Caught in the Act



Shane Richie


Action Time for BBC1, 10 January to 27 March 1992 (10 episodes in 1 series)


THE CONCEPT: Every so often a broadcaster stumbles across a winning concept that everyone then decides to shamelessly rip-off, and in the early nineties this was the camcorder cock-up show. Although You've Been Framed was the first show on telly to consist of home videos and nothing but, it only ran as specials for the first year and the first regular weekly series devoted to them was Chris Tarrant's Secret Video Show on Sky One. But nobody watched that, because it was on Sky One, and by 1992 Beadle had the market sewn up. Then the Beeb decided they wanted to muscle in.

THE HYPE: The promise of some more grandmothers falling base over apex was enough to get most viewers excited, because You've Been Framed was such a smash hit, but for what it's worth there were a few innovations. The show was produced by Action Time, who also made variants on the format in umpteen European countries, so they had hundreds of foreign clips on tap, and there was also a game show element where the provider of the best clip could win a holiday somewhere.

THE FIRST SHOW: Broadcast on Friday 10th January 1992, Caught In The Act was presented by rising star Shane Richie. He was joined by an army of "foreign correspondents" on a screen who Shane would banter with and who would introduce clips from their own nations, and various members of the public – stood behind monitors with stills of their clips on – who were aiming to win the big prize. There was also about half a dozen clips when they weren't busy talking rubbish.

THE FIRST CRACKS: Caught In The Act was Shane Richie's first big break on telly, and it's fair to say that most people found his rather boisterous Brian-Conley's-little-brother-esque stage presence something of an acquired taste, as he shouted all his lines, laughed at his own jokes and bullied the hapless punters. Richie dominated the show from beginning to end, with his excruciating banter with the "foreign correspondents" going on for ages, as did the competition section which was just a boring waste of time. When the clips finally turned up, most of them were rubbish, and worse still, the producers clearly decided they weren't funny enough on their own, so they were all overdubbed by bloody irritating comedy sound effects.

THE DEPARTURE: There was no departure on this show, or any rescheduling, because unlike most single series wonders – er, apart from the Big Night, if Brucie's looking in – it was actually a huge hit. The first show pulled in thirteen million viewers, and throughout the run never dropped below ten million, which illustrates how much people wanted to see this sort of thing. But if the ratings were huge, the critical acclaim certainly wasn't, with the world and his wife appalled by its vulgar presentation, contemptible format and shameless plagiarism of an ITV concept.

THE END: It all meant that, come the tenth and final show, while the ratings would have justified another series, all the papers were pondering whether the Beeb would actually have the guts to recommission this derivative rubbish. It just didn't seem the sort of show the BBC should be making, especially because it was all being done on other channels anyway. Eventually, they decided not to give the go-ahead to a second series and simply hoped everyone would forget about it – deciding the ratings boost was less important than the loss of credibility.

THE POST-MORTEM: Of course, the pitch for Caught In The Act could be summed up in two sentences – "You've Been Framed is popular. Let's just rip that off." Sadly they did so with as little effort as possible, and indeed many critics were amazed to see that a series fronted by Jeremy Beadle was actually the quality option. It wasn't just Richie's rather overbearing presentation that did for it, though, it was the dodgy format that interspersed the clips with endless tedious chat, and the execrable sound effects added insult to injury.

THE AFTERMATH: Caught In The Act was one of a series of ropey light entertainment shows a demoralised BBC Variety department were churning out in the early nineties, alongside Tarby's dating pilot Old Flames (which suffered the indignity of the BBC announcing "on reflection, it is not a programme the BBC1 controller feels he would be proud to have on his channel"), Bobby Davro's archaic Rock With Laughter and Marti Caine's final awful shows Joker In The Pack and Your Best Shot. This sort of thing could never last in the Birt-era BBC and the Corporation decided this type of show was best left to ITV, with only Big Break managing to cling on for a few more years. Meanwhile Shane Richie went off to do Run The Risk and, a few years later, quit the Beeb complaining that they were only giving him kids' shows. Caught In The Act did live on, though, as some of the clips were recycled on a couple of Beeb clip shows in the following few years, with those telltale sound effects giving the game away.

THE VERDICT: Shambolic from start to finish, Caught In The Act could well be the worst programme we've covered on this site, being a shameless and appallingly produced rip-off of a format that the Beeb shouldn't have been going anywhere near in the first place. It serves as a stark reminder of just how poor the BBC's light entertainment output was in the early nineties, and its axing is perhaps the only thing we should thank John Birt for. But ten million people watched every episode! Truly, another world.


Names have been removed to protect the guilty.


Here's a full episode that you'd rather forget than remember.


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