The YouTube Files – Pookiesnackenburger In…

Pookiesnackenburger In… (Channel 4, 1985)

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of Channel 4, and its future. People where sharing memories of some of the shows from the past four decades, and wondering why they don’t commission as many quirky and bizarre shows as they did in the 80s and 90s, because, well that is really why this channel exists (and you won’t believe how many people remember cartoon Murun Buchstansangur and consider this to be the standard that is expected).

But I saw someone talk about another Channel 4 show from the 80s, that I don’t remember, but sounded interesting. So I wondered if any of this was on YouTube, and I did manage to track down all five episodes, now I can judge this for myself. The rather oddly-named Pookiesnackenburger were a musical comedy sextet that formed in Brighton in the early-80s. While they were busking in London they were discovered.

In January 1982 they released the single “Just One Cornetto” on the Stiff label. They performed this on the Dutch music show TopPop (they were clearly eager to crack that all-important Netherlands market). This was even reviewed in Smash Hits, where this was described as “so ridiculously good-humoured”. This wasn’t a hit, and neither was their debut album “Pookie Beach Party” that was released around the same time.

But this led to further TV appearances, including CITV’s No. 73, BBC1’s David Essex’ Showcase, and CBBC’s The Krankies Klub, plus several tours. They were also fond of making music not using traditional instruments, but more of that later… In April 1985, they were given their own comedy show on Channel 4. Pookiesnackenburger In… featured a different story in every episode, and some of these were rather creative, the cast playing a wide variety of characters as well as performing their songs.

It probably wasn’t a coincidence that all of these songs also featured on their second album that was released around this time. Some of these were rather enjoyable, and got stuck right in my head, this looked and sounded like little else around. Also making appearances were the cast of similarly strange Channel 4 sitcom They Came From Somewhere Else, and Andy Cunningham of Bodger And Badger fame.

I’m not sure if this could be classed as a lost gem as such, but yes, Channel 4 should be commissioning more shows like this. There has been no DVD release though, or any deluxe boxsets of their albums. Pookiesnackenburger split shortly after this, and two of them went into the group The Yes/No People, who in November 1987 released their first and only single “Mr Johnson”, which reached no. 99. They also provided the theme to Channel 4 music show Wired.

They then went on to form Stomp, the group best-known for making music by banging dustbin lids together, tapping glass bottles, and the like, whilst dancing, and there have been several successful stage tours featuring their performances around the country and beyond. They also performed the theme to Blue Peter that was used for almost five years in the mid-90s. What a racket.

The YouTube Files – The Very Hot Gossip Show.

The Very Hot Gossip Show (Channel 4, 1982)

When Channel 4 launched in 1982, this was designed to offer an alternative, a new opportunity for things to be shown that were more bizarre and experimental, not the kind of things that would really get on ITV. This was a show from the first month of Channel 4 that did cause something of a stir. I found this on YouTube, and this is the story.

Hot Gossip were founded by choreographer Arlene Phillips (who recently appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!) in the mid-70s. They were a group of young women and men who wanted to offer an alternative to the dance troupes that were still on Top Of The Pops at the time, although the line-up changed constantly, and they went on to release several singles.

They first found fame in 1978 when they collaborated with Sarah Brightman for the Top Ten hit single “I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper”. They then regularly appeared on The Kenny Everett Video Show, performing their routines to the biggest hits around, and even Cuddly Ken thought that they were rather naughty! Well they were no Shock but they were still rather good.

In 1981, they released the album “Geisha Boys And Temple Girls”. And then, they went on to appear in a one-off special. The reason I was interested in seeing this was because after I had seen them on other shows, I noticed that there were a lot of women with big strange-coloured hairstyles. Did everyone in 1982 walk around looking like this? Well maybe not.

In The Very Hot Gossip Show, they did their thing on stage, but not in that way! They performed more routines, and sang various hits, including “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, and “The Model” by Kraftwerk, accompanied by some impressive for the time visual effects. This was all greeted by much applause, although there didn’t seem to be an audience actually present.

Well I have seen little else like it, no wonder the viewers’ pulses were reported to quicken. It was also said that this made the similar The Hot Shoe Show on BBC1 seem tame by comparison. Is this really what they were going to fill Channel 4’s time with? Let’s hope so. Hot Gossip continued to dance until 1986, by which point I imagine they were all rather tired and needed a lie down.

The YouTube Files – The Morwenna Banks Show.

The Morwenna Banks Show (Channel 5, 1998-1999)

This is another comedy show from the 90s that I don’t remember watching at the time, but once again, thanks to YouTube, I have finally seen some of this, and here’s why I was interested in this one. When Channel 5 launched in 1997, as you should know by now, I was attracted to their supposedly lively and fresh new schedule, like nothing on UK TV before.

Among the highlights was The Jack Docherty Show. Now I know that have reflected on this in several pieces now, but he was going to be the five-nights-a-week star of their late-night schedule. Why they chose him out of everyone, I’m still not sure. But I wonder how many people know that Jack wasn’t the only cast member of Absolutely to get his own show on Channel 5.

Morwenna Banks is someone who had worked on various TV radio and comedy shows, before becoming best-known for featuring in Channel 4’s Absolutely. After this ended, in 1994, she became one of a small group of British-born people to be a cast member of American show Saturday Night Live. I presume that she did her rambling schoolgirl character, which is her best-known routine.

I can only imagine what American audiences thought of it all though. And in 1995, she was in the cast of American sitcom Dream On. After this, she returned to the UK, and was given a show of her own, and many felt that this was well deserved. In The Morwenna Banks Show, various characters featured, along with the schoolgirl again, because if you find a winning formula, you might was well use it.

There was also a small supporting cast including Absolutely‘s Gordon Kennedy. And as several of the writers and producers were also among the cast of that sketch show, this was almost like a bonus fifth series of Absolutely, although a fairly low-key one shown in a late-night slot. At least Channel 5 had some commitment to home-made comedy at this point though.

There’s no doubt that Banks had the talent to play a wide variety of characters, and get the laughs out of them. This was also repeated on Paramount Comedy Channel, although I don’t remember ever seeing this on there during the time that I had access to that channel (thanks to the mighty ITV Digital), and as far as I know, there has been no DVD release.

After the first and only series ended, a year later, there were two one-off specials, shown as part of themed weekends. The first was all about famous blondes, and the second was about science-fiction. Banks has continued to work on various comedy shows, continuing to collaborate with various Absolutely cast members, and also appeared in the first series of Harry And Paul.

The YouTube Files – Albion Market.

Albion Market (ITV, 1985-1986)

This is a soap that I don’t remember watching at the time, but this turned out to be a rather unexpected flop, so I thought that I would try and find out why. Granada had long-since established Coronation Street, so it was clearly thought that it might be a good idea to launch another soap. Coronation Street at the time was shown on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Albion Market would also be shown twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays.

There was a lot of promotion for this, there was a TV Times cover and everything, and soon all of the characters would become rather familiar to viewers. Well, that was the plan. Nobody seemed to think that this could possibly fail. Albion Market was set on a market stall in Salford. We don’t really see that much of the cast’s family life, just how the days pass as they try to sell things.

This clearly didn’t get off to the best start, and as the weeks went by, the decision was made to add some more cast members, for that much-needed touch of class. One of them was played by Helen Shapiro, who had previously found fame by being a chart-topping singer at the age of 14. And she was born in Bethnal Green, which is where this very piece has been put together in London, how fascinating.

But, would you believe, this didn’t manage to bring the viewers in. It turned out that the 100th episode, almost a year on from the launch, would be the last. This featured a high-profile wedding, but it was all too little too late. As least they didn’t blow up everything though. Albion Market is now fairly forgotten, whilst Coronation Street continues to this day.

It seemed that a lot of time and money had ended up going to waste on this. At least Albion Market was still just about a quality level above Thames’s effort at a soap Gems from around the same time, and this was still better treated than Night And Day ever was by ITV, not that I’m still bitter about that or anything all this time later, oh definitely not.

One reason for the failure could be because EastEnders had launched not long before, and did go on to become a big success, maybe there were only so many soaps that viewers would commit to at a time. And apparently LWT didn’t want to have soaps as part of their schedule because viewers would rather watch flashy game shows like Play Your Cards Right (which also happened to be an LWT Production) at that time of the week.

The YouTube Files – Up Yer Festival.

Up Yer Festival (BSB Galaxy, 1990)

A while ago I reviewed Up Yer News, which was shown on the little-seen BSB Galaxy channel. This took a satirical look back at the day’s news every weekday evening, and gave a lot of up-and-coming comedy talent some of their earliest TV appearances. I felt that for all of the effort that was clearly put into this, it was rather a shame that the ratings were so small.

When I was having a look on YouTube recently, I discovered that there was also a spin-off series. Usually in August, hundreds of thousands of comedians and entertainers (well maybe not as many as that) go to Edinburgh, to perform at the annual fringe festival. Suddenly the streets would be overrun with jugglers, dancers, and the like for about a month.

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So in Up Yer Festival, there was a change to the format, as some of the highlights were showcased. And along with stand-up comedy and sketches, there were also be music, just anything that was on offer really, there might even be some improv. Improv! It seems that this went out live, and the host for every edition was different. These included Mark Little (moonlighting from Neighbours) and Norman Lovett.

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One of the regular contributors was Bob Downe, who did his routine and met various other performers. He was a rather zany and camp Australian comedian who actually became fairly famous in this country in the mid-90s, going on to have a comedy show or two on his own on ITV, although they were rather late at night. Well it’s one way to make a career I suppose.

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I also noticed that some editions had some extra material after I presume that the show had ran out of time and gone off air. Well if you’ve started your routine then you might as well finish. Or maybe they weren’t that bothered about overrunning. Keep going! Up Yer Festival was a worthwhile idea, which offered a wide variety of things to enjoy.

But of course, BSB ended up being doomed, and put it this way, there wasn’t going to be a visit by this show to the 1991 festival. One thing that can be said about Up Yer Festival is that it is definitely a good source of material for those “before they were famous”-type shows. Although later on in the 90s, there would be a similar show on BBC2 in a late-night slot.

The YouTube Files – The Weekenders.

The Weekenders (Channel 4, 1992)

This is yet another comedy show that I didn’t see at the time that I have wanted to review, because I think that this has an interesting story. Vic Reeves Big Night Out had been a big success of Channel 4, but after two series and several tours, Vic and Bob wanted to try something a little different. People had said that “comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll” around this time, and they were considered to be a part of this movement.

But what exactly would they do next? They decided to have a go at the sitcom format. Their surreal style is probably the ultimate in “you either get it or you don’t”, but I definitely have found their work amusing over the years. The Weekenders was a one-off sitcom made on location that they wrote and starred in, that was shown as part of Bunch Of Five, a series of comedy pilot episodes.

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The plot is rather difficult to make sense of, even by their own standards, although there is a meat festival included, along with plenty of aliens, and general silliness inbetween. In Wythenshawe! There were also some guest appearances from Paul Whitehouse, Simon “bid again, Simon” Day, and John Thomson, who would all go on to contribute to The Fast Show. They all looked so young…

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And there was also an appearance by The Human League’s Phil Oakey. They didn’t say their catchphrase “it’s slightly rippled with a flat underside” though. One thing that I do remember from the time about The Weekenders is that this was shown on my sister’s 18th birthday, and she was arguably an even bigger Vic and Bob fan than I am, so this was just the ideal present for her.

About two decades later, this was repeated as part of the Funny Fortnight season (not to be confused with the old comic Funny Fortnightly), when a lot of comedy shows from the Channel 4 archive were surprisingly shown in a late-night slot. A new introduction was made for this, with some reminisces about making this show from Vic and Bob.

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And there was also a previously unaired comedy pilot that they made in the 90s shown was part of this season too, which this was just as odd was we’d come to expect. Despite being well received, The Weekenders got no further than the pilot episode, partly because Vic and Bob had decided to move to BBC2 not long after, and they wouldn’t return to sitcoms until Catterick many years later.

The YouTube Files – Rewind.

Rewind (Channel 4, 1986)

This is yet another rather curious moment in British TV. I always enjoyed watching The Chart Show over the years, as this was where music videos were shown, and lots of groups were given their brief moment of exposure. But its success almost didn’t happen, because about two months after the launch, this was rather abruptly taken off the screen by Channel 4.

In June 1986, the British Phonographic Industry’s agreement with broadcasters on the payment of music in videos had come to an end. The Musician’s Union also got involved, and this ended up affecting things rather badly, as essentially they were unable to show many videos. Their pioneering idea had been scuppered by record industry politics.

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Channel 4 had little choice but to pull The Chart Show until this was resolved, which resulted in the awkward situation of a hole in the Friday evening schedule. The short-notice replacement was Rewind, a new show that was made by the same production team, which instead of music videos, featured live studio performances from groups that were taken from shows in the Channel 4 archive, including Ear Say and Switch.

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As usual, there was no host, and everything was linked by computer-generated graphics. There were a lot performances shown, and they were all assigned numbers (such as E7 or N1), as if they were being selected on a jukebox. This meant that there was a lot of rewinding and fast-forwarding through the choices. There would be no HUD offering extra information though, and there were no references to what was happening on the current Top 40 chart either.

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The captions were still a sludge-green colour, but in a more legible font than usual. Another notable thing was that the production team’s names in the credits appeared as anagrams. Rewind ended up filling the gap for about seven or eight weeks, when in August 1986 an agreement with the BPI had finally been made. The Chart Show then returned to the screen, and ended up running for another 12 years.

The YouTube Files – TV Squash.

TV Squash (ITV, 1992)

On we go then with yet another year of classic TV memories on this blog! This is comedy show that I don’t remember watching at the time, but I wanted to review this one for a few reasons. I had read that TV Squash featured a variety of parodies of TV channels and genres. All I had previously been able to find online was a particularly rowdy (and rather ridiculous) parody of sitcom Bottom, but this did make me want to see more.

So I was rather pleased when I spotted a couple of editions are now on YouTube, to help me better determine what this show was all about. And only one name in the cast really stood out to me, but it was Angelo Abela, who had previously been a host of CITV’s Saturday Morning show Ghost Train that I remember enjoying, and I had hoped to see some more of him (he was also one of the writers and producers of this).

Having now seen some more of TV Squash, it did feature some ideas that had already turned up in other comedy shows, including parodies of soaps, sitcoms, game shows, but anything was determined to be a target really. I was rather amused that one of the parodies was of game show Stars In Their Eyes, long before Reeves and Mortimer did their more famous sketch.

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And doing parodies of news shows isn’t particularly original, and while this was hardly in the same league as The Day Today, the point was still made. There was also a parody of The Word, which was a rather popular show at the time (as to why has always been lost on me somewhat though). There were also plenty of guest appearances from TV personalities who were rather eager to send themselves up (or get back on the TV again), including Nicholas Parsons and Eric Sykes.

There was only one series of TV Squash, which was shown rather late at night on a Sunday, so barely anybody watched at the time, but you can’t really imagine a new homemade comedy being shown in this timeslot now. I must admit that I don’t recall seeing any of the cast again, and when compared to the likes of Spitting Image, which was also shown in this slot around this time, it’s fairly forgotten now. It’s definitely one of the more unusual ideas I’ve seen from this time.

The YouTube Files – Another Evening With Oracle.

Another Evening With Oracle (Channel 4, 1992)

Following on from my recent look back at what was on offer one evening on Oracle on ITV, I thought that I would now have a look at what Channel 4 had to offer. This is on the evening of 20 December 1992 (one day after the previous review), not long before the closure at the end of that year, and again this video was uploaded to YouTube by “WEBFAX”.

The pages 500-699 are covered (pages 700-899 were never used, apart from 888 for subtitles), and 400-499 was Channel 4’s ancillary service 4-Tel (I might review those pages one day too). Whereas ITV covered things like news and sport, on Channel 4 you would get things like entertainment news, things for younger viewers, adverts, and so on. Again, I’ve picked out some of my highlights.

We begin with some finance pages, so if you are rich and are eager to know where the FTSE is, then this is for you. There are also some city news updates, that are provided by ITN, although not much seems to be happening at the moment, maybe that’s a good thing? And then we come on to the pages that I probably looked at back then.

First there is Beat Box, featuring pages about pop music, including trivia, charts, and a gig guide. It is determined by their critics that the album of the year is “Copper Blue” by Sugar. Then there are some children’s pages, featuring lots of animated pictures, rather terrible jokes, and stories. And don’t forget to take a look at the advent calendar too.

The next section is Buzz, featuring computer games, pen pals, competitions, all those kind of things. There is also the soap Park Avenue, which featured lots of episodes and characters, and as usual it’s all happening. And there is also Debbie’s Diary and Josh’s Diary. These pages were popular as they featured a teenager trying to deal with life.

I’m not sure why horse racing was featured separately from the other sport news on ITV, I suppose it was because they could have enough pages to fit in all of those ludicrous bookmaker “this’ll romp home!” adverts. There are also results, and columns from tipsters, although they all seem to be on holiday at the moment. Diversions is a section about hobbies, including pages on angling, chess, and recipes.

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Then there are film, theatre, and video reviews, followed by more money pages. On p669 for some reason, there is a picture of snooker, even though there is nothing else on that page. Was this an advert or a test page? It’s rather unusual. The last pages feature engineering and transmitter news, the A-Z index, and just like on ITV, a farewell from everyone at Oracle.

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The YouTube Files – An Evening With Oracle.

An Evening With Oracle (ITV, 1992)

You might know by now that when I was younger I used to enjoy watching Teletext, which I felt was as useful a source of information as newspapers and magazines were, so I have decided to review a video that was recently uploaded to YouTube by “WEBFAX”. Oracle was formerly the Teletext service that was available on ITV and Channel 4, and this video features the pages 100-399 on ITV on the evening of 19 December 1992 (I’ll do the Channel 4 equivalent in another piece soon).

The date is rather significant because Oracle would close at the end of 1992 having lost its licence, meaning that there was not even two weeks left before they would go off-air (and Christmas was coming too!), and they were beginning to wind down their services by this point. Here are some of my highlights. In the 100s we begin with the news pages, provided by ITN. There’s plenty of information, along with the Premium Bond numbers.

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Then there’s Live At Five (so called because I think that it updated every day at 5pm), which was a magazine section that featured horoscopes, letters, puzzles, and so on. Then there’s sport, and as it’s a Saturday, all of the football results have just about come in (and this was the first season of the Premier League), and the league tables and pools news are now updated. There’s also results in plenty of other sports, which is good news for ice hockey fans.

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Then we go into lots of pages of adverts, including betting and phone-in competitions. Who wants the chance to win a Super Nintendo? Then there’s a test page, and a page saying goodbye and explaining to viewers what was happened. Then we go into the 200s, which features the weather and TV guide. There’s also information about what’s on, including cinema news, and those all-important pantomimes.

The TV pages feature the critic Sam Brady, who really was the grumpiest person, and didn’t seem to like any programme at all. Maybe that was the idea, but it did make you feel that he was in the wrong job. But he will not be gagged! I remember seeing him interviewed on the TV once, and I was rather surprised to discover that he actually was a real person. There’s also ratings, soap news, and more adverts.

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Going into the 300s the pages are mostly weather and travel news, along with the chance to go on holiday somewhere in this country, or maybe a little further. There are also some oddities. I have always enjoyed some Teletext art, but I wasn’t expecting it on this page. Congratulations Mr Farquharson! I wonder what’s going on here?

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I would like to dedicate this piece to my sister Lucy, who died recently at the age of 47. She was as big a fan of pop culture, nostalgia, and trivia as I am, and I did enjoy sharing my memories about things with her, I will definitely miss doing that.