NHP30.com Meets Michael Leggo! (Part 3)

The BBC Four repeat in August 2022 brought the House Party back onto BBC
Television for the first time in 22 years. The reaction was incredibly positive with the
episode trending on Twitter for a considerable period.

“Funnily enough, I watched that episode and I thought, I don’t think it was the best
episode to have shown. I was a bit disappointed with that choice. I am pleasantly
surprised by its enduring affection. Years ago, I remember bumping into Frank
Skinner and David Baddiel at a party and they were both telling me how much they
valued House Party on a Saturday night. They were just quite surprising, the most
surprising people to have been viewers.”

“These things don’t come along all of the time. They are rare. If we all knew how to
make them, we’d all be speaking from our beach house in Malibu. You can assemble
the ingredients but there’s no guarantee you’ll come up with the recipe.”
Michael worked with Noel for years and remembers the programme with great
affection. There were so many elements to the House Party that made it special and
for the curators of the website, it was important to mark the 30th anniversary and
also, the legacy and enjoyment the series afforded millions of viewers until it ended
in March 1999.

What made Noel the right man to host a House Party in his country retreat? “
Noel’s rapport with the audience. That sparkle in his eyes. That sense of, I’m going to take
you on a journey, it’s going to be fun, it might be a bit edgy at times, but I’m going to
bring you safely home.”

Michael worked on seven series of the show – and also, three series of the
Roadshow before it, but if there was one episode that stood out, which would he
recall as being the most special? “The Boxing Day one would be there.

There was one I would also have to pick out, it would be when we finally showed
the Dave Lee Travis Gotcha. I got so much mileage, for weeks and weeks,
of just trailing “Edmonds you are a dead man”.

Actually, also, when we had Dudley Moore on, he was one of my heroes.
He actually said the f word but nobody heard it! He appeared twice at the door,
once as the piano tuner and once as the maestro. When he appeared first
as the piano tuner in the long brown overcoat like he used to wear
with Peter Cook, and the flat hat, he started doing Dud and funnily enough in
rehearsals, on the Friday, he did the voice and he said: “How is that?” Michael then
had to say to Dudley Moore:

“I’m really embarrassed to say this, but it doesn’t sound very much like Dud.”
“I haven’t done Dud for thirty years, how does Dud sound?”
“It’s a really bad impression of Dud. I’m really embarrassed to mention it.”
“The premise of this was, live on the show, he’s coming on to tune the piano and
he’s got this bag of plumber’s gear – a big hefty bag which he swings up onto the top
of this massive piano and a tool slips out of the bag and crashes onto the strings.
The audience laughter covers the fact that Dudley goes “Oh f*ck”!

Having assisted Noel with over one hundred Gotchas, it was perhaps inevitable that
at some point, the team would strike back and on 5th March 1994, Michael’s own
Gotcha was broadcast to millions live on air. “I didn’t think actually, they would, and I
certainly didn’t expect it to be on national television. Whether it was the Roadshow or
the House Party, I always used to have to Gotcha Noel in some way. He’d say little
things privately, but they got me rather spectacularly back.

To my shame, the average life in which the subject of a Gotcha is under as it were, is subject
to an hour or an hour and a half. I was in there for six hours or something. I was at an RAF
barracks, for a medical, riding in a fast jet. I did need to go for the medical to go in
the fast jet, all I had to do was have the medical, see a safety video. I didn’t need to
go through all the other things they put me through – the disorientation chamber,
getting out of fuselage against the clock, being swung out over water, being dropped
into a pool of water to get into the life raft, and then the ejector seat – I should have
seen it coming.

The team were convinced that they told me afterwards, that I’d walk
in, and go, that’s a camera, that’s a camera, that’s a microphone, this is set up, but I
didn’t, because of the reward at the end of it, I was looking at the fast jet ride! That
was the only thing that was interesting to me.”

Whilst the show was full of memorable moments, viewers would always await the
end of the series to see how the team and also, that series Gotcha recipients and
gunge tank victims would get their own back on Noel. Michael had to try and find a
way to achieve these and there were some notable favourites. “You Don’t Bring Me
Flowers – because it was just a quickie, which Charlie Adams had written.

The idea that Noel would start singing the first couple of lines of You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
and then the doorbell would go, and then there would be Pru at the door, bringing
him flowers. I just had that moment, when you’re sitting in the bath or whatever, and
you think: “What if the doorbell didn’t go?” It was just the thank you God, I don’t know
where that bit of inspiration came from, but I was so pleased it did.”

The following year, Noel had to sing again, this time performing with Tom Jones on
the penultimate episode of series three. “It goes to my point, that if other people are
good on your show, you look good.”

One of Michael’s heroes would also be a notable highlight for him personally.
“Dudley Moore would be high up there. Funnily enough though, it’s featured on that
documentary. The end of series one, when Noel was being gunged, and I came
down onto the studio floor and gave him a hug, warts and all, that probably is, a
highly favourite memory.”

What a suitable and fitting memory to close on.

How do you wrap up an article where other than the host, you have spent time with
the driving force? The creator. Producer. Director. Executive Producer. Blobby
creator. Gotcha chief. The man who along with Noel, masterminded one of the
BBC’s biggest ever Saturday night light entertainment hits. I think really, it can be
summed up relatively quickly but with sincerity.

Firstly and most importantly, thank you. Secondly and also, perhaps rightly, we can look back now with more affection than ever and simply agree with Noel’s closing words on the
very last edition on 20th March 1999 – “I hope your memories will be very kind to us”.

Noel. Michael. They will. After 169, bye.