More TV Memories – The Kumars At No. 42.

The Kumars At No. 42 (BBC2, 2001-2004, BBC1, 2005-2006)/The Kumars (Sky One, 2014)

This is a comedy show with a difference, that features many of the people who contributed to sketch show Goodness Gracious Me. The Kumars At No. 42 was a comedy chat show, in a style similar to The Mrs Merton Show. The idea is that they are a family who live in London, and we see them at their home, which is rather unusual, because this contains a TV studio, and there’s plenty of room to fit in an audience too.

I can only imagine what their neighbours thought of all of this. Sanjeev invites various celebrities into his home, where they meet the rest of his family. He then goes on to conduct an interview, and asks various questions. But the fun comes in from his parents and gran who are watching on, and they like to interrupt and ask the guests much more outrageous questions.

And of course, this causes lots of amusing moments. Hopefully the celebrities have realised what they are letting themselves in for. But the decent line-ups that they managed to attract to take part (and get the joke) definitely enhanced this show. The Kumars At No. 42 ended up doing rather well for BBC2, appearing in a Monday evening slot for several series, winning awards, and then being promoted to BBC1 for the later series.

They ended up becoming popular enough to be chosen in 2003 to perform the single released in aid of that year’s Comic Relief. Their version of “Spirit In The Sky” went on to be a chart-topper (the third time that song has been Number One in this country), and they were even brave enough to collaborate with Gareth Gates on this. Well it might be no “The Stonk”, but it was still rather good fun.

There were some repeat runs on BBC Choice, but I don’t recall seeing this much in recent years though. But then, curiously, about a decade after the original version ended, Sky One briefly revived the idea, with the title being shortened to The Kumars, and the family picking up where they left off. Yet more celebrity guests took part, but this had run out of steam by this point and wasn’t as successful.

More TV Memories – TV Years.

TV Years (Sky One, 2001-2002)

Rather famously in the early-2000s, there was a time when there were a lot of nostalgia documentaries and list shows, so for example, the debate about what the 46th greatest children’s TV show was or the best toy of 1979 could finally be settled. Sky One also did some series like this, although the idea was becoming a little stale by this point, and almost lapsed into self-parody.

In every edition of TV Years, there would be a look back at some popular shows, and the stories behind them. The 80s and 90s were covered, I do remember that there was a piece about the launch of Bullseye in the 1981 edition, and I also spotted some of an edition online that was about 1992. About four or five shows would be featured, and a wide variety of people contributed.

These included a few people who actually appeared in the shows, plus whoever else they could get hold of. Among them were Peter Kay, Bill Bailey, and Johnny Vegas, who always seemed to turn up in these type of shows, plus others, including Jim Bowen (who definitely didn’t seem to think that everything was “marvellous”), and Harry Enfield (who seemingly had signed a 20-year contract with Sky and had to be given something else to do after his sketch show ended).

There were even appearances from Mel And Sue, and I could be wrong, but some of the observations did seem to have the “watch a short clip and them just describe what happens” tone. And there were the usual “what were the prizes about on Bullseye?” and “do you remember being sat at home watching Gladiators?”-type comments, but you have to remember that even these were new jokes once.

But overall, TV Years was interesting for the “I wonder what’ll be featured next” element, and there were a few good memories in among the clichés. So not long after, Sky One decided to do it all again with Pop Years, which took a look back at the biggest pop music of the 80s and 90s, including some of the singers who were on the scene, plus the usual commenters again.

More TV Memories – Jumpers For Goalposts.

Jumpers For Goalposts (Sky One, 2001)

The Fast Show was one of the most successful comedy sketch shows of its era, and so it deserved to be. Even though there wasn’t a huge amount of editions (three series and some specials), rather a lot more was squeezed out of the idea, with the popular characters also appearing in various adverts, on stage shows, in sitcom spin-offs, and so on. There was also a comedy panel game.

This was on Sky One, instead of the BBC, and I do remember this attracting my interest and seeing a little at the time. Jumpers For Goalposts (being one of The Fast Show‘s famous catchphrases) was all about sport, in a similar style to A Question Of Sport and They Think It’s All Over, that were also around at the time. This was presented by Simon “bid again, Simon” Day in character as Clive Gordon. vlcsnap-00461

Two teams of three took part, and the team captains were Mark Williams in character as Scottish hardman Tommy Stein “Stein-Housmuir”), and Paul Whitehouse in character as Ron Manager (“Ron’s Rangers”, although these team names changed every week), who had a big rivalry, and also often wore some nice knitwear. Ron had a rather old-fashioned view on football. Do you remember the days when there were puddles on the pitch? Isn’t it? Now like now, no, marvellous. vlcsnap-00455

Every week they would be joined by some panellists, including comedians, footballers, or anyone that they could get hold of cheap really, and this led to some rather unlikely combinations. So if you’d ever wanted to see Noel Gallagher and Paul Daniels, or Jim Bowen and Goldie, on the same team, then there was some good news for you. vlcsnap-00460

There were various rounds, but none of them were particularly original, such as can you guess who this sportsperson is from these clues, and the fingers on buzzers, and although there was a score kept and a winning team announced, as always with these type of shows, it was the contribution that they made (such as how much they laughed at everything) that mattered the most. vlcsnap-00462

There were 13 editions of Jumpers For Goalposts in only one series, but this all came and went with little attention, and it could be said that this stretched the idea of the characters a little too far, maybe the genre was already too crowded. In later years there would be more sport-themed comedy panel games including A League Of Their Own and Play To The Whistle. But this one remains a curiosity from two decades ago. Ooh, mantle with aplomb, marvellous. jumpers0001

More TV Memories – Blam!!!

Blam!!! (Sky One, 2000-2001)

I thought that I would review another show about computer games. There have been various shows going back to the 80s, and although I didn’t watch all of them at the time, the early-2000s were something of a boom period for this genre. Shows included Channel 4’s Bits, even ITV got in on the action with Cybernet (although it was shown very late at night), and various other channels including Bravo also had dedicated shows.

I remember in an issue of PlayStation World magazine (around the time I started to buy it because I had a shiny new PS2 in those days) there was a look back at this genre, reminiscing about such attempts over the years to let viewers know more about the world of games including Bad Influence! and GamesMaster. The feature also looked at a new show that was coming that aimed to bring the genre in a new era and be more exciting than most. vlcsnap-00001

This was Blam!!! (three exclamation marks?), which was shown on Sky One on weekend mornings (this channel having already brought us the memorable Games World, which I definitely enjoyed). The host was Julia Reed, whose profile at this time was on the up after she replaced Philippa Forrester as the co-host of Robot Wars which was doing well, and it looked like she was on the brink of becoming a big TV name. She was slightly more glamorous than the likes of Andy Crane and Dominik Diamond too. vlcsnap-00002

What did Blam!!! have to offer viewers then? Well there was plenty. There were the usual reviews (including the new PS2), but along with this, we were also told how much the games were worth and what website you could buy them from, meaning that technically the show was classed as advertising, which was a little odd as I always thought that there was supposed to be a clear difference between what the shows and adverts are. Was this an audition for a shopping channel maybe? vlcsnap-00004

And there were also charts, interviews, along with various challenges where gamers who thought that they knew a thing or two showed off their skills in a competition, while Julia walked around in a big black coat. Despite all of this, Blam!!! didn’t really change the genre that much at all, it ended after only a short while, and I don’t remember seeing Julia on TV much after this. vlcsnap-00005

Although it was a worthwhile idea, Blam!!! joined the fairly long list of those frustrating attempts at trying to bring gaming more into the mainstream that didn’t really succeed, and unsurprisingly there isn’t a huge amount out there about the show online. But looking back now, it’s another reminder of just how quickly the games industry changes, as well as TV.

More TV Memories – Hex.

Hex (Sky One, 2004-2005)

I have never been that interested in TV drama, but I have enjoyed a few shows that are in the supernatural genre, such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dark Angel, and that was one of the reasons that I was attracted to this British-made series. And I have got to admit, another one of the reasons that made me want to watch this one was that Jemima Rooper was among the cast.

Now Jemima had previously appeared in As If, the Channel 4 teen drama from the early-2000s that I really enjoyed at the time, and I was just so pleased that she was continuing to get work in TV drama series, especially as I don’t remember seeing the rest of the cast in much else. She also went on to appear in ITV1’s costume drama Lost In Austen, which earned her a Radio Times cover, but I liked this one more. vlcsnap-00664

However, as this one was created by the same team behind As If, maybe it’s not too much of a surprise that Jemima appeared. The main character in Hex is Cassie, who attends Medenham Hall, a school with a strange history. It’s rather tough for her, but she soon befriends Thelma… who is actually a ghost. This another one of those shows where nobody is who they seem and everyone has a secret to hide. vlcsnap-00662

Cassie’s secret is that she is a witch. There are also people who can turn into demons, this is clearly no ordinary school. Well once again it’s time to save the world. And as the episodes progress, the mysteries become ever more complicated, and the destinies have to be fulfilled. Gave me the fright of my life. In the second series Ella joined the cast, someone who definitely could be classed as mysterious, being 500 years old and all that. vlcsnap-00667

Hex wasn’t too bad an effort at creating something different in this genre, it went down well with critics, there was a great amount of tension, and it contained a lot of moments that were spooky, and indeed some that were even rather scary. This was also a show where a gloomy theme song would’ve fitted well, and Garbage definitely obliged there with the suitable “#1 Crush”. vlcsnap-00688

There were 19 episodes of Hex in two series, including a double-length special to start things off. The show was originally on Sky One, but because I only had Freeview by this point, I was rather pleased when it was repeated on Sky Three or whatever it was called at the time, I definitely got into it. All of the episodes have been released on DVD on eight discs, and extras include a making of and some deleted scenes.

More TV Memories – Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (WB, 1997-2001, UPN, 2001-2003)

I have never been that interested in the drama genre, but having enjoyed the likes of Alias and Dark Angel, I thought that I should give this one a go too. This is a show that is well documented online, but as I became a fan I thought I might as well add my piece. Buffy The Vampire Slayer started out as a film in 1992 that starred Kristy Swanson and had more of a comedic style. Then in 1997 it was decided to return to the idea, but this time as a fantasy TV drama series, and with Sarah Michelle Gellar in the lead role.

Buffy Summers attends a school at Sunnydale, but there is no getting away from her destiny. If there are ever any vampires, werewolves, zombies, or any of those kind of things around, and there are a rather surprising amount of them it seems, Buffy has to come to the rescue. Can Buffy save the world and still get her project in on time? Well hopefully. vlcsnap-00420

There were plenty of other characters that we meet in the show of course, including Angel, Cordelia, Spike, and Buffy’s shock secret younger sister Dawn who turned up in the later episodes. So those zombies better watch out. Also playing a major part was the school librarian Rupert Giles, who was played by the English-born Anthony Head. vlcsnap-00297

Now to some he will always be best-known as Giles, and to some he will always be best-known as that bloke in the Gold Blend advert. But my parents were once in the studio audience for the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Bleak Expectations that Head starred in, so to them he will always be best-known as Mr Gently-Benevolent (and we mustn’t forget his role as terrifically-voiced Captain Hercules Shipwright in Cabin Pressure either). But either way, he always put in a great performance. vlcsnap-00298

The show was also full of pop-culture references, and Buffy soon became a reference in itself after gaining a decent-sized fanbase, and was referenced in Spaced among other shows. A few creative ideas were tried out too, including a musical special. There were 144 episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in seven series, they have all been released on DVD uncut, and extras include outtakes and scripts. vlcsnap-00299

The show has been on several channels in the UK, including BBC2 and Sky One, but they were usually shown in an evening slot, meaning that most of the slaying was edited out. Other merchandise included computer games and a monthly magazine that contained a comic strip and posters, I did have a few of these, but I do wish that I managed to have more. vlcsnap-00300

There have also been three books released called The Watcher’s Guide, that contain everything that you could ever want to know about the show, including episode guides, a look behind the scenes, and interviews with the cast and crew. Along with the main show, the Angel character went on to have a long-running spin-off series that was well-received too.

More TV Memories – ALF.

ALF (NBC, 1986-1990)

Who would’ve thought that one of the most popular personalities on American TV in the late-80s would be some furry puppet thing? But that’s exactly what happened with this sitcom which was full of science-fiction silliness. Firstly, ALF isn’t the main character’s name, it’s because he is an Alien Life Form, his real name is Gordon (and he is definitely the second-best sitcom character called Gordon after Gordon Brittas).

The Tanners are a very ordinary family, not one who could sustain a sitcom on their own, but all that changes when one day a spaceship crashlands in their garage, and they are fairly surprised to see him to put it mildly, because ALF has arrived from the planet Melmac. Life is not boring now! But he is soon welcomed into their home, because he is a 229-year-old with attitude, and naturally has a smart comment for every situation. vlcsnap-01101

ALF does eventually adjust to life on Earth, even if he does struggle to understand it. The next-door neighbours aren’t aware of the situation, although it is clear to them that something rather strange is happening. Someone who doesn’t befriend ALF though is Lucky the cat, as he likes to eat such things, and his wiggles his ears with excitement upon seeing one. If he can’t eat a cat though, a huge sandwich often makes up for it. vlcsnap-01098

The original run of the show ended with ALF finally leaving Earth like so many unpopular animated baseball-cap wearing canines. There were 102 episodes of ALF in four series (every episode title was taken from a pop song). But would he do it all again? Well yes, because there were two cartoon spin-off series, along with a film. And of course, they made a few quid with the merchandise, including toys that were advertised rather frequently, everybody wanted to hug him. vlcsnap-01102

ALF did fairly well in the UK too. Although it wasn’t ever shown on CITV, the show was considered to some extent to be a children’s sitcom in this country, and it was usually shown in the afternoon on LWT, before moving to Sky One. ALF did make a few guest appearances on CITV though, and he also had the honour of some Lookin covers, which was his aim when he arrived on this planet I’m sure. vlcsnap-01100

Looking back now I suppose it’s rather obvious why viewers fell for ALF’s charms. I don’t think that there has been a DVD release in this country though which is disappointing, because it would definitely be a good move. And I got through doing this piece without making the usual “the puppet had more charisma and personality than the human actors” joke. Well, nearly.

More TV Memories – Dream Team.

Dream Team (Sky One, 1997-2007)

A while ago, I put pictures of various old TV shows on Twitter. Ones that seemed to go down particularly well were those of Dream Team, as some fan accounts for that show enjoyed what I had to offer. So I thought, as the football season has just about ended at long last, why not also give it a review here, it’s not a show that I watched a huge amount over the years, but I shall try to do it justice.

One notable thing about Dream Team was that I watched the early series when I had access to Sky One back in the On/ITV Digital days in the late-90s/early-2000s. It was also possible to add Sky Sports to the channels that were available, but we never did that, because it was rather expensive, so this show featured just about the only Premier League coverage that I saw at the time. dream0001

Following the Premier League boom in the late-90s, someone seemed to think that it would be a good idea to create a drama series that featured the exploits of a football team, and the term “Dream Team” was already familiar, having been used for those newspaper competitions where you could pick players who would score points, and there were huge cash prizes on offer for whoever did best. vlcsnap-01057

Dream Team featured the fictional Harchester United, who were supposed to be based in the West Midlands. They wore purple shirts, and had the nickname The Dragons. We follow the team as their season progresses, along with the lives of the players, plus with the manager and the owners. We also saw some match coverage, as technology enabled players to be added into matches to make it look like they were playing real Premier League teams, and Sky Sports commentators and presenters also contributed to add to the authenticity. vlcsnap-01058

There were plenty of tense situations over the years including will The Dragons be relegated? Will they qualify for the UEFA Cup? The show did seem to get increasingly far-fetched though (the cliche “the player’s gone down like he’s been shot” was all-too appropriate here), this really was a club that often seemed to be in turmoil, but their loyal fans always stood by them. Throughout the series, some familiar names from soaps took part, including Alison King, who went on to be in Coronation Street, and Stefan Dennis, who was taking a break from Neighbours at the time. vlcsnap-01059

There was a rather high cast turnover as players came and went, and among them was Duncan Pow, who I remember used to be a presenter on the award-winning Bid-Up.TV before joining the show as Liam Mackay in the later series. There were 419 episodes of Dream Team in ten series, most of them were an hour long, and it was probably the closest that Sky One ever got to a home-made soap. Well, it was better than Footballers’ Wives, honestly.

More TV Memories – Popular.

Popular (WB, 1999-2001)

This is just about the last show that I have to review that I first saw as part of Channel 5’s weekend afternoon schedules that were aimed at teenage viewers about two decades ago now. I’m not kidding when I say I discovered a lot of great shows in that slot that I’m still fond of to this day, including Daria, Harry And Cosh, Our Hero, The Tribe, and I hope I’m not the only one, it was such an unexpected source of entertainment back in those years, and I’ve very much enjoyed being able to share my memories of them.

Popular is an American teen drama series that was first shown in this country on Sky One, but I saw it on Channel 5 in the early-2000s. Now I am not usually a fan of shows in this genre, such as Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill (“high school is such as serious thing, these problems matter“), but this was more of a comedy-drama which wasn’t as serious as those others, and it was sometimes compared to Clueless (that I also reviewed recently). p1

The show also made stars of Leslie Bibb and Sara Rue (what do you mean, “who?”). Popular was set the Kennedy High School in Los Angeles (and you must look beyond the fact that like in most of these type of shows most of the cast were actually well into their 20s) where it really was the most important thing to be popular, it caused a lot of angst for everyone, including their teachers and families, and it was all soundtracked by some fancy pop music. vlcsnap-00006

There were a variety of characters. Among the main ones were Brooke McQueen and Sam McPherson, who are at opposite ends of the popularity scale, but then Brooke’s dad then ends up marrying Sam’s mum, which is rather awkward, as despite their differences they’ve now got to get to know each other and become closer. It’s going to be weird to potty (sorry, that’s the second Family Guy reference I’ve sneaked into this piece, I’ll try and stop now). vlcsnap-00004

For some reason, one episode that I remember standing out was when all the blondes dyed their hair brunette, and vice versa, as they tried to challenge some stereotypes. Honestly, the way that people carried on in the days before Facebook, however did they do it? There were 43 hour-long episodes of Popular in two series, but I don’t think that any of them have been released on DVD in this country. If you’re not familiar with it, I would definitely recommend it.

Game Show Memories – Blockbusters 2000.

Blockbusters (Sky One, 2000-2001)

Blockbusters is one of my favourite game shows, maybe it is actually my all-time favourite, it’s so hard to decide, but it’s definitely up there with the best for me. There have been a remarkable amount of revivals over the years, so let’s see what this one had to offer. This was the third revival (17 years on from the first series on ITV), following on from Sky One in 1994 and BBC2 in 1997, and this was also on Sky One. But who would the host now be?

Bob Holness had long gone. As had Michael Aspel. How about Liza Tarbuck. Now Liza first found fame in the ITV sitcom Watching where she had some terrific 80s hair, which had unfortunately gone by this point. In 2000, she was best-known for co-hosting The Big Breakfast alongside Johnny Vaughan, making one of the more entertaining pairings that show had. vlcsnap-00906blockbusters0002

First of all, we have a opening sequence that is accompanied by yet another remix of the famous theme. And it’s now in widescreen! Also, the set from the BBC2 version was recycled (although they didn’t get that much use out of it), although the background in the studio has changed from orange back to the more familiar blue/purple. The show also went back to having teenage students (and their mascots) as contestants (the BBC2 and Challenge versions had adults of all ages). vlcsnap-00909

The purple team had changed back to blue, who were on the left, while the white team were on the right. The gameplay was the same of course, now featuring a computer-generated board, but it was still only £5 for every correct answer, that’s just so stingy. At this point I was actually the right age to go on the show, having watched it so regularly when I was much younger and couldn’t have ever imagined being that old at that point was a rather weird feeling. Why didn’t I go on it? vlcsnap-00911

It was a best-of-three, with the losers taking away the consolation prizes of a dictionary book and encyclopedia CD-Rom. I don’t think there were any bonuses hidden behind any questions. The Gold Run was just about the same really, gold to gold in 60 seconds, with £10 for every correct answer if they don’t make it. If they win, they get an incredible prize, one of those very special occasions that money just can’t buy. I also think they went back to having five Gold Runs. vlcsnap-00916

This version of Blockbusters was shown on weekdays at 6pm. It is a surprise to think that even this is two decades ago now. There were 100 editions but there was only one series. Once again, the response from viewers was rather indifferent, although it’s always good seeing the show it just wasn’t considered to be as great as the original version. This didn’t stop Challenge and Comedy Central making their own versions in more recent years.