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.