couldn’t do it all on her own though.

Although the line-up would change over the series, there was a trusty team who would help out, usually including Christopher Biggins, Bob Carolgees, and Gordon Burns. Other features included Searchline. Are there any people who you were good friends with about 50 years ago, but you suddenly feel that you want to see them again? This show could help you out.

But the thing that most people remember Surprise Surprise for is the big climax, when there would be a touching family reunion. Cilla would say “you know your relative who now lives in Australia?”, which some felt could be seen as code for “they hated you so much they went to the other side of the world to get away from you?”. Well guess who’s over there. Everyone would be so overcome, Cilla would perform a song to end things. By ‘eck, chuck.

But then in the later series, they changed the closing song, and some viewers insist that this was the moment that TV as a whole, not just this show, went rubbish. At least it wasn’t like the big changes that were made to Blind Date. I suppose you could say that all of this rowdiness was LWT at its best really, that’s why they’re still home of the hits.

Surprise Surprise ran for over 15 years, and was usually shown on a Friday evening, or a Sunday. There was also a memorable parody in the ITV sitcom Once In A Lifetime, and a repeat run on Granada Plus. After the regular series ended in 1997, one-off specials continued for a while, and the final one was shown 12 years after being made (it’s a long story). Let’s not think about the revival in more recent years though.

More TV Memories – Shortland Street.

Shortland Street (TVNZ, 1992-present)

Recently I was thinking again about the time when Australian soaps swamped the daytime schedules of some channels throughout the 90s, and that’s because they were rather popular. This is another one that was imported to the UK, but this is actually from New Zealand, and is as far as I know, the only soap from that country ever to be shown here.

Shortland Street is set at a hospital in Auckland, and the episodes centre around the lives of the staff, when they are at work, and when they are not, which we soon realise can be just as traumatic, which always seems to happen. I must admit that I didn’t watch this too much, but when I took a look at the list of past and present regular cast members, I couldn’t help but notice something.

A lot of them had also featured in The Tribe, another New Zealand series which as you might know was one of my favourite TV shows from this era. People have noted how many actors have gone on to appear in multiple Australian soaps. I suppose in this case, they started their acting careers as children playing the patients, and then after The Tribe ended, they returned as adults to play the doctors.

There were also episodes that contained cliffhangers that really are worthy of the word “spectacular”. Shortland Street has been shown in various countries around the world, but the scheduling in this country was rather erratic to say the least, varying rather wildly from region to region. Some ITV regions showed episodes as early as 1993, but they could never commit to five episodes a week (like this is in New Zealand), and the timeslots changed a lot.

In the Carlton region, I’m fairly sure that this was shown for a short while, before being dropped. And then, a few years on, Carlton decided to begin another run. They even went to the trouble of making a special episode, where two of the main cast members explained what had been happening in the years since. And then, not long after, Carlton dropped this again, which seemed an unfair move even by their standards. I don’t think the theme music was even released as a single.

But by 2003, with the amount of regional daytime slots dwindling, a decade on from first being shown in this country, Shortland Street left the screen. But not long after, this was picked up by satellite channel Living, for another rather short run. But Shortland Street continues in New Zealand. There have now been almost 8,000 episodes, and after three decades, this has been established as one of the longest-running and most-popular TV shows in that country.

More TV Memories – The Bill.

The Bill (ITV, 1984-2010)

I don’t usually review what can be considered to be straightforward drama series (with the exception of some soaps, and one of two others), because this isn’t my favourite TV genre. But as this was a long-running series that plenty of people will be familiar with, and even I was a regular viewer for a while, I thought that I might as well do a review.

The Bill is a series all about the police force that started out as a rather hard-hitting one-off called Woodentop. The decision was then made for there to be a full series, which would usually be shown once or twice a week. This was set in the fictional area of Sun Hill, but once again, as seems to happen with so many TV shows, I believe that this is supposed to be not too far away from where I live in London, that might not be something to be too proud of.

And of course, there was a rather large cast that changed a lot, but the various constables, sergeants, detectives and the like soon became familiar to viewers. To pick one out as an example, there was the corrupt officer played by Steven Hartley, who had previously appeared in EastEnders and Married… With Children, and he went on to be the booming voice of just about every trail on radio station TalkSport.

And that’s the thing about The Bill really. As this was shown rather frequently, there would be a lot of things covered in the space of an average year, and although some critics claimed that this was “conveyor belt drama”, there’s no better way to try and give your acting career a boost by standing in the background of an episode, or if you’re really lucky, you could even have some dialogue.

This could lead to better things, one day you might even appear in the background of an episode of EastEnders too, and what can be better than that. Episodes also varied between being half-an-hour and an hour, and there was a brief period when this was extended to three episodes a week, but curiously all of this didn’t really fit on a Saturday night, and didn’t last long in that timeslot.

As the years went by, there were some ambitious ideas, and every new series seemed to promise to be grittier than the last, but there’s only so far that you can end up going, and after about 25 years, the station was finally closed down and left the screen. And about after five minutes after the final episode ended, there were the first rumours of a revival, but this still hasn’t happened.

Some of the earlier episodes have been released on DVD, and there were some spin-off series too. There was a repeat run on UK Gold, and more recently on Drama, which started a repeat run from the beginning, although this was soon abandoned, and they just jumped to the point of the episodes that they have already repeated several times over anyway.

The Comedy Vault – The Goodies.

The Goodies (BBC2, 1970-1980, ITV, 1981-1982)

This is one of the longest-running TV sitcoms of its era, and there really has almost been nothing else like it since. The trio that make up The Goodies had previously worked on other comedy shows going back to the mid-60s, including Broaden Your Mind. But it was decided that they should stay together and try doing a new show of their own.

These super chaps three would became affectionately known to viewers as Timmy, Billy, and, er, Graemey. When they weren’t falling off their bike, they were at their HQ and made themselves available to help anyone at any time, whatever the challenge was. It really is difficult to describe most of what happened in the episodes, but this must be the closest that a sitcom has ever come to resembling a cartoon, and you really didn’t know what was going to happen next.

Eventually, this did well enough for there to be an impressive amount of high-profile celebrities who wanted to take part, however embarrassed they might end up looking, and the guest list became something that even Morecambe and Wise would’ve been proud of. This led to the trio doing other things together outside of this sitcom, including books and comics being released, and they also went on to have five hit singles.

Episodes also featured plenty of spoof adverts, which is a thing that always gets my approval. They also continued to work on other projects, including Bill’s CITV show Saturday Banana (did I ever tell you about the Saturday Banana indecent? Maybe I should do that one day). After about a decade of this, it seems that they were eager for a new challenge, so like many other talents before them, they jumped to ITV.

But by this point the idea had started to run out of energy somewhat, and the first series on ITV (and ninth in total) was also the last. Since then they have gone on to work on more projects, who remembers Superted and Beat The Nation now? There were 76 episodes of The Goodies, and about a decade after the end, there was a repeat run on satellite channel UK Gold, although some episodes had been lost in the archive by the point, while some that remained were rather tatty.

There was some frustration at the lack of repeats on BBC2 though, a whole generation had now never seen this. Why don’t those old fuddy-duddy pompous executives give the people what they want? Eventually a few episodes were shown, and a much-heralded DVD release followed. The Goodies is a show that has been documented and celebrated more than most, and holds a unique place in British comedy history.