More TV Memories – Challenge Anneka.

Challenge Anneka (BBC1, 1989-1995, ITV1, 2006-2007, Channel 5, 2023)

Treasure Hunt is a game show that became popular with viewers in the mid-80s, mostly thanks to Anneka Rice, who had to run around whilst trying to solve the clues against the clock. Then her next series took the idea of trying to achieve something whilst under time pressure to the extreme. Challenge Anneka started as a one-off as part of Children In Need in 1987, before being given a full series in 1989.

Anneka and her trusty team would travel around the country in their truck. There was also the memorable opening sequence, that seemed to claim that Anneka possessed some “coming to the rescue”-style superpowers, and there was also the indication that wherever the truck went, and however little time they had, they would always make sure to do their best to avoid hedgehogs in the road.

A clue would be discovered which would reveal that they had to create something rather bold and ambitious, such as “build a school in five days” or “write a play in three days” (and those aren’t too much of an exaggeration). So a lot of people would have to get involved, and move rather quickly. The latest technology would be used to help this happen.

As the series progressed, Anneka seemed to earn a reputation where the large corporations and businesses would instantly say “yes” to her demands if they were contacted and happily take part. There would also be constant updates on how much time was remaining (“45 hours to go!”), but somehow, everything usually got completed just about in time.

There were also a few specials, where there were some challenges in various countries around the world. Challenge Anneka did well enough to be a regular in a Saturday Night slot for about six years. But then, over a decade on from the end of the original series, this show was revived for two specials on ITV1. And then, after an even longer gap, this was revived again, this time on Channel 5, making this one of a small amount of shows to have been on three channels.

Plenty of people commented that Anneka hadn’t lost any of her enthusiasm (or her truck), or her ability to make things happen quickly, but you wonder why this was revived. But then, in a move that was incompetent by their own standards, despite the publicity and good reviews, Channel 5 decided that they couldn’t be bothered to show the rest of the series. Maybe once that coveted Thursday at 4am slot becomes available, they might be shown there.

Radio Memories – Teenage Kicks.

Teenage Kicks (BBC Radio 2, 2007, ITV1, 2008)

This is another sitcom that was in the comedy slot on BBC Radio 2. Teenage Kicks was written by and starred Adrian Edmondson (or “Sexy Ade Edmondson” as they used to call him in Smash Hits). Vernon is someone who used to be in a Punk band called The Plague, and almost three decades on from this, he is still trying to keep that spirit alive.

Indeed, it’s rather weird to realise that this was so long ago we really are now in the era of “Punk pensioners”. Vernon has gone through a rather bad divorce, and he has moved back in with his two teenage children Max and Milly, much to their irritation. He has decided that he is not going to grow old gracefully, or indeed grow old at all, even though he is clearly now at the age where he is past his best.

Vernon often spends a lot of time in the pub with his mate Bryan who he has known since the Punk days (played by Ben Elton). This is really one of those role-reversal sitcoms. He carries on like he is still a teenager, while the actual teenagers have to take on the parent role. There was only one series of Teenage Kicks, that didn’t cause that much of a sensation at the time.

This is another one though that my mum was in the studio audience for. You might be beginning to wonder how my mum was able to attend so many of these shows. Well it’s rather simple really. For a while, she was on one of those mailing lists informing people about upcoming shows being recorded for BBC radio. The tickets were free, and the studio where these were recorded was only a few stops away on the bus.

And it’s also an opportunity to see some famous people, in this case there was one of the cast members of the pioneering sitcom The Young Ones doing his thing, so why not take a look. However, the day that my mum went, Elton was unavailable, so he pre-recorded his dialogue, that was then played in, making it seem like his ghostly presence was haunting the studio.

I don’t think that this one has ever got into the BBC Radio 4 Extra repeat loop though. But about a year or so on from this, something rather unexpected happened. Teenage Kicks was surprisingly picked up for a TV version on ITV1, which featured a few cast changes, although Edmondson retained the lead role. And to the shock of absolutely nobody, this promptly went and died the proverbial.

More TV Memories – Bognor Or Bust.

Bognor Or Bust (ITV1, 2004)

When Angus Deayton was involved in a scandal in 2002, this led to his departure as the host of Have I Got News For You after more than a decade. It was decided that “he became the news”, and he wouldn’t be able to mock people who had been caught in trouble, and I would bet that Hislop and Merton would still make “well you’re one to talk!”-type comments to this day, so he was asked to leave, and that show has never really been the same since.

In the years since, Deayton has managed to rehabilitate his TV career more than most shamed people have, going on to appear in a few sitcoms (including Nighty Night) and dramas. And when he was hoping for some more hosting work, ITV1 took a chance on him, to host a new comedy panel game about the news. Two teams of three took part.

There were two non-famous people, and they chose from a panel of four celebrities who they wanted to be on their team, usually consisting of comedians like Al Murray, or anybody else who happened to be hanging around the studio. The set design also features lots of multicoloured globes, making it look like everybody is on The Day Today.

In the first round, questions were asked about the week’s news, and it’s up to the panel if they want to give silly answers or serious ones, because there are points on offer, and as we’ll see, they are worth having. It’s around this point that Deayton starts to make topical jokes, usually whilst wearing a bright pink suit, picking up where he had left off as if nothing had happened, which was an odd sight, but he definitely still had the wit to carry this off.

The next round features various cryptic clues about news stories that have to be solved against the clock for more points. The highest-scoring team then go into the final. In this, one more news question has to be answered correctly, to win a holiday. It’s rather impossible though, and they simply have to guess, although they can confer with their celebrity teammates if they want to.

If they get it right, they win a nice holiday to somewhere like Australia. But get it wrong, and they go to Bognor, the much-maligned English seaside resort, and a randomly-selected studio audience member wins the big holiday instead (shades of Bob’s Full House here where Monkhouse would speculate about what the destination of the star prize holiday was and would often say “let’s hope it’s not Bognor!”).

Bognor Or Bust was essentially a cross between Have I Got News For You and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Probably not too surprisingly, there was only one series, as this was the time when everything on ITV1 flopped (the announcer would say at the end “and Bognor Or Bust will be back next week at the slightly later time of 2:30am”. Well I exaggerate, but that’s how it was). Deayton then went off to ponder his next move.

Game Show Memories – Win, Lose Or Draw Late.

Win, Lose Or Draw Late (ITV1, 2004)

Win, Lose Or Draw is the game show that was based on an American format. This ran for several years, and was a cut above the usual daytime shows. There was also a spin-off for teenagers that ran on GMTV for a short time. But curiously, six years after the original run ended, the format was revived, but this time with a difference. It’s now… late.

Win, Lose Or Draw Late was hosted by Liza Tarbuck. Two teams of three took part, and this was still male versus female. But no non-celebrities took part. Instead, there were all-celebrity teams, along with a regular captain. They were Mel’s mate Sue Perkins for the women, and Ed Hall for the men (he was on TV a lot around this time, but you don’t see him that much now).

The rules were essentially the same, with various phrases having to be guessed by what was drawn on the board against the clock. But this was the late-night version, so there were words that might result in some rather naughty things appearing, which almost came close to being amusing. Liza could only look on embarrassed by the end result and say “I’m sorry, dad”.

And they all might have had a glass or two of wine by this point, meaning that there was a chance that they would begin slurring about if they’re wearing any panties or not, and that was just Paul Ross. And by the way, when Ross appeared, he did the old gag about “I’ve got an answering machine that just says I’ll do it”. Well at least he’s honest.

There were some points awarded instead of money, and a winning team was declared, but they didn’t get anything, apart from der-wunk! Win, Lose Or Draw Late lasted for only one series in a weekly late-night slot and flopped rather badly. Although this was mostly because this was shown on ITV1 in 2004, where everything flopped rather badly.

One critic went as far to say that “the Late in the title referred to the show having already died”. But about a decade on, this was surprisingly recovered from the archive to be shown as part of Challenge’s short-lived “Late Zone” strand. Probably wisely, the Win, Lose Or Draw format has been left alone since, and this idea wasn’t tried with any other game shows. Lewd Lucky Ladders could’ve been good.

More TV Memories – Grounded For Life.

Grounded For Life (Fox, 2001-2002, WB, 2002-2005)

This is an American sitcom that was shown in a late-night slot on ITV1 for a while (you barely see any home-made sitcoms on ITV now, never mind imported ones). Grounded For Life centred around the Finnerty family, who live in Staten Island, New York. Sean and Claudia got married when they were 18, and they now have three children, Lily, Jimmy, and Henry.

They are beginning to reach their awkward years, meaning that, despite only being in their early-30s themselves, they realise that their children are almost teenagers. The other main cast members are Sean’s younger brother Eddie, and his dad Walt, who often gives advice on how the family should be run, whether it’s asked for or not. Sean sees himself as a modern, easy-going dad, but parenting’s just as tough for him as anybody else.

The idea is that it is Sean and Claudia who feel like they are the ones who are grounded, not the children! Grounded For Life starred Donal Logue, who had previously been in the CBS sitcom Public Morals in 1996, which was so badly received that it was pulled from the schedule after only one episode (although all 13 that were made were shown in this country on ITV). This one did manage to do better though.

This was also another of those sitcoms which had a “my totally crazy dysfunctional family” feel (and according to the opening sequence, they all like to play basketball together), but this was all rather overshadowed by Malcolm In The Middle, which launched around the same time and tackled a similar idea with more energy and wit.

Just after the start of the third series, Grounded For Life was dropped by Fox, and continued on WB, running for a few more series. By the end, Claudia had gone and popped out a fourth child, to much excitement. There were 91 episodes in total, but I don’t think that the later ones were shown on ITV1, although there were some repeat runs on Trouble too. But the story doesn’t end there.

In 2011, BBC1 launched In With The Flynns, which was a British remake of Grounded For Life, and starred Will “Jambo” Mellor in the lead role as the equivalent of Sean Finnerty. There were two series, including some episodes written by Simon Nye. But the reviews were rather middling, arguing that after Outnumbered and the like had revolutionised the domestic sitcom in this country, this rather more traditional take on the idea came across as rather redundant.

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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00061.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00060.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00063.jpg

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).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00007-1.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00011.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00008-1.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00009-1.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00022-1.jpg

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.