Automatic Transmission was a pilot for Night Network on ITV in the UK, which I shot with Forbes Masson and Ross King late in 1988.
The premise was that Ross drove a huge old NYC taxi and the guests sat with him in the front, and Forbes and I, in our guises as Victor and Barry, were the car wash men who hopped into the back of the taxi and bitched about the guests in the front. Luckily we shot our bits on a different day from the guests! The pilot had The Boys, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Pia Zadora as guests, but strangely it was never made into a series!!
At the 1988 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Victor and Barry's sell-out show Victor and Barry Say Goodbye was chosen to be part of the Perrier Pick of the Fringe Season at the Donmar Warehouse in London's Covent Garden.
This was Victor and Barry's first sojourn south of the border (though they would be soon appearing south of the equator when they toured Australia) and it caused quite a storm amongst the Scottish media. It's hard to describe now, but in the eighties it was still a big deal to 'make it' in London if you lived in Scotland. And as Victor and Barry had become really succesful in a relatively short time there was much anticipation about their London debut and how they would be received (indeed even if the would be understood.)
So when Scottish TV asked to film us and our preparations for the Donmar debut we decided it would be fun to make it a sort of mockumentary in Victor and Barry's rather surreal style. Our friend Hazel Eadie, who had been in our panto the previous year at the Tron Theatre, made an appearance as a mysterious beauty, and our au pair was played by the actual room-mate we inherited when we rented a half-renovated flat in Stoke Newington from a set designer I had been working with. It is a bizarre little show culminating in some footage from the actual first perfomance. Look out for actor Richard Griffiths who was in the audience for some reason!
I got the call to return to Glendarroch and do another stint on Take The High Road, but this time...yikes...I was to be killed off. It was actually a very great honour as I was the first character ever to be murdered in Take The High Road.
I was burned alive in Mr Blair's peat shed. Natch. They didn't even get me to play my own charred body. They used some old prop from an episode of Taggart. Seriously.
This is Teri Lally who played Carol. She thought she was pregnant so I chopped a tree down on top of her and then tried to strangle her. Duh.
Victor and Barry were co-hosts of the Scottish part of the ITV Telethon in 1988. We had to stay up all night and constantly greet members of the public who got progressively more drunk and carried larger and larger checks. It was very surreal, especially the Vitcotr and Barry Search for a Star parts, where people did things like singing with their heads inside a washing machine!
It was great fun, and actually my first time ever doing live television with people talking to me in my ear whilst trying to be witty and effervescent. No mean feat. I also remember that when day broke we had a couple of drinks and some prawn cocktail and then went on live TV again, a bit pished.
Hogmanay, aka New Year's Eve, is a huge deal in Scotland and so is the TV show that rings in the bells each year.
In 1987, Victor and Barry took part in the Scottish Television spectacular. It was pretty terrifying. We had never done live television before and there was a lot to go wrong, as well as an audience of drunken Glaswegians to entertain.
Actually looking back on it now, that was the strangest part of the whole thing: finishing the show at about 1.30am on New Year's Day and everyone being so drunk and Forbes and I being totally sober.
We performed a few skits and sang a song medley that included a duet, or rather a quartet, with Moray Hunter and Jack Docherty as Don and George.
Terry Neason is an amazing singer/actress who had worked extensively with 7:84 and Wildcat theatre companies in Scotland and was now given her own show by Scottish television.
Forbes and I were brought on to be script editors and to appear each week as Victor and Barry, bringing a bit of light relief to the proceedings. We had a bit of shtick with Terry about her not letting us sing and so on the last episode of the series the three of us did a rather surreal version of It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish!!
There were some amazing musical guests on the show including the bands Hue and Cry, Deacon Blue and Horse. The lovely Susie Maguire also appeared as her alter-ego Marina.
Here are Victor and Barry's best bits including their version of West Side Story with some geriatric backing dancers.
In 1987 and 1988 I was the co-presenter, with my former wife Hilary Lyon, of several of these BBC educational programmes. I can't remember exactly how many I did but I know the first one we ever did was about the Sixties and that was really fun - I got to play a dalek from Dr. Who.
There was another when I had to go up in a helicopter with two little girls from Glasgow, and one of them freaked out and wouldn't go. And then there was one about autumn. I'm sorry I can't remember anymore. I am too old.
Below is one called Colours and Reflections and was shot at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988. That's followed by a segment of the Sixties show.
Scottish Television very kindly kept on employing me and asked me to join their soap opera Take The High Road to play evil woodcutter Jim Hunter.
It was a really good way to learn very fast about acting for the camera and also for dealing with dialogue and story lines that weren't always plausible!
The show was shot at the Gateway studios in Edinburgh, and each recording day we had to do the scenes as live, meaning that if we made a mistake we had to go back to the beginning. Also we had to finish by a certain time because the equipment or the signal was used for the nightly news (I didn't understand it at the time either). Anyway, this meant that there was always a tension to get it right and do it fast.
One day we were against the clock and I was in a scene in Mr and Mrs Blair's living room. There was some glare from the pictures hanging on the walls and so to avoid it someone placed tangerines from the fruit bowl under the pictures so they would angle up a bit. Then the scene started and Mr Blair came in rather angry, slammed the door, and loads of tangerines shot out from behind the pictures. It was insane.
They decided to live with a bit of glare!
And still more.....
Also made by Scottish Television for the ITV network, Shadow of the Stone is a six-part series about a girl and her alter ego from a century ago who had been burned at the stake as a witch. I played her boyfriend Tom, her boyfriend in both time zones.
Shirley Henderson made her professional debut in this series, directed by Leonard White. I remember that every time I was mentioned in the script it said I was 'lurking'. I also remember meeting for the part with Leonard and assuring him that I could sail. Actually the only sailing I had done was with the Boy Scouts at Monikie Reservoir years before, but luckily on the day I had to sail in the show it was the calmest and most windless day ever, so much so that it was actually really difficult for me to capsize my little dinghy!
Below are all the episodes. The last one is the most hilarious as it includes my rescue at sea.