With Noel Edmonds currently commanding his biggest TV audience since his mid-90s heyday on the superb current series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!, now seems an appropriate time to revisit the Saturday night behemoth that was Noel’s House Party. Any Brits aged around 30 and over will need no introduction, but for everyone else: this was a hugely popular live entertainment show, featuring pranks, gunge, celebrity guests, competitions, and a huge amount of involvement by the general public. It’s perhaps most notorious for introducing the world to spoof kids’ TV character Mr Blobby, a hugely divisive figure who was absolutely ubiquitous for a few years, spawning videos, books, a single that reached the coveted Christmas number one spot in 1993, and even an ill-fated theme park.
There’s nothing quite like it on British TV these days, although Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway comes closest. Indeed, fans of that show may recognise a fair number of familiar formats in House Party‘s various regular features. Those segments were, of course, framed with live studio sections, with Noel hosting his various guests in the Great Hall of fictional village Crinkley Bottom. Popular television stars of the time would pop by throughout the show for a scripted comedy chat. For example, Chris Barrie, portraying his most famous character at the time – Gordon Brittas.
You can see a selection of clips here, courtesy of Chris Barrie Fans, but why not treat yourself to a full episode of the show, in which Brittas makes cameos at various points throughout:
Brittas’s main appearance comes just under 19 minutes in, providing a couple of good gags, particularly the one about John Major, and a decent, if slightly out-of-character, punchline. Elsewhere, the show is a huge amount of fun on the whole, although the Big Pork Pie was never the greatest feature, and the Panel Game was a bit hit and miss, enlivened here by a cracker of a gunge tank hit. But the enduring favourites are always good value; there’s a particularly eccentric kid starring in Wait Til I Get You Home, Neil Morrissey turns up as his regular Brummie window cleaner character Sammy The Chamois, Diet Coke and shouting enthusiast John McCririck is the victim of a great Gotcha, Grab A Grand sees Noel surprised by a prank or two himself, and of course, NTV features the return of our favourite leisure centre manager.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I adored Noel’s House Party as a kid, Mr Blobby included – I was one of those who helped the single get to Christmas Number 1. It was the unpredictability and sense of naughtiness that appealed, and it imbued me with a taste for television with a hint of anarchy and a spirit of subversion that persists to this day. Noel Edmonds was and remains a highly skilled, hugely innovative and influential broadcaster. Which makes it even more of a shame that he’s clearly such an insufferably odious prick these days. But as long as he remains one of the few 1970s Radio 1 DJs who can still be featured on TV, his contribution to the medium should be celebrated.
Hat tip to Christopher Wickham, who drew our attention to this clip in his recent article.