The Brothers Grinn (Adrian Kennedy and Lee Chapman)


Chameleon TV for Yorkshire/ITV, 27 June to 20? December 1996


The ad in the paper said "Madcap game show with outrageous pranks". It's not really what we were was expecting. It's not really what anyone was expecting.

The local TV announcer described it as "Music... Comedy... and bits in between!" and that's a more accurate description. About half the bits in between are loosely, and I mean loosely, game show themed. Jeopardy! this is not. I guess it's like having channel surfing between MTV and Comedy Central done for you. It's a very strange show.

Essentially - it tries to be all things to all men within an hour. It fit in three music videos, a two-part interview, three extended comedy stretches, a short dramatic film and some, um, manic vox pop stunts with about 15 or 20 minutes tops of amateur comedy presented in a game show format. Well, it sort of works. It's laced with an anarchic student sort of humour. Not a "let's-have-a-laugh" chirpy cockney Chris Evans "Don't Forget Your Toothbrush" style, but a more "extract-the-urine", "doing-it-for-the-sake-of-it" style. Expletives are common and bad taste is rife. Sometimes it's quite funny. It could easily offend the narrow-minded.

The show starts with a very advanced graphical medley introduction. There's no real theme to it, just flashy graphics with the word FLUX in a few different styles. Not bad, but not quite state of the art this year. The music is, in common with all the music in the program, in the rave style. (I think. It could well be dance, or techno, or house. I am not clever enough to be able to tell the difference. Lots of instruments, not a lot of tune, no emphasis on lyrics. Do you have this in America? Not really. I think it's a European thing, but I could well be wrong. A prototype version of the style is 2 Unlimited's 1992 "No Limits", a song which Beavis and Butthead - sigh - described as being like the music played on an organ at a shopping malls. "Can I play with your $10,000 organ? Huh huh huh huh" and so on. But I digress.)

The show starts with a little introduction from the Brothers Grinn, who are Geordies, which mean they have a distinctive, very slightly Scandanavian accent, coming from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, a major town and minor port in the north-east of England. I am within 40 miles of there, and have lived at least as close as that to Newcastle all my life. However, England being a small country, I don't associate with the town, and you don't want to call me a Geordie. They say that "they think they're reet good". This is quite normal for a pair of young (20s) Geordies. Trust me on this one.

There's then a song (with a mixture of footage from "Club Flux", an, er, nightclub and video style graphics - the sort of vaguely trippy light synthesiser cool-5-years-ago stuff you see now and again. The camerawork is very tricky and funny, not at all straight-laced) and an interview with the, er, club DJ. It's strictly fast-forward material.

To get to the game show - um, there's not a lot to it. Three pairs of contestants are lent a cameraman each, and they have to come up with three amusing short (1 1/2 or 2 minute?) videos of them attempting various pranks that they are set, and the funniest pair wins. (They win a modern, upmarket camcorder - "a reet good piece of kit".) One of the pairs, this week, was the two hosts themselves. I don't know whether this is a regular thing or just first-week explaining.

The first video, this week, was called "Doorstep Challenge", and is a take-off of adverts for soap powder in the UK. A celebrity knocks at a door, confronts the housewife of the house inside, inspects the cleanliness of the clothes, inquires to the nature of the powder used... oh! what a surprise. The gimmick is that they are offered a swap of two packets of another brand of soap powder for their one packet of the advertised brand, and they always reject the swap, as this powder washes so much whiter. And so on. The three videos had the teams (a) offering wives the chance to swap their husband for a team member (b) offering their services as kiss-o-grams/strip-o-grams, and (c) trying to get people to try a new, and horrible-tasting drink. None of the videos were particularly funny.

The second video was in the "Exhibition" category and featured the teams making exhibitions in their own towns. The female team got members of the public to make strange poses with bizarre objects, and painted pictures of them outside an art gallery. The hosts of the show invented a famous fight that took place in a pub in 1972 and got people to recall details about it. The third team did a mobile exhibition about the life and times of Richard Whiteley (host of Countdown). One of the guys looked like Wayne out of Wayne's World and was very funny.

The third videos were in the "Up Your Head" category. The brief: you have 90 seconds, amuse the world. The girls did a guide to the 7 deadly sins, which had some vaguely amusing moments but wasn't very funny. The hosts did some bizarre puns, word play and physical gags. The men's team did this spoof comedy rock video, and this worked really well - they had put a lot of time, effort and imagination into it. It was very entertaining. This was easily the best of the three sections. After each set of three videos, a jury of 3 random punters above the club discussed who they thought was funniest and swore a lot. These segments were quite short, so it worked fairly well. The men's team (not the hosts) won and quite rightly so. They were easily the funniest. Not much of a game, really.

There were a few other bits as well. There was a mock soap opera featuring a cast-off from "Dukes of Hazzard", a transvestite, a puppet grandparent, a schoolboy superhero, a box containing Ronnie Corbett (short comic who hosts Small Talk), Britain's first black newsreader and a couple of other things. It was sort of funny. There was a mock martial arts movie with copious fake blood and lots of cliches, which was extremely clever. There was a prank where people in Leeds went round telling the public that a council 150 miles away had declared that all the Leeds banks were to be pulled down and replaced with a big park. Some of the public reacted in an amusing manner, and others didn't. As time went on, this got funnier. There was also a short, serious, horror/drama film, which was clearly amateur, but very professionally and carefully done.

The show grew on me rather a lot over the duration (the first two parts of three weren't much good, but the last bit showed that if they get some people with talent, the show has a lot of potential) and I'm tempted to make the effort to record it again in future. Yes, the game elements are really quite weak, but as a show, it does hold together, and it does work.


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