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Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield's radio DJ characters Mike Smash and
Nice (aka "Smashie and Nicey") are among their best ever.
Having first appeared in "Harry Enfield's Television Programme", the characters quickly - and ironically - became a national institution in the UK. Immediately recognisable in look, tone and character to any number of BBC Radio 1 DJs, Smashie (Whitehouse) and Nicey (Enfield) are probably the most devastatingly accurate parodies of this character type ever seen.
This spoof documentary, which begins with the duo announcing their shock resignation from fictional radio station Fab FM, tells the story of Smashie and Nicey's rise to national fame in the 1960s as Fab Radio DJs and "Top Of The Pops" presenters, and charts their respective careers right through to the 1990s. Naturally, they both claim to have been at the forefront of every fashion and musical trend on the way - "I'm Dave Nice and I invented the sixties!"
As well as being a sharp satire on the egotistical and pompous nature of British radio DJs, "End Of An Era" is also an immensely fun journey through British pop history, with Smashie and Nicey being cleverly spliced into old television footage - Nicey, for example, "interviews" the Beatles and makes a pass at Paul McCartney, and also claims the credit for "accidentally" inventing punk rock after interviewing the Sex Pistols!
There are also cameos from a number of real DJs (including Tony Blackburn and John Peel) and rock stars (Bob Geldof describes how they blackmailed him into letting them sing on "Do They Know It's Christmas"...), as well as lots of other very neat satirical touches, like the candid interviews which show a darker side to the duo never previously seen.
"End Of An Era" is well-written, well-executed and, as you would expect, brilliantly performed by Enfield and Whitehouse. It's also an excellent parody which treats its subject with some derision, but also with a great deal of affection.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two of the most popular characters on 'Harry Enfield's Television
Programme' were 'Smashey' ( Paul Whitehouse ) and 'Nicey' ( Enfield ),
ageing disc jockeys with colossal egos who engaged in mindless banter
during the change over from one show to another. The sketches ended
usually with Smashey playing 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet' by Bachman
Turner Overdrive. Smashey was based on Tony Blackburn, while Nicey's
inspiration was the late Alan 'Fluff' Freeman. They caught the public's
imagination, even getting to host 'Top Of The Pops' one week! Radio 1,
however, was not amused. Feeling the characters' represented a kind of
stinging criticism, new bosses Matthew Bannister and Trevor Dann sacked
disc jockeys en masse and brought in new blood, such as Danny Baker and
the detestable Chris Evans.
In 1994, 'Smashey' and 'Nicey' went the 'Kevin Turvey' route and got their own spoof documentary. Beginning with the pair rushing to a press conference to inform the world they had just quit 'Radio Fab F.M' ( in fact, they had been sacked by controller Johnny Beergut ), it told the story of their meteoric rise to fame. As was the case with Enfield's award-winning Channel 4 programme 'Norbert Smith - A Life?' ( 1989 ), archive footage was seamlessly matched with new material, such as Smashey playing policemen on 'Dixon Of Dock Green', 'Z Cars' and 'Dr.Who', and Nicey dancing with Freddie & The Dreamers on 'Blue Peter'.
The format allowed for greater character development. Both men lived in mansions. Nicey is clearly gay, while Smashey is haunted by the break-up of his marriage ( Enfield later apologised to Tony Blackburn for making fun of his marital breakdown to actress Tessa Wyatt ) and makes chutney. Nicey thinks the 'Swinging Sixties' was all down to him and his friend ( Alan Freeman appeared as himself, tottering about on a Zimmer frame ).
Most of the jokes work, particularly good is Nicey chatting to the Beatles and attempting to get fresh with Paul McCartney. On the down side however, a spoof of 'The Kenny Everett Television Show' in which Nicey ripped off girls' clothes while dressed as 'Gizzard Puke' was in incredibly poor taste. Everett was dying of AIDS at the time. The item should have been deleted.
The director, Daniel Kleinman, went on to design title sequences for Bond movies.
These days, Enfield and Whitehouse cannot make a hyena laugh, luckily we have programmes like this to remind us how good they once were together.
Broadcast when BBC Radio 1's new controller was merrily axing half of his star presenters for being too old and stuffy for a pop station, the most effective parts of this show are the thinly disguised reminders of British DJs' most embarrassing moments. At times it's more cruel than funny, and Enfield later apologised for his parody of Tony Blackburn's marital breakdown, which a distraught Blackburn shared with listeners in the 1970s.
I remember well the birth of radio 1 and how the DJ's of that era became more famous than their true talent ever really warranted. The ego, name dropping and self publicity was totally shameless. What Enfield and Whitehouse achieve here is a superbly made and well deserved re-balancing of the books. The more you remember of of the 60's to 90's radio 1 the more you'll see it's relevance. The script and acting is out of this world and I'm currently trying to source this on DVD. I have a very old VHS copy of this but would panic if it ever got lost or the the tape broke :)) Check out cable TV schedules, this is a not to be missed Mickey take of the very very highest order. Well done guys, it's right up there with Norbert Smith - A Life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had not seen this show for twenty years until the BBC rebroadcast it
in 2015 and it brought back memories of the era when this show was made
in early 1994.
The two stars of this programme were riding high at that time. Enfield had broken nearly a decade earlier, first at the kebab selling philosopher Stavros, then as the signature character of 1980s greed 'Loadsamoney' and in the exquisite South Bank Show pastiche 'Norbert Smith,a Life' before his sketch show was aired on the BBC from 1990 onward. Whitehouse had been a writer for Enfield and wrote for that BBC show but in it he also appeared in front of the camera in a variety of the show's characters. One of these characters was as the blonde, relentlessly cheery but essentially humourless, ludicrously self important DJ Mike Smash (Smashie) in a series of skits with fellow DJ Dave 'Davenport' Nice (Nicey) - a ludicrous, pompous, oaf played by Enfield.
That Enfield show was the best thing either man ever did- it was certainly better than the slightly later 'Harry Enfield and Chums'or the much later 'Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul' and it starred characters like the Old Gits and the irritating man who would announce 'Only Me!' but it was those two prattling, inane disc jockeys who provided the shows funniest moments - and for the first time since Monty Python provided sketches which young men in pubs could recite verbatim.
Smash and Nice worked at the fictional Fab FM which was a very thinly disguised take on the BBC's flagship pop music station Radio 1 which had been on the air since 1967. Radio 1 was very popular - it was the only truly nationwide show broadcasting pop music in what was a glorious epoch for British pop music and the station's DJs were very well known and, for a time, very popular. But the station was never 'hip' and many of its biggest names were by bywords for all that was naff and patronising about a broadcasting organisation that had a very ambivalent attitude to pop and rock music and those who listened to it. Millions listened to Edmunds, Bates, Read, Travis and the rest but only because there was precious little alternative on the airwaves.
Enfield and Whitehouse were very much part of that generation who had listened to but also slightly despised Radio 1 and Smashie and Nicey were their 'tribute' to the station. Smash is superficially based on Tony Blackburn - the man who was the very first voice heard on the station- and Nice on Alan Freeman but in truth the characters are an amalgam of the most long serving DJs on the station like Steve Wright, Noel Edmunds ( both Smash) and Dave Lee Travis, Simon Bates, Mike Read and to a lesser degree Tommy Vance (Nice)- interestingly Blackburn and Freeman appear in 'The End of an Era'but the others did not. I recall the wretched Travis - an endlessly wacky but utterly humourless buffoon sounding off about Enfield and Whitehouse's creations in Q Magazine.
Radio 1 overhauled itself in 1993 with many of the above named being ditched as if in reaction to Smashie and Nicey. Enfield and Whitehouse had already tried to drop their two alter egos but the demise of so much of what they plainly despised seemed to good an opportunity to miss as well as allow the pair to draw a line under their own most famous characters.
Some of the jokes and the skits in 'The End of an Era' work better than others. The 'Top of The Pops' send ups are bang on the money and Nicey's spoof ad for 'Deptford Draylons' although an obscure reference for anybody born after 1967 or so is very funny. The intermingling of the two characters with archive film mostly works too but really Bill Grundy interviewing the Sex Pistols is funny enough in its original version and whilst taking the mick out of Kenny Everett at the time the man was dying is on the boundaries of taste it would surely have been Smashie who would thought he was a great comedian and not Nicey . The 'Peeping Tom' style footage from Smash's childhood are excellent and although the 'Tessa!'reference caused Enfield to apologise to Tony Blackburn it is nevertheless very, very funny. Overall far more comes off than not and unexpected depths are found for both men.
Enfield and Whitehouse were at their zenith here and never worked together quite as well again and in this show there are suggestions that their partnership was only slightly less fraught than the two characters they mock here. In one scene the DJs -supposedly 'great mates'- score points of each other by claiming to be slightly more popular than the other. In the early nineties there were suggestions in the media that Enfield was less than happy that his underling was thought to be funnier and more talented than the headline star. This may or not have been true but it is worth remembering that Whitehouse' next project was 'The Fast Show' which did not feature Enfield and was considered to be superior to Enfield's own show (which still had Whitehouse in it) that was broadcast in the weeks before Whitehouse's project. Near the end of 'The End of an Era' a sozzled, whisky sipping Nice tells us he hates 'Smashey' and it was easy for some to think that this was Enfield speaking and not Dave Nice.
'Smashie and Nicey - the End of an Era' is very much of its time I suppose - many of the jokes and characters spoofed will mean nothing to anybody under the age of 40. But if you were there at the time it was one of the climax of a gloriously funny, sarcastic send up of an institution that was so deserving of ridicule.
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