You could barely move in the 1970s and 80s without seeing or hearing Noel Edmonds. He'd been hugely successful on Radio 1 and that involved regular appearances on Top of the Pops.' All that led to Multi Coloured Swap Shop on Saturday's mornings and onwards to the Saturday night spot.
Initially he presented The Late Late Breakfast Show and The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow and in 1991 it morphed into Noel's House Party running until 1999. At one stage, a senior corporation executive at the BBC said he considered the show to be the most important one on the channel. In many ways he was right as the shows high ratings grabbed the viewers and they stayed there for the rest of the evening.
Noel's House Party was set in a fictional house in the wonderfully named village of Crinkley Bottom, cue dirty joke. The strength of the show wasn't in the quality of the jokes that is for sure but every week viewers would see several appearances by celebrities and a series of features that they would grow to love, though the show was hardly brimming with original ideas. Then again future hit shows such as Ant and Dec's Saturday Takeaway owe a massive amount to the format of Noel's House Party.
The arrival of celebrities such as Vicki Michelle, Tony Blackburn and anyone with a single or show to promote would be at the door with some corny joke as they played local characters. There was even the return of Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer. Gunge was a major part of this show but was just an adult version of what we'd seen in Crackerjack and Tiswas. Celebrities being gunged delighted the viewers who got their own chance to get messy in the 'Number Cruncher' game.
Hidden cameras had provided entertainment since the days of Candid Camera but again introducing a celebrity element got big ratings. They included an endless quiz on the Dave Lee Travis show or Lionel Blair being heckled during a play on Bournemouth pier. The hidden cameras weren't always aimed at celebrities, NTV surprised viewers who were watching the show at home. Oh, for an episode when they'd got bored and switched channels. The moment when the viewer is surprised often proved far more interesting than the rest of the segment and on one occasion, a woman just ran out the room and never returned.
In 1992, the Gotcha's also introduced us to the character of Mister Blobby who would drive celebrities such as Wayne Sleep crazy as he wrecked shows. His popularity grew and grew and in 1993 helped the show win a BAFTA for Best Light Entertainment show. The pink with yellow spots Blobby even got a number one hit record.
Other regular features included Wait Till I Get You Home, using children to embarrass parents with their answers. Each show would end with Grab a Grand with viewers having the chance to win cash with the help of yet more celebrities who had to catch banknotes that were blown around a Perspex box, think the final game in The Crystal Maze and you're not far off.
As the series progressed and the bid to keep the show fresh began, the ideas got crazier and crazier. The Big Pork Pie saw a member of the audience surprised and of course they had some kind of embarrassing secret. They ended up in the middle of a pork pie and given a lie detector, rumours Jeremy Kyle was a regular viewer of this cannot be confirmed. The last show of each series was always a highlight as the tables were turned on Edmonds and he ended up becoming the victim of surprises and the inevitable gunging
By 1996 the ratings were starting to drop from the days when 15 million would tune in and the show reached the stage when only 8 million were watching. There were attempts to breathe new life into it, but budget cuts led to argument after argument with Edmonds who claimed the show was of a "poor standard and cobbled together" though it was hardly Shakespeare to begin with. The series finally ended in 1999 after 169 episodes but it's left a huge mark on Saturday night television, even winning a 2010 award for the Best Saturday Night TV show ever.
Published on January 14th, 2019. Written by Steve Ashfield (2018) for Television Heaven.