ALL ABOARD THE INTERNET for Tony Garnett’s www-based drama set in the heady world of a start-up company which, bafflingly, seemed to think you could make money just by putting ‘content’ online. In this, the DOTCOMEDY era of “send us your JPEGS” and “Do you know how we can get clearance for the use of the Rhoobarb theme?”*, it followed the fortunes of the keeping-it-real Mike and Luce and their office full of variously sexually orientated n’er do wells. Featured David Walliams, of course, and Andrew Sachs as David Walliams’ dad. Plus ‘cyber sex’ (do people still say that?) twixt Luce and going-native ‘suit’ Will. Second series saw a slight reformat – half-hour episodes – and Mike’s exit. Its lasting legacy is the they-actually-built-it website seethru.co.uk, which is still online now (heh heh, ‘weblog’, they truly were different times) and their link to the old TV Cream.
* Eh, former TV Cream list faithfuls, circa 2000?
TV CREAM SAYS: "QUICK, TRACE-ROUTE THE I.P!"
EMERGING BLEARILY FROM THE DOCU-SOAP ERA, BBC1 staggered into the new dawn – soon to be dubbed ‘reality TV’ – with this capering, low-rent series in which cul-de-sac dwelling ‘real people’ would play host to a celeb. While Mum generally cooed over the prospect of dinner-on-the-lap with George Clooney, to the hilarity of all, in reality it was either Jeremy Beadle, Frank Bruno, Denise Welch, Richard Whiteley, Michael Winner or – in the first episode – Vanessa Feltz looking nervously out of the window in that fast approaching cab.
Quickly becoming a THORN BIRDS-shaped own-goal for the Beeb (La Feltz later moaned: “Beating ITV with Blue Planet is a triumph. Beating ITV with Celebrity Sleepover is a tragedy”) it wasn’t all that bad, particularly when you take the TV temperature of the time (first episode aired on the same night C4 succumbed to all-out Paedogeddon).
Highlights included Beadlebum thundering: “If they show me the figure where they got bigger figures than I did, I shall be very impressed. Show me the figures!!” when Mum asserted Lisa Riley had improved YOU’VE BEEN FRAMED! Meanwhile, Frank Bruno proved aloof and moody. Nary a “hur hur hur” was heard, the boxer instead musing: “I’m in a strange place, strange environment. I’m a Scorpio, man, I like to know what’s going on.” It’s called the regions, Frank. Get used to it. Michael Winner, on the other hand, was a proper old gent.
Also provided steady work for PAUL “WHICH MEANS DANNY BAKER’S NOT AVAILABLE” ROSS who’d coach Mum or Dad, ready for their ‘big’ interview with celeb at the end of the show. But we’ll try not to hold that against it.
TV CREAM SAYS: "WELCOME TO BUNTINGFORD, JEREMY!"
METALLURGY-FRIENDLY DATING MUNDANITY shoved out on a newly-born E4 and fronted by Melanie Hill. Who? Tsk, how quickly you forget: Melanie, her off of the first Big Brother, who almost won but didn’t, and who shared – GASP – one tiny kiss with a fellow heterosexual contestant. Now you remember. Perhaps you wish you didn’t. This was supposedly Mel’s “debut” as a telly presenter, hence setting a precedent for erstwhile BB housemates to try their luck at being a Television Star. It was also her swansong, hence setting a precedent for erstwhile BB housemates to fall spectacularly and rapidly on their arse. Resoundingly untelegenic premise involved a looking-for-love twentysomething spending a week in a converted penthouse chained, literally, to a long line of potential suitors. Participants had to eat, shit and sleep shackled. One by one the suitors would be “evicted” – as per every bloody reality game show during this decade – by the Mr or Mrs Looking-For-Love, after trying to exhibit their amorous designs via a series of challenges, which amounted to the lofty heights of watching each other cook a meal, or going to a garden centre. When each suitor was kicked out, Mel’s big moment arrived as, taking the rejected loser into a debriefing room next door, she would breathily ask each and every sodding one of them: “How do you feel?” Show was stripped over weeknights, so that by Friday the subject had just two hopefuls on the chain, and had to choose between one of them or pissing off with a load of spending money. They invariably, and wisely, chose the latter. This being E4, “alternative” editions saw lesbian and bisexual shacklegangs, and always much implied titillation at the prospect of multi-shagging. None was ever transmitted. We think. Entire series then disappeared, like its mono-phrased presenter, into oblivion, thereby reprising the fate of the previous programme to feature members of the public chained up for money.
TV CREAM SAYS: "HOW DO YOU FEEL?" WITH MY HANDS, DAMMIT
JANET STREET PORTER plus walking mid life crisis/Australian ‘Dragon’ Darryn Lyons and former Daily Star shite hawk Joe Mott cajoled a raft of celebs – including YVETTE FIELDING, DOM JOLY, ABI TITMUS and LISA “AND NICKY CAMPBELL’S PULLING HIS PANTS DOWN!” I’ANSON – to see if they could “hack it” (geddit?) as journos on a weekly pull-out featured in Closer Magazine. Revealed that showbiz reporting ultimately boils down to hanging around Dean Street in Soho. Reality TV regular and world’s neediest man IWAN THOMAS won it.
TV CREAM SAYS: FACTS AMAZING! THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES WRITER RUPERT LAIGHT FEATURED IN THE SHOW AS A SUB ON THE MAG
DAPPER, ARCHIVE-DIPPING return to BBC1 for a rejuvenated BRUCIE, part of a two-pronged reconquest of Auntie, the other – STRICTLY COME DANCING – to prove more durable than this sadly one-series jamboree of Forsychology. Still, it was fun while it lasted: our man twirled and twinkled his way round a shiny-floored studio comprising giant TV sets a la SATURDAY NIGHT CLIVE, grilling members of the public with general knowledge questions asked not by himself but – brilliantly – by hosts and hostesses from the Beeb’s vaults. “Let’s release those quizmasters!” Brucie would cry, and a pixellated parade of everyone from Henry Kelly to Cuddly Ken to Angie Rippon would materialise on the towers of tellies, bearing a tasty nugget of riddle-based archivery. Brucie catchphrase quotient was respectfully high: “Do you want to try for cash, or build up your stash?” “Did you enjoy that round? Well, let’s do it again!” “Where I go, my Bonuses go!” and of course the programme title itself. There was even a dash of melodramatics – “Confirm!” – whenever Bruce instructed the clips to disclose the answer to a “guess who?” question. The show’s regrettably short shelf-life can either be explained by a) Brucie’s unwillingness to interrupt his golf on two non-consecutive occasions each year or b) the commissioning of The One Show.
TV CREAM SAYS: PILOT EDITION PRESENTED BY LORD SIR BOB MONKHOUSE
BIG BUDGET LOW KEY play-along-at-home TV whodunnerin, parachuted into Saturday night primetime and promptly chuted further and further back in the schedule as viewers dropped faster than the show’s victims. Contestants were the middle management types who peopled THE KRYPTON FACTOR and who went on to dazzle the likes of CRISIS COMMAND: COULD YOU RUN THE COUNTRY? Their mission: find the person who killed a woman in the make believe village of Blackwater. Suspects will be eliminated each week, but so – USP Alert! – will the detectives. Yup, another show with an “eviction”, here taking the form of a supposedly chill-inducing face-off called The Killer’s Game, which in reality more resembled that bit in THE ADVENTURE GAME where the person always got trapped in a dark cupboard. Our sleuths whiled away each episode “writing reports” in their youth hostel-esque dormitories or doing painfully contrived ploddery, i.e. asking a teary suspect three loaded questions, or searching a bin bag for a carefully-placed crisp packet. Their efforts were then lugubriously appraised by Detective Bob Taylor, a real-life copper and least excitable front man imaginable for a programme about killing. “Good morning” he would sigh at the start of each briefing. “Good luck,” he would sigh at the end of each briefing, “I think you are GOING to need it.” George Dixon had more pep than this, and he was 95 years old. The series went on for ages and, rather than the case becoming clearer, somehow things became more convoluted and confusing. Shifting time slots didn’t help – if you missed one episode you were done for, like the ever-dwindling population of Blackwater. Turned out the builder did it. Or so it says here.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THE MURDER GAME WILL RETURN NEXT WEEK AT THE SLIGHTLY
LATER TIME OF..."
ALBION MARKET…with attitude! Stoic attempt to make ITV look all upmarket and posh and pretend that its viewers are aching for a soap opera that crosses TRAINER with SO HAUNT ME. Spoiler: They weren’t. Bonkers plot wouldn’t have looked out of place on MICHAEL WINNER’S TRUE CRIMES. Cross-section of every race, creed and colour lives on a street in Greenwich. They all have humdrum lives, except they don’t, because they all have Hidden Secrets, and when a girl who looks like Sandra Dickinson goes missing, all the Hidden Secrets begin to spew out. One side of the road is occupied, a la STELLA STREET, by a battery of fading faces: Angie off of THREE UP, TWO DOWN, Dorien from BIRDS OF A FEATHER, Sergeant Harriet Makepeace, Dr Who Paul McGann’s brother, one of the prossies on BAND OF GOLD, one half of HE'S PASQUALE, I'M WALSH, and Mike Gambit. On t’other side of street live the Beautiful People, including half the future cast of HOLLYOAKS. They meet in the middle. Much sauciness over the sun-dried tomatoes ensues. As does murder, mistaken identity, mystical visions, a visit from a time-stopping stranger like that bloke off HEROES, and SHANE RICHIE. Originally aired three times a week at teatime, with a fussily-titled “adult” omnibus, NIGHT AND DAY: THE REMIX, once a week after the News at Ten. REMIX subtitle was ditched after just one week. Teatime episodes soon went the same way. Weekly omnibus then slid further back in the schedule until that hallowed must-watch hour of 1am. Final episode fast forwarded four years for no good reason other than to reveal that the girl who went missing on day one had now become – well of course! – a ghost!
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL, MORE PEOPLE WATCHED THE FINAL EPISODE OF THIS THAN THE
LAST EVER BROOKSIDE
HANDS UP WHO needs to go to the toilet. Haha, you’ve just lost £34,000. Yes, it’s Channel Five’s look-we-can-do-Big-Brother-telly-too motionless car crash of a show, live and direct from the heartbeat of Modern Britain, Lakeside shopping centre, Thurrock, Essex. This was shock and awe on a scale George Bush could only dream of. Twenty ‘hopefuls’ (i.e. those who life has “left behind”) are invited to form a ring around the titular truck (except it’s not, it’s a 4×4) and each place one hand on its surface. The last person to remove their hand wins £34k. Simple as that. But wait, here’s master of parsimonies DALE WINTON, to whoop viewers and onlookers into a paraphilic frenzy. “Is he about to let go of the passenger door? Is he? Is he? Ooh, thank goodness he isn’t!” Dale presumably signed on when hearing the show’s original name, Hands on a Hardbody. Dale presumably stayed signed on when realising the potential for a non-stop gush of single entendres (“This is one bunch of persistent truckers!”). Contestants included the usual box-ticking suspects: a hippy, an old woman, an immigrant, a gay, a disabled etc. All were allowed a 10-minute piss every two hours. Half hour of “highlights” was shown every night, stretching that particular word to new extremes of linguistic interpretation. Because this was the 2000s you could also watch the Whole Bloody Thing streamed on the Channel Five website. Because this was the early 2000s, however, the streaming was a postage stamp-sized picture from a webcam too far away to see the truck, let alone any touching. The thing could’ve gone on forever until everyone died. Perhaps it did. Perhaps they’re all still there. Or perhaps the show was won by the hippy, who promptly announced he was using the prize money to launch a new political party, which flopped in the subsequent 2001 general election. What a trucking joke.
TV CREAM SAYS: "IT'S THE MOST FUN YOU CAN HAVE WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND!"