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.

The YouTube Files – Jim Tavaré Pictures Presents…

Jim Tavaré Pictures Presents… (BBC2, 1995)

This isn’t the comedy show that I planned to review. I actually wanted to take a look back at The Jim Tavaré Show, because I do remember watching some episodes, and also because it’s a rather rare example of a home-made comedy show on Channel 5 in the late-90s. Unfortunately, there seems to be no trace of this online at the moment.

So instead I thought that I would review a different comedy show from his career. I don’t remember this one from the time, but once I came across the description, I just had to see some of this for myself, and thankfully there is some of this on YouTube. Tavaré started out in stand-up comedy, and eventually he perfected his routine, which usually featured him playing a double-bass as he told his jokes.

This was then turned into a TV show, which must have a unique idea. Jim Tavaré Pictures Presents… was another dialogue-free sitcom with fairly short episodes (just like Les Lives and Harry Hill’s Fruit Fancies that were on BBC2 around the same time). This was a variation on his stand-up act, as Tavaré lived in a world where romances with a double-bass were commonplace (his was credited as “Bassie”), and he ended up getting into all kinds of adventures.

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At a time when there were a lot of quirky comedy shows on TV, this one still managed to stand out. This was a very lavish and creatively put together show, and I definitely approve of what I saw. Also among the writers and cast was Al Murray, who was about to become a familiar comedy name himself. Another thing I couldn’t help but notice was that Tavaré had some hair, because I always thought that he was bald.

There was only one series of Jim Tavaré Pictures Presents…, and as far as I know, there was no repeat run or VHS release, it was just another one of those shows that came and went. Beyond this and his Channel 5 show, Tavaré is probably best-known to viewers for being among the cast of The Sketch Show, and anyone who has worked alongside Lee Mack and Tim Vine must have something going for him. As far as I know, he’s still out there touring to this day.

The YouTube Files – Les Lives.

Les Lives (BBC2, 1993)

This is a comedy show that I don’t remember watching at the time, but the description intrigued me enough to look for more on YouTube. In the early-90s, Vic Reeves Big Night Out became a success with viewers, and made a big comedy star of the host, along with Bob Mortimer. But they weren’t the only ones who took part. Another regular was Les (Fred Aylward), their mute assistant who was bald and always wore big glasses.

And as it turns out, after Vic and Bob went off to BBC2 to launch a new comedy show, so did Les. It’s no surprise really to discover that this was a show that was rather unusual. Les Lives (which was shown as part of the DEF II strand) was a dialogue-free comedy which had five-minute episodes. I have noticed that some of the more curious comedy shows that I have reviewed over the years have either been dialogue-free or very short, so what would it be possible for Les to get up to in this time?

Before this, little was known about Les beyond the fact that he is rather fond of spirit levels. And we discover that Les lives in a rather unusual world, where trying to do the simple things is rather difficult for him. He always tries to fill the time somehow though. He can do whatever takes his fancy, whether it’s having a haircut (even though he’s bald, ha-ha), or maybe one day he’ll go to the moon, he’s not busy. And you thought that Mr Bean could be odd.

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Needless to say, everybody that he encounters ended up being caught in his chaos. I can definitely say that this lived up to my expectation that this was going to be something rather weird, Vic and Bob themselves couldn’t have done any better. Les Lives only ran for one series, and didn’t have a repeat run (and I don’t recall seeing the Les character on TV again either), but it seems that there was a VHS release.

The YouTube Files – Magic Micro Mission.

Magic Micro Mission (ITV, 1983)

You might have realised by now that I do find TV shows about computing from the early-80s rather interesting, almost a decade before Gamesmaster and the like, because it shows just how far we’ve come over the years. These have included Chip In and Murphy’s Micro Quiz-M, and recently I discovered another one on YouTube, that wanted to explain to us that the computer is here to stay, and can also do many helpful things for you.

Magic Micro Mission (which I’m fairly sure was only shown in the Central region) began with a special computer-generated version of the Central ident, so this one was clearly on to winner from the start. The show had a rather futuristic feel, apparently being set on a spaceship that was a long way from Earth. This was at a time when people really did think that we’d all be living on the moon by the year 2000, and this was the first steps towards that.

The hosts were Jo Wheeler (who I think was also a continuity announcer on Central at the time) and Adrian Hedley, who were joined by a studio audience of schoolchildren dressed as robots. They would accompanied by “Egghead”, who knew all about technology and explained the jargon, and there would often be interjections from “Prune” the computer. If you didn’t know your VIC-20 from your ZX Spectrum, this was the show to help you out.

There were also some silicon superstars who were beamed down to play various games or explain how things worked. There included celebrities, musicians, game developers, and so on. Also featuring were a panel of five children who played games and had to explain what they were all about. I don’t know if they thought that everything was “the best game ever”, but if they did, then I’m sure that they went on to a long and successful career in computer games journalism.

And there were also examples of how modern technology was already being used, including film Tron, and that weird Will Powers music video that I went on about in another piece a while ago. You really can see the early stages of things that we almost take for granted now like email developing already. Rather bizarrely, every edition ended with a computer exploding, to much commotion from everyone. That’ll teach them to overload their floppy. What a treat.

The YouTube Files – Kremmen The Movie.

Kremmen The Movie (1980)

Having been interested in the career of Kenny Everett, I wondered if there was anything else that he did that was worth discovering. One of the highlights of his radio show were the adventures of Captain Kremmen, who was a real superhero, even if he did say so himself. In November 1977 the single “Captain Kremmen (Retribution)” (credited to Kenny Everett And Mike Vickers) was released and reached no. 32.

By the time that Kenny’s ITV series launched in 1978, Kremmen appeared in animated form. And then in 1980, this was turned into a full-length science-fiction film (well, one about 25 minutes). I don’t think that this has been released on DVD (well it’s not featured on The Kenny Everett Video Show boxset), but I have managed to track this down online.

Kremmen The Movie was written by Kenny’s usual collaborators Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, and featured typically bizarre ideas. Set some time in the future, we meet Kremmen (voiced by Kenny, as were all of the other characters), who considers himself to be rather marvellous, he has an IQ of 498 and everything. His assistant is American Carla, who is rather voluptuous, along with Professor Gitfinger.

We start with Kremmen receiving a special award that is only given out once an eon. “It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole eon since they gave me my last award!”. He really is not modest at all. He is then given a spaceship, and he is needed back on Earth, because only one person can save the day, and you probably guess who that is.

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Kremmen also meets a rather unusual character called Q who really makes the most of his scene. At the halfway point of the film, we get an advert for Pupil Prompt, which is really great. Kremmen and his team continue to fly past all of these strange planets, and for some reason the computer’s voice has changed by this point, maybe he crashed and needed to be rebooted.

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They then have to deal with a big monster, before going off to discover new adventures, if the writers can think of any. What was that all about? I think that Kremmen The Movie was shown at least once on Channel 4 rather late at night in the 80s, and Cuddly Ken’s only other real film was the comedy horror Bloodbath At The House Of Death, I might review that one soon too.

The YouTube Files – Planet Mirth.

Planet Mirth (ITV, 1997)

This is a comedy show that I don’t remember from the time, but I was interested in seeing this one because of its premise and its cast. Planet Mirth was a late-night comedy sketch show that was described by Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy (they never did do another volume of that, did they?) as “a waste of space”. Is that harsh? Well this can’t be any worse than Dare To Believe can it.

Enough clips of this show have now turned up on YouTube for me to be able to do a review (credit goes to “tdrury”). As well as being a sketch show, Planet Mirth was science-fiction themed (and was a co-production between Carlton and The Sci-Fi Channel), with a quartet of performers, and among the cast was Milton Jones, whose work on the TV and radio I have enjoyed over the years, and this was rather early on in his career. pm3

There were a few sketches that featured regularly. These included Every Single Morning, a parody of a daytime TV show that was supposedly watched by viewers on various planets, along with four people having adventures on a space caravan holiday. There were also aliens taking part in a game of Earth Invaders, and Susan Snape, who is originally from Venus, and is still trying to adjust to how things work on Earth. vlcsnap-00018

This show was done on location, and there was no laughter track. The problem with the show wasn’t because of the cast really, but it was clear that Planet Mirth was made on a small budget, and because of its timeslot would attract few viewers. There were also plenty of writers who contributed, but somehow all of these people couldn’t create anything that amounted to much. vlcsnap-00015

But surprisingly, there was only one series, and this ran to a huge 19 editions, meaning that many of the sketches were stretched too far. If this had been only six parts, maybe everything could’ve been better. At least they bothered, as there is very little original programming on TV late at night now, and it’s always good seeing Milton do his thing, however good or bad the show is. There has been no DVD release, and there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry.

The YouTube Files – 35 Years Of The Chart Show.

This piece is late because the actual 35th anniversary was in April, but I wanted to take another look back at The Chart Show, as some of the earliest editions turned up online recently. The Chart Show was originally shown on Channel 4 on Friday afternoons, and famously had no hosts, with everything being introduced by computer graphics that were impressive for the time (Top Of The Pops launched their first computer-generated opening sequence around the same time, I wonder if it was a response to this, or a coincidence).

It is always interesting seeing the early days of a show before it is properly defined and settles down into a regular format, and it is clear from these editions that there were too many charts mixed in with some bizarre choices for exclusive videos, although at least it gave some lesser-known acts their three minutes of TV fame. At this point as well as the familiar Heavy Metal (later Rock), Indie, and Dance Charts, there is much more.

These include the Reggae Chart, and the Euro Singles Chart, which featured the biggest hits across Europe, including Sandra, a German singer who never really found fame in the UK, and Stephanie (“is this a duff video or what?”). Then there’s the Compact Disc Chart (albums sold on CD) and The Music Video Chart (compilations of videos and concerts released on VHS). vlcsnap-00010

Then there was the UK Hits In The USA Chart, featuring some successful acts during what was called “The Second British Invasion”. One played was “Addicted To Love” by Robert Palmer that was indeed a chart-topper in America (“can you believe the follow-up to this video is just as bad!”), which in the final edition on ITV in 1998 was rather oddly claimed to be the first video ever shown, when it was actually about halfway through the fourth edition (that honour goes to “What You Need” by Inxs).

And then there was the Network Album Chart, and The Chart File (later Chart File Update), which once featured Cherry Bombz, a rock group fronted by Anita, who used to be in Toto Coelo. Er, yes. The exclusive videos (called Video Reveal at this point) were a rather odd mix, including “World Domination” by The Belle Stars (“these girls used to be shy until they started using hair gel”), the failed attempt to reinvent themselves as a trio (that doesn’t even feature on their best-of).

And there was even Tom Watt (who was best-known at the time as Lofty off EastEnders) and his baffling take on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, where we are informed that “members of The Fall and New Order appear in this vid” and “a big hi to Dick Robins from all at The Chart Show!”. No idea what this was all about, but I’m sure it went down well at his local The Queen Vic.

The show didn’t conclude with The Top Ten, but The Network Chart, showing us some of the hits currently on the up (and not using the official chart like Top Of The Pops did), and The Chart Race, where you had to write in and predict where a few songs would enter the chart. Add to all this the famous video recorder-style graphics, some sludgy-green captions, and the HUD that told us facts that wasn’t on the screen long enough and almost impossible to read anyway.

And then, in June 1986, after barely two months, The Chart Show was rather abruptly cancelled by Channel 4, and replaced by Rewind. Wait, what? Well, there was a return eventually of course, but lots of ideas tried out in the early days were dropped quickly, with the majority of the extra charts featured gone by the end of 1986, and the more familiar format that would run for another 12 years began to take shape.

The YouTube Files – Noel’s Addicts.

Noel’s Addicts (BBC1, 1992)

Over the years I have followed the TV career of Noel Edmonds, and it has definitely had some ups and downs. For every success, there has been a flop. Rather oddly, I have no memory of watching this one at the time, but when I spotted that a couple of editions have been put on YouTube, I thought that I might was well take the chance to find out more.

The idea behind Noel’s Addicts was that Noel would meet various people who were fans and collectors of rather unusual things. This either took place in the studio, or on location, because it’s always good to have a hobby, isn’t it? Whether they were fans of things like pop music, films, or even more unlikely things like clothes, they were all given a chance to explain why they are so fond. vlcsnap-00004

Noel would also often ask guests 12 questions about their favourite thing, and if they get enough right, they really can be classed as an “addict”. There would sometimes be guest celebrities who would talk about their hobbies too, and Noel would also go to America to meet some people with interesting stories to tell. And there was also The History Of Addicts which was hosted by Willie Rushton and his voice, which was accompanied by some of his illustrations. vlcsnap-00006

All of this featured some rather silly captions that went on and off the screen like they did on Top Of The Pops in the early-90s, viewers were encouraged to write in if they wanted to share something about a hobby that they or someone that they knew had, and I couldn’t help but notice that the opening sequence was also rather odd too, with Noel turning into various things. vlcsnap-00005

It’s also rather intriguing that the description for the final edition includes “Nicholas Parsons has a very big surprise for Noel”. I suppose this was the usual end-of-series prank, but this edition isn’t online, I presume Noel had to admit to being a fan of something himself. What could that be? There was only one series of Noel’s Addicts, and rather oddly, the only reason that anybody is aware of the show now is because of the bizarre parody in The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer.