A torrent of green gunge drops down on the unlucky inhabitants of the cage, as hordes of children cheer. Seconds later, we’re into a cartoon while the denizens of Studio 3 at Birmingham’s ATV Centre are preparing for the next muck-based atrocity. Among them is Chris Tarrant, the future game show host. Pop stars and sports personalities have clamoured to be part of this growing cult.
This scene describes Tiswas at its peak, making tabloid headlines and turning its presenters into household names. It’s what comes into your head as soon as the name of the show is mentioned.
Yet the show had rather primitive beginnings, as a midlands-only curiosity to link filler material, like scratchy episodes of Tarzan and old Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Somehow, the spontaneous larking about of the presenters made this appointment viewing.
Left in the hands of producer Peter Harris who had to fill three hours on an incredibly tiny budget in an even tinier presentation studio, the live antics got sillier and sillier. Eventually, the first bucket of water was hurled at presenter Peter Tomlinson as a practical joke.
The vaudevillian leanings of the producer from his days as a theatre director also ensured a liberal use of the custard pie – a well-recognised weapon of slapstick comedy from stage and film.