The discussion on another thread about how much Paul Jackson was or wasn't responsible for the decline of Noel's House Party reminded me that it's twenty years to the week that the show didn't out because Noel refused to do it...
This was HUGE news at the time, and surely the low point in a decline that, I would suggest had been taking place since the hudredth show back in 1996. I would certainly say it began when Guy Freeman arrived as producer and they replaced the dancing trestle tables titles with that title sequence with an a real house in it (it's supposed to be a fantasy world, why are you showing us a real house!?), it started to list badly. The 1996-97 series wasn't very good at all, it started bringing bands in and the like, and it ended with that dodgy episode from New York which was absolutely deathly.
I would probably suggest that you can compare the decline of the show in that time to what was happening with Chris Evans on Radio 1 at the time - they'd both got too distracted by petty feuds and endless arguments about money and resources, and took their eye off the ball with the shows themselves. In Will Wyatt's book he seemed to suggest meetings with Noel were quite fraught at that period and spent far longer discussing who owned what in the format than talking about what was happening in the programme. In fact I would say that when the clunky "A BBC Production In Association With Unique Television" started appearing in the credits (at the start of the credits, too), that was the precise moment it started going a bit rubbish.
Anyway the 1997-98 series started quite badly - I stopped watching it at that point - and then we had the distastrous episode live from Florida in November, after which Guy Freeman abruptly departed, to much chatter in the press. John McHugh arrived as producer and then in January came this moment when the show was dropped completely, the comment at the time from Noel being that "it was below the standard the public would want". Hence the frantic replacement with a repeat instead.
I guess what's perhaps most amazing is that the show didn't end there and then but instead staggered on for another eighteen months or so. The following week Noel was lured back and they did a Gone Live-style show devoted to Gotchas with new live links around some old clips, and then a proper show again the week later. Then after the series I remember the papers reporting some leaked memos from Noel complaining that the show's budget was too small and nobody knew about comedy apart from him, and so on. Then it was back again in the autumn with Noel saying everything was fine now and the new series (with another new producer) was better than ever, but by that point it was a totally toxic brand and they almost certainly shouldn't have done that series.
Anyway, it was all very exciting at the time, and I wonder if anyone could think of any other examples of programmes being dropped for unusual reasons. One I can think of was Dirty Digest, an E4 panel show from a few years back with Joe Lycett, which was dropped after three shows because since the pilot the entire writing team was replaced and E4 said it wasn't the show they commissioned and cancelled it. And there was famously that Jackie Gleason game show in America in the fifties where the format was so bad nobody got any of the answers right and the following week Gleason came on, apologised and just talked about how bad it was for half an hour, and in the end it actually mutated into a fully-fledged comedy show that continued for several weeks (although the sponsor pulled out because it wasn't what they paid for).
Actually the other thing I remember about that night when Noel went on strike is that Ant and Dec presented the lottery and performed Game Of Love which they announced as their new single, but it was never released. Funny the things, eh?
Last edited by Steve Williams on 8 March 2018 8:36am