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Classic TV Revisited: The Kenny Everett Show – All done in the best possible taste

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What was it all about?
Difficult to say. Half an hour of cleverly orchestrated madness loosely held together by the erratic comedy genius of Kenny Everett. Plus music bits.

When was it on?
1981-1988 – five series and six specials, a total of 44 episodes on BBC-1.

Who were the star turns?
Cuddly Ken, amply supported by Cleo Rocos (aka Miss Whiplash) and Arlene Phillips’ erotic dance troupe Hot Gossip, an X-rated Pan’s People. Hot Gossip certainly boosted the ratings, not to mention the army and the RAF. Guests ranged from Billy Connolly to Lionel Blair, Chris Rea to Adam Ant, Sting to Terry Wogan, Bob Geldof to Freddie Mercury.

Who were the main characters?
Pneumatic Hollywood starlet Cupid Stunt (a spoonerist’s nightmare) played by a bearded Everett; leather-clad greaser Sid Snot; Angry of Mayfair, an irate city gent who wore stockings and suspenders; fastidious French hairdresser Marcel Wave; punk Gizzard Puke whose language was as colourful as his hair; Beau D’Iddley of the Foreign Legion; accident-prone DIY expert Reg Prescott who was just as likely to sever an artery as a plank of wood; and the world’s thinnest superhero, Captain Kremmen.

Who wrote it?
The main writers were Barry Cryer (dubbed the ‘Moses of comedy’ by Cleo Rocos – presumably because he looked good in the rushes), Everett himself and Ray Cameron although Andrew Marshall (2point4 Children) and David Renwick (One Foot in the Grave, Jonathan Creek) also weighed in with sketches.

How did it come about?
It was the slightly less rebellious teenage son of the Kenny Everett Video Show which ran on ITV from 1978 to 1981. The Beeb (a name incidentally thought up by Everett in his Radio 1 days) attempted to curb his wilder excesses by introducing pre-recorded sketches and a studio audience instead of the off- the-cuff mayhem of the Thames series where the audience consisted of the film crew and anybody who happened to be passing at the time. The BBC also had a bad taste monitor who stood at the back of the studio to look out for anything too risque. One sketch which slipped through the net was ‘Shoot the Dog’, a spoof on American quiz shows, where contestants were offered vast sums of money to gun down a cute little puppy. Dog lovers rang in to protest. The BBC were also worried about the name Cupid Stunt and tried to change it to Cupid Start. Barry Cryer suggested Mary Hinge instead…

How did they think up the ideas for sketches?
Barry Cryer used to jot down notes on cigarette packets or anything he could find. Everett often didn’t learn a sketch until moments before recording – and sometimes barely at all. As he had increasing problems remembering his lines, the writers used to include more and more props – such as phone books – which he could open and read his words.

Any catchphrases?
Cupid Stunt ended each bulletin by crossing ‘her’ legs extravagantly and promising that it was ‘all done in the best possible taste’.

Who watched it?
Charles and Diana for a start. At a royal garden party in 1985, they congratulated Kenny and Cleo Rocos on a sketch sending them up. And Mary Whitehouse was an avid viewer – but only so that she could complain about Hot Gossip. Barry Cryer once disarmed the Great Moral Guardian by thanking her for everything she had done. When she looked puzzled, he explained: ‘I work on the Kenny Everett Show. You made us.’ She was not amused.

Didn’t Kenny Everett cause uproar at a 1983 Young Conservatives’ rally?
Well remembered. Remarks such as ‘Let’s kick Michael Foot’s stick away!’ made front-page headlines.

Any real-life resonance?
A Greek drag club advertised itself in the UK using pictures of Cupid Stunt. Kenny did not think it was in the best possible taste and tried to have it banned.

Any behind-the-scenes dramas?
Cleo Rocos was only 15 when she started on the show and hadn’t got a driving licence. But she kept quiet about it, even when handed a huge Mustang which she had to bring to a halt right next to Billy Connolly. Seeing her slam on the brakes at the last minute, the Big Yin was forced to leap out of the way to safety.

Why did the show end?
Kenny realised he’d had enough when he was left hanging around (literally) in the studio for hours to play Quasimodo opposite Cleo Rocos’s Esmerelda. He was hot and uncomfortable in the costume and utterly bored. In 1989, he vowed never again to dress up as the likes of Sid Snot or Marcel Wave.

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Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess

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Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife

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McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Tragedy?
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal

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The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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