Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Clues Are There

Through The Keyhole was always one of my favourite Friday evening programmes. The programme had it all. The wit of Sir David Frost (presenter), a Z-list celebrity panel (almost always featuring Lionel Blair, Eve Pollard and Richard Digance) and an uncomfortable invasion of privacy as Loyd Grossman took us on a secret snoop around the homes of celebrities.

Loyd Grossman has become something of a hero to me over the years. His dry sense of humour made programmes such as this (and Masterchef) all the more watchable. However, if you also add his delicious pasta sauces into the, ahem, mix then you've got a recipe (no more puns, I promise) for success.

Simply mouth-watering, and the sauce isn't bad either.

Of course, Loyd Grossman is also the man who dared to stand up to Christina Aguilera's sex antics during a stay at an Irish hotel. Whilst many of us would either put a pillow over our head to drown out her screams and moans, or go and knock on Christina's door and ask "any room for a small one?", Loyd had the courage to not only complain, but also to glare sternly in the young singer's direction.

That's why Loyd was the perfect man for the job on Through The Keyhole. Each tour of a celebrity's home would begin in the same way. Loyd would stride confidently up the driveway and let himself in. He would casually take off his jacket and hang it on the hat-stand (apparently you simply must have a hat-stand if you're a celebrity). He would then walk around the home, picking up the conveniently placed clues to the owner's identity (usually a garish painting of their hometown or a tacky ornament that they would obviously never own in real-life). And then he would end with those famous words: "Who would live in a house like this? David...it's over to you." That phrase would become a staple of every up-and-coming impressionist's act. Indeed, I do a great Grossman myself - "Ooooooh, Christina....would you kindly desist?"

The fun and games would begin in the studio. The viewers at home would be shown the identity of the home owner (almost always Freddie Starr). Each member of the panel would then have to decipher the clues. If they were on the right track ("I noticed that the owner has a lot of books - could they be an author?"), they would be greeted by clapping and cheering by the audience. If they were wrong ("I noticed that they have a kitchen - could they be a chef?"), they would be met with a deathly silence and tumbleweed blowing across the screen. Plus, Sir David would invariably laugh at them, making them feel even worse.

Eventually, either by skill or (more likely) Sir David telling them the answer, the mystery personality would be revealed. They would then appear in the studio for an interview about their home. This usually involved questions such as, "you have such an outgoing personality, does that explain the picture of a naked woman hanging in your hallway?" Eventually, the guest would be handed the Through The Keyhole Key - a huge foot-long gold key. How the audience laughed when the guest (again, usually Freddie Starr) held the key above their head and joked "this will never fit in my lock!"

It's an afternoon show now, with the lovely Lisa Snowdon instead of Loyd Grosman, but it's still a winning format that manages to convey a warm, comforting atmosphere. A bit like Loyd's pasta sauce, I suppose.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Samantha Fox Has A Very Nice Pair Of...

A lot of fun can be had following the world of the A-list celebrity, but it’s often even more of a buzz to delve into the world of - I'll try to be delicate here - the has-been.

There are many places to view this exciting species in its natural habitat, but none has ever been more pleasurable than an episode of Blankety Blank.

Although Terry Wogan had originally presented the show (with a stick-shaped microphone), I first saw Blankety Blank during the Les Dawson era (still widely regarded as the best). Of course, at the time I was not familiar with Dawson’s work as a comedian but I loved the way in which he made fun of the contestants, participants and prizes (“for the benefit of anybody who hasn’t got an Argos catalogue, here’s some of the rubbish you might be saddled with tonight”), including the consolation prize of a Blankety Blank cheque book and pen. He gave the impression that he hated every minute of the programme, but really it was clear that he was having a whale of a time.

Blankety Blank particularly appealed to me because it was a game show that relied on words and phrases. Funny and educational! Dawson would read out a sentence and a contestant would have to guess which word the celebrities would choose to complete it. For example, if Les said “Tom Cruise is very….” you would probably say “short.” However, the contestants (after lots of tom-foolery from Ray Allan and Lord Charles or the guy who played Brian Tilsley in Coronation Street) would eventually say “over-rated” and you would receive no points. You would then be defeated by your opponent (usually a very jovial vicar) who correctly answered “eyes” in response to “Samantha Fox has a very nice pair of…”

One of my favourite things about Blankety Blank was the theme tune. It took a basic melody and just repeated the title of the show over and over again. A variation was used in the final round (Super Match) where the female singers just sang “super match game, super match game, SUPER MATCH GAME!” over the same tune. It’s my ditty of choice if I ever want to tell L what I’m up to using the medium of song: “Writing a blog, writing a blog, WRITING A BLOG!”

Following Dawson’s sad death, Blankety Blank disappeared for many years before returning with Lily Savage as host. Surprisingly, it was just as good. Savage/Paul O’Grady had a similar attitude to Dawson in that (s)he made fun of the proceedings yet also managed to make the contestants feel perfectly at ease.

And the prizes were still just as bad.

Prawn Cufflinks on eBay

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