Brian Conley This Way Up (ITV, 1989-1990)
This piece is going to be a review of two shows in one. In the early-80s, Brian Conley started to appear on TV as a comedian. In 1987 he was among the cast of ITV’s comedy sketch show Five Alive (also featuring Doon Mackichan and Andrew Secombe). In 1989 he got his own show called This Way Up. Although there weren’t really any regular characters, Brian used his cheeky charm to enhance the sketches.
And as this was an LWT Production, his style was much appreciated by the noisy, cackling studio audiences. Again, Andrew Secombe was among the cast helping out. Most editions also ended with Brian trying to perform a musical number that usually descended into chaos. There was even the unusual move of having sketches appear during the credits.
Looking back, this is a rather cheesy show, but it was good to have ITV tryout some straightforward primetime comedy, and when it was repeated on Granada Plus about a decade later I was very pleased to see it again, although I don’t think it’s been repeated on TV since. After a couple of series of This Way Up, Brian would return in 1992 with a slightly different format.
The Brian Conley Show (ITV, 1992-1995, 2000-2002)
This new show was more of a mix of entertainment and comedy. The Brian Conley Show took place on a stage, and features included sketches being performed, where to move into the next sketch, the stage would turn round and Brian would have to do a quick costume change. Brian would also always try and emphasise that the idea behind the show was to “enjoy yerself”.
There would be a few regular characters, including Nick Frisbee who was a parody of a CBBC-style presenter alongside his puppet friend Larry The Loafer, Dangerous Brian the useless stuntman, and Septic Peg, a really rather bizarre impression of astrologist Mystic Meg who was regularly on The National Lottery Live around this time, which was rather odd enough in the first place.
By the third series, there was also a game show element called Conley’s Car Boot Quiz, where Brian would be assisted by Jake The Robot from the year 3003. He was rather wise-talking and could do an impression of anybody, and contestants could win up to £1,000. There were also plenty of variety acts appearing, and the show would often conclude with Brian performing a song, but despite is popularity there has been no DVD release.
Brian was doing rather well around this time, he was winning awards for his performances in stage musicals, the later series of his show were extended to 45 minutes, and he was also starring in ITV sitcom Time After Time (that I reviewed a while back). After this show ended, Brian returned for one-off comedy specials in 1996 and 1997.
Then in 2000, The Brian Conley Show was revived and extended again to an hour, but this time it was more of a comedy chat show. Brian often liked to shout “it’s Saturday Night!”, having correctly spotted when the show was on TV, and although there were a few sketches, Brian mostly interviewed celebrity guests, including the excitement of Hear’Say during the 15 minutes they were famous.
And in 2002 Brian entertained celebrities in an edition of An Audience With. After this, Brian appeared in a few more comedy shows, but in more recent years he has featured more regularly on game shows, sometimes as a panellist but usually as a host, I remember enjoying Timeline on Challenge, and he has continued to be a success on the stage.