Friday, 14 July 2017

736 Catchphrase

First  viewed : 1986

We  move  on  into  1986, something  of  a  red  letter  year  for  me and  quite  a  busy  one  for  this  blog  as  we'll  see.

I  mentioned  a  few  posts  back  that  I'd  moved  into  shared  accommodation  for  my  final  year  at  university but  it  wasn't  long  before  I  came  to  regret  it. The  seeds  had  been  sown  before  we  even  moved  in. Right  at  the  start,  my  friend  Dave  L  had  asked  me  if  we  should  invite  anyone  else  and  me, always  wanting  to  construct  a  gang,  had  suggested  Pete  and  Dave  M , two  other students  who'd  been  left  behind  after  the  mass  exodus  from  the  hall  of  residence  at  the  end  of  Year  One. We  walked  miles  around  Headingley  in  April / May  1985  until  we found  somewhere  that   apparently  suited  everybody,  then  right  at  the  point  when  we  were giving  the  landlord  a  deposit , Dave  M  pulled  out  and  decided  to  stay  put  for  a  third  year. We  then  had  to  start  afresh,  looking  for  somewhere   as  a  trio. We  found  a  back  to  back  in  Woodhouse  and,  fearing  that  the  whole  project was  on  the  point of  collapse,  I  agreed  to  take  a  very  small  room  to  seal  the  deal.

That  was  one  problem. The  next, and  I'll  have  to  choose  my  words  carefully  here, was  Pete. Pete  was  in  the  neighbouring  room  to  me  that  second  year  in  hall   and  we  had  a  certain  amount  in  common . He  liked  walking  and  playing  snooker  and  I  enjoyed  his  propensity  for  practical  jokes  as  long  as  they  were  directed  at  other  people. That's  why  I  suggested  him  despite  having  full  knowledge  of  one  or  two  disturbing  incidents  - Pete  had  a  very  poor  relationship  with  many  of  the  incoming  students  -  which  should  have  given  me  pause  for  thought. Dave  M  later  said  that  the  main  reason  he'd  pulled  out  was  the  thought  of  spending  a  year  in  the  same  small  house  as  Pete.

By  his  own  admission, Pete  had  just  scraped  onto  a  chemistry  course  at  Leeds  after  disappointing  A  Level  results. He  struggled  on  it  and  at  the  end  of  that  second  year, calamitously,  he  failed   the  exams  and  had  to  take  a  year  out. His  tutors  said  they'd  turn  a  blind  eye  to  him  attending  lectures  but  he  had  to  fend  for  himself  as  far  as  maintenance  went. His  parents  gave  him  enough  to  survive  which  meant  he  could  stay in  Leeds  and  have  plenty  of  free  time  in  the  house  to  think  up  annoying  wheezes. I  came  very  close  to  hitting  him  on  one  occasion  which  would  certainly  not  have  ended  favourably  for  me. That  wasn't  the  full  extent  of  the  problems  though. One  evening  Dave  L and  I  came  back  to  a  house  full  of  smoke. Pete  had  made  the  cellar  his  own, to  work  on  his  bike  and  play  with  his  air  rifle,  but  it  had  got  cold  so  he  decided  it  would  be a   good  idea   to  make  a  fire  despite  the  fairly  crucial  absence  of  a  chimney. On  another  occasion,  I  came  back  from  a  weekend at home  and  the  guy  from  the  adjoining  property  was  on  the  doorstep,  threatening  to  give  me   and  Dave  L  a  good  hiding  over  the  excessive  noise  Pete  and   his  drinking  buddies  had  made  on  the  Saturday  night.

It  didn't  seem  safe  to  stay  with  Pete  and  then  there  was  an  external  threat.  The Yorkshire  Post  started  reporting  that  a  large  gang  of  feral  kids  were  targeting  students  for  attack. The  reports  indicated  that  the  kids  were  roaming  from  Woodhouse  into  the  more  obviously  student  territory  of  Headingley  but  it  was  still  too  close  for  comfort.

Those  were  the  push  factors. Then  there  was  a  pull  factor. Leeds  Student  reported  on  a  recent  court  case  - Street  v  Mountford - I  think  -  where  the  judges  declared  that  licence  agreements, exactly  the  type  of contract  we'd  made  with  the  landlord   were  a  sham  to  avoid  fair  rent  legislation  and  must  now be  regarded  as  tenancies. I  wasn't  that  interested  in  screwing  the  landlord  for  a  lower  rent ; what  I  wanted  to  know  was  did  the  judgement  mean  I  could  tear  up  the  licence, cancel  the  two  post-dated  cheques  he  still  had  to  cash  and  walk  away  from  my  mistake ?  Nobody  seemed  sure  but  that  prospect  was  the  final  nail  in  the  coffin  for  my  tenure  at  17  Thomas  St.  Over  the  Christmas  holidays  I  decided   that  I  would  not  be  returning  there  and,  indeed,  never  spent  a  night  there  again.

Having  made  that  decision , I   had  no  other  option  except  to  stay  at  home  and  commute  in  to  Leeds  when  necessary. My  mother  was  very  much  against  this  idea, taking  the  view  that  I  was  running  away  from  my  first  encounter  with  the  real  world. I  only  had  one  good  argument  to  deploy, that  my  dissertation, on  Edwardian  politics  in  North  East  Lancashire,  required  more  research  in  local  libraries,  which  it  did. With  that , and  a  contribution  to  maintenance  which  I  could  ill  afford  because  I  couldn't  find  the  assurance  I  needed  to  cancel  that  next  rent  cheque, she  grudgingly  yielded  for  the  time  being. This  also  meant  that,  once  again,  I  could  watch  midweek  TV.

That's  not  entirely  relevant  to  Catchphrase  although  it  was  on  Sunday  nights  at  a  time by  which  I would  normally  have  started  my  journey  back to Leeds. I  have  no  idea  when  I  first  caught  an  episode  but  some  time  during  its  first  year  of  transmission  seems  a  fair  bet.

Catchphrase  was  a  very  lowbrow  game  show  akin to  Punchlines  where  the  two  contestants  had  to  identify  a  well-known  phrase, proverb  etc.  from  a  partially-revealed, faintly  humorous  animation, often  featuring  the  show's  Dusty  Bin-esque  mascot  Mr  Chips.

The  show  found  its  ideal  host  in  slimy  Irish  comedian  Roy  Walker, another  New  Faces  winner. His  queasy  repartee  and  shark-eyed  insincerity  were a  perfect  fit  for  the  cheap  concept  and  that gave  the  show  a  certain  sleazy  charm  and  durability.

It was  the  sort  of  show  I'd  never  stay  in  to  watch  and  I  missed  the  most  infamous  episode  in  1994  with  the  "Snake  Charmer"  animation  where  Mr  Chips  appeared  to  be  bashing  the   bishop. It  had  me  on  the  floor  when  it  first  featured  on  a  Bloopers  show.

Walker  was  a  smart  cookie  and  knew  when  it  was  time  to  quit  in  1999. Nick  Weir  foolishly  tried to  replace  him. He  fell down  the stage  on  his  first  show and  things  didn't  get  much  better  as  ratings  plummeted. Weir  was  sacked  in  2002  and  Mark  Curry  took  over  for  a  final  series  in  2004  now  relegated  to  a  daytime  show.

The  show was  revived  with  Stephen  Mulhearn  and  is  currently  on  its  fifth  season.

1 comment:

  1. I remember quite enjoying this, back in the day, and Walker seemed more avuncular than slimy, though that may be the perspective of youth.

    Last week, when visiting my parents, I did happen upon the latest incarnation of the show and was shocked by how easy it was.