Ways You Can Support My ‘Art’

•November 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

As I’m no longer able to edit the outdated list of links on the right, I’ve compiled some ways for you to help support my pumping out of the literary gold, if you so wish. For context, since the launching of the Patreon, I’ve posted over 100,000 words of free material on here each year. I hate getting into the grotty business of money, but I can’t do this if I starve to death, so here’s how you can slow my eventual descent into the skeletal realm.

SUPPORT ME ON PATREON. There are various tiers, starting at $1 a month, including access to tons of exclusive content which will never appear here on the free blog.

BUY MY BOOKS. I’ve got a number of titles available in both paperback and digital, on Amazon UK, and Amazon US, or your local Amazon of choice.

BUY ME A KO-FI, if you’d like to sling me the financial equivalent of a coffee. If it helps, feel free to pretend you’re throwing it in my face instead of letting me drink it.

CHUCK ME SOME MONEY ON PAYPAL.

Cheers.

GamesMaster IV: The Gladiators

•October 16, 2021 • 6 Comments

[GamesMaster: Part IGamesMaster Part IIBad InfluenceGamesmaster: Part III]

In my role of dissecting 90’s TV which seemed fine at the time, but now feels completely unhinged, Gladiators sits as the suspiciously-vascular elephant in the room. On the surface, it’s an odd omission, as there’s nothing more on-brand, as a hybrid of two regular points of reference; pro wrestling and John Fashanu. But the actual show is too on the nose; too over-discussed. Tabloids pump out cast reunions and ‘Where Are They Now’s on a weekly basis, and pictures of Wolf are now at home in Facebook memes with a million likes; his straggly hair and claw-like hands cited alongside playing out after dark, Ro-land, and cheap Freddos as iconography from the pre-snowflake Britain when everything was great, which “if you remember this, you had a brilliant childhood!” Yes, the past was weird and I like to pick it apart, but I’m not Richard Blackwood on Channel 5’s Telly We All Loved, Didn’t We, Mate? Fortunately, there is another way in without having to sit through hours of bodybuilder school sports day, while trying really hard not to be lecherous over Jet humping a fitness instructor off some rings. Such was their massive popularity, the Gladiators made a ton of guest appearances on other shows, many of which occurred on GamesMaster.

To my great distress, we first must return to the era of Victorian goblin, Dexter Fletcher, who pushes through the live audience and down the steel gantries of Oxford Prison with the manner of a man being rushed out of court with a jacket over his head. He slides the last few feet down the bannister on his arse, as kids toot air-horns and bang metal cups against the bars, like they’re just back from throwing a face-full of boiling sugar over a nonce. After calling for quiet with one of those loud whistles where you bite down on your lip, the way you’d signal the 5-0 are coming, Fletcher informs us this is a “special sports edition.” The Gladiators were the premier athletes of their day, and opening challenge is James Pond’s Crazy Sports on the SNES, which I believe is set to be an event at the next Olympics.

Fletcher does the old “argh!” and dropping to his knees in mock agony when shaking hands with the biggest teen (who looks about 30), and our presenter’s very presence — Artful Dodger via someone banned from every ground in the country for throwing batteries — seems to engender an aggressive atmosphere. Young players cut cocky promos on each other; the little kid bragging “I’ve got an Amiga at home, I’m a dab hand at it… I can rock and roll now,” the girl replying “I’m gonna stuff him,” and big lad simply waggling his fingers with a promise “these two are gonna do it all for me.” And not so much as a look to camera from Fletcher, as was guaranteed with Dominik Diamond; eyebrows raised to imply that fingers might also go inside a lady or up a bottom. Similarly, his co-commentator’s lines about steady rhythm and peaking too soon go whizzing past, exposing such a blind-spot for innuendo, I’d be shocked if Dexter Fletcher’s even aware of his own nob. “Bleedin’ ell, guv, wos that in me grundies?! Some kind of sausage wot’s alive? It’s spraying all hot yellow water out the end! Tastes disgustin’, bettah get a cork…”

Gaming commences with a cry of “ARE YA READY, SUNSHINE?” and some controversy. There are times GamesMaster feels oddly fake, demonstrated here when Big Boy uses a cheat to fire himself halfway down the track in a cannon, before proceeding to hit every obstacle and come dead last anyway. In the post-game humiliation, Little Kid fumbles over the zinger “I proved that steroids just isn’t the answer, Ben Johnson!” and for the shame of cheating and losing, Patrick Moore (whose bits are all pre-recorded ages ago) orders the cheat “off to the furnaces with you,” as he’s led away by a Mad Max-looking muscleman in a welder’s mask.

But we’re here for the Gladiators Supreme Challenge, which plays out over three episodes, in a tournament of Clayfighter for the SNES. We lead with Shadow verses Falcon, and ITV’s finest are in their work outfits, with Shadow in a lovely sports bra over his pecs, Gladiators emblem medallion, and cock and balls visibly jiggling as he jogs down the stairs. He’s also wearing a bumbag, I guess in case he needs to pop an emergency steroid in the five minutes he’s onstage. Falcon’s mullet is absolutely spectacular; the classic ‘your GCSE German teacher in the 90s’, and she seems especially underdressed next to the jumpsuited Fletcher, in one of those high-cut (and low-cut) leotards rendering her a woman stood in swimwear in the middle of a grotty prison. Shadow’s got experience here, having triumphing over Jet in the previous series, and wins in straight sets, with the same wide-eyed death-stare that made postmen and part-time children’s football coaches shit themselves on the Duel platform. When they stand up out of their gaming seats for the walk back to Dex, the camera’s so far up their cracks, it’s basically an endoscope.

Kids in the sports challenge final go hard on the banter. The smallest one brags “I’m the pioneer of joystick waggling,” before his opponent burns him with “say hello to Napoleon when you see him,” like it’s bloody 8 Mile. Again, imagine what Dominik would’ve done with the joystick waggling line, as we’re left with Dexter Fletcher chuckling a “well, there ya go!” Fletcher’s patter is dire, with zero ability to improvise, and all banter coming off like small talk with your neighbour when you’re putting the bins out. He asks one kid if he’s got a computer at home, and they reply yes, a Sega Megadrive. “Sega Megadrive? Is that quite good?” Alright, Johnny Carson. So lacking in response is Dex, “good stuff” ends up being an inadvertent catchphrase. In watching multiple episodes, his shortcomings stick out like a bee-stung beller, with even his links first-draft basic, like “somefing for everyone in those reviews!” (in more than one episode). Even though he’s in his twenties, he’s that meme of Steve Buscemi with a skateboard, and when saying stuff like “we all like to spend a little while on the old games console,” it sounds like a mate’s uncle telling you he’s just downloaded an app called ‘eye-something-or-other’ that lets him listen to Paul Weller on his phone.

Dexter’s lone personal stamp is the weekly sign-off, in the form of celebrity quotes, and this week’s is “in the words of Andre Agassi, ‘always keep your eye on your balls, man’ bye!” The following episode opens with speedruns of Mr. Nutz on the SNES, with the youngest contestant I’ve ever seen; a tiny, tiny boy, dubbed Tom Thumb by Fletcher, who’s so terrified when a mic’s poked in his face, he can barely speak. With Dave Perry watching on — stars ‘n’ stripes bandana, gold earring, sleeveless shirt tucked into jeans — Tom Thumb chews his own lip with concentration before getting eliminated, and post-match, mumbles “shut up, stupid” to Fletcher, who responds “d’you wanna fight, mate?!” The self-serious Perry is a heavy presence this series, carrying himself like he thinks girls are watching his every move, and too cool for babyish stuff like Fantastic Dizzy — “I mean, the guy’s an egg, how interesting can that get?” Yeah, I bet he’s never even popped a wheelie.

Everything’s broken up with your weekly GamesMaster weirdness, like a Consoletation Zone child with an American accent who pronounces SNES as “suh-ness.” The tips sections are where you’ll find the subversive moments, with Tom Thumb returning to nervously ask for a shortcut on the game he just lost at — Moore: “a pity you didn’t know that earlier on, eh?” — to another kid who’s only visible as the top of a head until Moore adjusts his viewing eye. One man’s forced to repeatedly beg for help on Mortal Kombat, told to go away until the GamesMaster relents; “oh, that’s excellent, GamesMaster, fanks!” There’s a small feature about a home automation system, which is merely a four-way extension lead with an on/off remote — it’s the space age! — and ‘Games Animal’ Perry bemoans a poor Gameboy adaptation of Garfield, which really lets down fans of the comic. Hey, come back girls; where are you going?!

Second round of our Gladiators challenge sees “colossal” Cobra versus “sexy” Scorpio (to be fair, she is outrageously attractive, although anyone would look their best stood next to Dexter Fletcher). Like Shadow, Cobra’s got a bumbag too, which suggests a deliberate attempt by production to cover up the male Glads’ genitals. However, the way they sit right above the bulges just further highlights them, like balancing a hat on it, while the females are afforded no such luxuries to shield their cameltoes. Cobra’s role in Gladiators was class clown, with a great line in quips and eyebrow-raising reaction faces, as second favourite of all the mums, behind that big unit, Saracen. He demonstrates why he was the jacked-up 90’s James Acaster by quipping that “if we was boxers, she’d be Mike Tyson, I’d be Julian Clary!” Indeed, he’s got the give-away non-gamer stance of holding the controller right up in the air by his head, and Scorpio beats him by spamming a low kick. “I was about as fast as a paraplegic tortoise!” says Cobra. Channel 4 must still have his number; get him on Taskmaster!

As Dexter sends them off, he calls Scorpio Shadow, but nobody picks up on it. When they return the following week, Shadow takes it, beating Scorp 2-1, which puts him just three awards shy of a rare EGOT, (Emmy, GamesMaster Golden Joystick, Oscar, Tony). Although, considering how his life went after getting fired for roids; recently jailed six years for kidnap and torture; it was likely either pawned off or threateningly brandished. In non-Gladiators stuff, a beat-em-up special brings together — supposedly — the four best Street Fighter II players in the country, including one nerd who’s cosplaying as David Sowerbutts and brings along a big hardback atlas — “it’s to hold my control pad.” The book is a powerful advantage, and he crushes his opponent in about half a second. Fletcher’s post-match interview with the loser is really something.

Dexter: “Was it a tough battle?

Loser: “Quite.”

Dexter: “Quite a tough battle, okay, good stuff…

The final begins with Fletcher asking; in identical tone to Linton Travel Tavern staff enquiring of Partridge whether he’s got his big plate; “got your lucky book?” to which Sowerbutts replies “certainly is.” Things take a bit of a turn in the commentary booth, when Fletcher notes the players “look very similar to their characters,” one of whom is, let’s be blunt, a great big fat fella. Book-Boy wins, and in the closing chat, Fletcher outright tells him he bears an uncanny resemblance to the character they literally just described as “the big fat character, the fattest,” and he leaves with a Golden Joystick under one arm, atlas under the other. For history’s sake, we should make note of Fletcher’s sign-offs, one from Parkinson’s sufferer Muhammad Ali — “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, end up wiv brain damage indefinitely!” — and another purportedly quoting Jean-Claude Van Damme (who is Belgian); “Ich bin ein Berliner, auf wiedersehen, baby!

Unfortunately, we must endure yet more Dexter Fletcher, with an episode from later that series, after they’d been booted from the prison, and switched filming to the cramped space of Clerkenwell House of Detention. Part of the ongoing team challenge, three rowdy trios in different-coloured baseball caps strut on like chimpanzees about to fuck each other’s eyes out for territory. In red, we’ve got the Dream Team, “a lairy bunch of lads” who give big-ups to the Canvey Posse and find the place is too small to unfurl a banner. Charlton Crew are in yellow, one of whom Fletcher steps on as they come out, while Team Perfection claim they’re gonna kick arse. “Dunno if you can say that,” says a nervous Dex, “but you just did.”

Team challenges include Empire Strikes Back on the SNES, and a pinball game bouncing balls off a pair of Amazonian warrior women in metal bikinis to defeat an evil tree, with commentary that makes it unwatchable; Perry showing off by shouting play-by-play, while simultaneously Fletcher talks to himself at the top of his lungs; “AW BLAST ‘IM! WICKED! CHOP IT UP!” and hums the Star Wars theme. But these shows move at a clip, and soon it’s the celebrities, with guest player, the Games Mistress. “Hold on?” you cry, inspired by the wild cockneyness of Dexter Fletcher, “ain’t this a bleedin’ Gladiators special? I’m gonna shove one of Dave Courtney’s straight-to-DVD gangster films right up your ‘arris for tellin’ me porky pies!” Settle down, as the Games Mistress is better known as Jet, from Sky’s Games World series, in an exciting televisual crossover.

Under her nom de plume, and with no mention of Gladiators, she’s allowed to wear an actual dress, rather than clothed like she’s rescuing a brick in the swimming gala, and enters to a cacophony of horny teenage wolf whistles. Jet shows Fletcher how it’s meant to be done, with “I like nothing better than frolicking with my consoles!” Of course, Fletcher can only laugh with an “okay, well…” Weirdly, though she gets to play, Jet’s also the prize for two audience members, who’ll be competing for a date with her. Picking the lads herself, every hand shoots towards the ceiling with a manic “ME! ME! ME!” and she selects a couple of spods who both look like a child’s drawing of Louis Theroux.

I’m not sure on the legality of a grown woman going on a date with a 13-year-old, but it’s contested over Megadrive light-gun game, Lethal Enforcers. “Don’t kill no citizens!” warns Fletcher, in the sort of American accent even Eddie Large would be ashamed of. This is 90’s tech, so players have the gun half an inch from the screen, and Jet accidentally shoots a cop within the first two seconds, followed by an innocent old man. She is terrible, but blows across the barrel as if it’s smoking, and I’ll hear no bad words against her. Quite understandably, Theroux #2 completely falls apart with Jet stood there, massacring every civilian in a panic before dying with no points, and having to watch as Jet leads the other boy away through the cheering crowd. I’d genuinely love to know what this dream date consisted of; presumably a quick burger in the green room, trying not to get a lobber with his parents sat there.

It’s here we say goodbye to the gargoyle stylings of Dexter Fletcher, for a welcome return to Dominik, in our first visit to series 5, with an episode from November ’95. Opening titles see Dom flattened by a bus as he exits a chippy, life flashing before his eyes as surgeons battle to save his life; a bully pushing him over in school; a teacher yelling “you’ll never amount to anything!”; getting caught cheating in a nightclub and being slapped. Dom flatlines, as a green mist rises from his chest into a tunnel of light, coming out the other side to meet the giant head of Patrick Moore; big white beard, crown, and lightning shooting from his eyes. The series title is held aloft by golden cherubs, “New GamesMaster: Born Again.”

The set’s halfway between Heaven and Mount Olympus (albeit on a tea-time Channel 4 budget), with shrubbery, white clouds swirling against a clear blue sky, and hot model angels in togas, while players enter down a golden CG entranceway, lined with clone-stamped trumpeters. Dominik’s at the midpoint in his evolution here, still with most of his hair, and with stubble and a sprig of chest hair poking up above his enormous, open collar. The celebrity challenge is titled “Gladiators? Hard? Don’t make me laugh!” with the Glads facing off against members of the public in two rounds of fighting games. After the mandatory joke about spandex, out come Cobra and Panther.

Times have changed in the last two years, as they’re wearing jackets and shorts, and aren’t being forced to stand there with the indents of their urethras visible to anyone with a big enough screen. Notable here is the meeting of Cobra and Dom; the two styles of comedy. It’s Joe Pasquale vs. Bill Hicks; McIntyre vs. Manning. Dom asks how many chickens you have to eat to get that jacked, to which Cobra replies “I used to eat ten chickens a day, but it was too fowl!” before turning to the camera with a beautiful Cobra look — pre-dating Tim/Jim from The Office by some years — which Dom’s very amused by. In fact, there’s a great rapport between the three, and I’m a little blindsided, expecting sneering piss-taking, but getting a lovely chat. It’s so matey, Dom breaks kayfabe by casually addressing them as Mick and Helen, before asking Cobra for some muscle measurements, with big man reeling off chest, biceps and legs, with a cheeky “I think I’d better stop there.” Dominik does put them on the spot, asking when Wolf’s going to retire, “because he is 74 years old now,” but Cobra agrees; “he looks like Max Wall’s love child, doesn’t he?” — a joke and reference Dom bloody loves. There’s more conversation here than a whole series of Dexter Fletcher, and as he makes improv comedy magic with another great wit, one can witness the cynicism falling from Dominik’s eyes in real time.

Away from his new friends, he reverts to type in the news section. “The machine’s more fun than my mum… details for the launch are more secret than my pants,” plus another reference to pants being soiled. There’s a bit about Spielberg launching a computer service allowing terminally ill children to play games with each other from different hospitals; a CD-ROM of the week, which is another ‘edit clips together into a film’ be-the-director jobs; and an excursion to the Wing Commander IV set in LA, for sit-downs with Mark Hamill (a polite joy) and Biff from Back to the Future, during which Dom implies that he and Michael J. Fox fisted each other on set.

A teenage girl and boy contest the Gladiators challenge, as Dom tries to hook her up with Cobra, which is probably how Epstein got started. She takes on Panther in Victory Boxing for the Saturn, as Dominik refers to kidney punches as “some top lady-on-lady lower body action,” and Cobra jokingly threatens his opponent in the background. Panther gets TKOed, and in the post-match interview, Cobra simply cannot stop mucking about, leaning over and tapping the boy on the head. We return from a feature to find the Gladiators getting choked and yanked around by the teens, with Cobra doing some great comedy selling, really emphasising how he missed his true calling as a Santino Morella style comedy wrestler.

Fittingly, they must’ve heard me, as his turn is on the Wrestlemania game, playing as “a great big fat bloke” (Yokozuna) versus Doink the Clown, who he could’ve been in real life. He does the job 2-1, with Dom concluding that “Cobra is soft,” and the kids get one Golden Joystick to share between them. With one final joke about Mick’s spandex, we’ve finally tackled the cultural behemoth of Gladiators, with minimal horniness and not a single awooga.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

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Saturday Morning Archeology – The Saturday Starship

•October 5, 2021 • 3 Comments

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[previous: Saturday SuperstoreMulti-Coloured Swap ShopWOW!]

Continuing our root around in the Saturday morning shows, it’s back to 1984, when Star Wars was still hot shit, so ITV stuck Tommy Boyd in a spaceship. Think The Mandalorian, except instead of Baby Yoda, Boyd’s tiny sidekick is Bonnie Langford, who somehow remains endlessly energetic and chirpy in the face of some absolutely dire content. Boyd had been drafted in from TISWAS replacement, The Saturday Show, and while former child star Langford was a familiar face onscreen, this was her first full-time hosting gig. Incidentally, the funniest typo I’ve ever seen erroneously named the Crystal Tipps-haired, ten-stone DJ “Tommy Body.”

An episode airing on October 6th begins with Tron-like credits, hurling stars and geometric shapes at the screen, before the pair welcome us from the bridge of the titular Starship. Well, a tiny desk with some lights on it, a single 5-inch CRT monitor, and a control panel that literally appears to have been pulled off a producer’s old boat, with a Words and Pictures school-tech aesthetic. At one point, Boyd sits on it but quickly hops off when the entire thing starts tipping over. In comparison to Parallel 9, this is low Saturday morning sci-fi, with Boyd in very un-spacey jeans and a yellow shirt, and Bonnie in arm warmers and leg warmers. I suppose it is cold up there. But we do cut to breaks with “end of phase one” instead of ‘part’ and there’s a HAL 9000 computer called Earth Eye, which squawks at them with a high pitched voice, like Pinky Punky through an effects pedal.

01

Boyd sends us back to Earth for our first musical performance, promising it’s “really, really ultra totally live,” and who else would it be in this show aimed at small children but Motörhead? They’re playing on an outdoor stage for a crowd of adult toughies in denim jackets, all stood motionless with their hands in their pockets as a sea of blue backs. In close-ups on Lemmy, in his trademark stage posture of straining up at the microphone like a thirsty hamster, you can see an empty waste ground behind them, all under the shadow of a grimly Scarfolk multi-storey. With five numbers over the show, you basically get a full festival concert, though Boyd intros every song with the wrong title, suggesting they really are live, and bravely running the risk of Lemmy saying fuck or fannies on kids TV for a laugh.

After growled lyrics about “the Devil’s kiss” and “prepare to die,” with a ciggie hanging out of the drummer’s mouth, they bring what I take to be a squeaky-voiced teen out of the crowd. But an overexcited smoke machine has turned the entire stage into Silent Hill, choking the poor lad, as a presenter splutters “Oh God, are you there, mother? Can you see us?” Only when it’s finally cleared is this ‘teen’ revealed to be a young Timmy Mallett, promoting his brand new show, The Wide Awake Club, while Motörhead pull faces behind his back. This pre-dates the finalisation of the Mallett brand, and Timmy’s dressed like a normal bloke; tracksuit, regular-sized glasses, no funny hat, no hammer. He doesn’t go “blurgh!” once. It’s really jarring to see behind the curtain, like coming across an old picture of a cool mate on their parents’ mantle, with a bowl cut and shark tooth necklace, before they reinvented themselves at Uni. Except, the opposite.

02

From Lemmy screaming the words “killed by death!” over and over again, it’s back to Tommy Boyd and his curly mullet, asking if we’ve heard what Thatcher’s been saying; that kids need parental guidance instead of money? This is a prelude to the Hellbeast herself turning up, in the form of improbably-named comedy impressionist Fogwell Flax, in a towering wig and pearl necklace. Fake-Thatcher spends the show complaining about modern Britain’s loose morals and belting Boyd with her handbag, with incredible gags like “I’m free on Saturday mornings. I’m an AM PM!

Cartoons come in the form of random scenes from Lady and the Tramp and The Aristocats, which is less weird when you realise they’re respectively still 6 and 11 years from a VHS release in the UK, and thus a rare commodity. Similarly, there’s a montage from the year’s biggest movie, Temple of Doom — supposedly cut together by Spielberg himself — complete with snake eating and monkey brains at 10am on a Saturday morning, which must’ve been a pretty nifty way to promote movies back then, having shown one the previous week for Ghostbusters.

03

Back from the toons, bearded Rory McGrath-alike presenter Nigel Roberts mans a mildly futuristic bar — a Blue Peter Mos Eisley — with kids sat around on cafe tables, along with The Jets, Alison Moyet, two blokes from Madness, and Feargal Sharkey, all looking down at the floor and trying not to laugh when they catch each other’s eye. This is classic pre-boyband, ‘proper musicians forced onto kids shows’ television, although ironically, one of the groups there is called Boyzone, but not the Boyzone, rather, an 80’s duo who are now impossible to Google, due to the threat of accidentally coming across Ronan Keating and instantly dying of boredom.

While the celebrities wait by patiently, Roberts leads a room full of children through a cooking segment. And I do mean full. Saturday Starship‘s defining quality is just how many children they pack into the studio, with the little blighters filling every available inch of screen, having been piled onto set like the end of the aforementioned Temple of Doom, when they’re all running out of the slave mines. Roberts really earns his wage slip, in a long segment preceding the days when a crew’s off-camera laughter would fill the silence of dying jokes. As it’s the anniversary of the Sputnik, they’re making a “Spudnik. It’s good, isn’t it?” and Feargal Sharkey has to sit there for absolutely ages, as Roberts willies around shoving blue food colouring and tomato guts into a baked potato, resulting in this horrifying thing.

04

Thatcher takes a big bite, then gobs the lot straight into the crowd of kids, before a Q&A session where monotone children read questions off clipboards. “Who was your best friend in school and what was his name?” A bloke from Madness quickly answers “Dick Mud!” before changing it to the less penisy “Barry Roberts.” Next guest is music video director Steve Barron, who went onto direct Coneheads and the 1990 TMNT movie, here to promote his debut, Electric Dreams. Like all guests, the very sleepy Barron, up all night working on a video for a young Canadian singer called Bryan Adams, is absolutely surrounded by children, breathing down his neck the whole time, their bored faces and little coughs, never once smiling or laughing. When 1950’s Diner Americana throwback band The Jets mime to their single, the surrounding semi-circle of weans gives an air of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” on the playground, and as an exuberant Bonnie tries to coerce the audience into dancing, she’s met with a wall of stony expressions from boys mortified by even seeing a sock-hop going on, let alone joining in, as the singer croons in an Elvis voice “I wanna make love to you…

05

Bonnie reads out letters suggesting names for a dance she’s been teaching viewers, with the winner ‘Bonnie’s Starbuster,’ which sounds like a finishing move she’ll win the WWE Women’s Championship with, before a chat with Alison Moyet, who says she wouldn’t go into acting because “I’d probably make a real nambo of myself.” Is being a nambo worse than being a wilf? The original Boyzone perform, frontman greenscreened in front of a volcano as he jigs about in a toga, before ending with the essential era-compliant joke about Arnold Schwarzenegger having a funny name, where Earth Eye bids Boyd “bless you!” each time he says it. This is noteworthy as perhaps the earliest example on record, considering Terminator was still three months away from hitting British cinemas, and Arnie’s advertised as being on the show in a fortnight, but I’d guess only in video-form.

I followed that up with an undated episode from the same year, but with all the music cut for copyright reasons, sadly excising Bonnie Langford’s instructional for the Wild Boys dance. Boyd’s in a lovely brown leather dad-jacket, and he and Bonnie’s banter is very This Morning — “ooh, isn’t Christmas shopping hard? Look, we’re both wearing white socks. Sock twins!” But when they tell us Nigel’s off “doing watersports,” there’s not even a flicker; innocents from an era when said phrase didn’t instantly conjure images of lovers dousing each other with yellow nectar, straight from the tap. Imagine how many ‘unscripted’ laughs Holly and Phil would’ve dragged out of that; a shaking Scofe covering his mouth with his cards; This Morning‘s social media manager making a note of the time-code, so he can upload the clip to YouTube with the comments switched off.

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Down on Earth, Nigel is indeed watersporting, showing off stuff which probably seemed really exciting in 1984, including a boy who’s supposedly great at barefoot waterskiing, but sinks immediately. The ‘expert’ adult who follows him tumbles in too, before Nigel tells us the chap will demonstrate a special way of standing back up and– no, he’s gone again, left hundreds of yards behind in the water. Starship has a weekly Jim’ll Fix It rip-off section, where viewers write in to have their wishes fulfilled, but I suppose if it’s ever okay to plagiarise, it’s with the oeuvre of one of history’s worst ever paedos. Last week, a girl met Paul Young, while today’s is a charmingly urchin-like boy whose dream is “to gah inna speedboa’!” As it’s the 80s, they let a tiny child who can barely see over the wheel just drive off in a powerboat, containing only him and Nigel, and with no safety team on hand as they tear into the distance like a tourist’s 8mm film of the Loch Ness Monster. The boy’s shrieks of delight are audible over the roar of the engine — “GOOD THIS, INNIT?!” — and as he veers back to the pontoon, it’s genuinely quite tense. Will he slow down, or plough straight into it, knowing his young life shall never again reach such heights? “WOTCHA, GOD, MATE! I’M COMIN’ ‘OME!” Note: he did slow down.

We return to the studio, for big guest David Essex, where the amount of children has gotten completely out of hand, their sheer number swallowing Essex and Boyd entirely, tightly packed like a 100-strong game of sardines; standing, sitting, kneeling; one squashed on the sofa between the two men like that beach goblin from Five Children and It. Imagine Hitchcock’s The Birds, but instead it’s sorrowful under-tens, impossibly multiplying every time you blink. Essex gamely plays along with the space theme — “I was worried about the afterburn from the starship coming in, but one dealt with it.” Then Boyd brings up how “bonkers” Essex is about Helicopters, asking “did you see Airwolf last night? Good one, weren’t it?

07

It’s here we move into one of the most unintentionally funny pieces of television I’ve ever seen, as Starship‘s misjudged sense of ‘what kids like’ is laid nob-out bare, in what’s intended as a plug for Essex’s upcoming West End musical flop, Mutiny!, which he wrote and starred in. Tommy Boyd states (correctly) that “not a lot of children are familiar with the true story of the Mutiny on the Bounty.” You know why, Tommy, old pal? Because it’s boooring. That’s not gonna stop him teaching these kids though — all thousand of them, crammed around, on, under, and likely inside the sofa — about a naval incident from hundreds of years ago. Essex attempts a succinct retelling, but soon, the words “commissioned by the British navy to take bread-fruit, from where it grew readily…” have left his mouth.

Thousand yard stares all round, the loud breathing of children, “…cheap food for the slaves…” Feet shuffle, coughing, scratching, “…they had a botanist who was taking care of it…” Boyd tries to win back the room by excitedly announcing they’re about to see a clip of Charles Laughton, “one of the great actors of all time!” Yeah, I remember from being a kid, the one thing I loved the most about being at my grandparents’ house was black and white films from the 1930s where old men were stood around talking. But wait — here’s a clip from the 1962 version too, with Marlon Brando! And in colour! That’s what kids from 1984 like, isn’t it? Yo-yos, He-Man, Marlon Brando? Dear Christ, Essex is still going, the soundtrack filled with fidgeting noises as they keep themselves entertained by leaning into shot to see their faces on the studio monitor, while he wonders aloud if Captain Bligh was perhaps too much of a disciplinarian? Poor sods probably thought they were going to meet R2D2.

08

Like a mountaineer who’s watched the rest of his exhausted team plummet to their deaths, Boyd dutifully ploughs on to the summit, eager to demonstrate — to these now suicidal children — the growing complications of Fletcher and Bligh’s disagreement with each successive film adaptation. Look, kids, here’s Anthony Hopkins shouting! If you’re wondering what the opposite of Rik Mayall on Jackanory is, it’s this. Ten, long minutes from when we began, it finally ends with an applauding Boyd saying “fascinating. This man tells a great story!” Then he says “rock on!” like someone shouting “I don’t believe it!” at Richard Wilson while he’s playing Macbeth, but David Essex doesn’t even look up, so Boyd says it again. “Rock on, Tommy,” replies Essex, quietly, and out of politeness.

Pointlessly, there’s a load of non-Mutiny on the Bounty content too, with 2/3 of Bronski Beat — Somerville’s busy, I guess — who’ve never even stepped foot on an 18th century breadfruit transport, so who cares? Bonnie asks Steve Bronski where the band’s name comes from, while Larry Steinbachek makes a joke about Japanese journalists calling them “Blonski Beat.” “I bet they do!” laughs Bonnie. Larry is also quick to laughingly raise a hand and shout “me!” when she asks if anyone’s ever been “watersporting.” Then the bearded, in-house conservationist shows off Starship‘s pet potato, Richard, whose tentacle-like eyes dangle from a polythene bag like a Lovecraftian beast (headcount; 35 children), and there are interviews with two of the Flying Pickets, and the director of the Red Cross; a rather stern looking Colonel, explaining at complex and tedious length the various subcommittees which deal with the finances of donations. When they cut to the all-important address to send money to help people who are literally dying, Nigel is very briefly superimposed on top, in an errant piece of greenscreen, as he sits waiting for the next segment, where he’ll appear a ghost for a Ghostbusters competition.

09

We end on some Bonkers Britain consumerism, with a news story where Swindon 6th formers have been drafted in as Lollypop ladies/men, to the anger of local parents. Boyd’s not happy either, suggesting to viewers that if they’ve got an aunt or gran — “they make smashing lollypop ladies” — who’d like to do it instead, they must tell their teacher to tell the local road safety officer. The Saturday Starship couldn’t be an odder program if it actually were in space, although if they did encounter a real alien, they’d probably show a ten minute video on Martian farming techniques. While it’s not as shambolic as Our Show, it’s similarly lacking in its sense of what children are interested in. People moan about focus groups, but no kid’s ever demanded to see a bloke in a jumper promising “news on those potatoes we did.”

10

Starship lasted a single series of 21 shows, ending in January 1985. 16 months later, Saturdays would see another spaceship, on ITV’s Get Fresh, with the Millennium Dustbin ferrying Gaz Top to weekly locations. Following a successful host run on CITV, Tommy Boyd went onto make a radio career out of the ‘contrary opinions troll’ methodology that’s been stinking up the internet and newspaper columns for the last 20 years — all “that thing everyone hates is actually good!” or pretending to believe something stupid, so people would challenge him on it. In the early 2000s, he briefly attempted to relaunch British wrestling, running a single show at Crystal Palace, and even participating as the villainous, leather jacketed owner; the Talksport Vince McMahon; playing off heat he’d gotten on the radio from arguing there was someone hiding underneath the ring who poured Heinz ketchup on wrestlers’ faces when they ‘bled’. Although that is slightly more believable than a children’s show giving up ten minutes to David Essex recanting the Mutiny on the Bounty off the top of his head, like Alan Partridge describing the opening scenes of The Spy Who Loved Me.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

The Great British Beauty Contest

•September 26, 2021 • 2 Comments

Exactly what your dad’s referring to when he tearfully mourns “the good old days,” my latest video essay digs into the great British beauty contest.

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 500,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Saturday Morning Archaeology – WOW!

•September 15, 2021 • 3 Comments

[previous: Saturday SuperstoreMulti-Coloured Swap Shop]

Continuing our run of Saturday morning shows, the cursed bog of YouTube has burped up another bone with 1996’s WOW!; a true forgotten example of the genre, even carrying the excitement of the Bad Influence! exclamation mark, and with the added urgency of caps implying its title should always be shouted. WOW! was a CITV effort, following the axing of Telegantic Megavision and It’s Not Just Saturday, and playing opposite the titans of Theakston and Ball on a reinvigorated, post-Andi Peters Live and Kicking. The unenviable task of fronting this cannon fodder slot went to a pairing of Sophie Aldred, formerly assistant to McCoy’s Doctor Who, and Simeon Courtie, who’d recently departed rivals CBBC, where he presented the weekday links with Otis the Aardvark. Set against the BBC’s biggest dog, WOW! had a clear plan of action, which was to embrace the same spirit of anarchy that led TISWAS to become so popular and iconic, decades earlier.

This is on show from the cold open, where comedy tea ladies Pat and Barbara bust into the dressing room, only to interrupt Sophie pulling hair onto Sim’s bald-wigged head. The tea ladies, whose role is to always be pulling faces in the background, are another pair of CITV grotesques with busted teeth performed by Peter Cocks and Woody Taylor, who you may remember as Hoki and Koki on Endurance UK. Evidently, this is a weird episode to start with, as following the titles, we find cast, crew and audience crammed onto a small patch of grass outside the studio, with a gravel car park visible in the background. Due to a power cut in Maidstone, WOW! is reduced to making telly like they did in the 1800’s, with everything running off a generator. Down to a single camera and handful of working mics, they’re robbed of an earpiece link to the production gallery, and the phones which run their precious competitions and celebrity Q&As. Unable to even magic a picture of Peter Andre onscreen, they have to make do with pulling a girl from the audience and pointing at her PAndre t-shirt.

For a show priding itself on unpredictability, nobody can hide their obvious glee, symbolically tossing the script into a crowd of children, while a bald man in plastic Spock ears screams “BURN IT! WE DON’T NEED IT!” Sim urges viewers to “ring your mates and tell them, ITV this morning… this is gonna be a legend in television!” and in hindsight, there’s a rather sad quality to all the giddy joy, believing themselves the centre of cultural history, in an event — and series — not a soul would remember. It’s hard to feel like ITV’s choking on the smoke of revolution with everything pitched so young, and as Sim jokes “put some more coal in!” we do the most Saturday morning thing of all and cut to a cartoon. There’s even a puppet — Sid the Bluebottle — the final talking glove on Phil Cornwell’s résumé, just one year before I’m Alan Partridge; and he’s really phoning it in.

You’ve no need of end credit Roman numerals to discern the year, as this is 1996 to its fullest, with gigantic shirts you could host the Glastonbury dance tent in, and audience foreheads visible through perfectly parted curtains. The guests too, are mid-90s incarnate, with Gaz Top under his “I’m a big boy now” real name of Gareth Jones, in a buzzcut and Liam Gallagher shades, plus lovely Scottish Sally Gray (a powerful teenage crush for old Millard), Sam Kane off Brookside, and both kids from The Upper Hand. Big guest is Peter Andre, dressed all in black like an evil spider and slouching in gangster poses with his shoulders lolloping. It’s strange to see this first phase of his career, before the post-Jungle reboot as Prince Pete the Wonderful Dad, back when all the semen he’d fired out of his penis had thus far gone to waste. During his interview, an entourage of stern-faced dancers in puffa jackets the size of inflatable sumo suits sit behind, whispering, gossiping and pointing at people off camera. The tea ladies shuffle on with milky cuppas, and Pete spills his when a wasp flies in.

As Sim’s got the only clip-on mic that works, links are delivered with Sophie or the guests leaning on his chest like he’s nursing them, while kids wanting to win a poster of Peter’s abs can’t fax answers in, forced to write with their hands like cavemen. Speaking of Neanderthals, the bald bloke’s constantly mouthing off, with the job of sitting among the child audience, yelling at the top of his lungs, and the catchphrase “NO NEED TO SHOUT!!!!” In a bit where football teams have written in to win a WOW! sponsored kit, a letter from a girl whose school doesn’t have a kit incites baldy to laddishly bellow “wahey!” Note that this is a primary school, as he adds an offscreen “PUT YOUR KIT ON FOR THE LADS!

All the other beats of childrens TV are in place; reading out a happy 9h birthday greeting to a poshly-named Christopher Nibbs, who in a striking example of social determinism, has “just started boarding school.” I’m sure that’s of great comfort, if he’s able to hear the telly over the sound of flushing, and the cold, familiar taste of toilet water. Out of contact with the producer’s gallery, everyone talks over each other, as Sam Kane wishes good luck to wife Linda Lusardi on the imminent birth of their baby, Peter Andre refuses to take his top off and show his sexy body for the excited under-tens, and Sim explains how they’re running the show off a genny, before further adding that genny means generator. Thanks for that.

The televisual landmark comes to a sudden end halfway through, when the power comes back — but now caught up in the moment, they stay outside anyway. Crossing to a thin and pre-jacked Andi Peters in a trail for his show, The Noise, which follows in the schedule, he’s the meat in a 90’s sandwich, sat between Skin from Skunk Anansie and Louise Nerding. Andi Peters was the premier music journalist of the age; the sonic Pauline Kael; a man who once cited his favourite ever song as Shout by Ant and Dec. Back to WOW!, to mark the VHS release of 101 Dalmatians, the dinner ladies walk on with puppies, one of which is so frightened, it absolutely drenches Simeon and Sophie in a wild arc of piss, spraying so ferociously, I first thought it was a comedy bit with a puppet. But no; real dog, real piss, and Sim cues a break while wiping pissy hands on his massive shirt which is absolutely soaked with steaming dog urine.

We return with more puppies and a Dalmatian expert, who takes the wheel and careens us down a dark alley, with breeders who execute puppies at birth if they’ve not got perfect spots — “this one’s deaf, she would’ve been put down.” Shitty hell, I wonder what Theakston’s up to on the other side? And all conducted over the sound of nervous pups incessantly whining (and probably pissing), while the daughter from The Upper Hand tries to quiet them. Pat or Barbara waddles into frame, complaining about “all these dog businesses” and pretends to slip on one, while Gaz Top wafts his hand with a “terrible whiff of dog poop in here…”

Perhaps it’s all the piss and turds that lead everyone to stop being so silly and finally go back inside, for a mortifying wig modelling segment, showing off the era’s “cool cuts.” Gaz Top swaggers down the stairs to Oasis’ Roll With It in a Liam wig, pretending to chew gum; “it ain’t no morning glory” says Sim. Then lovely Sally Grey’s in a Mel B wig, looking like Rachel Dolezal, as a tired-sounding Phil Cornwall, laying behind the sofa with his arm in the air, keeps repeating his “secret cigar” (zig-a-zig-ah) line until it gets a laugh. Of course, the world’s most popular haircut then was The Rachel, which naughty Sim tells us is actually called “a bouncy shag,” and consequently, I’ve spent the last week on hold to the ITV complaints line. Disgusting.

There’s a quick review section, with Sophie inside a kebab van in a fake tash as ‘Donna Kebab’, before the Upper Hand phone-in, with everyone awkwardly perched on giant replica handsets like Borrowers with cramp. In a classic demonstration of the Saturday morning Q&A, the sole question’s a bored-sounding kid asking “what’s it like acting on TV?” The other call’s Cornwell’s bluebottle doing an impression, which an accidental whistle of feedback cuts off in such a way — “My name is Michael C–” — that it really sounds like they’ve bleeped the name Michael Cunt. “Who does your hair?” he asks, in a joke last heard from Mike Reid, “is it the council?” And then Peter Andre plays us out with Flava.

Skipping forwards a couple of weeks, we get a proper look at the studio, with a spiky design mimicking action bubbles in comics, down to the painful-looking furniture, with chairs resembling Pinhead’s bollocks. Although it doesn’t matter, because nothing in the 90s was as uncool as sitting on things properly, so the hosts assume a variety of trendy sitting positions, often with one or both feet propped up, or their legs lazily splayed out in positions their grans would hate. At one point, Sim crooks one knee over the back of a sofa, having to use both hands to faux-casually stop himself falling off, and leaving the seat completely empty. Imagine if someone sat on it with their arse; spoddy little feet resting on the floor. What a nerd!

Cold open sees Sally Gunnell trying to hijack the show by tying and gagging Sim ‘n’ Sophie. While Sim breaks free, Sophie hops into the studio, arms and legs bound by ropes, to remain hog-tied for the entire first half, having to pull out viewer faxes with her teeth. To this turn of events, horny YouTube commenters had such varied reactions as “so hot,” and “If this was one of our American programmes they’d have untied her right away! Rule Britannia!” along with a plea for footage of “that smtv episode where cat deeley hopped onto the set bound and gagged. Also June sarpong on t4 one Saturday morning where she had a gag over her mouth and hands possibly tied behind.” I’ll keep an eye out, mate. But they’re all at it, with Sim complimenting her “bindings” while Sid the bluebottle frantically vibrates with what one must assume is overwhelming sexual arousal.

In a weird aside, as a tied-up Sophie lays next to him on the sofa, Sim presents a copy of The Sun — “Hugh Grant’s girlfriend… I have to show you this. She has come out with inflated lips!” Holding up a double-page spread with the headline LOOK AT THE LIPS ON THAT, he’s kissed by the tea ladies, using sausage-meat for collagen, leaving his face smeared in red. Like all the jokes, it’s soundtracked by that unavoidable Big Breakfast style crew laughter, everyone braying like Tory MPs at a shit zinger to the opposition, as the thing all 90’s shows feared the most was not seeming like it was a fun, rule-free workplace. The stench of Chris Evans’ influence hangs heavy, demonstrated again when Sim asks for some “walking music” while strutting three feet across the studio floor to footballer Dean Holdsworth.

Dean was one of the era’s most prolific tabloid cocksmiths, though here he’s helping their football strip contest, reading out phone numbers with the wide-eyed terror of a man stumbling into the kitchen at 3am for a glass of water to find masked intruders going through the drawers. A phenomenal collection of the period’s most cliched guests continues with Louise Wener from Sleeper and three of the Hollyoaks cast — including cheeky lad Will ‘Jambo’ Mellor — a trio who’ll be referred to singularly as “The Hollyoaks,” like they’re a band or a human centipede. As Jambo finally unties Sophie, I’ve a prevailing memory of the Hollyoaks launch, with the gang doing the rounds on all the magazine shows, and the big recurring talking point being Will Mellor’s absolutely outrageous bleached hair. Good god almighty, the 90s.

Jambo’s got the textbook “pissed off I was up at 5am for a kids show I can’t even talk about shagging on; I’m too cool for this” vibe, not helped by the tea ladies pointing out his big ears and nose, which is a Jambo/Dumbo joke, but he’s not laughing. The interview’s a waste, with everyone struggling for family-friendly answers to questions about what they got up to in Ibiza and the worst thing about flat-sharing together — “the boys nick our hoover!” Nick Pickard takes the piss out of Jambo’s blue contact lenses, so Jambo gets him back by saying he’s “got feet like apes’ fingers,” and gosh, have Criterion put out a WOW! box set yet? The Hollyoaks lads brought back some prizes from Ibiza for the competition, which thankfully is a baseball cap and not a vial of herpes.

Later, the hosts will subtly burn last week’s guest, Dieter Brummer from Home and Away, who was also meant to provide prize — “he offered us loads of goodies” — which turned out to be one (1) signed t-shirt from his own BACK FROM THE DEAD TOUR, after his character got killed off, with RIP SHANE and a picture of his face encircled with the text DIETER LIVES. This appears to be a David Brent-esque cash-in tour of nightclub appearances, and Sim gives an insincere “so thanks, Dieter, for your generosity on that one,” before Cornwell’s fly calls him “Dieter Bummer.” (note to defend myself from accusations of being a ghoul: as of publishing, Brummer died for real a few weeks ago, some months after I originally wrote this)

Everyone’s sent into thigh-slapping merriment at a prank where a pantomime cow’s unmasked to reveal Sim’s mum, before a game called Fly in your Soup, involving a blindfolded Jambo armed with a giant spoon, as Sophie sneaks up behind with a thought bubble which makes it appear like he’s thinking “UH-OH!! I’ve got no pants on!!” What a wheeze! They’re bloody bonkers here, I tell you. Oh and by the way, as they’re setting up the game, a kid in the background does this.

To sidestep for a moment, I pinpoint the 2007 Ant and Dec phone-in scandal, where competitions were found to be rigged, as the point television’s relationship with the audience became irrevocably damaged. Trust was broken, inciting a sense of viewer entitlement which now leads to outrage and floods of complaints over every minor incident they don’t like. Goaded on by tabloid clickbait, any accidental peek behind the curtain is now seen as a SHOCKING EXPOSURE of television’s desire to TRICK you (by say, rehearsing, editing or doing re-takes), while reality show vote-offs inevitably result in petitions from people crying FIX. But I may have stumbled on an earlier incident, which if spotted, could’ve shaken TV right off its foundations.

On behalf of the kids, Jambo’s playing for 10 CD singles and a Sega Saturn, Whack-a-Mole-ing flies in a giant bowl of soup. Following very basic “up, left” instructions over the phone, he nails a 100% hit-rate, often while doing the exact opposite of the nervous child’s directions, with a precision that makes it obvious he can totally see through the bottom of the blindfold, which is just a regular sleep mask. If they’d all been put in prison for this like they deserved, we never would’ve got Will Mellor’s music career, and more importantly, I never would have had that colleague who went “here’s your mate, you love him, don’t you, Millard?” every fucking time When I Need You came on the radio. Scum. Absolute scum.

A bunch more nonsense happens; a kid caller’s asked where they are, and first says “a house,” before correcting it to “Glasgow.” Andi Peters shills The Noise with the brag of an appearance by — then Superman, now one of the Trumpy D-List crew — Dean Cain, and bigs up an exclusive showing of the first ten seconds only of Boyzone’s new video. Then Phil ‘The Fly’ Cornwell witters on to himself about the freeing experience of urinating; “having a wee wee, I’ve had a wee wee!” Cheer up, Partridge and Stella Street soon. A closing interview has Louise Wener as another free-talking 90’s character struggling with the tone of a child-audience, as the fly puts on a Nazi accent to ask if she’s Sleeper’s “Führer” before they play us out. WOW! Lasted just 16 weeks, partially due to ITV spending a fortune on live rights to the Formula 1, and its sharing a timeslot with Andi Peters’ expensive music show bomb. LWT were eager to get Scratchy and Co on instead, condemning the series to its fate, not as TISWAS for the Lad Mags generation, but as another faded selection box of bizarre moments from pop culture’s most distressing decade.

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Little and Large – The Final Series

•September 5, 2021 • 10 Comments

[more Little and Large: Who Do You Do?Double DareSeries 1Stout and Reed]

To quote myself in my previous piece on the pair: “Against all good judgement, I’m really curious to what that final series looked like, being that the format wore itself out before episode one was over.”

The leap between seventies comedy and that of the nineties was enormous, and after alternative comedy had swept through the landscape like a flash fire, club comics and traditional ‘straight man/silly one’ double acts become the punchline; hoary old forbears whose only worth was in being lampooned. By 1991, the old guard had started disappearing from our screens, with the ascent of names like Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Lee and Herring, and Harry Hill, all lurking round the corner. Newman and Baddiel were just two years from filling Wembley Stadium, and despite Freddie Starr’s best efforts in years past, titting around in a teddy boy outfit, comedy really was about to become the new rock ‘n’ roll, at least for a while.

And yet, Syd and Eddie persisted. Now twice the age of the incoming class, Syd, already starting to grey in ’78, was the full silver fox, while Eddie lived up to his name more than ever. Many hours of television have passed between that first BBC stretch and their last hurrah with series eleven. Eleven! Nobody can deny this is a phenomenal run, traversing three decades, but what shape would that final set of half hours take? Worryingly, having jumped into this closing year, I find myself growing curious about the transition period, and those nine intervening series. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For those whose parents put a porn block on the Wi-Fi, there’s still plenty of Syd in drag, however some of the female roles are taken by singer and impressionist Maddi Cryer. Something to keep in mind throughout is that Syd’s 48 here, and Eddie 49.

We start with episode one, which aired on Saturday 16th March, 1991 at 7pm, following Jim’ll Fix It and ‘Allo ‘Allo. It would be watched by an audience of 8.7 million. There’s no opening titles this year, so’s best to cram in even more of its new standard; the extremely lengthy musical number. And we’re straight into a rockin’ rap beat, punctuated by power chords and the shrill peep of whistles, conjuring images of illegal, sweat-soaked raves. Adding to our rapidly growing collection of troupes named after their choreographers, the Jeff Thacker Dancers do an energetic running man on a revolving stage, their baggy clothes and skew-whiff baseball caps helping pull us out of the grotty, smoke-filled seventies and into the modern era. This is unmistakeably the nineties — the Gulf War, EMF, Gazza, The Mary Whitehouse Experience; Syd Little and Eddie Large. Syd’s voice bids us welcome, introducing “the UK’s answer to The New Kids on the Block!

The lads burst through a backdrop, dressed like NKOTB, and accompanied by the gangly and now-elderly Eli Woods, Kenny Baker, and a bloke who legitimately appears to be seven-feet tall. Baker does the splits, and about a minute in, it hits me there’s been no funny lyrics, and we’re literally watching a straight cover of The Right Stuff, dancing and all, by a near-50-year-old Little and Large. Eventually, it segues into parody, albeit under the impression NKOTB were rappers — “we’re the New Kids on the Block, we like to sing and we like to rock!” — and with gags like the tall fella having a high voice and Kenny Baker having a deep one. Kenny’s called Lofty, Eddie’s Slim, and Syd’s called Fatty. Syd: “I’m funky and I’m hip…” Eddie “I’ve seen more fat on a chip!” There’s a textbook example of that 90’s joke, rapping that you’re doing a rap “but the others think I’m a load of cr…” and getting your mouth covered, before an excruciating four-and-a-half minutes ends with Eli Woods soiling himself.

The musical numbers are bridged by a huge amount of sketches, most lasting under twenty seconds, in a hop and a skip to a visual punchline. Syd and Eddie as policemen at the Blackpool illuminations, where it’s revealed they too are covered in lightbulbs. Syd (or rather, a stunt-double) running into automatic doors. Eddie winning a trolley dash and filling it with cash registers. Eddie ringing Syd the vicar’s front door, which plays a cacophony of church bells. Eddie asking shop assistant Syd if he can try out some boxing gloves before decking him. Traffic warden Syd unable to write down an Arabic numberplate to issue a ticket, as Sheik Eddie gives him a cheeky bow before driving off. Syd on the pier, taking a picture of his girlfriend with a “disposable camera,” and Eddie the road sweeper slinging it into the sea. Eddie the lifeguard, thinking drowning men are giving him a friendly wave.

So fast and sparsely verbal, these quickies feel like three-panel strips in the Beano or Whizzer and Chips, and hold up far better than the longer sketches, all of which shine a blinding great spotlight on how dire the scripts are, with material so thin, it’s slipping between atoms. ‘Toytown in Trouble’ is a garish nightmare, with Syd as Noddy and a nee-nawing Eddie as PC Plod, which finally gives us our first Eddie Large impression, of Kojak. Then Eddie pulls the string on a giggling, bimbo-esque rag doll, who asks “do you have a stwing I can puww?” and Eddie makes a face like “yeah, me prick” — an expression we’ll see again when asked if he’s got a big truncheon.

That one routine they had in the first series; Eddie interrupting Syd with impressions; doesn’t really happen at all here, with copious amounts of TV time in the intervening years forcing them to branch further than just “Sid wants to sing, but Benny from Crossroads is here!” What we’re left with is a real scrapbook of the period; lines padded with pop culture references, and continually mentioning people and things you get the sense the pair don’t understand — “heard about them Ninja Turtles, Syd?” — but saw when flicking through the paper. The unrelenting pace gives less a sense of two mates dicking about, leaving no time for corpsing, amid an extraordinary amount of work, with myriad costume changes and lengthy dance numbers which they flail through for seven-minute stretches. Was all this energy and effort a desperate attempt at remaining relevant; at staying on air, with the encroach of younger comics at their heel?

While that first series should’ve been called The Eddie Large Show, at this end, it’s more evenly balanced, and Syd himself is a noticeably more confident performer. Not a good performer, just less like he’s stood with his knees knocking and a gun to his wife’s head off-camera. Now he only fumbles some of his lines rather than all of them. Incredibly, Eddie’s impressions have gotten even worse, perhaps because they’re used sparingly and he’s not even getting the practise, now reduced to the absolute basics — “Lovely jubbly! Cushty, Rodders!” as Del Boy, with a “my wife Marlene…” as he slips into Boycie. Most consist solely of saying the names of other characters from the shows of whoever he’s meant to be.

The ‘character’ of Eddie is also less sex-obsessed, and the series has an even more babyish feel, not helped by the garish early 90’s colour pallet. One notable absence is the word ‘Soopersonic’, which doesn’t get used once. Things are broken up with a song by weekly guest performers, like Chesney Hawkes and Bananarama, who don’t interact with the pair, and most likely hopped over from the studio next door when they were doing TOTP.

In show canon, there are ‘at home with the boys’ skits, starting when Syd, in pyjamas, comes into Eddie’s bedroom to wake him over a noisy car alarm, establishing that they share a house (and “our lovely new car”), but not a bed. Through there’s a bunch of bachelor domesticity sketches, including one where Syd’s about to propose to his girlfriend of 12 years (who’s apparently not fussed him sharing a house with Eddie Large), it’s noticeably not always the same set, even in the space of a single episode. Another (mildly) interesting note comes in an art gallery skit, where Eddie’s called Cyril, which is Syd’s real name, as they argue whether a painting’s by Michaelangelo or Leonardo, leading to this reveal, which is either ruined or made better by Eddie letting out a “Cowabunga! Let’s go for a pizza dude!

I’ve seen some foreboding title cards in my time, like true crime docs warning “this film contains real footage of human death,” but none so chilling as the words LITTLE AND LARGE GREASE MEGA MEDLEY. These medleys are the real core of their closing era, with incredibly dense, seemingly unending segments functioning as a Jive Bunny megamix of both the period’s culture and Syd and Eddie’s comedy. It starts how you’d expect; a greaser gang, Eddie in a quiff singing Summer Lovin’, and Syd in falsetto and a dress as Sandy. Barely begun, and already I’m yearning for Arthur Mullard and Hylda Baker.

Once again, for much of its stretch, the lyrics are unchanged, until eventual comic intervention in the form of impressions; Eddie as Jimmy Cricket and Vera Duckworth, Maddi Cryer as Cilla and Dot Cotton. It pivots into various asides, including Eddie rowing a bathtub out of frame to the Hawaii 5-0 theme, a Blind Date parody with Eddie as Rab C. Nesbitt, the Kwik Fit Fitters, and Syd dancing in a tiny bikini. These big closers tail every episode, and I can’t lie, they end up winning me over; undeniably awful, terrible shit, but at the same time, pretty great. Each one a tour de force of naffness, to their credit, the energy level is off the scale, neither them nor us allowed a breath, in the comic equivalent of hardcore techno that shakes your fillings out. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for the audience, as with costume changes and stop-start filming, these things must’ve taken half the night to shoot, leaving them sat listening to a looped Ronnie Hazlehurst cover of the Ghostbusters theme or whatever, for hours on end.

Episode two’s opener respectively puts Syd and Eddie as Rod Stewart and Tina Turner, joined by David ‘Kid’ Jensen, who they confuse for David Jason. “Know what I mean, Rodders?” says Eddie. Notable sketches include Eddie as a tattooist who gets a call from his wife, inking the shopping list on Syd’s back, most likely with a real tattoo gun he swapped with the prop one for a joke. If you’ve slept with Syd Little, please confirm or deny in the comments. A BBC gift shop skit, shelves lined with Edd the Ducks, showcases their MO of bombarding you with visual gags, terrible puns, and Eddie’s voices; with Bruce Forsyth soap — “nice to clean you, to clean you!” — Blankety Blank wine — “more like Plonkety Plonk!” and an 18-inch long matchstick — “that’ll be Match of the Day!” Of course, there are haunting Jim’ll references, like the notion he’s got his own brand of glue; “a tube of this, and you can say Jim fixed it for you!

This week’s finale is very exciting for me, with a bat and spooky skull, and the legend LITTLE AND LARGE’S MONSTER MEGA MIX, in a conflation of both my main interests; horror and Syd Little. I loathe just repeating what’s onscreen, but to help one appreciate the sheer density of material, it really needs to be accounted for in full. Opening with another straight cover, this time Ghostbusters, we spin off into Thriller, The Birdy Song, and Stayin’ Alive, as Eddie the vampire bites into a goth lady — “She’s tasty, tasty, very very tasty!” Sister Sledge’s Frankie gets sung at a Frankenstein, while Syd (as the Bride) bashes it to bits with rubber wrenches. Buddy Holly, Dave Clark’s Bits ‘n’ Pieces, and when Eddie catches Frankie’s severed noggin, Oops Upside Your Head. For an eerie skit, the only genuinely frightening moment comes during an arbitrary turn into Do The Bartman.

Then, to more Thriller, it’s Eddie as a hunchback (cape falling down to reveal a plastic-fanged Kenny Baker on his back); the Addams Family; Eddie as Max Wall doing the Monster Mash; Syd as Freddy Krueger — glasses perfectly on top of the mask — scratching a vinyl of U Can’t Touch This with his razor-glove. By now, I’m reeling, on the ropes and waiting for the knockout blow. L&L charge in with another devastating combo; Eddie as Frank Spencer as the Phantom of the Opera; Charles and Di, but cheating by using rubber masks, and an ET parody where the silhouette of Eddie Large rides a bike across the moon, and ET’s revealed to be a shop-bought mask of Michael Jackson wrapped in a shawl. By the end of it, with them back to dancing round to Ghostbusters, I’m completely done in, needing six months of bed rest and plenty of fluids. But I’m jerked upright with the defibrillator of episode three’s opening number, and the words “please meet those rivals of rap, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer!

48-year-old Syd’s out first, blonde wig with lines shaved in it, no glasses, and ‘dancing’ on like he’s skipping through a field. Eddie soon follows, in huge parachute pants and a gold chain — oh, and blacked up; blacked right up; face to chest, for a rap battle with disses like “I’ve seen more life in an old string vest” and “you make Julian Clary seem like a man.” Syd really struggles here, accent and fast delivery leaving him unable to keep up with the lip-synching, and even his pre-recorded track goes a bit Pam Doove. Visibly unconfident at the dancing, he looks terrified, eyes flitting off-centre and clearly trying to remember which move is next. At first, I thought part of the gag was his being a few steps behind the backing crew, like Jones in Dad’s Army, but by the end it’s clear he’s just fucked, almost bumping into the others during the final dance-off. Though Eddie does well to keep up with a hugely energetic routine, it honestly seems like he might not survive it, if indeed he’s not slayed by the sheer heat of Vanilla’s bars — “Iceman’s a nice man, a very very nice man. I play it cool, but you gotta pay the price, man…

By far, the funniest sketches are those with such an obvious reveal, they give the satisfaction (and shame) of feeling like you came up with it first. When Eddie’s a goalie, fouling Syd for a penalty and asking if he can change his gloves, you know it’s cutting to him in a giant pair about six feet wide. Ditto when Syd reminds him the doctor’s banned him from chocolate and booze, but he can have one chocolate liqueur a day. Is said liqueur the size of a child? You bet! There are loads of these; a customs officer pulling apart Russian Eddie’s babushka doll, and then his suitcase, which has a succession of smaller suitcases inside; Eddie using a car jack and Syd’s head busting through the sunroof; “smoking table, sir?” asks Eddie the waiter, before Syd’s whole table starts billowing like Carry on Screaming; the lads betting on golf, and Eddie tipping the telly so the ball rolls in the hole. Having your expectations so vividly met feels like lucid dreaming when you’re awake. Am I shaping reality? When Syd complains of Eddie hanging a mirror wrong, did I make Syd shake his head at an upside down reflection?

This final series perfectly demonstrates the reason sketch shows don’t get made now, with dozens of quickies, all needing costumes, props, background extras and locations that only get used once, and must’ve burned up half a day’s filming. Barring two Antiques Roadshow bits over the six episodes, there are no recurring sketches, with everything a one-off. One has Syd giving Eddie a pass on his cycling proficiency test, with the joke that Eddie cycles straight off in sped-up footage, weaving all over the road and causing an accident. That probably took a whole morning; getting the road closed, the cars rehearsed and in sync, all the cones laid out, plus time for Syd to work out how to get a high vis bib on. Later, they’re sailors christening a new boat, but realise it’s been bricked up (ala cars with their wheels nicked). Twelve seconds long, for which cast and crew had to get to the dock, procure a boat and other props, plus jumpers and a captain’s hat. Before you ask, yes, I have seen a sketch show before, but the amount of work and money really stands out, considering the quality, and the fact these shows were essentially consigned to the dustbin of pop culture the moment the final credits rolled.

Megamix three is ROCK AND ROLL, and as we’ve learned, comics of that era, from Davro to Starr to Les Dennis, fucking loved the 1950’s diner Americana aesthetic. Eddie as the Big Bopper does the phone bit, with Maureen Lipman picking up, before cameos from Mary Poppins and Syd as Postman Pat, and Eddie as Elvis (the toilet years) meets Eddie as Deputy Dawg in split screen, with matte lines about six inches thick and the eyelines all wrong. Syd as Buddy Holly you expect; less so, Eddie as Little Richard — one foot up on the piano, one tin of boot polish slavered over his face. But then it’s Syd as Chuck Berry (blacked up, and looking like a sleep paralysis demon), Eddie as Fats Domino (blacked up), and Eddie slinging on a pair of glasses (but still blacked up) as Ray Charles. What with MC Hammer, is this the most individual uses of blackface in a single episode of anything?

Episode four’s opener is a Status Quo tribute, with Syd ‘n’ Ed in wigs, joined by Bob Holness for some reason. Bob’s not into it, and various celebrities try to cajole Bob into banging his head. So wonderfully, terribly Eddie Large are the impersonations, that I don’t need to name them for you to know who he’s doing.

     “Come on, Bob, join in with me and Di! Bang your heads!

     “Oh, we love to headbang, don’t we, Zippy?” “Oh, yes, it’s exciting, isn’t it, George!

     “I’m Popeye. Eat your spinach and bang your head!

     “Tell him to bang his head, Barney!” “You’ve gotta bang your head, says Fred!

The megamix is COUNTRY AND WESTERN, opening with The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which is fitting, given that I too stood at the crossroads, ignoring a sign marked ‘Normal Life Kissing Girls and That‘ to fucking pelt straight down the road for ‘Become Obsessed with Little and Large‘. Eddie’s Kenny Rogers and Syd’s the Milky Bar Kid, with Maddi Cryer donning giant knockers as Dolly, battering her dancers offstage to boing sound effects. In one-in-the-eye for alternative comedy, Maddi’s Ruby Wax tells Syd and Eddie (as Laurel and Hardy) that they’re “up-chuck city,” so they give her a pie in the face. There’s also appearances by Rab, Jimmy Cricket, Gazza, and a parody of The Bill‘s opening credits, needlessly dressing Syd as a female PC with absolutely gigantic jugs, seeing as they were already out of the prop cupboard. It ends with a fiddle duel, where Syd spins around like Wonder Woman and morphs into Nigel Kennedy, which out of Syd’s many, many looks, is the closest he’s come to being a hunk.

This makes episode five’s opening doubly upsetting, with Syd as Cher, in the outfit from Turn Back Time where you could basically see right up. It’s quite the sight, with shocked cackling from the audience, especially when Eddie joins dressed like a Mad Max dominatrix, in knee high boots and stockings over leather knickers. There’ll be some out there for whom this skit really awakened something. Later, Dannii Minogue makes a cameo, politely laughing through Eddie’s jokes about Skippy and Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, and screaming when he accidentally (for real) squirts her with a can of Castlemaine XXXX which goes everywhere when he opens it.

But the pair have never seemed more at home than in the CLIFF megamix. Cliff’s been one of Eddie’s trademarks, and Syd was born to be Hank Marvin, miming to his guitar even when there’s no guitar on the track. Running through Cliff’s various hits and looks, this is very much an Ages of Cliff retrospective, although we’re some decades too early for Syd to impersonate the pilot of a BBC helicopter filming a house that’s being raided by Operation Yewtree. A wraith-like Thatcher crawls up out of the mist during Devil Woman (I knew they were good Labour boys), and then during a recreation of Cliff’s single from Phantom, this happens.

Okay, dude, who ordered the pizza?!” Syd lets himself down terribly here, given the world’s easiest impression of Jim Bowen, and fucking up the lines — “marvellous, smashin’, super, great, smaffin’ [sic]… smashing!” — but they don’t have him do another take. The last eighty seconds knocks the subversion on the head, and is simply Eddie Large in a white suit, doing a very straight, very impassioned, very gospel cover of From a Distance, in what at this stage in my viewing, becomes something close to a religious experience. As we reach the final episode, this is more than just the end of a series; it’s the end of an era. How will the lads go out? What form will their final bow take, as watched at the time by 6.4 million people? “It’s our tribute to those glitter rock stars of the 70s!” Okay. “Elton John…” Fine so far. “…and Gary Glitter!” Oh.

Syd as Elton, in pound shop comedy glasses, bangs away on the piano, before the stage starts to revolve. A chant goes up; “Come on, come on! Come on, come on!” The cheers are enormous as Eddie’s Gary Glitter emerges triumphantly, under a shower of confetti. His shiny Max Moon outfit leaves Eddie glinting as studio lights ricochet off its surface, and in a strangely prescient gag, Syd tells Eddie he looks like a mirrorball. “Cos I sparkle?“No,” says Syd, “you want hanging.” After an admirably awful joke — “It took five cobblers to make these shoes.” “That’s a lot of cobblers!” — it’s a routine which takes on greatly different resonance in hindsight.

With less than thirty minutes of their TV careers remaining, Eddie says the television of the 1970s is coming back, as an excuse to do his Columbo (“Hi, my name is Columbo”); his Kojak; his JR Ewing; “What do you think of my platforms? These are oil platforms!” Syd reprimands him; “Eddie, we can’t be stuck in the 70s, we’re in the 90s now. There’s new programs on television!” — and all in a sketch which finally harks back the format of 1978’s first series, with Syd barely getting a line in while Eddie runs through his repertoire of voices. There’s a circular feeling, with Eddie getting the audience to join in with Brown Girl in the Ring, which he sang in the very first episode, although their sing-along with Glitter’s Do You Wanna Touch Me, the camera cutting to rows of people joyously raising their hands on the YEAHs, may be the biggest mass cancellation on record, like those stadium weddings by the Unification Church.

There’s more than a little pathos in all this; a routine about moving forwards whilst falling back into their old rhythms, and energetically (and from their position in the past, unknowingly) performing a medley by, at best, history’s second most reviled performer — behind Savile — sadly rendering the episode forever unrepeatable. The audience are well into it, but watching from here, it’s like seeing the pair slowly sinking into the mud, and not realising that everything seems to be getting taller until Syd’s glasses are floating on the top. To cap off the irony, it ends on the line “as a matter of fact, we’re back!” as Eddie and Syd punch the air under a shower of sparks, and the cheering and whistling of their fans.

One odd stand-out here is the stopover to a canal boat to meet Wandering Walter, a Jethro type comedian, dispensing rambling old jokes via regional accent. This clip has been semi-notorious among comedy fans for years, and Walter was a popular comic around the local clubs, whose obituaries all make mention of his lone TV appearance on The Little and Large Show. It’s infamous for a reason, with the half-asleep/suddenly-shouty delivery of when you pushed your nice teacher a bit too far, and with jokes like “Where would you find a tortoise with two legs on the canal? Where you left it.” But there’s clearly not enough room on the barge for all three of them and a camera, so it’s all been shot in three separate takes, making it worse in the knowledge they’re all just talking to nothing. Nearing the end, there’s a sketch in a train carriage where Eddie’s got a right sweat on. As he does impressions from ‘Allo ‘Allo, the unforgiving close-ups are of a man who’s aged twenty-five years since the first episode, and by the end of it, there’s great rivulets of sweat streaking down his face.

Our final megamix fills me with the most dread yet, with two simple words: BLUES BROTHERS. I’ve spoken before about my loathing for the most ‘two dads at a wedding reception’ song of all, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, which served as the lazy, audience-rousing standard for what felt like endless decades of men putting on sunglasses to run up and down bellowing “You! You! You!” over the sound of trumpets, for literally hours at a time. Like their Laurel and Hardy, at least they’re the right shape for it, as Syd runs on the spot while Eddie thrusts a Cumberland finger at us to implore “we need you, you, you!” Judging by the look of him in that train sketch, this one might put him in the ground. They must’ve had to burn his suit at the end.

This time, I’m grateful for the impressions which interrupt, taking precious respite in Vera Duckworth and Mavis, in Gazza and a line of nuns doing the Kia-Ora ad, and even in a trio of women I drew a total blank on, until the line “leave it out, we’re birds of a feather!” Though they’d appear together on other shows, such as Win Lose or Draw, Noel’s House Party, and the Big Break Christmas special (dressed as Popeye and Olive Oyl), as a duo, the last big hurrah on a stage they could call their own is a final ninety seconds of furious dancing to the same two bars of Everybody. Eddie’s visibly struggling, even jokingly flinging a handful of sweat from under his armpit, and an exhausted Syd is giving it his best, but then, like every fragile human life, suddenly, it’s all over. Thirteen years and seventy-six episodes, finished, and literally never to be repeated, leaving its songs and jokes an occurrence which could only be experienced by those who were there at the time, like seeing a UFO. If Eddie as Vera Duckworth says “Mr. Holdsworth sent me t’ fish finger counter to count the fish fingers. Well I never knew fish had fingers!” and it’s never repeated or released on DVD, did it really happen?

Their next act at the BBC would be to collect their p45s, before history — rightly or wrongly — relegated them to the creative bottom rung, below their contemporaries, and with the legacy of embodying all the horrors of variety past. The lads, they took it as far as they could, against all odds, laffin’ and jokin’ all the way from the seventies and into the nineties, and they (and I) have earned a nice sit down. But maybe I’ve just spent 5,000 words telling you what I could’ve in a single sentence — in a sketch with Billy Pearce, a man’s wig gets whipped off with a fishing rod. “Alright,” says Eddie, “keep your hair on!

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as £1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my videos, my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

Saturday Morning Archaeology: Multi-Coloured Swap Shop

•August 27, 2021 • 2 Comments

[More Noel: Noel’s HQFirst & Last: Noel’s House PartyThe Live, Live Christmas Breakfast ShowWhen Noel Tried to Crack AmericaNoel’s Christmas PresentsHouse Party Hell Playlist]

My latest video essay tackles early Edmonds vehicle Swap Shop, whose interactivity paints vivid pictures of a bygone Britain’s eccentricities & hang-ups, and sows the seeds for a generation’s impending obsession with creepy-arse hauntology.

This video first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could watch it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s over 500,000 words of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi or some PayPal cash.

 
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