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"Going Live!" was Saturday morning TV at it's best. There may be other opinions, but in my view, my perhaps biased view, as I grew up watching it as kid, and looking back at it today, it was the only one of the live-TV-3-hours marathon, featuring both on ITV and BBC, that achieved a really good balance of appealing to both kids and adults...and not just for kids. The show had a little bit of everything, it was a magazine format, but other factors, like the casting and presenters were also important. Other Saturday morning programmes down the decades have come close to the quality "Going Live", such as Noel Edmonds "Swap Shop" in the 70's, "Live and Kicking" and even, Ant and Dec's "SM:TV", but "Going Live!" beats them all down! And I will tell you why!
BEFORE GOING LIVE!
Saturday mornings were rather lifeless before the likes of "Tiswas" on ITV, and "Multi-coloured Swap Shop" on the BBC in the 1970's. There were really an extension of children's programming in early evening workdays, and implanted in a more leisurely and exciting package (live TV!) on Saturday mornings, which did branch out to appeal to adults too, featuring innovative interview phone-in's with the music artists and celebrities of the day. These programmes lasted for 3 hours usually between the hours of 9am-12pm. In 1982, Swap Shop involved into "Saturday Superstore", however still very similar to Swap Shop, but this time, no Noel "Tidybeard" Edmonds, but with Keith Chegwin, John Craven, Mike Read and Sarah Greene. The show incorporated a Talent show element called "Search for a Superstar". However, it just wasn't as successful and as original as Swap Shop, and something was felt lacking. Popular Radio 1 DJ at the time, Mike Read, who led the show as the main male presenter, looked a little out of place on a this type of show, but this was banking on the previous success of Edmonds, another Radio 1 DJ. Some memorable TV moments did follow, such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's appearance on the show.
GOING LIVE! BEGINS
Then along came "Going Live!" in 1987. This continued with the same format, but with some marked changes. Sarah Greene was the only one from "Saturday Superstore" to stay on, to become the main female presenter. CBBC Broom Cupboard presenter Phillip Schofield became the main male presenter, together normally with Greene. The show was altogether more fast-paced, still running at 3 hours + on a Saturday morning. The new additions to the show, was having a comedy double act, perfoming in sections of the show with various characters called "Trevor and Simon" or "Trev and Simon". Then you had a cookery element to the show, presented by Emma Forbes. The swap element was completely swept under the blanket. The show also covered serious issues for kids as well as the normal cartoons and celebrity phone-ins. The show usually ran from September to April every year.
The cast for the show, which remained largely unchanged until Schofield took up the role of Joseph in the theatre production of "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat", and an unpopular change of comedians in the 1991 and 1992 seasons were:
Phillip Schofield - Main Presenter
Sarah Greene - Main Presenter
Gordon the Gopher - Squeaky Puppet - Played by the hand of BBC TV executive Paul Smith for the most part
Trev and Simon - Comedians
Peter Simon - Double Dare/Run the Risk Presenter
Emma Forbes - Cookery section Presenter
Annabel Giles - Fashion Expert
Nick Ball & James Hickish - Trev & Simon Replacements (1991-92)
Shane Richie - Run the Risk Presenter (1992-93)
FEATURES OF GOING LIVE!
Double Dare/ Run The Risk - This was a messy gunge gameshow section that started off as "Double Dare", which was an American imported show presented solely by Peter Simon in a studio with kids in audience. 2 teams of 2 kids compete against each other. Peter Simon, as usual will always end up sliding on the gungy floor, but he had a good enthuisaism for the show, which shone through. The show evolved into "Run the Risk" with a bigger budget, more set in an arena, with a large course of obstacles involving a revolving stage with a river of gunge situated around it. Expanded to 3 teams of 2, with now Shane Richie masquerading as the main presenter, with Peter Simon playing second fiddle to loudmouth Richie. Kids would dress into over-sized fancy dress costume pirates/animals/whatever, similar to "Opportunity Knocks". This was probably to stop the show getting sued, as a kid could fall over, without the cushion of the mammoth costumes, and end up breaking something. For some reason, I always preferred Double Dare to Run The Risk. Maybe because I preferred Simon, and plus the repetitive music that gets in your head. The games though, were quite original. Throwing gunge-filled wellies over a high-bar was one example.
Trev and Simon - They were a very big part of what made the show successful, along with Gordon the Gopher and the presenter chemistry between Greene and Schofield..and the viewers. The comdey duo hit a purple patch with quite a wide range of recurring characters, that pleased and amused children and adults alike. If anything sums up these 2, and "Going Live!, you could say "Swing Your Pants!". Probably the funniest act of Trev and Simon's sketches. They play as 2 1970's-dressed hippies who play music from the segment of the show they call "The Singing Corner". They sing spoof songs of popular music as they interact with celebrities most times, in their own funny way. There were various other characters that were hits. In the earlier days, they played a pair of dodgy geezers called "The Sister Brothers" where they exclaimed they were "Ducking 'n a diving" and "wheelin' n a dealin'. Then you have the "Witch Finders" who come out every Halloween or October, and proclaim people as wicked. Also, Ken and Eddie Kennedy, the Barbers, "Don't Do Perms"! In "World of the Strange" who tell us on each sketch, that one particular normal everyday happening, is a paranormal event taking place. There was also a quite funny surreal sketch where, Trev and Simon congratulate themselves with a "Pat on the Back", doing unusual actions before patting themselves on the back.
Growing Pains - This was Going Live!'s stab at real issues for kids and serious too. This was really the first time this was attempted on UK kids television, but it was very popular, with the number of letters and phonecalls coming in. Phillip Hodson, who alse appeared in "Saturday Superstore" with Sarah Greene, is the agony uncle. This section dealt with some heavy issues like AIDS and child abuse. This was never seen on Saturday monrings again after "Going Live!" finished up in 1993.
Live Line - Famous celebrities make surprise trips to child fans' homes, usually consisting of a popstar or boyband who were hot at the moment.
The Press Conference - Also known as "The Hot Seat". Questions from a phone-in and members of the audience to a famous celebrity near the end of the show. These could the popstars of the time, comedians, actors and politicians.
Interactive Phone-In Computer Game - It feels old now, but near the beginning of the show, Sarah Greene would present a large screen hosting a BBC-generated computer game, where a kid phones in and directs a character in the game, who would have to move about and collect say, apples, avoiding an enemy, or give directions to attack, such as a frog trying to hit a fly with it's very long tongue! Kids would tell the game, or the person behind the scenes, actually playing the game, to go left, right, up, down or it could east, west, north south. What I liked about this game was depending on the number of flies/apples you hit/collect, you got different prizes, and the more you get, the more expensive/better the prizes are. Some of the prizes were cool at the time I thought.
Cartoons on the show - The show would have 2-3 cartoons on each episode. Some of the cartoons were never featured on weekday CBBC, and only featured on Saturday mornings. The ones I remember best from "Going Live" was "The Raccoons" which had a long run with the show. Then you had "Thundercats", a more action-hero minded cartoon. You also had "Defenders of the Earth", which featured Flash Gordon and The Phantom, and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", which was everywhere at one point. They showed the cartoons in their full capacity, so no annoying "to be continued" scenarios.
Conclusion - It was a great show, and the chemistry between the presenters was important, and they all looked like they were having a ball. Back in those days, there wasn't the degree in fragmentation from satellite which had just been started up, so you can see, there was plenty of budget and effort taken into this show, that prepared for a potentially large audience, young and old. Initially it was a small studio show in the first series, but expanded in the next series after 1987. The set then was odd, reminding me of a Chinese dojo or Chinese opera house. It later morphed into a standard 80's/early 90's typical look. The show crammed in more than what any other Saturday morning show did before and after, the element of real issues and teen angst. It seemed to care. The chemistry between main presenters was vital, and that's what kept people coming back to the show. Schofield, although people must be getting fed up with him these days, appearing on many shows down the years, looked to be alot of fun, open personality and less cringeworthy, and more cooler than Noel Edmonds. Sarah Greene always came across as easy-going and never seemed to have an ego, which was great. The 2 could be silly, but they acted mature enough to appeal to adults. There was also that "Will they or won't they?" question, but both were in a relationship, Greene was married since 1989. In the later days of the following "Live and Kicking", the show and presenter seemed dumbed down, and more appealing to kids. Oh, and then there was also the chemistry and comedy clumsiness between Emma Forbes' cooking and Schofield sections. Trev and Simon could be hilarious especially, doing the "Swing You're Pants" routine, embarrassing mimicking celebrities. I always thought the funnier of the 2 was Simon! Gordon the Gopher was well, Gordon the Gopher. Annabel Giles was a fashion expert or advisor, but later claimed, she didn't have much of clue what she was talking about.
Also, who can forget the unpredictableness of live TV, and children. There's always the infamous "Five Star" (Britain's answer to the "Jackson Five") phone-in, where one boy phoned in to ask, "why are you so f****** crap?"
I think it's been great to see Going Live! again on the likes of youtube, and their are quite alot, and it still strikes me how good the show was, and still is.
Where are they now?
Phillip Schofield - Has been continuously working in TV since then, hosting many shows, starting off with "Talking Telephone Numbers" on ITV, and raised his profile presenting "This Morning" in 2002, after John Leslie sudden dismissal after personal scandals. Became a Steward for ITV, going on to host ratings-winner "Dancing On Ice", and now gameshow "The Cube".
Sarah Greene - After Going Live! Greene has mostly disappeared from TV, apart from popping up in nostalgia shows talking about "Going Live" as well as reuniting with Schofield in "Dancing On Ice" in 2008, but was eliminated first from the show. Maybe she is a victim of the "older women on TV" curse, but I think it's through choice. She is married to former TOTP presenter Mike Smith, who did appear much on TV after the early 90's himself. He owns a business named "Flying TV". This incorporates using helicopters for aerial filming for TV programmes. So Greene is probably working alongside him or something else, or an housewife.
Gordon the Gopher - Now an alcoholic, supposedley dead, but returned in 2006, in a Going Live! look-back segment on the BBC.
Trevor and Simon - Stayed on, as Going Live! evolved in "Live and Kicking", where they still had some classic moments, but with brand new characters, no more swing you're pants! At the peak of their popularity they had their own show, shown in the evenings (about 6pm/6.30pm) on BBC2, but was a rather more muted affair, and it wasn't all that great. Trev and Simon vanished after a few years on L & K. Trev and Simon came back to the comedy circuit in the early 2000's with limited success, but are still reasonably popular for nostalgia reasons, and make guest appearances on some lowly-viewed shows like "Celebrity Juice" on ITV2, and "Big Brother's Big Mouth".
Peter Simon - Presented "Run The Risk" till it's demise in 1997. He is now a presenter on Bid tv, a shopping channel on satellite. You can tell from his enthusiasm, he would be good for that, and I have been sad enough to watch this channel sometimes, just generally browsing, when I see he is in it, and he is good at it.
Emma Forbes - Emma Forbes went onto big things, taking Sarah Greene's place as the presenter of "Live and Kicking" from 1993-1996. She presented along with Andi Peters, but they were no Schofield and Greene. Forbes also became a poster girl for Head and Shoulders shampoo adverts in the 90's. Has recently finished radio work on BBC Radio 2, stepping down. She was touted to relace Fern Britton on "This Morning" but this seemed highly unlikely to me, as hasn't presented on TV for years, and yes, it did not happen in the end.
Annabel Giles - Posh talking presenter has been quiet apart from the odd appearance on a panel show, like "Shooting Stars" and has talked about Going Live! in nostalgia documentaries.
Phillip Hodgson - Psychotherapist who has been the chief spokesperson for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy since 2000. He has appeared on GM-TV, radio and has wrote many books on sex and relationships. He has written for "Agony pages" for numerous newspapers and magazines.
Shane Richie - After Run the Risk, his career pretty much took a slump, only appearing in the "Daz Doorstep Cahallenge" adverts. Did some theatrial roles, and sort of re-invented himself, as an actor as Alfie Moon in "Eastenders" in 2003, for some years, and then becoming the new Arthur Daley for the new version of "Minder" in 2009.
Nick Ball & James Hickish - Vanished from TV? Well, Nick Ball has appeared on various comedy programmes, old and new. Hickish...nothing.