G&TV: Craig Charles on All Star Squares (1999) featured image

Welcome to Season 2 of G&TV, our monthly trawl through the world’s television archives for any interesting Red Dwarf-related nuggets. Following our accidental break, we return with an exciting adventure in internet archaeology.

Thanks to his ubiquity on our screens at certain points during the 90s, a large number of the videos we come across involve Craig Charles popping up in unexpected places, either as the host of a one-off programme, or a guest on an established show. This month, we bring you the latter, but in an unexpected twist, it’s the short-lived Australian version of a much-travelled format.

Originally Hollywood Squares in the States, and better known as Celebrity Squares in the UK, this is All Star Squares, the noughts-and-crosses based game show in which a 3×3 grid of television personalities give blatantly pre-scripted answers to trivia questions, and contestants have to decide whether they agree or disagree with the celeb in order to win their square.

There are several interesting things about this, not least of which is how it was discovered (by G&T reader Paul Hughes), but we’ll come to that after the show…

Firstly, it’s interesting to see Craig’s celebrity status in other countries – he’s introduced as the star of Red Dwarf, so presumably enough Aussies knew what that was in 1999, especially as he’s in the coveted centre square, traditionally reserved for the most prestigious guest. Due to the nature of the format, his contributions are few and far between, but feature jokes about hen parties and Liam Gallagher, along with a bit of material about aliens making their way to Earth and crashing, which I’m sure was used in The Log and/or Craig’s stand-up videos.

The show is what it is, but what’s perhaps most interesting is that this upload includes all the presentation and ad breaks from the original transmission on Channel Seven. Aussies will no doubt feel the pang of nostalgia as they relive the ads and trailers, but there’s still much to enjoy for the rest of us, my favourites being the ad with the seductive voice-over boasting “this… is soup in a pouch”, and the Butterfield-esque effort for DIRECT SHOE WAREHOUSE.

But perhaps the most surprising moment comes during a teaser for that evening’s news bulletin, trailing a feature on a “young modelling sensation” called… Ivanka Trump.

Alt text? Alt-Right text more like.

It’s a slippery slope from young modelling sensation to being complicit in inciting a fascist coup attempt on behalf of your dad. Consider this a warning from history.

Speaking of which, let’s get back to how we became aware of Craig’s appearance on this show. Many years ago, Craig Charles had a website. At some point before 2004, it went offline, and remained that way for around sixteen years… until 2020, when it mysteriously came back, at its original URL, exactly as it was as of 15th January 2001, a week shy of exactly twenty years ago.

We don’t know why, or who’s behind it, and frankly it’s a bit spooky, but nevertheless an absolutely fascinating artefact of turn-of-the-century web design, complete with tiled backgrounds, tiny gifs for navigation and a wildly inconsistent style guide that varies from page to page. It’s well worth exploring – it was buried within one of the Q&A pages, for instance, that reader Paul Hughes found details of the All Star Squares appearance, along with the not too surprising news that Craig was “a bit bored at times” on the show.

Obviously the Red Dwarf page is of particular interest, with the latest status at the time being that they were “having a rest” after Series VIII, but “looking forward to doing the film”. Aw, those were the days. The awful, soul-destroying days. Still, there was also a competition to win a copy of the Series VII Byte Three video, for the type of fan dedicated enough to buy the first two Bytes themselves but not dedicated enough to complete the set out of their own pocket. Other highlights include Craig writing with genuine enthusiasm about Robot Wars, a quite awful jokes page, and of course the photo gallery.

The preservation and archiving of digital media is a subject I’ve banged on about before, with vast swathes of popular culture disappearing due to the web being seen as an ephemeral medium, in the same way that radio and television used to be. Naturally, I’m therefore delighted to see a site like this back online, but wary that it could disappear again at any moment. So in the manner of someone running back into a burning house to rescue a treasured heirloom, we want to preserve the following pictures for all posterity, just in case.

7 comments on “G&TV: Craig Charles on All Star Squares (1999)

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  • > it was discovered (by G&T reader Paul Hughes)

    It is I *pointlessly raises spectacles*, le clem.

    One of my favourite things about this is the little sting at 23:29. That’s Numberwang!

  • I’ve got a sudden urge to buy a TechnoGas washing machine and Sofa + sofa bed deal combo from Fantastic Furniture.

  • The Australian youtube channel Mr Sunday Movies/The Weekly Planet has dropped quite a few Red Dwarf references over the years, although the guy has explicitly said he’s not going to make a video on it. I’ve been waiting such a long time for that information to become relevant enough to share, this may be my only chance.

    But really, Craig’s old website is seriously creeping me out. I don’t know why! Maybe it’s reminding me of an unhappy time in my life? Is anyone else having this reverse-nostalgia?

    Actually, clem, that sting you pointed out has cheered me right up. It’s just so completely Numberwang, what the hell.

  • https://robotwars.fandom.com/wiki/Robot_Wars:_The_Third_Wars/Controversy

    Crikey, that was quite a read!

    For posterity, this is the context for those photos:
    “Dressing room pictures from my gig in Worcester
    Featuring a very well known actor I caught trying to sneek in on me!
    Yes Robert, you ‘WILL’ stay and watch my show!
    Well if the gun didn’t work, these sure will.
    They are Calvin Klein by the way, when the elastic goes, it spells CACK!
    I reckon Davey should get a bullet for taking these pictures.
    Finally, here’s one of Rob before I put him to work. He very kindly agreed at very short notice, to do the voice over for Mr Willy (part of my act). I showed my thanks by allowing him to take a round of applause on stage. I even got him to do the Kryten walk, which went down very well with the audience.
    Well it’s Redhill in Surrey next, so another set of photos to follow shortly.”

    (‘Next page here’ on the photo gallery pages put me in mind of ‘Next slide please’ – 2020 has addled my brain.)

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