TV Cream

100 Greatest TV Moments

42) “Sporting club bang!”

A transmission from Chanel 9, 4th October 1994

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In the summer of 1994, TV Cream was on holiday at a hotel where satellite television was available and we spent much of our time watching an incomprehensible French variety show which appeared to go on forever. Television from mainland Europe can often be totally baffling and that’s why, later that year, what would appear to be a ridiculously esoteric subject for satire struck such a chord with so many people. The Fast Show’s sketches on Chanel 9 Neus would appear to be fairly simple – just a relentless stream of gibberish, with the odd incongruous English expression or swear word dropped in (“DVLC in Swansea”, “BA Robertson”) – but it’s executed so brilliantly with its gaudy and awkward set, its crude camerawork, its washed out colours and the brilliant performances of Pauls Whitehouse and Shearer as the unflappable but unintelligible anchormen. Then there’s the endless adverts for the varying never-explained uses for the Gizmo which feature plenty of the casual sexism that appeared to be a staple of European television. Of course the accepted wisdom is that every episode of The Fast Show was the same but this just added to the humour with increasingly demented variations on the theme, then from the second series a whole host of other programmes from Chanel 9 including incomprehensible entertainment shows and a fantastic parody of The Singing Ringing Tree. But it’s the news bulletins that remain their greatest transmissions, just for their relentless silliness.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. richardpd

    July 19, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Beuno Estente!

    It’s always impressive how The Fast Show became a pop culture phenomenon in the mid-late 1990s in spite of a low key launch on BBC, just like the Royle Family a few years later. I remember it being the talk of my college the day after a show.

    I can vouch how weird European TV can seem, not just the shonky home grown programming, but imports & even adverts badly dubbed, which Chanel 9 provides some examples.

    Before I bought the DVD box set I had a CD of highlights from the first series, which features most of the Chanel 9 bulletins.

    Boutros Boutros Ghalli.

  2. George White

    July 19, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    I’ve become obsessed with Italian miniseries from the 90s. Invariably dated-even-for-the-time brownface heavy stories of Arabs and Asia. Or overlong melodramas about Mafia.

    Deserto di Fuoco (1997) – Mediaset/Titanus coproduction with Anthony “yes, my dad’s Alain” Delon as an orphan found in the middle of a helicopter crash (cameo from Franco Nero as the dad), and found by sheik Giuliano Gemma. Peopled with other ageing Euro-stars – Claudia Cardinale, Vittorio Gassman, Jean Sorel,, Fabio Testi, Virna Lisi, and helmed by good old Enzo G. Castellari, it’s preposterous – it’s seemingly pre-20th century Arab world located in the present day, in a hi-tech 90s of satellite TV and sports cars. Makes no sense, and is wearing – endless cliched melodrama told so earnestly – but fascinating. The Italians seem obsessed with exotic desert landscape, Arabs and Indians – in portrayals that are romanticised and could be considered by some as dated. And yes, they are, which makes these productions even more astonishing.

    The Maharaja’s Daughter (1994) – Bruce Boxleitner falls in love in Canada with Indian doctor Hunter Tylo (who is not Indian, well she’s not from India, but she is apparently has Cherokee blood), massive hair and a bindi transforming her into a secretive maharani with an American accent. Burt Young plays a thankfully phony Indian mystic (considering other Italian actors play Indians, I wasn’t so sure). A strange cross between imperialist adventure and erotic thriller.

    The Seventh Scroll (1999) Silvio Berlusconi-produced Wilbur Smith adaptation. Begins with Art Malik narrating about his Pharaoh Edmund Purdom (typecast 45 years on from The Egyptian). The Ancient Egyptian bits are very tacky. Written by director Kevin Connor, Alan “Bullshot” Shearman, and Italian vet Sergio Donati. There’s a backwards baseball capped idiot archaeologist. Villainous Roy Scheider and his dubbed blonde lady sidekick joke about videogames, while a giant CGI snake eats a peasant. Don Warrington is a mad Colonel. Eventually, something about Art Malik being an immortal wizard and lots of bad CGI allegedly done in Dublin by one Lightstream Ltd. Also features an Egyptian orphan named Hapi, played by Jeffrey Licon – star of Nickelodeon Latino dramedy The Brothers Garcia. A special kind of terrible.

    Beyond Justice (1992) – Rutger Hauer in a Trimark cutdown of a Mediaset Arab fantasy where he is hired by Carol Alt to rescue her son who has been kidnapped by sheik grandad Omar Sharif. Full of men in fezzes, casual racism and Elliott Gould with a moustache, plus Kabir Bedi, and a Morricone soundtrack. Written by Luigi Montefiori, alias video nasty hard man George Eastman. An American private school full of supposedly WASPy boys who look like they grew up in a pizza parlour in Naples sets the scene. Operatic wailing soundtracks every scene, regardless of tone. It’s a mess going from Arab spectacle to arguing with Elliott Gould in an Italian designer’s idea of an American office – a huge Bogie poster over a wall. A tonal mess.

    Mysteries of the Dark Jungle (1991) – Like Sandokan and Secret of the Sahara, adapted from stories by Emilio Salgari. Featuring Gabrielle Anwar as the daughter of British military bod Stacy Keach (doing a credible RP), mechanical toys, an Indian fantasyland full of spiked helmeted soldiers, brought to you by RAI-TF1-TVE-ORF-ZDF, with John Rhys-Davies, Virna Lisi, Anthony Calf, Kabir Bedi, regular Bollywood WASP/muscular Leonard Rossiter-alike Bob Christo playing an albino thuggee, Bollywood actor Mac Mohan and Derrick “Gupte/Father Fernandez” Branche. The hero is Eldorado/Playdays star Amerjit Deu. There is adventure, but much of it is painfully slow traveloguery. Frank Middlemass and John Sharp turn up, uncredited.

    La Nouvelle Malles Des Indes (1982) – A much more exciting Indian adventure, a German-French-Italian saga from Christian Jaque (the Legend of Frenchie King). Initially begins in fake England before moving through Europe and eventually to India. Bob Christo pops up again. The likes of Umberto Raho, Paul Muller, Franco Ressel and Geoffrey Copleston turn up. It takes a bit to go, Nice soundtrack too. Has men in knotted handkerchiefs warning people, lovely location footage, and in the end our heroes find a new trade route. The series is light hearted but isn’t played too OTT. There’s a KKK-type cult, “Teenage Emanuelle” Annie Belle, escapes through Spanish snowcaps and Venice and then meetings with comedy Arabs and dragging up in burqas in Egypt. It’s a big tasty Europudding.

    Vendetta – Secrets Of A Mafia Bride (1991) – Berlusconi/Mediaset Mafia saga with Eric Roberts, Burt Young, Nick Mancuso, Victor Argo, Antonio Sabato, Billy Barty and Eli Wallach. Begins with a young girl’s communion (I think, she’s in the white dress – but she looks more suited to making her confirmation – she’s closer to thirteen than eight) ruined when her father is killed by a bunch of gangsters firing machine guns from a yellow cab. One of these thugs is Eric Roberts, with a ponytail. He then goes to visit a boxing trainer played by Burt Young (typecasting ahoy). Billy Barty plays a compere. Some black chanteuse sings the theme to Mondo Cane, then there’s a a massacre. Time passes, and little Nancy is now Sports Illustrated model Carol Alt, Eric has a mullet, and it becomes somewhere between the Godfather Part III (which is really just an Italian miniseries) and a romance novel. Alt isn’t a good actress. She’s attractive, a bit gawky, but that adds to her charm, but she is kind of awkward. She’s quite tall and lanky, and she’s supposed to be this ethereal tragic victim, but she’s not exactly graceful. There’s a bit where she dresses up in a ginger wig, and there’s something of the Barbara Knox about her. And then there’s a ridiculous striptease assassination with a dog. There’s a wedding party with a Busby Berkeley dance sequence, Egyptian servants serving a giant pot of pasta and then after the wedding, Nancy becomes a nun and sees her daughter. A sequel followed in 1993. Wallach, Young and Alt returning, with shooting in Canada, Michael Ontkean joining, and Lisa Jakub from Mrs. Doubtfire as the daughter. It’s unmemorable, but clearly the convent use hair dye. Alt’s now ginger.

  3. richardpd

    July 19, 2020 at 11:19 pm

    They sound interesting, Italian cinema was also fond of multinational casts, normally acting silent then dubbed into whatever language was required.

    About the only Italian miniseries I can think of which was shown in the UK was Jesus of Nazareth, though being bankrolled by Lew Grade helped.

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