TV Cream

TV: O is for...

OTT/Saturday Stayback

ADULT TISWAS, with chief Wasser CHRIS TARRANT in charge, unably assisted by BOB CAROLGEES, LENWORTH HENRY, JOHN GORMAN, HELEN ATKINSON WOOD (who wouldn’t?) and, for a bit, ALEXEI SAYLE. First incarnation was Central’s hugely-hyped opening gambit on network ITV; results soon stank the place out like a bucket of particularly ill-kempt custard egg tartlets. Big girls in small T-shirts were liberally soused in water, explosions went off, naked balloon dances went on, and the whole thing, being live, fucked up big time at least once a night, most infamously when “The Ratman”, a no-go sideshow act who stuffed live rats down his tights, let one of the buggers loose on air, and it ended up being booted across the studio unceremoniously. SATURDAY STAYBACK followed a year later and was little better, exhibits A and B being the involvement of TONY SLATTERY and PHIL COOL.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    May 6, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    If you can catch a clip of the Human League performing on OTT, you can see the contempt Phil Oakey feels for being booked on to such a show. Actually I do vaguely recall it from my mid teens, found the references to women’s bodies and sex quite amusing as you would at that age, and for all the critics loathed OTT and the IBA were apopletic at the show, seemingly 7 million tuned in, not bad for a late night show.

  2. Tom Ronson

    November 14, 2022 at 1:51 am

    One of the first offerings from Central, who were actually one of the better content providers for the ITV network (if only for Spitting Image and the magnificently crap Bullseye), but this was nobody’s finest hour. It was a totally uneven mish-mash, not short on good intentions, but actually chewing your way through an episode with an open mind is a bit of an endurance test.

    On the plus side – archive footage of sixties groups, pop sounds for the kids, guest turns by these new-fangled alternative comedians, extracts from Bob ‘Roobarb’ Godfrey’s mucky cartoons for grown-ups (Stanley Kubrick was a fan!) and hopefully amusing foreign adverts.

    On the minus side, pretty much everything else. Amateur night rugby club hell. Gratuitous nudity, pointless racism, local radio-level ‘We’re all mad here!’ anarchy played out at full volume to disguise the absence of genuine wit or even decent ideas, extremely weak sketches (Tarrant was a capable and likeable enough presenter, but a comedy performer he most certainly was not), and unintentionally disturbing sub-Gilliam animation. Angus Deayton was one of the writers. I doubt that’s been on his CV for a good few decades.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    November 14, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    OTT had been conceived as a more adult Tiswas and as a nod to the emerging alternative comedy scene, hence the involvement of Alexei Sayle. It was OK in small doses, the adult cartoons, the violent tennis and live rats sketches were very amusing, but overall nothing great and it was loathed by Central, who inherited OTT from ATv and couldn’t wait to cancel it. Also, for all the show featured alternative hero Alexei Sayle, for some reason Bernard Manning was contracted for a couple of shows, making OTT even more bizarre.

  4. Richardpd

    November 14, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    Helen Atkinson-Wood was in it, being almost obligatory to have her or Helen Lederer in a 1980s comedy show at times.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    November 18, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    It was a complete mish mash of a show that neither pleased the growing band of alternative comedy fans who saw Alexei Sayle wasting himself in a show more suited to a rugby union club Christmas party, and more sensitive viewers who were appalled by the crudity and profanity of the humour in OTT that was different to most other ITV comedy. OTT still pulled in a decent sized audience for a late night show, young men and teenage boys seemed to like it, but everyone else didn’t and the powers that be at Central gave it the heave ho after one series. Interestingly enough, a completely neutered Tiswas was finally cancelled at the same time.

  6. David Smith

    November 19, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Not the Nine O’Clock News, in one of their spoof Radio Times billings, created N.O.T.T., “the adult version of Play Away”:

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