OK so it got crap later on, but RENTAGHOST was top class for its first couple of series when it was directed by future Hollywood filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. Immensely dark and eerie, the show revolved around the mysterious Harold Meeker, ostracised by his neighbours and the rest of the society due to the fact that he is cursed with "seeing dead people". And he wasn't lying - he was blessed with the special ability to communicate with tormented spirits unaware that they're dead, among them a medieval jester, an Edwardian gentlemen and a recently deceased man who had drowned horrifically at sea. Most famous of course for the big twist at the end of the second series when it is revealed that Ethel Meaker had herself died right at the start of the series and was a ghost as well all the time. (She had been stabbed by an intruder played by former boy band great Les McKeown.) The horror when Ethel realises that she is actually dead and noone can see her but Mr Meaker is one of the great moments of television and is guaranteed to get the hair standing on the back of the neck of even the most hard-hearted. Later series of the show tried similar tricks - Christopher Biggins's Adam Painting being some kind of real superhero to Dobbin the Horse's comic book baddy role and then later Rose and Arthur Perkins having their house invaded by aliens - but it wasn't the same and few tears were shed at the show's eventual demise. Still, great when it lasted and provided a good message to young viewers - 'not every gift is a blessing'. Wise words M. Night Shyamalan.
The wee small hours talk show that would have been totally forgotten by now had it not been for the bizarre few weeks in which the recently cryogenically resuscitated former Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger hosted the show. Just watch as former Goon Harry Secombe squirms in his chair as the 18th Century Tory argued for reform of the East India Company. Indeed, Pitt failed to ask Pat Phoenix anything at all about CORONATION STREET preferring instead to defend his defeated Union with Ireland bill of 1785. It was a brave risk on behalf of the BBC to try out a Prime Minister who had been dead for nearly 200 years but ultimately it was to prove a failure.
THE CHINESE DEFECTIVE BBC ONE (1981)
Almost certainly the most politically correct cop-show in TV history. David Yip played the one-legged wheelchair-bound oriental copper who kept the streets of London free of Triad gangs. How he always knew that the villain's dockside hideout had wheelchair access we don't know. Still, an admirable effort by the Beeb and even more so on the part of Yip who agreed to have a leg surgically removed for the role.
THE AUDIENCE WITH KENNETH WILLIAMS LWT (1982)
Probably the best remembered of all the self-celebratory back-slapping luvvie-fests in which renowned stars faced questions posed by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her black-clad male indie backing band. The most repeated moment of course is when main songwriter Billy Reeves asks Williams if you can't do it when you're young when can you do it and the nasal actor replies with a wonderful anecdote about Bill Kerr.
"So when did you first suffer from piles Kenneth?"
NOEL EDMONDS'S MULTI-COLOURED CUNT SHOP BBC ONE (1982)
Oh dear, oh dear. What can be said about this short-lived series? In reply to the Chris Tarrant-fronted O.T.T. on ITV, Noel Edmonds launched what was essentially adult SWAP SHOP. And just as the racier supplement to TISWAS was famed for featuring topless women, Edmonds decided to up the ante and regularly presented genuine shots of women's fannies. The premise was still the same - people would ring up and try to swap with other people - but now it was wives rather than Rubik's Cubes. ('We have Derrick from Finchley on the phone and he wants to swap his slightly saggy 48 year old wife plus a good jazz mag collection for anyone under the age of 35'.) Games were overseen by the new show's mascot, Posh Cnut (his name was an anagram of Cunt Shop), who was essentially a purple oversized phallas wearing a crown with a feebly-articulated foreskin for a head. The nadir was probably 'John Craven's Screws Round' in which a visibly uncomfortable Craven read who is shagging who in the world of entertainment. After only four weeks, the inevitable happened when a lamb was rimmed live on air by mistake (the dangers of live television!) and after complaints from the RSPCA the BBC pulled the plug and sent Edmonds and the team back to Saturday mornings.
Adult content as Noel breaks a few taboos
DID YOU KNOW: Despite the controversy surrounding this show, it is interesting to see how far attitudes have moved on in the last twenty years. When in 2001 Jamie Theakston was caught in a Soho strip-club, the BBC actually offered him a new youth show in which he reviewed the country's best red light districts called THE HOE ZONE.
V LARRY GRAYSON CHANNEL 4 (1982)
On November 2nd 1982 Channel 4 went on air for the very first time and at 10pm that evening, the new channel's first nightly stripped comedy entertainment series launched. Building on the BBC's earlier SO LARRY GRAYSON and co-devised by his executive producer Stuart Graham, the camp entertainer brought all his family-orientated sauciness with him to his new home. Over the course of the series, Larry's opening sketches launched a host of new characters including Everstiff, Loose Fanny and 'Pop It In My Gob' Pete. Larry also had many catchphrases such as 'What a queer day', 'Seems like a nice cock' and everyone's favourite, 'Pull that knob'. Always the best bits of the show were the prank phone calls in which Larry inevitably ended up ringing a pervert he had met on CB radio.
DID YOU KNOW: On the back of V LARRY GRAYSON, the host himself released a single predictably called 'Pull That Knob'.
THEN SIMON WESTON SAID TO ME NEVER SCREENED (1982)
Frankie Howerd's naval romp that suffered from quite probably the most unfortunate timing in the history of TV comedy. The series was nothing special - Howerd played what was essentially a direct descendent of the characters he had played in UP POMPEII! and WHOOPS BAGHDAD and camped it up alongside Nicholas Courtney playing the former Welsh Guard Weston. Storylines were similarly predictable - Horwerd tries to stay out of trouble while he causes mayhem at every turn. So far so good. But then, just as the series was due to be screened on the BBC in early 1982, a quite amazing stroke of bad luck struck as Britain declared war on Argentina and the Falklands War began. The BBC predictably put an embargo on any comedy or drama that seemed to have references to war, conflict or severely burned members of the armed forces, and even a show as downright silly and blatantly unrelated as THEN SIMON WESTON SAID TO ME was deemed unsuitable for general entertainment. That said, it is possible that Auntie had been grateful for war and an opportunity to pull it, owing to the fact it was unmitigated shit. Sadly, the truth may never be known.
DID YOU KNOW: Bizarrely, when THEN SIMON WESTON SAID TO ME was eventually aired on UK Gold in 1993, the show still received a substantial number of complaints. Despite there being no war at the time and no contemporary references in it at all, some people still found objection in the show's obviously silly title!
WHITESNAKE BBC ONE (1983)
He might be best known now for his contrived rock 'n' roll musicals but Ben Elton was once lauded for his use of music in his TV work, especially in the hugely popular period comedy WHITESNAKE and its numerous sequels. The original series was set way back in the Iron age, so to speak, of the late 1970s heavy metal scene in which the Machiavellian Lord Edmund Whitesnake, played brilliantly by rubber-faced David Coverdale, unscrupulously schemed and plotted his way up the music biz ladder. All the while he had to put up with the hindrances of his band chums, the imbecilic Bernie Marsden, the downtrodden ninny Micky Moody, and the bumbling aristocrat Neil Murray. In one classic episode, 'Medicine Man', Whitesnake has to take part in a staged drinking contest in order to win the Kerrang Mag Award for Best Rock Act 1979 ahead of his nemesis Saxon. The show was frequently criticised for blatant innuendo and its notoriously sexist and cliché ridden lines as witnessed in such episodes as 'Come An' Get It' and 'Slip of the Tongue', however the fourth series, WHITESNAKE GOES NORTH was a unanimous triumph. Focusing on their tour of Scotland, the final episode contained one of the most moving scenes ever seen on TV as viewers were reminded all too poignantly of the trials heavy metal bands endured on their gruelling provincial tours. The tear-jerking denouement showed the entire band dramatically stage diving in slow motion off the rostra at the Glasgow Barrowlands into a frenzied pit of moshing Motorhead fans to their certain death. There have been misguided reunions since - the terrible millennium special WHITESNAKE BACK AND FORTH - but that final sacrifice will stay in the hearts and minds of all who saw it for many years to come.
'Great booze up Lord Whitesnake!'
FRASER CHANNEL 4 (1983)
One of the most successful sitcom spin-offs ever attempted and also one of the very best comedy series in its own right. Having long been a stalwart of Walmington-on-Sea's home guard, John Laurie reprised his role of the gloomy Scottish funeral director Fraser, who after D-Day decided to quit the undertaking business and mysteriously present his very own radio psychiatric phone-in show on WOSR. Almost inevitably though, his unorthodox fatalistic approach usually proved difficult for his regular callers. For example, in 'Permission To Shriek Sir' the Scot prescribed primal scream therapy to the war-traumatized Corporal Jones to cure his irrational panic attacks. Of course, Fraser's simple prognosis that "we're all doomed" rarely actually worked - in one episode Mr Blewitt actually had to be sectioned in the local asylum run by Warden Hodges. And the cases kept coming - a bank manager had to be treated for thinking he was Napolean and believing he was married to a woman no one else had ever seen and an elderly medic was seen for his psychosomatic need to constantly urinate. (Bearing in mind how few phones there were in post-war Walmington-on-Sea, there were a remarkable number of callers to the radio show!) The lead actor, John Laurie, experienced widely-publicised personal problems throughout the series - for example dying in June 1980 - but to his credit, his performance rarely suffered and even when he had to be absent from filming for embalming or burial, the other members of a wonderful ensemble were more than capable of carrying the show. All in all, a 24 carat gem that in many ways may have even surpassed its legendary progenitor.
DID YOU KNOW: Fraser's ancient father's physical therapist and home-carer was played by an actress who had earlier been in Kenny Everett's 'Hot Gossip'.
THE TWO RONNIES BBC ONE (1983)
Just the sight of the two yellow pairs of glasses coming toward you was all that was necessary. It was a trademark that simply said "you know entirely what is coming up and it is going to be good". And of course after the obligatory "nice to be back Ronnie", "coming up on a packed programme tonight" and "today's headlines", came the bit we were personally waiting for -a Ronnie Barker-penned verbally-dextrous monologue. The serials were great (especially Spike Milligan's 'Phantom Rapist of Old London Town') as was 'Ronnie in the Chair' (a comedy monologue delivered live each week from Aintree's most difficult Grand National jump) and the inevitable party sketches (a personal fave is the one at a swingers' party where the two Ronnies each think the other is wearing a merkin) but it will always be Barker's tongue-twisting spoonerisms and pismenunciations that remain dearest to our hearts. And if we have to pick just one, then it has to be his hospital orderly outside an NHS ward. Pure gold!
"And in a packed programme tonight..."
DID YOU KNOW: Despite always opening the show by claiming "And now a sketch in which I play..." etc, the sketch that followed was invariably a sketch set at a suburban party and was NEVER based around the premise they had described. Either they had always cut the sketch they had originally planned or they were just lying bastards.
UP THE TOTTERIDGE AND ROUND THE WHETSTONE THAMES (1984)
What can we say? Having conquered the nation's Sun readers, Jim Davidson made this ill-advised attempt to win over The Times and Daily Telegraph audience with this up-market sitcom vehicle. The cockney stand-up played against type by portraying the posh North London resident Jim Finchley - a bachelor who lived in a Totteridge mansion between the residences of dodgy neighbours record producer Mickey Most and Arsenal vice-chairman Dave Dein. Best forgotten methinks.
THE BOYS IN BLUE RANK ORGANISATION (1984)
The absolute nadir of the careers of rubbish LWT performers Cannon and Ball was surely this Derek Jarman-directed homoerotic documentary film. It was bad enough when they were on TV doing a poor-man's Morecambe and Wise but here they lost any visual humour derived from the curly hair and bad tache in favour of a full 90 minutes filled by a single shot of a totally blue screen. As born-again Christians the pair objected strongly to the script's focus on the issue of AIDS in the gay community but came to a compromise when Jarman allowed them to film a bizarre scene in which the double-act stumbled upon a UFO. Co-starred Tilda Swinton and Roy Kinnear. Avoid!
THE JUNG ONES BBC TWO (1984)
Seminal madcap comedy that made analytical psychology ultra hip. You can all quote it inside out but here goes anyway. Carl Jung (the punk), Sigmund Freud (the spotty idiot), Alfred Adler (the hippie) and William James (the North American boring one) share a chaotic student house at the University of Zurich. For no particular reason James Joyce popped up every now and again as the mad landlord spouting his post-modern philosophies and many other greats made early appearances including Hermann Hesse, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.B. Priestly and Hale and Pace. Much of the comedy came from the comic-strip violence between Jung and Freud as they hurt eachother with cricket bats, chainsaws and dynamite usually over the issue of whether mental illness is characterised by disunity of the personality. Along the way inanimate objects in the house such as toasters and rotting vegetables would talk to camera although this was simply a figment of the viewers' collective unconscious. The zenith of course was undoubtedly the foursome's appearance on UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE in which the quartet played a team of analytical philosophers from Cambridge including Wittgenstein and Russell ('Ra-Ra-Ra! We're going to smash the psychologists!') Not as good as your granddad said it was but in a different league to FILTHY, NIETZSCHE AND KANT-FLAP.
DEAR JOHN USSR CHANNEL ONE (SHOWN ON LATE NIGHT BBC TWO) (1984)
Your guess is as good as mine as to why the BBC would sell DEAR JOHN to the Soviet Union only to buy the Russian version back a couple of years later in order to play on BBC2. You know the story - one day the hero, Dmetri, is left a letter on his mantelpiece telling him that he has been dropped in it by his former wife who has told the government that he is a capitalist spy. He is then informed by the Politburo that he must attend a weekly meeting at his local communist party to be cleansed of any suspicion. The group is, as the rules of sitcom dictates, full of unforgettable characters - the rotund leader Anya (catchphrase 'any ideological problems yah?'), the nerdy Radoslav with his motorcycle combination and of course the brilliant medallion-wearing Kiril St Petersberg who maintained he was a top KGB spy who turned out to be nothing of the sort. Starring Judd Hirsch as Demitri.
A series based around the kind of unbelievable premise that only American sitcoms seem capable of delivering. The Tanner family are living a quiet middle-class Californian life until one day a plane carrying none other than roly-poly singer Alison Moyet crashes into their garage roof. The plane is too damaged to return to flight and with the pilot and crew dead, Alison is forced (as one would in such as situation) to live with the Tanners as one of the family! Cue sitcom hilarity as Moyet keeps everyone awake by singing 'All Cried Out' in the middle of the night, eats food like there's no tomorrow and hides under the table when the doorbell goes in case it's nemesis Vince Clarke. Imagine BIG FOOT AND THE HENDERSONS if the creature was a Southend born soul singer and you're halfway there!
THE FURTHER FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN BBC ONE (1986)
With Leonard Rossiter having passed away it seemed that it was the end of THE FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN. But having proved that his Cecil Slinger (SLINGER'S DAY) was more than a match for Rossiter's Norman Tripper (TRIPPER'S DAY), Bruce Forsyth was cast by the BBC as Reggie for one final run of David Nobb's classic series. Essentially the same although Brucie did manage to work some of his own catchphrases into the show's established routines such as 'You get nothing for being eleven minutes late Miss Greengross - not in this game', 'I didn't get where I am today - cos I'm in charge', and of course the two yes-men who alternately said "great" and "good game".
"Eleven minutes late - not in this game!"
LAURIE AND HARDY'S 'STAND-UPS IN TOYLAND' BBC TWO (1986)
Hugh Laurie and Jeremy Hardy briefly united for this 1980s slapstick series in which the pair updated the work of Laurel and Hardy but with a new alternative comedy flavour. Perhaps best remembered was the episode where the pair tried to manoeuvre a piano up some stairs in the occupied West Bank while Hugh plays a whimsical Noel Cowerd pastiche on it and Israeli troops try to shoot at them both. Still far superior though to Hanna Barbera's later cartoon version of the show in which the characters' voices were provided by Tim McInerny (Laurie) and Ivor Dembina (Hardy).
"Another fine mess you've got me into"
BENSON AND HEDGES IMPRO CELEBRITY GOLF CHANNEL 4 (1987)
Ripped off from the granddaddy of improvised panel games, WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY, Hat Trick's IMPRO CELEBRITY GOLF was an above par ratings winner for Channel 4's ailing sport department. They had previously tried kabbaddi, sumo and even Subbutteo but this seemed the answer. Every Friday, four comedians played all eighteen holes on St Andrew's golf course with host Clive Anderson asking them to tee off and play strokes in the style of golfing greats as suggested by the large crowd of spectators. Interestingly females were not allowed to participate but an exception was made for Josie Lawrence although she was not permitted in the clubhouse afterwards. There can't be many people who didn't laugh at John Sessions deftly slicing the ball onto the green in the style of the most unknown golfer he could think of (Fuzzy Zoeller anyone?) That said, he was more than matched by Tony Slattery dry-humping the hole in the manner of American bad boy Jon Daly. The ever-reliable Richard Vranch was on hand as caddy and his versatility was regularly demonstrated as he effortlessly selected the correct 9 iron or wood for each player to use as a walking stick, Martian ray gun or some other similarly shaped object. Memorable moments include Paul Merton using a twiglet for a tee and the edition where Stephen Fry got stuck in the rough for most of the show while trying to imitate Seve Ballasteros. It was only in the last round, 'Party Quirks', when Fry was supposed to be legend Jack Nicklaus that he managed to masterfully chip a shot onto the green. Took off briefly in USA as well with Ryan Styles and Colin Mochrie joining host Earl Stevens but the irony-free Americans found it difficult to accept the bizarre scoring system in which Anderson had awarded a ridiculously arbitrary handicap score to the winners of each round. A great show then but never as good after John Sessions left along with all his wonderfully obscure semi-pro styles and the plebs started liking it. Isn't it always the way with TV?!
John Sessions does the 11th hole in the style of Sandy Lyle
DID YOU KNOW: Impro actually had a rich heritage on television with WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY being one of the first shows ever transmitted in 1928. However it was soon abandoned due to the dearth of film style suggestions made by the audience (silent movie was suggested in the film round for 8 weeks in a row!)
THE QUEEN IS DEAD RSO (1987)
There's unmitigated shit and there's unmitigated shit. And then there's the Bee Gees' film adaptation of the classic Smiths album THE QUEEN IS DEAD. What in the name of Jehovah were they thinking? Robert Stigwood's unspeakably bad movie cast the Gibbs boys as Marr, Joyce and Rourke while the long blonde-haired Peter Frampton played a particularly unconvincing Morrissey. The incredibly contrived plot also guest-starred several who should have known better including Frankie Howerd as the evil tight-fisted Mr Shankly and Steve Martin as the vicar in a tutu. Just try to watch it the whole way through - go on, we challenge you.
'Take me out tonight'
IT AIN'T 'ALF MILD, MUM BBC ONE (1987)
Disappointing sequel following the concert party as they return from India only be posted to Berlin where they are charged with entertaining the NATO troops on the western side of the wall. Where once they had had to contend with the 'hot' conditions of India, the 'mild' outlook of Berlin did not really cause too many problems so the iconic wet shirts and sweaty faces were lost in favour of unrecognisably dry actors. Also, since European Law demanded a more relaxed attitude to gays in the armed forces, Windsor Davies's Sergeant Major was unable to persecute Gloria, Lofty and the rest of the gang with his usual homophobic venom. The funniest character though (the party's German escort Jurgen Jurg) also proved to be the most controversial since it was played by former Boney M performer Bobby Farrell who had to white-up to play the role. Perry and Croft always maintained that not only was he simply the best actor to play the role but that he was actually German (a fact overlooked by many who wanted to label the show politically incorrect). However until the BBC change their opinion of this series, you are unlikely to be able to make up your own mind. As the great man might say 'Oh dear. How sad. Never mind'.
DID YOU KNOW: Perry and Croft were originally going to call the series 'It Ain't 'Alf Even Hotter, Mum' and have the gang entertaining troops in Suez with Derek Griffiths as an Egyptian guide. However the idea had to be shelved when Griffiths signed a deal with Polydor to record a follow-up album to 'Heads and Tails' entitled 'Mouths and Arses'.
TALKING HEADS' ALAN BENNETTS BBC TWO (1988)
American rockers Talking Heads' bizarre TV project that had the finest comedy actors in Britain dancing on stage to art-school New Wave music. The result was a mix of LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND and surreal stage performance. Highlights included a manic Thora Hird running on the spot in a giant tuxedo during 'A Cream Cracker Under The Bush Of Ghosts' and Bennett himself break-dancing to the sound of 'A Chip In The Psycho Killer'. The word 'heartrending' only tells half the story.
DID YOU KNOW: The show was originally entitled TALKING HEADS' LENNY BENNETTS and was to feature music in the foreground while a game of LUCKY LADDERS was played in the background. Copyright problems however mean the abortive pilot is still locked away in the basement of Sire Records.
WINSLETT BBC TWO (1988)
Oh dear. She might be an Oscar-winning actress now but Kate Winslett will always want to forget her ill-advised overly-pretentious eponymous sketch-show. What were the BBC thinking? The only memorable part was the opening titles with Ms Winslett spelling out her name using her body (she never quite got the 'W' right) over a jazzy sig tune. After that it was all downhill. Produced by Humphrey Barclay.
'Two newsreaders, one sofa, no script'. Witchell and Lawley were for a time the country's pre-eminent newscasters making BBC's SIX O'CLOCK NEWS their own. But then one day a pair of lesbian demonstrators invaded the studio and chained themselves to Lawley's desk, forcing the duo to improvise and cobble together the rest of the programme. However, so successful were they that the arrogant newsreaders thought why bother with scripted headlines at all and decided to present instead an entirely unrehearsed news bulletin in which they would bounce off those present in the studio. The quality of the show depended very much on suggestions from the crew - in one fantastic episode a sound recordist asked whether it was possible to be made to fart through sexual intercourse which led to Lawley slipping off camera to put it to the test. On the whole though it was Witchell who was George Michael to Lawley's Andrew Ridgely as she sat and clung on to his coattails. As the sig tune said, "It'll never work! It'll never work!" How right they were.
THE PENULTIMATE OF THE SUMMER WINE BBC ONE (1988)
Hmmm. Even avid fans of LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE were not entirely sure what to make of this period prequel to the series set just a few years earlier. Most strange of all was that despite being based barely a decade earlier than the contemporary show, Compo, Foggy and Cleggy were all played by different actors to those in the main show causing widespread confusion among viewers about who the characters were meant to be. Unsurprisingly only lasted one series.
THE ANTEPENULTIMATE OF THE SUMMER WINE BBC ONE (1989)
You would have thought the BBC would have learned their lesson! Despite the general failure of the previous year's LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE prequel, they were at it again, now simply rewinding another decade to the swinging sixties. Sadly the sixties didn't swing that much on the Yorkshire Dales and casting the main parts with three entirely new actors again didn't augur well for what turned out to be rather a damp squib.
Different actors again!
DID YOU KNOW: The first episode of this series drew enormous viewing figures due to the poor vocabulary of the British people. Millions thought that THE ANTEPENULTIMATE OF THE SUMMER WINE meant a show that was specifically anti the disastrous PENULTIMATE OF THE SUMMER WINE. They soon realised though that it meant the one before penultimate and quickly deserted the show by the second episode.
THE SECRET SEVEN BBC ONE (1989)
Without any shadow of a doubt one of the strangest sitcoms ever seen on our screens. Frustrated by a lack of good new narrative comedy scripts and aware of the dearth of brilliant new characters to follow in the footsteps of Del Boy, Basil Fawlty, Reggie Perrin and Alf Garnett, the BBC asked star writers Clement and Le Frenais to write a show based entirely around great comic creations from sitcoms of the past. And crucially, in order to avoid copyright and continuity issues it was decided the series would unite all the people mentioned in other sitcoms that had never before been seen. Hence THE SECRET SEVEN formed a dream team of sitcom legends in holiday camp boss Joe Maplin (HI-DE-HI), Elizabeth Mainwaring (DAD'S ARMY), Arthur Daley's wife 'er indoors (MINDER), Victor Meldrew's mysterious neighbour Mrs Swainey (ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE) and a trio of Peckham's dodgiest dealers, Sunglasses Ron, Monkey Harris and Paddy the Greek (ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES). And of course, like the real Secret Seven, there had to be an additional pet as the unofficial eighth member of the team, in this case played by Mrs Slocombe's pussy. The premise was essentially the same as Enid Blyton's stories - the group solved mysteries that had always been perpetrated by the show's resident baddies, Bill Maynard and Bob Todd. However, the copyright problems were never actually solved and so the secret seven had to remain secret. This did have its advantages - the series was very cheap to make as there was no need for a cast - however the downside was that most of the shows were essentially two-handers between Maynard and Todd and soon the viewing figures were as near invisible as the cast. Great idea - shame about the execution.
BREAD BBC ONE (1989)
Scousers may not have liked the image of them that this sitcom perpetuated but even the angriest Liverpudlian must have enjoyed this fifth anniversary celebration and utterly self-referential special first shown on Children In Need. Co-written by Carla Lane and Terence Dicks, 'The Two Joeys' saw the current Joey Boswell (Graham Bickley) joined by his former self, the first Joey Boswell (Peter Howitt) who had left his own time-stream in order to help defeat the evil DHSS clerk Martina. The look of surprise on everyone's faces when the pair of Joey Boswell's simultaneously say "Greetings!" was worth the license fee alone. As the anniversary special reached its conclusion and with Martina now in possession of the ring of Rassilon, it was necessary for the family to use a time scoop to also unite the two 'Our Avelines' (Gilly Coman and Melanie Hill), and with the characters now using their collective mental power, they were able to emerge victorious. In the end, after the Avalines and Joeys are returned to their own dimensions, it was left to the poetic Adrian to sum it up for the viewers as he turned to Billy and said "Joey Boswell - splendid fellow. Both of them!"
DID YOU KNOW: A few years later, Carla Lane was rewarded for her years of service to the world of mawkish sitcom, by being given a self-titled series set in a fictional Merseyside cul-de-sac called CARLA LANE. Absolutely awful but memorable for its McCartney-penned sig tune ('Carla Lane is in our eyes and in our ears. It's been over thirty fucking years. Please no more, don't come back).
DOOGIE HOWSER, GYNAECOLOGIST BBC ONE (1989)
From the creator of HILL STREET BLUES and LA LAW came this altogether implausible 'dramady' - the term given to a comedy series that isn't funny. DOOGIE HOWSER, GYNAECOLOGIST told the story of child prodigy Douglas Howser who got perfect grades when he was six, got through high school within a couple of months and by 14 was a qualified medical doctor. When we the viewers first met him of course, he was now a 16-year-old gynaecologist, performing smear tests, D&C operations and getting up-close-and-personal with women of all ages and sizes. Much of the comedy came from the contrast between his adult job and his teenage years - some female patients were unwilling to have a 16 year old poking about at their genitalia while children of his own age hated him for being their one peer to have actually seen a lady's cooch. Even Doogie's parents find the whole situation difficult, trying to keep him on the right path but baffled by both his genius and his total obsession with vaginas. Inevitably as the series progressed and Doogie got older, dating became a more important plot point, each episode seeming to revolve around him asking out one of his patients from between her legs. For some though, this introduction of 'adult themes' such as girlfriends and relationships was when the show 'jumped the shark' and became slightly tasteless, losing its wonderful earlier innocence.
Obsessed with 'women's health' - the Eastman Medical Centre's gynaecology department