COMMENT: The 100 Greatest TV Moments From Hell - Page 2
First published December 2000
The 100 Greatest TV Moments From Hell
75. Bernard Levin Gets Punched

An obvious choice. Shown dozens of times on a million clips shows down the years. 'Should have got the punch in quicker', Arthur Smith once noted. What we want to know is a) What did Levin actually write in his review which so infuriated the posh man with the glasses; b) Why does Bernard Levin look shorter standing up than sitting down?; c) Why has nobody tried punching Jamie Theakston?

74. Littlejohn Live and Uncut

This is actually quite a revelation. A visibly distressed Michael Winner calling Richard Littlejohn a homophobic arsehole. Nothing hellish about it. Presumably seldom seen because producers worry that it interferes with the 'Michael Winner is a cunt, no arguments' position they've been carefully cultivating. It re-writes the rulebook, but in a good way, using evidence - much like old episodes of Swap Shop do to Noel Edmonds' reputation. 'La-la, we can't hear you,' the execs chorus...

73. Benny Hill

Oh for crying out loud. Received opinion overload. Described by Zoe Ball as a 'controversial British comedian...' Well, here we go then:

Documentary Makers : Oh no, he was filthy because he chased naked girls through the park.

Old Fucker : No, he was a great great man - I don't hold with all this 'political correctness'.

Producer Bloke : Of course, when alternative comedy came along he was mercilessly dropped by Thames.

Etc. Talking-head snippets seemingly left over from all the other documentaries done about Benny Hill over the last decade, but thankfully no vaporous twattle from comedy historian and British subscription magazine editor Robert Ross' face.

Party-animal Mark Lawson goes glassy-eyed while talking about the scantily-clad ladies, for some odd reason, before suggesting that there'll be a time when serious academics will applaud Benny Hill as a true exponent of farce (without realising that everybody was doing this about five years ago - we've now moved on to C4 interviewing women who claim to have wanked him off).

72. Mo Mowlam on So Graham Norton

'Meanwhile, in Ibiza, some sunburnt women laugh at a vibrator...'

71. Telethons

Just the idea of Telethons, without offering opinions or even particularly good clips. Much is shown of the 1988 ITV one which had a few bits of genuine badness (for instance Ruth Madoc assuring the country that everyone in Wales was well up for it - the Welsh crowd refusing to recognise that this was their cue to cheer, leaving her looking a tad lost). But, naaah, people can reminisce in their own time. Or download the necessary from the net.

70. Countdown saying 'wankers'

Not even ever broadcast. As such how could this have possibly been voted for? Lies, lies, lies...

On one occasion, a contestant came up with the word 'Labia'. That was broadcast. But incidents like these are not the reason why people watch the show. And it wasn't funny anyway.

In March 2003, an edition of Countdown once again found both contestants offering up the word 'wankers'. This was broadcast, uncensored, with everyone involved acting perfectly adult about the situation.

69. Hylda Baker and Arthur Mullard

This edited package was presumably left out of the Top Ten Worst Comedy Songs for reasons of time.

The onscreen caption mentions that their appearance on Top Of The Pops caused the song to slide down the chart. The same thing happened to Tiswas' Four Bucketeers 'Bucket Of Water Song' (possibly due to the BBC's insistence that they throw buckets of Christmas tinsel over the audience in lieu of water for safety reasons). A more recent exponent of the phenomeman was Bis' 'Kandy Pop' but there seems no possible reason why this might be the case.

68. One Hour With Jonathan Ross

A man from the Freedom To Party campaign handcuffs himself to Ross. Then he throws a glass of water over Paul Morley and (without even pausing) takes a sip from a second glass. He even apologises when Ross tells him off. No hell involved. As talking-head, Morley recollects that they 'carried on as if it was just one of those things - it didn't seem to be particularly unusual' - and that live TV was great because that sort of thing could happen. This man should be on television a lot more.

67. Roger DeCourcey on A Christmas Parade

Several children 'sabotage' a performance by the famous vent and Nookie Bear. Except of course they don't. They just wander about a bit.

'Roger looks around for assistance', the captions tell us. For the benefit of those without fucking eyes.

66. Mind Your Language

More poison from the 70s. Poor old Vince Powell. He never seemed to get it just right. Paul Ross has the total audacity to take the moral high-ground over the issue, despite being Paul Ross. Stunt-female Arabella Weir pops up to describe the show as 'beyond belief'. See, these people - always the same ones, the Syals, Weirs, Rosses, Maconies, etc - they're not there to be genuine pundits and comment on these changing fashions of broadcast and media. They are there because they have this basic need to make their specially reinvented, lying, two-faced, shallow-views personae public so that people may put a face to the received opinion and vice versa. And as far as comedy teams are concerned, it always seems to be the fucking idiot of the group who needs that kind of exposure.

65. Stan Boardman's 'Fokkers' gag

And what's so terrible about this? Boardman isn't the only comedian who's used this particular play on words. Neville Chamberlain used to incorporate it into after-dinner speeches. Not offensive, and only outrageous in the context of the Des O'Connor show. A comical play on the amount of times the fokker / fucker pun can be used in a short burst of time. Des' patient face as the fokker blethers on is actually a pure delight. Not hellish. Not very funny, as a joke, but then there's nowt much to laff at these days.

64. Pam Ayres

'She was a shimmering sexpot of 70s excitement', says the 'Joe' one off of Adam & Joe, thus relinquishing his right to life. Next time we're being rude to the Goodies we'll take time out to turn around and break his fucking legs too.

63. James Harries on Wogan

No, this isn't hell. The hellish part of the James Harries experience came a few years later when he was being hailed as a child genius and airing his views on all and sundry despite having not yet developed a basic pubertal understanding of comedy. A bit like Dan L in that respect. 'If I'd 'ave spoken like that when I was a kid, I'd 'ave got a smack in the mouth', said Frank Skinner, also on the Wogan show.

Steve Coogan, a guest on Wogan around the same time as the latter Skinner / Harries appearance, went on to illustrate Skinner's amusement on Knowing Me Knowing You.

62. Lynne Perrie on The Word

Fuck off.

61. Heil Honey, I'm Home

For crying out loud, what the hell is going on? This was quite obviously a parody using a very obvious gag - coupling Adolf Hitler with a cosy sitcom premise. What kind of stupid fucking jerk arsehole would miss the point of a joke like that? And despite being an obvious send-up, they're still trying to bracket it with a 'racism' tag doled out to Vince Powell's stuff.

Geoff Atkinson is interviewed, talking about the notion of turning Hitler into a domestic fool, something which comedians have been doing since he first strutted his stuff on the newsreels. Dick Fiddy, idiot TV historian, describes the show as 'reprehensible because the next door neighbours were Jewish'(despite that being the whole shitting point). One of the Corpses is Jewish and he'd absolutely love to see the show (nay, the series) in full. Very interesting that the full title sequence is shown, including Paul Jackson's 'executive producer' credit, especially given the animosity twixt Mr Jackson and certain people at Channel 4 - an allusion to office politics they assume we're too stupid to pick up on. The inclusion of Heil Honey... in this chart isn't just misguided, it's deliberately offensive.

60. Beauty Contests

Yeah, yeah, I'd like to work with children and animals, etc, blah, blah, bored...

59. Felix on The Tube

A 13-year-old boy interviews Paul McCartney and still makes a better job of it than Jamie Theakston ever could.

58. The Comedians

'In an era before irony...', says Ball. Garry Bushell does his usual schtick. Charlie Williams is dragged on to defend himself to all the post-ironists watching despite having apparently had a stroke. Two interesting things here: Williams' act was always based on him making jokes about the fact that he was black. Russell Peters is still doing that shit in this supposed 'enlightened age' (and getting pissed off by the fact that nobody in this country really cares what colour he is).

Several snippets of John Thomson's 'Bernard Right-on' are shown, just to show how far things have moved on. What nobody's ever pointed out is that the latter sets out to prove that without a certain degree of unpleasantness Bernard's act is totally meaningless. And that's the biggest lesson of all. Without cruelty you don't get beauty. Surely, in this post-modern age, (what with everybody being socially aware and everything), racist and sexist comedy should make us laugh all the more. Thing is, generally, it does. But despite their claims to the contrary, the media still brackets people as idiots who need to be told of the above. And this is why we get people like Meera Syal taking the moral high ground. An insidious reflection of a perceived public feeling. Well, as long as we all agree with each other, everything will be fine.

57. Swearing Football Managers

Not hell, just an excuse to laugh at some blokes saying the F-word on telly, even though it's perfectly allowable these days. 'Bad language on TV is still frowned upon by many', reads the onscreen caption, as if to remind the viewers why these clips constitute 'hell' and show us where to laugh.

56. The Epilogue

Several earnest vicars do nobody any harm. That's odd - no Stuart Maconie putting the boot into harmless old men in this bit. Perhaps he was too busy kicking his grandad.

55. Glen Medeiros on Juke Box Jury

We all remember this one. The hellish thing was that Glen's song wasn't particularly trite or awful in the face of the Stock Aitkin Waterman-littered 80s pop charts. The cross-the-board glory-hunting panning he received was a perfect illustration of safety-in-numbers sneery opinion. On this occasion it backfired on them. We recall similar situations occurring on the show where the recipients of the slaggings took it in their stride. Channel 4 doesn't acknowledge this - 'The panel was right. The song wasn't a hit' says the onscreen caption. No mention is made of the fact that Medeiros cancelled several further British TV appearances and fucked off back home pretty sharpish, so it's hardly surprising really.

54. Crossroads

Yeah, yeah, carry on. Call us when you've finished. We'll be upstairs, formulating some original opinions.

53. Why Don't You

Here it comes again. We all watched Why Don't You. We all enjoyed it while waiting for The Monkees or Dudley Do-Right to come on. And yet suddenly the opinion is that it was rubbish. Producer Russell T. Davies pops up to talk about how he had to invent all the 'things to do' because all the kiddie-viewers ever sent in were recipes for chocolate rice crispies. Now isn't that a perfect illustration of how The Top 100 TV Moments From Hell works?

52. Public Image Limited on Check It Out

The sneery ex-Sex Pistols singer acts like a spoilt little cunt on late night television. The bleeps suggest it was pre-recorded anyway. 'Sorry, rude word...', says Lydon, repeating his one and only joke. This - and the Juke Box Jury choice later - suggests a concession to originality (as an alternative to simply dragging out the Grundy footage again). Still a false economy though.

51. The Black & White Minstrel Show

It was racist, says one talking head playing the obvious role. No it wasn't - it was great, says Garry Bushell playing his usual role as a professional reactionary. A clip of The Goodies' 'Alternative Roots' is shown as an illustration. 'This is what we were meant to be watching in the 60s? When the Beatles and the Stones and the Doors were happening?', blurts Paul Ross. In fact, the Beatles and the Stones and the Doors were also shown frequently on TV in the 60s. Perhaps Paul Ross was safely in bed listening to 'Sparky's Magic Piano' by that time, despite his blokey insistence that he was with-it enough to appreciate David Frost as a top bloke.
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