Long before Paula Yates invited people On the Bed, Emma Freud was doing the same on Pillow Talk, part of ITV’s late night programming Night Network. And who did she have on the bed in 1987? None other than a certain Chris Barrie, who spends much of the interview looking fairly uncomfortable. They should have just had sex in multiple different positions and had done with it.
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:
As previously established on numerous occasions, this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of 1988. It was a very busy time for so many of our favourite comedy talents, and shortly after the conclusion of the second series of Red Dwarf, Spitting Image preceded its forthcoming fifth series with a 45-minute special, broadcast on 29th October 1988, thirty years ago to this very day.
Of course, Rob and Doug had long since departed to create some sci-fi sitcom thing, but Chris Barrie was very much at the forefront of Bumbledown – The Life and Times of Ronald Reagan, marking and undoubtedly celebrating the end of the incumbent President’s second term – the election to find his replacement took place the following week. Let’s transport ourselves back to the halcyon days when nobody thought that the US could ever elect a worse President than this unintelligent, right-wing, lying celebrity.
Yes, with just hours to spare before this feature loses its increasingly shaky-looking “monthly” status, it’s time for another treat from the televisual archives. We’re going all the way back to very nearly the beginning this time, with an edition of BBC1’s Open Air, a magazine discussion show about television, complete with contributions from viewers at home. This particular edition aired on 23rd February 1988, which you can verify from the reference to, of all things, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics ski-jump later that day.
The more astute of you will have noticed that this edition of Open Air was broadcast the day after Future Echoes first aired, and host Pattie Coldwell is joined by Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Paul Jackson and a semi-functioning skutter to discuss all things Red Dwarf. This hidden gem was recently resurfaced by Red Dwarf fan Chris Toone, and uploaded to YouTube by Chris Barrie Fans:
Ooh look, a new regular feature. Let’s see how long we keep this one up. Once a month or so, we’ll be providing some interesting or obscure Red Dwarf-related viewing, usually something involving the cast and/or crew that we’ve found buried somewhere on YouTube. First up, in authentic slightly-glitchy-VHS quality, an edition of Saturday Live from 15th February 1986 – precisely two years before The End aired – co-produced by Paul Jackson and guest-hosted by Chris Barrie.
As reported seemingly everywhere: Brittas to return?
Well… maybe. In fact, the only thing the story actually confirms is that something is in development. Which is all very well, and matches stuff we’ve heard elsewhere – Chris Barrie’s site, for instance – but this is hardly a guarantee of anything actually making it to air. As ever, it’s slightly bizarre when it’s G&T which has to add a note of caution. BLAME MODERN JOURNALISM.
(What I’m finding odd is this idea there are 53 episodes of Brittas – something both the British Comedy Guide and The Mirror are reporting. There are 52 episodes. As ever, watch incorrect information spread across the media just because nobody could be bothered to look at an episode guide and count the number of episodes.)
On the plus side, the mention Richard Fegen being involved is highly promising. And there’s an interesting parallel here with Red Dwarf X, beyond the obvious. Whatever issues I had with that series, one thing it did was prove you can still have production ambition with audience sitcom.
The return of Brittas could well prove you can still do a pre-watershed sitcom which has a bit of fucking edge to it.
UPDATE (10/07/15): FFS.
It’s been a while since we’ve mentioned next year’s Dimension Jump (in fact, I can’t be fully certain we’ve covered it at all since it was announced, which is our bad) but this week there’s been a veritable flurry of guests being announced (well, two) one of whom is everyone’s ex-Priory resident, Craig Charles.
SFX’s relationship with Red Dwarf has been up and down over the years, but in recent years they’ve been treating the show very well, devoting a good amount of space to preview Back To Earth (not to mention the special cover created for the show). The November edition (November? You stupid fuckers) carries a substantial four page interview with Chris, Craig and Robert and it’s really very pleasant indeed. Edited highlights follow, but I also encourage you to buy the mag when it’s released on Wednesday, if for no other reason than to keep SFX’s lawyers off my substantial arse.
I’d always assumed that Red Dwarf associate (or should that be “exec“?) producer Andrew Ellard spent his entire life immersed in the show, even when it wasn’t being made. I’ve always had this picture of him sitting at his desk, watching the DVDs over and over again, occasionally having a chat with Doug, and just counting down the days until Friday so that he could post news items on the official site.
But it turns out that no. That perception is a good few years out of date. Because Andrew actually has an entire non-Dwarfy CAREER as a writer and somewhat renowned script editor, a career that’s just yielded a radio sitcom pilot that you can download for free RIGHT NOW.