Sunday, 16 July 2017

738 Aspel and Company

First  viewed  : Uncertain

This  Saturday  night  chat  show  on  ITV  started  in  1984  but  as  we  were  pretty  chained  to  the BBC   on  Saturday  nights,  it  was  a  while  before  I  first  saw  it. The  show  garnered  a  lot  of  attention,  seven  weeks  into  its  first  season, when  Margaret  Thatcher  appeared  on  the show  and  started  crying  when  talking  about  her  father  attracting  widespread  cynicism. After  that,  it  got  a  lot  of  good  press  for  Aspel's  quietly  forensic,  self-effacing  style  in  contrast  to  the  self-promoting  mugging  of  Wogan  and  Harty. Even  if  the  guests  weren't  that  interesting , it  was  absorbing  to  see  the  ultimate  professional  at  work.

One  episode  above  all   stands  out  and  no  prizes  for  guessing  which  one.  Oliver  Reed's  notorious  second  appearance  on  the  show  in  February  1987  occurred  at  the  end  of  my  first  week  at  work  and  thus  constitutes  my  first  " water cooler  moment".

Oliver  had  been  drinking  something  rather  stronger  than  water  when  he  came  on  to  promote  his  new  film  Castaway  and  after  putting  down  his jug  of  orange  juice  and  God  knows  what else.  the  dishevelled  actor  went  over  to  the  house  band  and  asked  them  to  give  him  some  backing  for  a  rendition  of  The  Wild  One. They  gamely  gave  it  a  go  whilst  trying  not  to  corpse and  Ollie  bawled  out  a  verse  while  "dancing"  in  a  manner  that  suggested  he  should  be  in  a  police  cell  rather  than  a TV  studio.

Having  satisfied  his  craving  to  be  a  rock  star  he  did  sit  down   and  manage  to  give  vaguely  coherent  answers  to  Aspel's  tart  questions like  "You've  just  finished  making  the  film  Castaway, do  you  remember  any  of  it  ?" He  spilled   some  of  his  "juice "  on  fellow  guest, the  tiresomely  wacky  comic  actress , Su  Pollard,  who  was  wearing  a  typically  exhibitionist  dress  so  he  deserves  some  credit  if  he  meant  it. Clive  James  asked  him  why  he  drank, getting  the reply  that  the  finest  people  Ollie  knew  were  those  he'd  met  in  pubs.

The  show  outlasted  its  rivals  but  came  to  grief  in  1993  when  Sylvester  Stallone, Arnold  Schwarzenegger  and  Bruce  Willis  appeared  on  the  show  to  promote  their  new  restaurant  venture  in  London, Planet  Hollywood. The  plugging  was  so  outrageously  obvious , with  Aspel   having  to  read  out  the  menu,  that  the  show  was  heavily  criticised  in  the  press. Aspel  took  it  on  the  chin  and  announced  he'd  be  quitting  chat  shows  at  the  end  of  the  season  which  had  5  more  episodes  to  run.

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