Owt Good On, Mam? – When Game Shows Had The Horn


[previous Owt Good Ons: The Three L’sBear Special]

As a terribly repressed figure, bloated with shame and self-loathing, it’s with some trepidation I must wade into the suspiciously-sticky waters of — where else? — the nineties, when telly got thirsty AF. ITV already had form with the Margi Clarke fronted Good Sex Guide, which found an incredible 13 million viewers in 1993, and in ’96, they took that randiness and made a quiz out of it, in the form of Carnal Knowledge.

This is the Mr. and Mrs. deal, with couples answering questions about each other, only, all the questions are about nobbing. This old spin on the format had previously cropped up as segments in shows like The Word, but as an entire series, with the only conceivable willing viewers drunk and/or visibly purple with sexual frustration, its natural home was the Friday night post-pub wank hour. No full episodes are available, with just a partial on the worst quality VHS rip I’ve ever witnessed, scarred with enormous tracking lines depressingly suggestive of multiple rewatches.


Our hosts are Graham Norton and Maria McErlane; the latter familiar in the grot-slot as narrator of Eurotrash, with both shows produced by Rapido TV. Filling the role Robert Llewellyn took in the pilot, shot three long years earlier for Channel 4, this is Norton’s first big TV gig, airing a week before his debut in Father Ted. Like all these 90’s shows which revelled in their extremely grown-up hedonism, in 2022, it’s embarrassingly naff, from opening credits where stick figures shake the fig leaves off their genitals under calypso music, to Maria’s intro of “welcome to 50 minutes of full frontal group sex with jelly wrestling nuns!” That was how everyone talked about sex back then; Angus Deayton’s voice describing “a very hot night involving rubber gloves, an industrial strength tub of Utterly Butterly, and a German midget!” Truthfully, the moment anyone in 1995 got an erection, they reported themselves to the police for obscenity.

The thing which immediately stands out is Norton’s not doing the “EEEHHM” noise which has sat at the end of his every line for the last 20 years. You know the one. Jo Brand does it too, as does its biggest proponent, Dara O’Briain. There’s that old saying, ‘to err is human, to ERRRR is O’Briain.’ Perhaps less experienced with live audiences, Norton’s yet to pick up that verbal tick, which, as explained by Stewart Lee, functions as subliminally flattering the audience into thinking they got the joke early, and their laughter cuts off an additional line. It throws me to not hear it, conditioned to expect an EEEEHM each time he speaks, and leaving me like someone who used to clear landmines, watching my kids at the sports day sack race and flinching from bangs which never come.


For maximum confusion in remembering who’s the boy and who’s the girl when reading back my notes, couples competing are Landa and Linden, and Kerrie and Sarah, with Kerrie a big fella with a ginger goatee, who’s “known Sarah since she was 11.” Don’t panic, they’re about the same age, and got together when she went to his flat for a meal and “we had a food fight and I flung her in the shower.” Yeah, sounding dodgy again, as she had to wear his clothes, which are really big “and then we had a fight and they fell off, and she didn’t go home for 4 days.” Always good when your meet-cute anecdote sounds like an alibi made up in a panic. “I swear, officer, she chucked a trifle at me, and then…”

Also, Kerrie likes Sarah because she’s petit — “I like small women” — and has a fantasy about her and her sister, who he’s been trying to get round for a threesome, and this is all fine. Sarah’s most attracted to the way Kerrie speaks; yeah like when he’s on TV saying he wants you to scissor your blood sibling while he fucks his hand in the corner; a real oldschool charmer, a proper Nigel Havers. It makes Linden’s confession of liking Landa’s “breasts” positively virginal. Norton is unbearable here, using dreadful 90’s sex phrases like “bedroom aerobics” and “romantic romps,” and his role is to profile the couples, delivering bad puns over photos of them. Photos like this (FYI they are both white).


First round is a Family Fortunes style “we asked 100 people,” delivered by Maria from a chair shaped like a fat nob and bollocks, and framed in front of a vulvic archway. The answers are a grim portrait of 90’s British sexuality, with the first question, “what do you do if you can’t cum?” cutting to horrible vox pops in the street. “If I can cum, I’m in luck!” says a man in a flat cap. “Panic,” giggles a young woman. “Go harder!” says a man as his girlfriend laughs. “More sex,” she adds, “loads more sex!” Wahey! Top answer was “to laugh,” which makes sense considering sex of that era was a tawdry sitcom with parping noises and beds breaking from too much of the old rumpy-bonky. A silly willy getting hard and all slime coming out of the end? Brilliant!

Plus, there’s another bloke who looks like Peter Sutcliffe, and the show’s so old, one of the questions is “what is dogging?” which Norton has to explain, complete with joke about turning the interior lights on, “giving a whole new meaning to pay and display!” EEEHHM! And on the subject of men fantasising while in the bath, he quips they’ll “frighten their rubber ducks while playing hide-the-loofah,” which I swear, is a line you could use to ascertain the time period more accurately than carbon dating.


Round two’s the Kama Sutra game, where (fully-clothed) couples are given positions to wrangle into under a sheet on the floor — “just step over the wet patch!” — as Graham Norton says witticisms while peeking beneath and laughing like a man choking on his dinner. For the Mr. and Mrs. part, the women describe their partner’s nobs. Landa goes with “large, crinkly, hairy,” and is that not Bungle off Rainbow? Linden’s view of his own differs slightly, with “big, thick, very hard, definitely clean, but a lethal weapon,” while Kerrie describes his junk as “bulbous, thick of girth, nobbly bit underneath (I’d get that checked, mate), hard and clean.” Note that both men, not suspiciously at all, point out their penises are clean, which is very much not the action of men whose dicks have wobbly stink lines coming off. My ‘MY DICK DOESN’T STINK’ t-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by the shirt, etc.

When it’s the lads’ turn to describe their ladies, Kerrie’s clearly seething Sarah didn’t say his was like the Eiffel Tower (having gone with “of mediocre size”), and opens by joking she’s “riddled with cellulite.” Other questions include “which sexual act have the women refused to do?” (Kerrie answering “up the jacksie” and sighing mournfully), and the conundrum “you can have your dream home, but only if he shags his ex.” Worst of all, they have the girlfriends guess which of four women in the audience their blokes would most like to sleep with, resulting in Landa’s “number three, because he likes pretty girls,” while the others are stood right there.


In a show riddled with terribly-aged moments, nothing quite dates it like the What’s My Line round, trying to guess a mystery guest’s “bizarre connection to sex.” It turns out, the middle-aged, unassuming Ken is from “a society which is obsessed with bottoms.” Aren’t we all, mate? Ken’s club is called The Just Botty Spanking Society, and he only ever refers to female arse as such; “the botty,” appreciative of “all its moods… moving, making noises.” And as we’ve previously seen in our trawls through the 90s, big arses were to be spurned and sneered at back then — we’re liberated sensual explorers, but bums don’t even have nipples; what’s the point in that?!

Some 18 years before twerking made it into the English Dictionary, they’re confused and aghast by Ken’s bizarre fetish, debating it for ages, trying to wrap their heads around purposely touching or looking at a bottom, asking “do you get pleasure from looking at it jiggle?!” like Ken told them he wanks over pictures of coal. Praise be, the tape runs out before the final, so we’ll never know who won, and fittingly, it cuts off with Graham Norton saying the scores stand “very erect” before laughing at his own joke. But this is the game show equivalent of coquettishly holding hands in the park on a third date compared to Sky One’s Prickly Heat.

A show I previously described as “It’s a Knockout as devised by Wayne Lineker,Prickly Heat began its run in 1999, in a period full of Ibiza-based early-reality shows, with drunken lads and lasses sticking out their tongues and waving pale buttocks at the camera. The boozy, debauched image of 18-30s holidays slotted perfectly into the Lads Mags era, when stuff like the image below was perfectly fine and normal.


Fittingly, coming off a successful run of early morning innuendo with Johnny Vaughan on The Big Breakfast, van Outen’s our host, having taken over from Davina McCall, who moved on after Prickly Heat‘s first of three series. Incredibly, Britbox have yet to pick it up, so we’re left with just two incomplete and selectively edited rips on YouTube. You know exactly where you stand from the titles; a concussion-speed highlight reel of alcohol tipping into open mouths and swimwear-clad boobs being vigorously shaken. A woman rides a patio chair like she’s trying to fuck it to death; a man gets stripped of his towel as van Outen lowers her sunglasses for a better look, with an expression that says “check out the farter on him!” The theme tune’s a thumping chant of “AA-AA-AA, OOH-WEE-OOH-WEE OOH!” reminiscent of drunken lads in the street at chucking out time, yelling “OI OI, SAVELOY!” at you while one of them has intercourse with a postbox.


Shot on a scorching beach in Magaluf, all four home countries battle it out in teams of eight — four men, four women — each nation’s very best at grotty shagging games. Introduced in VTs, they frolic on the sand to Music to Watch Girls By or Mambo No. 5; girls in tiny bikinis, boys in posing pouches. Arses are taken out (control yourself, Ken), boobs are jiggled, then everyone rolls round in a big wet pile. It’s so lengthy and gratuitous, I could hear the tuts of Mary Whitehouse’s ghost all the way from Hell. Co-host Julian Clary goes off hunting down two missing players, but all the ‘reality’ bits of hangovers and who’s fingering who at the hotel have been edited from the video, along with pre and post-game interviews and intros, robbing us of any context. Containing nothing but the actual games definitively marks this down as someone’s tug-tape.


Indeed, each game’s devised solely for obvious pervy reasons; to make tits bounce or fall out of tops; to make contestants grope each other, or to put them in positions — on all fours or frantically bouncing up and down — where viewers may think “I bet that’s what they look like when they’re doing it!” The first round’s a filthy demonstration of this, having them ride the juice from grapes through slits of a garden chair as the camera leers like a pervert. A knocker escapes as van Outen commentates “Kelly’s ‘aving trouble with her bits,” and the lads fill each other’s speedos with grapes, in a grim portend of the haemorrhoids they’ll suffer later in life as a result of this. A watching crowd of twentysomethings pump their arms to the Vengaboys, as van Outen observes “great gushes of juice oozing out of Ibbie’s trunks; well I do hope it’s all juice!

DvO’s commentary seems like she’s worried Julian fucking Clary is too subtle, with choice cuts like “it’s all about how much sausage our contestants can stuff in their mouths in five seconds; I bet i’d be good at this!” and asserting that female contestants “spend most of their nights legs akimbo!” As they bomb down a water slide with modelling balloons, she suggests “these girls have all had experience manipulating men, and normally with much less to work with, know what I mean?!” What, that their penises were less than two feet long? Yeah, I think I get it.


The next round is a… spy assault course? How to even describe this without sounding like I’m filling out an eyewitness report for Operation Yewtree? The men are dressed in a tuxedo/speedo combo, and mix a blue cocktail as James Bond music plays. Nearby girls are covered in cream, with a secret code hidden somewhere on their bodies, and wince as the lads merrily bat away at their tits like cats at a bathroom light. The code opens a safe containing a bikini, passed to another girl laying naked under an upturned paddling pool, which she has to get into before it’s tipped over with a see-saw, exposing her nakedness. One of the fellas has a peek when he chucks in the bikini — “the cheeky devil’s havin’ a look!” — while the cameraman gets right in too, for a shot of a bare back as she ties the top on. From there, it’s a getaway on space hoppers along wet tarpaulin, designed to make contestants slip for more ‘accidental’ exposure, and the race is won by hopping in a bed and getting off with each other.

Then it’s onto a “pub crawl” which puts everyone on hands and knees with a tray of sloshing glasses strapped to their backs. A pair of holidaymakers are the obstacles, with wet girls crawling over a middle-aged man, beer-soaked boobs first, while van Outen cackles “getcha leg over!” The men navigate the same chap in a manner she describes as “the homophobic approach,” backs arched, crotches well out of the way. But funnily, they traverse the woman very slowly, belly-down like a snake, and leading with the hog. Any games which focus purely on male contestants are victim to a savage edit, with our archivist not so keen on the boring non-titty stuff, and using his free hand to hit pause. Kept all the bits where teams scrub oil off each other under the shower, mind.


The rounds seem endless, involving various shite; stashing dead fish down their pants; crawling over a giant inflatable sausage while holding a saveloy they have to gobble down like a delicious phallus, as Julian Clary phones it in with lines like “you’ve had worse.” The sausage crawling’s filmed from underneath, Put ‘Em On The Glass style, and when yet another girl’s knockers pop out, the producers must’ve been livid — “That’s the last thing we wanted to happen! We can’t show that!” Then Denise goes on about how giant sausages dried up in the heat will give a girl friction burns, as one of the contestants pukes a half-digested saveloy onto the sand.

Much of the ‘games’ would probably count as sex if you were telling a mate what you got up to on holiday, like filling each other’s trunks (front and back) with the various contents of a British breakfast — sausage, tomato, scrambled eggs — before waddling off like that documentary about the man with elephantiasis of the bollocks. There’s an enormous amount of lengthy genital groping, with everyone getting right in there, and in a snippet of post-match interview, a Scottish girl laughs about wiping her team-mate’s bum, before he jokes “I’ve not got a sausage in my pocket!” and waves a semi-turgid crotch into the lens for a lingering close-up of his blood-filled william.


If there is a highlight, it’s the Scottish ice cream man bought into judge a wankfest where the men slaver the women with cream, jelly and custard, groping and wobbling their jugs as they’re garnished with chocolate sprinkles, which he does with a plain-faced earnesty — “this team seem tae have got the layers correct.” When we get a look at the scoreboard, Scotland have 1,000 points to England’s 25,000, so presumably a single point was given every time something absolutely fucking appealing happened. As a bloke with Jambo from Hollyoaks hair dives under a duvet with a girl and Denise asks if she can join, with a “three in the bed, and the little one said, ‘mmmmm!’” the tape suddenly ends. There is another 12 minute section on YouTube where, amazingly, one of the contestants is Alex Jones from The One Show, but I can’t put myself through it. After all this, I shall be petitioning Number 10 to start putting bromide in the water supply, like they did with soldiers’ cups of tea, so that no British man or woman ever becomes horny again.

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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~ by Stuart on April 10, 2022.

4 Responses to “Owt Good On, Mam? – When Game Shows Had The Horn”

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