And, just like another series of Celebrity Big Brother, I’m back with another edition of My Life In TV… whether you want it or not! I think there have been some wonderful programmes featured so far, and some that really should have been forgotten. It is still fun reminiscing about all these shows that take me back to my youth when everything was still so innocent and the rose-tinted glasses I viewed the world through weren’t as cracked as they are now! Anyway, enough of that…we’ve got work to do!
NOT GOING OUT (2006-present)
I thought long and hard about putting this sitcom on my list as, for the past couple of series, I haven’t been watching it as much as the earlier ones. For me, the show lost some of it’s charm and magic when Tim Vine left, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The show centres around eternal slacker, Lee (played by series creator Lee Mack), his best friend Tim (Tim Vine) and Lucy (Sally Bretton), Tim’s sister and Lee’s landlady. The writing is as sharp as a knife and the jokes come thick and fast and, following the departure of original landlady Kate (Megan Dodds) after the first series, the show really picked up a pace after surviving cancellation. I understand that the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Lee and Lucy needed to progress but I feel that once the couple got married the series should have been laid to rest. It returned but had jumped forward in time a few years where the couple were out of their flat and living together in a house with three children. I had stopped watching by this time, only catching the odd episode here and there and not really enjoying as I used to. But I decided to keep it on the list purely for the fact that, in it’s heyday, Not Going Out was a brilliantly written and fast-paced comedy that I could watch over and over again.
WATCH IT FOR: Lee and Tim
Originally seen as a replacement for the BBC’s own Parkinson chat show, Wogan took on a life of it’s own thanks to ever genial host, the late, great Sir Terry Wogan. Starting out on a Saturday night, Wogan attracted big name guests but, when BBC1 relaunched in 1985 Wogan was moved to thrice-weekly to coincide with the new soap opera, EastEnders. There always seemed to be a more relaxed atmosphere than on Parkinson’s show, a lot of that due to Terry Wogan’s charm and ability to put guests at ease. Some guests, though, were less than co-operative. Infamously, Anne Bancroft gave a very monosyllabic interview while George Best appeared whilst drunk. The show was cancelled in 1992 and replaced with the short-lived soap, Eldorado, but the memories of Wogan and his guests live on.
WATCH IT FOR: Wogan and Mel Brooks
As much as I enjoyed the original series of Masterchef back in the 1990s, it seems very tame compared to this rebooted version. Originally called MasterChef Goes Large, the show became less about finding a gourmet, dinner party chef and more about finding the next big thing in the culinary world. The competition, hosted by John Torode and Gregg Wallace, sees amateur chefs battle it out over various rounds of invention and skill to become champion. Past winners of this show have gone on to forge very successful careers of their own, opening restaurants and writing cook books. But the joy of the show, as well as seeing the ordinary person on the street cooking their hearts out, is the almost chalk-and-cheese presenting style of the two hosts. It has become unmissable television and has spawned MasterChef: The Professionals and Celebrity MasterChef versions, both of which achieve massive audiences. It’s a far cry from Loyd Grossman‘s gentle style.
WATCH IT FOR: No clip would do the show justice so, instead, here’s another opportunity to post this wonderful megamix from Swede Mason – MasterChef Synesthesia
8 SIMPLE RULES (2002-2005)
Sadly, this very funny sitcom, will probably be mostly remembered for being the final project of it’s star John Ritter who passed away while filming the second series. But there is more to this show than the sadness. Paul and Cate Hennessey (Ritter and Katey Sagal) are parents to three teenage children – Bridget (Kaley Cuoco), Kerry (Amy Davidson) and Rory (Martin Spanjers). The show follows the family as they make their way through life, love and dating! The chemistry between the five family members is something really special and you could believe that they were a real family. Following Ritter’s untimely death, the show continued and included the family’s grief over the loss of the patriarch. Introducing James Garner as Cate’s father and David Spade as her nephew meant the show could still live on but the spark was lost and, after the third series, it was cancelled. It stands, though, as a fine legacy for Ritter along with the dozens of other hit shows he starred in.
WATCH IT FOR: Series 1 bloopers showing the cast chemistry!
EVENING SHADE (1990-1994)
At one time, Burt Reynolds was the biggest box-office draw in the world. Following a few films that failed to make an impact he returned to the medium from where he began his career, television. Evening Shade sees Reynolds as Wood Newton, a former professional American Football player who, following his retirement, returns to his hometown of Evening Shade to coach the high school team. I seem to remember this being one of the more gentle comedies of the nineties, probably the last of it’s kind before the fast-paced global behemoths took over. Marilu Henner, Charles Durning, Hal Holbrook, Michael Jeter and Ossie Davis co-star in this largely forgotten US sitcom.
WATCH IT FOR: A full episode!
THAT’S SHOWBUSINESS (1989-1996)
British television did panel shows pretty well during the nineties and this one, that started in 1989, was one of the better ones. That’s Showbusiness, hosted by Mike Smith, was essentially a quiz show with celebrity contestants answering questions about showbiz and celebrity! For the first few series the teams had captains, Gloria Hunniford and Kenny Everett but in the later series the captains were dropped in favour of just having the celebrities. It was pretty much an entertainment version of A Question of Sport but, in my opinion, much better. Sadly, though, the series ended in 1996 and Saturday nights were never the same again!
WATCH IT FOR: Christmas Special from 1989!!
NO. 73 (1982-1988)
Saturday morning television had long been a tradition for British children until the advent of multi-channel output brought about it’s demise. In it’s heyday, though, there were few prime-time shows that could compete with the pure joy and popularity of said shows. No. 73 was just one in a long line of anarchic, sometimes chaotic, Saturday morning shows that kept us kids amused for a couple of hours. It featured actors in character as hosts of the show, mostly improvising around the guests and features, almost becoming a soap opera for kids. Honestly, I remember very little apart from the big red door, the sandwich quiz and the fact it featured on the cover of Look-In quite a lot! Sandi Toksvig, Neil Buchanan and Oscar-winner Andrea Arnold were just some of the pre-fame names to play host in the craziest house in Britain!
FAMILY GUY (1999-present)
If you want anarchic, sick and twisted humour then look no further than Seth Macfarlane‘s Family Guy. The Griffin family, based in a town in Rhode Island, are the most dysfunctional set of characters you could possibly meet. Peter, Lois, Chris, Meg and Stewie, along with humanised-dog Brian, make their way through life facing the most surreal events known to man. It’s bizarre, offbeat and all those other words you use to describe something that you really have to see to believe! Family Guy was thought to be a poor man’s Simpsons, but it has since become it’s own beast. Making pop culture references as often as referencing vomit or crudeness, it’s an odd mix of comedy, musical and social satire. The fact that shows like this can keep coming up with the goods after so many years shows the quality of writing.
WATCH IT FOR: Peter sings along to Indiana Jones!
POLICE SQUAD! (1982)
The hardest thing to get my head around with Police Squad! is that there were only 6 episodes! SIX! I always assumed there were at least twelve, maybe more. Police Squad! is what The Naked Gun would later become. Starring Leslie Neilsen who, up until his appearance in Airplane! had been a proper, dramatic actor, it is full of sight gags, witty writing and straight performances which lead you to believe the characters aren’t aware they are in a comedy show! If you love The Naked Gun and Airplane! and you haven’t seen this, then do yourself a favour and seek it out because it is genuinely one of the funniest television programmes ever made!
WATCH IT FOR: A classic piece of confusion
VICTORIA WOOD: AS SEEN ON TV (1985-1987)
Back in the 1980s, women in comedy were few and far between. Then along came Victoria Wood who managed to change the landscape forever with her brilliant BBC sketch show, As Seen On TV. Including stand-up, sketches and musical numbers, it has gone down in history as one of Britain’s finest outputs. Along with Julie Walters, Duncan Preston, Celia Imrie and Susie Blake, it famously brought us the classic Acorn Antiques – the spoof of rickety soap opera, Crossroads. Expertly written, performed and loved by millions, it stands as a brilliant legacy to Victoria Wood who sadly left us far too soon last year.
And, just like the scenery in Acorn Antiques, another edition of My Life In TV… falls apart at the seams. Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, part seventeen of this epic odyssey and I’m already working on the next one (a couple of programmes popped into my head while I was writing this edition!). If you’ve enjoyed it please let me know, I’d love to hear from you. If you haven’t enjoyed it…well, I can’t help you. Until the next time…
“I’d like to apologise to viewers in the North. It must be awful for them”