Monster Cafe (CBBC, 1994-1995)
Following on from Space Vets that I reviewed on here recently, this is another enjoyably quirky CBBC sitcom from the 90s that I remember watching, although rather than dealing with science fiction, it is closer to the horror genre. Monster Cafe was set in a old castle and centred around a cafe that was run by three very odd people… well I say people, they were more monsters really.
They were the Frankenstein’s monster-style Frankie, who was rather outrageous. There was also Mummy, who was someone wrapped in bandages and mumbled everything that they said. And then there was Igor, who was a rather large odd-job man who had a pet bin called Vinny. The other main character was the Baroness, who owned the castle and often turned up to make sure that everything hadn’t descended into chaos, but of course, this being a CBBC sitcom, it usually had.
Also occasionally appearing were some rather spooky-looking customers (this was another show that had some rather creative costume design), and often vampires and the like would turn up to try the rather horrible-looking slimy food that made steam come out of people’s ears, along with the main characters getting themselves caught in some very bizarre situations. “TV cook Kylie has been turned into a jar of pickled gherkins. Who can replace her?” was a typical episode description. Well it made me laugh…
Every episode of Monster Cafe was 15 minutes long and there were a couple of series. Once again, I’m fairly sure that there has been no VHS or DVD release, but there are a couple of other interesting things about the show. Firstly, all 30 episodes were written by Simon Davies who contributed to a few other CBBC shows around this time including the crossword puzzle game Sick As A Parrot.
I’m fairly sure that Davies also voiced some of the regular puppet characters including a skull that often commented on what was happening. In more recent years I think he was also a presenter on the award-winning Bid TV, and seemed to think nothing of doing five hours straight of warehouse clearances and technical faults, and I know I’ve done this joke before but I wouldn’t be surprised if “voiced a puppet skull” ranks much higher than “hosted on Bid TV” on his CV.
Also, Monster Cafe was repeated a few times on CBBC after it ended, it also featured in the CBBC On Choice strand, the early days of the CBBC Channel, and on BBC2. The show also unexpectedly hit the headlines in 2007 when there was a repeat run (over a decade after it had ended) on CBeebies, the BBC’s channel featuring programmes for the under-sixes, when it was abruptly pulled from the schedule when parents started to complain that it was too frightening for their children. Monster me!