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Spitting Image (1984)
See the funny side.
All satire bites. Of course this series was vituperative. Most, if not all humour is at the expense of somebody else. So what better targets can there be for humour than the rich, famous and powerful? The other reviewer who expressed his disgust at a programme that could mock a certain baby should take this into consideration: any child born into the family of Windsor will be one of the most privileged and pampered people in the world from the very first day of its life. "Spitting Image" was not evil. It didn't stigmatize the large numbers unemployed, force the poll tax on people, starve public services of cash. It didn't widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. It simply provided satire. If one doesn't like "Spitting Image" then one won't like any good satire at all. The series also launched the careers of many of this country's most popular comic actors. The puppets, mannerisms and voices were spot on. The 80s and early 90s were a very difficult time for a lot of people in the UK. "Spitting Image" was a fine example of how we were able to laugh at ourselves and this crazy world we live in.
A tribute to one of Britain's best-loved entertainers.
Many of us are too young to remember Harry Secombe in his prime. The younger generation remember him as the elderly man who presented religious programmes. To watch this programme is to be reminded what an effervescent and treasured talent he was in the 1950s and 1960s. He is remembered fondly by his celebrity friends (a talented bunch themselves) and the archive clips include images of the young Secombe, recordings from the groundbreaking radio comedy "The Goon Show" which brought him fame and a selection of his film and variety appearances.
He's a guy you'll either love or hate!
I don't suppose anybody in the States has heard of Mr Clarkson. Well, in short, you could describe him as somebody who is hated by virtually everyone over here, and yet enigmatically, he is rarely out of work. He sets out to be controversial, outspoken and often downright rude. This show, broadcast on minority channel BBC2, masqueraded as a celebrity chat show but was actually a vehicle for the right wing bloke with the perm who appeared on it every week. Although I don't agree with him on a lot of issues, he is quite funny (and Top Gear is much poorer without his unique style). Some memorable moments from this short-lived show included his interview with film director and like-minded soul Michael Winner and his attacks on Mel Gibson and caravanners.
Face to Face (1959)
The only genuinely heavyweight British chat show.
Terry Wogan once said that people weren't interested in watching interviewees get a hard time on television. Well they were during the 1960s, as this chat show proved. Interviewer John Freeman wasn't exactly the most gentle host - his technique was to probe and interrogate his subject. In one notorious show, he caused Gilbert Harding to cry. But unlike the modern trend for shows which encourage confrontation in a very banal and even lewd way, Freeman's angle was a measured and intellectual one with the objective of producing truth and insight into character, rather than the trite entertainment of more recent times.
Michael Parkinson is often hailed as the best interviewer in British chat show history. I can't help but feel that this show has been sadly forgotten about, and that John Freeman's technique was destined to be adopted by future political interviewers, while chat shows in general became increasingly banal, flummery celebrity floss.
Entertaining trip through time.
Ardal O'Hanlon makes a suitably witty host for this television special, broadcast on Channel 4. It counts down the top 100 television characters to have been featured on British television over the years, as voted by viewers. As well as Ardal's humorous introductions, there are contributions by actors, writers and producers who brought them to our screens, plus comments by journalists, television celebrities and fans. A very long program, but a thoroughly enjoyable and nostalgic remembrance of dramatic, comic and biographical television creations.
Hilarious quiz show.
Hosted by the flamboyant Jonathan Ross, this is light entertainment at its best. Team captains Phil Jupitus and Julian Clary are each joined by two popular television celebrities every week and the teams battle against each other for points. Ross shows them clips and asks them questions about the medium that brought them all fame - television.
Have I Got News for You (1990)
The show the politicians fear.
Actor Angus Deayton, satirist Ian Hislop and comedian Paul Merton make a very formidable trio on this weekly quiz show. Each week they are joined by guests, with appearances by such people as Paula Yates, John Simpson and Tom Baker being particularly memorable. I don't know what Americans would make of it, because you have to be familiar with British celebrities and British news to understand it. Nevertheless, there is endless humour and it's a delight to watch the regulars score points against each other every episode. The format could go on forever but it wouldn't be the same without Deayton, Hislop and Merton.
Classic chat show.
Hosted by the amiable Terry Wogan, this series took over from Parkinson as the BBC's top chat show. Terry spoke to stars from all over the world and attracted massive regular audiences. Wogan certainly provides the only rival to Parkinson when it comes to the greatest British talk show.