First viewed : Autumn 1982
Saturday Superstore , launched in October 1982 , was basically Swap Shop re-branded to reflect the fact that there was a new guy at the helm. With the benefit of hindsight, replacing Noel Edmunds for five years on the Saturday morning kids TV flagship would be the apogee of Mike Read's career and to be fair he was a competent host. Other than that, the presenting team ( Keith Chegwin, Maggie Philbin and John Craven ) stayed the same until the following year when Philbin left to have a baby and was replaced by the much sexier Sarah Greene. A seemingly sane David Icke joined the team at the same time. The format was pretty much identical especially after they ditched the shop theme in the second season.
I only ever dipped into it occasionally - it was kids TV after all - but it was a part of the pop landscape in the eighties and so there were a few incidents that I read about and wished I'd seen such as a 3- year old Natalie Casey asking Boy George to take her to the toilet and Matt Bianco getting called " a bunch of wankers" during a live Q & A session.
Then of course in the final series Mrs T dropped by and a young girl asked her where she'd be if they dropped the bomb - well Read wasn't going to ask her any toughies was he ? Thatcher gave the usual flannel about a strong N.A.T.O. keeping the peace to which the kid listened politely then said "Yeah but where will you be ? " Thatcher icily replied "I shall be in London" thereby conceding the point that it might happen after all. Thatcher also participated in the video review slot where she pretended to like The Thrashing Doves' Beautiful Imbalance, actually a pretty good song. It was a minor hit and it's not clear whether her endorsement helped or harmed it.
The one episode I did see for myself was Frankie Goes To Hollywood's appearance to promote the Welcome To The Pleasuredome single on 22 March 1985 . I was back home for a Rochdale game ( which must have been called off because there's no result for that day in the stats ) and must have put the telly on while waiting for dinner. The lads gave an amiable interview but there was a sting in the tail. They'd brought in a collection of memorabilia to give away in a competition for which they'd devised three questions announced by Holly Johnson :
- Who did we do our first radio interview with ?
- What was unusual about that interview ? and
- Who banned Relax ?
That last one clearly hadn't been cleared with Read and as he started to protest, the other lads jumped in, "No No you can't give it away !" which of course he couldn't . Done up like a kipper, Read introduced their video through gritted teeth.
It's tempting to tie the demise of Saturday Superstore in April 1987 to Read's damaged credibility, not helped by tabloid revelations about him bonking to the music of the unfashionable Icicle Works, but at most that can only be part of the story. The show was coming under pressure from an ITV rival called No 73 and another re-boot was needed.
This time it was much more thorough. Only Greene and agony uncle Philip Hodson survived the purge and went into Going Live. We've covered Read's travails in the Pop Quiz post. Chegwin was heading the same way but managed to turn things around for himself a few years later on The Big Breakfast. Craven still had his Newsround and two years later began his long stint on Countryfile. Icke, well, we'll come back to him in due course.