Well, you try coming up with a workable pun from the name of Channel Four’s streaming video service. We haven’t even seen Superman II in about fifteen years, we’re taking that reference from the kitchen advert in Newstopia. ANYWAY, much of Channel Four’s archive programming is now available in streaming form, without the need to install a really annoying custom app, or pay for stuff. Here are some of the brilliant things we’ve noticed so far, with links to them. Sorry non-UK people, you may not be able to see the shows in question. Unless you’re adept at using proxy servers.
“You’re so goddamn dopey.” (The Adam & Joe Show)
The Adam & Joe Show, in full. A delight to see again after the compilation VHS and DVD releases. Still hugely enjoyable too, apart from the ‘People Place’ bits in the final series which dragged on a bit. If only Channel Four’s Friday night output could be anywhere near as great as this nowadays.
“Right, we’ve proven that you’re not the television.” (Absolutely)
This hugely underrated sketch show has recently been made available on DVD, and if you’ve an ounce of integrity in your body you’ll either already own it, or have stopped reading this sentence to go and buy it from Play.com. If you’re not already aware of the show, 4OD give all of it away, for free. If only Channel Four’s Friday night output could be anywhere near as great as this nowadays.
“Ladies and Germany.” (Vic Reeves Big Night Out)
Groundbreaking comedy, of course. Commendably, 4OD include the New Year’s Eve special, which was missing from the Big Night Out DVD. It doesn’t seem to include the pop-up Channel Four clock that tells everyone when it’s actually midnight, as – despite the show being on air during the transition from 31/12/1990 to 1/1/1991, it was pre-recorded. We’re not even going to get sniffy about the New Year’s Eve show being incorrectly listed as “Series 2, Episode 9”, when it actually arrived between series’ one and two. If only Channel Four’s Friday night output could be anywhere near as great as this nowadays.
“Japanese Businessman Finds Golf Course in Boot of Car” (Paul Merton: The Series)
While it may have been shown at 11pm on Friday nights, most of this wonderful sketch show would have been equally at home amongst the likes of Marty Feldman at a more reasonable hour during the1970s. That’s not to put the show down, but rather a mark of how good it is, as fresh viewings of the show on 4OD prove. If only Channel Four’s Friday night output could be anywhere near as great as this nowadays.
“Now You’ve Given Me That Firm But Friendly Clip ‘Round Me Lug ‘Ole, I’m A Completely Reformed Character“ (Norbert Smith, A Life)
Maybe this is the nicest find of them all. Unavailable on DVD and not released on VHS since 1991, this one-off show saw Harry Enfield doing everything he does best, playing an elderly actor looking back over his career with the help of Melvyn Bragg. It takes in near-perfect parodies of more genres than you could shake Leslie Halliwell at, detailed in this splendid Wikipedia entry. If only Channel Four’s Friday night output could be anywhere near as great as this nowadays. And yes, we’ve checked, it went out on Friday 3rd November 1989. Pity, we were hoping to go out on a deflation gag.
Many, many Channel Four shows still are missing, though. Possibly due to the fact that loads of C4 output over the years have been through production companies that don’t exist in the same forms any more, meaning that broadcast-quality copies of some of these may not even exist any more. Anyway, here’s a quick wishlist:
The Weekenders: Vic and Bob go off in this Bunch Of Five pilot show. Much better than Catterick turned out to be.
Mr Don and Mr George: Lovely Absolutely spin-off from Docherty and Hunter. “I’m a butler. This is my… buttling bag.”
Arthur and Phil Go Off: Arthur Smith and Phil Nice wax comical in a series of travelogues, including a journey in search of the end of the M1.
Packet Of Three / Packing Them In: Early stand-up showcase, based loosely around the premise of a theatre-based sitcom. Essentially The Muppet Show with less felt and more cock jokes. First series starred Henry Normal, Jenny Eclair and Frank Skinner, the second series with Kevin Eldon and Roger Mann replacing Henry Normal. All a bit uneven, but we’ll like to see it again.
The Management: Proof that Hale & Pace were once good.
Viva Cabaret: Alternative cabaret show that we really liked.
Saturday Zoo: Ill-judged but interesting attempt to remake The Steve Allen Show, with added swearing. Hosted by Jonathan Ross and a series of guest presenters, and featured Steve Coogan’s Paul and Pauline Carr.
The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller: The duo’s attempt to make it big in the UK, including guest appearances from John Cleese, Alexei Sayle, Christopher Reeve and Stephen “No, I want my watch, not that piece of Japanese… shit” Fry. We don’t think this has ever been repeated, mores the pity.
The Groovy Fellas: Jools Holland (as Jools Holland) and Roland Rivron (as a nude alien) travel around Britain and get into scrapes.
Dick Spanner P.I.: Moderately disturbing but relentlessly entertaining animated Network 7 spin-off.
Network 7: Hey, why not?