TV Pop Diaries

Popular Music on British Television

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SATURDAY LIVE
C4 / London Weekend TV 12th January 1985 pilot, 25th January 1986 - 29th April 1987
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE
19th February 1988 - 29th April 1988

Despite the tribute band name, this was no pale imitation of NBC's legendary show.

Produced by Paul Jackson (The Two Ronnies, The Young Ones, Three of a Kind) and Geoff Posner it was a successful attempt to mix the best of new British comedy and live music.

The pilot was hosted by Lenny Henry who had been rescued from the working men's club scene first by Tiswas and then by The Comic Strip team, including his then wife, Dawn French.

The musical guests for the pilot were Slade, The Style Council and Smiley Culture, about as perfect a line up as eighties TV got.

However, it took a year for the show to get a weekly commission. When it did it was given ninety minutes from 8.30pm. Guest hosts included Tracy Ullman, Hale & Pace, Steven Wright and Pamela Stephenson. A few names from the sixties were also invited like Peter Cook, John Bird and John Fortune which must have baffled many of the younger viewers. One week Frankie Howerd (yet to make his final revival) wasn't well enough to appear so Ben Elton took over. He would become the regular host from the second series onwards, together with his (probably) radio active suits.

The set design was made to look like a funfair with a carousel, inflatable's and swings. At one time an inflatable plane about to crash was seen.

With the second series beginning on 7th February 1987 with Ben Elton as the regular host, but the show had been cut down to seventy-five minutes, starting at 10.pm, while Paul Jackson had handed his production duties over to Geoffrey Perkins.

The show was stuffed with talent from the new-wave of British comedy, Ade Edmonson and Rick Mayall (as The Dangerous Brothers), French and Saunders, Fry and Laurie, Paul Merton and Josie Lawrence. But more importantly it would be a showcase for the next wave of British comedy like Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse, Hatty Hayridge, Jo Brand, Craig Ferguson, Jeremy Hardy, Morwenna Banks, The Joan Collins Fan Club (Julian Clary), Bob Mills and Chris Barrie.

The beginning of the third series in February 1988 saw the show moved to Friday nights, which was seen as a demotion and it was just a matter of time before the show was cancelled. In fact the last show was referred to in the TV Times as "The very last chance to join Ben Elton absolutely live..."

There were attempts to revive the format in the summer of 1996 with Lee Mack as host, but this would only last a few editions, while a tribute show in 2007 only manages to attract some of the original talent.

This was the show that OTT and Saturday Stayback could and should have been, but the lure of smut after being let loose was too much to contend with.