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Bob Says It’ll Be Alright on Carrott’s Commercial Wars

Posted 6th August 2017

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Ah, Sunday. Where the vast majority of my Twitter feed seems to want to sit around and read/watch/talk about telly. So in lieu of anything else new here, I thought I’d point you towards a load of articles and videos other people have done instead.


First off, we have some brilliant analysis of Robot Wars by Christopher Wickham. Fancy learning about a robot which was renamed between the BBC Choice showing, and its BBC Two repeat? Or what about a rigged trial round? Or, indeed, a rigged Grand Final? Or a bunch of other obscure trivia about the show? Most of the CONTROVERSIAL BITS discussed have associated YouTube links, and I highly recommend you don’t rush through them – sit back and watch the fights in full alongside the articles. It’s worth it. Even when it’s difficult to nail down exactly what happened, some of those fights look very strange indeed in the final edit.

Out of all of the above, perhaps the thing which blows my mind the most is the existence of Robot Wars Revealed – a 1998 BBC Choice behind-the-scenes spin-off series. It being the early days of digital television, hardly anyone saw it – and seemingly only one episode is in general circulation. It’s incredible how easily things can slip away; even programmes made in the last 20 years. What programmes are you watching now that in 2037 you’ll think “Oh, I wish I could see that again”, and be unable to?

The odd things which happen when I ask damn fool questions on Twitter:

Nobody seems to know the full story on that one. But it did set @superwonderstar off on an investigation of an entirely different episode of It’ll Be Alright on the Night… and this rather wonderful article was the result. And the final sentence of that piece is what I always think when I’m deep in a messy pile of digital entrails.

(Note to self: next time I do a proper edit comparison on two different versions of a TV programme, stick them both in Final Cut Pro instead of just manually running them in parallel. Those comparison edit videos are far better than me awkwardly trying to explain what’s different.)

Let’s stick with both me asking damn fool questions on Twitter, and interesting points from @superwonderstar. And particularly: the end credits of Bob Says Opportunity Knocks, as seen 46’53” into the below video.1

Those credits could have been entirely straightforward: animated nonsense in the background, a credit roll on top, job done. But instead, we get the beautiful sequence above: the animated objects moving over, through, and behind the credits, using a complex series of layers for the graphics. All done in 1988. It’s absolutely bloody gorgeous.

Oh, speaking of which…

Recently, I was struck by the following YouTube video from 1994 – some BBC1 continuity, leading into an episode of Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown.

Firstly, as pointed out by @htwcentral, interactions between different people in trailers just doesn’t happen any more, which is a shame, because it’s loads of fun. (Just imagine a trail for tonight on BBC One: Ellie Harrison talking about Countryfile, Gabby Logan with the Athletics, an in-character snippet from Poldark, and Manish Bhasin pointing ahead to Match of the Day.) But it’s the titles to Commercial Breakdown I want to discuss: and particularly, the moment at 2’05”.

After a title sequence with a man in a bathroom taking the piss out of adverts – fun, but normal enough – we cut to a shot of that same bathroom… and Jasper Carrott wanders onto it. Yes, they’ve taken the normal-sized set for the bathroom, and built a huge-scale replica of it. There’s even a fucking huge bath, with fucking water in it. It’s completely unexpected, and it’s completely brilliant.

Why the hell even do it?

I have an answer: showmanship. There was no need to do it, but they did it anyway, because it was massively fun to do. And I miss that kind of thing from a lot of TV these days. Whether it’s a lack of imagination, lack of budget, or lack of people allowing productions do fun things, moments like that are few and far between on entertainment shows at the moment. From a certain angle, this kind of thing is entirely unimportant… and yet is also everything I love about television. That cut is a joyous, joyous thing. Strip that set away, and you can do exactly the same programme, but it’d be a hell of a lot less entertaining.

You can boil down TV to the essentials, and not lose anything… but actually, lose everything.

Oh, you also want something actually written by me, as opposed to linking to other people’s articles and YouTube vids? Well, you can have this examination of the ad break placings in Red Dwarf XI if you like, freshly published this morning.

You’ll be fucking sorry.

  1. You can also see a higher quality version 47’12” into this dailymotion video, but I couldn’t get it to embed properly. 

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Simon Tyers on 6 August 2017 @ 11am

Alright On The Night rights issues are interesting, especially for shows that were being repeated as far back as #3 at least in my region a near decade later – I’m actually embarking on writing about the whole Norden era for a TV Cream piece, partly because the very first one just recently turned up on YouTube. Actually, if you get the chance look towards the end of that show, as the penultimate link has a completely different still on the screen behind Denis to the end of the last clip in the preceding section and the start of that link is quite abrupt so clearly something was edited out carelessly.

There’s also a trail for, I think, 4 somewhere on YouTube which features clips that aren’t in the show – as well as one for one of the earlier episodes that deliberately does the same – and then there’s that there was never an Alright 9, 14 or 17… (9 is covered by Cockup Trip even though it was only ever repeated under that name, but 13 is followed by the Silver Jubilee Special that was later reshown as 15, and then they literally go from 16 – which is preceded by All-Star Special – to 18 without anything in between)

Duncan Newmarch on 6 August 2017 @ 9pm

The BBC1 Christmas trails of 1990 are another good example of creative types going above and beyond, adding detail which won’t be picked up by every viewer but those who DO spot those little gems will love them for it. The trails in question start with a wizard, jumping out of a pop-up book and dancing up a flight of stairs… hold on, rewind the tape. Hit pause! In the background is a window and if you look very carefully, ET flies past the moon on his BMX just for a couple of frames. Guess which film BBC1 showed that Christmas afternoon? Credit to Kiki Dee too, great theme tune. I do love a good bridge!

Andrew Wiseman on 6 August 2017 @ 11pm

I think the first Alright on YouTube is the repeat which was shorter than the original. (It also had an LWT production caption – the original still used the old London Weekend.) The original also had a sequence with David Jason from ATV’s “A Sharp Intake of Breath” which was also missing from the repeat. I understand David Jason likes to control how is work is used, although that’s not necessarily what happened here :-)

Steve Williams on 7 August 2017 @ 1pm

That Alright video has been taken off now, but as I said on Twitter, I’m pretty certain it’s the occasion in 1995 where they repeated the Utterly Worst of Alright on the Night and then, a week later, repeated Alright 6. Unfortunately, loads of the clips in the Utterly Worst came from 6 so huge swathes of the programmes were identical, and there were loads of complaints and it got in the papers. So the next week Denis did an apology before the repeat of Alright 7 to reassure us “none of these have been shown for ages”.

They used to show Alright 6 all the time, and I watched it every time as well so I knew it all off by heart. And remember, if you ever run out of wine, you should get down on your knees and pray.

John Hoare on 11 August 2017 @ 3am

Ah, thanks everyone. I love people posting this kind of stuff on here. Makes me all warm inside.