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.

20 comments on “G&TV: Funky Bunker

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  • As if the name “funky bunker” didn’t already make it sound like some kind of musty old sex dungeon, Craig opens the show by referring to his audience as “spunky funsters.”

    It was a different time.

  • I do enjoy the example of guessing some rando’s entire phone number correctly being more likely than winning the lottery. The lottery is just a tax on desperation and it’s gross.

  • The feminist in me shakes my head at the scantily clad women mooning the audience, but the lesbian in me says “continue.”

  • Craig offering you a chance at 500 pounds right after railing against the lottery is some DELICIOUS irony.

  • Within a minute of starting Craig is talking about how lucky Pamela Anderson’s kid is for getting to suck her tits. I’m not sure I can deal with going any further.

    That’s Oscar Wilde compared to some of the stuff later on.

  • We need a companion to “Chris Barrie has updated his website” called “So Craig Charles said some stupid shit in an old show.”

  • Big announcement next week that we will be becoming a Funky Bunker fan-site in an act to combat criticisms of ‘cultural Marxism’

  • The feminist in me shakes my head at the scantily clad women mooning the audience, but the lesbian in me says “continue.”

    in the 90s, this *was* feminism 

  • What a stupid decade. What has it ever done for me besides produce like 60% of my favorite pop culture?

  • It’s a day for procrasinating.

    Title: The Reckoning of The Funky Bunker


    The crew of the Red Dwarf – LISTER, RIMMER, CAT, and KRYTEN – sit around the console in Starbug’s cockpit. The viewscreen shows an image of Earth from the early 1990s.

    LISTER: (excited) Smegheads, we’ve done it! We’ve landed on Earth, the real Earth!

    RIMMER: (peering at the viewscreen) That’s odd. It looks just like a mediocre episode of ‘I Love Lucy.’

    CAT: (adjusting his mirror) Yeah, and the fashion is so vintage it’s painful!

    KRYTEN: (consulting his databanks) According to my calculations, we’ve arrived in the early 1990s, a time of social and cultural transition.

    LISTER: (nudging KRYTEN) Speaking of which, this is my chance to make things right. I’ve gotta stop myself from creating “The Funky Bunker.”

    RIMMER: (confused) What in the name of Ace Rimmer is “The Funky Bunker”?

    LISTER: (sheepishly) It’s a hideously sexist and misogynistic holovid program I created back in the day. Just an absolute disgrace.

    CAT: (raising an eyebrow) You? Sexist and misogynistic? I’m shocked, buddy.

    LISTER: (serious) I know, Cat. I was young and dumb. But now that I’ve seen the consequences of that kind of thinking, I’ve got to set things right.

    KRYTEN: It’s a noble endeavor, sir. Perhaps you can prevent a cascade of negative effects on society.


    LISTER, dressed in an over-the-top ’90s outfit, stands outside his own apartment door, looking nervous. He takes a deep breath and knocks.

    LISTER: (muttering to himself) C’mon, Dave, you’ve got to convince your younger self to do the right thing.

    The door opens to reveal YOUNGER LISTER, wearing an even more ridiculous outfit and a smug expression.

    YOUNGER LISTER: (smirking) What can I do for ya, mate?

    LISTER: (awkwardly) Uh, hey, it’s, um, me. Dave Lister. From the future. Don’t freak out.

    YOUNGER LISTER: (raising an eyebrow) Right… Future Dave. What’s with the getup?

    LISTER: (clears his throat) Look, I know you’re working on this holovid program called “The Funky Bunker,” but trust me, you’ve got to reconsider.

    YOUNGER LISTER: (defensive) What’s it to ya? It’s just a bit of fun, innit?

    LISTER: (earnestly) Yeah, I thought the same thing back then. But it’s not just fun. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes and contributes to a toxic culture that hurts women. It’s not the legacy you want to leave behind.

    YOUNGER LISTER: (pausing) You’re really from the future, then?

    LISTER: (nodding) Yeah, and I’ve seen the pain it causes. Believe me, you can do better. Create something that brings people together instead of driving them apart.

    YOUNGER LISTER: (looking thoughtful) Alright, I’ll think about it. Thanks, future me.

    LISTER: (smiling) No problem. And one more thing, lay off the hair gel, will ya?


    The crew watches as LISTER returns to Starbug from his mission.

    CAT: So, did you manage to convince yourself to ditch the chauvinistic disaster?

    LISTER: (sighs in relief) Yeah, I think so. At least he seemed open to the idea. Who knows, maybe he’ll create something genuinely cool instead.

    RIMMER: (nodding approvingly) A triumph for personal growth and temporal intervention.

    KRYTEN: It’s heartwarming to witness the evolution of human attitudes, even if it involves some time travel paradoxes.

    CAT: (strutting) Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m off to explore the ’90s fashion scene. Laters!

    As the crew members disperse, LISTER reflects on his encounter with his younger self, hoping that he’s set the course for a better future.

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