More TV Memories – Record Of The Year.

Record Of The Year (ITV, 1998-2005)

In the late-90s, around the time when singles sales were on the rise, and there was a rather large turnover of chart-topping singles, it was decided that at the end of the year, there should be a special programme that would determine what the public’s favourite out of all of these were. This became Record Of The Year, a special show that was shown live on ITV on Saturday Night in December, in two parts.

This was planned to be a rather prestigious occasion, and record labels were soon hoping that their acts would have a chance of being nominated. There were lots of hosts over the years, originally there was Denise Van Outen, who was followed by Ant And Dec, and then Cat Deeley, and finally Vernon Kay. In the first part, the ten singles that were nominated were featured, and most of them were performed live on stage. record0001

These songs were always at the rather mainstream end of pop music, and even if the critics never really got that excited by them, the fans definitely did. At the end of part one, the phonelines are opened, and the viewers then had the chance to vote for their favourite. And then, about an hour later, in the second part of the show, there was the big reveal. And the way that the winner was announced seemed rather familiar. vlcsnap-00434

After the votes were counted, the songs were placed into order, with the one receiving the fewest votes scoring one point, and the one with the most scoring ten. This was announced for every ITV region, with the results being read out by someone such as maybe a local news or radio host. For example, in the Carlton Central (☹) region, the results were announced by Stephen Mulhern, who has been turning up on Saturday Nights on ITV for longer than people might realise. vlcsnap-00435

This was interesting because every region had their moment, would how they voted in Border be similar to how they voted in Anglia? The highest-scoring single was announced as The Record Of The Year, and the winners all rather eagerly ran on stage to receive a big trophy, making this come across as a cross between The Brit Awards and the Eurovision Song Contest, and there were some rather close finishes. vlcsnap-00436

The winners always seemed to be either Boyzone, Westlife (who won four times), or Busted, which says a lot about the public’s tastes. I wonder how many people will remember their winning songs now. Rather curiously, in 2005, the TV show came to an end, but the award continued, now only as an online vote, and this continued until 2012 when the idea finally came to an end.

Game Show Memories – Never Had It So Good.

Never Had It So Good (ITV1, 2002)

This is a game show that I don’t remember watching much at the time, but as it’s all about nostalgia, how could I possibly resist this now? The unaired pilot of Never Had It So Good was hosted by Greg Scott, but by the time the show came to TV, the host was Matthew Kelly, taking a break from Stars In Their Eyes. There were two celebrity teams of three who were ready to take a peek at the past.

The team captains were Rowland Rivron, and Fred Dinenage, who has worked on various shows, including the local news in the south of England on ITV for approximately 500 years. They would be joined by celebrity panellists including Clare Grogan and Leo Sayer. Their first names were in front of them in a similar style to on A Question Of Sport. Could this be the ultimate memory test. vlcsnap-00001

Round one was That Was The Year That Was. Various clips were shown from the archive, and they simply had to guess what year they were all from. There would then be some questions about that year for points. Round two was Connect 3. There were three pictures shown, and teams had to guess what famous person connected them. Going into the break, there was a clue from various people given to a famous thing, and viewers could think about what it was during the break (Greggles sometimes did these). vlcsnap-00002

Round three was You’ve Been ‘Ad. An old advert was shown, and they simply had to guess what it was for. And once again there would be some questions. The final round was Gimme 5 (not to be confused with a CITV Saturday Morning show), a last chance to pump up their points. The teams had one minute to name five things in a category, such as TV or pop music. There is one point for every one, and if they do get five, the points are doubled. vlcsnap-00007

There was a winning team declared at the end, but there were no prizes on offer. This wasn’t the first nostalgia-themed game show, others include Today’s The Day and Backdate. There was only one series of Never Had It So Good, there were lots of fun memories shared, but this seemed to be one of those shows where although the panellists enjoyed it, maybe some viewers didn’t (and there didn’t seem to be a studio audience). vlcsnap-00004

ITV were having trouble filling their post-CITV 5pm slot around this time, the soaps including Crossroads and Night And Day weren’t working, and neither were various game shows like this one. The problem with this timeslot was eventually solved though when a game show hosted by Bradley Walsh was launched and became a big success. No, not Spin Star!

More TV Memories – Kingdom.

Kingdom (ITV1, 2007-2009)

As regular readers should know by now, I am not a big fan of the drama genre, and I’ve never had much interest in those shown on a Sunday evening that were designed to not be hugely taxing and send people off to bed with a warm fuzz. But I could be attracted to watching if some decent comic actors appear in them. That’s how I got into Doc Martin with Martin Clunes (that I reviewed recently), and this one featured Stephen Fry.

The TVGoHome book that featured parodies of TV listings included one where a detective solves the crime within the first ten minutes, and then drives around the pleasant landscape in his fancy car for the rest of the show, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this a little when watching Kingdom, where it could be classed that the scenery was the star of the show. vlcsnap-01113

Fry was mostly attracted to appear in this one because it was set in the small town of Market Shipborough in Norfolk, and it could be said that his interacting with the locals took second place to the picturesque backgrounds that gave the show an easy-going feel, and it’s no surprise that the combination of all this meant that Kingdom did rather well in the ratings. vlcsnap-01109

Fry didn’t play a detective though, he starred as Peter Kingdom, a solicitor who is keen to help people out and champion their side. Most of the trouble that Peter runs into is from his dysfunctional family, including his half-brother Simon who was disappeared, his half-sister Beatrice, and his aunt. Among his staff are his young trainee colleague Lyle, and his faithful receptionist Gloria. Peter also spends some time down the local pub, The Startled Duck, pondering his next move. vlcsnap-01112

Unsurprisingly, lots of famous faces were eager to take part, and guest appearances included Richard Wilson, Jack Dee, and Fry’s old mate Tony Slattery. There were 18 episodes of Kingdom in three series. Maybe it’s not the most thrilling thing that Fry has done in his career, but it’s always enjoyable seeing him doing his thing, and the sound of his lovely voice is like treacle being poured into my ears, as I’m sure he’d agree. vlcsnap-01110

I also remember that there was a rather unsympathetic parody of the show in Harry And Paul, it seems that there’s no love lost there. I noticed as well that among the writers was Jeff Povey who also contributed to CITV’s Samson Superslug. All of the episodes have been released on DVD, and extras include a look behind the scenes, and a photo gallery, and there has also been a repeat run on ITV3.

More TV Memories – The Premiership.

The Premiership (ITV1, 2001-2004)

A few people have requested that I review Match Of The Day on this blog. But I thought that I would review this one instead. As I have said before, I am not really that big a football fan, but I think that the story of this one is interesting because it’s a perfect example of a show that tried to bring new and innovative features to a trusted format when viewers didn’t want any of that at all.

In 1992, Sky won the rights the show live coverage of the newly-formed Premier League, meaning that top-flight matches would no longer be shown in full on the BBC or ITV, and there was now a good reason to buy a satellite dish. This meant that Match Of The Day was relaunched by the BBC to feature highlights of matches on Saturday nights. This was often hosted by Des Lynam, who had become popular for his laid-back style on various BBC sport shows including Grandstand.

In 1999 there was much surprise when Des defected to ITV, meaning that he would no longer host the show. Then, in 2001 ITV unexpectedly won the rights to the highlights off the BBC for the next three seasons, meaning that Des was suddenly hosting the most high-profile TV football show in the country again, much to his delight. ITV felt that they had to do something different. The plan was to follow the matches throughout the day.

There would be previews in On The Ball in the afternoon, followed by The Goal Rush as results came in, and concluding with the centrepiece of the main show in the evening. With such a big interest in football, how could it fail. The biggest change would be that the main show would be at 7pm, right in primetime, not at 10:30 where it was usually shown on the BBC. Don’t forget to set the video. vlcsnap-00874

This meant that the highlights would have to be complied and edited very quickly. It was considered it would be worth it though. The theme music was U2’s chart-topper “Beautiful Day” (one of the few changes that did last to the end). Along with Des (in a pointlessly large studio), the regular pundits would include Andy Townsend and Ally McCoist, along with commentators Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury. Where’s Motty gone. vlcsnap-00875

Along with some features and interviews, there would also be ProZone (an example of an idea that isn’t as interesting as it originally seemed and will get dropped almost instantly). This meant that there wasn’t actually much time for the highlights in the 75-minute show. Throw in some immensely irritating sponsorship bumpers for Coca-Cola as well and you have an all-round package that was widely criticised by viewers and critics. vlcsnap-00878

There would also be an extra edition on Monday to reflect on the weekend’s action. By November though, the show had been moved back to the more familiar slot of 10:30 and all the gimmicks had gone. One of the boldest scheduling gambles of its era was a complete flop, with disappointing ratings. All that hype for nothing, it turned out that people would rather watch Blind Date in that slot, who would’ve thought it. vlcsnap-00877

One problem with excessive adverts is that I remember if an edition was scheduled to end at midnight, they seemed to return from a break at about 11:57 and Des would say “highlights from two more matches now”. Are they only going to get about a minute each then, after the show should’ve already ended? The show carried on despite the rather embarrassing collapse of the ITV Sport Channel in 2002. vlcsnap-00880

As far as the actual football goes, this era is best remembered for two titles being won by Arsenal, including their invincible season. In 2004, the rights returned to the BBC, meaning that The Premiership came to an end, and shortly after this, Des, who some felt was a little past his best by this point, left ITV after five years, and he would resurface about a year later as the new host of Countdown.

Game Show Memories – Game Show Marathon.

Game Show Marathon (ITV, 2005-2007)

In 2005, there were several shows to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ITV. It was decided to include some game shows as part of this, so that resulted in the Game Show Marathon. This was shown on Saturday nights and was originally hosted by Ant And Dec. Every week a different game show that had been on ITV would be featured. Every edition would include the show of that week’s original opening sequence (along with the ITV company that produced it’s ident too!).

There would also be a quick look back at history of the show, including contributions from fans and the original host. The first series began with The Price Is Right, as some of the celebrity audience were invited to “come on down”. They returned to take part in other games throughout the series, until there were two remaining. The climax was Family Fortunes, where the two finalists Vernon Kay and Carol Vorderman appeared alongside their families to determine the overall champion. vlcsnap-00473

Also featuring in the first series were Take Your Pick, The Golden Shot, Sale Of The Century, Play Your Cards Right, and good old Bullseye. Any money and prizes that were won were put into a fund, where viewers could enter a competition to win them. Seeing some of these shows return to TV went down rather well with viewers, so two years later there was another series, with Vernon Kay moving from contestant to host. vlcsnap-00460

Another group of celebrities took part, and this time the shows included The Price Is Right, Blankety Blank, The Golden Shot, Name That Tune, Mr And Mrs, and Play Your Cards Right. But among the highlights for me in this series were Bullseye (which was also revived on Challenge around this time), where the celebrities teamed up with professional darts players, because all these years on you still can’t beat a bit of Bully. vlcsnap-00476

And there was also one of the many revivals of Blockbusters. It’s always a pleasure seeing this show, and among those playing and taking their place on the hot spot was Ben Shephard (before he hosted a few game shows of his own including Tipping Point). There was also £50 for a correct answer which was rather generous, it was only £5 in the original version. vlcsnap-00477

Even though the second series had one extra edition, it retained the knockout format. In 2006 there was also an American version of the Game Show Marathon, and this was shown on ITV2. There have also been some rumours that there might be another series, meaning that it’ll be a revival of a revival. Will it include what will be about the 17th different version of Blockbusters? Maybe we’ll find out soon.

More TV Memories – Football First/The Goal Rush.

Football First (ITV2, 1998-2001)/The Goal Rush (ITV1/ITV2, 2001-2003)

You will know if you a regular visitor to this blog that although I’ve never had any talent for playing sport, I have watched a lot of sports shows on TV over the years, and this is one with an interesting story. In 1998 digital channel ITV2 launched, and on Saturday afternoons there would be a fast-moving show that featured all the latest football results in England and Scotland. Well they had to find something to fill their schedules with when they were still working out what the channel should be about.

It was called Football First and was originally hosted by Graham Beacroft, who has also been a commentator on the radio for many years at various stations including TalkSport. The screen would be split into several parts, with the equivalent of Grandstand‘s Vidiprinter along the bottom with all the latest goals (and red cards!). Along with reporters at a few grounds, there would also be pundits in the studio to offer their views on the action. I suppose you could say it was an attempt to bring the ITV Results Service into the new millennium. vlcsnap-00403

This show was the first time that I had been able to watch such coverage for the whole of the match, and not just as the full-time results came in. As ITV didn’t have the rights to Premiership highlights at this point, there was more emphasis on the lower league games. Now, if you are beginning to think that this is all rather similar to Sky Sports’s Soccer Saturday with Jeff Stelling… well, it was really. vlcsnap-00411

But I didn’t have access to that show at this point and I didn’t see it until Sky Sports News launched on Freeview in the early-2000s. After a few seasons of Football First, something significant then happened. In 2001 ITV did acquire the rights to Premiership highlights for three seasons, and they wanted to make a big deal out of it, including the return of On The Ball (a format that had been around since the World Of Sport days), and the ill-fated idea of having the main show on Saturdays at 7pm that backfired very quickly (but how that all played out is another story). vlcsnap-00416

The decision was made to relaunch Football First as The Goal Rush, and it would now be hosted by Angus Scott. Although the whole of the show remained on ITV2, at around 4:30pm coverage would also be on ITV1 for the climax of the top-flight matches (and there would also be plenty of promotion for the ITV Sport Channel, another bold idea that went awry). vlcsnap-00408

However, The Goal Rush didn’t return for the third and final season of Premiership coverage in 2003, and in 2004 the rights returned to the BBC, where Match Of The Day continues to this day. Since then, the BBC have also expanded their Final Score show to last all afternoon, where it remains an intriguing watch. And I have managed to do a whole piece looking back at ITV’s Premiership coverage without making a sarcastic reference to The Tactics Truck. Oh no!

More TV Memories – Saturday Night Takeaway.

Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV1, 2002-2009, ITV, 2013-present)

This is another show that does feature a game show element, although again I do feel that it is more of a general entertainment show. Ant and Dec had already hosted some Saturday Night TV shows, including BBC1’s Friends Like These. They then moved to ITV and hosted Slap Bang which was something of a flop. But they went off and regrouped and came back with something that was much better… and this time it was a hit!

In the early-2000s Ant and Dec had hosted various other successful shows including Pop Idol, but critics often said that these formats were popular enough that they would’ve done well in the ratings whoever hosted them, so they had to prove that they did have the ability to be a success with their own show. It turned out to be something in the familiar Noel’s House Party/Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush style.

Saturday Night Takeaway was a live show that contained lots of features. I only really watched the first few series regularly, and these are some of the highlights from that era. One memorable feature was Make Ant Laugh. Ant is supposedly rather grumpy, and needs cheering up (“laugh? Don’t make me laugh!”). A rather bad variety act would come on and had to make Ant laugh within 60 seconds. If they succeeded, they won a prize, and I remember Ant did end up giggling a lot. vlcsnap-00408

There was also What’s Next, where Ant and Dec didn’t know what the next feature they were taking part in was until a curtain was raised (eventually), so it was always a surprise. Other features over the series have included Ant Vs Dec, The Jiggy Bank, Home Run and Little Ant And Dec. It’s fair to say by this point that our cheeky hosts had left their pop music careers (which they weren’t embarrassed about at all, oh no) behind. vlcsnap-00435

One of the more interesting features in the first series was Banged Up With Beadle. TV presenter Jeremy Beadle has been locked away in a dungeon “for his services to light entertainment”. Every week he would be paired with a contestant and they would have to practice a task, which they would then have to perform live on the show. If they succeeded, the contestant won a prize, and Jeremy was given something extra to make his time a little more enjoyable, like some books. There was also a spin-off show on ITV2 which looked at some of the highlights of the week, along with the contestant talking about their experience. Jeremy always came across as very kind and did anything he could to help out the contestants, which was great. vlcsnap-00411

The centrepiece of the show was Grab The Ads, leading to the show’s main catchphrase “don’t just watch the ads… win them!”. Some adverts were picked from a show that had been on ITV1 during the week, and one rather overexcited contestant was chosen to play. There were 60 seconds, and for every correct answer, one of the 25 items was randomly highlighted. The twist here was that this meant that they could win a car and a holiday, or a toilet roll and a chocolate bar. However, they could gamble to answer one more question and if they got it right they would win everything on the board. vlcsnap-00377

Overall, Saturday Night Takeaway was a big success with viewers, Ant and Dec had finally done it! In 2009 the show ended and they went off to other things including game show Push The Button, but this was a flop by comparison. In 2013 the format was revived, and seemed to have a fresh energy, including more new features such as In For A Penny. There has also been a tour, along with a book and a board game being released, and the show’s success is one of the factors leading to Ant and Dec winning the Most Popular TV Presenter award for about 43 consecutive years.

More TV Memories – OFI Sunday.

OFI Sunday (ITV1, 2005)

2005 wasn’t a great year for ITV1. As has been documented elsewhere, their prime-time schedule relied on very little beyond the soaps, and shows with “celebrity” in the title. There were a few entertainment formats tried out though including sitcoms and game shows, but they all seemed to be moved to a worse timeslot before the end of their run, or were pulled altogether with editions remaining unaired. They seemed to have very little confidence in their shows and I don’t remember watching that regularly during this time.

By this point Chris Evans hadn’t been on TV regularly for about five years. He didn’t even bother to host the final (for a while) series of TFI Friday on Channel 4 in 2000. He went on to work behind the scenes on some shows with his production company, and most of them were flops, including Channel 4’s game show Boys And Girls, and Channel 5’s Live With… Chris Moyles and The Terry And Gaby Show.

It was around the mid-2000s that Chris started to get back into presenting, including joining BBC Radio 2, and the time seemed right for a return to TV presenting. Having been a fan of his shows over the years going all the way back to TV Mayhem in the early-90s, I looked forward to what he had planned. Chris insisted that he had plenty of big ideas. Would hosting a new entertainment show on ITV1 be a good way to come back? vlcsnap-00625

Well would you believe it. OFI Sunday (which started out at 10:30pm) was a 45-minute show that was essentially the sequel to TFI Friday, it was a show designed to end off the week in a lively style that tried to banish those “oh no it’s Monday tomorrow” blues. It was also packed with a lot of features that would either succeed or fail badly. And you can probably guess where this is going. ofi0002

The first problem was the lack of celebrity guests. On the first show the guest was Chris’s ex-wife Billie Piper. On the second show it was James Nesbitt, a friend of Chris’s, so a lot of the conversation was rather in-jokey and meant little to anyone else. By the end of that show, Chris was making a mildly desperate request for celebrities to appear next week as they had nobody planned. The studio design was also rather garish. ofi0001

Also, TV had moved on somewhat, and most of the features were recycled from TFI Friday almost a decade earlier. Fun and innovative then, but tired by now. Clearly someone hadn’t told Chris that it wasn’t 1996 any more. These included the guest banging a gong to start the show, a look at the week’s news, and “Mine Or Not Mine”, where Chris (who has never been modest about these things) brought on an unusual object and people had to guess whether he really owned it or not. vlcsnap-00639

Also featuring was Chris showing a Polaroid picture of something to his guest that made them laugh, and then destroying it without anyone else seeing it or explaining what it was of. There would be performances from pop groups, and guests would be encouraged to do some karaoke too. Chris would also take the chance to wheel out random production team members on stage and mildly embarrass them in various games (another thing he has always seemed fond of).

The response to all this from viewers was rather negative, ratings plummeted, and guess what, OFI Sunday skipped a week, and then the sixth and final edition (on a Friday, oddly) was shown at a very late time, before it was never seen again, suffering exactly the same unfortunate fate that just about every other ITV1 entertainment show had in this year like almost everyone had predicted would happen right from the outset.

“You will love this!” claimed Chris. Well maybe the 12 people who were still watching by the end did, but no-one else really cared. OFI Sunday was simply a total failure. After this setback, Chris concentrated on his radio work again for a while, working his way up to the Radio 2 Breakfast slot, and now compared with his earlier days finally coming across (although we’ll ignore Top Gear for now) as a safe pair of hands.

The Comedy Vault – Believe Nothing.

Believe Nothing (ITV1, 2002)

Rik Mayall was someone who provided a lot of energetic performances in many comedy shows over the years, the best-known of these including BBC2’s The Young Ones (which I must admit I have never seen myself – I know, shocking) and Bottom. There was also ITV’s The New Statesman, a satirical sitcom where he played a politician that was written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (also behind such memorable sitcoms as Birds Of A Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart).

About a decade after that ended, Mayall reunited with those writers for a similar sitcom that was shown in the Sunday 10pm slot. If you thought that Alan B’Stard was outrageous… just wait until you see this guy! Believe Nothing starred Mayall as Adonis Cnut (how very amusing, I’m sure that some of the publicity for the show at the time used the phrase “Rik Mayall is A. Cnut”), a professor who is the world’s cleverest man but has became somewhat bored by his own brilliance. vlcsnap-00547

One day he is hired to join the Council For International Progress, a somewhat shadowy organisation containing the world’s greatest minds that makes all the important decisions. The other main cast members are Adonis’s servant Brian Albumen (Michael Maloney), and Dr Hannah Awkward (Emily Bruni), a young professor who Adonis is rather fond of, but she doesn’t really like him. Adonis was also prone to random bouts of violence that drew comparisons with Bottomvlcsnap-00548

Among those making guest appearances were Barry Cryer as the host of the big money game show Get Rich Quick (that’s another game show parody appearing in a comedy to add to my list), Melvyn Bragg as the host of discussion show What’s The Big Idea?, and Rory Bremner as the American president. Tim Vine also made a brief appearance in one episode. vlcsnap-00543

Adonis didn’t seem to have much time for ordinary people, and carried on like he wouldn’t be satisfied until he had taken over the world, seemingly knowing everything about everyone and using his influence to consult high-ranking politicians as to what they should do, which usually had disastrous results, and he would then take out his frustration on the faithful Albumen. vlcsnap-00549

Believe Nothing ran for only six episodes, and it is one of Mayall’s lesser-remembered shows, but it has been released on DVD, and extras include some outtakes. The show did come across as something of a lively cross between The New Statesman and Whoops Apocalypse (which Mayall also appeared in about two decades before this), and it was a satirical statement on the bizarre world of politics at the beginning of the 21st century. 

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A magazine article about Believe Nothing from July 2002

More TV Memories – The All-New Harry Hill Show.

The All-New Harry Hill Show (ITV1, 2003)

After Harry Hill left Channel 4, he moved to ITV1 in 2001 and launched his long-running TV Burp show. After this started to become successful, the decision was made to revive his comedy show which had run for three series on Channel 4. Although it seems that some consider this to be a direct follow-on from that series, I feel that there are enough differences for me to give this a separate review.

Firstly, his regular bunch of characters from the Channel 4 series didn’t take part, meaning that there were no appearances from old favourites including Finsbury Park or Harry’s big brother Alan, although the terrific Stouffer The Cat did turn up occasionally. Instead Harry was assisted by a small old man who he insisted was the rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave. After a rather energetic dance routine accompanied by a band in the studio, Harry would come on stage and tell some of his rather strange jokes. vlcsnap-00540

Features on the show included The Hamilton Challenge, the life of Robbie Williams told by ventriloquist dummies, a parody of News At Ten with Trevor McDonald, and the very exciting A Celebrity Hobby That You Didn’t Know About But Will In A Minute, where famous faces including Les Dennis would be interviewed by Harry to reveal the rather unusual thing that they have an interest in. vlcsnap-00541

Every edition ended with Harry performing a song, and then some of the studio audience came on to the stage to join Harry on a bouncy castle. You won’t see any badger parades around here! The All-New Harry Hill Show was shown on ITV1 fairly late on Sunday nights, meaning that the ratings weren’t that great, and some viewers felt that it was a little disappointing by comparison to the Channel 4 series, and it didn’t return. vlcsnap-00539

However, Harry did return for a similarly silly series called Harry Hill’s Shark-Infested Custard, which was aimed at a younger audience and shown on CITV. Harry has certainly been done a variety of things over the years, including starring in his own film, making a album, writing various books, becoming the cover star of The Dandy (although he couldn’t save it from closing shortly after), and also hosting other TV shows including Harry Hill’s Alien Fun Capsule that I might review soon too. But his revival of Stars In Their Eyes? Ooh no, I’m not going anywhere near that one! vlcsnap-00542

It is rather disappointing to think that little of Harry’s TV work has been released on DVD. Hopefully that will change one day because Harry has made some of the more entertainingly bizarre comedy shows that have appeared on British TV stretching back almost 25 years now, and I (along with many others I’m sure) certainly wouldn’t hesitate in buying any boxsets of his shows.