#BlastfromthePast: Live and Kicking

Those casting a bleary eye over this morning’s TV schedules today (Saturday, 30th September 2017) may find an unusual creature in amongst all the cookery shows and endless reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. For the first time in God knows how long, the BBC is bringing mayhem, pop, cartoons and hell even a bit of gunge back to Saturday mornings, with it’s new BBC Two/CBBC series Saturday Mash-Up. Hosted by newcomer Jonny Nelson with BBC 1Xtra DJ Yasmin Evans (and CBBC’s Hacker T Dog), it’s the shot in the arm Saturday morning telly in the UK has needed for some time.

It thus marks the grand return of the tradition of kid’s TV with a wide appeal on weekend morning television to the masses. Those born before 1998 will be able to remember the format at its height through all number of incarnations. Kids of the 70s will remember Noel Edmonds in his pre-opening red boxes days on Multi Coloured Swap Shop. Kids of the 80s will go all dewy eyed thinking back to the old silver fox himself, Phillip Schofield and Gordon the Gopher on Going Live. And if you, like me, were a kid of the 90s, it was all about Live & Kicking.

Launched in the autumn of 1993 as the natural successor to Going Live, the first presenting line up consisted of the Broom Cupboard’s Andi Peters and Emma Forbes (daughter of Nanette “My hands are still soft as my face” Newman) and the ever witty announcer Mitch. Coming along at the precise moment when the likes of 90s pop legends like Take That and Eternal were at their height (the now manband legends were on the first show performing “Relight My Fire”), and bringing in a mix of cartoons – Nickelodeon’s Rugrats being the most enduring, and a mainstay of virtually all of L&K‘s eight year run – and US imports like Clarissa Explains It All and Sweet Valley High, Live & Kicking quickly became, to quote the show’s famous tagline, the only way to start your weekend.

After three years, Andi and Emma bade the show an emotional farewell, and in their place for the fourth series in 1996, came arguably the show’s golden couple – Zoë Ball and Jamie Theakston. Bringing a bit of rock ‘n roll to those early rises (along with the borderline terrifying Leprechaun puppets Sage and Onion, and Mr Blobby), their series started just as the likes of Spice Girls and Boyzone – who quickly became regular guests on the show – took off, and ratings soared to the two million mark, with the show even picking up a BAFTA along the way.

Also chief among the show’s highlights was the catchphrase ‘Miss It? Miss Out!’ and the infamous jingle for the phone number (0181 811 8181), celebrity guests being interviewed in ‘The Hot Seat’ (who can forget when Peter Andre got severely roasted by one caller that turned the air blue?), and even comedy from ‘swing your pants’ Trevor and Simon (who’d also been on Going Live) and then later, Ben, Jez and Rich.

Also chief in the Zoë and Jamie years were features like Cloud 9 and Blobby’s Office Trolley, two phone based games that occasionally reinforced why the joys of live telly are called that for a very good reason, and a panel review show called Hit Miss or Maybe, where three celebs reviewed the latest music videos via the medium of comedy thumbs up hands on sticks.

As the show got bigger, so did the guests – everyone from Jennifer Saunders to Cher, and even the original king of chat shows Michael Parkinson. And as Zoë juggled her early rises with both L&K and the breakfast show for Radio 1 and became the 90s equivalent of Fearne Cotton, so too did Jamie, hosting that and Top of the Pops become an icon of 90s TV and the gossip rags, even famously dating All Saints’ Natalie Appleton (which made for a thoroughly awkward and sadly not available on YouTube episode when they came on to promote a new single not long after their split. Oops).

By the end of the show’s sixth run in April 1999, Zoë and Jamie were ready to move on. But a solid force of competition, in the shape of ITV’s SMTV Live and CD:UK with Ant & Dec and Cat Deeley, was building up just as they left, meaning the show’s next presenters that September – CBBC’s Steve Wilson and former model and MTV VJ Emma Ledden were on a back foot from the off. Despite forming a good bond, they fell someway behind in the ratings.

Having failed to engage viewers, they were gone within a year, to be replaced by another new presenting line up – The Girlie Show‘s Sarah Cawood, Ortis Deley, Blue Peter‘s Katy Hill and creepola MTV VJ Trey Farley. They halved the viewing figures and interest even further, and a move to a year round slot rather than the traditional September – April run that L&K had operated on from the beginning sealed its fate. The show came to an end in September 2001, featuring a live performance from Steps to mark the end of an era.

Hopefully with Saturday Mash-Up on track to bring back anarchy and anything can happen antics to the young (and not so young), let us all hail Live & Kicking. Solid gold weekend viewing that set the standard for unmissable morning madness.

What are your memories of this week’s #BlastfromthePast? Tweet me now @ThePensmith10 using the hashtag #BlastfromthePast and I may feature some of your Tweets in next week’s blog!

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