G&TV: Funky Bunker Quickies Posted by Ian Symes on 12th July 2023, 09:11 As discussed in our recent Channel Hopping article, there was a brief period in early 1997 when Craig Charles had three different programmes on air, across three different channels, every Friday night. I’d assume we’re all familiar with BBC2’s Red Dwarf VII, while Channel 4’s Captain Butler is still inexplicably available in full on demand. But what of the other, much more obscure offering, late night ITV’s Funky Bunker? Usually starting so late at night it would conclude in the early hours of the following morning, it was a chat show/variety show hybrid in the short-lived genre of post-pub television, ie disposal entertainment, designed to be consumed exclusively whilst drunkenly picking through a kebab, to fill the silence and distract from the growing sense of existential dread. But was it any good? Well, here’s a random full episode on YouTube (no way of knowing the date, for some reason I can’t find any comprehensive episode guides online), so let’s see what the show’s got to offer. Brace yourself. We start with some patented Craig Charles stand-up about the National Lottery, confirming beyond doubt that we’re in the 1990s, before being transported back a couple of decades with the very scantily-clad all-female dance troupe The Funky Feathers. They’re dancing to Shake a Tail Feather, and the camerawork leaves little to the imagination. The three minute duration provides a tricky but not impossible challenge for the drunken male audience in those pre-broadband days. Next up, a random clip from Withnail & I, to set up a premium rate phone-in competition that charges callers 50p per minute. Note that it doesn’t tell you how many minutes you’d be expected to stay on the line; there’s a shocking lack of terms and conditions compared to modern day telly in Britain, where the guidelines are very clear following a series of scandals in the 2000s. The first interviewee is comedian Rowland Rivron, and the chat is stilted at best; it’s fair to say that Craig’s skills as a presenter have improved dramatically in the intervening years, to the point where he’s now one of the BBC’s most respected music hosts. We then get a comedy sketch from Doctor Destiny, a Mystic Meg parody played by Russell Bell. A long term collaborator with Craig, Russell “co-“wrote The Log along with Craig’s stand-up shows, and his influence may be greater than we previously realised – look at the way he signs off here, with a kiss of the fingers which then point upwards. Craig wouldn’t start presenting Robot Wars until over a year and a half later. Before the break, there’s just time for music from unsigned band The Rhythm Conspiracy. They remained unsigned. Incidentally, it’s always appreciated when YouTube uploaders leave the ad breaks in – as a result, we actually get two main Red Dwarf stars in one video here. The second part opens with a truly despicable stunt, which I sincerely hope was staged with actors, because if it’s genuine then it’s possibly illegal. Two audience members are challenged to swap clothes whilst blindfolded within two minutes, in exchange for £50. They’re taken behind an opaque blue curtain, which then drops away as soon as the blindfolds are on, so that the cameras can see them undressing without their knowledge or consent. Say what you like about Ofcom, but sometimes when you watch TV from the before times, their strict codes of practice don’t seem so bad. The cringe continues with the next item, standup from Adger Brown, whose act seems ridiculously old-fashioned in an era where alternative comedians had all but eradicated the old club comics from the television circuit over a decade ago. It’s not just the sexist undercurrent to most of the material, it’s also the delivery style, the format of the jokes, and even falling back on pre-scripted heckler putdowns, in response to an audience member barely even heckling. The worst, or possibly best, moment comes when Craig starts moving on to the next item, but Adger doesn’t realise, and so carries on with his routine regardless. Neither presenter or gallery make any further attempt to move on, so they just kind of let him bumble along until he runs out of breath. After a brief clip of an anime in which a man is repeatedly shot in the arse, there’s another number from The Rhythm Conspiracy before Adger is back for a little interview. Hilariously, Craig opens by referring back to the failed ending and berating Adger for being sexist. A reminder that the show opened with a load of women in their pants wiggling their arses at the camera for three minutes. Adger takes the opportunity to complain about political correctness and how you can’t say anything these days. Those days now being 26 years ago. After a second ad break, the show kind of fizzles out in the third part, which has a much lower energy level than the rest of the show. There’s another couple of comedy characters – one a man with a cod French accent and a Man United kit called Derek Cantona, and one called Abdul Fez who I think might be Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer, but I’m not sure. These are interspersed with two further interviewees: author Nicholas Blincoe talking about drugs and stuff, and gossip journalist David Wigg giving us such insights as Timothy Dalton preferring jeans to suits, and Nicole Kidman being taller than Tom Cruise. Craig signs off the show with an “awooga”, albeit slightly too early, leaving an awkward few seconds of silence before the credits kick in. The programme is “produced in association with” The Smeg Corporation, which by the looks of things was a short-lived operation of Craig’s, and nothing to do with electrical goods. Overall, it’s hard to imagine a bunker with a stranger atmosphere outside of 1945 Berlin, and the show did not get a second series. However, they did have another go in 2004 with Weapons of Mass Distraction, another late night ITV chat show hosted by Craig, which also failed to get a second series. Ah well.