“No Lies, No Pies!”
The third series was promoted on BBC1 via a number of serialised trailers, placing Noel in the dock at Crinkley Bottom High Court whilst a number of witnesses (mostly Gotcha victims from the previous series) gave evidence resulting in Tidybeard sent down.
The House Party was bequeathed to the late Sir Michael Horden, for the first minute
of show 1 at least.
Genuine long-term changes took place behind the scenes with Michael Leggo now promoted as a BBC exec with the late Jonathan Beazley inheriting Leggo’s producer role, and future producer
Guy Freeman on directing duties.
Leggo’s promotion was marked with a surprise Gotcha in show 19 which for someone hardly seen on-screen was possibly more entertaining than most of the others in this series.
Devoting a few minutes of screen time to an off-screen production member was something few other programmes could have pulled off.
There were more alterations to the original set, with the underside of the left hand balcony turned into a cupboard, and a window added near the staircase. This was possibly fitted for
Sammy The Chamois, the dim-witted window cleaner as played by new regular Neil Morrissey.
The right hand side of the set was again changed extensively for the new game with a new staircase to access the balcony. But the most visible change was the first major redesign of the gunge tank, with a car wash-style contraption now crammed onto the turntable.
An extra piece of set was added on the left hand side a few weeks in when it became apparent you could now see round the turntable, notably John Noakes’ back in show 2 as he patiently waited for his appearance.
New features were an improvement on those from the last series, notably “The Big Pork Pie”
with sheepish punters attempting to override a lie detector, though in the moment of shock
it did take some victims a while to work out that they were supposed to be lying
to win the game.
The Cupboard was finally closed, being replaced in the “game at the start” slot by the raucous and often disruptive “Panel Game”. This again upped the celeb count with many more small cameos per show and reduced the game element to an absolute minimum. It also introduced Frank Carson as yet another regular to the show’s ever-increasing roster.
Party Pieces remained, albeit reduced to occasional appearances, a shortened length
and more cutting criticism.
One undoubted failure of this run was the animated character Major Berk – introduced in show 1 to (apparently) comment on the quality of the show, and never seen again.
A response maybe to Ratz, the CGI cat ever-present on BBC 1’s new Saturday morning show Live & Kicking (and Children’s BBC as a whole), who despite surviving the first episode,
didn’t make it past series 1.
A redesigned Gotcha statue debuted this series, ensuring there was no longer a resemblance to the Oscar. The phrase “Gotcha Oscar” had in fact disappeared a year earlier, but from now on all repeat appearances of the original award would be blurred out.
Standout Gotchas this series include Bob Holness hosting the radio phone-in from hell, Jonathan Morris hot-footing it from the police, and Rosemarie Ford singing to sheep on the Wiltshire moors.
A special mention should also go to Jon Pertwee, who on greeting Edmonds carrying a Gotcha statue took some time to realise it was for him.
It was hoped that the Lionel Blair one would be Series 3’s Dave Lee Travis, but the heavy trailing of all the funny bits weeks beforehand (notably a deathly stare) not to mention the front door threats from Blair himself, rendered the Gotcha somewhat of an anti-climax, nearing the point of the viewer possibly feeling sorry for Blair.
The previous year’s breakout star of the Gotchas was still present, this time as a character in his own right with an improved costume and voice effect all down to a body swap between Edmonds, and Gotcha stooge Barry Killerby.
Mr Blobby’s appearances before Christmas seem quite restrained compared to later years, with much of his input coming from pre-filmed appearances on other programmes such as
Last of the Summer Wine and Keeping Up Appearances.
It was the release of his Christmas single (which reached number 1, was knocked off number 1 by Take That and then incredibly climbed back up again to take that year’s festive top slot) and the success of his merchandise at Christmas that cemented him as a fixture of the show.
The New Year’s Day edition featured a highly successful competition to meet Mr Blobby and was followed for the only time in the show’s history by a second programme later that night, cheekily entitled Mr Blobby’s Blind Date.
The worry that Mr Blobby would be drawn out further than just a passing fad (even addressed on the show itself) would prolong over the following series, but the character added to a programme starting transform itself by upping the pace, innovating with more complex NTVs,
producing more in-show trailers reinforcing the “brand” and also more background music.
Instrumental sections of Whitewash Country by Elton John and Call Me by Go West would be used a lot over the next two and a half years.
This year’s “Noel surprise” took place in the penultimate show to again avoid arousing his suspicion (aided by a mischievous countdown by his production team incorrectly pointing to the final show). Naturally this run’s breakout hit The Big Pork Pie was pressed into service with Bob Monkhouse asking the questions, proving even slicker a compere for the item than the show’s own host.
Building up to a confession about Noel singing along to ‘It’s Not Unusual’ followed brilliantly
by Tom Jones himself appearing at the door to put theory into practice.
Noel was then given a turn in the redesigned gunge tank, though this appeared to not have been set up correctly having already been used earlier in the show and only a trickle of gunge emerged.
This was ridiculed the following week on air when Anneka Rice (of The Challenge Programme fame) was challenged to fix the tank before becoming its final victim.
An explosive end to the series saw the original set all but demolished by a stray champagne cork from Sammy the Chamois, and ended with Blobby, Noel and Anneka sat amidst the dark ruins with a mobile phone attempting to elicit help with the challenge of a lifetime
to rebuild Noel’s house – or there would be no new series.
The sound of a dialling tone and a fade to black set up a cliffhanger that left no doubt that the show would be very different come October.