In 1976, a new series appeared in the prestigious 8 o'clock comedy slot on I.T.V. on Monday nights. 'Hello Cheeky' started life as a B.B.C. radio show, before being transferred to Yorkshire Television. The omens were good; the stars and writers were Tim-Brooke-Taylor, one of the biggest comedy stars on British television at that time ( thanks to 'The Goodies' ), Barry Cryer, who had fronted the panel game 'Jokers Wild', and John Junkin, who had appeared with the comedy genius Marty Feldman in 'Its Marty' ( as had Brooke-Taylor ) and countless other shows, including his own daytime series 'Junkin'. The show's other cast member was musician Denis King, who often found himself the butt of the others' jokes. So confidant were I.T.V. of success they gave 'Hello Cheeky' a 'T.V. Times' cover, and ordered a second run before the first went out.
But things did not work out as expected. In his seminal book 'Laughter On The Box', the late Barry Took described 'Hello Cheeky' as a lot of 'old jokes, or rather, new jokes done in the style of old jokes'. The U.S, series 'Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In' was certainly a major influence. The problem was that 'Cheeky' still seemed like a radio show even on television. Taped before a studio audience, the trio delivered corny quips and puns to camera. Sets were non-existent; photographic slides were used to create scenery. You half expected to see the cast reading the scripts out loud. Regular characters included Junkin's 'Dudley Function', an idiot in glasses with a lisp who would give obvious answers to questions. For instance, asked about his garden, he replied: "Its at the back of my house and its got a big fence all around it!".
Viewers were not amused, however, and the second run went out in a post 'News At Ten' graveyard slot.
Looked at now it is hard to believe it ever went out at peak-time, normally reserved for domestic sitcoms such as 'The Cuckoo Waltz'. Comedian Eddie Large was once quoted as saying the sight of two grown men hitting each with frying pans would be considered too childish for peak-time viewing, but would be regarded as anarchically funny in a post-watershed slot. He is spot on, as was Brooke-Taylor when he joked about the whole experience in an episode of 'The Goodies': "They put it out at the wrong time!". It is now on D.V.D. and I have to say I found it funnier than on its original broadcast. Its zany, quick-fire humour had me rolling me about on the floor. Yes, not all the gags worked, but then they don't work in many modern shows either.
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