Noel's House Party
BBC 1, 23 November 1991 to 20 March 1999 (169 episodes in 8 series)
Until its extremely timely death, Noel's House Party was an entertainment show, broadcast mainly live from a fictional village called Crinkley Bottom.
Noel likes the country life (as you can see here, with his second wife Helen, outside their real country mansion). Noel and Helen are not so much Lord and Lady Muck, more like Lord and Lady Gunge.
The show "thrived" on audience participation (in the studio, and unwittingly at home) and practical jokes. Including the one that each episode cost the licence-payer in excess of £400,000 per episode (allegedly). Towards the end of its life, it went through a rough patch (sometimes very rough), the downturn in quality seeming to coincide with its star producer (Michael Leggo) being far too good at his job and going off to become some sort of Head of Laffs and General Larks in BBC Towers. However, it was good once, as we try (we can but try) to prove here.
A good one, even though it's apparently a rip-off of the The Crystal Maze end game. A person is picked at random from people who correctly predicted the answer to a question. The questions are normally fairly easy current affairs stuff that would be happening in the forthcoming week. They would be asked three questions, each one worth twenty seconds for the B-list celeb to go grabbing bank notes inside a plastic, telephone-booth-sized tank with wind blowing from beneath. Whatever was collected was weighed and went to the caller.
In later series, the game got a bit bigger - huge industrial fans were installed in the studio and the game was played in the whole studio, with the audience collecting money and the celebrity running around grabbing it from them in a bucket. This was more fun but they got stupid after a while with Grab a Grand National and Grab a Grand Piano being two of the variants. Great idea, spoiled in the end. Next!
Wait 'Til I Get you Home
Parents tried to second guess answers to questions recorded earlier by one of their younger children. NEXT!
The Big Pork Pie
A person from the audience had a secret. Several in fact, but one big, bad embarrassing one, and now everyone's going to know it! All they had to do to win was "Beat the Machine", a polygraph (that's a "lie detector" to you and me), by blatantly lying about the incidents as he mentions them...
Noel: "Did you once do something a bit rude and silly?"
[Lie-o-meter shows that he's lying, audience titters].
Noel: "Did you once do something quite rude and silly?"
[Lie-o-meter shows that he's lying, audience laughs].
Noel: "Did you once do something VERY rude and EXTREMELY silly?"
[Lie-o-meter shows that he's lying, audience has an apoplexy].
Cash for Questions
Oh so witty-titled lame game, based on a Government scandal at the time.
First, the Wheel of Fortune is spun. A person is strapped horizontally to a wheel (chosen because they did something bad, sometime). The wheel stops spinning and points to one of eight phones. The person on the other end of that phone has to get a question correct. If they get it wrong, the wheel is re-spun. However, if they get it correct then they are given a further three current affairs questions. Each correct answer is worth twenty seconds for B-list celeb to go crazy in the Basement.
The Basement is pitch black and the caller, with infra-red camera at their disposal, tries to guide the person through the basement collecting bags of money along the way. Each one was worth £100, with golden ones worth £500. Stupidly, at the end of the time the lights come on, so there is nothing stopping the celebrity grabbing an extra bag or two on the way out. We could, of course, compare the person-strapped-to-wheel lark with Remote Control. We could, furthermore, compare this to "Arianne's Game" from the marvellous Fort Boyard. Cash for Questions isn't fit enough to lick Arianne's boots. If she wore any. Or anything at all, in fact. NEXT!
This was very good but sadly got ruined. For the first couple of episodes, the Number Cruncher (a modified phone box cum gunge tank) was placed somewhere in Britain. We were shown the street, live, and we were given the code to get into the box. Then it was just a race, the first person in Britain to locate the box, tap in the code and get inside would play the game. Except, in a bizarre twist of fate and unknown beforehand to the contestant, they were then locked in!
The only way out was to play the game. Noel would phone up the box (which had a camera and and a small LCD screen... you'll see why) and after a chat with the contestant, four computer generated numbers were flashed up. These could be seen in the box on the LCD screen, but then they were rearranged so that Noel and the audience and the people at home could see it but the person in the phone box couldn't. This was the code to get out, and the contestant had 45 seconds to try different combinations to get the correct rearrangement. As they were tapping in the numbers, they were building up cash (decided by each digit tapped in - a lot of people caught on to this and spent about 15 seconds tapping in '9' as fast as they could to win a big prize!) If they won, they were allowed to gamble their winnings on a "random" fruit machine type thing. If they lost... well, wasn't that a big tank of gunge placed invitingly above the phone box?
In later series, the selection of contestant process changed. They would have to take with them a stupid object and a contestant was hand-picked by the researchers of the people who arrived at the box (which was now no secret as to where it was). And then Jonathan Coleman got involved. Ah, well. NEXT!
Having already become the greatest (or should we say worst?) gungemeister on TV (with the possible exception of Dave Benson Phillips) on the Saturday Roadshow, Edmonds continued the theme in the House Party, only this time with celebrities usually copping it, although members of the public occasionally did too. Fairly early on in the show's run, telephone voting was introduced in order to decide which of two celebrities should get the gunge. The gunge tank started out in a fairly standard form, but was later changed to first a car wash style-tank, then a ghost train-style one (the latter would take the victim on a trip around the great house) and there were other variations in later series. Lots of celebs copped it: they included Phillip Schofield and Gordon The Gopher, Andi Peters and Edd The Duck, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Edwina Currie, Piers Morgan, Jeremy Clarkson, Anthea Turner, John Virgo, Ulrika Jonsson, Bruno Brookes and Liz Kershaw. Edmonds himself inevitably ended up getting gunged at the end of every series - but it should have been much more often than that, shouldn't it? NEXT!
Beat Your Neighbour
Ooh, controversial! Neighbours would sign contracts agreeing to play the game and they each spent a minute running around each other's houses deciding on prizes they want from their neighbours. For each question correctly answered, a belonging would be put on the big tray.
For the final, a random time limit was placed. If you got a question correct (asked alternately), the tray with ALL the belongings on would be pushed to your side. Whoever's side it was on when the time ran out won everything. So, it's a bit like "playing chicken", only without any sort of skill or daring, then. Often ended in heated arguments because Noel (in the studio) asked the questions to the contestants via a video link that would often have a two-second delay on it. Sometimes, a very crucial two-second delay. NEXT!
People phone up and fire three-piece suites at high velocity at famous goalkeepers. Not really of course, that would be silly. People phone up and attempt to put footballs past a goalkeeper using the Ballblaster. No, we're not talking Mandy Dingle, here. It's a mechanised cannon that that moves randomly until the caller says 'shoot' and a football is propelled. Noel claimed that it is The Golden Shot for the Nineties. Apart from there being little skill involved, of course, and a complete lack of coordination from the goalies themselves. NEXT!
NTV: You're On Your Own
A potentially interesting bit of the show, people would be NTVed (hidden cameras would be placed in their front room, cue shock as they realise that they are live on the telly). They will have done something potentially embarrassing or something. The 'You're On Your Own' bit came from later on in the show's life, when if they failed to answer some questions correctly they would have to spend the next week alone somewhere horrible, like the Utah desert. Or a prison. Or Swindon.
Probably the most memorable moment ever happened on the show was when in the penultimate episode of series 1, Noel Edmonds did a Gotcha Oscar on Dave Lee Travis (DLT) when he was doing Saturday morning Darts quiz on Radio 1 and after DLT got gotcha'd by Noel, he replied 'YOU ARE A DEAD MAN!'. Then a week later on the series 1 finale, DLT got his own back on Noel by giving him surprises including a song surprise in 'The Lyric Game' that Noel recorded himself during his early career, an NTV/Gotcha surprise and a battle of the gunge tank between him and Noel.
Another memorable Gotcha Oscar moment involved in the final series where Richard Whiteley thought he was going to be doing an ordinary episode of Countdown, how wrong he was and he had absolutely no idea what was going on throughout the entire show, in fact he didn't even know it was a Gotcha Oscar at all even in the Countdown Conundrum round where only 6 letters were put in instead of the original 9 letters, where it spelled 'HOGCAT', in which the correct answer would be 'GOTCHA', when the word 'GOTCHA' finally appeared he still didn't know at all it was a gotcha oscar until Noel appeared from behind the set and Richard finally realised it was a Gotcha Oscar.
One hilarious incident on NTV from the very early series had a woman running out of the room and didn't come back, leaving Noel and the audience in complete stitches.
1991-6: Ernie Dunstall
1996-8: Stephen Green
1998-9: House of Fun by Madness
Noel's House Party won a Bronze Rose of Montreux in 1994.
When the Dutch were making their own version of NHP, called Monte Carlo, the BBC had to spend a lot of time on the telephone explaining the correct consistency of gunge.
When the Spanish asked if Mr. Blobby could be green, the BBC refused - it was important that Mr. Blobby stayed pink, they said.
Market value of a Gotcha award: £500. That's how much Brian Conley's award went for when it was auctioned for charity on Cash in the Celebrity Attic in 2008.
The series ended in March 1999. Just over a year later, The Best of Noel's House Party (the fifth such compilation) went out on Sunday 26 March 2000, at 11am.
One or two tie-in books were published.
Noel's Gotchas (VHS)
Noel's Golden Gotchas (VHS)
Noel Edmonds - Gotcha! (VHS)
The very beginning of a legendary Saturday night programme.