Sunday, 14 July 2019

Aliens Vs. Pipes

Greetings, Ghostwatchers!

It's happened, again. Yes, Ghostwatch has very kindly been given a mention, this time on ITV's third series of, Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule. Which no doubt means the inevitable Foxhill-Xenomorph-crossover-preboot-sidesqual is mere moments away from being green-lit.

If that wasn't enough to make or break many a Ghostwatcher's week, Saturday's installment of the popular, satirical, yet inexplicably-futuristic, TV Burp spinoff also saw special-guest appearances by Warwick Davis, Kelly Brook, Charlie Dimmock, and wouldn't you know it, Sarah Greene.

If you haven't seen the show before, basically, a handful of well-known faces join Harry for a topical review of potential 'fun' moments to be encapsulated and forwarded over to a, surely undetectable-by-infrared, hive of alien invaders, in order to convince them not to descend upon, overthrow, or otherwise take over the world, as we know it.

https://www.itv.com/hub/harry-hills-alien-fun-capsule/2a4728a0021The genuinely-quite amusing premise makes use of micro-clips from classic televisual curios, or recent You've Been Framed!-type online snippets, which are piped-through to the studio at regular intervals, usually parodically pertaining to that particular episode's parade of prescient panelists. Overall, the setup is broadly similar to Harry Hill's TV Burp, but with a far greater-reaching archival search radius than purely the preceding week's telly offerings to choose from.

It's almost, *almost* reminiscent of, This Is Your Life, but with welcome, surreal shades of Vic & Bob's rightfully-classic, bitter shandy-fueled, Shooting Stars on offer, too. For instance, last week saw Emmerdale's Patrick Mower, comedian Nick Helm, presenter Angellica Bell, and BBC News Royal Correspondent, Jennie Bond inexplicably, but sweetly partaking in an impromptu jolly tune, in praise of Coventry Market. That sort of thing.

And with that, about eight minutes, twenty-eight seconds, into yesterday's Episode #6, believe it or not, the following very much transpired, on national television...

HARRY: Now, Sarah Greene. You've done so many shows, of course, but I must say, I love the one-off special, Ghostwatch. Tell us about that.

SARAH: It was all about a house in Hayes, in Middlesex [audience laughs], being haunted!

HARRY: How scary. A house in Hayes, in Middlesex.

SARAH: Being haunted!

HARRY: It was in a modern terraced house, wasn't it, on an estate? And it exposed all sorts of sinister secrets.


PAM: But my ex-husband used to develop his own photos in a darkroom, under the stairs.
The Glory Hole, we used to call it, when I was a kid.


HARRY: I think, everyone had a glory hole in their house, in the eighties. Where we would develop our photos, but... what I liked about the show, was the way you took the time to introduce the crew, Sarah.

SARAH: I think it's time to meet Sound. Man of sound mind, here, Mike Aiton.
Not only can this gentleman hear an ant scratching its back legs at fifty yards,
he's also the unofficial chairman of the Adrian Edmondson Lookalike Society.

AITON: ... Right on!
 

HARRY: Yeah! He does look and sound a lot like Ade Edmondson. It's quite a common look, that though, that Ade Edmondson look. In fact, we've got a few members of the crew that look a bit like him, here. There's Bob, on Camera One. Hi, Bob!


HARRY: There's Bill, on Camera Two. Hi, Bill!
 

HARRY: Then, there's our sound-man, Phil. Hi, Phil!


HARRY: Then, there's the producer, Alan. Hi, Alan!


HARRY: And the lighting director, Martin. Hi, Martin!


HARRY: And of course, our director, Geraldine. Hi, Geraldine!


HARRY: Yeah, it turns out, it's quite a common look, that Ade Edmondson look...

CREW-MEMBER: Harry, Harry... Harry..?

HARRY: Who are you?

CREW-MEMBER: I'm... Benedict. I'm the new floor manager.

HARRY: Has anyone ever told you, you look a bit like Ade Edmondson?

CREW-MEMBER: Oh, not you, as well! There's lot of people... I hate it, when they say it, because I think, he looks a bit weird, don't you?

HARRY: Yeah, he is, a bit.

CREW-MEMBER: Yeah, he looks very weird.

HARRY: Thanks, Benedict, thank-you.



And with that, the show moves on to its next segment, entitled What Happens Next?, which features some mail being put through a letterbox. Now, props must first be given to the production for preserving the original aspect ratio for the Ghostwatch clips, albeit pillarboxed against a galactic backdrop; and it appears, also the correct refresh rate, which is not always a given. Certainly, no filmising effect to be found here, thankfully. Points awarded to Hill himself, too, for correctly describing Ghostwatch, as a "special", as opposed to a 'hoax', a 'documentary', or 'alright, I suppose'. It was also nice to hear him say he's something of a fan of the show, too!

Very minor criticism, but where did "Hayes" come from, in pinpointing the film's fictitious locale? Foxhill Drive is in Northolt, which is like four miles away, innit, obz. Never mind. Also, I've heard so many Glory Hole jokes now, they just phase through me like... I dunno, the USS Pegasus? Or, is that too specific a ref? There also seems to be a tiny edit on Bríd Brennan's line, "But my ex-husband...", as in the original, she says, "My husband--my ex-husband...", crucially without the added 'but'. Just thought I'd give that a mention, for completists' sake.

Of course, things most certainly took a turn for the surreal, even by the show's own wacky standards, as 'various members' from the lookalike crew, then proceeded to imitate Mike Aiton's decades-old National Séance staple. On closer inspection, we begin to see that each character is actually being played by Ade Edmondson himself, in varying degrees of disguise.

Oh, yes. You read that, correctly. After almost 27 years, Adrian Elizabeth Edmondson has finally re-imitated Mike Aiton, from Ghostwatch.

I'm not sure how many powers to the double-take, I double-took, but I can assure you, it was a good while before this supernormal occurrence fully sunk in. I must also admit to naturally expecting a Mike Aiton cameo, too, but you can't have everything, I guess. Would've been nice to see them both out-Edmonsdoning each other, at long last. Ade didn't even do a "Right on..!", which to be fair, was always more of a Rick/Vyvyan-from-The-Young-Ones-type-mash-up gag, but I think if he had said it, the entire space-time continuum may very well have collapsed in, on itself. So, yes. In retrospect, probably best to play it safe.

In a strangely-reminiscent feeling of when I learned that Craig was in Ghostwatch, on the night of transmission, a similar pleasant feeling of surprise was effected when Ade made his appearance(s). A lifelong fan of both his and The Late Rik Mayall's stellar work, I've met him just the once, and can confirm, he is a very pleasant chap, indeed. He even signed an autograph for me, and made it out, "To Prick" after I explained how Rik once wrote, "To (p)Richard", instead, as a joke just between us, grate mates. Funnily enough, or perhaps less so, given Ade's undeniable dramatic talents, I've also long-thought he'd make a fine lead, in a potential, live-action adaptation of, 31/10.

Side note, but isn't it remarkable that clips from Ghostwatch continue to be shown, pre-Watershed? Come to think of it, that Glory Hole joke, too. Granted, context is king, but I can't imagine a clip from many well-known Horror flicks airing during the Prime Time slot, like this. At a push, I could see them being parodied, but it's equally as brain-fazing, as it is strangely wondrous to see the show brought back, albeit in such an unexpected context. If this isn't demonstrative enough for broadcasters to consider the fabled repeat screening in full of the original special drama, then I don't know what is. There's clearly an appetite to revisit the work, at the very least, in an analytical context. Encouragingly, it appears, with each year that passes, interest seems to gather, exponentially.

Also remarkable to behold, was this episode's brief, recurring appearance of Alan the Alien, which saw the adorable parasitic, green visitor gestating within Edmondson, himself. In a move that would give any Weyland-Yutani employee-of-the-month the Ripleys, as Ade began to unexpectedly convulse, Alan then slowly emanated from his cake hole, handily providing the Dove From Above-esque daily topic to be debated... which just so happened to be, "Curtains".

But this turned out to be the setup for the show's closing bit, which saw a faithful recreation of one of Sarah's earliest dramatic roles, in The Swish of the Curtain. Moments beforehand, Sarah also 'admitted' how much she hates cats, having worked with animals for so long, on Blue Peter. Well, I know where my felinophobia began. That bloody, Ghost Watch Live programme, with Michael Aspel, that's where. Ooh, and last word, but could this be a Revox-inspired set piece, behind Ade, perhaps..?

As far as neo-prime-time-post-actuated-brand-imprinting goes, it's hard to fault HHAFC, as a frankly-unrivalled, early-evening dollop of consistent, knockabout, light entertainment. Well, not counting Telly Addicts, Big Break, or The $64,000 Question, obviously. Again, Harry himself is instinctively, a sharply-funny chap on-screen, and a very good host, to boot; reliably conveying his own refined brand of efficient, cutting humour. I like how, often times, his gags can get close to the bone; but having been a GP prior to stand-up, he seems to know just how much pressure to exert before precipitating a humourous fracture. Harrumph, harrumph. The word, 'host' is very much key here, as he does seem to bring out the best in those taking part, simply by maintaining a friendly and kindly-ribbing atmosphere. It's clear that his guests appear to be enjoying the proceedings, as much as the live audience, which certainly makes the endeavour that much more worthwhile.

All in, the mere premise of the show is notably streamlined. Even the ever-mitigating delivery of those stopwatch-stopping, straight-to-camera, 'Yes, welcome to the show that hammers the last nail in the coffin of Light Entertainment TV'-type gags at times feels perpetually-knowing of the premise's own cosy parameters. From one viewpoint, the format succeeds by cleverly inferring misdirection-based expectations to its otherwise, television language-fluent audience. It's a nice form of contemporary, reciprocal, participation-minded interplay, ironically not all that far removed from our old Hallowe'en Hoax, itself.

Still, nice to see Ghostwatch on the telly, again. Hey, I hope they'll screen the doc too, sometime, etc. But seriously, thank-you so much to everybody who kindly sent in their thoughts re the documentary's long-mooted re-release. All have been duly noted, logged, or otherwise preserved in amber, until a decision can be made; at which point, said thoughts shall unavoidably find themselves genetically-combined into some kind of gigantic super-thought, before inevitably running amok on some offshore, Ghostwatch-themed, techno-resort complex! I'm just saying... Pipes, uh, will find, uh, a way, uh.

Until next time, Ghostwatchers... Try not to have sleepless nights.

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