More TV Memories – Nikki.

Nikki (WB, 2000-2002)

Following on from Jesse (that I reviewed recently), this is another American sitcom featuring a young female character in the lead role, that was only shown in this country on Channel 4 in an afternoon slot in the early-2000s for a short while. Nikki (there was also a girls’ comic in the 80s called Nikki) starred Nikki Cox, who had previously featured in the WB sitcom Unhappily Ever After, and the ABC sitcom The Norm Show (which was also shown in this country on Channel 4, but in a very late-night slot).

She impressed enough in these to be given the leading role in a sitcom. Nikki played Nikki White, who was a dancer at the Golden Calf Casino in Las Vegas. Her choreographer is the English-born Martine, who has outrageous ideas for routines, and often struggles to keep all of the women under his guidance. They all dream of becoming famous dancers, although that is rather unlikely.

One of Nikki’s fellow dancers and friends is Mary (who had a rather terrific hairstyle). Nikki’s husband Dwight also often dreams of fame. He is a professional wrestler who is known as The Crybaby. But again, his coach Jupiter doubts if he has got what it takes to get to the top. This meant that Nikki contained plenty of action, with several scenes featuring dance routines or wrestling in the ring.

By the second and final series, various ideas were tried out. One episode featured a parody of sitcoms including Married… With Children for some reason, and even had a guest appearance from neighbours Steve and Marcy (played by the same actors from the actual show). And one episode also featured a guest appearance from the wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage, how exciting!

There were 41 episodes of Nikki, although it seems that the final six were never shown in either the US or this country, and because I’m fairly sure that there has been no DVD release, they remain unseen. Although this was not a big success, the combination of all this definitely livened up an afternoon. Nikki Cox doesn’t seem to have done too much TV work after the end of this though, which is a disappointment because she was great.

More TV Memories – Grounded For Life.

Grounded For Life (Fox, 2001-2002, WB, 2002-2005)

This is an American sitcom that was shown in a late-night slot on ITV1 for a while (you barely see any home-made sitcoms on ITV now, never mind imported ones). Grounded For Life centred around the Finnerty family, who live in Staten Island, New York. Sean and Claudia got married when they were 18, and they now have three children, Lily, Jimmy, and Henry.

They are beginning to reach their awkward years, meaning that, despite only being in their early-30s themselves, they realise that their children are almost teenagers. The other main cast members are Sean’s younger brother Eddie, and his dad Walt, who often gives advice on how the family should be run, whether it’s asked for or not. Sean sees himself as a modern, easy-going dad, but parenting’s just as tough for him as anybody else.

The idea is that it is Sean and Claudia who feel like they are the ones who are grounded, not the children! Grounded For Life starred Donal Logue, who had previously been in the CBS sitcom Public Morals in 1996, which was so badly received that it was pulled from the schedule after only one episode (although all 13 that were made were shown in this country on ITV). This one did manage to do better though.

This was also another of those sitcoms which had a “my totally crazy dysfunctional family” feel (and according to the opening sequence, they all like to play basketball together), but this was all rather overshadowed by Malcolm In The Middle, which launched around the same time and tackled a similar idea with more energy and wit.

Just after the start of the third series, Grounded For Life was dropped by Fox, and continued on WB, running for a few more series. By the end, Claudia had gone and popped out a fourth child, to much excitement. There were 91 episodes in total, but I don’t think that the later ones were shown on ITV1, although there were some repeat runs on Trouble too. But the story doesn’t end there.

In 2011, BBC1 launched In With The Flynns, which was a British remake of Grounded For Life, and starred Will “Jambo” Mellor in the lead role as the equivalent of Sean Finnerty. There were two series, including some episodes written by Simon Nye. But the reviews were rather middling, arguing that after Outnumbered and the like had revolutionised the domestic sitcom in this country, this rather more traditional take on the idea came across as rather redundant.

More TV Memories – Charmed.

Charmed (WB, 1998-2006)

This is one last American supernatural series that I want to review, and then that’s all of them. Charmed is a show that centres around the three Halliwell sisters Prue, Piper, and Phoebe (no relation to Geri as far as I know). They turned out to be the most exciting trio since the Sugababes came on to the scene. They live together in a house in Los Angeles that they inherited from their grandmother, and they are in for a surprise.

This is because they discover The Book Of Shadows, and it turns out that they are all from a family of witches. They all have special abilities individually, including being able to freeze time, or see the future. And when they are really stuck in a corner and facing a huge amount of ghosts and demons all at once, they can combine their powers into The Power Of Three, which usually does the job. vlcsnap-01039

There were also plenty of special effects which helped to show off the creative ideas, such as people randomly appearing from nowhere, or turning into mermaids, and so on. It was all rather entertainingly far-fetched and there was plenty of humour added in. But can they be trusted to use their powers properly and not give away their secrets? vlcsnap-01040

Prue left at the end of the third series, which was a shock, and she was replaced by Paige, a long-lost half-sister that Piper and Phoebe didn’t even though they had, but this meant that they could retain the trio of powerful witches, who went on to have many more adventures, and there were plenty of guest appearances from people who didn’t have a problem with entering this rather strange world. The show went on to do rather well and help establish the fledging WB channel in America. vlcsnap-01041

Charmed retains a good reputation, and always features high-up in those endless “77 great TV shows beginning with C from the 90s”-type lists that fill magazines. There was also some merchandise, including a computer game, books and just like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess, there was a monthly magazine for a short while that featured further insight into the show. charmed2

There were 178 episodes of Charmed in eight series. They were shown on various channels in the UK throughout the 2000s, including Channel 4, Channel 5, and LivingTV, but this was usually in an afternoon slot, so they were probably edited, because aren’t they always. I must admit that I don’t remember watching a huge amount of them at the time, but I did enjoy what I saw of them. charmed

All of the episodes have been released on DVD, and that’s a huge 48 discs altogether. There aren’t that many extras, but they do include a look behind the scenes. And in 2018, there was a revival of Charmed, which was a variation on the same idea, although it featured a different cast, and I think a few episodes have been shown in the UK too.

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 – Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

Sabrina The Teenage Witch (ABC, 1996-2000, WB, 2000-2003)

You might remember a while ago when I reviewed the American teen sitcom Clueless, which was first shown in this country in a double on Saturday evenings on ITV along with Sabrina The Teenage Witch, so it’s about time to take a look back at that one as well. This was a sitcom also for teens that was fairly fluffy, although it did have something of a fantasy twist.

The origin of the show goes back long before this TV version, when the Sabrina character was featured in the series of Archie comics, which at the time was popular enough to have a TV show and chart-topping single with “Sugar Sugar”, the upbeat song that some people just can’t resist doing a dance to… or so I’ve heard. There was then an animated TV series in the early-70s, before about 25 years later Sabrina would return to the screen, but this time in a live-action sitcom. vlcsnap-01004

Sabrina The Teenage Witch starred Melissa John Hart, already known to viewers for playing the lead role in sitcom Clarissa Explains It All, and hopefully nobody realised that by the time this show started she was actually 20 years old! Sabrina Spellman gets something of a surprise on her 16th birthday when she discovers that she is a witch. Well you would be surprised wouldn’t you, that definitely didn’t happen on my 16th birthday. vlcsnap-01008

Sabrina’s dad lives in a spellbook, while her mum is a mere mortal, so she has to go and live with her two aunts Hilda and Zelda who are both witches too (and don’t look too bad considering that they are about 600 years old). Another main character is Salem the cat, who can talk, and can always be relied on to offer a witty aside about the current situation. It’s probably no surprise that the show was often compared to Bewitched. vlcsnap-01005

And we also meet some characters at Sabrina’s school, including Harvey, Jenny, and Libby, where she tries rather hard to keep her powers under control, and she would rather spend the time at The Slicery having too much pizza. There were also plenty of guest appearances by celebrities, and later episodes featured Sabrina at college and trying to get on with her new roommates including TV’s Punky Brewster. vlcsnap-01007

Sabrina The Teenage Witch was originally shown on Saturday evenings, and it came to ITV on the same day that The Simpsons launched on BBC1 in 1996, where despite being shown around the same time it managed to hold its own. Shortly after this, the show moved to CITV where it was shown very frequently for a while. There was also a comic, computer games, books, plus another animated series, and it can now be seen on 4Music. There were 162 episodes in seven series (including three films), and these have been released on DVD in a huge and very enjoyable 24-disc boxset.

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.