Saturday, 5 December 2009

BrokenTV’s Top 100 Television Shows Of The 00s: Part 4

imageEagle-eyed readers will have noticed we failed to update the rundown yesterday. As punishment, we’ve compiled a double update, taking in numbers eighty to sixty-one. Additionally, we’ve just given ourselves a Chinese burn. Ow.


Going out live after ITV’s matches from Euro 2000, the first series of this show made for very interesting viewing. No plan, just Frank and Dave being witty on a couch? Count us in. As the series progressed, especially once it had become pre-recorded, it became a bit less essential, but for ITV to take the risk of showing it in the first place it deserves to be here.

Notable moment: During the live Comic Relief mini-episode of the show in 2005, Frank pointed out “now we’re going to see a film about some of the work Comic Relief does. Aw, I always hate those, they always ruin the mood”, thereby making a point everyone had been thinking for years but had been too polite to say out loud.


    Moffat-penned Saturday night horror. How could it fail? Well, it did try at times, most notably when Hyde (played by Jimmy Nesbitt wearing slightly scary contact lenses and slightly mad hair) turned back into Jekyll (played by Jimmy Nesbitt without the slightly scary contact lenses and with slighly less mad hair), causing any witnesses to wonder aloud “hey, who are you? And where did that scary maniac disappear to?”

Maybe we’re being a little harsh. Jekyll was a great little show. It’s available at a laughably cheap price on DVD, too. Check it out. (If nothing else, you doing so would make us feel a bit better about skimming over this entry somewhat.)

imageYeah, we know. It’s full of self-obsessed idiots, only idiots watch it, we don’t watch it in our house, et-bloody-cetera. Despite all of the received opinion on the show – and we’d love to know what percentage of people who love to complain about the show have actually watched it – there has been a lot to like about Big Brother over the last decade. While people would generally concentrate on the more disagreeable participants – Nasty Nick, Jade, Charley, Ziggy, or bigot-tits herself Danielle Lloyd – they tend to skip over the people who were in the majority (at least until the slightly more desperate later series when the ratings began to slip), the ones you’d probably taken an instant dislike to at the start, and ended up liking once they were able to be themselves.

It’s as if in this short attention span era, the most disagreeable thing about Big Brother is the way we’d need to watch it for at least eight hours each week to decide whether we should be hating these people or not. After all, who’s got the time for that? Luckily of course, we’ve got the tabloids to tell us who to hate. “PAGE ONE EXCLUSIVE: BB MEL IN EVIL RACIST OUTBURST, BURN HER! BURN THE WITCH! Page six: Muslims are evil and are taking over Britain.” You know the drill.


While we’ll admit we stopped watching Deal Or No Deal a long, long time ago, we still admire DOND(UK) for sticking with its rather lo-fi approach, especially when compared to the bombastic American and Australian versions. We could go into it in more depth, but instead we’ll point you towards this superb Bothers Bar review of the show from 2005.


One of the most underrated sitcoms of the decade, we’d say. World Of Pub was a great programme with a wonderful premise. Each episode would start and end in much the same way. Pub landlord Barry (Phil Cornwell), working alongside his idiot brother Garry (Peter Serafinowicz), would bemoan the lack of customers in his boozer. Regular barfly Dodgy Phil (Kevin Eldon) would come up with a plan to improve the fortunes of the pub. The plan would be hatched, carried out, events would ensue, and the pub would be destroyed in the final scene. Every week. It’s hard not to love a sitcom with that premise, frankly.


Yes, yes. It might have merely been a clip show, the new material the duo performed wasn’t very good, and a few of the chosen archive sketches turned out to be a little disappointing and all that, but it was brilliant to see them back together one last time, wasn’t it? Additionally, it was nice to see Ronnie B and Ronnie C modestly offer the lion’s share of credit for their favourite skits to the writers.

See also: The Smith & Jones Sketchbook, suggesting this might have been a become a new strand for bygone double acts (and hopefully not just a repeat of the revolving door approach to the hosts of Commercial Breakdown). That turned out not to be the case, cruelly depriving the nation of The Lee & Herring Sketchbook.


While we might not be big fans of David Letterman, we’ve got to admit his production company Worldwide Pants sure knows how to find gold. Case in point – The Knights Of Prosperity, a sadly short-lived ABC comedy following a bunch of misfits who come up with a plan to rob Mick Jagger, and other celebrities once Plan A inevitably goes awry.

It’s often said that the best formula for comedy is to base it on “the idiot who knows nothing, and the idiot who knows everything”. ‘Knights…‘ took things a step further, being based on one idiot who knows everything, and five other idiots of varying intelligence. For a programme where the premise is based entirely on stupidity, the writing was remarkably tight, with the episodes being expertly plotted and deftly scripted. Sadly, it wasn’t enough of a hit with viewers. and after being messed around with by the network (it was cancelled after nine episodes, rescued, then cancelled again two episodes later), ended up with just thirteen episodes in the can.


The first animated show on the list, Frisky Dingo was something we’d describe as – if you threatened to kill our family - Superman meets Seinfeld. The central plot (at least for the first season) revolved around megalomaniacal supervillain Killface and his super-heroic nemesis Awesome X, but the main humour came from the demented turns each episode could – but wouldn’t always - take. The entire first episode revolves around Killface meeting with the marketing team he’d just kidnapped, exploring how best to publicise his plan of crashing the Earth into the Sun.  The entire second episode saw Xander Crews (narcissistic alter ego of Awesome X) pondering how he can avoid hanging up his cape, in order to avoid running the corporation he’d inherited.

As the series progresses, the plot flits between the mundane and the ridiculous. One episode sees Killface finally activating his Annihilatrix - it malfunctions, merely moving the earth three feet further away from the sun, thereby ending global warming. As a result, he becomes a national hero and decides to run for President. Meanwhile, Xander Crews finds himself destitute, resorting to boiling used hypodermic needles and selling them back to the homeless.

Coming from the minds of Adam Reed and Matt Thompson – creators of Sealab 2021 – the jokes flow thick and fast throughout each episode (“Put some glitter on this and fax it out.” “You can’t fax glitter!” “Well, not with that attitude…”), and make the region one DVD boxsets well worth investigating.


Another fond studio-audience based glance at a show everyone used to love, and probably still would if anyone ever bothered repeating it. Excellent to see this on the air, but aside from a single repeat showing of the ‘Winter Olympics’ episode about a week and a half later, the Beeb still don’t seem to show us any of The Goodies.


For our money, videoGaiden was – and still is – the best videogaming programme ever broadcast in the UK, taking in the assumed knowledge of its audience, quickfire humour and cheery in-jocularity of magazines like Your Sinclair, Zero and Amiga Power at their best. And it was all aimed at grown-ups, too. Despite it receiving hugely favourable feedback from its viewership, it exists no longer, never making it out of the BBC Two Scotland region. Maybe if Rab and Ryan had put on Charlie Brooker masks throughout each episode, it’d probably be running on BBC Four even now.

See also: Thumb Candy (E4, 2001). Iain Lee looks at the history of videogames, and is surprisingly non-thumpable for the entire duration of this one-off documentary.

Also see also: Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe (BBC Four, 2009). But then we’ll guess you already know all about that.


And not, of course, “Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights”, no matter what the DVD cover says. What with Kay’s subsequent actions (taking sole credit for Phoenix Nights despite Neil Fitzmaurice and Dave Spikey being co-creators and co-writers of it, releasing a DVD of the same stand-up set every year, using the plot of a Max & Paddy episode to mean-spiritedly flick V-signs at Dave Spikey, etc, etc), it almost comes as a surprise how good the first series of Phoenix Nights really was. Give it another go. Go on, here’s one of the episodes on YouTube, right here.

By the time series two rolled around, some of the magic had gone, especially in the case of the final few episodes, which practically served as pilots for underwhelming spin-off Max & Paddy’s Road To Nowhere. However, that doesn’t diminish the majesty of the first series, which we think didn’t even have anyone using the words “garlic” and “bread” together in the same sentence.


More from PlayUK, this was a prime example in Doing Things Properly. Aside from just mentioning the Sex Pistols quite often, implying that all music in 1976 was Prog Rock, and showing that archive footage of thousands of full bin liners in a London park because the all bin men had been on strike, this ten part series (ten part!) covered everything from the Pistols to Crass, Sniffin’ Glue to Oi!, Billy Bragg to Sonic Youth, and all points in between. It also played host to lots of interesting pieces from the archive, such as a young Gary Bushell on Newsnight flailing under questioning as to why his record label had put out an Oi compilation clearly inspired by Nazi party sloganeering, or highlighting just how bloody rubbish Limp Bizkit were.

The full series can be viewed from here.


Any series which opens with Kevin Eldon, clad in a red Lycra outfit with a huge question mark on his front, running around a field screaming “What am I?” over and over again, must be good. It’s one of the principle laws of television comedy. Simon Munnery’s alter-ego The League Against Tedium fronted this magnificently bewildering programme, atop a transit van slash battleship in a series of car parks and a big hat. The title sequence of each episode consisted of a voice over informing the viewers how they are shaven monkeys, arse-mouths, army surplus and such before a series of surreal vignettes (such as Kombat Opera, or 24 Hour News Read By A Man Who’s Been Up For 24 Hours – an early TV outing for Johnny Vegas). For the most part the show would comprise cracking dialogue from the baroque mouth of League.

“It is said that at the age of fifty-five, each man becomes that which he most despised at the age of twenty-five. I live in constant fear, lest I should become a badly organised coach trip to Cleethorpes.”

Sadly, Attention Scum fell foul of that most annoying of curses – being commissioned by someone’s predecessor. By the time the show had been made and ready for broadcast, there was a new Mayor Of BBC Two (or whoever gets to decide these things), who didn’t much like the idea of the show, and it was dropped haphazardly onto the schedule so as to be out of the way before anyone would notice. Annoying, but there you go.

Here is episode one. Of it.

“If a million monkeys were given a million typewriters… why, that would be the inter-net!”

imageBased on the diaries of Kenneth Williams, Fantabulosa! saw Michael Sheen play the role of Williams quite magnificently. As far as we can remember, this was the first of several impressive BBC Four dramas looking at the lives of well-regarded British comedians of yesteryear, but was easily the best.

Pop Fact! Michael Sheen is actually undertaking a massive project where he is due to take on the role of every single notable public figure from the British Isles between the years of 1958 and 1998. We can’t wait until 2037, when he’s pencilled in for “Thought Of A Number: The Johnny Ball Story”.


More archive clippery, but this took things a little further than asking Radio 1 daytime jocks just how much they liked it when David Brent did that dance. Comedy Map Of Britain went on the road around the UK, checking on locales important to the back stories of artists as varied as (deep breath*) Angus Deayton, Anton Rodgers, Arthur Smith, Hale and Pace, Bill Bailey, Chris Moyles, the Chuckle Brothers, Dudley Moore, Eric Idle, Graham Fellows, Hugh Grant, Ian Hislop, Ian Lavender, Jim Davidson, Jon Culshaw, Mark Thomas, Maureen Lipman, Michael Palin,  Terry Jones, Paul Merton, Richard Whiteley, Ricky Gervais, Ronni Ancona, Rowan Atkinson, Roy Chubby Brown, Steve Coogan, Syd Little and Eddie Large. Even the stories on the comedians we haven’t got much time for proved to be interesting – we even found ourselves enjoying the part where Leigh Francis visited the house he’d lived in as a teenager, finding some of his early cardboard masks still in the attic.

(*’Deep breath as we copy and paste all those names in from Wikipedia’, admittedly.)


If there’s a ever a place for “programme suffering the worst scheduling slot ever” in the Guinness Book Of Records, we imagine Biffovision would be in with a shout for it. The first showing of this BBC Three pilot first went out at 3.15am on a Tuesday morning. And was listed in the EPG as being a repeat showing of Two Pints of Lager. Surprisingly then, it didn’t attract that many viewers, and wasn’t picked up for a full series.

That’s a massive, massive shame, as we thought it was one of the most promising comedy shows of the last decade. Coming from the minds of Paul Rose and Tim Moore, the men behind seminal Teletext magazine Digitiser, Biffovision took the form of a surreal 1980s kids show where literally anything could happen. Yes, literally anything. The show also spiralled off into what seemed to be more traditional sketches, but which often ended in a less-than-traditional way (“these aren’t even my real hands!”), and while there were a number of cracks in the show you’d hope would have been Polyfilla’ed up before reaching a full series, it all works really well.

The pilot did finally get a repeat in a slightly more reasonable slot (at midnight), and watching it again on YouTube, even now we can’t help but be impressed by the relentless energy and sheer verve of the thing. It could have been a worthy companion to The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer, but it seems what with the show not being instantly applicable to that all-important key BBC Three demographic, maybe it never, ever stood a chance.

If you’ve never seen Biffovision, we urge you to remedy this now. There’s probably a 60-70% chance you’ll hate it, but that’ll be all your fault for being wrong.

See also: Adam Buxton’s MeeBOX. Another BBC Three pilot not picked up because it contains at least one joke people under 25 might not get. Though, oddly, it’s fine when Family Guy spends half of each episode referring to 1980s pop culture.


A two-parter looking at the history of swearing on television, along with the now standard explanation of why there isn’t any surviving footage of Kenneth Tynan saying Britain’s first televised ‘fuck’ over a montage of furious tabloid headlines. Key moment: Felix Dennis refusing to be proud of being the first person to say ‘cunt’ on TV.

See also: The C-Word: How We Came To Swear By It. Will “Thick Of It” Smith takes a look at the history of fuck’s more offensive brother. The programme quite nicely made the point that certain sections of society are still happy to get on their high horse over its use. by highlighting the Daily Mail’s pre-emptive outrage over the programme itself.


The kind of show we always love to see on our screens, this eight part series looked at different aspects of L.E. over the years. Each episode of The Story Of Light Entertainment concentrated on individual Light Ent genres, such as double acts and impressionists, even spending an entire show on stars of the radio – a laudable thing for a modern day TV show, we’re saying.

Happily, the talking heads on offer tended to be more on the ‘know what the hell they’re on about’ side of the fence (Beadle, Yarwood, Large), even if we did have to put up with Avid bloody Merrion adding absolutely nothing to proceedings.


From the same corner of BBC Scotland that brought us Comedy Connections, That Was The Week We Watched sneaks in ahead of that show due to its broader (but paradoxically, narrower) appeal of concentrating on a specific weeks viewing from the past, with scheduling info and clips aplenty. And yes, we were utterly spellbound by the beautifully rendered CGI recreation of pages from the Radio and TV Times.


Beating the similarly themed Swap Shop retrospective in our list because Tiswas was much better than Swap Shop. Is there a “Best Of Swap Shop” on DVD? No, there isn’t. This is precisely the thing ITV should be putting out on Saturday nights more often, no matter than the eighteen million X Factor viewers think.


Blimey, all that was hard work. Expect 60-51 on Monday!


6 .:

Applemask said...

Surely "cunt" is "fuck"'s more offensive sister?

Mark X said...

Good point.

Brig Bother said...

Thanks for that. Incidentally, tomorrow's (Monday's) Deal or No Deal is worth a watch, I've heard. I've an inkling as to what happens (but I don't know exactly), but it's the favourite episode ever of one of the producers. So there we are.

Anonymous said...

It's a travesty that Biffovision was never commissioned for a full series. Paul Rose seems to have disappeared off the face of the internet now as well, so we can't even enjoy his blog or ludicrous chat logs.

Tanya Jones said...

Attention Scum never hit the heights of its PlayUK ancestors Futurtv and Either/Or, for me, but I was going through a sniffy stage at the time, so I'm probably being unfair. I attended both the Smith and Jones Sketchbook and Goodies recordings, and I was also disappointed that they ultimately came to nothing. The chemistry between Mel and Griff was still electric!

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