Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3571 Set by Margaret Rogers

Noel Edmonds thinks history will judge his House Party as one of the most successful TV shows. We asked for an extract from a future History of Television.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Excellent. Hon menshes to N Syrett ("Edmonds later said: 'Scripted by a lunatic subversive or not, it was still jolly good family entertainment' "), Mark O'Neal (" . . . his now famous reappearance as president of North Korea"), David Silverman (" 'Blobby, Blobby,' he cries, echoing Bill and Ben's heartbreaking, despairing plea for existential affirmation: 'Flobbalob, Little Weed? Flobbalob?' Blobby or Flobbalob? That is the question") and R J Pickles ("Throughout the show an obese character with a hideous skin complaint ran amok"). £15 to the winners. The champers goes to . . . Will Bellenger.

Only then-fashionable attempts to discredit all of Marx's theories can explain why so few broadcasters understood the significance of the House Party programme. And, if few broadcasters were aware of this, almost nobody in government had an inkling. Yet why was this? The symbolism was hardly opaque. The gothic set made clear reference to the Palace of Westminster and resonated with certain decorating and ownership controversies of the nineties. The title's neat juxtaposition of both the words "House" and "Party" could not have been more explicit. Moreover, the genius of Noel Edmonds' manipulation of the undemocratic and dictatorial style of host mirrored styles of government prevalent in Britain in those days.

The dual role of the studio audience was, of course, crucial. Representing both the discredited politician and the disgruntled citizen, their ritual humiliation in gunge-throwing ceremonies, etc, did so much to provide the viewer with catharsis.

After the programme was cut, its success at subverting revolutionary consciousness became apparent. Within days, starting with protests by British hauliers, a succession of uprisings began. The severity of these increased into the new millennium, culminating with the arrest of the discredited authoritarian government and the establishment of a fully socialist society in Britain.

M E Ault

House Party can now be seen as the defining event of pre-millennial television. Like Rachel Whiteread, Edmonds was dynamically concerned with the subliminal prerogatives of "home", burlesquing the Cowardesque image of mansion by interpolating symbolic TV havens with the cult of celebrity. Mr Blobby (qv) was a phantasmagorical tangent to the endeavour, evoking the bathroom inflatables of childhood, while Edmonds dealt more succinctly with the conventions of that kind of gift culture later outlawed by the Mandelson administration. It was the Edmonds persona, far more than that of Barrymore or even Davidson, that lent the proceedings an arcane individualism, and which encapsulated the late Elizabethan longing for the close shave, the extensible sofa, the lounge patois. And here Edmonds excelled. The precarious juxtaposition of gelatinous fluids (known as "gunge") with the cardigan ethic evoked an era of tantalising eventfulness. To be unpredictable was the lamentable preserve of news programmes, which sold combustible truths from within the safety of graphical hierarchy and studio desks. It was this complacent responsibility that Edmonds challenged. His alone was the sub-ironic programme that invested the ordinary with a quizzical zest for life's softest furniture. House Party's inimical signature single-handedly reinvented the Saturday narrative. Its demise was heroically inevitable.

Will Bellenger

Although Noel's House Party (405 laugh-lines) was first introduced by the BBC, the first public television broadcasts actually began in an iconobarn in Crinkley Bottom. The prototype NTVs incorporated a rotating wheel with Gotchas in it. These Gotchas were designed to let a pink latex image through to reconstruct a wavy pattern of host pictures. John Logie Blobby was to prove a key figure in the development of NTV. His modus operandi was to introduce light-particle Challenges among the audience, which would then bounce off a cathode-ray tube to produce flickering images of a high-resolution presenter in a magenta suit. The picture was then improved and extended to 605 laugh-lines. This involved some 15 million fluctuating passive receivers (later downgraded to six million).

Then came the first demonstration of the Gunge Tank, a low-tone system through which light material was discharged at a field rate of 30 laughs/minute. A Laff-Now! prompter device was able to discharge 30 decibels of titters per second. It was only with the inception of Grab-A-Grand that NTV was able to capitalise on NHP and deliver a VHS (Very-High-Slump) format. High-Definition Blobby followed. This was a 1,256 fidgetal laugh-a-line system that was ill-suited to the broadcasting authority, which saw little merit in a brand without Very-High- Resolution Vorderman. NHP became obsolescent on 20 March 1999. It was replaced by a Telechrome Docupap system. The medium has been struggling with itself ever since.

John O'Byrne

No 3574 Set by Leonora Casement

Advice, please, in not more than 200 words, for those planning to economise. Entries to be in by 15 April.

E-mail comp@newstatesman.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 02 April 1999 issue of the New Statesman, How the doves turned hawkish