Scrapheap Challenge

Scrapheap Challenge is another one of those shows that seemed to be on air just as I was hitting the right age for it. It’s also another one of those programme that does exactly what’s on the tin.

In this case the challenge was to build some sort of device, weapon or contraption using scrap found in the scrapyard.

Robert Llewellyn standing on some scrap.

Two teams went head to head to compete in a competition of some sorts. For example building an amphibious vehicle. The winner then went on towards the finals.

Each team had someone who could be considered an expert, usually some kind of engineer and then two others from a more mundane walk of life.

After initially planning out their ideas, helpfully illustrated for us with some graphics the teams then split to head off on quad bikes to find what they think they need from the scrapheap.

In almost every episode someone would find something not on their list that they think will be really useful that they return to their teammates enthusiastically only to find blank expressions.

The hosts. Robert never lost his enthusiasm.

Presented by Robert Llewlyn (better known as Kryten in Red Dwarf) who seems to hold endless enthusiasm for everything going on. He was joined originally by Cathy Rogers who was actually an executive at RDF who made the programme, in later series Lisa Rogers (no relation) replaced her.

The show also made it over to America but they prefer to call their scrapheap Junkyards and their challenges Wars.

The Big Breakfast Part 4

A big deal was made of the relaunch following the departure of Johnny Vaughn. He went on to work at Capital Radio and BBC Three but would never reach the fame he had on The Big Breakfast.

I remember very well waking up to the first relaunched show. It was all change from start to finish. It was a modern show. The house had once again been drastically altered and there was a team of three presenters.

It was a shaddow of its former self and once again didnt prove enough of a draw to justify the changes. I certainly wasn’t fussed with it and by now would prefer to sleep in rather than wake up to watch a mediocre TV show.

The house looked nice enough but these three weren’t much cop.

I watched on and off as the programme began to metamorphosised back into a clone of the original. There seemed to be many more presenting partnerships at this point but the humour seemed a bit more vulgar and strained.

The final show was three hours long but I watched on VHS eventually. Getting up in the mornings was no longer something I liked doing. I was at the end of my school career and my whole routine had changed, yes I loved a lay-in.

The right setting but by this point the show was limping on.

But The Big Breakfast was something special, the kind of show that wouldn’t work thesedays and possibly will be forgotten about but it changed as I changed and for me will be remembered as entertainment in the days when I had time on my hands in the early mornings.

The Big Breakfast Part 3

Johnny and Denise

Although I’d migrated from watching The Big Breakfast over to watching Children’s BBC as I headed into my teens I started switching onto Channel 4 in the mornings again.

The programme had entered it’s second golden era with new hosts Johnny Vaughn and Denise Van Outen. The format was more or less back to where it started, they didn’t show cartoons and Zig and Zag had gone but there were now more phone-in games.

I still only was able to watch for the first hour or so the show was generally split into segments. There was a daily pundown which was a clever way of doing the newspaper review based on the puns in the headlines.

Johnny and Denise were the perfect TV duo

There were Vital Statistics which in truth weren’t really vital but interested me enough. I had a Vital statistics calendar around the same time which I probably only got because it was TV related at the time that was a big obsession for me.

Then Denise van Outen left. They replaced her with model Kelly Brook, making almost the same mistake as they had with Sharon Davies and going for looks over personality or talent. Fortunately Lisa Tarbuck came to the rescue and her humour style matched Johnny’s (and mine) perfectly.

The show had become my default breakfast viewing and for the Millennium they aired an all night episode, The Biggest Breakfast Ever, which I stayed with for almost all of the night (until the programme over-ran somehow).

Then Lisa left, Johnny planned to leave and Denise came back, it wasn’t quite as good but by no means dreadful. But when Johnny left what would the programme end up like?

It turns out the days of Chris and Gaby had been matched by Johnny and Denise but they would never again reach those heights.

The Big Breakfast Part 2

The Rubbish Relaunch

The Big Breakfast had been going string for a couple of years but my interest in it was starting to fade. Mark Little who was previously in Neighbours and Keith Chegwin had been decent enough hosts but the BBC had started airing kids programmes early.

It wasn’t just me, the audience figures were fading and the programme (and the house) was due for a relaunch. I do remember tuning in and I do remember being really disappointed.

There were new hosts. Rik Adams I vaguely recalled from some not great CBBC science programme. He was a big shot at Nickleodeon and had been tipped to take over Live and Kicking but that didn’t work out.

Sharon Davies was a former Olympic swimmer and then she became one of the Gladiators, Amazon to be precise. As far as I know she had no real presenting experience (it showed) and was presumably there for sex appeal – which explains why the majority of clips from that era on YouTube are ‘Sharon Davies Sexy Tights’ etc.

New hosts Sharon Davies and Rik adams had no chemistry. But Sharon has at least dressed to match the clock.

There was no chemistry between the two. Even I could tell that and I was still in primary school. Rik felt like a hyper kid trying way to hard to be zany and Sharon was definitely not a morning person.

But worse than that the entire house had changed. It no longer really looked like a house I’d recognise. The lounge had a sunken floor with a huge orange sofa and there was a balcony above. The kitchen was much larger and everything was open plan.

They’d got rid of the the very thing that made the Big Breakfast unique and left it looking like an imitation wannabe show. They quickly realised as very quickly things transitioned back to being how they had been before.

The house changed on the outside and the inside too.

It was too late for me though as I had lost interest and begun watching the new Children’s BBC Breakfast Show in the mornings. The weird mix of repeats and Hana-Barbara cartoons was more appealing to me.

The one thing I did like about this era of the show and it was just a very small detail. The titles, graphics, cushions, clipboards even the news background and the on screen clock changed colour everyday.

But such a small novelty wasn’t enough to get anyone to watch. The show rapidly reverted to being what it had been, the floor got filled in and the chairs by the patio doors returned. Soon the show would have a second golden era too.

The Big Breakfast Part 1

The Early Years

The Big Breakfast replaced the Channel 4 Daily, which I watched only for the cartoons. Even though I was still in primary school the appeal of watching The Big Breakfast was much higher.

The programme was aimed at a younger audience overall and was unlike anything else that I had ever seen on television. The entire programme came from a big house that was brightly coloured, anarchic and just generally exciting.

Chris and Gaby hosting the show

The first hour catered more for the young end of the audience with cartoons like Dennis (which had previously featured on The Channel Four Daily) and The Banana Splits – which seemed odd as it was twenty years old plus and just looked odd to my eyes.

The biggest draw to a kid like me was Zig and Zag, two puppet aliens who lived in the bathroom and had a guest with them plus (usually) the main show host Chris Evans. They’d introduce a cartoon and sometimes music videos.

Zig and Zag from Zog

Their strand was The Crunch, because all of the segments had to have some sort of breakfast related pun, showbiz went under the name of Snap, Cackle and Pop.

They also had Down Your Doorstep. Every morning a presenter (they varied but I mostly remember Keith Chegwin) would be somewhere and knock on a random door to wake someone up and usually do some sort of crazy challenge.

Unlike modern shows, there didnt seem to be any sense of rehearsal to this. Genuinely the door seemed to be chosen at random – sometimes unsuccessfully – which added to the sense of chaos.

They never came to my street but they did come to a street not far from where I lived. I would have loved to have gone and seen TV being made up the road from me but sadly it wasn’t on my route to school.

And that was the great thing for me. The Big Breakfast, for the first time gave me as a kid something I could stick on and enjoy before school and after the 6.30am cartoon that Channel 4 used to show. Which kept me quiet before I would set off for school.

My biggest memory comes from when the show was knocked off air for about half an hour. They showed an episode of The Clangers and a ten minute long Big Breakfast news (which came from a proper TV studio rather than a house) – not bad going seeing as they wouldn’t have had much time to prepare for that.

Now you know what it was on 25 years ago..

For me it was the perfect start to my day and if there was any part of it I wasn’t interested in then I would usually put Teletext on and play Bamboozle…

The Priory

Sitting in the 6pm slot on Channel 4 around the turn of the millennium, The Priory would reunite Zoe Ball and Jamie Theakston on screen after their Live and Kicking days.

The show was a slightly anarchic mish-mash of features. A bit like Live and Kicking but aiming at an older audience. Produced by the same company as TFI Friday, in some respects you could consider this a follow up.

There would be guests, I have no memories of any in particular but the usual fair you can expect attempting to plug their teen related shows. There was usually live music at the end and there would be regular features.

One feature I remember would be slightly controversial now, Jamie presented a segment that revisited letters written in to Jim’ll Fixit but ultimately went unfulfilled and the show would then fulfil them. I think there may have been a Jim Didn’t Fix It medal too.

Another, completely random feature was a live link up with broadcasting legend Fred Dineage who I think was live hosting some sort of quiz or game or other pointlessness, his appearance(s) was plain bizarre.

Zoe and Jamie in bed together.

The programme had a Norman Cook/Fatboy Slim theme tune which makes sense as he was topping the charts at the time and was Zoe’s other half.

The Priory will never go down as an iconic bit of broadcasting but it was the kind of TV show you just don’t get thesedays. It was entertaining enough if you were

The Bigger Breakfast

When the summer holidays arrived someone at channel 4 had a genius idea of cashing in on the success of The Big Breakfast but wrapping it around the usual summer kids/teens programmes.

While it was hosted from the usual house and had the same raucous crew the hosts were almost always not from the main programme. Presenters included Mel Sykes, Ben Shepherd, Jose D’arby and Dermot Oleary.

I’m also fairly certain that Ant and Dec hosted it on a few occasions and if I remember correctly they met the writing team that would carry their career forward to new heights. This may also have been the first time they used Ant and Dec rather than PJ and Duncan as their moniker.

The bulk of the morning was filled with programmes including the likes of Saved by the Bell, Pugwalls Summer and the Crystal Maze which were staples of the channel at the time.

Proof that Ant and Dec hosted The Bigger Breakfast.

There were also sometimes programmes new to the channel. I didnt have access to Nickleodeon at the time and the UK comedy-drama Renford Rejects was a favourite of mine at the time.

The show closed in true Big Breakfast fashion with a phone-in competition often involving the big swimming pool at the back of the house.

When the main programme was revamped the Bigger Breakfast was dropped in exchange for the same programmes but under the T4 strand, by then I had slightly outgrown them and had far more to do with my mornings.

But either way The Bigger Breakfast was definitely my choice of summer holiday viewing and was integral to my adolescent school summer break.

Bob and Margaret

Bob and Margaret was an animation about a fairly ordinary British couple. It was an adult cartoon, although you couldn’t call it the British answer to The Simpsons it was an amusing show.

It originated on Channel 4 but also aired on the long-gone Freeview channel FTN. I’m not entirely sure which of the two channels I saw it on first as around the same time as it was on FTN it was also on (very) late on C4.

The premise was that Bob was a dentist and Margaret was his wife their lives were pretty vanilla but usually a few over the top situations would arise. They had no children but in one episode they were looking after someone elses.

This could easily be my house right now.

Another episode saw them taking an elderly relative to see someone’s grave only to find a supermarket built on the graveyard with the tombstones now being lined up along the carpark wall.

The whole series changed when its funding moved from being joint British and Canadian to just being funded by Canada. As a result the couple moved to Canada which made it a bit more quirky – a British couple in Canada.

Overall it was their dynamic as a couple and the mundane situations they found themselves in that made it entertaining and very much relatable. It wasnt laugh out loud funny but still worth a watch.

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