Game Show Memories – Hit Me Baby One More Time.

Hit Me Baby One More Time (ITV1, 2005)

When putting more pieces together about some of my favourite pop music memories recently, I was reminded of this show, that featured several pop stars from days gone by. Hit Me Baby One More Time was hosted by Vernon Kay, and this was yet another singing talent show, which was a little similar to Reborn In The USA from a year earlier, although I think this was much better.

In this, various singers and groups from the 70s, 80s, and 90s competed against each other to determine the favourite. Now as this was just before social media came along, this probably would’ve been the first time in a while that these people had been in the spotlight. Now of course it’s possible for them to document what they do all day online, and it’s odd to think that I must’ve seen and read more about some singers who took part in the past few years, then in just about the 90s and 2000s put together.

There were seven shows, featuring five acts each. Now how to pick a winner out of some of these would be a difficult choice, one edition featured Belinda Carlisle and Jaki Graham, who are both great singers, so that would definitely be a group of death. However, neither of them won their show. Also taking part were Howard Jones (or was it Nik Kershaw?), Mica Paris, Hue And Cry, Chesney Hawkes, Princess, and many more. It was great seeing a lot of them again, and they still had plenty of talent and charisma.

After an introduction, along the lines of the usual “they’ve sold 99 million albums worldwide!” fluff to remind us who they were, they performed their most famous song. And in an interesting twist, they would then perform a song by a contemporary act. There really were some surprises in store. So you would get people cover songs in unlikely genres, such as Jaki Graham taking on Will Young, and Belinda Carlisle did Coldplay.

Viewers at home could then vote for their favourite via phone or text, and the winner progressed to the final. The prize for the overall winner was to release a single. I do remember that a lot of the publicity seemed to be describing this as the big comeback for Shakin’ Stevens, and he was indeed the winner. This meant that his cover of Pink’s “Trouble” was released, and this made the Top 20, his first single to do so for 15 years.

But then, very shortly after the end of Hit Me Baby One More Time, there was an American version on NBC, and this was also hosted by Kay, possibly making an attempt to break into American TV. The format was almost the same (a few acts who had been successful on both sides of the Atlantic took part in this version too), but instead of a final, the winner of every show (after a studio audience vote) received $20,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

And there were five editions, instead of eight like there were in the UK version. Again, some vaguely familiar names featured. And would you believe it, Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons took part in one edition, performing “Words”, and her take on Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”. She lost to PM Dawn though. Both versions only ran for one series.

More TV Memories – Forever.

Forever (ITV1, 2001-2004)

A long time ago now, when ITV had something that resembled a night time schedule, several music shows would be featured. These covered various genres and formats. I enjoyed The Dance Years (that I reviewed a while ago), and this was another one that I thought was worth setting the video for. Forever was produced by Music Box.

Now it seems that this is the same one that started out as a satellite channel in the mid-80s, definitely rivalling Sky Trax with its mix of music videos and interviews (as I can’t find any clips of Forever online for now I’ll use a picture from Music Box instead). When ITV in the Yorkshire region experimented with going 24 hours, they filled the time with Music Box. You can now watch TV at 3am, incredible!

However, this channel had closed down by the late-80s, and they went on to become an independent production company, making several late-night shows for ITV including heavy metal showcase Noisy Mothers and game show Popped In Crashed Out. But I enjoyed Forever the most out of all of them. There were two formats to this, either looking back at a genre (like Rock Forever) or a year (like 1992 Forever).

Editions would usually be about an hour long, and various music videos would be shown. There was no in-vision host, but a voiceover would offer a little more information about who was being featured. There were also lots of interviews from the archive shown. I did wonder where all these came from, because they clearly weren’t contemporary interviews that were specially made for this show.

I presume that they were all compiled from various Music Box productions. Of course, an hour isn’t exactly long enough to fit in every significant song that defined a genre or year, but in the days before YouTube and the like, this was definitely an interesting way to bring back some of these musical memories. Forever seemed to be an occasional series that just turned up whenever, but it was always worth the wait.

More TV Memories – Lost In Austen.

Lost In Austen (ITV1, 2008)

You might have noticed on this blog if you are a regular that I have reviewed very few drama series, this is because it’s not a genre that I am hugely interested in. I have looked back at some comedy-dramas, but not much beyond that really. This is a drama series, but it does have a fantasy twist, and I was attracted to this for a few reasons.

Firstly, the main character was played by Jemima Rooper, who used to be in As If, a series that I had enjoyed some years earlier. I know that this was going to be something rather different, but I was simply pleased that the cast were still receiving TV work. This show also appeared on the cover of Radio Times (and I do still find it odd when ITV shows appear on the cover).

And when I saw one critic say that the idea was a little similar to the sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart, then that had convinced me that this probably was something that it was worth trying. Have you ever had the feeling when reading a book, of what it would be like if you actually found yourself in the world portrayed in the book, with the various characters all gathered around you?

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Amanda (played by Rooper) is someone who likes to read the novel Pride And Prejudice (by Jane Austen). She has become disillusioned with her life in London, and reads this whilst thinking about her next move. One day there is a portal that appears in her bathroom out of nowhere, how odd, and she couldn’t believe it, to put it mildly.

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As she then goes back in time over two centuries, it’s fair to say that there is a clash of eras, and now being able to interact directly with the likes of Mrs Bennet, her life becomes rather interesting. Will Amanda take the opportunity to rewrite the story, and maybe history all together? These are among the difficult decisions that she now has to make.

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There were four episodes of Lost In Austen in one series, and this seemed to be rather well received by critics, who were somewhat surprised that such a classy and creative drama could ever had appeared on ITV, but it did, and Rooper was as great as expected. Extras on the DVD release include a look behind the scenes, and some interviews with the cast.

More TV Memories – Directors Commentary.

Directors Commentary (ITV1, 2004)

I have looked back at several sitcoms that were shown on ITV in the 90s, as I tried to determine if any of them deserved to be a success, so I thought that I would now choose one from the 2000s decade. This was a comedy show with a rather curious idea. When films and TV shows started to be released on DVD, one of the advantages over VHS was that there were extra features that could be accessed.

These included a commentary, where various cast and crew members would talk about their experiences of working on the film, along with their influences, and anything else that crossed their mind really, and this show was designed to be a parody of this. Directors Commentary (was there supposed to be an apostrophe or not?) starred Rob Brydon (who at this point was probably best-known for the sitcom Marion And Geoff).

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Brydon played veteran director Peter De Lane, who had worked on a wide variety of TV shows throughout the 70s and 80s. These included dramas, sitcoms, and game shows, and we would hear him share his memories (or what he could remember at least) as if we were watching a DVD (he never appeared in-vision), and this would lead to some rather bizarre anecdotes. The basic joke is that he hated doing everything, and had a lovely time whilst doing so.

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One thing that was interesting were the shows that were taken out of the archive to be shown as Peter rambled on about his work on them (making the awkward situation of not being able to hear the actual dialogue properly). These included Bonanza, Mr And Mrs, and Only When I Laugh, which were definitely very popular in their time, and two shows were featured in every edition.

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There was also a Directors Commentary DOG in the corner of the screen throughout, just in case anyone turning over wondered why ITV1 had suddenly started a repeat run of Mr And Mrs rather late at night. Although this was not too bad, it’s probably not a surprise to realise that ITV1 hit the eject button on Directors Commentary after only one series, as they were doing to so many other shows around this time, and there was no repeat run.

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It seems that this has been released on DVD though, although I never got around to adding this to my collection. So I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I did read that Brydon provided a commentary as himself as an extra, meaning that there was a commentary on the commentary, and it’s a surprise that the universe didn’t collapse in on itself. This is now considered to be a minor moment in Brydon’s career, before he went on to further success in shows like Gavin And Stacey.

I suppose my point is, if you have an interesting idea for a comedy show, you probably shouldn’t pitch it to ITV.

Game Show Memories – 24 Hour Quiz.

24 Hour Quiz (ITV1, 2004)

This has got to be one of the more bizarre game shows of its era. I suppose looking back now, the kindest thing you could say about this one is that it was an interesting idea that didn’t really work. This was around the time that Big Brother was popular, so someone clearly thought, why not take that idea, and add a game show element to it, with people sat in a room together all day, but answering general knowledge questions. How could it fail?

24 Hour Quiz was hosted by Shaun Williamson, who was previously best-known for playing Barry Evans in EastEnders. I remember that he was killed off after a few years, his demise in that show being reported by one newspaper as “fatso pushed off cliff”. What a way to go. As he now couldn’t fall back on that option, where would he go next in his career? He had sung in a few stage musicals, so why not give TV hosting a go too.

Three contestants took part, who faced multiple-choice questions for most of the day. They weren’t too difficult, and there was only £1 for a correct answer, with a few questions being worth more, but this soon adds up. Being away from their chair because they were in the bath, eating, asleep, or anything else like that, meant that they would be missing out. I remember at least one contestant running from the bath with a big towel on their head to carry on playing.

All of this would take up several hours on ITV1 and ITV2. The main show consisted of trying to find someone who could replace a contestant currently in the house. Viewers could phone or text in if they wanted to play, and some were picked from whoever turned up at the studio. They would then be eliminated with multiple-choice questions. However, because this was shown live, the rules for this process seemed to constantly change, and this could end up being rather sloppy.

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There was also a late-night catch-up, which was hosted by Matt Brown. He would talk to the contestants about how they were doing, if they weren’t still in a question answering trance. It was also released that watching this could be rather dull, so sometimes they were provided with fancy dress, along with some alcohol. There were also text messages going along the screen from viewers of the usual “I hope fred wins he is sexy” type. Matt would often end the show by just walking off and leaving them to it.

Carry this on until they won lots of money or went spare, whatever happened first. 24 Hour Quiz was dropped by ITV1 before the end of its planned run (although a lot of other shows around this time were too). I’m sure that there was also an inevitable celebrity special. After this, Shaun went on to sitcom Extras, where he was often still called “Barry”. He has proven himself to be a much better game show contestant than host, doing well on Pointless, and he also won a six-figure sum for charity on Beat The Chasers, the biggest win on that show so far.

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.