Phil Cornwell, John Thomson, Caroline Aherne (as Sister Mary) and Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey)
Action Time in association with Granada for Channel 4, 8 January 1991 to 8 December 1992
It's Postmodern! It's Youth TV! It's rubbish! It's tacky! Yet great at the same time! It's Remote Control!
Anthony H Wilson (DJ turned regional TV presenter turned owner of a record company) tried to keep everything under control, stupid haircut or not, and was ably assisted by Frank Sidebottom (man with a papier mache head) who swapped with Phil Cornwell on alternate weeks.
Sofa, so good
The studio was a tribute to a huge living room, the walls were all covered with posters, and Tony and assistant sitting at a bar/desk next to the huge TV. The contestants (all post high school/college up for it teens/students) sat in big armchairs and the game would begin. The TV had eight channels, each one had a specific subject behind it (which was unknown to the contestants until they selected it). These titles would often have puns involved in them, and the questions were all quickfire. Whoever got it right got to pick the next channel, apparently using their remote control. Each question was worth two points and there would be two or three questions available for each subject. The subjects changed every week but some that appeared regularly were:
- Singalonga! where the assistant would start singing a song and the contestants buzzed in and carried on for a bit.
- Fair Experiment? where the resident scientist/doctor character would come into the room, do some sort of faux gory experiment (with real pretend blood), and then ask a scientific question.
- Unfair Questions, where the question would start as a statement with the hope of someone buzzing in too early, only to find out that the actual question was entirely different. For example: "Paris is the capital of..." [Buzz] "...France, but can you name a presenter of Blue Peter?"
After a certain amount of time, the round would end. If, however, somebody had less than a certain amount of points, an announcer would announce "STUPID ALERT! STUPID ALERT!" and the stupid person would get a chance to get some extra points for every answer to something like "name as many Shakespere plays as you can". They would get ten seconds to reel off as many answers as possible, but the crowd, the other contestants and anyone else in the vacinity would get to chant "STUPID!" at the contestant as they did it. It was funny. Part One would end with a look at some of the great prizes they could win. Despite being deliberately poor (an old Bunty annual, a used sprout, whatever), they still rival anything Channel 5 have given away to date. To into the half time break, the contestants would be given some refreshments. This would be a shower of Cadbury's Creme Eggs or crisps or something like that.
The same, and yet not the same
Part Two was just like Part One only different. There were now eight new subjects but this round was slightly shorter. Why? Because at the end, one of the players would be out of the game. And the way they'd exit was quite funny, usually. They'd be asked to buckle up in their seat belt before the chair would swing, tilt, or just rocket backwards through the wall (see Brainstorm), comically of course, and to the assistant and crowd singing "Hey you, GET OFF OF MY SHOW!" until they've gone. Then there would be more of the wonderful prizes.
The way the winner was decided was by Think Fast, which would take the form of a quick fire quiz such as remembering telephone numbers or doing mental arithmetic, with two points for a right answer. And when it had finished, the winner was decided. The loser was met with everybody singing Hit the Road, Jack (led by none other than Mr Stella Street himself, Phil Cornwell). We'd then be treated to the star prize, something worth between £200 and £500, a giant wardrobe or somesuch.
The final round would see the last contestant strapped horizontally to a wheel (to which Tony would would advise "If you're going to be sick, do it to your left...") Outside the wheel were ten screens the contestant would have 45 seconds to answer ten pop culture questions (whilst being spun), each one for a prize. Moreover, for every one they got correct, one of the screens would show the word "Yes!" and for every one wrong it would show "No!". After the time ran out, all the unmarked screens turned to a "No!", then the wheel would slow down and stop. If it pointed to a "Yes!" they won the big prize and if it showed a "No!" they didn't.
And that was it. It was superb, yet stupid and inane at the same time. It wasn't trying to make a point but it was FUN and that's got to be a good thing. AND it was original at times as well! It's a show many people are fond of.
Based on a US MTV show of the same name.
"Hit the road, Jack"
Comedian Sean Lock used to do the warm-up for the show, and even appeared in the odd episode.