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

Game Show Memories – Don’t Blow The Inheritance.

Don’t Blow The Inheritance (ITV1, 2012)

If you’re a regular viewer to this blog you will know that I am a big fan of the comedian Tim Vine, so when he hosted the daytime game show Don’t Blow The Inheritance there was no doubt that I’d be watching. The idea was that two contestants from different generations had to work together, with the older family member earning the money, and then the younger one is challenged to hold on to it. vlcsnap-00175

Four teams of two took part, representing different generations, so the younger contestant was supported by their father, or their uncle, and so on. Unfortunately Tim didn’t reprimand of any of the contestants for a wearing an acrylic shirt by saying “that’s cruel, think of all the acrylics you’re killing.” In the first round Tim asks 15 general knowledge questions, the younger contestant has to buzz in, but the older contestant is the one who answers, so they have to gamble on whether their elders know their stuff. If they do, they score £1,000. If they don’t, the three other teams score £1,000 each. The lowest-scoring team at the end of the round are eliminated. vlcsnap-00181

In the second round a category is chosen and then the question is revealed which is about a top ten list. The older contestant has 30 seconds to give as many answers as they can, scoring £1,000 for each one that is in the top ten list. I couldn’t help but think that this round came across as a combination of the game shows Talkabout and Topranko! Once again, the lowest-scoring team go out. 
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In the third round, the two remaining teams are given clues to a famous person or thing, with up to a maximum of three clues being revealed. Again the younger contestant has to buzz in hoping the senior one will get it right for £1,000. If they don’t the other team earns £1,000. This is done ten times, and the highest-scoring team go into the final. vlcsnap-00201

In the final, the younger contestant must hold on to as much of the money that the senior player has earned as they can. You can blow a candle, you can blow a trumpet, but whatever you do… don’t blow the inheritance! All the younger contestant has to do is answer five general knowledge questions correctly, but if they get one wrong, the money begins to tick down by £250 a second, and it doesn’t stop until they do get five right, and then whatever money is remaining is the inheritance that they have won. vlcsnap-00206

Don’t Blow The Inheritance was a short summer tryout series from when ITV had finally run out of editions of The Chase to show. Unfortunately it wasn’t a big success, with only ten editions being made, and Tipping Point, another game show that was tried out in that slot, was much more of a success, whereas unfortunately for Tim his show was never seen or heard of again, but it’s always a pleasure seeing him on TV.

The Comedy Vault – Hardware.

Hardware (ITV1, 2003-2004)

Simon Nye has written and created a lot of great sitcoms over the years including Men Behaving Badly, Is It Legal? and My Wonderful Life (yes I’m going on about it again), and he was also behind Hardware, which somewhat unsurprisingly was set in a hardware shop.

Mike (Martin Freeman) works alongside Kenny (Peter Serafinowicz) at Hamway’s Hardware Store in London, and they both find the work rather boring, seemingly being more interested in scaring customers away by being rude to them than actually helping them out with what they need. vlcsnap-01558

Also working in the store is the grumpy middle-aged boss Rex who often has pranks played on him, and the student trainee Steve, who mostly seems to be there so that when he makes a mistake Kenny can mockingly shout “student!” at him, and this was seemingly an attempt at creating a catchphrase for the show. vlcsnap-01559

When Mike and Kenny aren’t doing this they seem to spend most of their spare time in the nearby Nice Day Cafe which is run by Julie and also Anne who is Mike’s girlfriend, although they often interfere with their work and they would prefer that the two men concentrate on trying to get some customers into their store. vlcsnap-01561

Hardware was a sitcom that seemed to come and go, it was shown on Sunday nights but there wasn’t much of a buzz around it, but it I do think that it was one of the best ITV sitcoms of its era, although there weren’t really that many others around at the time. Martin Freeman and Peter Serafinowicz are two great comedy actors who went on to much bigger things after Hardware ended and they always put in great performances. vlcsnap-01560

Among some of my favourite episodes are where the others trick Rex into thinking that his height is shrinking and he gets very annoyed with them, and also in the final episode Peter Davison guest stars somewhat inexplicably. Hardware eventually ran for two series which have both been released on DVD by Network and it is definitely a sitcom recommended by me.

More TV Memories – ITV Night Time (part 3).

The late-90s-present: In 1995 a new look was introduced to ITV Night Time in the Carlton and LWT regions. Once the clock went past about midnight, these strange neon people appeared to do a dance before programmes. What was unusual about this presentation was that it was completely unbranded, with not even a reference to ITV anywhere. nighttime11

In 1996 ITV Night Time launched a new campaign which insisted that the strand was “Television With Attitude”, and the programmes seemed to become a little more outrageous, with game shows such as Carnal Knowledge and God’s Gift causing a stir much beyond the small amount of viewers who actually watched. nighttime12

I think I am right in saying that this look continued to be used after the ITV symbol was changed in 1998. Also in that year, the ITV Nightscreen was introduced. This wasn’t a programme as such, just a service with information on various forthcoming ITV programmes, accompanied by some music. In its earliest days this was presented as a Teletext-style service, somewhat similar to the BBC’s Pages From Ceefax. nighttime13

After a while though ITV Nightscreen was upgraded to feature Powerpoint-style graphics, and this programme continues to this day, seemingly taking up more and more airtime. Around 1999 when the corporate Hearts look was introduced, programmes from this point would be introduced by a generic ITV ident. Just about all the other regional strands had ended by this point. nighttime14

Into the 2000s, ITV did still make some effort into making original programmes for the Night Time strand, with game show The Machine, sketch show Dare To Believe, and music show CD:UK Hotshots being among the shows that stick in my mind from that era, although the days of Casey Kasem had long gone by this point. vlcsnap-00273

I also remember one of the most amusing continuity announcements that I have heard was before ITV Nightscreen. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like “Jampacked so full of stuff, I often ask myself how we fit it all in, but we do. Just as well then, because it’s time for the almost-legendary ITV Nightscreen“. An announcer with a sense of humour who would have thought it. nighttime15

By the mid-2000s though, ITV practically gave up on Night Time. Almost all original programming ended and was replaced by uninspired repeats dumped in minor slots, some of them featuring in-vision sign language interpreters because I think that they are contracted to produce a particular amount of output a week serving this purpose, so put it all on at 3am why don’t you. You are also incredibly unlikely to see an advert break at this time now too. nighttime16

Around this time, the phone-in game show craze was at its peak, so ITV filled endless hours with Quizmania, which for me was one of the better interactive shows, at least they made the attempt to be entertaining, and they gave away some decent amounts of money. After that ended though, ITV now fill the time with one of those roulette things, just like Channel 5 too. There’s choice for you. nighttime17

In the multi-channel era, where almost every TV channel is broadcasting 24 hours a day, it is a shame that there seems to be so few channels offering anything beyond pre-recorded infomercials and repeats late at night. Although it started with such innovation, the Night Time strand has gone from pioneering to pointless in 25 years.