“It’s Different Every Week!”
After a hugely successful four years this series marked the point at which ratings started to gradually begin to decline.
The first few shows opened and closed with the party itself supposedly in full swing via the pretence of “the party never stops”.
It broke the unspoken rule of House Party – that the joy of the show was being in on the joke.
Show 1 opened midway through a performance of Riverdance (brought back on later to justify the booking but ruining the gag) and closed by abruptly cutting off just as Michael Winner was about to take a “Trip Round The Great House”, later doing the same thing at the end of show 2. It was an unusual way to use one of the most popular parts of the show.
The trip was one of the most popular parts of the show, particularly with younger viewers.
Using it in this manner only served to frustrate the audience, but it was hardly
an isolated incident.
A month into the series the pretence was ditched as it soon became the case that they didn’t have to pretend that they were overrunning.
A notable example in Show 6 featuring Cannon and Ball appearing in two places at once thanks to VT intended for the end credits running on top of action still going on in the studio.
More notably, show 15 became the first in five years to completely run out of time, falling off air midway through Grab-a-Grand. Since the previous year the winner had been called right at the moment of taking part instead of earlier in the show, and this risky move led to an inevitable wrong number and a bemused Glaswegian taking part having not entered in the first place.
Also worth noting Noel’s production company Unique received a mention in the credits from this series onwards, its presence becoming more prominent later on.
The series now proclaimed “It’s Different Every Week!”, intended for unpredictability with items not appearing every week but the effect was to slow down the pace, with the items that remained taking up more airtime.
Having regular features not appear every week felt reminiscent of the Saturday Roadshow,
but their use here suggested budget cuts were responsible.
Introduced as one of Series 5’s selling points, “Beat Your Neighbour” pitted two neighbours against each other to steal each other’s prized possessions, with one of them nabbing the lot whilst keeping their own.
A crass, cruel, and not very viewer-friendly feature, the game was rested after show 2, only to return before Christmas with the addition of roving presenter Jono Coleman to keep the format moving at the OB – perhaps to improve the speed of the feature on location and cut down on the amount of Noel-shouting-at-a-TV.
The intention may have been to recreate the camaraderie that Edmonds had with Mike Smith on “The Late Late Breakfast Show” 10 years earlier, but the two-ways with Coleman displayed nothing in the way of chemistry and in fact frustration on the part of Noel at having to play second fiddle.
With Coleman being one half of an already established duo on the radio,
it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Beat Your Neighbour was so unpopular it appeared a grand total of four times over the first half of the series before being canned.
Ironically, one of Smithy’s earlier television vehicles “CBTV” made its way to the House Party in name-only, with filmed inserts from Crinkley Bottom Television. Designed as another attempt to find a regular home for Mr Blobby, these featured movie spoofs and sketches that were mixed at best (though the parodies of the BBC2 idents were inspired).
As for Grab A Grand itself, the destruction of the money box in show 1 gave way for the money hurricane, inspired by a one-off in series 4 which saw the perspex fly apart and the front row
of the audience take part.
Another overlong feature, the fans that emerged from the left and right of the set blowing the notes were apparently controlled by the unseen aeroplane pilot “Flypast Fanshawe” whose nose cone nudged through the front door.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the sports stars returned to help the audience member selected, with the huge figures grabbed now halved between the caller and “villager”. With the entire audience encouraged to get on their feet and join in the feature became utterly chaotic,
and coinciding with a run of paltry 20-second grabs a slight waste of time. The “conversions” of Crinkley Bottom groats into pounds were also now suspiciously quick, some of which apparently done before Noel pressed the button on the scales.
The conceit was soon simplified binning the plane and audience member, before being ditched completely at the start of 1996 in favour of silly but more viewer-friendly variations such as
“Grab A Gran” and “Grab A Grand National”.
In line with the new format the item had started to take the odd week off, which did leave the show with less of a climax after four years of it finishing each edition.
The Trip Around The Great House also became an occasional feature –
no doubt also saving the pennies – and in a Hot Seat interview on Live And Kicking during this series, Noel dismissed it as his least favourite part of the show, which pointed to the direction we might see the show taking.
Viewer votes would decide the outcome of two differing opinions in “Crinkley Bottom Speaks”. a mechanic previously used in series 3 to muted reception, but brought back on the basis that the one with the least votes would get drenched.
A revamp of the longest running feature “Wait ‘Till We All Get Home” didn’t appear until show 4, an attempt to expand the premise to involve every family member being probed by Noel
rather than just the child, but the limited appeal of this idea meant it very quickly
reverted to its old self despite retaining the new name.
Further changes, and the occasional improvement, will be probed in part 2 of House Party series 5..