Caroline Flack (2006-8)
CBBC on BBC Two, 16 September 2006 to 19 December 2009 (66 episodes in 4 series)
as TMi Friday CBBC, 10 September to 22 December 2010 (14 episodes in 1 series)
Readers of a certain age will remember the battle for children's television being fought on Saturday mornings. Swap Shop versus Tiswas, Motormouth against Going Live, SM:TV and The Saturday Show. By the mid-2000s. the battles were still being fought as keenly. The players had changed - ITV had stepped out of the market, Nickelodeon and Disney were the BBC's opposition almost by default.
Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow came to an end in spring 2006, and demonstrated that children were most entertained by people - especially other children - doing outrageous things. The replacement, Too Much Information (always styled as TMi), featured the time-honoured mixture of pop videos, cartoons, celebrities promoting their latest project and doing silly things, and children competing for prizes and/or getting messy.
Hosted by Sam Nixon, Mark Rhodes, and Caroline Flack, the first series was structured as a reality programme, with Sam and Mark living in the TMi Flat, cameras filming their every move for weekend highlights, and don't mention Big Brother. The episodes contained "Surely They Can't Make a Game Out of That", a piece of improvised theatre where Sam and Mark were given props from which to construct a game for the studio contestants. Each week finished with the "Chinese Challenge", in which one of the presenters was given a forfeit to carry out in Chinatown, close to the show's Leicester Square studio. A microwave link direct from camera to studio brought the action to the viewing public.
Three more series went out on Saturday mornings; the 2007 run had a series-long vote to "friend" one of the presenters on the CBBC website, and 2008's series introduced a phone-out competition - the first episode of TMi was guilty of sharp practice over phone-in contests. Games played here included one where contestants would open boxes to win prizes, losing everything if they pick a box containing an explosion sound. And don't mention Deal or No Deal.
The 2009 series lost Caroline Flack to other duties, and took as its theme the "Serious Game Show", renamed "Ultimate Game Show" part-way through the run. A number of challenges took place during the show, including "Are You Scareder than a Ten Year Old?" and "Hole in the Total Wipe Out Cube". The latter lost its "Hole in the Fence" section after some harrumphing from Hole in the Wall's owners, renaming it "Gap in the Hedge". Other changes took place after Total Wipeout's people got involved. No-one from The Cube or Are You Smarter Than a 10 Year Old? complained.
It's not the real Schofe, and it's a rectangular cuboid.
"Where does the weekend begin? Right here!"
By autum 2010, it was clear that the battleground for children's hearts and minds (or at least their eyeballs) had shifted from Saturday morning to Friday evening. Nickleodeon wheeled out its big guns, signing up Jamie Rickers and Anna Williamson from the cancelled Toonattik, and showing new episodes of top-rated iCarly and new British sitcom Summer in Transylvania. The BBC's response was to move Sam and Mark's show to Friday nights, and give it a name that resonated with parents.
Like the previous series, each episode was structured as a heat of the "UlTMite Game Show". Teams of three children were joined by the week's guest celebrities to play games. They were challenged with stunts and dares, the celebs tried to scare Sam or Mark in Are You Scareder than a Ten Year Old? Ultimate, and there was a round of the children giving clues as to the person or thing displayed on the board behind the celebs. And don't mention You Say We Pay.
Each week's show finished with a bang, quite literally. Inflation was a guessing game with a big red weather balloon, and featured cameo appearances from the duty Newsround presenter, the day's CBBC presenter, and random members of the crew. Each person would fill a large weather balloon with some air - from a big fat 0 seconds to the "deadly" 16 seconds. So long as the balloon didn't burst while it was being inflated, the team scored points. If it did go pop, so did their points (or SMarks as they were called) for the round, and any hope of returning in the series final. The round had provided a spectacular finale to Britain's Best Brain the previous year, and now had added elements of guesswork and strategy. And allusions to CBBC's wildlife hit Deadly 60.
It was clear that Sam and Mark were top-notch entertainers, and the shows bowled along like a giant bubble of fun.