Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Funny Fortnight - Pop along to Popadoodledandy

One thing about Funny Fortnight on Channel 4 apart from piloting new shows, is that the channel has had a delve into the deep recesses of the archives to pull out some shows not seen since broadcast. An example of this is the Clive Anderson Talks Back special featuring Peter Cook, which is always welcome in my book. But all the remember able programmes there are also some curious shows forgotten about but not by groups of fans and comedy lovers in general. 

Two examples of this have to come from Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, the first being The Weekenders and the second, well somewhat of an odd programme really. Now Channel Four has always had a tradition of music shows from the serious to pop as well, though what was filmed in 1993 straddled both pop and entertainment as well. The Tube did endevour to do this with the alternative comedians of the day filming and taking part in sketches and skits for the programme. But it had been a good five years since The Tube had finished, plus other shows had tried to combine the two, though never to much success.

Though at that time something had happened to link comedy and pop together, not since the days of the novelity songs of the 1970's. Rather then playing it for laughs, Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff along with Bob Mortimer had scored a number one single with Dizzy. No parody was involved, this was a straight pure piece of pop without comedy within it. Some people may have said that comedy was the new rock and all, but this proved 100% when a comedian could get to the top of the charts with a song not played for laughs, the first one since Ken Dodd in the 1960's.

Combine all these events together and you get 1993's Vic and Bob's Popadoodledandy, filmed by Reeves and Mortimer it was to be like no pop/entertainment show seen since. A unbroadcast pilot until being shown as part of Funny Fortnight, this was fresh and never seen before, But the influences could be seen from another show of its ilk. 

Right from the title sequence where both Reeves and Mortimer's feet are tapping it looks like a conventional show, up until where Vic is tapping the blunt back of an axe on his palm. This can be taken as they want to smash up the convention of the pop show entirely or it could just be Vic tapping the blunt side of an axe onto his palm, who knows... But as soon as they start singing a song, you know that it'll be alright...

Now what does every good pop show need? A group of dancers to accompany the music or the acts, with Strawberry Tarts you get this. Playing off the idea of Legs and Co., Hot Gossip etc allows for Vic and Bob to concentrate on the jokes and their performance doing a pay off about the size of their respective horns before the CUD band come on to perform. Which sets us off on the music side of things until Vic comes in to interview the band, usually which means a dull three minutes until the host says "Well, that's great! Over to you Nicki!"

But this is Vic Reeves interviews the band about who's the best in the band all the way through to their National Insurance contributions the band pay and if they would put their hand deep into manure to retrieve a loved one's sentimental broche. The lead singer's confused bewilderment says it all, in a good way he doesn't know what's coming next and the confusion is evident is but once they cotton on to the joke. The laughter itself is natural much like the crew laughter on the Kenny Everett Thames shows, slightly wondering but eventually getting the joke meaning the singer and the lead guitarist even perform the pay off where the lead singer gets show in the foot by Keith Richards. Bizarre, yes... Surreal, definitely...

In every twist and turn, the music is the key thing of the show but Vic and Bob are they to offer either their take on the song just played or their just incept it with a quickie joke, with so much of the music video it can be difficult to actually destinguise between what is part of the video itself and what maybe joke. But by using that method, the whole thing blends together seamlessly with the comedy. 

The sketch featuring 'Rick Wakeman' and 'Brian Eno' takes the essence of the performers and puts it into a form which allows the the bubble which would surround them to be popped. Though its the essence which is taken by Reeves and Mortimer and transformed into something wonderful, pretty much like Reeves own drawings come to life. But not grotesque, but twisted at a new angle to allow to be believable that Wakeman and Eno would be great friends, reflecting on their own friendship some what. Though its the musicality which allows Vic and Bob to improvise a song for Wakeman and Eno to sing reflecting their musical characters and let them be seen in a comic light and with a twist.

As Part Two starts, the surrealism continues with the title writing in white is on a black background. Though just about its can be made out that it is superimposed over a bottom, a very Reeves and Mortimer thing to do it seems. But as the first act of the second half begins, it becomes clear this is no ordinary bottom at all... When it pans out and starts to dance, it is one of the first ever television appearence by Martine McCutcheon in her band of that time 'Milan' . Now in talking to Martine and her bandmates, the strange interviews continue with first Bob offering the band Cider and then Vic riding in on a bicycle.  Live and Kicking, this isn't...

With a slight not quite knowing what is going on look, the band are trying to interact with Vic and Bob, surprisingly its not Martine who is the one who sort of understands what is going on but her bandmates instead. Though when you are used to the types of questions usually asked on other shows, Vic Reeves asking you to feel his muscles or punch him in the stomach must be a relief or when Martine does punch him in the stomach, she does punch him in the stomach! Proving that when even playing it for laughs, comedy can be dangerous especially when the punishment is dealt out by future Eastenders actresses...

Meanwhile, we learn about how Erasure got to together thanks to Vic's wonderful drawings and also strange but funny story of how Vince and Andy got together with pay off that the beast under the hospital developed into Clive James and how Hazel O'Connor got rid of a mattress out of her front garden as well in the subsiquent pop news as well. 

Overall, this is a rare slice of Vic and Bob and it can be seen what they were trying to do with the programme, maybe with people being so used to seeing them performing sketches meant they over looked the potential for the pilot to go to series. By no means their best work, but just seeing it leaves the taste of wanting more. Considering what other music shows which were around in 1993, this could have easily fitted late night on Channel Four or even overnight on ITV. Both places where big audiences would not be, but to have a loyal audience which would have grown over time to become like a secret club with the people in it knew they were getting something special from it weekly. 

For those who knew Vic and Bob from Big Night Out and latterly The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer the humour comes as no surprise, though it is surprising that the acts on the show didn't at least to try and check what they were about before appearing. Much like the world of pop music, there's some who bget it and others don't quite know, wheither it was down the bookers wanting to promote the music in Milan's case, but its is a tasty slice of something different and refreshing as such.

Where as Kenny Everett's Thames shows took the same line, a clean, crisp and uncluttered approach can help itself by allowing flow to happen. But actually I could have seen if it did do to a series that the producers would have at least tried to persuade Everett to come on as a guest, by having the man who orginated that style of music/entertainment show would have focused people on what this show was about in style and content.

Sadly, we will never know the the answer to both those thoughts. But as a one-off, in the high paced world of music channels and videos, it serves as a feast for the eyes and surely you wouldn't let it lie in the archives for more then seventeen years next time Channel Four?

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