“Keep It Beeb!”
Planned to run for 21 weeks including a Boxing Day special, series 2 launched with huge confidence retaining all the key hallmarks of the first series and taking them further, quite often unexpectedly.
There were some amendments to the set. The “drawing room” side was rebuilt for the new game, with the main balcony now continuing above it, and looked more in keeping with the rest of the set. The new upstairs area also included some small rooms used for short sketches at the start of the show, which helped extend the illusion that this was an actual house.
Series 2 featured two key new items added to the show’s running order.
No. 1: “Open The Cupboard”.
A replacement for “The Lyric Game” of which the departure may have been for similar reasons
as to why “Double Dare” on Going Live! was replaced by “Run The Risk”.
American formats, contracts etc.
Whilst The Lyric Game was just shouting along to songs, The Cupboard was hard to explain,
the rules even changing after the first show removing the time limit, but retaining the half-baked premise of mystery celebrities singing songs connected to silly objects doubling as prizes.
E.G. “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” alluding to bathroom scales.
A festive appearance from The London Community Gospel Choir provided quite a different vibe for the Boxing Day special.
Pat Coombs contributed a good turn (if not so much miming playing the organ) as Prudence,
said to run the wool shop in the village and making appearances beyond the confines of the cupboard in subsequent series.
And a turn from the cast of The Bill lead to PCs Stamp and Quinnan becoming regulars on the show and fondly remembered despite only really appearing for the best part of a year.
Possibly down to Thames Television worrying that their front door visits would overshadow their day jobs at Sun Hill.
No.2: “Party Pieces”
Years before Barrymore was sneering at novelty performing acts in shopping centres,
Edmonds did more or less the same in a tent during the summer, with a Donald Duck rendition
of “Zippedy Doo Dah” and a tuneless “Rule Britannia” being two such embarrassments.
The saving grace was the blank and hilariously bemused reactions from Vince, the manager of Crinkley Bottom’s “Pitz Cinema” who bore a slight resemblance to Jim Bowen.
A rundown of the worst came courtesy of Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman in the final show.
Series 2 was also infamous for introducing Mr Blobby, originally as a centrepiece of the Gotchas with Wayne Sleep and Will Carling being two particular favourites.
Blobby was always going to be a big part of the series given the number of Gotchas recorded with him at the centre meant he was on roughly every three weeks, but his popularity ensured that he started appearing in the studio quite quickly.
The pre-recorded sequence “Christmas on Blob-BC 1”, which featured the pink chap cameoing in various programming (including, somewhat amazingly given the channel and studio location,
ITV’s This Morning) was an early attempt to build the character outside of the Gotchas.
You can almost feel the production team discovering the potential as you watch it.
The character being a major selling point in the House Party going on tour throughout the summer with outdoor shows on racecourses, two of them filmed for a special “Noel’s Garden Party” one off, airing on BBC1 in early September.
However Blobby was still in fairly embryonic form compared to how he would later evolve, with a droopy ill-fitting costume, low voice and minimal energy. It wasn’t until series 3 when he became the disruptive (and eventually fairly tiresome) character he is remembered as today.
The Gotcha at the end of the series with Eddie Large appeared an attempt to-recreate the DLT moment from the previous run, though the biggest surprise forcing Noel to perform a Barbara Streisand song against his will four weeks earlier may have overshadowed everything to follow in this series.
This included the penultimate show not airing at all after a bomb threat, famously being replaced with 1991’s Noel’s Christmas Presents and the arresting image of Edmonds in the Children’s BBC broom cupboard apologising to viewers.
The planned NTV hit took place off air with highlights on the following week’s show,
and that week’s Kriss Akabusi Gotcha eventually aired the following November.
Other recurring traits of this series included a regular ring at the door from Frank Thornton during the end credits complaining about the noise each week. This also coincided with the permanent abandonment of the full screen credit roll as the show sought to make use of
every second of its airtime.
In other on-screen changes some more sophisticated bespoke Great House-style graphics
were introduced for the gunge vote and Grab-a-Grand money calculation, replacing the
very basic ones on a blue background used throughout series 1.
A well-choreographed rendition of “Well Did You Evah!” by an incredible lineup of surprise guests that had previously appeared throughout the series provided a strong finale to the second series, which had continued to rate extremely well (with the Boxing Day edition hitting an all-time high of 15.93m viewers).
The amended lyrics (notably a retort from Frank Thornton), musical arrangement (with a sublime nod to Sunday Night at the London Palladium as the gunge tank turntable rotated) and brilliant direction summed up the perfection of this show when it was on top of its game.