First and Last: The Big Breakfast

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Having previously covered Noel’s House Party, it was inevitable that I’d eventually tackle The Big Breakfast, which puts us at the dawn of that baffling period when the nation was bewitched by Chris Evans. Yet, even the most cynical can’t deny the show’s genuine innovation, in a time when all breakfast telly followed the same format; of well-behaved presenters discussing the day’s news, before cutting across to Gyles Brandreth for a section on hedge mazes. The Big Breakfast put radio’s Morning Zoo format onscreen to enormous success, and next to its rivals, it was like the switch from black and white to colour, destroying the fourth wall, and making characters of its crew, whose whoops and laughter formed a background battle cry of “look how much fun we’re having!” But like much of the culture from that era, its actual content has aged terribly.

Looking back, The Big Breakfast is the most 90’s thing imaginable, but with almost 2,500 episodes, it did slightly bleed into the 21st century, in the TV equivalent of coming out of a bathroom with an “I’d leave it a minute if i were you.” At the time, I fell right in the target demographic, with the show a constant bleary-eyed companion, as I moped around the house getting ready for school. Consequently, this rewatch gave me the morning equivalent of the Pavlovian dread that’s kindled by the theme music of one’s youthful Sunday evening viewing. By the time the little clock in the corner reached 8:35, I’d instinctively slunk out of the front door with my PE kit.

01

In March of 1992, Channel 4 announced the cancellation of their morning magazine show, The Channel 4 Daily. Seeing opportunity, Bob Geldof combined his production company with the producers of C4’s hellish Friday night shock-festival, The Word, with the aim of bringing that same sense of lawlessness to breakfast television, which had thus far ignored the youth demographic altogether. One of 33 bids for the franchise, they were up against big boys like Granada and Central Television, but eventually swung it with Geldof’s promise of big celebrity interviews, having scored Nelson Mandela for the pilot.

Seeing it as punky alternative to the settees ‘n sweaters brigade, and with the aim of a televised morning radio show, anarchic DJ Chris Evans was in mind from the beginning, lured by the promise of creative freedom his radio bosses didn’t allow. Hundreds of women were auditioned for the co-host slot, eventually landing on Gaby Roslin; a late replacement for Emma Forbes, who pulled out at the 11th hour, over fears of a Word-like tone, and after taking offense at a joke about Live and Kicking co-host, Andi Peters. Puppet duo Zig and Zag were brought over from Irish TV, in the hopes they’d do for C4 what Roland Rat had done for TV-am, while presenters Mark Lamarr and Paula Yates were respectively drafted in from The Word and the Geldof household. The Big Breakfast debuted on 28 September 1992, at 7am.

02

Free of the formal constrictions of a studio, everything takes place in a real house, formerly a lock-keeper’s cottage, plonked alongside the river like a Lego building on an empty playmat. Chris gives us a tour, which like everything else, is done at breathless pace, skidding though its walls and floors, each decorated in bright, cartoonish colours, and all shot on handheld, giving a constant sense of movement, next to the staid, sofa-locked formats of traditional breakfast television. But more than just the colour-scheme, at every turn, modern viewers are clued in that this is the 90s; the horrible 90s. Chris’s “wahey!” wackiness could only thrive in one decade, referring to pounds as “squid” and pushing his face right into the lens. Within minutes, he’s made mention of Page 3, Peter Stringfellow, and Princess Di, and joked of Neil Kinnock’s new radio show that “he’s on the air, but he still hasn’t got any! (hair) Wahey!

However, in 2019, knowing his future reputation as a backstage tyrant, it’s impossible not to find signs of that monstrous control freak behind the smile. Perhaps as early as 7:06am, we see the first flash of Evans’ temper, when a joke about keep fit videos being bad for your health sees one thrown into frame, cracking him painfully on the hand. The constant sycophantic laughter drops to a sudden silence, and he’s clearly seething. A few minutes later, he reads out a made-up fax from ‘Alf Garnett,’ which suggests he should be “the minister of fun.” Evans balls it up, with a miffed “that wasn’t very funny, why did we do that one?” and humourlessly points at an unseen writer — “sacked!” When, Gaby reads a genuine viewer fax accusing Chris of talking too fast, he switches to a mockingly slow monotone, until she tells him to stop. “Make up your bloody mind!” he says. Later he’ll halt the show to admonish people chatting on the floor, like a teacher; “don’t let us disturb you!

03

While fresh and different on the surface, The Big Breakfast followed the same old beats as traditional breakfast TV. There’s a clock in the corner, and we’re only ten minutes in before the first cartoon. Three times an hour, they cut to the news and weather. Peter Smith, grey-haired and broad shouldered, perhaps the most dad-like of all newsreaders, sits in front of a lurid background of gradually shifting colours. His sheets of script are yolk-yellow; stories about politics, a train crash, and ending on a pair of dogs who can play the piano. Chris takes us through the day’s papers, with a Sun front page about their own Paula Yates, in trouble for not having a TV licence. The camera swings round, so the cheering crew can wave licences of their own.

As with Noel’s House Party, there’s a strong sense of false anarchy beneath the freckled fist of a ruthless dictator. Phone and fax numbers are repeated like a cult mantra, and each ad break’s preceded with a question, and the sing-along phrase “don’t phone, it’s just for fun!” with verbal castigation for any crew or host who forgets. When a viewer’s fax criticises the show as insulting garbage, Evans blows a raspberry at the camera, with a victorious “Yes! We don’t care!

04

The speed of the show gives a constant sense of impatience in Evans, particularly when dealing with members of the public, either in person or over the phone. One game — Whose Washing Line is it Anyway? — has callers guess the identity of a celebrity via a series of abstract clues. Like all these sections, it’s phenomenally awkward; stilted conversations between a rushed host, and nervous callers, either talking over each other, or both waiting out the pauses. Chris gets huffy when someone doesn’t know the answer, “well, have a guess, then!” or when they’re too slow, “you’ve gotta be quicker, we’re on television.” During a later competition to win a stack of CDs, he tells a Scottish caller to “say och aye,” to which the Scotsman responds with a flat and firm “no.”

Joining Chris and Gaby in the house are a Family of the Week, a mum, dad and two sons from Liverpool. They’re a self-described ‘mad family’, of whom “people think we’re a bit crackers!” However, the mum’s sit-down section with Chris is painful; taking the piss with a bad scouse accent, and quizzing her about living in Aintree. “Do you ever go to the races?” “No.” “Did you go and see Michael Jackson when he played there?” “No.” What’s the family’s politics? She doesn’t like to talk about that, as she doesn’t understand it. As the mad mother meets television’s wacky young jester, he ends up asking whether they have a ticket system in their supermarket delicatessen, or if it’s just random queuing. Riveting stuff. But as always, it’s refreshing to see real people so blasé and unprepared, knowing that any family nowadays would be primed and self-aware, having whitened their teeth and been pre-selected based on their number of Instagram followers.

05

Much of what everyone remembers from The Big Breakfast is in place from the very beginning. Alien puppets Zig and Zag, thrashing about and screaming over each other, give me a headache real quick, as they review a boxing game on the Megadrive; a console which trendy media mogul Chris Evans pronounces as “See-gah.” It’s all so rushed, the player character in the clip has been hastily named AAAA. Paula Yates interviews Joanna Lumley in her weird punk-luvvie style, of gushing compliments and clawing desperately towards smutty euphemisms on a giant bed. As Lumley talks of her hope of travelling to Tibet or India, Yates wonders if it doesn’t bother her, going to places where it’s “very, very primitive.”

Even Mark Lamarr’s first appearance is exactly as early viewers would remember; like he doesn’t want to be there, and might start throwing punches at any moment. He’s at a traffic jam in Leeds, stuffing various cheery weirdos into people’s passenger seats; an elderly accordion player, an opera singer, a laughter-yoga coach in a floppy hat. Not all the public are enthusiastic on giving rides — “no, I don’t know him” — and on the final segment, Lamarr’s forced to leap into the now-moving traffic for a victim. Showbiz gossip segment, Snap, Cackle and Pop, which by the end of the show’s run would be concerning itself with Britney’s love-life, opens with an earnest promotion for Cliff Richard’s latest tour with, as he calls them, “the Shads,” plus a new single featuring a voiceover by Terry Waite.

06

Speaking of things that are hip, Geldof’s played up like a huge star; an unpredictable firebrand, randomly popping round corners or from behind chairs with his big smelly hair. He debuts by interviewing Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, then in trouble with the tabloids for putting his arm around the Queen. For someone sold as a puckish wildman, with his segment signalled by a crashing guitar riff and monochrome freeze-frame of him in cool shades where his name’s spelled wrong, Geldof is a dry, boring interviewer, eating up five minutes of his wacky “anything can happen!” show with a tedious chat about diplomatic protocol.

07

But when it comes to jarring tone shifts, there’s frightful TV magic in the interview with a women only-days released from prison for her husband’s murder, which is markedly free from off-camera “waheys!” Gaby muddles the lady through a harrowing description of domestic violence, told with a borderline incomprehensible combination of nerves, heavy-accented broken English, and an almost completely-lost voice. It’s likely the only time during The Big Breakfast‘s run in which Gaby would casually ask “so, you then set fire to him, didn’t you?” Cut back to Chris, for a ‘helmet’ double entendre as he cues up a Blackadder clip.

Undoubtedly the oddest inclusion into this shrieking funhouse is a pre-recorded piece which you simply must allow me to cover in the detail it requires. The debut People’s Report, self-shot with a consumer-grade camcorder, features a middle-class old doctor; the director of public health for the Hull Public Authority; in what initially seems like a quickie joke satirising consumer shows, as he sternly tells us that more people should use hard toilet paper. But then it keeps going, in the morning’s longest segment by some distance. Soft toilet paper, you see, leads to dysentery, because it will “contaminate the wiping hand.” If you’re wondering ‘is some aul fella talking about getting shit on your hands?’ then yes, he is. In fact, he demonstrates as much, using a bottle of ink and a dirty finger. “The time has come to act!” he says, with his modern mission taking him to the streets to interrogate random, embarrassed people about how they clean their shitty anuses.

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For one mousy woman with huge glasses, soft toilet paper “is more absorbent. I get wet hands with hard,” inviting us to eat our breakfasts while picturing her getting piss on herself. Next, the doctor’s sat on the bog (fully clothed), explaining how visitors to his home are encouraged to combine one sheet of soft and one sheet of hard paper, before he’s off to test this in echoey public toilets. Stood by a row of urinals, he hands the soft-hard prototype to a confused-looking man, who takes it in a cubicle for a tryout. Thankfully it cuts to the flush and we don’t hear him shitting, but the doc’s there with a mic as soon as the door opens, asking for the verdict. “It’s fairly soft, and it protects your ‘ands.” Then, he’s talking to three small boys, who he’s also given paper to and told to do a shit while he stands outside the cubicle door with a mic. “Your fingers don’t go through it,” says one lad. Sadly for the doctor, a bigwig in manufacturing tells him his idea is “beyond current toilet paper technology,” so it’s either sore holes or pooey thumbs for the rest of us. Now, as described, you might be picturing this as an ironic skit with a wry smile. Nope. The launch of this radical new show curiously chose to devote a chunk of airtime to a po-faced segment about people getting feces on their hands when they wipe their arses.

08b

Even in this long dissection, I don’t have space to recant every myriad segment of an incredibly busy two hours, but must note a scene where Chris interviews a woman called Virginia Cheeseman and ‘Alf the hissing Cockroach’, plus a terribly cheap piece of television with a competition expert, suggesting contests viewers might like to enter. Her big tip is a competition from a nappy firm, “and all the answers are given in the leaflet, so it’s not difficult,” before giving out the address of a firm that prints tie-breaker slogan cheat books. Just in case it somehow slipped your mind which decade this is, the first Big Breakfast goes off air with the breaking news of an MP’s resignation, as Chris Evans suggests “the entire cast of Eldorado resign, and take up acting maybe!

09

The Big Breakfast was an immediate success, doubling the viewers of Channel 4 Daily in its first week, and in its heyday, bringing in two million viewers, and 40% of Channel 4’s entire advertising revenue. Evans, having grown too big for the show, left in 1994, while Roslin’s departure followed in ’96, with Evans announcing on the radio, for a definitely-very-funny joke, that his former co-host was leaving because she was pregnant.

Following the original pair’s exit, there was an unsettled and revolving cast, initially taking in Paul Ross, Zoe Ball, Richard Orford, and Neighbours actor, Mark Little. Mark Lamarr left in ’96, replaced on Down Your Doorstep by Keith Chegwin, whose new role served to permanently reinvent him from has-been punchline into ironic ‘legend’. Yates was gone by ’95, after leaving Geldof for Michael Hutchence, in a scene which played out publicly, following an on-the-bed interview with such simmering sexual tension, they probably had to use the flopping husks of Zig and Zag to mop up the sheets. Vanessa Feltz took Yates’ place on the bed, but was replaced with Sara Cox after a sexed-up relaunch, tipping a plate of beans over the producer in response.

Flailing under its constantly shifting presenters, 1996 saw a fated relaunch with Sharron Davies and Rick Adams, boasting all the chemistry of a locked and darkened room. But as it hit the mid 90s, inevitably the show moved away from its kitsch beginnings to embrace the lad culture which was infecting everything, revelling in its own obnoxiousness with segments like Wet Bikini Birthdays, where a bikini-clad Jo Guest — whose very name incites horny cries of “Schwing! Schwing, schwing!” from the crew — is doused by buckets of water, as a giggling Cheggers dashes to cover her accidentally-exposed nipples; and all at ten-past-seven in the morning.

10

This cultural period of fratty laddishness is what finally allowed for a combination of presenters that wouldn’t just stick, but usher in the biggest boom period since 1992. Denise van Outen and Johnny Vaughan were a perfect fit for the times; the Essex Girl and the Wideboy. With smutty banter and a sense they might be copping off with each other during the ads, the double-act were an enormous hit with viewers and critics. But by ’98, van Outen was gone (though she’d later return for another year in 2000), and the story of her replacement is the purest capsule of 90s Britain, with Melanie Sykes, Gail Porter and Caprice all losing out to Kelly Brook. However, Brook, then only twenty, lasted a mere six months, under heavy tabloid speculation that she struggled with the autocue, and that longer words had to be written out phonetically.

By 2001, the show was in trouble again. Ratings had fallen by 50% over the last five years, and a stand-off with C4, who refused to increase Vaughan’s fee, had resulted in him quitting, with Richard Bacon taking the chair. The bad feeling over Vaughan’s departure, coupled with poor ratings — by the end, barely doing 250,000 viewers; sliding under the 400,000 of Channel 4 Daily — led to The Big Breakfast‘s cancellation, after almost five-thousand hours of television.

11

The final episode, airing on 29th March, 2002, is a nightmarish ride through the eight levels of Hell, extended to 3 exhausting hours. They’re selling it, not as a cancellation or ending, but an early 10th birthday party, with a raucous end-of-term atmosphere. Presenters Richard Bacon and Amanda Byram are virtually lost in a sea of glitter and balloons, hooting crew and minor celebrities. Ralf Little’s there. So’s Richard Whiteley, Tamer Hassan and Linda Lusardi. There are Page 3 girls in bikinis, and half a dozen dwarves dressed as Christmas elves.

11b

From the opening second, the almost-fatally hyperactive Bacon’s bouncing off the walls, excitedly pointing out famous faces. Look, there’s Vanessa Feltz! There’s Penny from Big Brother — “she doesn’t look like a man anymore!” He bursts out of the patio doors revealing a huge crowd of 500 cheering fans crammed in the garden, before thrusting the mic at a woman who doesn’t want to be on camera. At 7:08am, twitchy Bacon knocks over a vase, before going over the day’s papers, held aloft by guests. Danny Dyer brandishes The Sun‘s front-page about underpaid foreign workers in care homes, headlined as THE SLAVE NURSES. “Sounds kinky!” says Byram. Bacon runs through his topical gags, announcing then-17-year-old Prince Harry, suffering with glandular fever, “has a sexually transmitted disease!” Harry’s got painful joints — “not again… don’t put the lit end in your mouth!” and Hollywood legend Billy Wilder has died — “Director of ‘Some Like it Hot’… some like him cold!

12

Little seems to remain from the first episode, beyond the desperate need to be madcap. A decade on, newsreader Peter Smith’s gone, with the super glam Jasmine Lowson in his place. The headlines are a portrait of a depressingly changeless world; suicide bombings, missing girls, and a sausage dog that’s dressed like Ali G. I’m not saying they’ve sexed things up in the intervening years, but she closes the weather by promising “the south will get it in the mouth” from regular showers. Zig and Zag, who left the show in ’98, make their return, to ask Jon Culshaw what Tony Blair would say about all this. Satan, grant me the strength to make it through the next 2 ¾ hours.

Keith Chegwin’s final section sees him out and about in Stevenage, trying to bury a Big Breakfast time capsule in someone’s back garden. Christ, I hope Richard Bacon’s going in. Cheggers’ voice is fading, running madly to knock on a random door with that classic Noel Edmonds air of “Oh, God, it’s all going wrong on live TV!” when nobody answers. Eventually, he cajoles a neighbour downstairs; an old fella in a dressing down who’s unenthused when Cheggers gives it the big sell, asking “will the council allow it?” At the burial site, he chats with a woman who’s genuinely traumatised, in floods of tears because the BB is ending. “It just won’t be the same in the mornin’,” she says, wiping her eyes.

13

Keith mentions it’s his first time in lovely Stevenage, until the mayor reminds him he switched on the Christmas lights a few months earlier, while at the burial, he announces they’re in Peterborough, before correcting himself. He then drops a badge in the time capsule with “we’re putting a pride of… er, um, [cough] [panicking handflap] STEVENAGE badge in there!” It’s clear the assembled public, including the mayor, house owners, and certainly the sobbing woman, believed the time capsule would be a proper thing; a future tourist attraction of great cultural importance; and seem baffled as they’re made to fill it with a wig, a plastic lobster, and a piece of sellotape with Chegwin’s tummy hairs on it. As it’s lowered into the hole, a(nother) dwarf dressed like Napoleon plays the Last Post on a little horn. Incredibly, the upset woman appears to be deeply moved, shoulders shaking and blubbing away.

Throughout, there are bitter asides to the other, more boring shows that’ll be left in the wake of their departure; “the dark side,” and “the news and snooze.” They ask callers if they’ll be watching these dreary lesser horrors; “oh, definitely,” they all say, misunderstanding the question. An outside broadcast sees Mike ‘Squeaky’ McClean, an oily-haired jack the lad type, delivering The Big Breakfast‘s enormous twenty-foot garden gnome to a new home. In a defiant twist, they dump it outside the Channel 4 building, amended with a pair of fingers flicking the vees at their old bosses. Tee hee. Various video messages drop in, from such celebrity well-wishers as Atomic Kitten and Samantha Mumba, plus the present-day Republican Dad Squad of Mel Gibson, Twitter moron James Woods, and Jon Voight, who warns “when you get to my age, people can think you’re losing it!Uh huh. All it’s missing is a cheery goodbye from Savile.

14

With footage from the 2,481 previous episodes at their disposal, there’s surprisingly little harking back to past glories, barring a section where viewers vote to choose between VHS tapes of purported best bits, with labels like ‘Hollyoaks Hotties‘ and ‘Chris Eats Turd‘. The latter, showcasing Evans in full enfant terrible attention-seeking mode, appalling an archaeologist by chewing on a 1,500-year-old fossilised poo, inexplicably loses to a clip of Denise van Outen confessing to nicking some tissues from Buckingham Palace. Still, if you want to watch Chris Evans eat shit, just look at the ratings for all his big television comebacks over the last decade.

Though there’s a prevailing sense of contrived disorder, the ‘no teachers, no rules’ vibe often threatens to genuinely spill over. Gary Beadle from Eastenders spends his time in the wings doing ‘funny’ heckling, with Bacon telling him to shut up, leading to a back-and-forth which goes from jokey to genuine annoyance. Possibly that’s who he’s addressing later, with an oddly-parental warning of “honestly, man, you’ll be escorted off the floor in a minute.” When Amanda runs out to greet the fans, she lets out a pained “ow!” as a man behind the railing gropes her, with a shocked “he just squeezed my boob!” as everyone laughs like it’s hilarious.

15

Because it’s 2002, there’s the added wildcard element of Johnny Vegas, seen at the height of his ‘drunkenly hijacking every show’ period, slurring and yelling, and barging into shot to interrupt whatever’s going on. At the time, this seemed funny and anarchic, but in hindsight, it feels like depressing enabling. We go to a break with the foghorn irritant trying to induce birth in a heavily pregnant woman by screaming up her vagina. Later, geed up by the audience chanting his name, Vegas tears off his shirt like Hulk Hogan, demanding producers not cut to the ads as, like a child showing you a handstand — “watch this, watch this!” — he runs full-force into the crowd to ‘stage dive’, knocking over bystanders like bowling pins, while the presenters stand open-mouthed. It’s unclear if the pregnant woman was among them, but she’s never referred to again. As a live performance by the So Solid Crew is put on hold while they wait for vocalist Megaman to arrive, he’s stupidly given a megaphone to freestyle a rap, shouting the line “you’re like a black boy, but you’re white,” before it’s hurriedly taken off him. It’s here that Vegas disappears for an hour, presumably either removed, or collapsed face-down on the floor of some luridly coloured cottage room.

15b

It all feels like the series of random visions you see when you die, if you’ve been particularly bad; say, committed a holocaust or stood on a dog’s foot. Lisa Rogers points out the World’s Smallest Man, who’s stood outside with a flag stuck down his back, because “he’s a trip hazard, and we don’t wanna be tripping over him.” Later, Richard Bacon gets him to do a handstand. Richard Whiteley’s spun around ten times, and sent across an assault course with two trays of tea. Fashion designer Wayne Hemingway is embarrassed by old photos, Noel’s House Party style. Jon Culshaw’s asked, again and again, what George Bush would say; what Tom Baker would say; and all the voices are the same. Elderly clockwork radio inventor Trevor Baylis touches Johnny Vaughan’s arm, inciting a jokey yet aggressive “don’t touch me up!” Byram asks a caller if they’re doing anything as electric as they are at the Big Breakfast, nonsensically suggesting they “go and play with a kettle.” On and on it goes, and I’m sorry, Lord, so sorry for what I have done.

16

Like the quiz call-ins, the most awkward sections are any interaction with a civilian; bags of nerves waiting to be cued for their stilted soundbites, in segments under the gun of an unseen producer screaming in the presenter’s earpiece. Here, Lisa Rogers introduces some “completely bonkers” past guests in a wildly disastrous section. There are men with terrible back tattoos — Irish band the Coors and Buffy for one; a full Star Trek piece for another, with the perplexing choice of Scott Bakula’s forgotten captain across his chest — and a ten-year-old boy, born on the day The Big Breakfast launched. Face stern and arms folded, he refuses her offer of a balloon, or indeed, to present more than monosyllabic grunts. She chides him for not speaking, moving on to some fuckin’ nerd playing air guitar, who ends up on his back on the grass, and though he’s nowhere near her skirt, Rogers clasps her crotch, shrieking “Zac just saw my fanny! Look at the smile on his face!” 1992’s very first Family of the Week are there, with the younger brother aghast when Rogers chats to the others, and blows right past him like he’s not there. Finally, two little boys are given five seconds to perform ukuleles, but one stands frozen. “Brilliant!” she says, “just as bonkers as ever!

It’s all so relentlessly loud and fast, I feel a hundred years old, but at 9:16am, they drop the pretence, taking down the 10th birthday banner to reveal a solemn black sign reading ‘IT’S THE LAST SHOW EVER‘. From here, it’s tribute time, as a now-bearded Evans reminisces in the LA sunshine about his “temper tantrums,” highlighted by a clip of him taking a snowball to the face and storming off — “there’s no need for that.” Tellingly, Gaby says she’ll not have a bad word against Chris, “no matter what anyone says.” Oh, and what’s everyone saying? Conversely, he says she was wonderful, but “one of the biggest prudes I’ve ever met, she’s actually cold, she’s so frigid!” I guess she wasn’t a fan of him constantly getting his dick out? This is illustrated with a clip of Gaby straight-up fellating a glowing lolly under a blanket.

17

Pointedly, a bunch of presenters get no mention, with zero footage of Kelly Brook, Sharon Davies, Rick Adams, Lily Savage, and others who’re written out of history, possibly to make room for the celebration of legendary broadcaster, Paul Ross. He’s shown here at his best, with clips of him missing the birth of his daughter by being on air, and marching unannounced into an admittedly-filthy living room at 7am, berating the dressing-gown clad owner for living in “a slut’s den!” Evans and Vaughan bemoan C4 killing off such a strong brand, though clips of the latter’s boorish sex-banter with van Outen, and Evans admitting he used to fall off his chair on purpose, make you glad to see the back of it. Sadly, they don’t show that old bloke going on about people’s shitty fingers.

18

In the last fifteen minutes, the emotion kicks in, with a wobbly-voiced Bacon reading a lengthy, and absurdly genuine letter of thanks from Prince Charles, who I’m sure loved all Johnny Vaughan’s “I’ve got a cock up my end!” shite. Our future king speaks on the “immense pity when an institution fades,” perhaps with a sideways glance at his immortal mother. Then, with an audible “Oh my God!” as Johnny Vegas staggers into shot with a pint glass, The Big Breakfast‘s final moments manifest as a berserk End of Days carnival. The sky darkens with confetti, as Gabriel’s Trumpet comes in a dirge of party blowers and a marching band, and hundreds of people lose their minds. A frenzied Richard Bacon, now half-animal, leads a damned conga line out of the garden, followed by guests, crew, and someone dressed like a medieval king in trainers, holding a confused dog in the air. One presumes the Crying Woman of Stevenage is disembowelling herself in the throes of a dread ecstasy. With a final wave, it’s over, with that trope of a camera moving through the cottage, now empty, and haunted by the ghosts of old soundbites. Some say you could even hear one yourself. Switch off your TV and stare quietly at the blank screen, and there, on the winds… do you hear it? A plaintive, distant call from the spectre of our past — “Wahey!

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, 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.

~ by Stuart on July 26, 2019.

2 Responses to “First and Last: The Big Breakfast”

  1. […] last we saw Chris Evans, he’d been wahey-ing all over the Big Breakfast cottage, before growing too big for the show, both in fame and ego, and leaving to pursue solo ventures. […]

  2. […] the midst of this, Johnny Vaughan was hot off a run on The Big Breakfast, and though his acting work was limited to its dire comedy skits, the BBC greenlit a sitcom, which […]

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