More TV Memories – The Chris Moyles Show.

The Chris Moyles Show (UK Play, 1998-2000)

This is another show I remember watching on UK Play that I feel is worth giving a full review. Chris Moyles is someone who was on BBC Radio 1 in an afternoon slot, at the same time as having this show. He was always being described at this point as a “loudmouth” or “outspoken” and all those kind of things, but there were plenty of amusing moments, and I listed a few of my favourites in another piece a while ago.

He had already conquered radio (so he claimed), but would he be able to do the same for the still fledgling digital TV? Moyles was one of several Radio 1 hosts to be given a show on UK Play (which I’m sure was described before the launch as essentially aiming to be “Radio 1 TV” if that makes sense, a channel that mixes music with comedy). And that is what The Chris Moyles Show was really, combining comedy, chat, and music videos (which were introduced by pushing a big lever).

He would be joined by his usual sidekick Comedy Dave, who would be dressed as a jockey or a matador, for no reason that ever really seemed to be explained, and anybody else who happened to be around. And in some editions there was some rather strange man with a keyboard who would perform songs, where did they find him from. There would also often be celebrity guests too, I remember that Lionel Blair appeared once, and I know just how much the teenagers of the time were fond of him (probably).

I remember one edition that was something rather different. This featured a look behind the scenes, but this seemed to be done in the style of a straight documentary, not an exaggerated parody, or played for laughs. This did give an insight into how these shows were put together, but it did seem out of place. I think that there were about three or four series of The Chris Moyles Show, repeated all over the place. Whether it was 10am or 10pm, there he was.

After this Moyles did a similar show on Channel 5 (which I reviewed a while ago), which unlike this one went out live. He then went on to host a show on Channel 4, but radio always seemed to bring the best out of him, compared to TV (all those “a great face for radio” jokes by critics didn’t help either). After he left Radio 1, he went his separate ways with Dave too, but to this day he always tries to make his banter reaches the levels of greatness that are required by the regulator.

Game Show Memories – Either/Or.

Either/Or (UK Play, 1999-2000)

UK Play was a great music and comedy digital channel that tried out a lot of things. Among the original programming were a few game shows. Two were Pop Upstairs Downstairs with Mark And Lard, and Mental with Iain Lee, which were fairly straightforward. But the third was something entirely different, it was like nothing else that there has been in the genre, real nightmare fuel.

Either/Or was hosted by comedian Simon “bid again, Simon” Munnery, who was best-known at the time for his anarchist character Alan Parker Urban Warrior, who appeared on various TV shows including the revival of Saturday Live, and the BBC Radio 1 series Alan Parker’s 29 Minutes Of Truth. Munnery also performed as the self-styled “The League Against Tedium”, made a sketch show for UK Play called FuturTV.

It’s fair to say that his comedy style is at the more surreal/weird end of the scale, he has worked with Lee And Herring, and he made a very late-night BBC2 sketch show called Attention Scum, which also featured Johnny Vegas and The Actor Kevin Eldon in the cast. It’s not really easy to explain the format of Either/Or, as this was almost closer to performance art than a traditional game show, but here goes.

This was essentially a game about quick decision making. Munnery had a rather distinctive look, including a big hat. He also had a sword-type thing that had a camera in it, so we saw rather a lot of his face in an extreme close-up (this also meant that the majority of the show was in black-and-white). To make things even more strange, there was a female opera singer accompanied by a pianist, who would perform songs about the situation in the game.

The contestants who took part numbered 14 to 20 (no “more contestants than viewers” jokes). They all wore a robe with a hood which had a number on it. They would be asked a question that had two options (such as “either Rioja… or Jarvis Cocker”). When “You Must Decide” appeared on the screen, they had to hold up a card that represented the “either” or “or” option, and this was done a few times.

If Munnery didn’t like their answer, felt that they couldn’t justify their answer after asking them about it, or just plain didn’t like the look of them, they would be asked to remove their hood, and then he would take the camera and shove it right in their humiliated face, so we got an extreme close-up of them instead. And you thought The Weakest Link was harsh.

After a few more questions, whoever still had their hood up could leave the game and retain their anonymity. This would get to a point where there would usually be only two contestants remaining. The one left out of them would be made famous. You would think that this would be a great prize, but they soon realise that fame isn’t all it’s made out to be.

The show would end with a sequence featuring their picture on mock newspaper front pages and other things, their name would appear on the screen, and the singer would sit next to them and perform a song about how terrible they are, so they discover that success has made them the “loser” all along. Either/Or was a baffling, unsettling, unique show, bending TV like little else that I’ve seen, but also amusing and creative.

More TV Memories – The Phone Zone.

The Phone Zone (UK Play, 1998-2000)

One of my first blog pieces was about digital channel UK Play, and how much I enjoyed a lot of their original programming (along with all the repeats and music videos). All these years on, I still stand by this piece, and I thought that I would look back at one of their shows in some more detail, because I tried to watch whenever I could, I did feel spoilt for choice sometimes.

The Phone Zone was a spin-off from music show The O Zone, which had been running for about a decade by this point (another spin-off around this time was The Pop Zone). This was shown live in the afternoon, usually for an hour or two. At the same time on MTV was Select, which had a rather similar idea, and this was clearly designed to be some direct competition, I could only watch one or the other though.

The Phone Zone was an interactive show, so viewers could phone-in or email, although there can’t have been a huge amount of people watching. Various music videos would be shown, and as I was really into pop music at this point, I did find this rather enjoyable. There wasn’t a list of various hits to choose from like on Select though, I think that it was just anything currently in the Top 40 really.

The set design also evolved from practically being just a sofa, to something a little bigger and stylish. There were various hosts, including Vernon Kay in some of his earliest TV appearances (and he really loved those funky tunes), Joe Mace (who went on to further success behind the scenes), Jayne Middlemiss, and Josie D’Arby (who I think had left CBBC by this point).

I think another host might’ve been Lisa Rogers (I’m not sure, but as she seemed to host every other show on TV at this time, maybe it was her). And if they were really lucky, sometimes an actual pop star would in the studio with them! I can only imagine that viewers rushed to their phones to talk to them. The Phone Zone would also be repeated in the morning, so it was the equivalent on UK Play’s breakfast show.

This ran for about two years, ending around the same time that The O Zone did. After this, the replacement was TOTP@Play, which carried on a very similar style, being a live show featuring requests and videos that was attached to a more established music show. And this was rather enjoyable to watch too. This new-fangled digital TV might just catch on.

Game Show Memories – Mental.

Mental (PlayUK, 2001)

I still think that UK Play (or PlayUK) was one of the best of the early digital channels. As well as music videos and comedy shows, there were also a few game shows tried in the schedule. I have already reviewed Pop Upstairs Downstairs, and now here’s another one, which I vaguely remember watching at the time. Mental was subtitled The Music Quiz for some reason, so there was definitely no doubt about what was on offer here.

The host was Iain Lee, who was best-known at the time as one of the hosts of Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show… but he didn’t actually ask the questions! Six contestants took part, who wanted to show off their musical knowledge. There is a board with eight groups on it. The contestant then decides whether to ask a question about them, or be asked one, which would be things like “what was their first hit single?” or “what label are they on?”.

But how do we know that the information in the question and answer is correct? There were two adjudicators on standby who seemed to be in a rather small room with a large pile of reference books to verify everything (where is Wikipedia when you need it). There are ten points for a correct answer, but if they get it wrong, the asker gets ten points instead.

But if it turns out that the asker didn’t actually know the answer to the question that they asked themselves, it’s worth 15 points. At the end of this, the two lowest scorers are eliminated. The next round is similar, but now features various genres to choose from as well as groups. Again, the two lowest scorers leave, and the two remaining contestants go into the final.

In this, they are given the categories one-by-one, they are not given a choice this time, so they really do have to think quickly. And if they play their Brain Card and get it right, then, ooh crikey, it’s worth double points! The winning contestant went on to a Fifteen-To-One-style leaderboard, with the six highest-scoring contestants returning for the grand final, to play to be overall series champion, and win the star prize of a state-of-the-art stereo music thing.

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This means that Mental featured a lot of questions about half-forgotten groups, and well I thought that it was rather interesting. And this must also be one of the last game shows to use the old-school scoreboards. But Iain seemed to be mildly horrified by the whole thing, saying later that this was the low point of his career, but I don’t think that it was as bad as that really.

The Comedy Vault – Rock The Blind.

Rock The Blind (PlayUK, 2001)

Rock Profile was the comedy series where double-act Matt Lucas and David Walliams performed some rather bizarre impressions of various pop stars, which turned out to be one of the biggest hits for the great digital channel UK Play (or was it PlayUK?). After two series of this, it was decided to do a one-off special that was 45 minutes long.

In Rock The Blind, Gary Barlow has fallen on hard times, following the demise of Take That (it could never happen for real!). He decides that it’ll be a great idea to put together a charity single, to gain some publicity for himself (and try to revive his career), and also do some good. Once again, Jamie Theakston is the host who observes all of these events.

Gary then gathers his pop star mates (all played by Lucas and Walliams) who are happy to offer their time, Brother Beyond are reported to be interested in taking part which is rather exciting, leading producer Pete Waterman is also brought in, and work begins on a special version of “I Can See Clearly Now” to raise money for the blind. He is confident that this will be a success on a scale that will make Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” look like a fuss over nothing.

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We then see all of these pop stars in the studio as Gary and Pete watch on. They try to perform their marvellous take on the song, but their personality quirks get in the way (along with the ones that have been invented for them!). This does mean though that we have to hear the introduction to this song over and over again as work continues.

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Of course, all of this descends into chaos and the end result is rather bad. Rock The Blind is included as an extra on the Rock Profile DVD, and there is also a commentary and a look behind the scenes. But as far as I know, there isn’t an outtake where Lucas suddenly breaks character and endlessly shouts “he done a smile at me!” at Walliams.

I can’t remember if Rock The Blind was ever repeated on BBC2, as some editions of Rock Profile were, but it was definitely shown on PlayUK rather frequently. Lucas and Walliams also did their pop star parodies on a few other shows around this time, but not long after this, they went off to work on Little Britain and continued their assent to comedy superstardom.

Game Show Memories – Pop Upstairs Downstairs.

Pop Upstairs Downstairs (UK Play, 1999)

One of my favourite channels in the early days of digital TV was UK Play. I thought it was so great that one of my first blog pieces on here was a look back at some of the most memorable shows because I felt that there should be more about them online, I can’t have been the only person to have watched them. UK Play featured a mixture of music and comedy shows… there was also an attempt at a few game shows, including this one.

Pop Upstairs Downstairs was hosted by the double-act Mark And Lard who were on BBC Radio 1 at the time. I didn’t hear their earliest shows including their short stint in the breakfast slot, I first came across them when they moved to weekday afternoons in 1998, where I enjoyed the top-quality items along with the bangin’ tunes. Mark And Lard hosted a few shows on UK Play including Having A Pop (that I reviewed on here a while back) along with this one. pop1

The format of Pop Upstairs Downstairs was a little like University Challenge… well, actually it was just about the same as University Challenge. Two teams of three took part (also, I couldn’t find any clips of the show online, and I didn’t keep the few bits that I recorded myself, so the pictures in this piece are taken from the http://www.ukgameshows.com website, and credit goes to them) and all of the questions were about pop music, so get ready to tell us what you know about Britney Spears. pop2

The two teams really were sat on top of one another, with Mark representing the supposedly posh team sat on the top, and Lard the common team on the bottom. A starter question was asked on the buzzer for 20 points. Whatever team got it right were then asked three supplementary questions (or “suppository questions” as Lard called them) for ten points each, before the cycle started again. There would also be a question set for the viewers to ponder during the break. pop5

The final round was on the buzzer, with Mark And Lard alternating in asking the questions, with ten points for a correct answer, and five taken away for an incorrect one. It had to be noted that the posh team often romped away into a big lead, and if his team were faltering, Lard with give his team a quick pep talk by shouting at them “get a grip!”. I also remember one edition where Lard got so frustrated at his team not getting any starters right, he just grumpily walked off while Mark’s team continued to get endless answers right and won by a huge margin. I don’t think there were any big prizes on offer though. pop6

I also remember that there was a celebrity edition where one of the teams was the indie band Astrid who also provided the show’s theme music, and once again as they were on Lard’s team they were beaten by a rather big margin. I’m not sure how many editions of Pop Upstairs Downstairs were made (it did have something of a “ten editions made in one day” feel to it, and there was almost certainly no live studio audience present), and it seemed to be shown endlessly in the early days of UK Play, not that I’m complaining, it was great.

The Comedy Vault – Rock Profile.

Rock Profile (UK Play, 1999-2000)

Matt Lucas and David Walliams have been appearing in various comedy programmes since the mid-90s, and one of the earliest things that they did together on TV was Rock Profile, which was originally shown on the great digital channel UK Play, where it ended up being repeated endlessly. This was a show where they played various pop and rock stars who were interviewed by Jamie Theakston, somewhat sending up his presenting style that he used when interviewing various real groups on shows including The O Zonevlcsnap-00541

Lucas and Walliams played a wide variety of pop stars from the 60s to the 90s, including members of Abba, Steps, Oasis, and many others, but they were not portrayed as straightforward impressions, instead they crated their own personalities for everyone, so Prince was re-imagined as a drunk Scotsman, whereas Graham from Blur became a rather creepy character who liked to start fires, and Theakston often asks them unusual questions too. vlcsnap-00542

Because Rock Profile featured a lot of musical content, all of this has been removed for the DVD release, but one of the best features of the show remains. These were the Rock Facts, rather ludicrous made-up statements about the act that was being profiled for that edition. Just to pick two of my favourites as examples, from the profile of Happy Mondays: “Bez forgot the toaster existed and actually spent two years inventing it by mistake”, and from the profile of Prince: “Prince’s tip for aspiring conkers players – ‘Stick ’em in the airing cupboard. Works every time.'”. vlcsnap-00543

The final edition of Rock Profile on UK Play which is included as an extra on the DVD was a 45 minute special in 2001 called Rock The Blind, where Gary Barlow tries to get his career back on track by getting as many pop stars as he could together to record a special charity version of “I Can See Clearly Now”. Again, Lucas and Walliams play the majority of the characters and it is a rather odd show. Altogether there were 26 editions of Rock Profile made in two series, and as interest in the show increased, some editions were shown late-night on BBC2 in 2001. Other DVD extras include their appearances in character on such early-2000s shows as The Priory, Born Sloppy, and The Ralf Little Showvlcsnap-00544

Along with The Mitchell And Webb Situation, Rock Profile is one of two comedy shows that launched on UK Play that have gone on to be released on DVD in full, and although it could be considered to be something of a cash-in following Lucas and Walliams’ subsequent success on popular comedy shows including Little Britain, there is no doubt for me that this show is definitely well-made and funny enough to deserve the release on its own merit.

More TV Memories – Having A Pop.

Having A Pop (Play UK, 2002)

Time for another look back at one of the great original programmes that was made for the long-gone digital channel UK Play. I know I keep going on about this channel but it really does deserve some more credit for some of the shows it made. In the channel’s four-year history, just about all of the presenters who were on Radio 1 at the time got their own programme on this channel, and Having A Pop was a comedy show that featured the great double act Mark Radcliffe and Marc “Lard” Riley.

I must admit that I never heard Mark and Lard’s earlier work, such as their programmes on the old Radio 5 and late-night on Radio 1, I only got into them when they moved to the daytime slot after the failure of their breakfast show, and they stayed in that timeslot until they left in 2004. I used to listen as often as I could as they delivered quality items and I found a lot of their features and characters very funny, and I still like listening back to some of their old sketches now.

Mark and Lard actually had three shows on UK Play that were all attempts to bring their style of comedy to TV. There was the game show Pop Upstairs Downstairs, and Tenuous Links where they introduced some music videos. They also had an attempt at doing a comedy sketch show which was Having A Popvlcsnap-01221

This was a rather bizarre show, featuring Mark and Lard in the production studio doing various sketches and supposedly trying to think of ideas for the show. However, they seemed to enjoy spending more time doing things like banging drums or playing the guitar instead and of course there was lots of chaos. vlcsnap-01219

Along with this there were other sketches too written and performed by a cast of new talent who were never heard of again. Most of these sketches were just straightforward parodies of musical acts who were around at the time such as Macy Gray and Oasis and various other oddities. I must admit that most of these sketches weren’t very good really, the best bits of the show were definitely Mark and Lard’s parts. vlcsnap-01216

Unsurprisingly Having A Pop isn’t remembered much by viewers now, it only lasted for one series and was shown rather late at night, and of course there’s no chance of a DVD release, but once again I feel that UK Play should be commended for at least trying to make some comedy programmes even though it was clear they were made on a very small budget that wouldn’t attract a big audience. vlcsnap-01220

I thought I might as well write a piece about the show because I do remember watching Having A Pop and I doubt that there’s much else online about it. I’ll write more about some of my favourite Mark And Lard moments soon including some of my favourite features that they did on their radio show. Let’s rock!vlcsnap-01217

The Comedy Vault – The Mitchell And Webb Situation.

The Mitchell And Webb Situation (UK Play, 2001)

Back in the early days of digital TV one of my favourite channels was UK Play/Play UK, and indeed so eager was I to share my memories of this great channel that it was one of the first things that I wrote about on here. As well as repeating lots of great comedies, they also had a go at making some of their own, and surprisingly The Mitchell And Webb Situation has been released on DVD, seemingly to cash in on Mitchell and Webb’s subsequent success in more recent years in comedies such as the award-winning Peep Show.

In October 2001 Play UK launched The Mitchell And Webb Situation, a six-part comedy sketch show starring and written by the up-and-coming double-act David Mitchell and Robert Webb. This wasn’t the first sketch show that they had appeared in, they were also in BBC2’s Bruiser that was made about a couple of years earlier, and they would later go on to star in radio’s That Mitchell And Webb Sound and TV’s That Mitchell And Webb Lookvlcsnap-01187

There were no recurring characters in the show which was clearly low-budget, and there were a few supporting cast members who helped out including long-time Mitchell and Webb collaborator Olivia Colman (whose name is spelt wrong on the back of the DVD box) who would also go on to bigger things, just a wide variety of sketches. Of course the quality can vary in sketch shows wildly but overall the ideas were rather good. vlcsnap-01190

One of my favourite sketches is The Early 1990s House, a parody of The 1900 House that was spoofed a lot at the time (The Adam And Joe Show also did a great parody as The 1980s House). In this one the guy is sat there in a Global Hypercolour T-shirt looking at his computer with its very slow internet dial-up modem and saying “I just don’t know how people managed”. vlcsnap-01192

There was also a regular sketch where Mitchell And Webb supposedly appeared as themselves trying to think of some ideas to put into the show. On the DVD commentary they admitted that this was the point in their career that they tried to make Mitchell appear as the “clever” one in the double-act (always wearing a suit and tie and acting pompous), and Webb was the “dumb” one (wearing loud shirts, making silly comments and wearing an earring). vlcsnap-01188

The DVD also features a funny interview with Mitchell And Webb where they talk about how the show was made and some of their comedy influences. Although I didn’t see The Mitchell And Webb Situation the first time round and the ratings must have been very small, I do remember the show being promoted by UK Play to the point that when Peep Show launched on Channel 4 in 2003 when I first saw the trail for that show I recognised the two main cast members as the double-act who were on UK Play. vlcsnap-01191

UK Play was definitely a great place for new talent to be nurtured, and probably only BBC3 comes close to an equivalent channel nowadays. Although the channel has long since left the screen, The Mitchell And Webb Situation was somewhat surprisingly repeated on BBC2 in 2008, some seven years after it was made, making the show alongside Lucas and Walliams’ Rock Profile the most successful original comedy from that channel which is great. And ooh, they both look so young, don’t they!

Remembering UK Play – Part 3.

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Here is the third and final part of my look back at UK Play.

Podge And Rodge. Two dirty old twin brother puppets tell filthy stories from their bed. I think this was done by the same people as Zig and Zag.

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Pop Upstairs Downstairs. Mark and Lard return with a pop trivia game show that has the same format as University Challenge but played for DOUBLE POINTS! Two teams of three faced a starter question for 20 points. vlcsnap-00027If they got it right they then received three supplementary questions (or “suppository questions” as Lard called them) for 10 points each. They then finished off with a quickfire buzzer round. It was good stuff and they always separated the clever people from the halfwits. vlcsnap-00028ReBrand. One of the last shows to be made by UK Play, this was a lively debate show hosted by Russell Brand.

RePlay. A show where Al and Joe have a look back at the history of music vlcsnap-00017videos and give it a gentle mocking.

Rock Profile. Probably the best known of the UK Play shows, Jamie Theakston interviews Matt Lucas and David Walliams who play a wide variety of pop and rock stars. Also featuring lots of amusing made-up Rock Facts. A very good show. vlcsnap-00021The Score. A live show about football featuring sketches and reports. Because of course UK Play didn’t have any football coverage the show mainly consisted of taking some calls and reading out some results. vlcsnap-00007The Sound Of Play. A fairly straightforward music video show, although it was a little more alternative than MTV with some indie/rock videos being played among the pop ones and you never knew what would be next. Oh look, it’s the new video from Gay Dad! Because I was around 15-18 when UK Play aired I was interested in chart music a lot so I watched this frequently. There were also spinoffs looking at specific years or genres such as The Sound Of 1989 or The Sound Of Discovlcsnap-00026Swivel On The Tip. One of my favourites, a comedy show that was a parody of “Yoof TV”, characters called “Hoxton Finn” and the like. Only really notable vlcsnap-00014now because some of the cast went on to bigger things, including Nicholas “Nathan Barley” Burns, Kathryn “Two Pints Of Lager” Drysdale and Emily “Bits” Booth. vlcsnap-00015Tenuous Links. Mark and Lard again. This time they introduce some music videos and you have to spot the connections between the songs. vlcsnap-00029TOTP Plus. Not too much of an extension of Top Of The Pops, it was just a show that played some music videos of songs currently in the top 20 plus repeating a few performances from the TOTP studio.

Unnovations. A show that was a parody of shopping channels, a easy target probably but it did well. It also guest starred some bloke who used to be vlcsnap-00044in The Bill and it was made by the same production company as TvGoHome which was on E4 around the same time. vlcsnap-00018Vic Reeves Examines. Jim looks at a different subject every week with help from a celebrity. I remember a particularly good one when Johnny Vegas introduced Vic to the world of pottery.

Two extra notes:

Other programming. As well as repeating a lot of BBC2-type comedy which I might reflect on in another article soon, UK Play also occasionally showed cult children’s TV shows including Camberwick Green and Trumpton.

Continuity. When I first saw UK Play all the announcements were made by the same woman and it took me a while to realise that they must have been pre-recorded. Curiously, UK Play was renamed Play UK in November 2000 but it made little difference. Due to poor ratings and the collapse of ITV Digital it closed in September 2002. A great shame, but they put a lot of effort into making some good shows despite the tiny viewing figures. vlcsnap-00012I hope you have enjoyed this look back at this great but obscure channel.