Monday 26 November 2012

What Saturday Needs

Just finished reading The Encyclopedia of Classic Saturday Night Telly by Jack Kibble-White and Steve Williams
(Amazon link)

Great book, appealing to my nerdy needs for useless information and trivia.
A series of essays/comment about the programmes that occupied the Saturday Night TV schedules, covering everything from the Classic to the Codswallop, the Memorable to the Forgettable.
Seemingly, the high point of Classic Saturday Night Telly came in the mid-to-late 1970s/early 1980s.
The schedules were an endless stream of Talent Shows (should that be written as "Talent"?), Variety shows, drama series and inoffensive family based game shows.  The Saturday night schedules now are much the same covering all the same basic components.  But there is one thing missing from the entertainment smorgasbord served up on a Saturday - There is no Madhouse.
Daft sketches and puns, silly characters and corny jokes - now that is what you want on a Saturday evening (well, I do anyway).

Mention 'Madhouse' and one name is synonymous with the concept - Russ Abbot

Russ Abbot started as a drummer in comedy band The Black Abbots.  They released a couple of singles in the 1970s and signed with a major label in 1977, releasing a single live album before disbanding in 1980.
Russ Abbot had already appeared in Freddie Starrs Variety Madhouse in 1979, and in 1980 he got his own Madhouse.
This show allowed him to exploit his talent for silliness, producing a cavalcade of comedy characters (including: Cooperman (and Blunder Woman), Jimmy McJimmy, Barratt Holmes and Basildon Bond).
Assisted by a supporting cast including: Les Dennis, Dustin Gee, Susie Blake, Jeffrey Holland and Bella Emberg.

Of all the characters on show, the most memorable was Basildon Bond (he had letters after his name).

Point One: Much like Tommy Cooper, he just looks funny to start with
Point Two: The secretary in the sketches was named Miss Funnyfanny
Point Three: The Parody didn't end with the name, he also appeared in films with titles such as 'Dr Yes' and 'The Man With The Golden Labrador', and was usually fighting against his nemesis Luke Bakenanger (it's a silly name, but it makes me smile).

Luke Bakenanger: "Have you ever been caught by your adversaries?"
Basildon Bond: "I had a bit of trouble with some barbed wire once"

OK - it's not so funny when written down, but I promise it will raise a smile.

As with most Saturday Night Variety/Comedy shows of the time, there was always the musical number.  Either it would be a great pop star/group of the Day (Grace Kennedy?  Manhattan Transfer? Guys & Dolls? Gerard Kenny?), or would be a parody performed by the cast.
Russ Abbott's Madhouse went down the latter route and gave us songs by:
Julio Doubleglazius (inspiration for Steve Coogan's Toni Ferrino?), The Four Bottoms, The Neverly Brothers, Vince Prince (a generic Teddy Boy Rock n Roller performing "And Then She Kicked Me"), The Bleach Boys and The Spanners (below).

What Saturday Night needs is a TV show which is heavy on puns, daftness, bad impressions (I'm looking at you Les Dennis & Dustin Gee) and just plain silly characters.

So, please can we have a Madhouse on Saturday Night?
Second thoughts, what we'll probably end up with is Ant & Dec's Saturday Madhouse.
A programme helmed buy the two miniature Geordies, introducing an endless stream of celebrity non-entities trying to be funny.

The shows aren't available on DVD (at least, not legitimately anyway), but YouTube is a veritable treasure trove of Madhouse moments - if you're stuck for five minutes and fancy a giggle just type "Russ Abbot" into the search box - you (probably) won't be disappointed.

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