The Wogan Page

This page is dedicated to the memory of Sir Terry Wogan, who sadly died on 31st January 2016.

Blankety Blank

Take the greatest broadcaster this country has ever seen, match him with the daftest game show idea you can think of, and give it the tackiest theme tune ever - and what do you get? Answers on a postcard please, but in the meantime let's take a look back at Blankety Blank.

Based on the US game show The Match Game, the whole concept of the UK incarnation of BB was built around Terry Wogan's style of humour - he later said that it was the first television show he did that he really felt at home with - "I could make it up as I was going along."

BB was the epitome of lowbrow television - hated by the critics, but as soon as it started, the show proved an instant hit with viewers, and each week for the next four years the contestants would fill in the blanks to compete for the naffest prizes on television. No cars or holidays here - the best you could hope for was a set of table knives, or a scooter! Meanwhile Terry would engage in merry banter with the celebrity panel, which might typically comprise of Beryl Reid, Roy Kinnear, Lorraine Chase, Larry Grayson, Isla St Clair and Frank Carson.

My abiding memory of the Wogan era is the regular reappearance of Kenny Everett - always sat bottom centre - who would invariably end up bending Terry's trademark stick microphone.

When Tezzer moved on in 1984, Les Dawson was the surprise choice of successor. But despite some initial reservations, Dawson quickly made the show his own; in fact he wanted to take things a stage further and give away genuinely useless prizes, such as a chair with three legs or a fridge where the door falls off. Despite remaining popular with his viewer in Cheltenham, Dawson's Blankety Blank was retired at the start of the nineties.

Meanwhile, back at Wogan Towers, Terry was busy with his thrice-weekly chat show, which ran from 1985 to 1992. After this was axed to make way for that mega-hit Eldorado, he returned to his wireless roots and the Radio 2 breakfast show. But you couldn't keep him away from the camera for long, and in 1998 came his finest televisual moment ever - Wogan's Web...

Wogan's Web

Wogan's Web was good. In fact, it was possibly the funniest programme ever on British television. There's been nothing else quite like it, before or since.

It was a simple concept - essentially Terry's Radio 2 breakfast show transferred to the telly, And so what you got was the kind of knockabout fun and spontaneity common in radio, but virtually unheard of in television (the only other example that springs to mind is the Children's BBC broom cupboard).

It ran each lunchtime on BBC1 throughout May 1998, and was a refreshing change from the usual dirge of daytime chat and lifestyle programmes. It featured all of Wogan's usual Radio 2 cohorts - his producer Pauly Walters, sat at a desk to his left, smurfing the web and picking up e-mails; Deadly Alancoat on voiceover duties; plus Tel's Belles taking phone calls to his right.

There were various guests and topics along the way - mainly very trivial ones like garden gnomes - but the best bits were simply Terry (fresh back from hosting Eurovision that year) engaging in banter with his team, and reading amusing e-mails and faxes from viewers. In my opinion, this was by the far the best vehicle for Terry's talents, perfectly suiting his style of humour and presentation, much more so than his long running BBC1 chat show for example. I couldn't stop laughing for a single second of it.

Yet it was an all too brief run. After just twenty programmes, Wogan's Web came to an end and never returned. Was it too good for daytime television? Or was it too good for daytime radio? It seems Terry was taking his Radio 2 audience with him to BBC1, causing Jimmy Young's ratings to suffer!

The Terry and Gaby Show

In June 2003, almost exactly five years after Wogan's Web bit the dust, Terry returned to daytime television. However this time he defected to Channel 5 - sorry, 'five' - to co-present The Terry and Gaby Show with Gaby Roslin. Like another of five's recent shows, Live with Chris Moyles/Christian O'Connell, it was a Chris Evans production, and in parts this manifesteds itself very obviously.

TTAGS aired each morning from 11.00 (giving Terry just 90 minutes between coming off air at Broadcasting House, and going on air at the old County Hall building by the River Thames). As with Wogan's Web, the best parts of the new show were the reading of viewers' amusing e-mails and letters. Another BBC legend Johnny Ball made a daily appearance on the show (he was later replaced by Danny Baker); a celebrity guest joins Terry and Gaby on the sofa (on the first day it was another face of the BBC, Jonathan Ross, giving the show a very BBC-feel on its first day); and the show also contained similiar kinds of lowbrow, trivial features that were seen on Wogan's Web.

However, bearing in mind that Mr Wogan himself was the main draw to this show for the majority of the viewers, the chief drawback was that it contained a number of very un-Woganesque features. For example, he admitted on his Radio 2 show that he had no idea who the guest had been on the previous morning's television show. (I hadn't heard of him either - some bloke from an American sitcom). Then there were some typical Chris Evans-type competitions such as 'Kids in Headphones' and one in which an excitable Scouse bloke (Danny McCall) went round to people's houses and buys things off them in order to give them away on the Friday show. All of this sat uneasily with the Wogan style of humour and presentation.

Indeed, in the first Friday culmination of the Danny McCall feature, Terry seemed to show little interest in this frantic phone-in competition that was going on around him, wandering off looking for a drink. Having failed to find one he went to peer out of the window for a bit, before wandering back to the sofa muttering 'Are we still doing this?'. He then got lumbered with the job of giving prizes out to the audience.

Terry and Gaby never reached the same cult status as Wogan's Web, and neither did it pull in the ratings. After the initial commission for 200 programmes, the axe swiftly fell on The Terry and Gaby Show. The final programme aired on 26th March 2004.

Wake Up to Wogan

Terry was probably second only to Carol Hersee as the most seen person on British television, but many will argue that Terry was at his best on the radio, and indeed Wake Up to Wogan was the most popular programme on British radio. He hosted the Radio 2 breakfast show for nearly thirty years in total, before handing over to Chris Evans at the end of 2009.

From my YouTube channel, here are some Wake Up to Wogan clips from 2008 and 2009:

And then there's the time Terry gave this page an on-air mention on his breakfast show on 24th March 2006. Oh, how embarrassing...

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