14 Things That Made Live & Kicking Worth Getting Up Early For Every Saturday Morning

·7-min read
(Photo: HuffPost)
(Photo: HuffPost)

With SM:TV Live often hailed as the definitive Saturday morning kids’ show among a certain generation, it’s easy to forget those that paved the way for Ant, Dec and Cat’s success.

One such example just happens to be one of our other favourites from the 1990s, Live & Kicking.

Launched in 1993 by Andi Peters, Emma Forbes and John Barrowman, L&K was the replacement for the BBC’s Going Live!, hosted for six years by Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene.

It took a while for the show to find its feet, but after three increasingly popular series, it cemented itself in the TV history books when new presenting partnership Zoe Ball and Jamie Theakston took over the reins in 1996.

Jamie Theakston and Zoe Ball took over Live & Kicking in 1996 (Photo: BBC)
Jamie Theakston and Zoe Ball took over Live & Kicking in 1996 (Photo: BBC)

Together, their partnership and a mix of comedy, cartoons and chaos helped attract huge TV audiences of around 2.5 million viewers each Saturday morning, until the dynamic duo’s departure in 1999.

Sadly, L&K went out with something of a whimper as two subsequent overhauls led to ITV’s SM:TV gradually overtaking the BBC show for the first time in the Saturday morning ratings war, before it was eventually cancelled for good in 2001.

But as we continue our celebration of TV nostalgia in our Rewind To The 90s series, we’re looking back at L&K’s heyday, with all of the reasons it was always worth getting up early for every weekend...

The titles

As a kid, there was something rather magical about the old BBC Television Centre on Wood Lane in London. It was like a big TV factory that you always wanted to explore every corner of in the hope of uncovering secrets of your favourite shows.

Part of the reason we felt like that is because it was such a main character on Live & Kicking, with the iconic building taking a starring role in the opening titles, which saw bouncy balls bursting through the walls.

A 10/10 theme tune, too.

Seeing behind the scenes

On that same point, we also frequently got to see behind the scenes of the Saturday morning show, with segments hosted from the scene dock, or shots of presenters walking through Television Centre and behind the set.

While many studio-based kids shows would never dare to give any glimpses backstage, Live & Kicking always felt like it was letting you in on how the magic of TV was created.

In fact, they even had a whole show, L&K Friday, which aired on Fridays for a time, and showed the preparations for each Saturday morning.

The showmaker CD-Rom

The Live & Kicking CD-rom (Photo: BBC)
The Live & Kicking CD-rom (Photo: BBC)

Capitalising on this idea, the BBC gave die-hard L&K fans the chance to be in charge with the release of a Show Maker game.

The CD-Rom (remember them?!) made you the producer as you built various segments, made jingles and instructed the presenters on what to do, before your show went out to air.

For TV geeks like us, hours upon hours were lost playing this.

The phone number song

Way before you could send a tweet or text in to a show, you used to have to call up on a landline to interact with it.

To help us remember the number, Live & Kicking came up with a jingle for 0181 811 8181, which is still absolutely ingrained in our brains.

Rugrats

If you weren’t lucky enough to have Nickelodeon back in the day, you always knew there were loads of great cartoons out there that you never got to see.

However, Live & Kicking had the rights to one of their best creations, Rugrats, which became a beloved favourite here in the UK, following toddlers Tommy, Chuckie, Angelica, and twins Phil and Lil and the mischief they would regularly get up to.

Throughout Live & Kicking’s run, Rugrats remained one of the constants, surviving many changes in presenting line-ups and the controversial 2000 revamp of the show.

Kenan & Kel

Similarly, Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel was another Live & Kicking staple, airing on the show between 1997 and 2001.

The series followed the hilarious misadventures of the titular teenage best friends, and we particularly loved it for the way Kenan and Kel would often break the fourth wall by interacting with a studio audience, again making us feel as if we were being brought behind the scenes of the show.

Hit, Miss Or Maybe?

Before the days of YouTube, you rarely got to see music videos unless you had satellite TV, so Hit, Miss Or Maybe? was one of the few chances you got to set eyes on the latest releases.

The music review item saw Zoe and a panel of celebrity guests, who were appearing on the show that morning, take a look at all the new music coming out that week. They would then decide whether each track would be a hit, miss or a maybe, with the help of some giant foam thumbs.

Comedy duos

Along with Mr Blobby (who the less is said about the better), leprechaun brothers Sage and Onion were Live & Kicking’s resident puppet characters who performed comedy sketches throughout the morning, and often interacted with the presenters and celebrity guests to initiate silliness and chaos.

Mysteriously, Onion disappeared from the show and was replaced by a new character called Shamrock in 1998 (in actuality, Onion’s puppeteer was on a new job in Australia and could no longer commit to appearing on Live & Kicking weekly).

The leprechauns were not the only comedy duos on the show, however, with early series featuring Trevor Neal and Simon Hickson, who’d been regulars on the BBC’s previous Saturday morning kids’ show Going Live!.

Mitch

He might have been the voice of Saturday mornings, but Mitch Johnson was one member of the L&K team who we never actually got to see.

As the omnipresent announcer and commentator, he was a regular fixture each Saturday, telling us what was coming up on the show and interacting with the presenters from his voiceover booth.

Mitch was axed when the show recruited four new presenters in the 2000 revamp, and it was never the same without him.

He was later unmasked on Zoe and Jamie’s subsequent Channel 4 show The Priory, which you can see a clip of above.

The Hot Seat

The Hot Seat saw that week’s celebrity guests face a grilling, but rather than the hosts, it was the viewers that were in charge, with kids in the studio audience and on the phone lines getting to ask the questions we all really wanted the answers to.

Prior to finding fame as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe appeared in the audience where he asked The Chuckle Brothers a question (as you can see in the clip above).

Cloud 9

This segment of the show saw Zoe make viewers’ dreams come true, as each week someone would nominate their friend for a special surprise. Zoe would call them before cameras would often turn up at their home to tell them about a dream they were about to live out.

We can remember one of our friends telling us (not really how surprises are meant to work, but hey) they were writing in for us to meet the Spice Girls, but nearly 25 years later, we’re still waiting on that one.

Electric Circus

A slightly more grown-up segment of the Live & Kicking was Electric Circus, which featured the latest film, music, celebrity and computer game gossip.

John Barrowman hosted it in its inception, after being relegated as a main presenter alongside Andi Peters and Emma Forbes following Live & Kicking’s first series.

After he later left the show completely, Electric Circus would hosted by a variety of celebs, including Dannii Minogue, Jarvis Cocker and Steve Coogan.

Musical performances

L&K’s peak coincided with the rise of the Spice Girls, who were regulars in the studio, always returning to sing (or should that be lip-sync?) their latest hit, as well as sitting in The Hot Seat.

There were also loads of other iconic performances from other classic 90s acts, including Steps, Take That, Billie Piper, B*Witched, Boyzone and Peter Andre – basically, if they were in the charts, they were on Live & Kicking.

The magazine

Live & Kicking magazine (Photo: BBC)
Live & Kicking magazine (Photo: BBC)

Along with Top Of The Pops and Smash Hits magazine, Live & Kicking mag was a must-buy for young pop culture junkies in the 1990s.

Featuring interviews with some of the biggest names in music and TV, behind-the-scenes features and posters to stick up on your walls, each month’s issue would complement the content of the Saturday morning show.

It also had lots of free gifts, including mood beads and hair mascara, which looking back, are so 90s it hurts.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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