A slight cheat with the letter E on today’s A-Z blog challenge, in which I’m looking back on key TV shows from my time growing up. I say cheat, because some may argue this should come under H, not E, but I have two programmes already for H and I had none for E! So without further ado, today the letter E is for…
Enfield, Harry and Chums
Harry Enfield’s Television Programme
Harry Enfield’s Television Programme (which later became known as Harry Enfield and Chums) was a BBC comedy sketch show airing between 1990 right up until 1998 , starring Enfield himself alongside other alternative up and coming comics of the time such as Paul Whitehouse and Kathy Burke.
Again, a TV show from my teenage years rather than my childhood, but one which definitely helped shape the kind of sense of humour I have and a forerunner (along with Spitting Image) for my delving into other such ’90s ‘alternative’ comedy sketch shows such as The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Newman and Baddiel in Pieces and later on, Big Train.
Harry Enfield’s Television Programme hosted a whole plethora of colourful, over the top caricatures, which myself and my siblings used to find hilarious, probably because we all loved to take off accents and characters anyway, and Enfield and Whitehouse’s creations allowed for that in spades with their catchy catchphrases and distinctive voices. I think as youngsters we were more open to this kind of comedy as it was quite brash and in your face. It wasn’t in any way subtle, it worked on exaggerating cultural British stereotypes and parodying them. I’m not entirely sure now I’d be as taken with it as I was back then. I certainly don’t recall my parents being too impressed, but at the time I loved it and there are quite a few sketches I still consider utterly brilliant.
We did have one particular early episode recorded on VHS cassette which in our typical way we watched over and over again. At least some of the sketches we certainly did. I remember one of the first sketches we loved, which wasn’t of one of the many recurring characters, was a sketch with some Americans (Todd and Bob I seem to remember two of them were called). Anyway, it was basically a sketch taking the mickey out of how emotional Americans are. In it, the men end up hugging and crying and slapping each other on the back. Not something you’d ever find British male office workers doing. Even at the young age of 14 I could get the joke behind it. What made it work I think though was how over the top and blatant it was.
The other sketch which was really quite silly from those early days of the show was called “English for Aliens” in which some aliens simply went around saying the names of nouns such as “tree, tree”, “car, car” in silly voices; kind of like how babies do when they are learning to speak. Honestly, because of that one sketch I still sometimes do that when I see trees or cars, or ‘baby Jesus’which is quite insane! If anyone is ever wondering where they got the idea for the Teletubbies from, I’m convinced it was here!
As with any sketch show, there were always our favourites and if they didn’t appear one week, we’d be disappointed.
My top ten favourites were (in no particular order)
- Wayne and Waynetta Slob Over the top slobs of the highest order. “I am smokin’ a faaaaag” became one of those catchphrases we’d repeat on loop (though not actually smoking a cigarette at all.) And this episode here was one of my favourites, when the slobs won the lottery (very topical at the time as it was fairly new.) Winalot instead of Camelot! So brilliantly funny. (Winalot being a type of dog food.) Complete with their very own butler Jeeves and a golden ‘bog’, I loved this sketch so much as life for the Slobs finally came good. Of course their lottery win ends in disaster, but it’s great to see they have something for a short while. Also when I’m pretending to be posh I’ll still say “what, what, what what” a la Kathy Burke. 🙂
- DJ’s Smashey and Nicey Two throw back DJs almost in the style of Tony Blackburn and a kind of Cliff Richard character who preside over radio Fab FM! Nicey, so called as he does a lot of work for ‘charidy’ (charity), and Smashey, your typical cheesy DJ who has a special penchant for Bachman Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t seen Nothing Yet which is played at the end of each sketch. They ended their career on Radio Quiet, sidelined to the graveyard shift of radio world.
- The Old Gits – two old men who have an axe to grind against the world.
- Kevin The Teenager Even now, myself and my sister will refer to our boys as Kevin if they are displaying any typical teenager type behaviour! This particular episode, where Kevin’s best mate, Perry (played by Kathy Burke) comes back from a trip to Manchester is one of my favourites. Very of the time, Burke’s character is playing a parody of Oasis’s Liam Gallagher. The over the top exaggerated accents and northern stereotypes are utterly brilliant.
- Mr Cholmondley-Warner and Grayson Hilarious old 1930s style footage, deliberately badly edited and patched together. In this sketch, a football match brings 1933 and 1991 together!
- The Scousers The curly haired, shell-suit wearing boys from Liverpool -Barry, Gary and Terry. If anyone nowadays says they are from Liverpool you can bet they’ll be a retort of ‘hey, hey, caaaaaaaalm down’ said in a mock Scouse accent.
- Stan and Pam Herbert. I think I loved them because they had over the top Brummie/Black Country accents. They were always showing off their wealth, and telling everyone that “We are considerably richer than yow (you!)”. This led me to assume they lived in Solihull and so deemed themselves above Brummies living in Birmingham!
- The Randy Old Ladies: Two old ladies (Whitehouse and Enfield) who have a disturbing liking for ‘young men’ and set about embarrassing said young men as only old women could probably get away with. I’d argue an influence for some of The Little Britain stuff from David Walliams and Matt lucas later on into the 2000’s.
- Tim Nice-but-Dim. One of the earliest creations from the original series, Tim is a nice, posh boy, but really quite, well, dim.
- Tory Boy. I was just beginning to understand politics at the time. I’m sure I learnt a lot of what I know from Tory Boy (a typical public school boy Tory) and Spitting Image!
But one of my all time favourite things they did in the shows were the ‘Public Improvement Films’ in which they did parodies of the Pathe newsreels from the 1930s, but with a hilarious satirical edge.
And my all time favourite one of these was the “Women Know Your Limits” one.
Still absolutely brilliant and so hilariously funny, if only for the facial expressions! There was also the fantastic “Women: For Pity’s Sake Don’t Drive” sketch along the same lines.
Recently I’ve been enjoying seeing Harry Enfield perform as Martin Wickers in Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education. He plays the part so straight, yet his character is so ridiculous and over the top, that who better to play it than someone who started out playing completely exaggerated caricatures?
What about you? Which comedy sketch shows did you like? Who were your favourite characters? It would be great to reminisce on some others. 🙂
And we’ll be firmly planted back in the realms of childhood shows tomorrow with the letter F. See you then!