7. SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND (BBC1 1989-90)
In the late eighties, the BBC decided that they needed a hit comedy sketch show as a lead-in to their Saturday night TV schedules. The only problem was that the audience hadn't quite decided that they needed one too.
Something For The Weekend was primarily concieved as a vehicle for Susie Blake, already a small-screen veteran but then the subject of much interest over her role as the announcer in BBC2's Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV. Hoping to capitalise on this, albeit some two and a half years after the last edition, the Light Entertainment department installed her in a new sketch show as one fifth of a team of up and coming comics, alongside Caroline Leddy, James Gaddas, Mike Doyle and Mike Hayley. Most of the others were relative newcomers, and only Gaddas and Leddy (formerly part of much-touted comedy troupe The Millies, alongside Richard Thomas, Donna McPhail and Jo Unwin) had much in the way of a public profile.
More transparently, Something For The Weekend was clearly intended as a response to ITV's run of successful Saturday teatime sketch shows, which included Copycats, Cue Gary!, The Grumbleweeds Radio Show and numerous others you probably don't really want to be reminded of, adopting a similar mix of impressions, musical quickies and fast-moving sketches with punning punchlines. However, whereas such shows fitted well into ITV's brash, advert-festooned Saturday night atmosphere, something about the BBC replicating this style just didn't sit well, and as a result it struggled to find an audience.
A huge launch campaign that actually involved the phrase 'your new favourites' drew impressive figures for the first week, but they soon tailed off when audiences realised that 'new' was the only applicable word. By 1990, it had been moved to a later timeslot, retitled Up To Something, and been almost entirely recast; only Mike Hayley remained, joined by Suzy Aitchison, Frances Dodge, Lewis MacLeod, David Schneider and Shane Richie. All of the newcomers were already reasonably well known, and, tellingly, most of the original team seem to have dropped off the radar soon after leaving the show. Apart from Susie Blake, only Caroline Leddy really went on to do very much of note, and even then in a behind-the-scenes capacity. In retrospect, there were more significant stars-in-waiting in the writers' room, including the up-and-coming likes of Armando Iannucci, Kim Fuller and Richard Herring, who later got much comic capital out of his involvement in the show for his 'Celebration Of Mediocrity' sketches.
Not long afterwards, Up To Something stopped being up to anything at all. Meanwhile, over on BBC2, Harry Enfield (even at that stage a name more deserving of a primetime BBC1 slot than any of the participants in Something For The Weekend or Up To Something) was quietly reinventing the mainstream sketch show for a modern audience. The uninspiring story of the 'Something' saga is a stark lesson in how it's almost impossible to manufacture a phenomenon, and even more almost impossible still to dictate to the audience that they should like it.
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