Lulu and Terry Alderton
House band: The Red Alert House Band (series 1)
Hostesses: the Red Angels (series 1)
Ginger Productions for BBC One, 13 November 1999 to 8 April 2000 (14 episodes in 2 series)
Arrange these words: "Plot, lost, the, They've"
They've packed their passports, they've brought their luggage. They've even remembered their toothbrushes. Yes - it's Don't Forget Your Toothbrush 3!
You could at least be forgiven for thinking this, given it was by the same company (Ginger Productions - that of Chris Evans) but the problems with this show were threefold:
1) It wasn't nearly as much fun.
2) It wasn't produced as well.
3) It was a lottery show.
4) Lulu hosted it.
Maybe that's unfair, since Lulu was pretty good for a first-time host. And it was handy that she did sing the show's theme: "You'd better get rrrreeeeaaaaaaddddddddyyyyyy!" Sadly, rather a lot of people did get ready, to go down the pub.
Four whole streets in Britain competed against each other in order to win the big prize - a holiday for everybody in their street - whoop!
The original set of the show consisted of a makeshift street. In fact the original set was vaguely impressive. Sadly the games and the format were a little uninspiring. Regular 'things' were What Are You Like? where an embarrassing fact is revealed about a member of the audience and to make up for the humiliation they get to play a game for a special prize. Stand By Your Doors would be a bit where a street in Britain had a live OB had a camera. When Lulu said "Stand By Your Doors", everybody would come out and start waving, then they'd all have a race and someone would win £1000 (this was so bad even the producers realised it needed to be dropped after just one show).
The main 'bits' of the show were the performers who would plug their new songs and Pump Up Your Postie, whereby all four streets would attempt to explode an inflatable postman by sitting down repeatedly on pumps. Each individual pump was connected to a bigger tube, which was connected to a bigger tube which connected to the Postie. First street to blow their top off won and went through to Happy Chimneys. Now, I ask you, what sort of a name is that?
Anyway, the winning street's captain nominates five people from their team who each stand in front of a house. Lulu asks questions for 90 seconds on things that happened in the past week. The captain has to nominate a player to answer. If they get it correct, their chimney lights up but the light on that player goes off, signifying that they can't answer again. If all the chimneys are lit then the whole street win the big holiday (another nod to Toothbrush).
Now you see what we realised about this end game, but sadly the producers didn't in time, is: (a) having about 50 partisan people in the audience means it's likely the answers are going to get shouted out, (b) placing the players outside each house on the huge long set made it difficult for the players to hear the questions, and (c) this was the part of the show Lulu handled badly. This all left a very bad taste in the mouth, even if the rest of the show wasn't bad as lottery efforts go.
Not so much Red Alert but Red Alter
Shockingly, the show wasn't axed after one series and they bought it back... only completely different! Yes, it stopped trying to emulate Don't Forget Your Toothbrush in terms of game play, but the original set was dumped for something distinctly Toothbrush-influenced. Sadly, at the same time it also just became bog standard quiz fare. If you like, it was better in that it now worked, but it got worse because it was less original.
In Round One, each team is asked three questions from people on the other street. It's not spontaneous though, the questions have been filmed in advance on location from the opposition's street and University Challenge material they are not. It's two points for a correct answer.
Round Two is the extremely bizarre addition of the Arm Wrestling Round. Two well 'ard blokes from both streets slug it out one-on-one in an arm wrestle to the death. Whoever wins wins three points for their streets. The loser will probably lose face in their local community.
The third round is an observation round where Lulu hangs around Celeb Wanting Publicity (our title) for a three minute piece of film. Each correct answer, which is first on the buzzers, is worth two points. The only clever thing is that you can't have a tied match because the Arm Wrestle is worth three points.
The winning team go through to the final round and the tension is frankly bearable. All the street has to do is answer three out of five questions correctly. If a member thinks they know an answer than they hit their button. After five seconds thinking time, the person who buzzed in first gets to answer the question. Potentially the idea is interesting. Sadly it was done in an uninteresting way. Of course the first person to buzz in is likely to know the answer - they wouldn't have bothered otherwise! Sigh. Still, there were some questions where the streets were so thick no-one offered to answer.
Although Terry Alderton did a good job of livening up the proceedings, the show was too fatally flawed and unoriginal in its design to be actually worth watching. Ginger have, for the time being, officially lost the plot.
Paul McCartney was the music guest on the first show.
The clever way they managed to make the lottery look part of the original show, including shots of part of an audience that was really canned laughter.
The distinctly wobbly buzzers in the second generation version of the set.
In a Radio Times column in 2014, Stuart Maconie, who was a writer on the show, described it as "a brave, ultimately futile, attempt to the bring indie-style quirkiness to Saturday night telly." Oh, is that what it was?