Noel's House Party

Noel was the king of Saturday night television for nearly twenty years, which reached its zenith with Noel's House Party. The House Party's heyday was in the early 1990s. Despite being much derided and sneered at, audiences of over 15 million would tune in every week during its run from October to March. It became real 'event' television, the likes of which rarely occurs these days.

Much meddling occured during the second half of the show's life, in a continuing attempt to keep it fresh, and outdo what had been done already. The changing of the theme tune in 1996 can be viewed as a turning point; then another when the set was changed a year later.

By now, the show was in crisis - at the start of January 1998 Noel himself pulled transmission of the show, claiming it wasn't good enough. It returned with a raft of new features. But everyone knew that the House Party was past its best. The next, and eighth, series saw the biggest revamp of all - but when audiences dropped to under 6 million, the show was swiftly axed. The final episode was transmitted on 20th March 1999.

Here we remember Noel's House Party with a B-Z of its greatest moments:


Barry Killerby - long-serving member of the Gotcha team, proving that no celebrities watched the House Party, otherwise they'd recognise him! He also had a close working relationship with Mr Blobby.

Beat Your Neighbour - series 5 game, 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.

Big Pork Pie - regular feature from series 3 and 4: 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. Thanks to this, we learnt that Noel's middle name is Ernest.

The Bottoms - replacement soap for 'Crinkley Bottom: the Soap' (see below).

Cash for Questions - series 7 game, replacing Grab-a-Grand. Someone was strapped into a horizontal wheel of fortune, in order to choose a caller. If the caller correctly answered their question, they would then have to guide a celebrity through the pitch dark Basement collecting bags of money, each containing £100.

Crinkley Bottom - picturesque, if slightly backward, English village in which Noel lives. It seems Noel is the most intelligent member of the community - other residents include Tony Blackburn, Pru and Mr Blobby.

Crinkley Bottom Observer - Crinkley Bottom's highbrow tabloid rag. Earlier editions of the House Party would begin with Noel reading out a selection of some of the paper's top stories.

Crinkley Bottom: The Soap - short-lived soap opera chronicling village life. It was one of the casualties when Noel pulled the show in 1998 - he described it as 'expensive and not funny'.

Crinkley Bottom Wonderers - the most successful football team in the whole of Crinkley Bottom.

Dimensions in Time - Doctor Who infiltrated Noel's House Party which in turn infiltrated Children in Need in 1993 with this 30th anniversary special episode, for which House Party viewers were given the chance to phone in and choose which EastEnders character helped save the Doctor. Confused? Jon Pertwee guested on the House Party in the role of the third Doctor, leading Doctor Who fans to argue - is it canon?

DLT - initials of Dave Lee Travis, ie hairy disc jockey. See Gotchas.

The Door - front door to the Great House, where Noel would meet various celebrities and Crinkley Bottom residents.

Gotchas - known as the 'Gotcha Oscars' until 1993, when the American Academy objected. One of the show's most popular features, they started on the Saturday Roadshow in 1988, meaning in 11 years over a hundred celebs found themselves the recipient of a Gotcha. Probably the greatest Gotchee of all remains DLT - when Noel and his team infiltrated his Saturday morning darts quiz on Radio 1, the Hairy Monster went apoplectic with rage, and provided us with one of the greatest televisual moments ever - "YOU ARE A DEAD MAN!!!" A revengeful DLT then proceeded to sabotage the entire programme.

Other memorable Gotcha victims include the highly suspicious Derek Jameson who eventually had to be Gotchaed three times over; Phillip Schofield getting his head stuck in a guillotine whilst presenting the Radio 1 Roadshow; Kriss Akabussi who laughed hysterically for five minutes following his Gotcha reveal; Jon Pertwee who took some time to cotton on even after Noel had presented him with his award; and Lionel Blair, with his famous 'Blair Stare' at a disguised Noel.

Grab-a-Grand - long running phone-in game: a viewer would win time by answering a series of topical questions. A sports celebrity would then enter the Money Box which had wind blowing from underneath, into which Noel placed £1000 in bank notes, and try to grab as much of the money as possible within the allotted time. Later variations included Grab a Granny and Grab a Grand Piano.

The Great House - Noel's house, the location for his weekly house parties. Unusual furnishings included the Gunge Tank and Money Box. The house would undergo extensive renovation work between each series, particularly in 1997, when the decor turned turquoise, and again in 1998 when the house's interior changed beyond recognition.

The Gunge Tank - tank filled with gunge. In the early days this feature would take the form of a gunge vote, by which two celebrities, eg Andi Peters and Edd the Duck, would be put to a public phone vote. Noel would end up in there at least once per series. For series 4, the Gunge Tank became the Gunge Train, and extended halfway round the house, ending in the fireplace.

Hot House - series 6. Top athletes were pitted against each other in a fitness test.

I'm Coming Out - series 8. A member of the public would reveal a secret to friends or family - eg 'I'm a belly dancer'. Cue much embarrassment.

Liam - Noel's rather wayward brother.

The Liszt and Newt - Crinkley Bottom's local hostelry.

The Lyric Game - quiz from the first series, continued from the Saturday Roadshow, in which celebrity contestants competed by singing the lyrics from well-known pop songs.

Michael Leggo - big cheese behind the House Party, Mr Leggo was the man who 'discovered' Mr Blobby, but famously received no money from all the merchandising.

Mr Blobby - pink and yellow blobbed creature - the real star of Noel's House Party. By the second series, the Gotcha ideas cupboard was already looking a little bare, so Mr Blobby was drafted in as a way of covering a lot of ground. But no one could have predicted the massive impact the Blobmeister would have on the British public. Within a year he became a permanent fixture on the show, and soon released an entire range of merchandise. Unforgettably, he knocked Take That off the top of the charts to score the Christmas number one in 1993.

Despite an attempt to keep him off the final series, Mr Blobby still managed to muscle his way back in. He even outlived the House Party itself, as regular appearances on Live and Kicking and Jim Davidson's Generation Game kept him on screen into the 21st century.

My Little Friend - the kiddie segment from series 6-8, this involved small children being faced with inanimate objects that start talking to them. In the final series, Phibber the frog and Waffle the squirrel spoke to the children, and sometimes scared them away.

Noel Edmonds - bearded owner of the Great House and purveyor of house parties.

Noel's Garden Party - a touring version of the House Party from 1993, in which Crinkley Bottom was recreated at Doncaster and Haydock Park racecourses. The latter was televised.

Noel's New York House Party - towards the end of series 6, one show was transmitted live from an apartment in New York. Guests included William Shatner and Barry Manilow. Then early in the next series the show came from Universal Studios in Florida. Noel later described these trips away as 'straining the budget, daft and embarrassing'.

NTV - House Party's most revolutionary trick - viewers suddenly find themselves on television, via a microscopic camera installed in their living room. 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.

NTV - You're On Your Own - series 8 took the NTV concept a stage further, and victims found themselves spending a week or more on a remote Scottish island, in a US prison, out at sea etc.

Number Cruncher - series 4 and 5. Members of the public would race to get into this booth, located somewhere different in the UK each week. Upon entering, they would find themselves locked in, and with a direct line to Noel. In order to escape and win the prize, they would have to tap in a four digit code. Unsurprisingly, the booth also doubled as a gunge tank, as the contestant would more than likely discover to their cost.

Open the Cupboard - series 2. Various celebrities would be hidden inside a cupboard, and by listening to them sing, the contestants had to guess who they were. Musical accompaniment was provided by Pru on the organ.

Panel Beaters - celebrity panel game from the second half of series 7, in which celebrities had to spot the imposter from three members of the public with apparently bizarre occupations. If they failed...they got gunged...

The Panel Game - series 3. Celebrities would pop out from various panels in the woodwork to ask the contestants questions and crack jokes. Frank Carson would contribute virtually every week.

Party Pieces - Crinkley Bottom's talent contest from series 2, featuring a series of 'acts with no quality threshold', including Donald Duck impersonations and a tuneless rendition of 'Rule Britannia'.

The Policemen - Graham Cole and Andrew Paul from The Bill made frequent appearances at The Door ("I had chips with mine").

Pru - organ-playing resident of Crinkley Bottom, who bore more than a passing resemblance to Pat Coombs .

The Secret World of the Teenager - from series 7, a teenage version of Wait Till I Get You Home.

Shirts - Noel frequently used the House Party to show off his wardrobe of, um, interesting shirts...

Sofa Soccer - shambolic game from series 8, in which callers try to put footballs, dispensed from a ballblaster, past the goalkeeper.

Three to Go - game from towards the end of series 8. Noel would link up with three regional news programmes, who would each bring us an improbable-sounding news story from their region. The contestants would have to guess whether the stories were true or false.

Tony Blackburn - hapless resident of Crinkley Bottom.

Transmission dates - series 1: 23/11/91-28/3/92; series 2: 24/10/92-13/3/93; series 3: 23/10/93-26/3/94; series 4: 22/10/94-25/3/95; series 5: 21/10/95-30/3/96; series 6: 19/10/96-29/3/97; series 7: 18/10/97-21/3/98; series 8: 17/10/98-20/3/99.

Wait Till I Get You Home - another leftover from the Saturday Roadshow. Parents would try to guess the answers given by their child in a pre-recorded interview with Noel. Cue much embarrassment...

Wait Till We All Get Home - variation on the above, from series 5. This time all members of the family would be questioned about each other. Cue much embarrassment...

You Don't Bring Me Flowers - Noel would usually be Gotchaed himself once in every series. Most famously, Noel was forced to sing this song in its entirety before the show would end. The last show in each series was always particularly worth watching, as nothing would ever go the way Noel was expecting it to.

Zoot Cat - the penultimate episode of series 2 of House Party, in 1993, never happened, thanks to a bomb scare at the Great House. Instead, we saw a repeat of Noel's Christmas Presents, followed by Noel sitting in the broom cupboard introducing this Tom and Jerry cartoon.


Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © British Broadcasting Corporation