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.

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More TV Memories – Crossroads The Final Episode.

Crossroads (ITV1, 2003)

In what will probably the last in my series looking back at the final episodes of TV soaps (I don’t think I can go through Brookside again, and I don’t want to go anywhere near Eldorado), here’s a look at how Crossroads ended. This was a soap that was originally shown on ITV from 1964-1988, and then there was a revival in 2001 in a daytime slot, which featured the return of some old faces. This met with a middling response from viewers, so it was time for a rethink. vlcsnap-01272

In 2003 Crossroads was relaunched again, and this time it was somewhat daft and camp, as if they were trying to say in this version the acting was deliberately bad, ha-ha-ha! Again, viewers weren’t very fond of all this, and even having guest appearances from the likes of such celebrities as Les Dennis, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Lionel Blair (although on this occasion he didn’t simply say “cataracts?”) wasn’t that exciting. vlcsnap-01276

So the decision was made to end the show in May 2003, for good this time. How would it all end? I decided to give it another watch. Unlike the other soaps that I have reviewed, would they just go down the “it was all a dream” route? Well… they actually did. They took the opportunity to send up the genre somewhat and make references to the show, I believe the word for this is meta as the teenagers say. vlcsnap-01278

Apart from Jane Asher who was brought in as the star attraction for this version and played Angela who ran the hotel, just about every other cast member had already been in a soap or would go on to be in one. So we had the likes of Sherrie Hewson, Anne Charleston and Lucy Pargeter who would all go on to appear in Emmerdale, with just about all the others going on to EastEnders or Hollyoaks. And also featuring was Freema Agyeman who would go on to further success in Doctor Who and Law And Order UKvlcsnap-01273

Another thing that I noticed was that there was a character called Rio who was played by Georgina Walker (who had become a redhead and picked up an American accent somewhere along the way) who was described by one character as “a right little madam”. Now you might remember that this was the actress who caught my attention when she played the mysterious Jane Harper in the great Night And Day. By a coincidence Crossroads ended about a week before Night And Day did on ITV1, so she was in the unfortunate position of appearing in the final episode of two soaps in very quick succession, and she hasn’t been seen much on TV since. vlcsnap-01257

About halfway through the final episode, suddenly all of the cast worked in a supermarket, and the announcement was made that the supermarket was about to close and everyone would be out of a job. When asked what she would do next, Asher’s character said that she might “bake a cake” (do you see??!). How we laughed. It was definitely one of the more bizarre ways for a show to leave the screen. vlcsnap-01279

More TV Memories – Night And Day The Final Episode.

Night And Day: the final episode (ITV1, 2003) vlcsnap-01109

One of the earliest blog pieces that I did was about my favourite TV soap Night And Day. Because there isn’t much about this show online I decided that I wanted to do another piece, so I thought that I’d have a look back at the final episode that was shown rather late on ITV1 in June 2003. Night And Day was a rather odd show which was quickly dropped from its daytime slot, but the episodes were made so far in advance that there were still about a year’s worth to show when this decision was made, and they were determined to end things with a bang. You can now rest easy as I finally reveal the fates of all the characters, including what happened to the mysterious Jane Harper… vlcsnap-00998

The previous episode ended with the cliffhanger of Della discovering that her and Jane had been swapped as babies by Danny (played by a pre-EastEnders Shane Richie). This episode begins with Della and Jane’s 17th birthday parties, following on from the first episode which featured their 16th birthdays, which was actually shown 19 months earlier, time seemingly moves slower in Greenwich. Jane was eventually found in a later episode where she had lost her memory, and she was reunited with her family. vlcsnap-01215

There’s lots of other things going on. Fiona has started having an affair with the much younger Dennis. Her husband Mike couldn’t believe it really, she has had enough though and plans to leave on her own. Josh discovers that he isn’t Della’s brother. Jane’s brother (well, probably) Ryan has had a tough year, but Danny’s lovely niece Celeste has helped him through. Will he stay with her? Jane meets Alex again, who she had been having an affair with in the earliest episodes before her disappearance. But wait, it turns out he’s her dad? Well that’s awkward. Roxanne is not happy to discover what happened to put it mildly and throws Alex out. vlcsnap-01217

We now reach the climax where Jane finally confronts Danny about everything that’s happened, and goes and stabs him. We then rejoin the story four years later after Jane is released from prison on her 21st birthday. What had happened to everyone? The Harpers moved away from Greenwich, and Roxanne hasn’t seen Alex since. Della had a family with a now rich Josh who it turns out wasn’t her brother at any point. vlcsnap-01031

Also, Frankie’s dad turned into a hugely convincing robot, Dennis got married and became a fireman, and Ryan had a sex change and stayed with a now pregnant Celeste. It was also revealed that Jane had died in prison the day she was supposed to be released, so it was her ghost walking around at the end or something like that, even I had lost track by this point. We end with a closing montage of some memorable moments accompanied by Bjork’s “All Is Full Of Love”. vlcsnap-01019

And that’s it. Night And Day hasn’t been seen on British TV since (and neither have many of the cast) and I was very sorry to see it leave the screen, although I was clearly in the minority on that one. I’ve never really seen anything else like it on TV before or since, in any genre, never mind soaps. I still have a lot of fond memories of watching this show. Who knows, maybe the residents of Thornton Street are still all out there somewhere… vlcsnap-01024

I plan to look at how some more soaps ended soon including the final episodes of Family Affairs and Crossroads.

The Comedy Vault – 2DTV.

2DTV (ITV1, 2001-2004)

The satirical comedy show Spitting Image was a huge success on ITV for about a decade. After that show ended in 1996, there was often speculation that it would return, or at the very least a similar show would be launched. In 2001, a new satirical show did finally appear, which featured the same production team as the final series of Spitting Image, and it was called 2DTVvlcsnap-01085

The difference between Spitting Image and 2DTV was that it didn’t feature puppetry, instead it was an animated show. Just about everyone who was in the public eye at the beginning of the 2000s decade was featured in the show, whether they be leading politicians, irritating TV presenters, dozy footballers, flashy pop stars, the Royals, or cast members of EastEndersvlcsnap-01088

A small group of comic actors provided the voices, most of which seemed to be performed by Jon Culshaw. He also contributed to the later editions of Spitting Image, and somewhat oddly, around the same time as 2DTV he was also a member of the BBC TV and radio comedy show Dead Ringers, so you could see and hear him doing impressions of the same people in two unrelated shows. Also among the voices was Dave Lamb. vlcsnap-01084

2DTV got off to a fairly quiet start, with the earliest editions only being ten minutes long. However, the show did get some good reviews, so later editions were extended to 25 minutes. Although it was good to have some late-night comedy with an edge on the TV, by the end ITV1 scheduled the show in an increasingly late slot, and the show began to run out of energy a little, so after about three years 2DTV came to an end. vlcsnap-01086

Some of the best sketches featured on 2DTV were released on DVD. I bought this, firstly because there was a free gift of a calendar, but also because there were some good sketches that I wanted to watch again, and the DVD also had some interesting bonus features including some extra sketches that hadn’t been shown on TV, plus a look behind the scenes including interviews with the impressionists and the frantic rush to put the show together as close to transmission as possible to keep the material topical. vlcsnap-01083

After 2DTV ended, the cycle went back round to the start, with viewers again saying that there’s a space for a topical comedy show on TV. There have been two more attempts by ITV in recent years to give the great and the good a ribbing, firstly with Head Cases (which featured computer-generated characters), and then with Newzoids (featuring a combination of puppetry and computer graphics). While these have done fairly well with viewers (and again feature some of the 2DTV team), I must admit that 2DTV is my favourite of the three and the only one that I think can compare with the impact that Spitting Image made.

The Comedy Vault – Monkey Trousers.

Monkey Trousers (ITV1, 2005)

Following on from the similar The All-Star Comedy Show of which a couple of editions were shown on ITV1 a year earlier, Monkey Trousers was a comedy sketch show featuring a wide variety of comic talent taking part in some rather daft sketches. Most of the show was written by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, and their unusual comedy style definitely came through. vlcsnap-00592

Among the cast and the regular characters were Alistair McGowan as a 1950s footballer, Steve Coogan as a creepy toy shop owner, Neil Morrissey as a shouting policeman, Matt Berry as a burping antiques expert, and John Thomson as a foul-mouthed chef. Reeves and Mortimer also took part in sketches themselves, with Mortimer playing a fearless wildlife expert who liked to wrestle with crocodiles, and a clueless estate agent. Reeves played a crazy vicar, and also the silliest character in the series who gave the show its title, someone who liked to run around and shout “monkey trousers!”, because monkeys are funny, right? vlcsnap-00593

Also taking part in the show were many others including Angus Deayton, Rebecca Front, Tim Healy, Mackenzie Crook, Griff Rhys Jones, Ronni Ancona, and Rhys Thomas. So that’s a comedy show featuring some of my favourite comedy talent taking part in some unusual sketches in a sort-of combination of such popular 90s comedy shows as The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer and The Fast Show. How could it possibly fail? vlcsnap-00595

Well, it did, and there are some reasons for this. When Monkey Trousers was shown on ITV1 in 2005, they were going through a habit of moving shows to a later slot or not completing the run of a show, and despite commissioning a full series unfortunately they lost confidence in this show too. The final edition wasn’t even shown presumably because of low ratings, it didn’t return for another series, and this show like many others during this time became another comedy flop which is very disappointing. vlcsnap-00598

Monkey Trousers has been released on DVD though and it features some extras including interviews with Bob Mortimer and Steve Coogan (whose production companies made the show), there are also some outtakes and deleted sketches along with the unaired edition. Maybe if it had been shown on BBC2 or Channel 4 Monkey Trousers could have been a bigger success because it wasn’t that bad, but it’s a shame that so much talent resulted in such little success.

The YouTube Files – Dead Man Weds.

Dead Man Weds (ITV1, 2005)

At the start of 2005, two sitcoms were launched at just about the same time on different channels which starred Johnny Vegas. BBC3’s Ideal was one, which was a great success and ran for seven series, whereas the other one, which was Dead Man Weds was a flop and vanished after six episodes. I’ve managed to track it down online though because I was interested in watching it again over a decade on to see if it deserves its flop status. vlcsnap-00522

Dead Man Weds was a sitcom which starred and was written by Dave Spikey of Phoenix Nights fame. The Fogburrow Advertiser is a newspaper that covers a rather sleepy town where nothing much happens and they struggle to fill the pages. The new editor Gordon Garden (played by Spikey) who used to work on a national newspaper then comes along and decides to try and shake-up the staff, seemingly only consisting of Lewis (played by Vegas), youngster Dwayne, some old lady and Ken Barlow’s brother, to try and put some work into finding some important stories to publish. vlcsnap-00519

Not long after, they soon unearth a scandal which is of such huge proportions that if they can get to the bottom of what is happening, not only will it be the paper’s biggest ever story, but it could possibly be the scoop of the year. The water in the area is turning blue – what could be the reason for this? Gordon decides that it’s time for some investigative journalism to solve the mystery, and well, Lewis and his colleagues have never seen owt like it! vlcsnap-00493

Also among the cast were Tim Healy who ran the local pub and Michael Brandon who was the boss of the company Gene US that were behind the strange things. One interesting thing about Dead Man Weds was that the theme music was “It’s Good News Week”, a hit single for one-hit wonders Hedgehoppers Anonymous in 1965. However, it’s been announced that there are no plans to bring out the show on DVD, partly because of the music content, and also presumably because the song was written by a dirty old man. That’s great isn’t it, deliberately picking a theme song that you know will scupper your chances of a DVD release, not that there would have been a huge demand for one. vlcsnap-00500

ITV1’s scheduling was at rather a low ebb at this point, and somewhat inevitably Dead Man Weds was another show that was pushed into a later timeslot for the final episode, something that seemed to happen to a lot of shows at the time, although they should be commended for trying out new sitcoms even if in the mid-2000s they were inevitably doomed. Looking back though the show was an interesting idea with an unexpected twist. It turns out it was a 16ft tall turkey all along! That’ll definitely put Fogburrow on the map!

Game Show Memories – The Biggest Game In Town.

The Biggest Game In Town (ITV1, 2001)

The Biggest Game In Town was the fourth UK game show to use the bingo format, the others being Bob’s Full House, One To Win and Lucky Numbers. While Bob’s Full House was the best of these (and indeed for me it’s one of the best game shows of them all), this one did at least add an interesting interactive twist, although it only ran for one series before leaving the screen.

The Biggest Game In Town was shown live on weekday afternoons on ITV1 for a few months in 2001 and it was hosted by Steve Le Fevre (although when he was away for a few shows Bobby Davro deputised for him and I must admit that I enjoyed his presentation of the show more). Three contestants took part in the now familiar rounds that consisted of having to fill the four corners of their card, then the middle line, and then get a full house to win the game, and once again they would be “wallied” for giving an incorrect answer. They would also win a bonus for winning an individual round. vlcsnap-00593

What was good about the show was that viewers could play along at home. They could get a gamecard which had various numbers on it. Also on the card was a phone number and when they called it they could activate their card for the day and play for the potential of a cash prize, and every day about 50,000 viewers took part. Questions were on the buzzer and every time a contestant got an answer right, a ball would tumble down a computer-generated tunnel and its randomly-generated number would appear on the screen, and if viewers had it they could cross it off on their card. vlcsnap-00595

Another good element of the show was that there was a leaderboard on screen which showed how many viewers needed how many more numbers to win which would update after every ball, and it did become exciting as it got to the point where some people only needed one or two numbers to win, and once anyone completed their card, that part of the game was over and the prize money was shared between however many winners there were, meaning that the host could announce this right away, and in a few shows they could even speak to some winners live on the phone. vlcsnap-00586

Back in the studio, the main game continued until someone had completed their card or time was up. Whoever had progressed the furthest went into the final. Because the show was live most of the questions asked were topical or about programmes currently on TV. There were 45 seconds on the clock and they won money for every correct answer, up to a maximum of £5,550 for getting all nine right, which was fairly tough to achieve. There was also at least one celebrity special of the show and there was an extra edition on Fridays with even more money on offer for everyone. vlcsnap-00598