Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Confidentially Speaking: Jasper Carrott's Walks To Work (Part 1)

Maybe its his ubiquity on TV in the 80s and 90s or the repetition of those bloody Australian car insurance forms. Perhaps its the later years presenting the most baffling game show on British television or maybe its simply just the fact "The Detectives" was a bit shit but nobody really discusses Jasper Carrott much these days, do they?

Celebrating his 72nd birthday today, I suspect the former Bob Davis doesn't especially mind but for my generation, the appearance of Jasper on a Saturday night was always a welcome sight even if we didn't get all the jokes. I was far too young to understand the folk club culture he'd come from and indeed helped create, why being "In The Club" was so hilarious or that people only bought his 1975 hit single "Funky Moped" for the naughty B-side spoofing the Magic Roundabout (Fact Courtesy Of My Dad, My Entire Life.)

I similarly, due to a lack of being born, missed the original ITV shows that made him a household name, especially 1979's "The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott" where he brilliantly proved he was live by showing what was on the other two channels on a portable set ("Shakespeare, he's dead y'know"). Even his transfer to the Beeb for the more topical and slightly naughtier "Carrott's Lib" (written largely by the duo of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor before they joined the team of Spitting Image and then did something or other about space) was before my time.

But undoubtedly my earliest memories of Jasp are from his follow up series in 1987 "Carrott Confidential". Not only was this series on much later in my life meaning I could stay up a little later but also a lot earlier in the schedule (Carrott's Lib generally started around ten to eleven, Confidential was 9:05pm, straight after Paul Daniels and Bergerac.) Ask me to tell you a joke from it or recall a sketch and I'd look at you blankly but enquire as to what happened in the title sequence and I'd spring animatedly into life as indeed many of you of a certain age also did. These titles were incredibly simple - Jasper walks from his dressing room onto the studio floor - but also unspeakably exciting for a TV spod in training who loved seeing behind the scenes of the BBC which just seemed the most exciting place in the world to work (and probably at that time was in the last gasps of pre-Birtian broom-snapping.) Adding to the fun was a series of topical gags mostly missed by the oblivious Carrott on his way to the audience.

Lets look at those 24 walks to work, shall we? Starting with series one...

Episode 1 - January 3rd 1987

Radio Times Synopsis: "The show comes to you live from BBC Television Centre and the format is a closely guarded secret for very good reasons. 'Because it's so brilliantly original', says Jasper. 'He hasn't got one yet', says Michael Grade."

Accompanied by the sounds of "Rockin' All Over The World" by Ver Quo, Jasper takes a relatively sedate walk for this first episode, the highlight being a colleague walking by.

As a bonus, here's the series one set, minus some odd 80's industrial pipe things to the right. Those exciting TV screens behind Jasper are reduced to one working by the following week showing the live feed of the show going out and are all turned off by show 3.

Episode 2 - January 10th 1987

RT: "At the time of going to press, there was no information forthcoming on the second show because the first show's format depended upon how the second show was received."

Another standard one with Jasp strolling onstage to the sounds of "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" by his old pals ELO. They do get more exciting, I'm sure....

Episode 3 - January 17th 1987

RT: "Reassemble these words into a well-known phrase or billing: see, watch, hear, gasp, squirm, wriggle, ludicrous, very, gerbil, bedwetter, hierarchy, commie, goose-stepping, morbid, ointment, appliance."

"Layla" this time and a bit of frost on Jasper's sign plus a comedy c-c-c-cold sounding producer knocking indicates Britain might have been going through a bit of a cold snap. The snow covered halls and snowman adding more to this before the opening monologue mentions "so much snow" and Birmingham putting in a bid for the Winter Olympics. Arf.

Episode 4 - January 24th 1987

RT: "This edition of the series will be reviewed on See You Did Sid, Ludovic Kennedy's special edition for dyslexic gas-share holders."

Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love" is the Top Gear Driving Anthems track of choice for the walk on today and despite Jasper apparently communicating with someone off-camera, we never get to see them before he makes his way into Studio 3. Very poor.

Episode 5 - January 31st 1987

RT: "With Ian Rush injured, Jasper Carrott makes his debut as centre forward for Liverpool's home game against Everton and Luton. Jasper will play sideways across the pitch while Bruce Grobbelaar will perform the comic routines. A live commentary can be heard next Thursday."

An aggressive off-camera "Come on Carrott, shift yer backside!" (Carrott's retort: "Oh that's a sign Alasdair Milne's gone, isn't it?" referring to the resignation of the BBC Director General that week) suggests we're in more interesting territory that the previous few weeks although Jasp nodding at a few genuinely confused looking people in the corridor is the limit for this episode, other than the fact that we've moved from Studio 3 to Studio 6 which seems a much nicer walk all in all. Music is back to Status Quo but "Caroline" so that's....something.

Here's that week's Question Time discussing Milne's resignation...

Episode 6 - February 7th 1987

Before this episode began, a complaint about the previous week. It would be remiss of me to say what the complaint was about but needless to say the Rt Hon Denzil Davies MP was clearly not pissed up and had to leave the House of Commons early. So there.

RT: "Live from Television Centre, J. Carrott will expose the New Statesman's expose on government plans for a Cardiff/Dublin tunnel...."

The much more exciting "Hocus Pocus" by Focus leads Mr Carrott out of his dressing room, where he is immediately met by a policeman laded with tapes, reels and important looking documents. Several more pepper the journey along with a mass flinging of more papers catching Jasper before making a police guarded Studio 6. This is likely a direct reference to Special Branch heavy-handedly raiding offices at BBC Scotland the previous week in regards to material worked on by journalist Duncan Campbell about a secret British spy satellite. (Read the HANSARD transcript of the House Of Commons discussion on the subject here.)

Episode 7 - February 14th 1987

RT: "Dear Bunny Wunnies - I'm still glowing from our weekend in Chernobyl. Watch prog tonight for special Valentine's woggle. Signed Periscope."

A female voice at the door this time to knock Jasper up, leading to the reply "coming Madam Cyn", referring to alleged "luncheon vouchers for sex" brothel keeper Cynthia Payne who had been acquitted of nine charges of controlling prostitutes in her home on February 11th 1987. Obviously sex is exceptionally hilarious to British audiences so the reference gets a huge laugh as does the vicar in suspenders and ladies in lingerie out in the corridor celebrating her release. "Down Down" by Status Quo soundtracks the BBC filth.

Episode 8 - February 21st 1987

RT: "Live from the BBCtv Centre, this is the last show in the current series.... Brian."

Jasper is roused from his room with an offer for £36,500 which turns out to be from an estate agent. "Rockin' All Over The World" returns as we see FOR SALE signs on every room in the BBC and an incredibly well timed gag with a lift door opening to show another tenant in his pyjamas. No doubt hilarious referencing the price of living in London in the 80s, the jokes is now a bit sour when the iconic Television Centre is now actually being converted into wanky over-priced housing.

And that's series one over and done with. Come back tomorrow for series two which gives us Nazi tea ladies, a retiring Ronnie Barker, weeping televangelists, Peperami medicine, Royal babies, cameras in the Commons and lots of people pretending to be politicians, sportspeople and celebrities that you half remember...

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