TV that’s off its box: Are these the worst shows of all time?

As Paddy McGuinness launches the latest harebrained Saturday night TV format, we look back at some of the great failures of days gone by.

Youth hostelling with Chris Eubank. Monkey tennis. Something a bit like the Cook Report, but more slapstick.

Most of us can reel off the bizarre ideas for television programmes put forward by an increasingly desperate Alan Partridge in the hit BBC comedy.

But maybe if he had a bit more foresight, Steve Coogan’s alter ego could have come up with Catchpoint, a new quiz show fronted by Paddy McGuinness which makes its debut tomorrow.

Contestants answer a series of multiple choice questions by standing underneath an overhead screen which they think is displaying the right answer.

A trapdoor then opens next to the screen which does actually show the correct answer, dropping a ball which the contestant is expected to catch. So, if they get the answer wrong they will be standing in the wrong place, and will have to run to catch the ball. Why did nobody think of this before?

But if this format seems needlessly contrived, it follows in the great tradition of prime-time turkeys, programmes so bad you wonder how they ever made it through the commissioning process. Some ideas probably looked good on paper, but didn’t work in practice. Others just plumbed new deaths of tackiness and bad taste.

Here are a few examples:

Man O Man contestants waiting to find who hits the water

Man O Man (1996-99): This must surely be the low point in Chris Tarrant’s long and varied career. Each week, 10 unlucky-in-love men were lined up to be judged by a posse of inebriated, ravenous girls. They were invited to impress the audience over a number of rounds, including first impressions, personality, party piece, chat-up lines, and what they looked like in swimming trunks.

Once the votes were in, a group of scantily clad ‘hostesses’ would appear to deliver the verdict, either giving the men a kiss if they made it through to the next round, or pushing them (fully clothed) into a swimming pool if they failed to cut the mustard. The last man standing won a motorbike.

Specials (1991). The 1990s was something of a golden era for third-rate television, but this police drama about part-time constables in West Bromwich certainly raised the bar.

With hindsight, you could see it was destined to fail before the first episode was even broadcast. In the advance publicity, a spokesman for the show explained: “This is not The Bill, there are no car chases and drug raids.” Indeed there weren’t. But there was a plot where somebody got stopped for riding a bike with no lights in the dark.

A scene from Bottle Boys

Bottle Boys (1984-85): Starring Robin Askwith as randy milkman Dave Deacon, Bottleboys has frequently been voted the worst sitcom of all time – although it faces stiff competition from the next entry in this list. Back in the 70s, Askwith achieved notoriety for the X-rated Confessions comedy films, and Bottle Boys was basically a watered-down version for prime-time Saturday night, with a bit of slapstick farce thrown in.

Redeeming features? Well, the signature tune, laden with smutty double entendres, was quite catchy, and was actually released as a single.

Heil Honey I'm Home – most tasteless sitcom of all time?

Heil Honey, I’m Home (1990). Really, what were they thinking of? A sitcom about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living next door to a Jewish family in 1930s Berlin is something which even Bernard Manning would have considered tasteless. But for reasons unexplained, satellite channel Galaxy thought it would be suitable for mainstream television, by claiming it was a parody of tacky American sitcoms from the 1950s. Yeah, right.

Incredibly, a full series was recorded, but was dropped after the pilot episode was panned.

Triangle – endlessly overcast skies sapped any last vestiges of glamour

Triangle (1981-83). The BBC pushed the boat out for this big-budget drama, literally. Set on a North Sea ferry, the show was meant to be Britain’s answer to the popular American series Loveboat, featuring exciting destinations and the romance of the open seas.

So what could go wrong? Well, the one thing no amount of money could change was the weather, typified by the opening scenes where a clearly freezing Kate O’Mara sunbathed topless on the deck. The endless grey skies sapped any last vestige of glamour from the scenery, and the new hi-tech cameras struggled with the contrast of light coming from windows.

Production crews, in between bouts of seasickness, did find a way around this – they filmed indoor scenes with the curtains closed. Which, of course, meant they might as well have been shot in the studio.

On the positive side, Triangle did pioneer filming techniques which later became the norm. And its lame scripts provided Terry Wogan with plenty of material for his radio show.

Come Back Mrs Noah introduced us to Mollie Sugden in space

Come Back, Mrs Noah (1977-78): The 1970s produced some fantastic sitcoms, including Are You Being Served?, written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, and starring Mollie Sugden. Let’s just say the trio’s next project was not quite so successful.

Set in the year 2050, Sugden starred as Gertrude Noah, a housewife who unwittingly becomes an astronaut after winning a cookery competition. The prize is a tour of a space station, and during the visit Mrs Noah is accidentally blasted into space. And it looked as though the costume department extended to an old colander for Mrs Noah’s head.

Inexperienced actors didn't help Eldorado

Eldorado (1992-93): Back in the early 1990s, Terry Wogan was the king of the TV chat show, his thrice weekly programme regularly coming close to the top of the viewing figure charts. So what did the BBC do? Replace it with a £10 million soap opera which trailed Antiques Roadshow in the ratings.

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