THE BOOTLEG BEADLES
BBC ONE (1990)
With BEADLE'S ABOUT at the peak of its popularity on ITV the BBC tried to win back viewers on Saturday evenings with its own tribute show to the king of the pranks. All donning closely-trimmed beards and policeman's helmets the new Fab Four consisted of John (the intelligent Beadle), Paul (the cute Beadle), George (the quiet Beadle) and Ringo (the funny Beadle). Bizarrely even though the programme comprised of nothing more than 'covers' of the exact pranks Jeremy Beadle had done previously on ITV, the Beadle tribute act ended up becoming more popular than the original Beadle himself. Indeed the quartet released their own comedy LP ('Beadles For Sale'), a video ('The Beadles Anthology') and embarked on a live tour ('Meet The Beadles'). Channel 4 then tried to get in on the act with their own Banzai-style tribute show - THE JAPANESE BEADLES. Sadly it all came to an end when John was assassinated by a man who thought that he was the real Jeremy Beadle - Jeremy Beadle.
DID YOU KNOW: In time the light entertainment group became the target of satire in Eric Idle's THE RUDLES - a spoof film that featured brilliant parodies of the Beadles' pranks. However the BBC soon sued claiming The Rudles' pranks were too similar to the originals and the Beadles had to be given co-writer credits thereafter.
Loved by some and loathed by others, long-haul airline favourite MR BEAN turned nerdy groans and gormless gurning into something approaching an art-form. Too many moments to list such as struggling during a maths exam (why is the forty-something Bean taking a maths exam anyway?), trying to tune his television and video to be able to receive Channel 5, and spending an evening high on a speedball at a local discoteque. Our personal favourite though was the later episode 'Insert the Catheter Mr Bean' in which the hapless hero is let loose in a hospital with disastrous but thankfully hilarious consequences. The next time you are on a aeroplane and the man next to you is creasing up with laughter, you can bet the money in your pocket that he is watching this brilliant episode.
"Which way for the proctology department?"
Nicholas Lyndhurst was the lead in TV's first sitcom to be based around the theme of bestiality. By day, the plain and ordinary Peter Chapman is an MI5 agent. But by night, he satisfies his perverted urges by suckling on piglets' tiny teats. Of course Chapman has to keep this fetish from his wife and it was from his secretive behaviour that much of the humour derived as she naturally assumed he was having an extramarital affair. Undoubtedly something of an acquired taste this one.
THE DAVID BADDIEL EXPERIENCE
BBC TWO (1992)
Sick of the filth that made up so much of contemporary television comedy, Mary Whitehouse teamed up with fellow campaigner William Rees Mogg to produce a clean, family-based series without any swearing or gratuitous sex. Spawned thousands of bad playground imitations of the show's popular 'Comedy Today' sketch in which the duo played a pair of bickering TV critics who insulted eachother while discussing the merits of the era's television. Based on an idea by Bill Dare.
"You know that fat-faced sexist comedy star Benny Hill? That's you that is! You chase women to fast music you do"
"You remember that Gay Times where they implied Jesus was bent? That's your favourite issue that is."
THE FAST SHOW
BBC TWO (1993)
Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson's sketch show that made a positive virtue out of reducing characters to nothing more than a catchphrase and moving from one to another at tremendous pace. However, the pair eventually fell foul of the BBC when during the second series, the show became so fast that it was unable to be seen by the naked eye. The duo of course argued that this was in fact the aim of their deconstruction of the sketch show but the channel were unhappy at paying £200,000 an episode for a show that could not be seen and lasted for all intents and purposes no more than one second. And when several people suffered epileptic fits as a result of the strobe lighting-like effect of watching the hyper-fast FAST SHOW, the final death knell was sounded and the series was axed.
A sketch when shown 30 times slower
MY RABBI'S A ROBOT
CBS (SHOWN ON CHANNEL 4) (1994)
Brilliant Earl Stevens sitcom vehicle co-written with ex-SILVER SPOONS main man Howie Rosenberg in which the Californian stand-up is member of a synagogue with a robotic rabbi (self-explanatory really!) The sight of the Metal Mickey-style RX-2 complete with prayer shawl, long ringlets, skull-cap and big furry hat was always guaranteed to bring the house down on its own and the great scripts ensured that all 274 episodes always maintained a very high standard. Stand-out episodes include the wonderful 'Oil Vey' in which RX-2 discovers the lubricant he uses on his wheels isn't kosher. Co-starred Jack Lord's sidekick from ALASKA 4-9 Chuck Wagner. Timeless.
BBC ONE (1995)
The bi-annual comedy luvvie-thon that raises both money for charity and Lenny Henry's sagging profile. Generally just a routine compilation of favourite BBC clips but also featured some appalling 'special editions' of popular comedy shows. The undoubted nadir was 1995's ultimate new-lad football special THEY THINK IT'S ALL FANTASY FOOTBALL. The basic premise was that a blind-folded Rory McGrath had to grope the genitalia of Baddiel and Skinner and tell who was who by feeling which has a circumcised penis while humorously praying that it is swimmer Sharron Davies all along.
NEVER SCREENED (1995)
What are the chances of this happening? In 1995 a careless executive at NBC optioned weak GOLDEN GIRLS clone BRIGHTON BELLES and production started on an American version of the series set in Boston. What's more, by a total billion-to-one fluke, the casting director plumped for Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty in the lead roles. Unbelievably it took until the filming of the third episode for a vision mixer to point out they were shooting exactly the same script as an episode of THE GOLDEN GIRLS and that NBC had bought back a series they owned anyway. Needless to say the forthcoming show was dropped from the schedules and there were more than a few red faces to be seen at NBC's headquarters.
DID YOU KNOW: Despite the fact that BOSTON BELLES had to be dropped, it did not stop a wily NBC executive selling the format back once more to the UK where it was remade as NEW BRIGHTON BELLES with Jean Boht and company now living on the Wirral, Merseyside.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MEN BEHAVING BADLY?
BBC ONE (1995)
One of the few sequels that lived up to and even surpassed its original. Barely a couple of years after first introducing Gary and Tony, writer Simon Nye penned this follow-up in which he moved the characters on from their former New Laddist personas. Having returned from a brief stint in the army, Martin Clunes's Gary Strang (still ever the lad) is horrified to find Neil Morrissey's Tony to have a respectable white-collar job, be a member of a badminton club and have his hair cut in a unisex hairdresser! The series masterpiece was the much repeated 'No Hiding Place' when Gary and Tony try to spend a day avoiding a rerun of the old episode of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LADS? that this episode was ripped off from. Throughout the show the pair are hounded by Flint, played brilliantly by comedienne Hufty, who eventually tracks them down to a church and reveals the punchline to the Clement and Le Frenais episode. The twist of course though is that the episode of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LADS? in question was actually postponed due to an extra-long news! Timeless stuff proving once and for all the sheer originality of Simon Nye's work.
"Oh what happened to you, whatever happened to me..."
THE THIN WHITE DUKE
BBC TWO (1996)
Not a patch on WHITESNAKE and far too PC for its own good but Ben Elton's police comedy vehicle for David Bowie became bizarrely popular. Most of the comedy came from the clashes between Bowie's Chief Inspector Duke and the overtly camp (though not gay!) Inspector Ronson and CID's gruff Detective Inspector Eno in big DAD'S ARMY style ensemble scenes. Oh well, your mum probably liked it.
BBC TWO (1996)
Among the BBC's many attempts to launch a successful long-running sitcom in the 90s, none was more outlandish than this. Having seen the Beatles return to the top of the charts with 'Free As A Bird' written and recorded around a John Lennon demo tape, Perry and Croft were inspired to copy the formula and make a new series of DAD'S ARMY with performances from beyond the grave! As the only working cast-members left, Ian Lavender and Bill Pertwee performed a script that was fitted around the voices of Arthur Lowe taken from THE MR MEN, John Le Mesurier lifted from BOD and the retired Clive Dunn edited from GRANDAD. Had its moments - simply everyone remembers the episode in which Pike is told that his name is going into a captured Nazi's book and when he is asked for it Mainwaring replies with perfect comic timing 'Don't tell him Mr Tickle' - but ratings soon fell away and the show didn't return after it's initial run.
"What a lot of Mr Men there are Wilson"
"Would you be so kind as to line up - here comes Bod"
DID YOU KNOW: Flushed with success after the first couple of episodes drew in huge audiences, BBC bosses started developing an even grander project - a new 'Carry On' film featuring Kenneth Williams's voice from WILLOW THE WISP, Terry Scott's voice from DANGER MOUSE, Frankie Howerd's voice from THE BLUNDERS, Kenneth Connor's cut from TORCHY THE BATTERY BOY, Charles Hawtrey's taken from SUPERGRAN, and Hattie Jacques's lifted from an obscure 1969 episode of CATWEAZLE. When ratings fell it was soon dropped.
THE BOYCE IS BACK IN TOWN
BBC ONE (1997)
After years of pleading with the BBC to commission an ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES spin-off based around The Nag's Head pub, Garry Bushell finally had his wish come true. With David Jason and Nicholas Lyndehurst temporarily refusing to return as the Trotter boys, it was decided to make a show with the peripheral characters. However, Bushell's ultimate wet dream soon turned into a nightmare as the series failed to live up to high expectations. Revolving around Mike the Barman, Boycie, Trigger, Denzil and Mickey Pearce and set almost exclusively within the pub, virtually every episode simply involved the characters sitting around discussing how they haven't seen Del and Rodney for so long and reminiscing about the good old Trotters. The nadir was reached when Boycie's attempt to recreate Del Boy's famous fall through the bar ended in disaster and with the lead actor unavailable for filming the series came to a premature end.
"Anyone seen Del Boy recently?"
"Anyone seen Del Boy recently?"
DID YOU KNOW: The failure of 'The Boyce Is Back In Town' scuppered any possibility of the much talked about PORRIDGE spin-off 'St Ives' that was to take place in Slade Prison where Grout is still top-dog and inmates still include the eponymous Ives, Lukewarm, Warren, McLaren and Banyard the defrocked dentist. Perversely, having refused at this stage to play Del Boy again, David Jason was interested in reprising the role of Blanco, who was to be 102 and Britain's oldest ever prisoner.
NEVER MIND THE NICK HANCOCKS
BBC TWO (1998)
Long-running Mark Lamarr-fronted panel show based around the subject of 1990s stand-up comedy. Each week the team captains, Noddy Holder and Alvin Stardust, used the format to remorselessly mock the tired and tacky world of the alternative stand-up circuit and much of the show's comedy came from sneering quite openly at the washed-up has-been comics from that era, so often lazily referred to as 'the decade that humour forgot'. Favourite rounds included 'Identity Parade' in which the panellists would be shown footage of some stand-up dressed in a ridiculous Willy Hunt suit performing on 'The Stand Up Show' and would then have to pick out the offending comic from a line-up of unattractive extras. ("So who is the real roly-poly Star Wars fan Phill Jupitus. Is it - number one, Phill Jubilant? Number two, Phill Juvenile? Number three, Phill Juggernaut? Number four, Phill with pies? Or number five, I Phill nauseous.") The show always ended with 'Next Lines' in which Mark Lamarr would read out the first part of a stand-up's gag and the panellists would buzz in to provide the punchline. Highly successful format that has been sold to the USA but with so many other shows taking the piss out of similar targets, how much longer can NICK HANCOCKS really milk humour from the world of alternative comedy?
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE
CHANNEL 4 (1998)
Not only the long-awaited follow up to the mega-successful 1980s alternative comedy show SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE but also the series responsible for launching one of the most loathsome and oft-impersonated comic characters inflicted on the British public. Yes Frank Spencer may have spawned more bad impersonations, Del Boy sold more videos and Dick Emery had more catchphrases. But none of these greats had the overnight impact of David Starkey's 'Loadsahistory'. The sparkly suited Ben Elton returned as host ('Double standards, double standards, I seem to have double standards!') but it was Starkey who stole the show playing a TV historian of limited intelligence who was making a fortune in the late-90s boom period for TV history programmes. 'Loads' delighted in flashing his 'wad' of bank-notes at the audience especially other lesser historians such as Simon Scharma and Adam Hart-Davies, taunting them with his £4.5 million deal with Channel 4 by shouting 'I've got loadsahistory!'. The catchphrase along with the character seemed to catch the zeitgeist and the late 90s and early 2000s has since been labelled the 'Loadsahistory' decade. Meanwhile playgrounds and offices alike were awash with weak impersonators performing the set ('Bish bash bosh - little bit of camp narration. Joom joom wallop dosh - bit of a reconstruction. What do you get? Loadsahistory!!') Thankfully Starkey eventually decided to kill off his monster before it destroyed his own career as well, but not before he released a stupendously bad William Orbit-produced single. If you bought it, hang your head in shame!
BBC TWO (1999)
Without any doubt the breakthrough comedy show for the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant community. Up until GOR BLIMEY! this neglected minority had been forced to be satisfied with eating the crumbs off the table when it came to comedy casting, for example playing the most unfunny straight roles in shows such as CURRY AND CHIPS and MIND YOUR LANGUAGE. That is until 1999 when Garry Bushell and Paul Ross co-wrote their seminal show that not only entertained the white Anglo-Saxon community but also paved the way for them to become fully accepted as comedy performers on British television (see THE WILKINSONS AT NUMBER 42). Undoubtedly the defining moment was the 'Going out for an Indian' sketch in the very first episode in which Garry and friends order lots of poppadoms and lager and ask for "the hottest curry on the menu"!