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This is Your Life: Noel Edmonds (Part 1: The Rise and Fall) [19/04/2011]

There is nothing more quintessential with British television than Noel Edmonds. He is the doyenne of low budget, mass-market entertainment. Whether its contrived weekend entertainment shows, far right propaganda vehicles or ‘guess my box’, he turns it into a raiting smash. The only thing that has ever held him back are trivial little things like a record number of complaints, or people dying on his set. I never knew why the producers of failing shows didn’t draft Edmundo in the halt their ratings slide. He could easily have slotted into Flash-Forward, or Heroes, or Setanta Sports.

After bit part jobs on Radio including a brief stint on Radio Luxembourg, Noel got his first big break on TV with The Late Late Breakfast Show, which although sounding like the perfect breakfast show for students and the unemployed, was actually a Saturday evening show! You get it! Like reaaaly late breakfast! Hence the late late Breakfast Show! Fuck me, Big Noel’s comedy banter is wasted on you shits.

The show was basically one of those irritating ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ vehicles that attempted to do a little bit everything, a bit like The One Show, only with a theme tune by Spandau Ballet. Features included hidden camera skits, outtakes, pop music performances, something called ‘Whirly Wheel’ and stunts. Now this was a bit before my time, so I never witnessed it, but Jesus; it sounds utterly interminable. Just really artificially hip. Like the ‘Young Conservatives’. Or Topshop. *shudders*

.It was on The Late Late Breakfast Show that Noel’s turbulent relationship with Health & Safety, and ‘people not dying on his TV programmes’ started. The BBC was twice threatened with legal action by the Health and Safety Executive due to how dangerous their stunts were, due to a number of injuries to stuntmen. But listen, Noel is a TV pro. Would he let the risk of serious injury and fatalities curtail his wish to bring moderately entertaining early evening programming to terrestrial TV? Not a chance!

As a result of this attitude, someone did actually die. Self-employed hod carrier Michael Lush was killed during a rehearsal for a live stunt.

The stunt, called “Hang ‘em High”, involved bungee jumping from an exploding box suspended from a 120 ft-high crane. The carabiner clip attaching his bungee rope to the crane sprang loose from its eyebolt during the jump. He died instantly of multiple injuries.

Bet stuff like this never happened on Radio Luxembourg.

An inquest in the death found the BBC to be ‘awful shits’ (I’m paraphrasing, but it was along these lines). Payments were made to Lush’s family, and Edmonds stated;

“If I was to continue my career at the BBC I would want to be fully confident about any production team I was provided with.”

The Late Late Breakfast Show was scrapped following this. After a brief stint on Telly Addicts (where, Christ I don’t know. He held a self-help group with people dependent on the Box? Look, I still wasn’t alive at this stage. You want Michael Aspell levels of biography? You pay me Michael Aspell levels of salary. Simple) Noel returned with Noel’s House Party.

Set in Crinkley Bottom (which is just the shittest, most middle class joke I’ve ever heard) the show had no underage drinking, vandalism or intoxicated sexual favours, so it wasn’t like most house parties I remember. Instead, it was like a Noel Edmonds variety hour, with practical jokes, comedy skits and celebrity cameos. As entertaining as it may have been, when you consider that the US have Saturday Night Live, it shows far behind we are in the prime-time comedy stakes.

‘Gotcha’ was where they played practical jokes on sort of famous people, like Samatha Janus and Dave Lee. Now, Punk’d did really chuffing well as a TV show, and it’s just this exact same concept. It makes you realise that had Edmonds picked more ambitious targets than Yvette Fielding and Richard Whiteley, he might be in Beverly Hills right now, instead of Devon. Annabel Giles (Nope, me neither) was the first person to spot the hidden camera and stop the prank, but;

Noel had the last laugh as in revenge, he had her gunged.

Oh Noel, you old charmer. Other features included Wait Till I Get You Home, Sofa Soccer and Grab a Grand. One of the more famous section however, was the revered, the infamous, the majestic; Gunge Tank.

The Gunge Tank was used to gunge unpopular celebrities or members of the public. They’d set up a phone vote, and whoever got the most votes at the end got sweet gunge spaffed all over them from a great height. It was like the world’s most public and vitriolic popularity contest.

As with anything on TV, the bovine Britain that populate the main stream demographic get bored quickly, so the gunge tank had to kept revolutionising itself in order to stay hip.

For Season 2, the tank also pumped foam from underneath the chair before the gunge was released. For Season 3, the chair holding the victim was on a conveyor device which would take the victim through revolving car wash brushes before the actual gunging. In Seasons 4 & 5, it was developed into the “Trip Around The Great House”, where the victim would be placed on a miniature railway that journeyed through the studio set, finishing up in the Giant Fireplace where the gunge would finally be released.

Anyway, times change fast, and Noel’s Hose Party struggled to stay relevant. There’s only so many times you can put Keith Chegwin on gunge railway and play practical jokes on Anneka Rice. It can get droll after a while.

As with any failing TV show, new characters are brought in to spice it up. Noel’s solution was not so much to bring in a new character, but a 6”4 pink and yellow Michelin man called Mr Blobby. It’s another occasion when I’d loved to have been a fly on the wall in whatever meeting that was pitched.

Now, say what you want about the sense behind it, but the Blobbster was an unquestionable success. Originally part of the ‘Gotcha’ segment, Mr Blobby went on the play a central role in the show. His basic trait was to host a spoof kids show in a prank on a celeb, where he’d be rolling around shouting Blobby Blobby Blooby, tripping himself up and riling up the celeb in the process. Funnily enough, the premise of Mr Blobby was the legitimate plot of Telly Tubbies. Proving, once again, that children will watch anything.

Blobby soon outgrew this and had a number one single with ‘The Blobby Song’. Now this was back when number 1s actually meant something, and it wasn’t just the latest reformed 90s act or an X-Factor runner up. In an attempt to build on the fame, Noel made the odd move of building a Blobby theme park. The guy is a maverick, granted, but seriously Noel, A theme Park? A fucking theme park? Couldn’t you have just gunged him or something?

Regardless, the parks were set up in Somerset and Morecambe. Surprise surprise; no-one went to it. Noel also had a massive spat with the Council over its building, which lead to a legal tussle and the parks eventually closing, costing Edmonds £2.5M in the process. Big Noel; shrewd as ever. The remains of the park were used for raves by local, erm, ravers. This caused outrage amongst remaining Blobby fans, in particular Chris Bryant, who stated;

‘The ravers should have more respect for Mr Blobby. He was a hero to a lot of kids and the thought of them taking drugs and having all-night raves in his house is completely disrespectful.’ 

Yeah! He was a hero to many. Like a slightly unhinged demographic’s Diana.

Towards the late 90s even Blobby couldn’t save House Party, and if a man in a pink and yellow polka-dot fatsuit, resembling something out of a Stephen King novel that releases charity singles can’t save your show, then it’s probably time to admit defeat. The show was cancelled in 1998, and for the final episode it had a very sincere and fitting send off – Freddie Starr foamed Noel with a fire extinguisher (you know, the guy who ate hamsters in spare time). That’s class, that is. And Noel had it in spades.

However, worse was to happen for Noel in 1998, when again his philanthropy and involvement with the community led to someone dying. Through his ‘Airbourne Trust’ Foundation, Noel threw a charity event, letting children fly in light aircraft.

The accident occurred in June when a helicopter giving “fun flights” to disabled children crashed at Glamis in Scotland. Nine-year-old Gary Malley was killed and Ryan Nicoll, aged 11, escaped with minor injuries.

Mr Edmonds said: “I have now had sight of the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the accident and am of course bound by its confidentiality until the publication date”.

Think Noel should just probably knock the community outreach stuff on the head.

With this and the end of House Party, 1998 proved to be a rather crud year in Chez Edmonds. Following the demise of two prime team TV shows, most thought that Edmonds would be finished as a TV prescence. Would he bounce back? Would he become the TV star of old? Would he get another chance?

Find out in Part 2!

(note: He does bounce back. Sorry to spoil it for you. But, yeah. Big time)

Posted on April 19th, 2011
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