One thing that I loved as a kid was that weekend feeling. Friday night leading into Saturday (let’s not worry about Sunday nights shall we, yuck) was one of the best parts of the week. No school and more importantly top TV to look forward to. Friday nights had some top shows to offer, with Channel 4 and BBC2 giving us decent American imports to get us going for the weekend, but it was Saturday night that had it all. From Gladiators to The Generation Game to You Bet!, there was something for everyone. The range of top telly was insane. But there was one program I watched as a kid that had it all for me – humour, gunge, fun segments, more gunge, interesting guests, even more gunge and of course Mr Blobby. Set in the fictional town of Crinkley Bottom I am of course talking about Noel’s House Party.
A successor to The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow, premiering on BBC1 on the 23rd November 1991 and finishing on the 26th March 2000. With 169 episodes created (plus 15 specials) during its nine-year run. It was broadcast live for the majority of its run and even had two theme parks created, themed around the Crinkley Bottom village and involved Mr Blobby rides and attractions.
But what made Noel’s House Party so special? Was it the madness of it all, with what seemed like Noel sometimes not having a clue what was happening, the unpredictableness of Mr Blobby or the way they tried to make it as if you really were in the mansion, being a part of Noel’s party that he threw every week in his grand estate of his. I loved it when Noel was in the middle of introducing a segment and being interrupted by the doorbell, having to answer it (as you would in real ife) and it being Mr Brittas asking for some sugar. It gave it so much life and realism which was incredible for a Saturday night entertainment show. I really felt a bit naughty, looking in on something I shouldn’t be seeing from my telly.
The segments that were featured also aided the show to thrive, with some brought over from The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow and some newly created for Noel’s House Party. Most worked, some didn’t but most were on point. This guaranteed pure entertainment – always leaving a broad smile on my face and this seems a good opportunity to mention three of my favourites:
The Gotcha’s – One of the segments brought over from The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow where Noel would trick celebrities into thinking they were going to appear on a new tv show, or they were going to open a new shop and a ton of disastrous things would happen to them, all planned by Noel and the team. These were all filmed using hidden cameras and usually ended with Noel appearing near the end dressed up as a character to reveal it had all been fabricated and to give the recipient their trophy.
I LOVED the Gotcha’s and I think it was because it featured so many people I had only seen in certain places. For example, Andi Peters who I was so used to seeing in The Broom Cupboard and now I was seeing him in a new light, in new places. This was the same for many of the celebrities that were Gotcha’d including Timmy Mallet, Shane Ritchie, Andy Crane, Cheryl Baker and many, many more.
NTV – In what is believed to be the first time on TV that a microscopic camera was installed into a member of the public’s house, the target not knowing anything until Noel announced their name and the camera cut to them in their living room live on BBC1! It was then expected for this person to do several embarrassing things in their home for the 15 million people watching.
This was one section I marvelled at. I was fascinated by how the crew managed to sneak into these people’s homes and install this camera without them knowing. Plus, it was then transmitting the pictures from wherever to the whole country. Including the uncertainty of what might happen like the person swearing, running away or being in their pj’s made it so exciting to watch. It must have been a total nightmare for the crew for that reason alone, but for the viewer, it was entertainment gold.
The Gunge Tank – Usually two people were put to the vote and of course, the one with the highest would be getting gunged. Simple as that and it was great! But what is it about gunge, or more specifically, gunging someone, that is so satisfying? It didn’t matter to me who it was, just seeing it running down their face (and probably in places we need not want to know) and the mess it created was a delight. I always wondered how much of a nightmare it was to get that stuff off you. A question hopefully never answered as I have no plans to be gunged myself anytime soon!
When you look back at all the different ingredients that have been mentioned so far that made Noel’s House Party work, there is one more that propelled this show to the stratosphere and I wonder if the show would have been as victorious as it was without him. You know who I’m talking about, the pink and yellow dotted fool himself, Mr Blobby!
Originally created for The Gotcha’s, he proved so popular that Mr Blobby started to appear throughout the show and by series two he was a permanent fixture. Created by Charlie Adams (a writer on the show) Mr Blobby was just insane. His face was incredible with that insane smile and his eyes, moving about all over the place was just funny on its own. Add in the ‘blobby’ sound effect and it was just hilarious before anything had happened. The unpredictability of Mr Blobby was one of the things I loved, though I’m sure Noel doesn’t share this feeling with Barry Killerby (the actor who played him) often going off script and ignoring practised routines from rehearsals. One sketch I remember well was when Mr Blobby visited Hyacinth Bucket and caused complete mayhem in the kitchen. It was just fantastic to see this big, pink blob doing something I would love to do, knowing I would be grounded for life if I did something like this in real life.
Mr Blobby became so popular that he spawned a ton of merchandise – pens, lunch boxes, t-shirts, cups and even a number one single. Now, I know this ‘song’ gets a lot of hate these days but at the ripe old age of forty-four, still absolutely love it, a complete banger as the kids would say. I can’t help but sing along (to the disgust of my children) nailing the ‘blobby’s’ at the right time, it’s such a good song and I was a proud owner of the CD single at the time of release which I am sure helped it reach number one in the charts. I wish I still had it along with some of my other CD singles but all have been lost to time.
The success of Noel’s House Party was incredible and enjoyed a long period of time as the number one show on TV, but it couldn’t last forever and how the show ended was a sad one which wasn’t fit for such a show as this. I guess only Noel and the production team know the real truth, with rumours of unrest backstage, the official reason was that the ratings for the show had dropped from fifteen million to eight million. Is that a real reason? Eight million viewers is still a load of people in my eyes and if I was in charge of BBC entertainment, I certainly wouldn’t be pulling one of my biggest shows for that reason alone. At the end of the last episode of Noel’s House Party Noel stated:
‘It’s an overworked expression when people say ‘it’s the end of an era’, but for BBC Television, the entertainment department, for me, and possibly you, it really is the end of an era. I hope your memory will be very kind to us. After 169 episodes, bye.’
A bit of a sad end to one of the most popular British TV shows ever made, and as Noel said here it was the end of an era. Memories have been kind to the show (for me) mainly as there’s been nothing like it since. Ant & Dec have done a great job bringing something similar to Saturday night telly with Saturday Night Takeaway and I’m very grateful I have this to watch with my children. it’s not Noel’s House Party and I don’t think anything will ever again. There are moments that haven’t aged well throughout the run of the show and whatever your opinions are on Noel these days, one thing is certain and that is he certainly knew how to put on a party.