Noel’s House Party, 1991
As the debate over the state of Saturday night TV rages on there are calls to bring this little gem back.
Possibly Saturday night TV at it’s best, this show had something for everyone: Crazy antics, special guests, comic characters and of course the gotcha.
The series was must see Saturday evening television. During it’s eight series run it clocked up one hundred and sixty nine episodes.
The BBC cancelled the show in 1999 after ratings plummeted from a high of 15 million to 8 million.
In closing the final episode on 20 March 1999 Noel Edmonds said:
“It’s an overworked expression when people say ‘it’s the end of an era’, but for BBC Television the entertainment department, for me, and possibly you, it really is the end of an era. I hope your memory will be very kind to us. After 169 [episodes]… bye.
The show comprised of a number of individual segments.
Probably the best remembered part of the show where a hidden camera recorded practical jokes being played on celebrities.
Wait ’til I Get You Home
Parents watch pre-recorded footage of their children being interviewed by Noel, where they try to guess the answers they gave. A similar slot, The Secret World of the Teenager, replaced Wait ’til I Get You Home in later series.
The Lyric Game
In early series, celebrity duos competed against one another to complete songs after being given the first line.
Grab a Grand
A phone-in competition where a viewer would choose from three currencies (aiming to select the one of the greatest value of money), and a celebrity (usually a sports star or a member of the studio audience) would collect as many notes as possible from a box that blew the money around. Noel asked the caller three questions based on the week’s news and each correct answer gave the celebrity 20 seconds in the money box, up to a total of 60 seconds. The game was changed in later series and included variations such as “Grab A Granny”, “Grab A Grand Piano”, and “Grab A Grand National” with bouncing kings and queens with bungee cords, used in the 100th episode. The competition was replaced by Cash for Questions towards the end of the show’s run.
Cash for Questions
Similar to Grab a Grand, a celebrity goes into the pitch black ‘basement’, and the winning caller would direct the celebrity to the bags of money with help of an infrared camera. Named after a political scandal.
A camera would be hidden in the home of a member of the public, so that they would be on-air at the specified moment, and Noel would talk to them.
From the final series a similar idea to Bernie the Bolt in The Golden Shot, a viewer from home would attempt to score goals by manoeuvring the machine firing the huge football (“left”, “right”, “shoot”). The jingle music to this game was based on Crazy Horses by The Osmonds.
The Big Pork Pie
A member of the studio audience has their embarrassing secrets revealed. Seated in a large prop pork pie, the victim would be connected to a lie detector machine (although in reality, this too was a prop). The victim had been set up by their friends or family who had provided the secrets.
The Gunge Tank
Carried over from Noel’s Saturday Roadshow, this was put to various uses, usually gunging celebrities or unpopular members of the public after a phone vote which was carried out during the duration of the show – the gunging usually being the final item before the closing credits. Celebrities include Anthea Turner, Jenny Hull, Carol Vorderman, Edwina Currie, Gloria Hunniford, Jeremy Clarkson, Samantha Janus, Anneka Rice (twice), Annabel Giles and Ulrika Jonsson.
The ‘gunge’ was in fact a food thickening agent called Natrasol, coloured with various food dyes. The gunge tank got progressively more sophisticated in subsequent series – the Series 1 version of the gunge tank was effectively the same as in Saturday Roadshow. However for Series 2, the tank also pumped foam from underneath the chair before the gunge was released. For Series 3, the chair holding the victim was on a conveyor device which would take the victim through revolving car wash brushes before the actual gunging. In Series 4 & 5, it was developed into the “Trip Around The Great House”, where the victim would be placed on a miniature railway that journeyed through the studio set, finishing up in the Giant Fireplace where the gunge would finally be released.
For the final series, a selected member of the audience would be gunged by a tank lowered from the studio rafters or a retracting chair which would lower into the undercroft of the studio, gunge the victim and then elevate back up into the audience position. Edmonds was himself usually gunged once a series – usually in the final episode of the series.
The BBC cancelled the show in 1999 after ratings dropped from a high of 15 million to 8 million.
In closing the final episode of House Party on 20 March 1999 Noel Edmunds said:
“It’s an overworked expression when people say ‘it’s the end of an era’, but for BBC Television the entertainment department, for me, and possibly you, it really is the end of an era. I hope your memory will be very kind to us. After 169 [episodes]… bye.”
Beat Your Neighbour
Neighbours would choose what prizes they wanted from each other’s house, for every question answered, they were put on a tray. Then each family were asked questions alternately, if the question was right the belongings were pushed to their side. Controversial because of the two-second delay in the video link.
My Little Friend
Primary-school-aged children were led into a room with hidden cameras and two puppets set up to initially appear dormant in the room, one voiced by Edmonds. The puppets would ‘awaken’ and hold improvised conversations with the children.
The Hot House
Members of the public and sports celebrities would compete against each other on exercise machines, which were hooked up to gunge tanks.
Starring: Noel Edmunds alongside various special guests
Original Transmission Dates: 23rd November 1991 – 20th March 1999