Noel's House Party was a BBC light entertainment series hosted by Noel Edmonds. Set in a large house in the fictional village of Crinkley Bottom, leading to much innuendo, it was broadcast live on Saturday evenings in the 1990s on BBC One. The show, once described by a senior corporation executive as "the most important show on the BBC", was cancelled in 1999 due to poor ratings. In 2010, Noel's House Party was voted the best Saturday night TV show of all time.
Noel's House Party was the successor to The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow, carrying over some of its regular features such as the 'Gunge Tank', the 'Gotcha Oscar' and 'Wait Till I Get You Home'.
The show had many celebrity guests posing as residents of Crinkley Bottom, including Frank Thornton and Vicki Michelle. It gave birth to Mr. Blobby in the Gotcha segment. There was also a contrived rivalry between Edmonds and Tony Blackburn. One-off celebrity appearances included Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer, who came in to find the whole audience dressed as Frank, and Ken Dodd in a highwayman's outfit—"going cheap at the Maxwell sale"—as Noel's long-lost 'twin', Berasent Edmonds (a play on Bury St Edmunds).
After several changes, the show began to decline in popularity. Its theme tune was changed in 1996, and set redesigns followed. In January 1998, an episode had to be cancelled after a disagreement between Edmonds and the BBC. The budget had been cut by 10 per cent, with the money saved being used to help fund the BBC digital switchover. Edmonds reportedly walked out, claiming the show was "of a poor standard and cobbled together."
The BBC cancelled the show in 1999 after ratings plummeted from a high of 15 million to eight million. Edmonds closed the final episode of House Party on 20 March 1999 by saying:
|“||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.||”|
He was then playfully attacked with a fire extinguisher by Freddie Starr. The closing credits were followed by a brief comic skit of Edmonds' 1970s childrens show Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, in which a seemingly young Noel wakes from a dream in the Swap Shop studio - recounting the events to Keith Chegwin and John Craven of a typical House Party episode (reminiscent of the infamous Bobby Ewing "shower scene" in Dallas) suggesting that the entire run of House Party never really happened.
In a statement, Edmonds said:
|“||I am delighted this decision has been made. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. History will prove that House Party was one of the most successful entertainment shows of all time.||”|
In 1994, the opening titles won a Bronze Rose of Montreux. The stop-motion animation title and credit sequences were made by 3 Peach Animation.
Originally called the 'Gotcha Oscars' until the threat of legal action from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which also prompted a redesign of the award), hidden camera practical jokes were played on celebrities. Notable victims were Barbara Windsor, Carol Vorderman, Jill Dando, Kriss Akabusi, Lionel Blair, Dave Lee Travis, Richard Whiteley, Eddie Large, Samantha Janus, Yvette Fielding, Status Quo, and the Queens Park Rangers football club. In the final series, Dale Winton turned the tables on Edmonds with a surprise challenge that ended with a gunging. Another notable victim was Annabel Giles, the first victim who managed to spot the hidden camera, which had been placed in the back of a car, which meant the prank backfired. Maggie Philbin became aware that she was part of a 'Gotcha' within seconds of the filming even though she did not spot any cameras. She left the set-up ostensibly to get help for a stranded victim seeking her aid, but never returned. When she appeared in the studio to 'review' the skit and be presented with her 'Gotcha', she admitted that she had gone shopping.
Parents watch pre-recorded footage of their children being interviewed by Edmonds, and try to guess the children's answers. In later series, it was replaced by a similar feature called Secret World of the Teenager.
In early series, celebrity duos competed against one another to complete the lyrics of a song after being given the first line. This feature was originally in The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow.
A phone-in competition where a viewer chose from three currencies (aiming to select the greatest value of money; £1,000 in the first episode), and a celebrity (usually a sports star like Graham Gooch, Frank Bruno, Kathy Tayler, Kriss Akabusi, Nick Gillingham, Henry Cooper, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, David Gower, Gary Lineker, John Regis, Paul Gascoigne, John Barnes, Lennox Lewis, and others) would climb into a perspex box containing a fan and a large quantity of banknotes. The celebrity had to grab as many of the notes as possible as they were blown around by the fan. Noel would ask the caller three questions based on that week's news, and each correct answer gave the celebrity 20 seconds in the box, up to a total of 60 seconds with music length of number of correct answers and audience counts down from ten to one. There were variations: 'Grab a Granny', 'Grab a Grand Piano', and 'Grab a Grand National'. The money was quickly counted on stage using a Cashmaster counting machine.
Introduced in Series Six & Seven, similar to Grab a Grand. First, the Wheel of Fortune is spun. A person is strapped horizontally to a wheel. The wheel stops spinning and points to one of eight phones. The person on the other end of that phone has to get a question correct. If they get it wrong, the wheel is re-spun. However, if they get it correct then they are given a further three current affairs questions. Each correct answer is worth twenty seconds for B-list celeb to go crazy in the Basement.
The Basement is pitch black and the caller, with infra-red camera at their disposal, tries to guide the person through the basement collecting bags of money along the way. Each one was worth £100, with golden ones worth £500. At the end of the time the lights came on, so there was nothing stopping the celebrity grabbing an extra bag or two on the way out. Named after a political scandal.
A camera was hidden in the home of a member of the public and Edmonds would talk to them through their television. Some would be shocked, other bemused, others would simply try to run away. Whatever the reaction, they would subsequently end up doing some embarrassing performance in their living room or garden. Celebrity victims included Chris Evans, Garry Bushell and Dale Winton.
One hilarious incident on NTV from the very early series had a woman running out of the room and didn't come back, leaving Noel and the audience in complete stitches.
In the final series, a similar idea to Bernie the Bolt in The Golden Shot, a viewer at home would attempt to score goals by directing a machine to fire a huge football. The commands were 'left', 'right' and 'shoot'. The music used for this game was based on Crazy Horses by The Osmonds.
The Big Pork Pie was a regular feature from Series Three and Series Four, where a member of the audience with an embarrassing secret was sat in a big pork pie, made to wear a lie detector and questioned by Noel. Noel himself was subjected to this torture on one episode, with Bob Monkhouse taking on the role of question master and as a result it turned out that Noel's middle name was Ernest.
Carried over from The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow, the gunge tank was put to various uses, usually gunging celebrities or unpopular members of the public after a phone vote was carried out during the show. Gunging usually took place in the final minutes of the show. Gunged guests/celebrities include Jenny Hull, Nina Myskow, Jilly Goolden, Mary Peters, Frank Carson, Keith Floyd, Lynn Faulds Wood, Kristian Schmid, Mat Stevenson, Anthea Turner, Myleene Klass, Nigel Mansell, Richard Whiteley, Carol Vorderman, Adam Woodyatt, Piers Morgan, Edwina Currie, Garry Bushell, Mr Motivator, Richard Clayderman, Gloria Hunniford, Jeremy Clarkson, Gary Olsen, Samantha Janus, Keith Harris and Orville, David Hasselhoff, Graham Cole, Anneka Rice, John Leslie, Paul McKenna, Annabel Giles, Nicola Stapleton, Bodger & Badger, Phillip Schofield, Andi Peters, The Chuckle Brothers, Robert Kilroy-Silk, John Virgo, Pat Sharp, Eamonn Holmes, Ulrika Jonsson, Ross King, Katie Boyle, Annabel Croft, Tony Blackburn, Bruno Brookes and Liz Kershaw.
The 'gunge' was a food thickening agent called Natrosol, coloured with various food dyes. The gunge tank got progressively more sophisticated. From Series One a standard tank was used, with an ornate look to it. Series Two introduced foam (often coloured) rising up from the bottom prior to the gunging. Series 3 introduced the 'Car Wash', where the individual was carried along a lengthier tank, going through a set of brushes designed to soak the victim, then having the gunge descend from above before being spun out of the contraption. In series Four and Five, it was developed into the 'Trip Around The Great House', where the victim was placed on a miniature railway that took them on a journey around the set, finishing up in the giant fireplace, where gunge was finally released onto the victim. From Series Six, there were changes to the format, and gunge was used less frequently. For Series Eight, a member of the audience would be gunged by a tank lowered from the studio rafters, or their chair would be lowered into the undercroft of the seating area, where they were gunged, and came back up again.
Edmonds was often gunged himself, usually in the final episode of a series.
A regular feature for Series Four and Series Five, where a phone box modified to contain a gunge tank and a TV screen was placed somewhere in Britain. The code to get into the phone box was broadcast live on air, and the first viewer to reach the phone box got to play a game. Once inside, they had 45 seconds to rearrange a code on the screen to win a prize and get out again. If they ran out of time, they were covered in gunge. If they solved the puzzle, they had an opportunity to gamble their prize. By pulling a handle, they could either double their money, have random objects dropped on them, or be covered in gunge.
One of the main features on Series Five, in which two neighbours would run round to each other's house and, in one minute, grab as many belongings as they wanted. Then, following a series of alternate questions, one neighbour would win everything, including their own stuff back.
My Little Friend was a feature used from Series Six to Series Eight. This involved small school children being faced with puppets that start talking to them (one voiced by Noel). In the final series, Phibber the frog and Waffle the Squirrel spoke to the children, and sometimes scared them away.
Members of the public and sporting celebrities compete against each other on exercise machines hooked up to gunge tanks.
A celebrity panel game from the second half of Series Seven, in which celebrities had to spot the imposter from three members of the public with apparently bizarre occupations. If they failed, they got gunged.
A game from towards the end of Series Eight. Noel would link up with three regional news programmes, who would each bring an improbable-sounding news story from their region. The contestants would have to guess whether the stories were true or false.
In 1992, during series two of House Party, the character Mr Blobby was introduced as a way for Noel Edmonds to play practical jokes on celebrities.
Mr Blobby's house, named 'Dunblobbin', was situated at the rear of the park at Cricket St Thomas, Somerset. Mr. Blobby, the house and its gardens appeared as an attraction in the park in 1994, but it closed within five years, shortly after the show went off air. Remains of the house and its 'Blobbyland' theme park could still be seen until 2014, overgrown and strewn with fallen leaves and mud. Mr Blobby's house was demolished in late 2014.
In 1994, a Crinkly Bottom theme park opened in Morecambe. It closed 13 weeks after opening. A two-year investigation by the district auditor was started due to the investment of £2 million by Lancaster City Council. It resulted in both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats withdrawing from the cabinet, leaving four councillors from Morecambe Bay Independents and the Green Party running the authority.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||23 November 1991||28 March 1992||18|
|2||24 October 1992||13 March 1993||20*|
|3||23 October 1993||26 March 1994||22|
|4||22 October 1994||25 March 1995||21|
|5||21 October 1995||30 March 1996||22|
|6||19 October 1996||29 March 1997||22|
|7||18 October 1997||21 March 1998||20†|
|8||17 October 1998||20 March 1999||21|
* Originally to run for 21 episodes. The show scheduled for 6 March 1993 was cancelled due to a bomb scare at BBC Television Centre. A repeat of Noel's Christmas Presents and a Tom and Jerry cartoon were shown instead.
† Originally to run for 22 episodes. The show scheduled for 3 January 1998 was cancelled due to a disagreement between Edmonds and the BBC. A repeat of The Best of Noel's House Party, originally broadcast on 11 October 1997, was shown instead.
|The Best of Noel's House Party||31 May 1993|
|Noel's Garden Party||4 September 1993|
|The Best of Noel's House Party||29 August 1994|
|The Gotcha Hall of Fame||3 May 1995|
|The Gotcha Hall of Fame||17 May 1995|
|The Gotcha Hall of Fame||30 December 1995|
|NTV Stars||18 April 1996|
|Noel's NTV Stars||25 April 1996|
|The Best of Noel's House Party||7 September 1996|
|Gotcha Hall of Fame||28 December 1996|
|Gotcha Hall of Fame||17 July 1997|
|Gotcha Hall of Fame||24 July 1997|
|The Best of Noel's House Party||11 October 1997|
|Noel's Greatest Gotchas||10 January 1998|
|Noel's House Party Gotcha Special||13 March 1999|
|The Best of NTV||19 March 2000|
|The Best of Noel's House Party||26 March 2000|
|Belgium||Binnen Zonder Bellen||Koen Wauters||VT4|
|Denmark||Greven På Hittegodset||Eddie Michel||TV 2 (Denmark)|
|Germany||Gottschalks Haus Party||Thomas Gottschalk||Sat.1|
|Netherlands||Monte Carlo||Carlo Boszhard||RTL 4|
|Spain||Vaya Nochecita||Pepe Carroll||?|
Unique also revealed this week that BBC Worldwide had agreed a format deal with RTL 4 in the Netherlands for Endemol to produce a second series of Noel's House Party which is broadcast under the title Monte Carlo.