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For some people back in the late 80s to early 90s, it was an odd occurence. You come home after 1am from a nightclub, to turn on the TV and then WATCH people in a nightclub. Whose idea was this? "The Hitman and Her", was a dance music show that toured around the nightclubs of Britain. It would be shown on ITV's early morning "graveyard slot" schedules, showing it almost live on a Sunday morning beginning originally at 1am. Basically, it's was a sort of voyeur people-watching show, listening to the music from the time, with random shots of people waving to their mum when they realise the camera is directed towards them.
By the end of the 1980s, terrestrial TV channels were beginning to run into the wee hours of the morning, and not just closedown at 12 midnight with the national anthem blaring. No, not on a Saturday night! In the mid-80s, all channel would close by 1am, however, ITV set up an overnight schedule named "Night Network" and later "Night Time" from which "Hitman and Her" was formed in 1988, running from 12 midnight to 6am. Thus began 24-hour transmission.
The show would, for one night, abduct a nightclub with it's TV vans, miles of cable and lighting and the 2 presenter the show would take to the stage (and off-stage) along with their featured dancers like "Wiggy" and "The Ghostbuster". What? Also, in-between all you're hit songs and live professional dancing and singing acts, there were mini-games - mostly cringeworthy - like karoke and dancing competitions, silly games like "wet wellies" (you don't want to know), interviews with clubbers who sometimes get to rate out of 10 other clubbers on camera, and oooh classy, a fashion section.
WHO WAS "THE HITMAN"?
The show was undeniably a dumbed down form of entertainment, but a reasonably good-natured and fun music and dance show, with no real controversial moments. For some, it was a hip and happening (not you, Pete) non-threatening late-night TV, for others, it was an embarrassing cheesefest and one (three?) man's quest to engulf the whole pop market with a similar sound, a record label continuously plugged by the nightclub DJ's and live acts on offer, throughout every episode of the show, apart from the more sinister "rave-up" episodes in the later years. That man was Pete "Dancing dad" Waterman. Presenting the show as "The Hitman". Why was he called "The Hitman"?
Back when Simon Cowell was Waterman's puppy dog, and not long after Rick Astley was relinquished of his teaboy duties, Waterman had by 1988, alongside fellow record producer Matt Aitken and Mike Stock, had absolutely dominated the UK singles chart in the mid-late 80s, with a quintessential synth-pop 80s sound, that launched and made stars out of Bananarama - one of the most successful female pop groups ever -, Rick Astley, Dead or Alive (you know, Pete Burns et all), Sinitta, Sonia, Mel and Kim, from soap stars like Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, to models like Samantha Fox. Waterman boasted his record label SAW (Stock, Aitken and Waterman) could churn out a hit song in 15 minutes with anyone who could sing a note. SAW soon became known as "The Hit Factory", as the No. 1 Singles began to pile up by 1987. Waterman was the chief producer of the 3, so it is probably with good reason, he was called "The Hitman". Nearly all the acts mentioned above, had either their songs featured, or were wheeled out in these nightclubs, in some obscure location like Warrington. Lesser-known flops or one-hit-wonders of SAW production, were also in tow. The SAW music could be said as light and cheesy, but were also club hits at the time. What was Waterman like on the show? Well, not exactly the coolest cat in town, now and then. Holding 20 years over the average clubber, Waterman, sometimes attired in a Captain Birdseye-esque black suit and polo neck jumper, brought "Dad dancing" to the fore. Apart from that, usually playing the role as the main MC alongside "Her", he at least got into the spirit, and was quite orderly and non-annoying, not too brazen or in-your-face, when interviewing other clubbers.
Waterman came up with the idea for the TV show, after what we're guessing, because of the triviality of late night TV, after seeing musician Elvis Costello talk about Irish politics. Waterman conjured a possible catchphrase for the show, which was "Be'ave!", which, in the queen's english is , "behave".
WHO WAS "HER"?
The show needed someone, who was more "in vogue" with the times and cooler, so make way for the spunky and permanently grinning Michaela Strachan. This was a big jump, from an early morning children's presenter on "Wide Awake Club" with man-child Timmy Mallett, to late-night in a venue for adults only. With tens of men slobbering ove her amidst the crowd, could she not court any controversy? Well despite some obscure rumour I heard from some obscure comment on a Youtube video of the show, not really. She came across just as she did in her children's work, and certainly was not one to lower her standards just because it's late-night TV. In saying that, a career on-screen could be ruined with some words or actions. Strachan not also presented the show, but later crossed-over, became one of the live music acts on-stage herself, launching a very short singing career, with "Take Good Care of my Heart" in 1990. Believe it or not, Strachan was a kiss-o-gram before her Television work. Nevertheless, Strachan had a welcoming feel and a "people person", but could keep the nightclub rabble at an arm's length.
THE MAIN GIST OF THE SHOW?
The show, in it's first incarnation, began with an instrumental Italo disco synth tune named "Cocoon" by Timerider, later changed to another instumental entitled "Rofo's Theme" in 1991/2. So the typical show begins in a typical 80s nightclub, of which strangely, many were named "The Roxy", named after a famous American New York nightclub from the 80s. Oozing with flashing and sometimes dizzying neon lights from the ceiling. Featured professional/sem-pro dancers dictate the atmosphere and crowd with their synchronised dancing schtick, lycra and torn jeans being a popular choice of attire. The head dancer Clive "Wiggy"Donaldson was a black man wearing a white wig all the time, usually wearing even less than the female dancers, and that's an accomplishment in itself. They would danc efor most of the night, along with dancing special attractions, such as the "Ghostbuster". Who was he? Well, he didn't come out with vaccuum to suck ghosts up. This was some guy who looked rather weedy, odd, unorthodox and elasticated. He wasn't not a great dancer but someone who seemed desperate enough to annoy producers until they gave in.
Other main aspects of the show (or low points!) were the singing ("Pass The Mic!") and dancing competitions ("Showing Out"), usually between 3 clubbers up on the stage, usually of comedic value. There was however, a more serious dancing competition held once a year. The highlight being a mulleted scouser tasche guy nicknamed "Stix". There was a drastic change to the format, by the point of a new look "Hitman and Her" beginning in 1991. This is when "Hitman and Her" on the odd occasion, would go to acid mash-up's, instead of fabba dabba pop-tastic venues. This was the emergence of the house music movement becoming mainstream (or passe for some) in a branched-off form of house: Rave. Waterman and Strachan were kicked to the wayside with none of the features or segments at your typical Roxy nightclub, and were looking really like fishes-out-of-water here. In these clubs, there were no more collars and ties and strict dress code. It was all casual. This however, brought some legitimacy to some viewers who hated the SAW material that had slogged the show for so long.
HOW DID IT ALL END?
"Hitman and Her" had been airing continuously for over 4 years, at various times in the Sunday early morning, from 1am to 4am. The last show, from Manchester, ended on the 5th December 1992. Why did it end? All shows reach a natural end? Maybe. Stock Aitken & Waterman had all but dried up in hits by 1992. His company record label, PWL (Pete Waterman Limited) was handed over to Universal music, and Waterman's duties with the record label decreased. There was nothing controversial enough to send it off the screens, but possibly, as loutish behaviour become much more publicised in the media in the mid-90-ish, it might've got the axe instead later.
"Hitman and Her" was hardly intellectual programming, but it at leasts gives us an inside look to what nightclub culture was like back in the late-80s and early 90s. It's true to life on a Saturday night, and nothing else really comes close to that. It was fun for the voyeur at the time, there was no internet back then to satisfy those gripes. It harks back to an ITV, that wasn't looking or needed you're money through some pensive cardboard cut-out telling us to name a car or gamble to win money, and who wants to watch "Nightwatch with Steve Scott" about crime stories? Making you feel yourself more uncomfortable in you're own skin, in your own house! The thing i do like about the show, is the lack of crudeness in the presentation which is tasteful, no chavvy behaviour and it was about having fun.
SHOULD THE SHOW EVER COME BACK?
I could shout YES for a very goood reason, but I could also shout No for a very good reason. Well, the dancer Wiggy has done tribute H & H shows on the nostalgia club circuit with "Hitman and Her Reloaded". Anyway, this is the question whether it should ever come back on TV. There is scope, why it could come back, and that's because for too many years it's been negative press and sensationalism. The fact it focuses on the badly-behaved minority rather than the well-behaved majority, all these programmes like "Booze Britain" and whatever else there is of police on the beat at night, I don't watch them. The media, really do like to take the assumption that the new young generation are the biggest twats going. That's not true. So it would be nice to bring it back in that aspect to have a positive outlook on "Yoof" culture.
On the other hand no, because the original format is never usually bettered. Plus times have changed, and maybe it might court controversy as today's generation is more sexualised at a younger age. Then you'd probably have 2 annoying in-your-face presenters, or just plain annoying. A modern update of Waterman and Strachan, might be, in dream mode, Simon Cowell and Claudia Winkleman or Tara Palmer-Tompkinson (just came into my head, a bit old now, but...). However, this would too low-brow for millionaire Cowell now. Maybe 10 years ago. Louis Walsh? He doesn't...go to...those kind of clubs I would imagine! So you would probably be stuck with Vernon Kay and Holly Willoughby or Fearne Cotton, thinking they're so hip and cool. PJ and Dunc...er....Ant and Dec might not be so bad, they would know their limits, being family entertainers. I could just see the show presentation being more crude and patronising, and with some of the music today, a vital element of music back in the late-80s and early 90's, was it had an innocent fun factor, or regarding rave music, a chillout factor. The factor in most pop music today is about being famous and getting you're freak on! Hmmmm....nope! Don't bring it back!
Facebook: I appeared on hitman and her did you? Join up if you did!
Pete Waterman Entertainment: http://www.pwl-empire.com/qa_media.html
Wiggy's site http://wiggyexperience.co.uk/
Hitman and Her on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0298662/